Monday, December 31, 2007

Girl Power

From a newspaper clipping in the New York Times, that has been in my wallet for close to 20 years:

Benazir Bhutto, the dismissed Pakistani prime minister, has given her three children advice in case they are ever teased in school about her downfall, reports Newsweek: "I told them to say, 'My Mummy has been prime minister twice. How many times has your mummy been prime minister?' "

Not just prime minister, but the first and only woman to be the leader of a Muslim country, and her murder represents a tragic blow for Pakistan, and for democracy everywhere.

Although I was encouraged by the news that her son and husband would be taking up her mantle, I can't help but wonder why a female blood-relative was not given that opportunity, based upon the late Benazir Bhutto's success.

That being said, I do not think that Hilary Clinton should be given the same opportunity in the American Presidential race. Despite the fact that the Times has given her a 3-in-1 chance of winning the overall election, I do not feel that she has the right stuff for bridge building, either within Washington and overseas. And it has nothing to do with her having a pair of breasts.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Next King of Jerusalem

Arcadi Gaydamak - former arms dealer, sports fan and wealthy social activist - has officially declared himself running for Mayor of Jerusalem, and has positioned members of his 'social movement' to run for various government positions in 55 other places in Israel.

Nir Bareket - millionaire, leader of the opposition on the Jerusalem Municipal Board, and social activist - has also announced his candidacy for the Mayor of Jerusalem, representing the "last chance for Jerusalem to remain pluralistic."

Bareket refers of course to the assault and domination of Jerusalem by the Ultra-Orthodox, facilitated by PM Ehud Olmert and led by the current Mayor, Lupolianski. Uri Lupolianski and his cronies regularly ask their Rabbi for political guidance, and belong to a movement within Judaism that does not recognize the validity of a secular Jewish country.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem remains one of the poorest, dirtiest and most polluted cities in all of Israel; one has to wonder where our taxes have been re-allocated, perhaps to the seminaries that encourage perfectly healthy family men not to work and not to serve in the army. Communities which in their spare time burn public property, stone Israeli citizens and police men, and host anti-Semitic Iranian Presidents.

In Jewish tradition, wealth is one of the characteristics of a "good" King for Israel, because it will prevent the leader from being bribed or swayed by the allure of the bling. Both Gaydamak and Bareket fit that bill, Barakat has subtly bought votes while Gaydamak has taken the more direct approach: paying for busloads of Sderot children to go to an amusement park for the day, buying the flailing Jerusalem soccer team, or contributing NIS One Million for a playground at a yeshiva in Or Akiva.

Let's face it, charisma helps for a politician, but money makes you The Candidate. The same is true in the American presidential elections, where a candidate is judged only partially by their popularity and positions, but mostly by their war chest.

I voted for Nir Bareket last time and hope to have that chance again. Anything to stop the Ultra-Orthodox tyranny and restore the honor of the city that is holy to all religions, and just happens to be my home.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Did You Say?

Communication. Essential for any healthy and productive relationship, and certainly helpful when you have moved to a new country. When I moved to Israel in 1997, I studied in Ulpan, an intensive Hebrew language course. The Israeli government paid for my tuition and gave me a small monthly stipend for the period of time in which I studied and therefore, worked less.

The teachers' strike ended only last week, after close to two months, and many university professors are still on strike. Some genius in the government has decided that in order to remedy the mess in the elementary schools, all funding for Ulpan should be frozen indefinitely. Because in the choice between Israeli-born citizens, and immigrants who have given up so much to live here, the citizens come first.

Israelis always seem to come first. As soon as I open my mouth and speak my top flight Hebrew with my natural American accent, most Israelis will try to take advantage of me. If you move to Israel as an adult male, you cannot logistically serve the same army service as a 18 year old sabra; and yet, if you apply for a job and your resume indicates that you are not a "true" Israeli soldier, you are much less likely to get the position. Even if you serve more reserve duty than many Israelis who served the full three years.

I will always have my unfortunate American accent when I speak Hebrew, but I gave up a salary four times what I make here, I gave up family and friends, because I wanted to fulfill my dream of living in the Jewish homeland and giving the best of myself to this country. I was one of the lucky immigrants, coming with solid Hebrew and a natural talent for languages. Others may not be so blessed, they may need to start at the ground floor, with the Aleph-Bet.

Israel should be encouraging new immigrants, rather than taking away their import rights, and taking away any chance of clear communication in Hebrew or integration into their new home.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Partners for Peace

Sunday Haaretz headline, front page: Hamas Vows to Never Recognize the Existence of Israel.

Summary: Over 20,000 participants in a rally celebrating the 20th anniversary of the founding of the extremist terror group, Hamas, chanted in unison, "We will never recognize the State of Israel." They then vowed to continue their war of terror until they had rid their supposed land of every last Jew, dead or alive.

Monday, Radio News: Reports from a terrorist website that over a year and a half ago, right after the three Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped, this Arab terrorist saw Gilad Shalit being led to a jeep by three Palestinians. At the time, the anonymous writer reports that Shalit was bloody and weak, and looked like he had at least several fractures, and not long to live.

Monday editorial piece by Moshe Arens, surprisingly printed by Haaretz, a usually left-wing newspaper: The Numbers Don't Lie

Summary: Arens, a respected right-wing Israeli politician presents the facts regarding Sderot and the Quassam missile strikes, pre and post Disengagement. The same Disengagement that was part of the continuing effort of Israel to treat the Arab population with consideration and kindness, to show that we honor our agreements.

Year, Quassam Strikes

2001, 4
2002, 36
2003, 155
2004, 281
2005, 179 (Year of the Disengagement)
2006, 946 (That would be a 529% increase!)
2007, 783 (so far...)

The numbers speak for themselves. Our so-called Arab peace partners will take advantage of our show of weakness and kindness, and the more we give, the more they will take.

And what is our Prime Minister Ehud Olmert doing about the situation? Trying to give away as much as he can, trying not to get arrested, and clinging desperately to his position of power.

Monday, Radio News: In what can be classified as the least surprising bombshell of the year, the Winograd Committee will sadly be unable to issue the report that would force Olmert to resign his position as Prime Minister. According to the news, the report is in the process of being "re-written," as it currently lists in excruciating detail all the failures and extreme mismanagement of Olmert and his cabinet during the war last year. Even the interim report will not be ready at least until after George Bush's visit to Israel in 2008, until such time as Olmert can damage his country and its citizens even more.

It should be noted that while many Israeli parents sent their sons to serve, and die, in Olmert's failed war, the Prime Minister's own children either fled the country, or proclaimed themselves Conscientious Objectors. No need for the leader of the country to potentially sacrifice his flesh and blood, let the plebeians suffer instead.

As Moshe Arens wrote, "No need to await the final [Winograd] report, the conclusion is clear...We are seeing daily a repetition of this failure in Sderot."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quitting by Example

The mayor of Sderot, the missile-ridden Israeli town, quit his position this week. The government has been absolutely unwilling to protect the citizens of this battered town, and has not provided funds to build protective areas, either for private homes or for the schools. Mayor Moyal could not live up to his basic campaign promise: to serve and protect the residents of Sderot.

Alon Davidi, Chairman of the Sderot security staff, responded with the following:
"We call upon the Prime Minister [Ehud Olmert] to follow in the footsteps of Eli Moyal and to resign from his position, because of his failure to ensure the security of the city's inhabitants."

Hear hear! Not only has PM Olmert failed to protect the citizens of Sderot; not only are the displaced Israeli citizens from Aza still homeless and unemployed, one and a half years later; but Olmert can't hold back his enthusiasm to displace the rest of the country's inhabitants. "Please," Olmert is practically begging the Arabs, "take the rest of our land. Make a Palestinian capital in the middle of West Jerusalem. Continue bombing our citizens and supporting terrorism until we have no where to live and no where to go." Pause. "I can always live in Paris with my wife and sons, and with my cigar collection."

If Olmert fails to take his cue from Eli Moyal of Sderot, perhaps the unpopular, power addicted PM should note the recent response of American Presidential candidate, Fred "Law and Order" Dalton Thompson. When asked why he had such short stint in the US Congress, he replied that he felt that he could not achieve his goals and help his constituents. When asked what about the best thing he did in fact accomplish in his time there, Thompson answered, "I left."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Oprah and the Politics of Race

At a minimum personal worth of $40 billion a year, she sneezes near a book and it immediately becomes a best seller. Even if the author has plagiarized. She gives away cars and donates money for the unfortunate and uneducated all over the world. She is the poster child for "Who says you have to get married and have children?"

Pretty terrific for a woman who got her start in television on the local news, as an overweight, uncharismatic weather girl.

In the Democratic Presidential race, Oprah had a dilemma: does she support the token woman or the token black? And the winner is Barack Obama.

I give Obama credit for his drive and his dynamic speaking style. He and his young pretty wife make quite a photo opportunity, and Bill Cosby would be proud at the strides that a man of color has made in the White world. Even if it is the Democratic party.

However, what Barack Obama lacks is experience, particularly in the international realm. Just because he can excite an audience with his evangelical style, does not mean that he has enough bruises from politics to maneuver the complex relationships between the currently isolated United States, and the rest of the world, full of potential allies and enemies.

I appreciate Oprah taking a stand (because she can) and boosting Obama's coffers (because she can) and trying to make history with the 2008 elections. (Obama, the Broadway Show! Obama, the Best Selling Autobiography, as featured in the Oprah book club! Etc.) Barak Obama is not cooked and ready to be served, he should accumulate more friends in Washington, get his hands dirtier, and run in 2012.

This has nothing to do with his color, nor do I feel the need or obligation to pander to the feminist agenda.

I do not support Hilary Clinton, whom I feel lacks the personality that would inspire respect and cooperation, both from Washington insiders and from leaders abroad. Americans have had enough of the Bush and Clinton political dynasties, and deserve some fresh blood, someone who can begin to tidy up the mess that George W. Bush Jr has left as his legacy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Playing the Numbers

Israel on 12/4/07

Temperature in Jerusalem: 16 degrees Celsius
Temperature in Eilat: 25 degrees Celsius
Shequel/Dollar Exchange Rate: 3.841

Number of Chanukah candles lit tonight: 1

Days of the Teachers' Strike and Student Delinquency: 48
International Rank of Israeli Elementary Students: 40/57

Arab Countries in the Middle East: 22
Arab Countries Willing to take in "Palestinian Refugees": 0
Arab Countries Supporting Palestinian Terrorists: 22

% Israelis Supporting the Annapolis proceedings: 23
% Israelis Supporting PM Ehud Olmert: 5 plus/minus 3
"Good Will" Prisoners released by Israel: Yet another 430
Projected Date of Return of the 3 Israeli MIAs: None

Harry "The Highlander", Chiropractic Cat

By Harry "The Highlander," with some scientific input from his Human

Although I have not officially graduated from Chiropractic school, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. I have extensively observed my Human taking care of clients. Starting when I was one month old, I would sit on the patients' hands to keep them warm, and even now, I can tell when a visitor is having a bad day and needs PT (Purr Therapy).

Like any new parent, the first time I had a cold, my mother called the veterinarian, and asked how to resolve this health issue. I was sneezing and lethargic, and my eyes were gunky and gross. Our doctor prescribes to a holistic approach to feline care, and told Mom to wait a few days, and clean out my eyes on a regular basis; he did not immediately believe that we should leap to the drug route. The prognosis was two or three days of suffering, "Even cats can get a cold," the doctor said.

Chiropractic, based upon a holistic neurological view of the body, believes that the brain and central nervous system have an innate mechanism for correction in times of physical and emotional stress. The spine (the so-called central computer chip) controls all functions of the body, with the nerves starting from the head and continuing all the way into the tail. That's why my tail reacts immediately to our mood by standing upright (happy, secure), swishing back and forth (curious or slightly insecure), or thumping loudly (extremely annoyed). If there is interference in that essential flow of information, a human or feline will get ill.

Inspired by one of her mentors, whose specialty involves re-aligning the spines of race horses, Mom thought, "If I can help humans every day with my treatment, why not try it on Harry?"

Thankfully it worked, and within a half a day, I returned to my active healthy self, forgoing drugs and the trauma of an office visit. It doesn't work every time, and Mom respects and cooperates with conventional medicine, but I prefer the holistic approach.

[The Chiropractor/Human taking dictation adds: Once a client brought his hyperactive dog to the office, and after one session the dog was so much better behaved, a different animal. I have often treated pets with Chiropractic, they respond well. Last year, when Harry sprained his hip from a mis-timed jump and had to be immobile for a week, Chiropractic treatment helped speed his recovery.]

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

Growing up in America, Chanukah (the Jewish holiday of lights) and Christmas (the cultural holiday of Capitalism) walked hand-in-hand. My non-Jewish friends envied me because I had eight days in which to receive gifts, as opposed to a one-time bonanza under the tree. I envied my non-Jewish friends because I loved the carols, and the spirit of giving, even if it only occurred one day a year.

Especially after living in New York City, the Christmas season has been indelibly imprinted upon my brain. The awe inspiring raising of the tree at Rockefeller Center, and skating beneath its lights on the Rockefeller Center rink. The artistic arrangement of the windows at Macy's, all white and sparkling. The Nutcracker ballet live and sitting in the second row with my grandparents, and the numerous holiday programming on television: Frosty the Snowman, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the original Grinch cartoon, and who can forget the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life. " (Broadcasted 24 hours a day for several weeks, until you want to kill yourself.)

Usually known for their aggressive behaviour, New Yorkers become more kind and gentle, smiling and wishing each other a "Happy Holiday," while they sprint to work or shop for presents. Of course as soon as the drunken orgy takes place in Times Square on New Year's eve, all that generosity of spirit disappears faster than you can say "Ho ho ho."

I moved to Jerusalem, Israel in 1997, and there are essentially three things that I miss about the United States: one, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my second home since childhood; two, fall foliage; and three, a true holiday spirit in December. Chanukah, unlike for example other Jewish holidays of Pesach or Succot, passes by without too much notice; most adults I know work at least part of the time if not overtime, rather than taking vacation with their family. Other than the appearance of jelly doughnuts and bad children's musicals, you would be hard pressed to find the true meaning of the Festival of Lights: a feeling of joy, family and salvation from an historical enemy of the Jews.

Several years ago, I saw the Nutcracker Ballet performed in Jerusalem. Cow-towing to the various religions, the stage in the first act lacked both a Christmas tree and a Menorah, and instead had an odd pile of presents in the corner. The music was pre-recorded. Towards the end of the second act, the Sugar Plum Fairy slipped and sprained her ankle during her solo, because the stage hand had not properly swept up the fake snow.

Two years ago, some friends and I went to the Jerusalem Theatre, for Handel's Messiah. My friend's husband slept through the first part, had an allergic attack (to culture?) in the second part and left with his wife, while I stayed until the end. The tonal quality of the voices were just OK, both the men and women had trouble hitting the highest and lowest notes.

Last year I attended a Christmas carol concert at the YMCA - I knew all the words - and many of my Jewish friends attend Midnight Mass, though they don't participate in the pure ritual. One of my Chiropractic patients reported to me that last year, 3/4 of the audience at the church were Jewish, and mostly Anglo-Saxon.

This year, the firebug in me made the conscious decision to end work earlier than usual, so that I could light the Menorah on time, and sit and enjoy the experience of family. The inner child in me will seek out another concert and maybe even buy myself a present or two.

Dear Santa...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Truest Lesson of Thanksgiving

With the Annapolis Conference four days away, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unveiled his timid and uninspired strategy: Israel must change, because "keeping the Status Quo endangers Israel."

Wrong, so wrong. It is the mindset of "reasonable Western thought" that endangers not only Israel in its struggle for existence with the Palestinians, but any country on the planet which faces the threat of Muslim terrorism. The Arabs do not respect kindness or negotiation or unilateral withdrawal, they take advantage of it. As soon as an enemy - political or physical - exposes a weakness, they will jump in and attack without hesitation. The Arabs in the region, and the Palestinians in specific, must be dealt with swiftly and offensively, otherwise Israel in fact does not stand a chance of celebrating its 70th birthday.

Ask the Native American dwellers how they felt, as the Pilgrim's nautical SUV pulled up to Plymouth Rock, and were extended the hand of peace and assistance. The celebration of Thanksgiving commemorates the medical, cultural and territorial devastation of a community and a people, the original tenants of the Americas. Those who survived were either sold into slavery, put on show or left to die a lonely and painful death, bearing witness to the disappearance of their ancient life. At least Pocahontas got a Disney movie out of the deal.

During my Chiropractic internship, I had the privilege of working with the First Nation/ Ojibwe community, and learned first hand about their unemployment and their addictions, and their Elder's vain attempts to maintain some of the ceremony and legacy of their ancestors.

As a Jew and as an Israeli, I don't want to be next in line because of our weak-minded leadership. One Holocaust was enough, thank you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

SAA (Survivor Addicts Anonymous)

I am an addict. I admit it.

When I lived in the United States I watched Survivor religiously, and now that I live in Israel, my friend Mimi sends me tapes of the most updated seasons, which I watch religiously. When I receive the tape, I don't answer phones, I don't eat, I will pull an all-nighter if I have to, just to finish the latest installments. Then I log onto the CBS Survivor site and read the blog and the behind-the-scenes details. Over all the other reality type shows, Survivor seems to tap into the basic play of human nature, a real-life Lord of the Flies experience, where the best of the worst will emerge, and where the person with integrity will not always win the million dollars. (Worthy Winners: Tina, Ethan, Yul, Earl)

I sometimes play out of the fantasy of participating as a contestant on Survivor, after all, I know all the trivia and have various strategies and outcomes all played out, based upon previous seasons. Then I realize that strong women only get so far in the game, once you have proved your worth and the tribes merge, you are quickly ousted before the end of the game, to keep you away from the million dollars. (Wonder Women: Stephanie, Alicia, Ami) Unless you have large boobs which you flash often and play stupid so you can fly under the radar until miraculously, you are in the final three. (Boob Winners: Jenna, Amber) Then I also realize that my childhood camping days have long passed, and that as a civilized grown-up, I could not spend 40 days without a proper shower, a good night's sleep, and the promise of at least one healthy meal each day.

In addition to being addicted, I am also spoiled.

Right now I would simply love to attend one of the Finale shows, instead of eating bugs in the wilderness.

My friend Mimi is in fact one of the true real-life Survivors, she has recently recovered from Breast Cancer. After her most recent surgery, she came to Israel for two weeks, to assist her elderly mother move apartment . Mimi continues to be strong and optimistic, and will not allow the threat of a relapse stop her from living her life.

I hope and pray that the Mimi Show lasts long after the CBS show Survivor is forgotten.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

G-d's Intentions Gone Awry

Today's English Haaretz reported the following on the financial pages: "More than 70% of Ultra-Orthodox men and about 50% of women are not employed, and most of their families live below the poverty line...since most of the men in the Ultra-Orthodox community dedicate most of their time to religious studies and do not work, the burden of making a living falls on the woman. However, many of these woman cannot find work due to a lack of professional skills and training, as well as the heavy burden of child rearing."

The Ultra-Orthodox community passes on the the cycle of poverty to the next generation, by failing to provide their sons with a secular education past the eighth grade, and by perpetuating the role of the girl as future young mother, sole provider, and martyr to the cause. Furthermore, this community isolates themselves with their refusal to serve in the army in the country in which they live and take advantage of financially.

When G-d said, "Be fruitful and multiply, " the Supreme Being did not intend this scenario: One million and a half children living below the poverty line, emotionally and physically neglected, arrogantly taught that they are morally superior, thus promoting intolerance, hatred and civil war.

I am reading a book now called "God, A Biography" written by Jack Miles. Mr. Miles - a religious man who believes that the Old Testament is divinely inspired - uses the literal text of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible) to create a profile of G-d, as the Supreme Being evolves with the evolution of man into various nations. By Miles' account, G-d starts out as the Creator of Mankind, then becomes the Terminator. He begins by giving Man blessings and complete freedom ("in his own image"), has a brief run of trying to take back some of the privileges (you can't get the toothpaste back into the tube), and in the end, is co-opted by Man for their own manipulative purposes.

This view certainly would disturb the faithful, and yet, the text supports it. G-d creates Man without an apparent plan for leadership or discipline, looses his temper frequently, impulsively over-reacting with his punishments and then immediately falling into regret and backtracking. For many cultures he becomes a theoretical stick, the Ultimate Monster in the Closet, waved at the nation as a threat, or used to advance personal power.

There must be a Higher Power in the Universe, and there must be a larger plan; if we were not handed a template, I believe that Man would have to invent the idea, to make sense of the chaos of daily life. But for anyone to use ritual and religion to encourage war, terror, division and sloth, shame on humanity. And shame on our errant Prime Minister and the Israeli government for giving into the religious parties' political blackmail.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I Didn't Know that Cats are Gay

Sarel needed to go to the vet yesterday, for his annual check up and vaccinations.* The day did not begin well, with heavy grey rain clouds threatening from the early morning; I could only imagine myself walking through the streets of Jerusalem with a cat cage and a six and a half kilo cat, both of us soaking wet. I was also nervous because they had recently built a new road near the veterinary office, and I was unsure if there would be parking or direct access.

I had left the carrying-cage out in the salon for an entire day, so it would sit in the house and he could explore it, and ultimately find its presence non-threatening. My plan only partially worked, a five minute battle ensued to get Sarel into the cage when the time came to leave the house. On the way to the doctor's visit, he complained loudly, but in a pacifist Gandhi-like manner.

When we arrived, the vet and his assistants gave me a wary smile. Turns out they had thought that Harry (Sarel's extremely difficult and scary older brother) was meant to have his appointment today, and according to Dr. Tzvi, they spent several hours preparing themselves for the trauma. When I heard this confession, I could only laugh, and then tried to defend Harry, saying that at home he is gentle and affectionate; he has been brought up with love since he was a kitten, and has never lived on the street. Apparently some cats are "quite simply, little bastards." (Dr. Tzvi's words, not mine.)

Sarel sat quietly cowering and in contrast to his brother, allowed the vet to perform all the tests, including picking him up high in the air, checking his rather large vampire teeth, and giving him the vaccine. You could feel the tension easing all over the office, there would be no antiseptic or stitches for humans today.

I told Dr. Tzvi and his assistant an amazing story that attests to the kindness of heart of Sarel, and in my opinion, the ability of all creatures to overcome their basic programming. I explained that Sarel himself had been a rescue cat, and had lived on the street for close to a year before I found him (run over by a car) and adopted him. In the last year, Sarel adopted a beautiful cream colored kitten, Gingi, who is now a fully grown, healthy street cat, part of our extended family. Gingi allows me to pet him, and likes to spend some quality time with me before he eats the food I have brought him.

Sarel (male cat, neutered) adopted Gingi (male cat, large assets). Gingi has recently adopted a long hair gray and white kitten whom I have called Rocky, because his/her nose looks like it was in one too many brawls. Gingi has given Rocky a home with him, and every morning makes sure that everyone is fed together. The obvious nurturing comes from an unknown place in the male feline psyche, I cannot imagine a territorial animal who thrives on survival instincts displaying this kind of generosity, and yet, it happens every day before my eyes.

My theory supposes that character traits can be learned, and that a cycle of giving and generosity will be passed on through the next generations of street cats in my area. Their behaviour is an inspiration to me, it means that humans can undo negative patterns and learn new tricks. The assistant exclaimed, "Wow, a phenomenon of gay cats!" (Idiot!) Dr. Tzvi appreciated the uniqueness of the situation, and suggested that I had taught them the act of charity.

As a bonus, Sarel got a new bright red collar, he will be the envy on all his friends.

In the drive home, my back hurting from carrying a cat and his cage up the hills of Jerusalem to my parking space, I tried to console Sarel, who was still shaking with fear. I sang to him, I recited the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, most of which I know by heart: " O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy." In fact I noticed that Sarel was not chorteling, but rather whimpering and retreating.

No one likes going to the doctor. So I gave him a large tablespoon of tuna when we got home. And I took a nice shot of single malt whiskey.

*Note: While I object to many of the vaccines and shots given to humans, my stand changes vis a vis felines. They play outside in Lord knows what, they get into fights over territory, and in that case, better safe than sorry.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Rock the Overseas Vote

If you are an American citizen living in Israel or anywhere overseas, go to this non-partisan site right now. It will take about ten minutes to fill in your details, and they provide with a completed and correct Federally-approved form. They even provide you with the exact mailing address of your local voting authority. All you need to do is buy a stamp and mail the letter.

The Presidential elections in 2008 will impact the future of the economic stability and national security for the United States, as well as its ripple effect on all nations on the planet. The next President will decide the fate of the soldiers being senselessly killed every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. The next President will the will affect the power base and status of United States of America.

Have your say, exercise your democratic right to vote. Don't let a little thing like geography stop you from changing the world, one vote at a time.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Friday News Feed

Life Imitates Art

This past season on the Israeli tele-novella, The Champion, they featured a fictional (cigar-chomping) Prime Minister who had been diagnosed with cancer. This PM then decided that if he is indeed going to die in the next year, he wants to facilitate a true peace in the Middle East as his legacy. The final episode of this season involved an assassination attempt by one of his closest advisers, who was also coincidentally, an arms dealer.

And now we hear that PM Ehud Olmert (a real-life cigar chomping Prime Minister) has been diagnosed with Prostate cancer. A corrupt man whose approval ratings were technically in the minus is now "popular," and he is riding this wave by pushing through major land grabs for the Arabs, until there is nothing Jewish left of the capitol and the country.

I say, as a purely objective medical professional, that he should take some time off, resign his position and tend to his body, while someone else fixes the damage he has done thus far to the country.

Global Warming, Israel Style

Traditionally, the rainy season in Israel begins at the conclusion of the Jewish holiday of Succot, a holiday which has long passed. Instead of the much needed rain, Israel is experiencing not only sunny and pleasant weather, but a dusty heat wave. Those of us who suffer from allergies during the transitional season appreciate this phenomenon less, not to mention how the drought will affect the crops and the water supply.

Could be Al Gore's pet project, global warming, though the religious and superstitious sort attribute 'Biblical' causes, ie that G-d is showing his displeasure with the current state of the government by denying us water. The Torah does indeed state that if we Israelites do not deserve to live in the Holy Land, the land will literally "chuck us out."

I am not yet packing my suitcase, but find that performing the ancient Native American rain dance on my porch makes me feel better.

Facebook Etiquette

Facebook made the news this week, along with its 25 year old founder, and I say good for him, let him have some spending money in his pocket. The expansion of social networking on the web has introduced certain sticky situations, for which there is no official protocol.

This past week I "broke up" with some friends, and contemplated for several days whether it was appropriate or kind to remove them from my Facebook network, even though they had hurt me very badly and didn't think about my feelings. I decided that I could accept the fact that we were no longer a part of each other's lives, and that access to my profile would provide no real damage.

This morning, I checked Facebook, and lo and behold, the wife of this couple had unceremoniously dropped me from her Friends list. Notably, her husband had not. I felt that it was not appropriate to have any contact with the husband, given both their actions in the past two weeks; and that as long as the wife had struck the first blow, so to speak, I could remove the husband with a clear conscience.

I have heard stories that people have made themselves available to date on Facebook, before they even broke up face-to-face with their partners.

What would Miss Manners say?

Dollar Continues to Fall

The shequel-dollar exchange rate for today is 3.964.

Financial analysts are recommending that you keep your money under your mattress until George Bush gets out of the White House.

Monday, October 29, 2007

DNR, Unless it Benefits the Party

The topic of DNR requests ("Do not resuscitate") and Living Wills became the topic of a heated discussion today, in the Women's locker room at the pool. Many Israelis do not even have a will which would protect their family, as was unfortunately the case with the 11-year old boy who lost his entire family in a car accident last month. Many women in the locker room today did not know with whom to consult regarding a will or the specific issue of the DNR, but most agreed that they would like to control their health care, and their death, as much as is possible.

Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister and current vegetable, has been kept in stasis for approximately the last two years, since he had his second more deadly stroke around the time of the elections. Initially, he was kept alive to give voters the impression that the party he founded, Kadima, would eventually return as their leader and as the political leader of the Israeli people. It made it easier to vote for Kadima, knowing that Ehud Olmert would be a temporary caretaker for the Lion of Judah.

Sharon then needed to be kept alive for the first 100-days, after the elections, so Olmert could technically solidify his power and create alliances, according to the Kadima charter. Now and again, the Sharon family leaks the condition of the former PM to the press, to keep the hope alive. Apparently, Sharon enjoys being sat in front of the television, along with all the medical gear keeping him alive, and particularly enjoys programs on National Geographic. He is, in Orwellian speak, "stable."

Those who may have disagreed with Ariel Sharon's politics would still applaud him for the energy and dedication that he exhibited for Israel in all his years of involvement in the army and then in party politics. He was a vital, stubborn man. By keeping him alive, it shows a total lack of respect for the legacy of his life, and the dignity of the human body.

Dignity of course can be variously defined by medical doctors, family members, Rabbinic authorities and philosophers. A cannibal might define respect of the human form by saving the brains for last; I wouldn't know, I have not been invited to their parties. Walt Disney felt it was totally dignified to sever his head from his body and put the housing for his brain in cryo-stasis, so that someday his consciousness and collective memories may be transplanted into a new vessel. The actor who played Mr. Scott (the engineer of Star Trek fame) had his remains launched into space.

I say that a person most definitely should make his/her wishes regarding their death - in both natural and unexpected cases - clear to their family. Each person deserves the right to say when they have had a proper (albeit relative) quality of life. If you do not want to be hooked up to machines that breathe, eat and go to the bathroom for you, let your loved ones know.

I have a will, not because I am actively planning my death, and not because I must provide for guardianship of children. I have a will, which includes a DNR, because I have already been shot at once and almost died, and I live in a country where deaths from terrorism and war are overshadowed by deaths from traffic accidents.

I may not have much to say, but I believe that it is important to make my wishes known. I need to make sure that my patients, and my cats, get place with caring people.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tall People

A song called "Short People" came onto the radio this morning, and I paid attention to the words, and the chorus in particular disturbed me: "Short people got no reason to live." I don't think a folk song should be advocating suicide, just because someone is height challenged.

I also challenge the world to consider the detriment of being tall. Only a tall woman can relate to the following painful memories of childhood:
1. Wanting to shop at the same stores where all the other girls buy their clothing.
2. Wanting to buy your first pair of high heels, and realizing that none of the cool stores carry a size 11 or 12 women's, and having to go to the Ugly Shoe Store for Old Ladies to buy some hideous Orthopaedic pair of "comfortable shoes."
3. Never being "cute."
4. Going to a bowling birthday party and being told in front of all your friends that they don't have your size in a women's shoe, you will have to wear one of the men's bowling shoes. (Like you don't feel awful enough already in a bowling shoe...)
5. Maintaining poor posture and slouching to the height of the group, so that you can feel like you are at eye-level.
5. Having limited dating options, or actually dating someone who is at least a head shorter than you, and seeing your reflection as a couple in the mirror for the first time, and feeling like you are Shrek and he is Princess Fiona, when she is not an ogre.

One of my grandmothers had a size 12 shoe, quite rare for a woman of that generation, and unlike today, there were zero options to walk into a normal store and buy normal fashionable foot ware. My other grandmother bought me a book called The Tallest Girl in the Class, a story about this girl in the fourth grade felt like an outsider and a freak, until she was picked to play the Christmas tree in the pageant, because she was the tallest person in the class. The children's book does not specify if she needed therapy later in life.

In elementary school, because I towered over both the girls and the boys, I was chosen to play Mordechai in the Purim musical, which we performed in front of the whole school. In retrospect, I would like to question the intelligence and sensitivity of putting a shy tall girl in a beard. My best friend at the time, Karen Zomick, got to play Queen Esther, because she was petite and "cute."

Today as an adult, I appreciate the many ways in which I am outside the box, my height being only one factor through which I stand out in the crowd. Tall people have stature and authority; my three brothers each stand over six feet. If I were thin enough, I could be a super-model. Quite content with my body and my build, I have no desire to lose a few inches, I will lose an inch and a half from my spinal discs as I get older anyway (as all humans do over time).

Maybe I ought to sue my elementary school for my not being married, because they caused gender confusion and set back my self-confidence. Anyone want to take on the case?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Professor Dumbledore, Will You Please Come Out of the Closet

On behalf of Harry Potter, an orphan who has no parents to speak in his defence, I would like to report his beloved mentor, Professor Albus Dumbledore, for molestation. That's right, now that the esteemed teacher and fighter of evil has been outed, one cannot help but wonder what Harry Potter and he were really doing in all those late night study sessions. For that matter, didn't Professor Snape also spend a lot of one-on-one time with Harry in detention?

Of course, Professor Dumbledore is deceased, and lives only in the portraits on the wall, but dammit, if the various magical persons in all the paintings at Hogworts can interact in real time with students and each other, they can be jailed post mortem.

Why is it that magic must be associated with deviance of a sort? What did JK Rowling gain by declaring that Dumbledore prefers the Wizard over the Witch?

Much like the hullabaloo over the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, literature makes statements and passes along morality on multiple levels. As a Jewish girl reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the Christian references flew way over my head, and I simply enjoyed the series as a tale about adventurous children in a parallel universe who receive the protection of a kindly magical lion. Aslan doesn't even sound like Jesus...

The television show Sesame Street began when I was one year old, and Big Bird's friend Mr. Snuffleuppagus was conceived initially as a real friend of Big Bird's, who just happened to disappear when any human adult showed up on the scene. (Much like Clark Kent and Superman, they are never around at the same time, hmmm...) In time, the show revealed the melancholy Woolly Mammoth to the remaining residents of Sesame Street; they feared that a child who had been abused or bullied would not approach adults for help, because he/she believed that adults are either stupid, or would not believe their story.

This of course did not go far enough for the liberal "gay" 90's, when speculation ran rampant regarding Bert and Ernie's sexual orientation. I would like to point out that they were roommates, sharing a one-bedroom flat in a very expensive New York real estate market, and that they slept in separate beds. Not once in my growing up and watching the show did I consider another more insidious insinuation.

In Israel, they forgo any subtlety, and the two Ernie and Bert-like puppets who appear in the ads for the Electric Company are known to be gay; one is the "female" and the other is the "male." The verbal pun on an electrical socket works better in Hebrew, but you get the idea.

Perhaps, Rowling created a gay character in the importance of Dumbledore to give courage to children reading her books, children who may have questions about their sexuality but may be afraid to announce it or discuss it with adults. In that case, make Neville gay, he emerged heroic at the end of book seven and in fact in the future, teaches at Hogwarts. Hooray for macho gay Neville and kudos to his Alma mater for have a non-discriminatory hiring policy.

This Dumbledore incident raises the same concerns for me as the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem. Call me a prude, but I believe that every person is entitled to his and her privacy as regards choices of intimacy. I don't need to see a heterosexual couple having sex in their car or snogging at a street corner, and the same applies for me with homosexuals, bisexuals and the magical folk. (Being politically correct, I must immediately apologize to any other active sexual group for not mentioning you, I actually don't want to watch you in the bedroom either.)

What happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom, across the board.

When the gay and lesbian community feels the need to have a parade in Jerusalem, specifically after they have marched in several other cities in Israel, it tells me that they themselves are not comfortable enough in their own skin and their own status. They must be "in the face" of the rest of the presumed intolerant population, in a city that is holy to all religions. Because if there is a parade that divides the city, and starts civil and religious war, people will have to notice them.

As a Jewish woman, I also don't have a great need to attend a synagogue that is egalitarian, simply because it gives women a larger role in the Orthodox ritual. I am content with my personal relationship with G-d, and I don't need the boys' club to let me in to feel better about myself spiritually, or to prove something.

We are all so busy trying to be "tolerant" and "inclusive", that we lose our internal truths. Instead of pulling over a suspicious 25 year old Muslim male in the airport, the 86 year old woman bringing donuts to her grandchildren is stripped-searched, because the cream inside the pastry might be an explosive. International travel may not be any safer, but at lease we did not offend the Arab terrorist.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Art of Apology

Regardless of race, religion and country, I believe that humans can be divided into two basic groups: those who know how to say "I'm sorry," and those for whom ego or mild psychosis prevents them from ever admitting they are wrong.

I grew up in a house where I observed both extremes of that behaviour, and I try to emulate my father's example of generally taking responsibility and apologizing in a timely manner, ie. not three days later when the argument has festered into a septic sensitive sore. This week was a test of that commitment.

Earlier in the week, I was standing in the copy shop preparing some documents for work. An elderly woman came up to me and asked "Are you done yet," when I clearly was not. Most days I would either ignore the silly question, or respond firmly and yet kindly. That day, I turned around, sneered at her, and said, "Does it look like I am done?" (I plead insomnia, I had slept less than three hours the night before.) She was both offended and intimidated, and it was only after I left the store that I felt badly about my exaggerated and belligerent behaviour. I considered going back and apologizing to this woman, but did not, and instead let myself feel guilty about it for several hours.

Sometimes you need to know when to swallow ego and the need to be right. Two days ago, a patient - obviously in pain - called to see if she could schedule an emergency appointment. I was unable to create an opening, and suggested that she see someone else while I placed her name on a Waiting List, or try palliative measures for two days and receive treatment today (Friday). We tentatively scheduled, and I assured her that as soon as there was a cancellation, I would contact her.

Yesterday, she called to remind me that she was in pain, that she would like to get an appointment as soon as possible, and to make sure that I remembered her state of suffering.
I apologized for her perception that I had been anything but accommodating and understanding, but that I truly would have seen her sooner if I could have. She hung up sounding sad and angry.

For several hours afterwards - while cooking, while swimming, while running errands - I obsessed, not about potentially losing a patient, but knowing that I had in fact done everything within the natural limit, and knowing that she was sitting at home moping about this. My perceptive house cleaner pointed out that if I was mulling over the relatively minor event to this extent, surely she was suffering as well, and I ought to call her to clear the air.

Which I did; I called her and in as kind a tone as I could muster, explained that I truly tried to see her when she had initially called, but that there are only so many hours in the day. I proceeded by emphasizing that my actions were not to be taken personally in any way, that I wish to continue to help her in the future, and I don't want "bad feelings" driving a wedge between us.

She thanked me for calling back, and I thanked her for listening. After hanging up the phone, while there was still a part of me that felt that I was compromising myself for the Greater Peace, I felt like I had faced and dealt with the consequences of the words that came out of my mouth.

And now that I have spilled all this out to you, dear reader, the obsessing ends.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rebecca Danzig Keller, In Memoriam

Last Thursday was the eighth anniversary (Yartzeit) of my grandmother's death, a woman who very much impacted my life and with whom I was quite close growing up. My mother (her eldest daughter) had suggested that we children and grandchildren do something "meaningful" to mark the day, to honor her memory.

Not coincidentally, the Universe gave me a slow Chiropractic work day, and I was able to look through letters and journal entries from the time immediately before and after her death, which in turn gave me a burst of almost overwhelming creative energy, which I used to channel into photography and creative writing.

The day of her funeral, eight years ago, I wrote the following in my journal:

"There is a whole life in this house, from large details like her car to small details like her basement office organization, her color coordinated towels, her books. How does one dismantle a life? How does one distribute and incorporate it? Everyone keeps saying that her legacy is us, her grandchildren, we are the proof that she did something worthwhile, that each of us carries her within us. Why can't she be here to see it, I feel like everyone has a time, and this was not hers.

What will people say about me when I die? What will be my legacy?"

In speaking to a friend today, a woman aware of my issues at being single and childless in my late 30's, she challenged me with that exact question: What is my legacy? Can I say that I am an inherently worthwhile and important person, regardless of the standards imposed by society or by my family? Why do I exist?

For now, I have a sufficiently unconvincing answer, with the only fact on the ground being that I EXIST. I would even venture to say that I exist for a reason, and that I have faith that the Universe and its Higher Powers generally knows what it is doing. But I cannot answer the "Why," and it terrifies me, because I am afraid that if I explore these answers and possibilities, I will not like what I find. Perhaps it will come to me in a dream.

I do, however, have an opinion on the subject, and it starts with the classic philosophical question, if a tree falls in the middle of the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? And actually, my answer to that is a definitive NO; hearing, like the other five senses humanity has been programmed with as part of their genetic package, is dependent upon relative perception. While the sound and the loss of a tree in the middle of a random forest will most definitely impact the Greater Universe - in keeping with the principles of Chaos Theory - if it has not been perceived by another, it gets lost.

To apply that theory on a micro level, I assert that I am in fact a worthwhile person, deserving of love and being in a loving relationship, and I assert that I value my own company. Ultimately, I wonder if I count, if I leave no trail behind me when I die, genetic or otherwise; if there was never one person in my life who loved me unconditionally, who wanted to be my husband and raise a child with me not out of obligation, but out of eagerness and interest and a desire to grow old with me. Surely, the heavens will cry when I leave this Earth, and somewhere in the cosmos there will be a ripple, but will any human miss me or remember me?

As a child, fame and global recognition represented my idea of meaning and legacy in life, I would not be considered a success until I had been featured on the front page of the New York Times for saving humanity, or until at least one of my works of art was hanging in the Metropolitan Museum. That template has dramatically shifted, I do not need nor want to save the world. Right now I want and need intimacy, physical and emotional, the knowledge that for at least one person on this planet, I am their first and most precious priority. You can argue that it means that I don't love myself 100%, or that I err in using an external measure of my worth, but I am human living in a society of other humans. Robinson Caruso had it much easier.

I don't know how to express or explain that feeling of total acceptance, except to say that I received that affirmation from my grandmother, and that is a large part of the reason why I miss her.

I close with a Celtic sonnet that someone read to my family when they visited the shiva house, eight years ago, and I dedicate this poem to my grandmother, and to myself, that I may have a long, fulfilling and happy life, and will have left it a better place for my being there.

Grieve not
Nor speak of me with tears
But laugh and talk of me
As though I were beside you.

I loved you so
"Twas Heaven here with you.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Get the Nobel Prize, Save the World

First of all, kudos to former Vice President Al Gore, for being the first VP in history to not only win the Nobel Prize, but also an Oscar. Like other politicians before him, he has been able to turn his position and access into an asset, for the planet and its citizens; I personally hope he does not run for President in 2008, so that he may devote his time to the cause of the Gaea and her ecology. One recent report stated that after the year 2050, Planet Earth will not be habitable for humans, leaving only the roaches with their Devil Dogs as sustenance. At that point, I will G-d Willing be in my 80's and will have lived a full life, though I find it difficult to stomach that my children and grand-children will not be able to breathe the air or drink the water.

Another politician, former President Jimmy Carter is a far better ex-President, his project Habitat for Humanity has aided so many lower-middle class Americans. I do wish, however, that Carter would keep his nose out of Middle East negotiations, he already screwed Israel over once and we don't need any more "help" from the outside.

Recently, the television program "Commander in Chief" started airing in India and the Middle East, and I found their take on the possibility of a history-making female President intriguing. Clearly, Geena Davis - the star and Executive Producer -has no problem with a female in charge, as long as it is not Hilary Clinton. Bill Clinton as First Lady? Hardly. Donald Sutherland's portrayal of the gaunt, white haired, evil Republican Speaker of the House left me feeling terrified and impressed, and more determined than ever to reconsider all our choices for the next American President.

How much should shows like "Commander in Chief" or "The West Wing" influence the average American voter and the upcoming Presidential primaries? And can we really control the overwhelming and dangerous effect of the media and entertainment industry on every other aspect of society? That compartment of Pandora's Box will never be closed again, nor will the demons of politics be tamed, we can only hope that our leaders, locally and internationally, will internalize Al Gore's message, the imperative to save the planet, and therefore save humanity.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

And the Award for...

the World's Worst Patient is: Me! (I'd like to thank my immune system for breaking down...)

Last Thursday I felt a small irritation in my throat, and assumed it was allergies, as the transition season has arrived and I expect to suffer a little. The next day I woke up and I was congested and could not breath, and every time I blew my nose my sinuses made this bizarre creaking sound. I also became unusually clumsy, dropping things, and cutting my finger when I was cooking, and so decided that i might even be ill, above and beyond the dust in the air and the pollen count.

With the combination of good genes and Chiropractic care, I get ill very infrequently, and it can take several days before I listen to my body and rest. Always grateful when people offer to assist, I cannot help but wonder why, since I spend the entire time groaning and making my caretaker's life miserable. (I suppose it is a good thing that I am single and alone, I generally end up complaining to myself.)

I start with homeopathic remedies, and when that does not control the symptoms, I switch to the conventional fare of syrups and medicines. I have officially announced and acknowledged that I am ill when I agree to drink tea. An arm must be falling off for me to arrange a visit to the GP.

A doctor is not supposed to be ill, and sometimes my clients will seen surprised if I sneeze or blow my nose; it makes me human just like them, and it shatters the illusion that those of us in the profession of servicing human beings somehow live above the rules of nature. I see this realization as a positive step toward resetting the professional and personal boundaries in the office.

My eldest cat, Harry, has a similar love/hate relationship with his veterinarian. He will allow himself to be placed in the carrier cage, and does not complain in the car on the way to the vet's office. At the initial stages of the treatment, he submits his body to examination. But when he randomly decides that he has sufficiently amused us humans with his obedience, the doctor or his assistant may very well lose a finger or two. I am convinced that Harry is "red flagged" in their computer as a small dangerous tiger, and that they would love to automatically drug him at the beginning of the visit, if only to preserve their limbs. When we leave the office, Harry wears a Cheshire Cat grin on his face, knowing he has taken control of the situation, and that we got kicked out as quickly as possible.

Like feline, like owner.

I canceled my Pilates class today at the last minute because I remembered from my medical training (aha!) that when a person ill, the body needs to rest, and not use up its resources with rigorous exercise. I will take a shower instead, change out of the pajamas I have been living in for the last 48 hours, and prepare myself for treating patients later today, because unfortunately, my little head cold cannot get in the way of my work.

I will try not to sneeze on anyone.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Showdown at the Supermarket

Or: Life in Israel, an Anecdote

Two days ago, as I entered the supermarket in the industrial area of Talpiyot, I saw a UN soldier in full uniform (gun, camouflage) standing at attention at the entrance, scanning each customer with a focused gaze. The patch on his sleeve said, "Military Observer."

I asked him what exactly he was 'observing.' He answered that he is a military observer sent by the UN to keep the peace between Israel and its neighbors. At which point we both chuckled simultaneously, and I said, "Peace, is that what they call it?"

And yet he stood there as a sentry, and alarmed, I inquired if there had been a terrorist threat for this particular area of Jerusalem. "No, I am here to do some shopping!"

Whereupon his friend arrived, also dressed in full uniform, and they walked into the store. (I am sure they will fit in very well in the produce section.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

After the Holidays

In Israel, from approximately the week before Rosh Hashana through the week in which the Jewish holiday of Succot ends, you hear the phrase, "After the holidays..." As in "After the holidays, I will:
- Start my diet
- Call my literary agent
- Deal with my taxes
- Apply for jobs
- Clean out my closets
- Take the car to the garage to fix that dent
- Sit all morning in the random government office and take care of those parking tickets
- Schedule my annual medical exam

Because all citizens know that there is no point in trying to achieve closure on any procedure that demands government bureaucracy and cooperation, or any body issue that demands not eating continuously for three days in celebration of the various events at the beginning of the Jewish calendar.

This week provided a considerable challenge, that of waking up in the morning and knowing that there would be no two-day work weeks, that life resumes its "normal" pace and that the only vacation is one which you schedule yourself, one that is not mandated by religion. And yet, in the United States, consumerism rose to the challenge, by beginning its pre-Holiday (Halloween? Thanksgiving? Christmas?) sales. Wal Mart, Toys R Us and LL Bean stand out in the crowd; Toys R Us, particularly hit by the defective Chinese toy recall, stated that "Everyone can use a little Christmas right now."

Good for them, taking advantage of an economy collapsing because of George Bush's inept policies and once again I find myself saddened that the spirit of the holiday season has been lost for another year. I myself am a huge fan of Christmas carols, and challenge everyone in the holiday marketing business to listen carefully to the words of "The Little Drummer Boy," a song which encapsulates for me the true meaning of giving and receiving: it tells a story of child - the demographic targeted by the hype of the sales - who cannot afford to bring an expensive gift, and instead plays his drums, giving straight from the heart. In other words, it's not about how many presents sit under the tree, little baby Jesus isn't tallying the amount each person spent on his gift, he values love and intention.

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah, which in principle should stress the defense of core values and the receiving of miracles, has adopted the American Western value of the more presents the better, and whoever dies with the most stuff wins. Instead of one giant bonanza under the tree, we spread the spending over eight days. In my house, my parents tried to teach the importance of family and intention over commercial gain; most nights they presented us with an individual small gift, one which they thought about and tailored for each of us children. One night out of the eight, the family as a whole shared one giant expensive addition to the household, I can most vividly recall the Atari game player; who doesn't like Pong?! And for one of the nights our whole extended family got together for a party at my aunt and uncle's house in Westchester, where my grandmother talked about her childhood without family and how much we should cherish the time we spend together.

So get out those credit cards and start applying for your payment plan now, with only 75 shopping days until Christmas, items are going fast!

Cable Crash

Yesterday, for several hours, my cable service crashed. For several hours I had no television, nor did I have an Internet connection. No email, no web surfing or downloading, no mind-numbing TV programs.

What is a technology addicted 21rst Century human to do?

This human sat on her porch and ate dinner while the stars came out. And then she read a good book with a purring feline on her lap.

Could be worse, and it wouldn't be such a bad thing if it happened every once in a while.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Rabbis, Reiki, Idol Worship and Wall Street

Or: "Sea Monkeys Invade New York, Possessed Wigs Attack Unsuspecting Heads"

I received today from a colleague an online article about an Ultra Orthodox Rabbi named Yitzchak Fanger, who had previously held the titles of Reiki Master and Buddhist Priest. The article describes his vision quest to India after the army - a typical journey for many non-religious Israelis - where he discovered spirituality and religion (someone else's religion), and after a series of non-coincidental miraculous events, returned to religious Judaism and Israel and to his family.

I am of course pleased for him that he has found satisfaction with his life and has reconciled with his upbringing, but have issue with his rejection of his Reiki training. He tells the story of his million dollar Reiki clinic, and how one day a group of Ultra Orthodox women wished to study with him, and insisted upon a "Certificate of Kashrut" (The Rabbi Stamp of Approval) before they could begin the class. He went to his local Rabbinic Authority, and this supposed community leader told Fanger that not only would he not issue any Certificate of Approval, but that Mr. Fanger must close his clinic immediately - the source of income for him and his entire family - because the teachings and techniques of Reiki were based in Idol Worship.

The now born-again Rabbi Fanger complied immediately, and concludes his interview by saying that he now has six children who are worth more than any of the money he made as a Reiki Master helping clients, and that his life as an Ultra Orthodox Rabbi gives him everything he needs. (Because now someone else is footing the bill...)

I performed half of my Chiropractic internship with the Ojibwe/First Nation (that's American Indians to the politically incorrect), and they told me a story about the four original peoples who were placed on this planet by a Higher Power: the White, the Yellow, the Black and the Red. Each was given a heritage of healing which specifically addressed the energies and the history of their color, so to speak, and only recently have the medicines and their techniques become mixed.

I have always operated under the credo taught to me by one of my first mentors in Chiropractic School, "more tools for the toolbox": the more I study and the more techniques I gather into my consciousness and daily routine, the more I can help each person who comes into my office. When I work on a patient, I use up to eight different systems, both Western and Eastern, thus providing a more complete and effective treatment that last longer than traditional care. I don't need a Rabbi, untrained in medicine and in the real world, to tell me what I can and cannot provide for my clients, especially since he would probably tell me to stop treating men, as they insist that it is improper for a woman to be alone with a man and touch him. Never mind that I am a doctor, a professional, and never mind that my father, also a Chiropractor, takes care of the wife of the Bostonner Rebbe, and her husband doesn't seem to have a problem with them being alone in a room for treatment.

Several years ago, a group of Rabbis in America declared that natural hair wigs - worn extensively by Ultra Orthodox women and costing up to $3000 a pop - could not be worn because some of the hair came from Indian women, who practice Idol Worship in their own religion, thus their hair was tainted and impure. All over the world, a flurry of wig burnings ensued, with families who cannot afford to feed and clothe their children burning these items of Evil, and buying synthetic wigs in their place. The Jewish wig merchants with their Certificates of Kashrut certainly did well on that venture.

Until the Rabbis recanted and decided that if anyone had not yet burned their wigs, they need not. And to fill the void and to fill certain merchant's pockets, they instead declared that the water in New York was contaminated with microscopic lobster derivative bugs, and that all proper Jews must immediately buy a high end water filter system (from a proper Jewish vendor, of course) to eliminate the dreaded impurity. Upon which Ultra Orthodox seminaries, largely supported by external donations so the men can sit and learn all day while their wives work several jobs, installed the best systems possible, and happily their Talmudic students are no longer infected by micro-organisms that only their spiritual and religious mentors can see.

To quote Alanis Morisette, "It's all about the money." (It's all about the dumb, dumb dumbe de dumb.)

Religion does indeed fill the need of controlling the masses, and the rich historical heritage of despots, cult leaders and con men can be proud of the application of their theories among the Ultra Orthodox.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Adolescent Invulnerability

When I started college, I represented a typical 18 year old high school graduate; which means that I was depressed, so ready to get out of my parents' house, invulnerable and idealistic, and of course, knew everything and was ready to conquer the world and save it from itself.

Now I know better.

All truth has 1,000 facets, and we as news consumers and citizens of the planet will never reveal the full story. Sadly, the Jerusalem Post lags behind the times.

In response to the Iranian President's speech at Columbia, they featured several op ed pieces, including a "recent high school graduate," who in his infinite wisdom and life experience, declared the lecture a victory for Democracy; Lee Bollinger, in his infantile and CYA* introduction, hurt the feelings of the anti-Semite Holocaust denying Jihadist politician. Score one for the good guys, said the man-child in his superficial piece, Bush's Axis of Evil is really smarting from having the opportunity to use the very gifts that Freedom of Speech offers, in order to further his own agenda. The author of this editorial did not actually attend the speech, nor was he even standing on American soil at the time it occurred.

I omit this Jewish boy's name - and I use the term "boy" in the kindest sense of the word - to spare him the embarrassment of coming off as a naive patsy.

In truth, the Jerusalem Post - a supposedly objective internationally circulated yellow rag - should be embarrassed for providing a forum which expresses under-researched "news," and then claims the moral high ground while they regularly align themselves with the Israeli political right.

The medium is the message, and this message reaffirms that we Israelis don't know how to protect ourselves, from ourselves.

*CYA = Cover Your Ass. He couldn't un-invite the man, so he insulted him instead.

Monday, September 24, 2007

With Friends Like These

The Boston Globe Columnist, James Carroll suggested in his editorial that it would be a warm and fuzzy moment for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stand in unity - while he dances a little victory jig in his head - with Americans and international leaders at Ground Zero, and Carroll questioned the decision to forbid Ahmadinejad's visit there. "This new insult reinforces him at home...What if, instead of shunting Ahmadinejad aside as one unworthy to enter the sanctuary of our national trauma, we Americans had said, 'Yes, stand here with us.' " Carroll concludes by laying blame squarely at George Bush's feet, for turning Americans into a nation of victims and for desecrating holy ground.

Given the opportunity to speak at Columbia University, Ahmadinejad played the "Israel card," blaming this small country for all tension between his country and Israel, all tension in the Middle East and its resulting Tsunami on the rest of the planet. Apparently, he is merely misunderstood in his motives, for example, when he is accused of being a Holocaust denier; what he meant to say was that historical accounts should be questioned, that truth is only as good as the people who survive to tell the story. As Shmuel Rosner pointed out in Haaretz today, "For months, Israel worked to block what happened on the podium yesterday. For the duration of his speech, Ahmadinejad produced a televised illusion: It is not Iran versus the world, but Iran versus Israel...If he manages to convince enough people of this, the mirage would be come reality and Israel would be isolated." That is exactly what Ahmadinejad and his Arab cronies want.

Let us not neglect the Neturei Karta, a Holocaust denier Ultra Orthodox Jewish sect, who gave a warm welcome when the Iranian President arrived in New York. They also came out in active defense of the anti Semitic Ahmadinejad, saying that he is a "deeply religious man, who is committed to world peace based upon mutual respect, decency and dialogue." (AP) Right...

How is the Israeli Prime Minister responding to these outlandish and aggressive attacks on Israel and the Jews? In fact, he is not, because he is once again embroiled in the police attempt to investigate Olmert's shady real estate dealings and the corruption within his office. Other Members of Knesset have called for Olmert's immediate resignation, given the extent of the criminal charges. Surely getting caught and convicted is more important than the very existence of the State of Israel.

To complete the cliche, with friends like these, who needs enemies. They can stand by and watch us devour each other from within.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Checking In on the Old Country

Money is the hot topic in the paper today, the slide of the dollar, how it affects the European Union, how it affects the billionaires on the 2007 Forbes List.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the euro traded above $1.40 for the first time, and the Canadian dollar climbed back to parity with the US dollar for the first time in 30 years. The dollar is worth less than ever before in this age of flexible exchange rates, and it has declined faster under George W. than under any president since the end of the gold standard in 1971.

And show some sympathy for the 82 US billionaires, who did not make the cut on the Forbes roundup of the 400 richest Americans: the price for inclusion (because of the weakening of the dollar) rose from One billion to $1.3 billion dollars, and most of the newbies on the list made their fortunes from the Internet, or Wall Street.

My parents, like many other Americans, started living the inflated lifestyle - along with its many expenses - in the 1980's, during the Reagan boom. Lots of PI (personal injury) cases, and lots of generous insurance policies that paid for Chiropractic patients to come as often as they wanted. Today, my parents work three times as hard as they used to, have to fill out three times as many forms as they used to, and get paid a third of what they used to receive. Yet the accumulated debt and commitments remain, like the repairs and expansion done to the kitchen in the last year, like the expansion of one of their Chiropractic offices, and like my youngest brother's private college tuition.

Speaking of college, Columbia University (my Alma mater, class of 1991) has resisted pressure to cancel a speaking engagement on campus by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a surprising move given CU President Lee Bollinger's recent initiative to confront the British boycott of Israeli academic institutions and its esteemed professors. In my time at Columbia, there were certainly several controversial visitors - most notably Louis Farrakhan - but a basic respect of all communities (Jewish, black, Islamic, etc) within the community existed. A Holocaust denier (Ahmadinejad) who has publicly and internationally declared open war upon the Zionist entity and Jews everywhere, a President who boasts of the development of a nuclear program and his intentions to use it, a Muslim who plans on visiting Ground Zero for the purpose of rejoicing in the death of the ugly Americans and spitting on the graves of those who died; he should not be allowed on the campus, never mind into the country.

The last time I visited the US, I felt a certain cloud of paranoia and fatigue; people working too hard and earning less, not spending enough time with their families and without the assurance of safety and dominance that the Americans once enjoyed. Since the start of George Bush's presidency, the United States has lost its respect and footing not only within its borders but with its former international allies. No one wants to align themselves with a currency that pulls the rest of the markets down into a spiral, or with an administration that sends soldiers to die in not one but two losing arenas (Afghanistan and Iraq). Just because we believe Democracy is a model worth adapting and striving toward, does not mean that the template works in the Middle East. I don't recall the Iraqi people applying to become one of the "enlightened."

All that remains is rich fodder that Bush continually provides for the late night talk show hosts, and for the Democrats to whomp anyone the Republicans put up for candidacy in the next American Presidential election.

Yes, in some ways Israel behaves like a Third World Country, Lord knows I would like to be paying less taxes and I would like to see some direct representation and accountability of the Prime Minister and the members of the Knesset toward its citizens. But I enjoy a good quality of life, I am able to see my patients without the bureaucracy of insurance filing and I set my own hours.

I have automatic health coverage, and some day when I have children, their education will be heavily subsidized from nursery through university. As for the long lists of shopping I used to do in the States, most of what I need I can find here in Israel, and for about the same price as I would pay if I had gone to CVS. Finally, there is a sense here of one extended family that I have not felt anywhere else in the world.

For now, America may be a nice place to visit, but I would not want to live there.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Daily Routines

When I run out of new books to read, which happens frequently in my house, I return to several favorites, and have recently re-read The Little Prince by Antione De Saint-Expupery (known as Saint - Ex to his friends). Every time I read this book, I notice another line, another description that speaks to me in a way that I had not noticed the last 100 times I read the book. This particular version of the book is special to me as well, it was once part of my grandmother's library and she had marked off various passages that spoke to her; when I read this and come across her notation, I feel that she is with me in the room.

Around page 39, Saint-Ex describes the Little Prince's daily routine on his small planet:

"He carefully swept his active volcanoes. He possessed two active volcanoes and they were very convenient for heating his breakfast in the morning. He also had a volcano which was extinct. But as he pointed out: 'You never know!' So he also cleaned out the extinct volcano...The little prince tore up...the last little baobab shoots...and watered the flower, and then prepared to place her under her glass dome."

The book itself presents a parable of love and attachments, and the importance of appreciating what and who you have in your life. If I were to document my standard morning, it would go something like this:

"She woke up before her alarm, because there was a 14 pound cat sitting and purring on her chest. All attempts to read the morning paper were in vain. She gave her cats T-U-N-A and then fed the street cats outside, who waited not so patiently for their breakfast. Then the water in the bowls needed to be changed, and the excess water was given to the little plant on the porch. The computer, turned on, was checked for email and spam, and then she set up the files for her office that day, before taking a superficial shower. The more substantial shower was to be taken after the one kilometer swim."

We humans revel in our routine, the safety of knowing that certain things must be done, that certain actions recur consistently day after day. I experience a certain peace in waking up in my own bed and running through my morning without thought; and yet, there should be days where responsibility can be chucked out the window, where the world does not collapse into chaos if you switch things around a little, ignore a few items on the list.

It seems I must acquire that skill set, although at the end of The Little Prince, he abandons his quest in the desert and returns to his flower, to his planet and to his beloved chores.

Perhaps he took his cue from TS Eliot, who wrote:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started,
And know the place for the first time.