Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Long Line Outside The Women's Restroom: An Allegory

Standing in line outside the restroom in Central Park, together with dozen other women, a young girl came running to the front of the line and asked to go first. She was in tears and was obviously distressed. But she still had to wait a couple of minutes until the first woman came out of the stall.
It was painful to watch that girl’s plight and as I stood there, I realized that this long line of women waiting patiently, outside, in the freezing weather, while next door men went in and out of their restroom with no wait, was a sad allegory of the condition of women in the 21st century. We all know that there is a problem and still nothing is done to fix it.
We see women standing in lines at restrooms everywhere: in the movie theaters, sport events, concert halls, and museums. Yesterday in New York City I stood in 5 different lines.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Facebook Power: From Clarence Thomas to Yitzhak Laor

In the last few weeks we witnessed extensive protests in the social media against the decision to award the Landau award, by the national lottery association, to the writer Yitzhak Laor. Although he was never charged, it appears that over the years he had sexually assaulted and harassed numerous women.  In response to the outcry,  the board of the Landau Foundation decided to withdraw the prize for poetry from Laor.
It could have ended differently, In 1991 president George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.  Anita Hill, was an attorney-adviser to Clarence Thomas who was then the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. After a report of a private interview with her by the FBI was leaked to the press, she was called to testify at the hearings. At the time we lived in the US and I remember how she described in great details the sexual harassment which she had suffered from Clarence Thomas, her boss.
Yet, in spite of her testimony, the Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Clarence Thomas as associate justice of the Supreme Court.
At that time it was still possible to dismiss serious  accusations  like those of Anita Hill, as merely her word against his, and to cover up sexual misconduct. But today thanks to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, women are no longer alone, they have a community and  are not afraid to speak up.  It happened recently on Twitter with the accusations against Bill Cosby and here in Israel in the case against Yitzhak Laor. In contrast,  during the Clarence Thomas hearings, four female witnesses waited in the wings to reportedly support Hill's credibility, but they were not called to testify and their voice was not heard.
During the course of the debate concerning Laor, some people, especially men, claimed that he should be judged for his art and not for his character or his conduct. They argued that we should make a distinction between the man and his art. I feel that this is no longer possible.
As long as we knew nothing about our artists we were content to merely judge their work. However,  at the age of information it’s getting harder  to cover up misconduct. Thus when an artist is about to get a prestigious award,  it makes sense to assure that he is an upstanding  person who could bring credit to those who  nominated him/her.
There is no going back, in Ha’aretz today the writer Michal Zamir complained that being politically correct ruins all the fun.  She is right, it is not hard to imagine the Facebook outrage if we heard a declaration such as  “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” today.
Richard Wagner was banned and his music has not been performed in Israel not because he was an inferior composer, but since he was an Anti-Semite. Paul de Man lost all his standing when it transpired that he was a Nazi collaborator. So why should we make allowances  when it comes to crimes against women?


Sunday, December 21, 2014

"One Radio Host": Ira Glass At Yale

I have to admit that I wanted to see “Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host” because I am a fan of This American Life. I guess I wasn't the only one, the theater hall at Yale was packed and this was only a matinee, there is going to be a second show tonight.
I didn't know what to expect, but juxtaposing the two dancers,Monica Barnes and Anna Bass, whose voice is their body with Ira Glass, a radio host who normally is only a voice, sounded intriguing.
The show consisted mostly of old episodes from This American Life and recordings of Ira Glass’ interviews.The artists reexamined and revisited those stories with dance and narration.
For example the first act presented a story from the episode “Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time”( number 306 from  2006)  about the cast of Riverdance which  had been performing eight shows a week and suffered from boredom
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

“Everyone Said” Or The Emperor Has No Clothes

Tzipi Livni gave a great performance on TV the other night, she was clever, eloquent and almost as funny as Einav, Orna, Lior and Gouri, the real hosts of the humorous program  “The State of the Nation.”
It is true that I didn’t appreciate her effort to become one of the gang which prompted her to take part, and even enjoy, the ubiquitous sexist remarks and sexual innuendos which flew in the air in order to 
But after fifteen minutes of idle chat finally Livni showed courage.  It wasn’t a real question, but Lior Shlein made a derogatory comment about the latest unsuccessful negotiations with the Palestinians. He said that “everyone said”  that her negotiations would explode and that it was clear there was no chance to succeed.
Livni’s response was hopeful,
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From Lot's Wife To Malala Yusafzai

Today on Human Rights Day when Malala Yusafzai is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize it is important to remember that until fairly recently even in Europe and in the US women were denied education.
In  the introduction to his book Equality for Some: The Story of Girls’ Education, Barry Turner states: “The female intellect is a recent educational discovery. Traditionally Western civilization has distrusted and discouraged clever women, initially because they were regarded as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the community.”
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"After The Holidays": University Towns And Christmas

If you want to get something done in Israel during September and October you'd probably hear that it will have to wait until “after the Holidays.” I never thought about it before, but like us, Americans have their own "after the Holidays." The period from Thanksgiving till the New Year is one long holiday with few working days in between. This is the time when people get together, have parties, remember their friends,  and get ready, at least in the cold climate, for those long lonely months of winter.
Spending this season in the US, I have already observed a familiar quality of the holidays which is unique to university towns. During last Thanksgiving weekend, and even on Black Friday, New Haven became deserted as students who usually filled the stores, coffeehouses and restaurants went back home to their families. I remember other empty towns throughout the holiday season from the many years we spent in this country. Last Christmas season I wrote an essay titled, “Home Alone: University Towns And Christmas.” After last Thanksgiving in New Haven I expect a very quiet Holiday season here too:
In the small Midwestern university town where we attended graduate school the dominant calendar was not Gregorian but Academic.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Breastfeeding Iמ Public? Not In My Front Yard

In the 1980s when my daughters were born, in the US, I was advised to breastfeed them until they were at least a year old. I was also urged to do it as much and as often as possible. So during that first year I nursed my babies everywhere I went: the public library, the mall, and the coffee shop.  It wasn’t a big deal, all the other mothers did it as well, no one ever stared at us or made a comment.
That was how life was in Iowa City, a small university town in the Midwest, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." It was that simple, since mother’s milk was essential to the well-being of the baby, it meant that breastfeeding mothers were made welcome everywhere.
But our breastfeeding friendly world has all but disappeared, 
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures: Women Wage Peace

It was just beautiful, earlier this month hundreds of Australian protesters literally buried their head in the sand in Bondi Beach, in a demonstration over climate change inaction. The purpose of this dramatic protest was to send a message to the prime minister and the G20 leaders ahead of the 2014 summit in Brisbane.

It is unclear whether such a demonstration will bring about the needed changes, but I cannot think of a better way to illustrate blindness and to protest against stupidity.
A similar symbolic act was chosen to mark the launching of a new Israeli movement Women Wage Peace. Last Tuesday more than 1000 women boarded  “a train for peace” from Tel Aviv to Sderot to protest against the irresponsibility of Israeli leaders whose “leadership train” has derailed and it is speedily heading for destruction of Jews and Arabs alike.

Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Israelis At The Thanksgiving Dinner Or Strange Food And Football

Rabbi David Kalb wrote in Ha’aretz today that Jewish people love Thanksgiving: “Jews and Thanksgiving: A Love Story”.  He argues that "There should be no surprise in the way Jews gravitated toward Thanksgiving. It all boils down to two common denominators between our religious holidays and this American one."
Although giving thanks is an essential part of Jewish religion and eating turkey on Thanksgiving means that Jews can participate in the celebratory dinner, my own experience with the holiday does not necessarily bring to mind similarities between Jewish and American traditions, quite the contrary.
We spent our first real Thanksgiving as a family at the home of a colleague of my husband. They taught together at a university in a small Midwestern town.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Crimes and Punishments or We Need Brave Leaders

Is there a way to turn back the clock?  Following the kidnapping and subsequent murder of the three Israeli youth last June I wrote an essay proposing to regard the killing as an atrocious crime. I feared that treating it as a national tragedy would lead to another war, it did.
Today, with yet another horrible murder, more than ever, we desperately need  sane and brave leaders on both sides to stop the madness. It was done before,  Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat proclaimed:  "Now it is time for all of us to show civil courage, in order to proclaim to our people and to others: no more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement, peace unto you” .. "Let there be no war or bloodshed between Arabs and Israelis. Let there be no more suffering or denial of rights. Let there be no more despair or loss of faith. Let no mother lament the loss of her child:" The  Camp David Accords on March 26, 1979.
Please read more in The Times Of Israel

Monday, November 17, 2014

Five Years From Now: Some questions About Retirement

On the wall of a Facebook Feminist group a graduate student asked the members to fill in a questionnaire for her research on women’s career. Looking at some of the standard questions about setting and achieving goals (Where do you see yourself in 5 years? how would you get there? etc), I  felt a pang, clearly this questionnaire was not intended for me. Having resigned my position as a lecturer at a college earlier this fall, I am now retired.
But then I had thought some more about the questionnaire and reached the conclusion that even when we no longer have a career, it is important to ask questions. They could be especially helpful for people like me who are about to make a change and embark on a new phase in  life.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Saturday, November 15, 2014

God's Helper Or The Choice Of Not Being A Mother

Today in Israel Hayom (Israel Today), I read an article about a mother who regretted the choice she had made, over forty years ago, to become a mother. The article has brought about many different reactions. Women feel strongly about this issue, but until recently we hardly ever read or heard similar opinions expressed in Israel.
In April 2013 I was in Britain on the day when Sir Robert Geoffrey Edwards (1925 –2013) died. He was one of the creators of the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) technique, and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke on the radio (BBC 4) about the man and his invention.
This is the essay which I wrote as a reaction to Sacks' eulogy.
Rabbi Sacks argued that for the Jewish people IVF is regarded as a great help in God’s work.
I appreciate the significance of IVF and the huge difference it made in enabling women, who wanted to, to become mothers. However, it is exactly this kind of attitude which could bring unhappiness to women who either are unable to conceive, regardless of the procedure, or, God forbid, choose not to have children.
Israel is a child-centered society and in our country the Ministry of Health finances four IVF treatments to enable the birth of a first and second child in a family, and after that it allows eight more in the following two years.
With such endorsement why would any woman end up childless? This approach assumes that given a choice, all women would want to become a mother.
While I am grateful for the support of the Israeli government, which provides an equal chance to every woman, regardless of her economic situation, it clearly demonstrates the priorities of our society and its leaders. I often feel that Israel is more willing to invest in babies yet to be born than to help children who are already here and need great deal of financial help in order to thrive.
Since today many women postpone motherhood to a later stage,  IVF is especially critical. For those women who are eager to have a child the emotional and physical toll of the procedure is a small price to pay and they do it readily.
But if the treatment fails, many Israeli women are reluctant to  give up on, what they believe to be, their only chance for happiness. Others feel pressure to keep on trying, often harming their health and putting a strain on the relationship with their partner.
Still, even in Israel, like in the rest of the world, some women prefer to remain childless. They have, no doubt, seriously considered the matter and decided that motherhood was not for them.
Yet, for reasons which have to do with our religion, the Holocaust, and the demographics in the Middle East, this choice seems unacceptable. In Israel the decision to have a child ceases to be a private matter but becomes a patriotic duty. Choosing not to have a child is almost regarded as a betrayal.
Public leaders like Rabbi Jonathan Sacks should be more sensitive and  careful when they speak. Not every woman is able to or wishes to have a child. Can’t we just respect her decision and make sure that we let her feel like she has made the right choice for her?

The essay first appeared in The Times Of Israel

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Girls' Sense Of Humor

Today on the wall of a well-known religious figure and a Facebook personality I read that he was delighted to announce that after having three lovely sketches—his daughters, finally the real masterpiece --his son was born. That son would be the heir to the throne of his kingdom.
This is, of course, a happy occasion, and it is his personal post, but having several thousand friends and followers makes him almost a public figure.
I was disappointed to discover that out of the hundreds of likes and comments no one criticized the unfortunate choice of words.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

“You Send Your Son To Welding School:” The Debate Over Vocational Education

In the late 1930s my 16 year old uncle wanted to join a kibbutz, but my grandmother demanded that he first study a vocation which would help him succeed in his new life. My uncle applied to the Max Fein Vocational School and became a welder.  Many years later he told me how proud he felt to be able to bring with him to the Kibbutz a useful gift of a vocation.
This event took place about ten years prior to Israel’s independence, and it was clear that people like my uncle, graduates of vocational schools, were exactly what our country needed.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Sad Reality Behind The Blessing For Stuffed Animals

On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, earlier this month, many churches held blessings of real animals, which were inspired by St. Francis's own love for all earth's creatures. Yesterday I heard a report by Charles Lane on NPR, about a church in Patchogue Long Island which, in honor of the Feast, held a blessing for stuffed animals.
One of the congregants, an elderly gentleman whose wife had dementia, brought with him to church a teddy bear which was given to his wife. It kept her company in the nursing home. For him that bear was representative of the vow which he made to his wife of 58 years: “in sickness and in health.”
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Other Gilmore Girls: Paris Geller and Mrs. Kim

Recently Netflix has started airing Gilmore Girls. Watching several successive episodes, it was evident that the energetic Lorelai Gilmore, the mother of Rory was still a feminist’s role model. However, it was quite shocking to recognize prejudice and cultural stereotypes in the characterizations of members of cultural and ethnic minorities.
For example, Mrs. Kim, the mother of Lane, Rory's best friend, is a caricature of a fanatic Korean Christian woman who is so protective of her daughter that she suffocates her.
But for me the worst characterization is of Paris Geller, Rory's Jewish frenemy from the Chilton school.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

About 'My brother wanted to be a jihadi' by Robb Leech

Reading Robb Leech‘s poignant article about his stepbrother: “My brother wanted to be a jihadi – and society is creating many more like him” in The Guardian this morning, one paragraph has struck me as particularly significant .
After his brother Rich had converted to Islam, he constantly talked about fighting Western oppression, but according to Leech:
“I never saw Rich as a terrorist, and didn’t see any of the people he surrounded himself with as terrorists either. What I saw were, and I hate to say it – vulnerable young men – with massive great chips on their shoulders. With their radical new status they felt empowered, superior and perhaps most annoyingly for me, righteous”
Please read more in The Times Of Israel

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Eggs In The Gilded Cage

For years we have been impressed with the perks of being a High Tech employee:  the exciting free food, the on-site gym, the retreats, and that even before we begin to admire the generous  paychecks and the other financial benefits.
But  there is always a price, in return for all that the worker gives the company his/her life, or at least time and creative energy,.Now comes the latest perk: covering the expense of freezing women's egg as announced by Facebook and Apple.
But excuse me if I  don’t trust those companies to have women’s  best interest in mind.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Woman's Career And Bad Karma

The recent gaffe made by Microsoft's CEO prompted  me think that  one  of the reasons why I didn't have a career was Karma.
But there was a  time when I truly believed that a job well done would  lead to a career. As a graduate student at the University Of Iowa I was the program director at the university Hillel House. That university is the home of the distinguished Writers' Workshop and the International Writers' Workshop, and Iowa City has always been a paradise for literature lovers.
For me as a graduate student of literature it was a perfect position, and one of my goals was to make our Hillel a cultural and literary center. I worked hard, and was so successful that in my second year one of my programs won a national award.

Please keep reading in The Times of Israel 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Instead Of Berlin? See Under Zoo Aretz Zoo

My father left Berlin for Palestine in 1934, he was only 21 year old and was able to obtain a certificate since the firm  he worked for relocated  to Israel. The rest of his family was not so lucky, his parents and one brother were killed by the Nazis, and another brother survived the war but remained permanently scarred.
Then in 2000, my daughter decided to study music in Berlin. It was right after she had attended a music festival  in  Weimar, Germany. It was part of  the newly founded East West Divan by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said.
I got the first reminder that, sixty years later, Berlin was still not just any other city even before she even moved there.  My daughter  showed my father the location of her future student housing. Looking at the address, my father realized that it was the same address as his old school. Indeed once she moved into the dorm, she sent a photo of the memorial statue indicating that this was the site where the Jewish School, Adas Israel ,used to be.
In the five years that my daughter stayed there I visited Berlin several times. In 2000 the city had not yet become a desired destination for Israelis. It was still a relatively sleepy town, at least on its east side where it was dark and empty at night and no one spoke English. Even the city’s landmark --Potsdamer Platz, had not been completed yet, and the government offices took their time moving into the new  capital.
Around the same time my father moved into a sheltered living. As we were packing  his belongings we found a pile of old letters from his family  back in Berlin. The letters dated from 1934, when my father left,  till 1939, when the family was forced out of Berlin. We knew about the letters  but my father never talked about them and I don’t remember   him looking at the letters. .
We decided to loan the letters to the Jewish Museum in Berlin, there is not that much material about domestic Jewish life in Berlin at that that time and the museum was excited to have them. The letters were transcribed (since my grandmother wrote in Gothic letters), typed out, and then translated into English (since I don't know German).
Nothing dramatic was described in the letters, but  they expressed  fear and despair. My grandparents hoped that my father, their oldest, son would be able to help. They urged him to write more and reproached him for not doing so. One brother thanked him for the books which he had sent from Palestine, and the other brother was grateful for the new suit that he had gotten from him. They all appreciated my father for all that he had sent and apologized for always needing more, they were proud people..
I read the letters only once, I couldn't look at them again. It wasn't that I had forgotten earlier about my family or about the Holocaust, but I thought that I was able to disconnect the old from the new. Yet after reading the letters Berlin was never the same for me.
Berlin is a great city, and right now it is also a metaphor for better opportunities and better life for young Israelis who are disillusioned with the situation here. Back in 1975, in similar circumstances, the great satirists of the time ( B. Michael, Hanoch Marmari,  Kobi Niv, Ephraim Sidon, and  Dudu Geva among others) produced a brilliant, and funny, book of social commentary: Zoo Aretz Zoo. One of their remedies was  that we'd all move to  New Zealand.  Perhaps we could use that as a metaphor instead of Berlin?

 The essay appeared in The Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Case Of The Missing Assignment Or Too Much Information

Last week I heard on NPR that in some elementary schools in the US parents are notified by email if their child fails to submit even one assignment.  In high schools parents get on-going notices of all the different deadlines regarding their children’s college applications, so that they could make sure their children do not to miss them.
It is true that the school has all that data on hand and it is very easy to share it with the parents. Also teachers and schools are judged by their students’ performance and they are very willing to recruit the parents to help improve it.  It could even  be  possible that  the parents themselves request, or put pressure on the school to give them all that information.
Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Friday, October 3, 2014

The National Bicycle Day: Yom Kippur  in Israel

Going back to Israel after spending many years in the US, we were quite surprised to discover many new customs in a country which we had thought we knew really well. Recently I wrote  a post about the secular ritual of the Friday night dinner ("TGIF ISraeli Style"), and the new practice of observing  Yom Kippur is another one.
In the first year in Tel Aviv our daughters told us that they had to have bicycles for Yom Kippur, all their friends had them. That  is how we first found out that Yom Kippur has become the National Bicycle Day
Imagine a big city where on a regular day the streets are packed with noisy cars and buses, and then all of a sudden, as though by magic -- everything stops and there is silence.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Blah Blah Insurance Person Come Help' and the Old Person in Peres' Video

Yesterday in an opinion article in Haaretz, Alon Hadad  had some  reservations about  the video in which the retired president Shimon Peres is trying  to find a job in different minimum wage employments. Indeed the  humorous video portrays the sad reality of elderly people in Israel, and Hadad feels that the video ridicules this segment of the population,
Prior to reading Hadad's article I had watched  that  video  and  felt that although it was amusing it had a relevant and poignant social comment. Peres himself is 90 year old, but he has always been lucky and successful.  However, dressed in a different attire, like in the famous story of  The Prince and the Pauper,  he was just another old man. As a result, the video shows that he is either transparent to the rest of the world or is treated badly. The video was so accurate that it was almost unbearable to watch how  in the Holy Land the Biblical Mizva of respecting  the elderly  has become yet another irrelevant value.
Please keep on reading in The Times Of Israel 

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Group Of Religious Feminists With No Sense Of Humor And The Desert Island

For many Jewish people Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are truly High Holidays, for me they mark yet another year in which “I won't  set a foot in a synagogue.” This phrase is taken from a famous Jewish fable/ Joke for the High Holidays...
“A Jewish sailor was shipwrecked on a desert island and the first thing he did was build two synagogues....
Years later when he was rescued people were bewildered and asked him: Why he built two synagogues... to which he replied.
"Oh that other one... I won’t set a foot there”!*
Sadly this joke reflects a less than funny reality.
When we lived in small university towns in the Midwest we always went to Shul on the High Holidays. We are not religious but being outside Israel we wanted to celebrate the holidays with other Jewish people.

Please keep on reading in The Times Of Israel

Thursday, September 25, 2014

IMA Is More Important Than

IMA is more important than

Going north on Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv you can’t miss the eye-catching yellow building with the word IMA (mother in Hebrew) in huge letters and beneath in smaller print: “is more important than.” Even once the full sentence is revealed with the rest of the word IMA--GINATION, and we remember Albert Einstein's quote, the word IMA remained with me.
So if IMA is that important, how come so many young women today still have trouble juggling motherhood and career? The following is a an amazing, yet disturbing, example of the challenges of an Israeli mother, in the relentless business world. Her daughter celebrated her birthday at the preschool and had warned the mother that if she failed to show up to the party on time, she would dismiss her as a mother.
On the appointed day the mother had to attend a meeting which was due to end fifteen minutes prior to the party. As it was rush hour, she knew that she would never get from the center of Tel Aviv to the party on time. Desperate times called for desperate measures, thus she had planned ahead and hired a delivery motorcyclist who waited for her at the end of the meeting and raced through heavy traffic to the school: She wasn't late.
That time the mother found a solution, but I have to wonder about all the other instances when she couldn't, and about the high price that the mother and her daughter have to pay, so that the mother could keep her job. Most mothers are not praised for their resourcefulness, it is part of their job. Moreover, this type of solving problem is silenced because it may hint to the fact that those women don’t have their priority straight. Even in the 21st century mothers are still expected to be at the birthday early with an elaborated home made cake and a big smile.
The story demonstrates a brave mother who thinks outside the box and comes up with innovative solutions. Those are rare and sought after qualities in both the business world and in politics. However, it is also a sad comment on our society when a mother has to literally risk her life to get to a her daughter's birthday party on time.
For generations women have been wrestling with the issue of combining home and work. The great Feminist Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, (1953) was against women's employment and argued that combining home and work meant a burden of the ‘double day’ which underpinned the subordinate position of women in society. She further details the hardships in store for women, at all professional levels that attempt to combine marriage and work.
Things have not changed much, whether you are a young mother balancing work and children, or an older mother attempting to get back in, the workplace in general is not a friendly environment for mothers of all ages. De Beauvoir, who wrote about the plight of working married women, never married; it was her way of never facing that problem.
Not every woman wishes to be a mother, and it is a sensible choice, but But it is high time to recognize motherhood as one of the achievements listed on a woman’s CV.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

When It Comes To Women Ambition Is Still A Dirty Word

The public argument between the two journalists Ayala Hasson and Geula Even resulted in many schadenfreude responses, especially in the social media. I saw very unpleasant sexist remarks on my Facebook page. Those reactions to the two strong women got me thinking about the instinctive negative attitude to ambitious women.
In 2008 I attended a conference on Women and Ambition in the Workplace. The conference was organized by the Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies in Trinity College, Dublin in association with the Irish Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Although the conference was devoted to ambition that word was curiously absent from the discussions. There was certain unease surrounding ambition itself and as an adjective for a woman.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Customer Is Always Right, Or Meaningful learning?

At a time when our Education Minister, Rabbi Shay Piron is trying to bring about change in the schools with his concept of “meaningful learning,” I have to wonder how he reconciles this lofty idea with the last incident concerning  the  suspension of the Israeli teacher  in Ashkelon.
That teacher  was suspended by her principal  after a  student had hacked into her private email, and published  in the class’ Wattsup his findings-- intimate photos of that teacher in the nude.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is The Grass Really Greener? The Unbearable Lightness Of Leaving Israel

In the last couple of months, during the last war, I heard several intellectuals announce that they intend to leave Israel. The reasons as I understand them had to do with the unbearable political situation in Israel and the toxic cultural climate.
I can identify with this despondency, the current government makes it  hard to envision a change any time soon, and many of us feel angry and helpless.
Every so often when I am on the highway, stuck in traffic, I fantasize about leaving my car behind in the middle of Ayalon, and  walk away.
Please keep reading 

What’s In A Name? The Question Of Slavery And Goel Ratzon

It wasn’t that long ago that marital rape was regarded as a private matter, and was condoned and ignored by the court and by society. It took years of hard work, especially by feminists, to change the legal definition of rape so that marital rape will be prosecuted as any other kind of rape.
Earlier this week we heard that the Israeli cult leader and polygamist Goel Ratzon was found guilty of aggravated rape and other sexual offenses, but was acquitted of enslavement charges. Some people, mostly men, argue that since  Goel Ratzon is sent to prison for many years it is not that crucial that he would be convicted of enslavement. But one of his wives, Ma'ayan, upon hearing that he was acquitted of the enslavement charges, shouted: "I was in complete slavery. If the State of Israel had not released me, I would have been serving a life sentence"  (Haaretz September 8th)

Please keep reading in The Times Of Israel

Monday, September 1, 2014

TGIF Israeli Style

Teaching reading I am always  looking for articles which could engage my students and convince them to speak in English and to write. I was surprised how much they liked an opinion article about the significance of eating dinner together, especially with the family.  In that article the writer, C. J. Moore,  claims that “eating together is one of the most civilizing social events in life. It follows that eating with children should bring a socializing influence to their lives, too.”
 had been familiar with this approach, when we lived in the US we were told that having dinner together as a family would contribute to the  emotional well-being of our children and improve their social skills.
Please keep reading 

Writing As A Way Of Correcting Insults

 I heard a beautiful quote on the radio the other day. One of our major novelists Haim Be'er said that "writing is a way of correcting insults." I am not sure how he meant  it exactly, but I can think of several  options.

The first way is in fiction, where a real-life slight could turn into a triumph. If I were a  fiction writer I would  amend an old grievance which I have carried inside me for fifty years.

 In fourth grade a new boy joined our class. I had never seen a more beautiful boy; he had  big black eyes, long eyelashes and a sad face. He had  just come back from a long stay in the US, and I remember that he had a very special metal lunch box with Batman which we all coveted.

 Wanting to show off, I told that boy that I knew how to play soccer. To be honest, I really thought that I knew how to play the game since I played with my brother. The boy seemed mildly amused and invited me to play with him that afternoon at his house. I remember walking  happily to his house without a  worry. When I arrived he was waiting for me with his older brother and we started to play. What a fiasco! It transpired that I had no idea how to play soccer and his brother laughed at me. I felt insulted and humiliated.

 In fiction I could have changed the facts of this story and showed my friend and his brother my talent, agility and skill in the game. I bet that his brother would have hated to see his little brother defeated by a girl. Sadly it didn’t happen this way in real life.

As a non-fiction writer, this quote inspires me to revisit what has happened without changing the turns of  events or the outcome. Perhaps I could find some compassion in my heart for the little girl that I was. Why did such a minor incident  remain such a  powerful memory?

I am not sure whether it was the scorn my friend's brother who was several years older than us.It wasn’t that I felt bad in front of my friend; he didn’t seem to mind I believe that he was used to winning,  and after this soccer experience  we spent a lovely afternoon playing together in his house.

But in a way I felt betrayed by my own adored brother. In letting me win, my brother had somehow led me to believe that I knew the game. But what makes this insult stick? I believe that  part of it is  that I  experienced, for the first time, a feeling of being  found out to be a fraud.  But I also know that I was so offended because no one stood up for me and I felt alone; where was my brother in this hour of need?

In Hebrew, we don’t have an equivalent to the wonderful expression (and concept ) of “a list of grievances.” Writing fiction is a great way of amending past insults, and analyzing them takes off their edge. Even making  lists is an effective tool, as by grouping grievances we can ridicule their intention and reduce their intensity. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Curious Case Of The "P" In PTA -- Parent Or Prayer?

My daughters spent the last night in the US, in Iowa City, with a good friend. Later she told me that in preparation for the long journey back to Israel she had baptized the girls-- just in case.  I felt that it was a bit extreme but said nothing, I knew that it was an act of love and did not want to hurt my friend's feelings.
Less than a year later we found ourselves back in the US, this time my husband was hired sight unseen by a large company which moved us from Israel to Texas. His lab was outside Fort Worth, and we settled in a nearby town, in a good school district. Our daughters went to the elementary public school down the road and I, an involved parent, joined the PTA.

The Only Way To Get Read In Today's World: Sayed Kashua

Some writers lend themselves to translation much better than others. A short while ago I heard on the radio program This American Life (501: The View From In Here, JUL 26, 2013) a story by the Arab-Israeli writer Sayed  Kashua. I was impressed, but not surprised, at how well Kashua’s story came across in English. I read the original in Hebrew and his insights, subtle criticism of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and his wit shone in English as well as they did in Hebrew. As an Arab in Israel, Kashua is constantly translating from Arabic to Hebrew and from Hebrew to Arabic. His biography is the embodiment of translation: he was born in the Arab village of Tira, and in school he learnt both Arabic and Hebrew. 

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What Is The Purpose Of Your Visit?

Because of the war we expected our friends to cancel their scheduled visit to Israel, but they did not show any sign of doing so. On the appointed day in August we met them in Ben Gurion airport. Apparently they were the only non-Israelis passengers on board. They told us that upon arrival when asked at the passport control  for the purpose of their visit they answered   "to visit friends".
This reply wouldn't surprise any one here, even in time of war, since friendship has always been an important and natural part of Israeli  life. When my father came to Israel on his own at the age of twenty one in 1934 he had no family in Palestine, and his friends were his only support network. It was a typical situation in his generation. Looking through old issues of the Israeli magazine L’aisha  (For Woman)  from the late 1940s  I found an essay devoted to friendship. Its purpose was to teach  women  how to make friends and keep them:
The essay “The secret of true friendship” by Elisheva  Daniel  was written in response to questions of many readers who had written to the magazine asking for advice. The content suggests that  the writer believed that her target audience had no experience in making friends. It was only a couple of years after the end of the second World War and many young women (and men) arrived to Israel as refugees and had to grow up fast often without parents.
In order to make friends and keep them, the writer advises the reader to have an open mind, to refrain from prejudice, to understand that everyone is lonely and could be a potential friend. She warns not  to envy those who already have friends, since they had to work hard in order to acquire them. It is important  to make time for friends, to show empathy and understanding . Every person likes to feel special and it is the friend’s responsibility to enable it. A friend should care about the needs and wishes of the other person and to try to fulfill them.
The writer ends the essay with the following statement:  “You see, to be a good friend you must be ready to sacrifice and not to think only of yourself. This is the price of friendship and if you wish to have friends  you should work hard to get them. You have to become  a giver. There is no happiness like that of a person who knows that he/she can do something for someone else. This is the secret of true friendship.”
This was seventy years ago, but friendship has maintained its significance in our society. In schools, in youth movements, and in the army serious discussions are devoted to the value and significance of this institution. However, with time the meaning of friendship and the role of the friend have greatly changed.  Elisheva Daniel’s stern definition, the about the commitment and responsibility of the friend, is no longer applicable to most everyday friendships. While in the 1940s friendship often was the most significant relationship in a person’s life, today it has been replaced by the family. We are willing, perhaps, to make sacrifices for members of our family but much less for our friends.
The attitude to friendship varies in different cultures, In Britain,for example, a friend is someone whom we have known all our lives. In contrast, many Israelis are often surprised, and even disappointed, to discover that friendship and friends are regarded much more casually in the US.
A more relevant definition of friendship is offered by  the British sociologist Graham Allan, who regards friendship as an  informal, voluntary, reciprocal, equal, and non-exploitive personal relationship. It is formed not for instrumental reasons but simply because it is found to be enjoyable.
Fun is curiously absent from Elisheva Daniel's early description of friendship. However, joyful is the adjective which I choose to describe the visit of our friends during the war. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the country afresh through their admiring eyes. And it was especially joyful to remember that, in spite of the heat of August and the stress of the war, touring the country is something to look forward to when normal life resumes
The essay appeared in the Times Of israel

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Instead Of A Mirror: Anne Tyler’s Twinform

I learnt about Twinforms in Anne Tyler’s  novel A Patchwork Planet.  Barnaby, the protagonist, finds  an old  Twinform ---a wooden cut-out model with custom -painted face - so a lady could plan an outfit without having to get undressed,  in the attic of one of his elderly clients. It belonged to her mother.
From the description the Twinform seemed so real that I had to check it on Google, but was not able to find any information about it. 
Still regardless of its physical existence the idea of having a twin, or at least someone who looks like me so I could really see myself from the outside, is inspiring,
I have always suspected that mirrors were not enough, but Mikhail Bakhtin conveys the full complexity of the issue.
Mikhail Bakhtin, "Man in Front of a Looking Glass"
"[Those] falsehoods and lies that inevitably reveal themselves in one's relations with oneself. An external image of thought, an external image of the soul. It is not myself looking at the world with my eyes from inside myself, but myself looking at myself through the eyes of the world, through somebody else's eyes; I am possessed by the Other. In this, there is no naïve wholeness between the inner and the outer. [In front of a looking glass, I am t]aking a peep at myself in my own absence. The naivety of [believing in] the fusion between the self and the other in a mirror image. An excess of the Other. I have no point from which to contemplate myself from the outside, I have no way to approach my own internal self-image. There are somebody else's eyes gazing at me from my eyes."
In this beautiful and short passage Bakhtin confirms that I would never be able to look at myself from the outside.
Yet, the concept of a Twinform is comforting, it could enable me, at least, to see my outward appearance in a detached way. I could observe whether the blue skirt goes well with a yellow blouse.  
Seeing a favorite piece of clothing on someone else, even a Twinform, would allow me a different point of view , devoid of emotions.  Besides, it is a great way to prepare combinations of outfits for a journey, or for the week ahead. 
Since it is only a model, the delightful Twinform does not allow for changes in size throughout the years.Thus, just like mannequins in the store window, who normally look nothing like the real customers of that store, eventually could become irrelevant.
In the world of the novel  the Twinform, which was invented by the protagonist’s paternal great great-father, is a literary device, and it has significance in terms of the plot of the character. For example, when it appears for the first time Tyler uses it to introduce the protagonist’s history and to present him as the black sheep of the family.

But as a reader I kept thinking that, in the absence of my mother who could tell me honestly how I looked, I wish I had a Twinform.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is It True That You Can Never Go Home Again?

They say ”you can never go home again,” but is it true? Doesn’t  the word "home" imply that you can return, that you will always be welcome unconditionally, and regardless of anything?
 I was reminded of the more metaphorical meanings of this saying  this week while staying in the US with my daughter, her  husband and their new daughter-- my first granddaughter. We were discussing some  practices from the time when my daughters were babies, about  thirty years ago, in the US.
My daughter listened patiently to me and then told me, with a half embarrassed smile, that those practices were no longer used. Nowadays new regulations indicate that the baby should not sleep on her stomach without supervision, that she should not  drink water (but that has been true for years). There are also strict regulations about furniture which mean that she can no longer sleep in the family crib or in the cradle, built thirty years ago by a loving uncle. These are only few examples from a long list of practices and objects which could no longer be used. .
My daughter, a responsible and sensible mother, only wants what is best for her baby. Still it made me sad that, due to safety reasons, my daughter and her daughter are  deprived of the connection with the family history: her baby will not sleep in the same cradle that her father had slept in.
The main reason for those strict regulations is to prevent, as much as possible, Sudden Infant Death. I still remember the horrible fear of SIDS  when my own daughters were babies. Then we were not aware that anything could be done about it. Nowadays,  thanks to the new regulations, this syndrome has almost been eradicated.
But then yesterday my daughter went through the baby’s clothes showing me what she had received from family members and friends. Some of the items looked old and used, still she wanted to keep them.  Moreover, my daughter tried to convince me to return new gifts of clothes claiming that she already had more than enough. I argued  that it was fun to dress a new baby with new clothes.
At first I didn’t see why she wanted to keep the old clothes, but later I understood. Wearing clothes that came from cousins and friends was a way to maintain the important connection with the past. The baby was surrounded with so much new and impersonal equipment, that my daughter preferred the meaningful clothes to those new ones which were still sterile.
Dressing the baby with hand-me-down clothes  from people that you care about, is an act of bonding, and it is a way to go home again. 
Besides, it promotes another important value, that of social and consumer responsibility. It is especially significant in a place like the US where consumers goods are so abundant and  inexpensive that it is too easy to buy everything new.
I can compare this type of responsibility to the growing movement toward adoption of rescue pets, why spend money on one pedigree dog when so many other need a home?
And speaking of home, later today I will fly back to Israel; my daughter, her American husband, half American daughter, and her Israeli dog will remain  in their home in the US.  Staying with  this young  family I had to expand the meaning of home with the help of another saying: “home is where your heart is.” Indeed part of mine will remain with them.