Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Cross-Section of Jerusalemites

As I rode the light rail last week, I saw a cross-section of Jerusalemites gathered at one of the stations, waiting for the next train.

I saw a nun, an Arab man and several Arab women wearing traditional dress, two religious Jewish men and several other people.

A cross-section of Jerusalem's population

Wrapped Around Her Paw

Yup. That’s where Hadi’s got me.

Allow me to demonstrate. First, the gentle paw on the hand, with just a hint of claw behind it:

Hand on paw

Oh! She’s got me!


And again! There’s no escaping Hadi the Mighty Huntress....

She got me

A moment of indecision. Hmm, the huntress wonders. Now that I’ve established my clear superiority, what should I do next?

Hadi washes her paw

Inspiration strikes. I know! I’ll demand a tummyrub...

Kitty bliss

... and get it.

Is this what they mean by “the belly of the beast”?

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Plants of the Season – in Various Guises

A friend of mine has an etrog (citron) tree in her yard. Its fruits are large, and some of them are downright huge. Recently, she gave me half of an etrog to use in my soap (the grated peel, not the whole fruit!).

When I made a soap batch a few days ago, I cut the half that she gave me and was excited to find...

Germinated seeds inside a citron fruit

... germinated seeds!

Another look:

Germinated citron seeds

I planted five of them. What else could I do?

Finally as long as this is a post about fruit, here’s a photo for the upcoming New Year:

Pomegranate on the tree

Shana tova u-metuka – a good and sweet New Year!

Final Respects, At Long Last

Finally, after a wait of quite a few years, the new grave marker for Max Wittmann and his wife, Dola Ben-Yehuda Wittmann, is finally in place.

Gravestone of Max Wittmann and Dola Ben-Yehuda

Dola Ben-Yehuda, who lived to be over a hundred years old, was the daughter of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the man who revived modern Hebrew.

I hope that they fix the name of Max Wittmann’s city of origin, which is unfortunately misspelled on the gravestone. It should read "Sindelfingen."

Cat Pics

Here are some cat pics I took recently.

This is Mr. N., a rescue cat who lives with friends of mine. He is well cared for, loved and loving.

Mr. N., the rescue cat

Here are a few of the lovely and delicious cupcakes that my friend R. made for my farewell party at my former job. She designed them herself, too!

Kitty cupcakes

OK, this one’s a bit of a stretch – a winged lion – but I still think it qualifies as a RFOAC (reasonable facsimile of a cat).

Closeup of the top of the Generali Building

Pulling back a bit, the same winged lion with the Israeli flag next to it:

The top of the Generali Building

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Twenty-Five Years Before, Ten Years After

World Trade Center, July 4, 1976

I took this photo on July 4, 1976, as my family and I stood on the deck of the New York Bay, passing by the World Trade Center. My father, who worked for a steamship company for many years, had gotten us tickets to Operation Sail, and we had the equivalent of a front-row seat as we watched the tall ships passing by. We saw the Statue of Liberty from the water, and the tip of Manhattan as well. At that time, I had a small camera that took a 110 film cartridge, and as we passed in front of the World Trade Center, I snapped the photo that I’ve posted above.

Some years earlier, when I was in second grade, my teacher took us on a field trip to the World Trade Center. Only one of the towers was completed then. Through the window of the observation deck, we could see the top of the unfinished building with the cranes around it.

I remember how our guide told us how high the winds could get on the roof of the building, and how a penny dropped from that height would kill someone on the ground if it hit them.

Ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, I was just coming home from work. A friend of mine in New York had just left me a message telling me that she had just heard that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

I turned on the television, which was still broadcasting the children’s programming that it aired at that time of day. But several minutes later, the station interrupted its regular programming with a live feed from New York. I watched in horror, then called my family in the US to find out whether they were all right. Thank God, they were.

Later that evening, my dear, late friend Bev called and invited me to her place. Neither of us should be alone this evening, she said. When I got there, I saw that she had lit several candles for the souls of those who had perished. We sat together and tried to comfort each other as we watched further developments on the news.

in my mind, I kept hearing the guide of our second-grade class telling us how a single penny dropped from the top of the World Trade Center could kill. And the damage and losses we were witnessing were so enormously, inconceivably worse....

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Pictures from the Beach

Here are some photos from my trip to the beach last week.

Snagged a plane....


And another:

Arkia aircraft

Folks having fun:

Having fun, buried in sand

Another plane (and the plane flew over the moon!):

Over the moon

A tail made of water:


I even got some detail of the moon’s surface on this one:

Crescent moon

A plane leaving the sunset behind:

Sunset with plane

I’ll put the rest on my Flickr page when I get some time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why I Am Now Moderating Comments to This Blog

About a year ago, I got an email from someone (I forget the name he used) asking me to insert a link into one of my posts in exchange for over a hundred dollars. The link was to one of these places that lends out money before payday. The business sounded legal enough – I understand that there are places like these all over the US – and I looked up the site. It appeared well-kept and above-board, but I still felt uncomfortable. The whole thing just felt fishy, and it felt even fishier when I saw that the person who got in touch with me was using a fake name. (I don’t remember the name now, but it was unusual, and when I looked it up, it turned out to be the name of an obscure American figure from the Civil War era.) I explained that I was not comfortable accepting money from someone I didn’t know, and I asked him for his real name and location. I never heard from him again.

Well, now the tactic is a bit different. First there was the guy who left a marginally-relevant comment whose obvious goal was to drive traffic to his site, which is actually about a topic I like, but it’s still a trashy content farm. That was a day or two ago. Then there was the shameless spammer who left a comment on the post that I wrote about my teacher, Miss Jurist, mentioning her by name and saying how fondly he remembered her classes... and leaving a link to some SEO site. Pretty low, if you ask me.

So I᾿ve had to lock the door and use the peephole before I allow anyone inside. In other words, comments are now moderated. I don’t like it. I wish I didn’t have to do it. But spammers are slime, and their techniques are getting a bit more sophisticated – fortunately, not so sophisticated that I can’t protect myself.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Unfriendly Shul Story

(inspired by Treppenwitz’s post, ”The Unfriendliest Shul in the World”)

Some years ago, I decided to try a synagogue that, while adhering to halakha (Jewish religious law), made efforts to increase the participation of women in the service. For example, after the Torah scroll is removed from the Ark, a woman carries it through the women’s section, and then a man carries it through the men’s section. In this way, all congregants, men and women alike, have the opportunity to kiss the Torah scroll as it is carried to the reading table.

One Shabbat morning, I was asked to carry the Torah scroll through the women’s section, an honor that I gladly accepted. When it was time, I took the Torah scroll in my arms and carried it down the main aisle, from the front of the room to the rear, as I had been told to do.

I was about halfway down the aisle when I noticed a small group of women gathered in the rear of the women’s section. I didn’t recognize them, and it seemed to me that they looked a little lost. I figured that they must be guests or perhaps new to the area. Thinking that it would be good to reach out to them a little, I walked a few steps away from the main aisle and brought the Torah scroll directly to them to kiss. Then I turned around, retraced my steps to the mehitzah [the divider between the men’s and women’s sections] and handed the Torah scroll to the man who would take it through the men’s section. My extra walk to and from the group of women took no more than several seconds – a very small price to pay, I thought, for making them feel welcome. Since I hadn’t caused any delay in the service, surely no one would have a problem with what I had done – or so I thought.

After the service, one of the women who had been at the back of the room approached me. She said that she and her friends were new to the area and thanked me for having carried the Torah scroll to them. It had meant so much, she said.

At almost the same time, one of the women in charge of the synagogue gave me a quiet reprimand. The next time I was given the opportunity to carry the Torah through the women’s section, she said, I was to carry it straight down the aisle, not turning to the right or to the left.

I told her about the woman at the back of the room – how lost she and her friends had looked, and how she had thanked me for carrying the Torah to them. “Doesn’t that mean anything?” I asked. “It was only a few seconds, no more. I didn’t delay the service at all, and they felt so much better.”

The woman only repeated: “When you carry the Torah, you must carry it straight down the aisle.”

Well, I figured, this lady certainly has her priorities in order....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Post-Shabbat Roundup

So... this motza’ei Shabbat (Saturday night; post-Sabbath), here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Baked a batch of sourdough pita bread (the dough was already risen by Shabbat and had spent Shabbat in the refrigerator)
  • Made a batch of soap
  • Poured the liquid laundry soap that I made several days ago into its proper containers (for more information on making homemade laundry soap, see here, here and here, and see here for the recipe that I use)
  • Tore a bunch of newspaper for Kitten’s litter box (big advantages: no dust, no tracking and it’s free; slight disadvantage: it takes some time and effort)

Whew! Time for bed, I think. Shavua tov!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Visit to the Sunbirds

Pssst! Wanna see a sunbird nest? Wanna see some baby chicks? Wanna see Mama and Papa Sunbird feeding their baby chicks?

OK. I’ll show you.

Papa Sunbird feeds the babies:

Papa Sunbird feeds his babies

Mama Sunbird feeds the babies:

Mama Sunbird feeds her babies 5

The babies in the nest:

Three sunbird chicks

You can see the rest of the set here.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Fed Poetry

Mark Strand

Just over a week ago, I went to hear the poet Mark Strand at the American Cultural Center here in Jerusalem. (Thank goodness for Facebook, which is how I found out about the reading. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known about it.)

It so happens that Mark Strand is the author of one of my very favorite poems, “Eating Poetry.” So of course I had to go!

(Click the link above and go read the poem. Then come back here for the rest of the story, if you’re so inclined. But read the poem! Please! Now!)

The reading was wonderful. Mark Strand read some of his older poems and some of his new work, which he said leaned more toward prose than poetry these days. I enjoyed it all, but throughout the reading I waited for him to read “Eating Poetry.” Finally, he announced that he would be reading the last poem of the evening, and when he began it, my heart sank a little. It was lovely, but it wasn’t the poem that I’d been waiting for.

But then – ah, saving grace! The emcee announced a question-and-answer period. I raised my hand immediately, and Mark Strand turned to me with a smile and asked, “What’s your question?”

“Not a question but a favor,” I said. “I’ve loved your poem, ‘Eating Poetry,’ for many years. I studied it in school when I was younger. Please, would you read it for us?”

Even as I asked the question, it occurred to me that I probably wasn’t the only one who asked for this poem at his readings. Perhaps he had read it thousands of times already and was tired of it. Perhaps he thought that here, in far-off Jerusalem, he would escape having to read it aloud yet again. My breath caught. I know that we American expats need hutzpah to survive around here, but had I gone too far?

There was no need to worry. Mark Strand smiled and said, “Yes,” picked up the book of his poems that he had been reading from, found the poem inside and, stepping toward me on the stage, began to read.

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry....

I sat looking up at him, taking in every word. I can’t quite describe the feeling... it was almost as though the poem, which I was hearing from the poet himself after so many years, became a cord of light that stretched along the sound of his voice to me. I was smiling so hard that my cheeks hurt. There were tears in my eyes. I didn’t want it to end.

In that moment, there was no happiness like mine. I was being fed poetry.

Professor Strand, if you ever read this: at your reading in Jerusalem last May, you gave this American expat a gift of joy that I will always remember. Thank you, with all my heart.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Lovely Miss A.

Recently, I had the honor of cat-sitting for the lovely Miss A. Here are two photos of her.

At rest, from close up:

Face of Miss A.

Miss A. on the move:

Miss A. on the move

The Friday Ark. The Carnival of the Cats.

Purrs in Translation

The following article is a translation from a Hebrew article that a friend showed me. I translated it just because, and then sent my translation to the author, Yael Yisrael, who approved it for publication. So... here it is! Hebrew speakers can read the original here.

Kitty Pr0n

by Yael Yisrael

One afternoon as I dozed on the sofa, my ginger cat snoring contentedly on my stomach, my friend suddenly telephoned and started yelling in my ear: “Turn on the TV!” I thought that the Third Lebanon War had just broken out. “They’re showing a cat playing the piano!” she went on breathlessly. That was it for my siesta. I quickly turned on Rafi Reshef, my hands trembling on the remote, so that I wouldn’t miss the up-and-coming piano star.

Look, folks, I have to be up front about this, uncomfortable as it is. Have you noticed that we cat lovers are a bit obsessed? How many times have you gotten frantic messages to turn on the TV because some kitty genius was on the news? How many emails a day do you get from other cat-lovers with videos of the latest wonder-cat on YouTube, or with a link to the hottest new cat site? Honestly, just between us, how many?

Shall I tell you how many I get in a day? Dozens! I’m not kidding. My inbox is flooded with them. And you’d better believe that I open each and every one of them with the dedication of an obsessed stamp collector, shrieking with joy to the sound of meows like Bar Rafaeli did when Leo got down on his knees and gave her the ring.

But what drives us cat-lovers wild are the kitten sites. We send them around to each other like there’s no tomorrow. We can’t wait to watch the videos of those tiny two-month-old fuzzballs posing with careless abandon on their little fur rugs. Sometimes I feel just like those creepy men who stare at half-naked fourteen-year-old girls on sleazy websites as I gaze greedily at the endless photos for collectors of “kitty pr0n,” wanting every one of those furbabies for myself.

For us cat lovers, the Internet fulfills our deepest, most unattainable fantasies of having a “cathouse” of our very own, with each new website becoming the latest hit. And the stronger the obsession, the more videos we watch on the Net.

Ever hear of It has countless pages of photographs uploaded by surfers who cover their gorgeous cats with things like jewelry, hats, baby clothes, neckties, toy animals and so on – silly, harmless stuff. The hard-core ones put stuff on their cats such as cellular phones, pocket knives, books and laptops. One woman even put her whole collection of nail polish jars in a row on her poor cat, who must have had no clue as to why he was being covered in the local drugstore’s entire cosmetics department.

We cat-lovers surf these sites with bated breath, drooling over the baby-faced, wide-eyed fur-models that melt our hearts. Please excuse the R-rated imagery, but let’s be honest: that’s exactly how it is. We crave their plump little bodies, their silky fur, the sweetness of their touch. And unless we hug, kiss and pet them a thousand times, we feel that our day has been a waste. Let’s face it, folks: we’re addicted.

Cat addiction is the most pleasant, positive and harmless addiction on earth. I’ve tried several others: wild shopping sprees at the duty-free, many-layered dobos tortes, some unsavory guys, and a few other kinds best not mentioned. But I would swear in front of the clerk of the Supreme Court that becoming addicted to those furry, big-hearted creatures is life’s greatest pleasure. It’s better than a five-star hotel in Thailand. Better than a luxury bed-and-breakfast in the Galilee. Even better than a night with your favorite movie star.

Now I’ll try to explain all this to those who got here by accident and don’t understand this strange obsession, to everyone who thinks that cat-lovers are a bunch of weirdos who threaten society as we know it. Here’s the thing: we are addicted to those magnificent, good-hearted furry creatures because they give us so much love in return. As much as you give to them, they give back double. Cats don’t deserve their reputation as selfish loners. Most of the time, they want to be close to you, and they want to make you feel good. They long to cuddle on your lap, and their goal is to love you unconditionally forever and ever and ever. Of course, they expect the same level of devotion from you. Give them that and they will be the sweetest, most devoted lovers you’ve ever had.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

I thought that things would calm down at the end of the winter, when my friend came home from the hospital. They didn’t.

I thought that things would calm down over the Passover holiday, but I got a cat-sitting gig, so they didn’t. (Pictures to come.) On top of that, I did a few hikes and trips. (Pictures to come.)

For now, the seventh day of Passover is almost upon us – together with my Hebrew birthday. Yup – according to the Hebrew calendar, I was born the night of the splitting of the Red Sea.

Thanks so much for all the birthday wishes! See you after the holiday.

Here’s a nice yellow wildflower that I photographed just outside the Old City a few days ago:

Yellow wildflower

And for good measure, some scarlet pimpernels:

Scarlet pimpernels

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sandy Cash Sings the Blues

The Egyptian Revolution Blues, that is. Be sure to watch the video to the end.

Sandy’s posted the lyrics here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

All Hail!

It hailed in Jerusalem today.

Actually, it hailed in shifts. Here, the hail comes down:

Hail coming down

I picked up a few hailstones and held them in my hand. Wow, were they ever cold!


After the hail, a rainbow!

Rainbow 1

The other side of the rainbow:

Rainbow 2

Monday, January 31, 2011

Under the Weather

Almost literally. I feel like it’s sitting on me.

Just as winter began to step up and we got more rain (yay!) and wind, I started to feel a bit out of focus. Then, yesterday at work, I started to get the feeling that I always get when my temperature begins to climb. Oh, great, I thought. Here comes the flu. I don’t have time to be sick. But germs wait for no woman, it seems.

I headed home, took my temperature (which was normal, strangely enough) and called my doctor. Even though her schedule was full, someone cancelled an appointment yesterday evening, so she slipped me in.

Diagnosis: not the flu, thank goodness. I have a sinus infection. My bronchial tubes are also involved. I’m currently on antibiotics and two (!) inhalers, with strict orders not to stir out of doors until Wednesday. Don’t go from one temperature extreme to the other, my doctor said. No going from hot to cold or vice versa. When I asked my doctor whether I was contagious, her answer was an unequivocal yes. She also explained that this type of infection can make people feel feverish even when they’re not.

It’s taken me more than the usual effort to write this post. I feel like my head is encased in wet cotton wool. (In fact, one of the things I told my doctor on the phone yesterday was, “I want my head back!” It made her laugh.) This is such a drag. I want it gone. Now.

But my doctor says that it will take its sweet time leaving. In the meantime, keep on dosing and lots of fluids and rest. Sigh. Think I’ll go make myself another cup of tea.

I hate being sick.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Hearing My Music

When I recorded Day of Rest back in the spring of 2000, I sang all the tracks, melody and harmony, myself. Not only was it fun to sing all the parts, building each song line by vocal line, but there were also practical reasons. Where would I find a small chamber choir and the time to train them? Not to mention the question of how I would pay them all.

Several years ago, after “Day of Rest” had been out for some time, I reconnected with an old friend from high school. Both he and his wife are accomplished musicians. It turns out that in addition to her many other skills, his wife is an amazing choral director as well. When I met them in Israel before their aliya, I gave them a copy of “Day of Rest,” never dreaming what would happen next.

My friend’s wife – now my friend as well – contacted me recently and asked for permission to use three of my arrangements for a choral performance at a local school that she was directing. I agreed. Tonight, I attended the performance. For the first time in my life, I heard my arrangements through the prism of my friend’s impeccable musicianship, sung by the lovely and gifted young women of her choir.

Before the choral part of the performance began, my friend announced that the arranger of three of the pieces that her choir was about to sing was present and that she would introduce her later on. In the meantime, said my friend, you can guess where the arranger is. She could be anywhere in this room. Could she be sitting next to you?

If the room hadn’t been so dark, it would have been easy to spot me once the choir began to sing the first of the three songs I had arranged. I was the one sitting there smiling, singing softly... and fighting back tears.