Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Most Important Profession In The world

"I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well."  Alexander The Great

The first scene of the poignant Turkish/French film Mustang, which in Hebrew was translated into “Wild Girls,” shows the end of the last day of the school year. A beloved teacher is parting from her young students. They stand in line to bid her farewell, and one little girl is crying. The teacher comforts her, asks her to keep in touch and to write to her.
From the comments of the students we gather that the young teacher is moving away from Trabzon, on the Black Sea in Turkey, to Istanbul a 1000 km away.
At the end of the film, the young student, whose life has become unbearable, runs away from home, with her older sister, in order to arrive at the home of her teacher, the only person in the world whom she trusts.
This may seem like an idealistic portrayal of the teacher, but there are numerous examples in life ,and in fiction, of dedicated teachers who devote their lives to their students.
The teacher has an immense role in in forming the personality of the young child. We could all think of  a teacher who believed in us, encouraged us or did not give up on us. Of course we could never forget that teacher.
At the university level the role of the teacher/advisor is different, but even there, especially at the post-graduate level, the advisor is very significant. Sometimes, for the student, the teacher is the only face of the institution, and the bond between the student and the mentor is often deep and meaningful, and could last a lifetime.
A good advisor could not remain distant and polite, in order to get the most out of the student he/she has be a hands-on mentor, which often means: demanding and strict.
In recent years when higher education has become commercialized and compete for students’ money, the ability of the teachers to do their best is compromised. When the  student becomes a client and therefore is always right, teachers are  pressurized to be popular, and popularity is often in contrast to being demanding.  And then there are the dreaded questionnaires, which ask for satisfaction feedback from the students/ customers.
Today being a teacher seems a bit like walking a tightrope. In order not to fall the teacher needs to keep his balance and stays focused. But that is only the beginning, a “real” teacher needs to be courageous, flexible, strong and optimistic.
At the end of a week in which our education system has  joined a reactionary tradition of banning books, for fear of poisoning the minds of our youth, it is easy for teachers to lose faith.
But the reunion at the end of Mustang, which shows that the little girl reached a safe haven at the home of her teacher, restored my optimism and  gave me hope. It reminded me again that no other profession is more important than teaching.

The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Small Towns In Texas And Personal Friends

When we lived in Texas in the early 1990s, we found a house in a small town in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. We liked it there because the schools were excellent and the price of houses was still affordable.
Still, in spite of the many churches in the area and the good district, people used to say that small towns in Texas in general, and our area in particular, were run like old boys' clubs.
I never believed it, especially since the people we met, our friends, were just like us: professional, hard working, and devoted to their children. Many of them were active in the school and in different activities of the PTA.
But about a year after we settled there, I was involved in a car accident. In a four-stop intersection, a car failing to stop, hit my car. Luckily I was alone in the car and no one got hurt. The other car was a mini van, and it was barely scratched. We exchanged details, and as my car was damaged, I decided to sue the driver of the other car for the deductible on my insurance.
On the appointed day we met in court. I came on my own, it was, after all, a very straightforward matter. The other driver came with her husband, who was very chummy with the judge. Apparently they knew each other and seemed like good friends.
In the short time that passed from the accident till the trial day, the couple managed to sell the mini van and got a new car. Since it was in the days pre smart-phone cameras, it was no longer possible to see any evidence of the collusion and to explain to the judge what had happened exactly.
It took only minutes for that judge to rule in favor of the other party. Needless to say, none of my friends was surprised, I was stunned.
After several occurrences like that, I was relieved when we moved away and no longer lived in a place where the old boys system could affect the outcome of the simplest case of traffic violation.
However, this anecdote is not that different from the embarrassing opinion article  and television appearance of the doctor friend of the Shalom family who denounced the unfair treatment of the couple, and lamented their plight as an orphan (Silvan) and a widow (Judy).
Even if it is conceivable to imagine such gestures on local Television in small towns in Texas, we shouldn’t tolerate them here in Israel.
It is bad enough to think that for years people knew about Shalom’s secret hobby, and no one was brave enough to come forward and speak on behalf of the women he, allegedly, abused.
We are used to seeing  and hearing  upscale lawyers arguing of behalf of famous and infamous clients in an attempt to sway public opinion in their  favor. However, inviting personal friends to speak on national television, and appeal to viewers to feel sorry for fallen celebs, is not only manipulative and parochial, but it makes the media almost a partner in crime

The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Electric Light Is the Most Efficient Policeman: Breaking The Silence

On a recent visit to Hebron with  Breaking The Silence, our guide told us that when he came home for Shabbat, during his army service in the occupied territories, he could tell no one at home about his experience. Even his own mother didn't want to know and said " it’s okay, you are home now.”
Breaking The Silence was founded in 2004, it is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.
The purpose of the organization is to shed light on Israel’s operational methods in the Territories and to encourage debate about the nature of the occupation (from the book Our Harsh Logic compiled by the organization Breaking the Silence)
Publicity has been seen as an effective tool already by the famous supreme court Justice Louis D Brandeis (the first Jew to be appointed to that court in 1916) who wrote that “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases.”(1915)
But in Israel the publicity of Breaking The Silence is seen as a betrayal and not a remedy. Because the organization collects testimonies of soldiers about their experience in the Occupied Territories and then publicize them inside and outside Israel, it has become the enemy of the people. Thus speakers from Breaking The Silence are banned from appearing before  students and soldiers. Even our prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who grew up in the largest democracy in the world, talks about them as traitors..
If we compare our state to a family this is quite understandable. In dysfunctional homes the children are usually instructed never to talk about the problems to people outside the family. Moreover, in extreme cases of abuse children are threatened not to mention it to anyone. Thus, the worst crimes often happen inside the place which is supposed to be a safe haven-- our own home.
We were brought up to believe that our army, the Israeli army, was the most ethical in the world. For us a phrase like "the purity of weapon” was not an oxymoron but an important principle, going back to the time before the founding of the state of Israel. It was also a favorite topic of discussion in our youth movements' activities.
The name IDF explicitly states that the purpose of our army is to defend us, but throughout the years the definition of defense has changed, and what is seen as a threat today is not the same as it was in the early days of the state of Israel.
The public activity of Breaking The Silence, and their educational work should not be perceived as a threat to Israel, quite the contrary. In the age of social network when we could find everything on the web, arguments like this  organization  is causing demoralization, or it is giving ammunitions to those who hate us anyway, is not valid anymore.
We should be proud that in Israel we have watchdogs like Breaking The Silence, which publicize injustice, they help us be better people and stay that way, or as Louis D. Brandeis said in the latter part of his statement “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants, electric light the most efficient policeman.”
P.S This is the link to the essay, which I wrote, following the visit to Kiryat Arba and Hebron with Breaking the Silence.
The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel

Even His Own Mother Didn't Want to Know: Breaking the Silence

During my visit to  Kiryat Arba and Hebron with the movement, Breaking The Silence, our guide told us that when he came home for Shabbat, during his army service in the occupied territories, he could tell no one at home about his experience. Even his own mother didn't want to know and said " it is okay; you are  home now.”
This is how the movement describes itself and its mission in its official page:"Breaking The Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life."
With the demonization of the movement, feel that I should post again my essay about that visit. It describes what I saw with my own eyes, and emphasizes the important educational work which this movement does.
Please read the essay in the Times Of Israel

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Novy God and the Kosher Shrimps

Perhaps some of you remember that in the early 90s in Israel one of the Israeli food companies (Chef Hayam?) produced frozen Kosher Shrimps. It sounds confusing, but actually they were bits of kosher fish which were made to look like shrimps. Since the Israeli customers, who bought the product, had never eaten a real shrimp, no one knew the difference..
A good friend of mine, an Orthodox Jew debated whether it was even ethical to eat them. Although she knew that the shrimps were Kosher, it felt wrong, and she was reluctant to eat something which pretended to be a shrimp.
The fact that this product disappeared from store freezers quite quickly might be an indication that my friend wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Today on the radio, the Member of Knesset Ksenia Svetlova attempted to explain the meaning of Novy God (New year), to Benny Teitelbaum, another Orthodox Jew, as part of a campaign to make it an Israeli holiday.
More than one million Israelis who arrived from the former Soviet Union celebrate this family holiday on December 31st. It is the only secular holiday that they had in their old country.
As Ms Svetlova explained, in the former Soviet Union religious holidays were banned and as a child, like everyone else, she knew nothing about Judaism or Christianity.
But when Teitelbaum heard that a tree played part in this holiday all hell broke loose. He refused to listen any longer, and in a condescending way announced to the M.K  that Israel was a Jewish state, and the tree was Christian.
Although all around the world trees are traditional Christmas custom, like many other pagan symbols, Easter eggs for example, they do not have their origin in the New Testament and have no religious meaning.
Two years ago, before the last election, a member of the Knesset, Dr. Hanna Swaid, an Arab Christian, had sent an official request to Yuli Edelstein, the Speaker of the House, asking him to place a Christmas tree at the entrance to the Knesset building before the holiday, the Speaker refused. This is part of what I wrote then.
* * *
Granting a permission to place the tree at the entrance could have been a wonderful holiday gift from the Holy Land, showing Christian people in Israel and around the world the enlightenment of the Jewish nation. Such decision could have been a triumphant moment in that Speaker’s political career, singling him out as a leader dedicated to promote pluralism and religious tolerance toward minorities in our country.
I was disappointed, I had thought that the Speaker had more courage. He must have forgotten that, like him, many Soviet Jews left for Israel because they had suffered there due to their religious beliefs and their Zionism. He also didn't remember that Jewish people from his native land still celebrate New Year with a small Christmas Tree.
In Israel we have no separation of State and Church, but surely a Christmas tree in the Knesset would threaten no one. Besides, everyone knows that a tree is just a tree: Christ was born in the Middle East and not in the evergreen forests of Northern Europe, and the Christmas tree is more a holiday spectacle than a religious symbol.
* * *
I wouldn't like to think why it was so easy for Yuli Edelstein to refuse Hanna Swaid's request, but that was then. Now that his compatriot Ksenia Svetlova explained the secular meaning of the tree, perhaps like the shrimp, we could kosher the holiday and make more than million people proud of their heritage and comfortable in their identities as Israelis.
Happy New Year or Novy God
The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Ethiopian Jews Are Not Welcome

This morning on the radio I heard, again, horror stories of discrimination against Ethiopian Jews in areas like housing and education. Apparently there is a silent agreement in certain neighborhoods to keep Ethiopian Jews  away and not let them buy or rent apartments.
It seems that in Israel today, discrimination, in many ugly forms, has become a way of life.
I would like to devote today’s post to the discrimination against black people, specifically the West Indians, from the British colonies in Britain during the 1950s. Although the circumstances are different, the content would seem very familiar.
The West Indians fought together with the British in WW2, and regarded Britain as their “mother country.” They were totally unprepared for what they found when they actually moved to Britain after the war.
The 1948 British Nationality Act  confirmed the right of all citizens of the British Commonwealth and Colonies to settle in England. After the war, the West Indians were the first group of colored immigrants to come to the UK in significant number.
The West Indians were keenly conscious of their status as British citizens. They spoke English, and their education was focused on Britain and its history. The church, often the Anglican Church, had played a significant role in their lives in their home country, and their social values had been modeled after those of British society. West Indians who relocated to Britain referred to themselves as ‘migrants’ rather than ‘immigrants’, pointing out that since they were British citizens their ‘migration was essentially the same as internal migration within the British Isles. Thus they arrived in Britain fully expecting to be integrated into the new society, believing that their life in the West Indies had taught them what to expect in Britain.
Once there, West Indians experienced great difficulties in their search for housings in Britain. Clifford Hill, a minister who worked closely with the immigrants, testifies that in house-after-house they were met with ‘we don’t take niggers’, or were politely informed that the room was already taken. They were often driven into the mercenary hands of landlords who saw their plight as an opportunity to make money.
As many more West Indians arrived, property owners seized the prospect of buying up large old houses, sub-divided and ‘furnished’ them and then let out the rooms. The choice of location for West Indians was then very narrow; they needed to be fairly near to the central London labour market and according to testimonies they generally found rooms in miserable conditions and in noisy locations near  railways or  markets.
A report published by the Fabian Colonial Bureau at that time, cites that the status of colonial migrants was determined by three factors: first, as the West Indians or African migrants were people of color they were likely to face race-associated prejudice; second, since they were  considered  foreigners, they were subject to the attitudes directed toward foreigners regardless of race; third, because some Britons associated colored people with ‘extremely low social status,’ they were likely to suffer class discrimination.
The survey quoted a typical British response to the newcomers: “I dislike discrimination but I am obliged to practice it.” Overall the study found that the attitude to the black immigrants was that of superiority. The foreigner was inferior and not really regarded as British.
In Britain of the 1950s the insufferable conditions of the West Indians led to a series of riots known as the Notting Hill race riots of 1958.
Even if Britain today is not totally discrimination-free, this, previously insulated island, welcomes cultural and racial diversity and it has become a multi cultural society .
Earlier this year we witnessed the demonstrations protesting discrimination against Ethiopian Jews. I hope that we do not continue to turn a blind eye to the injustice in our own backyard. If we do, it is likely that an Israeli version of Notting Hill riots would have to wake us up.
P.S The information in this essay appeared in my published paper about the West Indians in 1950s Britain:
“From Greenland's Icy Mountains: The Church and the West Indian Immigrants in An Unsuitable Attachment.”  Kunapipi 30/1 July 2008

The essay appeared in the Times Of israel

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sour Grapes of Parents, Sons’ Teeth and Chapter 2

Less than three months ago, the beloved journalist and television personality Motti Kirshenbaum passed away at the age of 76. Kirshenbaum was a widower, and in recent years he had a partner. Although he loved the attention of the media, It seems to me that, he would have hated to think about the public inheritance feud between his adult children and his partner, following his death.
Of course, inheritance feuds do not happen only in families of public figures or millionaires, people could fight bitterly over their parents’ money even when there is hardly anything left to divide.
But when it comes to individuals who chose to open a new chapter in their life, the hatred and contempt, between the opposing sides: the children of the deceased and the remaining partner,are often not concealed. From the two articles in Ma'ariv about the Kirshenbaum family, it was evident that in this case the gloves were off.
In Hebrew we call that new chapter “Chapter Two” and it refers to the meaningful relationship, which occurs if or when chapter 1, in which people get married and have children, ends. Many people are lucky to have only one long chapter in their life, others, due to unfortunate circumstances such as death or divorce, are left on their own. Some of them choose to find a new partner.
A good friend, who is a widower, told me once that the main bones of contention in chapter 2 are children and money.
In novels, unlike the significant first chapter, the following one is somewhat secondary. While chapter 1 sets the action and the tone for the whole book and creates certain hopes, chapter 2 works best when it develops the themes of the first, and fulfills some of its promises. If it doesn't it could confuse and irritate the reader, and may lead to frustration and disbelief..
It happens outside literature as well, and as couples who choose chapter 2 try to be independent and carve out a new life for themselves, it often creates feelings of suspicion and even ill-will among children and other family members. And, as my friend suggested, most often this mistrust manifests itself in issues related to money.
Like a skilled author, those new couples  find themselves trying to give power and significance to their allotted chapter 2 while trying to keep promises which were given in chapter 1.
I don’t see how, following the death of a parent, conflicts between adult children and the remaining partner could be resolved, especially as both sides are motivated by anger and suspicion. But it helps if there are specific instructions that both sides know. My husband explicitly told me that he hoped that I would start a new chapter once he was gone, but that he trusted me to take good care of our daughters' future.
Thus, the first thing I did once I got up from the Shiva was to fulfill his wish and wrote a will. We have no way of knowing what happens after we are gone, but putting our affairs in order ahead of time is a small step toward leaving our children a better world, and keeping our legacy unmarred,

 The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel

Monday, November 30, 2015

The New Don Quixote: Facebook

Only six days have passed since Yinon Magal, the charismatic M.K. from the Jewish Home Party, was first accused of sexual harassment in a Facebook post, and today he resigned his position in the israeli Knesset. Magal never denied the facts detailed in the post (that was done by his many friends who used typical victim blaming techniques to fight back). However in his first response to the post Magal condescendingly chided the accuser for "shaming" him in the social media.”
I, for once, am thankful that Facebook could do this important service for victims of sexual harassment. A year ago I wrote an essay about a similar case in which Facebook became the voice of the women, who were victimized by a powerful man, and the effect this campaign had on empowering them.
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.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Blogging And Roller-Skating

Recently I came across some comments about blogging. The writers claimed  that blogs were no longer fashionable or effective, and no one bothered to read them. Furthermore,  because there was too much information on the net, blogging was dead. Although in my case, my low visibility is a living proof (forgive the pun) of the veracity of this statement, I am well aware that many bloggers are very successful, and some have thousands and even millions of followers.
Still, for me, the best thing about blogging, is the inherent freedom that this genre allows. No one prevents me from writing a blog, or censors its content. Moreover, unlike academic papers, there is no peer review, and once the essay is written, publication  is almost immediate.
This month I mark 3 years of writing a blog. In the first two years I had a comfortable home in Red Room, an American site for writers. Unfortunately this site was suddenly closed in July 2014.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What Do Boyer Graduates Do For Fun?

Somehow it wasn’t out of character for  Boyer Class of 1970  to spend its annual reunion weekend in Yeruham. The program for the weekend would be considered a big yawn for most vacationers, but not for  Boyer graduates. It included an hour long lecture on Friday by a social activist, a meeting on Saturday with the mayor, and an informal get together with a committed, some would even call him quixotic, philanthropist.
In addition, a special social minded tour guide took us around town and as part of Yeruham’s contemporary history we visited the home of a witness. In 1955 he  arrived from Morocco as a young boy, and together with his family was dumped there in the middle of the night. The tour ended with lunch at the home of a member of a group of women who cook for tourists and visitors.
This choice of the Boyer group could be better understood if we remember the mission of the school from its beginning in the second part of the 1960s.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Israel Conference On Peace and The Missing Parents

Israel Conference On Peace last Thursday brought together an impressive roster of speakers, whose opinions matter. There were Israelis and Palestinians, representatives from the left and from the right and even several statesmen like Tony Blair and Martin Indyk who are involved in the peace “industry”. They all spoke to a full house that was waiting for some encouraging message of hope.
Still if we need a proof that the Israeli left is out of touch with the life of most Israelis, we could start with the location of the conference and the price of registration.
The conference was held at a luxurious hotel in Tel Aviv.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Senior Intern: Stereotypes and Reality

I know from experience that as they get older, women and men tend to become transparent. To women it  usually happens somewhere between 50 and 60 years of age, and about a decade later to men, since in their 50s many of them are still at the prime of their career.
Thus, on a recent stay in the US, I wasn’t surprised to discover that in commercials, if older people are seen or heard from, it is usually in a very specific context. For example  I saw them mostly in advertisements for prescription drugs (usually constipation and impotency), where they are portrayed as anxious or confused consumers.
From there it is only a small leap to becoming a full blown nuisance,
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

See No Evil: "The Night In Question"

Twenty years ago today our Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered.
A year earlier we returned to Israel after a long stay in the US. From distant Texas the summer of 1994 seemed like a wonderful time to be back in Israel. No one could have guessed that all that would end on October 4th 1995.
I recently took part in “the Narratives Project,” an initiative organized by The Parents Circle-Families Forum (PCFF). It brings together 15 Palestinians and 15 Israelis for several meetings in order to get to know each other and to promote understanding and peace.
The first meeting was for an intensive weekend in Beit Jala. In one of the organized activities we were asked to write down dates with special meaning and to stick the notes on  a rug at the center of the room. 
Please keep reading in the Times of Israel

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lord of the Flies Is Here: Israel 2015

In the past month I have been feeling like  I live in a dystopia, but until this morning when I read in Haaretz Zeeva Achi Meir's letter to the editor, I wasn't sure  which one it was.
The title of the letter is “Zabotinski and Abba (Abba is also the first name of Achi Meir’s dad) are ashamed of Netanyahu and his friends.”
It starts with the writer’s concern regarding the erroneous and dangerous leadership of the right. She refers specifically to the sons of the revisionists. It ends with the statement that the founders of the revisionist party would have objected to the way things are in Israeli society, and would have fought with all their might against the blindness, callousness and lack of humanity of the prime minister and his confederates. They betray their parents’ legacy and are leading the Israeli society, and the state of Israel, from a mere disaster to the catastrophe of its loss (in moral and existential terms).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

For Better And For Worse: A Woman's Best friend

Last week I came across an article in The Atlantic about friendships and how it changes throughout the years.
Since friendship is an important part of life, and by chance I am now in the US visiting an old friend, I decided that it was a good time to share my essay about friendship, and especially about the institution of the “best friend”:
My mom's best friend called me on my mother's birthday to let me know that she hasn't forgotten that date. The friend is 97 year old and my mother has been dead for almost 20 years. Still I wasn't surprised,
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My [Facebook] Home Is My Castle

Last October The Marker  section of  Haaretz newspaper cited a study which found that during Operation Protective Edge one of six Israelis blocked or defriended a Facebook friend. 60% of the people did it because they disagreed with the content and 52% because they encountered offensive posts.
I am not ashamed to admit that I too was one of those six. Although I am too polite to defriend any one, and it has never been an option, I did block several people who shared or liked opinions, which I felt, were offensive or painful. In addition, I stopped following quite a few friends.
Since then my Facebook page has become a haven where I spend time only with like minded people,
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kind Neighbors, or A Young Reporter from Um El Fahem

Some time ago I drove with two English friends to the Sea of Galilee. I stopped to fill the car with gas on Highway 6, and as I was getting ready to exit in the direction of Afula on Highway 65, I noticed that the car was stalling. It was a new car, and this happened at the time when gas stations started positioning diesel pumps next to the regular gas pumps. I suddenly realized that, by mistake, I filled the tank with diesel.
The car finally stopped at a quite dangerous place where the shoulder was narrow. I stayed in the car with the guests, thinking about what I should do next.
Then another car stopped and soon a  young woman walked toward me. She inquired if we were okay, I told her that I had to wait for a tow truck. She said that she was a reporter from Um El Fahem, and she happened to be in the area because she covered an accident nearby. She asked if she could help in any way.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

That First Year: Coping Tips For New Widows And Widowers

When I became a widow at the age of 52, I sought out the company of other women in the same circumstances. Being confused and overwhelmed, I hoped that spending time with experienced widows, could somehow help me cope better.
I feel that the wisdom of women was instrumental in my recovery. Based on what I heard from them, and my own experience, I wrote a list of several coping tips and some general observations. I hope that those could be helpful for new widows and widowers in the difficult first year.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fall of a Poet: Naim Araidi

The poet Naim Araidi 1950 - 2015 passed away last Friday, October 2nd. I love his poetry, especially the poems about the land and his home at the Druze village of Maghar in the North of Israel.Those poems are so vivid, that I could see the sights and almost smell the special scent of za'atar in the Galilee air.
In the late 1980s, I translated several of his poems into English and in 1990, two of them appeared in the prestigious journal Translation (volume 23, Spring 1990).
On Friday, when I heard about Araidi's untimely death, I meant to present here, in my blog, some of those translations. For that end, I consulted Google to refresh my memory about his career and to see what has happened since 1990.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Friday, September 18, 2015

Surely Erela Would Call You

Curiously enough, one of the most recognized voices in Israel belongs to a woman whose claim for fame has nothing to do with her personal qualities or her accomplishments.
Her voice is not special either, but when, all of a sudden, the phone rings and the words "it's Erela speaking," are heard, the person on the other end of the line knows that good things are about to happen.
Erela who calls from Israel's State lottery is a real person. Her name is Erela Eidinger and she has worked in that organization for thirty years. Part of her job is to place calls to subscribers of the State Lottery to inform them about the prize which they won as a perk for being in that program.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"I Am A Camera": Visiting Kiryat Arba And Hebron

We were standing in Kiryat Arba at the grave of Baruch Goldstein, who, in 1994, perpetrated the massacre at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. On the tombstone in Hebrew was the inscription: "the holy Baruch Goldstein who gave his life for the people of Israel, its Torah and land  and had clean hands and a pure heart." The grave is located in Park Kahana, named after the militant extremist Rabbi Meir Kahana, a man whose political party Kach was banned by the Israeli government for being "racist” and "anti-democratic."
Suddenly not far from us I noticed a boy, of about 12, crying bitterly. He was one of the settlers children at the park, a man was comforting him as the boy kept saying “They call the holy Baruch Goldstein a murderer.”
In saying “they” he meant us,
Please keep reading in the Times of Israel

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

“When I want Something I Get It:” Benjamin Netanyahu's Desires

The idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words” was reversed yesterday at the Israeli Knesset, and a brief (six words) sentence in Hebrew “when I want something I get it”  became stronger than thousands photo opportunities.
Our prime minister spoke yesterday, for the first time, like a true leader, with conviction and passion. I was almost proud of him.
But unfortunately Benjamin Netanyahu’s desires are not about ending world hunger or bringing peace to our region.
If, as he himself admits, our leader is relentless, even unstoppable,when he wants something,  my only conclusion is that Netanyahu doesn’t want to end the conflict in the Middle East and to bring about peace.
It is not that I hadn't suspected it before, but often we learn more about people from what they don’t say than from their actual words.
I don’t wish to believe that the Israeli leaders do not care about the well-being of the Israelis and the future of the country, and all they do in the Israeli Knesset is to make petty deals and pay bribe. However, to the regular Israeli, like me, it surely seems like that.
Thus rather than being impressed with the determination of Mr Netanyahu, I was shocked  again at the depth of his cynicism.
We were taught to admire the ethos and the seriousness of the Netanyahu family.  It is sad when all that is reduced to consummating the romance with the gas tycoons over Israel’s future natural resources.
In the beginning of September Benjamin Netanyahu met with the representatives of the movement Women Wage Peace, who sat in front of his home and fasted for 50 days to commemorate the 50 days of Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014.
Unlike Sara Netanyahu who had met the women earlier and chided them for not sitting outside the residence of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, her more experienced husband, our prime minister pretended to care about the movement and created goodwill by stating that he was ready to meet Abbas with no prior conditions.
The prime minister was photographed with the women, and he told them "we want life security and peace for our children." But he never said that when he wanted something he got it, probably because peace is not something he really wants.
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, as a member of the movement Women Wage Peace I also want life, security and peace for everyone. I and 15000 other women and men do not want to worry every time our children go back to the army whether we will see them again. We also don’t want the future citizens of Israel, our soldiers, to be scarred for life from what they experience in the occupied territories, it is a horrible price to pay.
For the New Year, I hope that all the creativity and energy that our leaders put into one gas deal will be diverted into a  plan  to promote  peace in our region and that Israelis and Palestinians will finally get what we want --- a  future.

The essay appeared in the Times Of Israel

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Poor Woman’s Lamb: The State Of Israel And Its Widows

After my husband died I was entitled to survivors benefits from the Israeli university where he taught. There were all kind of documents that I had to sign in order to complete the transaction, but one paper was especially problematic. It was a contract which specifically stated that in the event that I got remarried I would no longer be eligible to continue getting my late husband's pension.
I was shocked, I knew about the draconian policies regarding military widows, who lost their benefits if they chose to remarry (that law was changed only in 2009). However, this was not the army,
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Monday, August 17, 2015

David Or Daveed: The Truth About Women Wage Peace

A colleague told me once that when his first son was born he wanted to name him David. However he didn’t like the way Americans pronounce Biblical names, so he consulted several sources and discovered that the closest  transliteration of the Hebrew name was Daveed. The next day when the nurse entered the hospital room and saw the name on the baby’s crib, she said “you sure spell David strangely."
I was thinking about this amusing anecdote when I heard that, after their meeting with Sara Netanyahu, the four leaders of Women Wage Peace were labeled "left wing activists" in two different newspapers. This is another example in which, despite the effort we put into our words and our actions, we have very little control over the way other people perceive us.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Friend In Need: Cancer And The Vanishing Friends

A short paragraph from the essay “Living With Cancer: Alone And Ghosted” by Susan Gubar (NYT August 6th), made me think about our expectations from friends:
“I depend on a circle of wonderful friends to whom I am enormously grateful. Quite a few gratify me with their company or by going on urgent errands; however, I have been shocked by several who have simply vanished. Perhaps my needs seem too pressing or never ending. Maybe these people feel inadequate, frightened or taken up with their own affairs. As troubles mount, will supporters dwindle?”
Gubar’s experience with her friends is similar to mine. When my husband became ill, many friends phoned to see how we were and  offered to help. They came to visit, and thought of creative ways to make our life more comfortable. For example, some colleagues from the university took him to sit by the sea. My husband enjoyed it all: being an introvert, he wasn’t used to being the center of attention, and often said that he was thankful that cancer made it possible for him to realize that he was loved by his friends.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Deception of A native Accent

When our friends returned to Israel, after spending ten years in the States, their daughter was almost sixteen year old.  Since she spoke Hebrew with no trace of an accent, and this was the beginning of the tenth grade, and all the students were new to the school, every one assumed that she was a regular Israeli. For the better part of the year, she sat in class understanding very little, but no one suspected anything.
A native accent is deceptive, and could even be dangerous, not only in high school, but especially in the army. Nowadays there  are quite a few children of Yordim (Israelis who left the country) that return to Israel on their own to serve in the army.  Those young people speak fluent Hebrew, but like my friends’ daughter, they are not Israelis.
Returning to Israel from another country after growing up believing that here was their real home, these young people have many dreams and expectations.  However, they lack the knowledge and the necessary experience of our society to be able to deal with the reality of the army.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ignoring Each Other? The Hirschsprung Family And The Smartphones

The portrait of The Hirschsprung Family, by the Danish painter Peder Severin Krøyer, was posted on Facebook,by Scott E. Bartner, with this amusing caption:
“How people ignored each other before smartphones”
Indeed the seven members of the  Danish/German Jewish family in the painting, are gathered on the balcony, no one talks and they hardly acknowledge one another.
The two boys, leaning on the baluster railing on the far right, stare intently at something, which takes place in the garden beneath the balcony.The father stands at the center of the painting, next to his two older sons and the three of them read a newspaper. On the other side, are the women: the mother and the only daughter. They are holding some kind of a needlework on their laps, but they do not work. Instead, the girl is smiling at something beyond the scope of the painting. The mother gazes at the same direction, and at the same time she is glancing approvingly at the girl.
Please keep reading in The times Of Israel

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who Needs The Israel Broadcasting Authority?

This morning on Israeli Public Radio, the news program Hakol Diburim  (All Talk) stopped after one hour because of an emergency meeting. The journalists are protesting against the imminent threat to close IBA and fire many of its employees.
As can be seen from the following essay, written at the time when the unfortunate decision to dismantle IBA was made, I am not  a detached observer. However, like many other Israelis, I rely on Israeli public radio and television, and cannot imagine my mornings without Reshet Bet.
We were not brought up to be leaders. My father, Jakob Witzthum, an individualist, preferred to observe life and not to take an active part, and my diligent and shy mother worked mainly behind the scenes. My brother and I learnt from both of them: we grew up knowing who we were but, in contrast to Dale Carnegie, we never tried to  influence people.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Time To Listen: Women Wage Peace

Yesterday on  9th of Av, in the tent of Women Wage Peace, there were more fasting women than usual, as women fasted to commemorate ancient and recent national tragedies.
Some calamities are inevitable, when we lost the brakes in our car on the highway in Italy, we knew that we were going to hit the car in front of us.
But the last war, known by the euphemistic name Operation Protective Edge, was not one of those tragedies.
Few days after the beginning of the war in July 2014, in the Israeli Arab town of Tira, more than thousand people gathered at the center of town taking part in the demonstration: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.” They were speeches pleading that it was still not too late to stop the war, many people carried  signs in Hebrew and in Arabic. One woman stood next to  the stage throughout the event, holding a  big sign in Hebrew “Jewish and Arab women refuse to be enemies.”
The women of Women Wage Peace want to make sure that this time, someone will  actually see the signs, listen to reason and take actions.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Comfort of Denial

A powerful cartoon on PBS,  by Jack Ohman, with the perfect title: “In my dad’s final weeks, I was still in Denial, “  reminded me, this morning, of the time of my husband's illness. I too, till the last moment, was in complete denial.
This is an essay in which I argue that denial could be helpful when dealing with tragedy.
Sometimes I hear people remark “she is in complete denial,” several years ago that's probably how they described me. They could not have known, but at that time I chose denial as a way of life and as the best course of action. After my husband was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and heard from the Oncologist about his prognosis, I decided to put that knowledge aside.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Jack Ohman's cartoon

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Past Has A Vote And Religious Feminists

I am a non-religious Jew, but my favorite group on Facebook is “I Am A Religious Feminist And I Too Have No Sense of Humor.” It is a non- political group, of almost 10 thousand members, most of them religious women. In its credo the group claims that it provides a safe place for religious women to share events from their life. However, as a recent post demonstrates, the members manage to accomplish much more than that:
“After taking part in a partnership Minyan at the library, one of the scholars stopped me and asked “what was that”? “A Minhah “I answered. “Don’t be clever “ he said: “Listen to me, stay away from peculiar practices, just do as your mother used to do”. “But my mother also prays at a partnership Minyan,” I answered. That was it, I have heard the last of him”
This seemingly innocuous incident delivered in the most straightforward, way, with no commentary, is typical of the type of posts published by members of the group.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel: