Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jimmy Carter And Habitat For Humanity: Not In Israel

Last winter we stayed in New Haven CT for several months. During that time my partner volunteered in Habitat for Humanity. The organization builds houses for working people with limited means. So far it has built houses for 4 million people all over the world. The buyers get the house below market price and in return donate certain number of hours working on Habitat’s projects.
Once a week my partner worked together with other volunteers building a  new house. By Christmas the house was finished and we were invited to attend the home dedication. There were several speeches about the work and philosophy of the organization.We heard about collaboration between people from different cultures and religions, and about Habitat’s projects all over the world. We also met the new owners, a single mother with her two teenaged children. It was a  moving experience, very appropriate for Christmas.
Please keep reading in the Times of Israel

Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Unknown Sister": Na'amat's Journey To Poland

Earlier this year I saw on Facebook that Na’amat, the Israeli women’s organization, affiliated with the workers’ union (Histadrout), is taking a group of women to Poland. That trip, entitled: “ Unknown Sister” will focus on the forgotten heroines of the Holocaust.
I signed up immediately, going on such a journey with other women feels like a an easier, perhaps more accessible,  introduction to that chapter in the history of my family and my people, which until now I tried not to think about.
Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The US Is A Foreign Country Or It Is Best Not To Know

There was a lot I hadn’t known about Americans before we moved to the US to pursue graduate studies. For example, I wasn’t aware of the implications of the famous strive for excellence, which, at our school, meant a strong competition among the students.
As a result, there was tension in the air, especially in class, and I often felt surrounded by rivals rather than friends or colleagues. In instances like those, it is recommended (MS. Mentor?) to be cautious and to think twice before speaking. Indeed, many fellow students chose not to speak in class. But coming from an Israeli university, where studying was a social activity, I was used to being able to participate in class and ask questions. Thus, although many students in my new class were quiet, and sometimes it was a challenge for my professor to draw them in, I usually spoke up.
The other day doing some pre Pesach cleanup, I came across an old letter, which reminded me
how conspicuous I must have seemed at that class.
Please read more in the Times Of Israel

Monday, April 6, 2015

Roads I didn’t Take And Public Transportation

Many years ago when we were students and newly wed, I worked part time at one of the Steimazki bookstores in Haifa. A colleague, a lovely lady, had just moved to Haifa and told me that she was selling her house in Binyamina in order to buy an apartment on Mount Carmel. At that time, almost forty years ago, a house with a substantial yard in that small sleepy town cost the same as a modest apartment in the Carmel.
I had never really been to Binyamina, at that point, but felt that I knew the place since the train from Haifa to Tel Aviv stopped there. It seemed as though the town was within an easy reach from Haifa.
That night I went home and told my husband about that house, I wanted to buy it but he wasn’t at all sure. The main reason for his reluctance was that the train did not run on Saturday, and we would be stranded there. One could not move outside of town with no car, my husband argued, and that would mean additional expenses. In Haifa busses ran on Saturday and we did not need a car.
Although I was convinced that we were letting a lifetime opportunity slip away, I didn’t pursue the matter further. My husband was right, moving away from the city meant more than getting a good deal on a house.
Perhaps we should have listened to my intuition and invested in real estate in Binyamina. Prices in that town went up and prices in Haifa went down.
But today all those years later the train still does not run on Saturday and people without a car are stranded. Haifa, on the other hand, is still the only civilized city in Israel with public transportation on Saturdays and holidays.
Earlier this holiday a Facebook protest encouraged users to complain on the page of the transportation minister Israel Katz and express their frustration at the fact there is no public transportation in Israel on Saturdays and holiday and in particular on the long second holiday this year. Omri Hazut a public transportation user reminded the minister that "The seventh day of Passover is on Thursday, and the last night is Friday. From Thursday afternoon until Saturday night, there will be no public transportation!"
The Minister responded with the following outrageous argument: "Tell (Isaac) Buji Herzog to commit not to sit in a government that won't change the status quo. The display of hypocrisy by you and your friends on the left ... was proven in the last elections and got the appropriate response at the polls."
The Minister reacted like a bully in the most unprofessional way. As we well know Buji was not elected to be our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was and it is the government’s responsibility to take care of the  people who depend on public transportation.
In Haifa, people who use public transportation on Shabbat could do so because the “left” and the founding fathers of that workers’ city have always cared about the welfare of the residents and made sure that on their day of rest they could enjoy the city and get around, even as far as the sea shore.
It’s a shame that the “right” has no interest in doing the same. my guess is that Katz’s own people never ride the bus.
The essay appeared in the Times Of israel

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Those Who Are Absent From The Seder Table

In recent years, just before Pesach, together with anticipation I also experience a feeling of loss. I am already sad thinking of those who would be absent from my Seder Table. The list is getting longer every year: it includes my parents and my husband who are no longer alive, my daughters who are abroad, and my only brother who will celebrate the holiday with his family.
People complain about spending the holidays with their family, and psychological studies have proven and quantified the existence of a particular holiday stress. In Israel, a family-centered society, it is common that unmarried people flee the country, regardless of the destination, just not to be around when every one else is with the family.
Since we spent many years in the US away from Israel, not being here during the holiday is not a good solution. On the other hand, at the risk of appearing Scrooge-like, it dosn't work for me to spend the holiday with a lucky family that doesn’t have a list of those who are missing from the table.

Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel