Sunday, August 26, 2007

Civilized Anti-Semitism

Anyone who has watched the movie "Borat" will acknowledge that within its humor lies the deeper lesson which Sasha Baron Cohen wishes to portray: inside every civilized American is an anti-Semite, just waiting to get society's permission to express his/her true beliefs, those beliefs they share with their bar buddies or their families, those statements that are not politically correct to be heard by the general public.

I love to travel, and as much as I enjoy seeing new places, I look forward even more to meeting people of a different culture and background, and finding that common ground in a brief discussion, or over a cup of coffee. When I used to take the Shuttle between New York and Boston in college, I would often find myself in conversation with the passenger next to me, sharing life stories and exposing skeletons in closets; I have that kind of face and give off that kind of energy, I suppose, the billboard that says, "tell me your stories, I will listen."

For today, I want to focus on several incidents that were less pleasurable, and reminded me that wherever I go in the world, there is someone who hates me or misunderstands me simply because I was born into the Jewish nation, and live in the Jewish homeland. It stands as an important lesson for all of us, that in this enlightened and civilized age, old hatred runs deep.

In my first week at Chiropractic school (1993), during orientation, one man in particular repeatedly approached me, not to speak to me but to gaze at my forehead. After several uncomfortable moments, I asked him why he stared at me so intently, and he answered simply, "I am looking for your horns." He had grown up on a farm in the middle of Canada, and had never met a Jew before, and could not understand why I did not resemble Satan. I patiently explained the origin of the myth of the horns, quoting to him the passage in the Old Testament that described Moses' ray of lights, beaming from his face after he had his encounter with G-d and received the Ten Commandments. I also explained that the modern reference derives itself from the sculpture of Moses in Rome, the artist could not have free standing marble rays of light, and so attached them to the most likely and easiest area, the forehead. This fellow student ended up becoming a close friend, we worked as volunteers in an Ojibwe/First Nation (Indians, for the politically incorrect) clinic together, and all it took was a bit of education.

I won two tickets to Switzerland from a chocolate contest, and my friend and I went to that stunning country for one week (2001). On the train in Grindelwald, we presented our tickets and passports to one of the conductors; he looked at our two passports - One Israeli and One American, but issued in Jerusalem - nodded his head and as he walked off, clicked his heals together and did the "Sieg Heil" motion with his arm. I reacted immediately, and said to my friend, "He just Hitlered us!" But she did not see it and we dismissed it at the time.

Later, my friend and I were in Zurich on an English tour of Chagall windows in a Protestant Church. Of the five windows, four had completely Old Testament content, and only one window portrayed Jesus in any way. The guide said at one point, "And here we see the Jewish window, called so because it is dominated by the Jewish color, yellow." Not wanting to display immediate belligerence, I raised my hand and asked politely, "Though I am not aware of any official Jewish color, wouldn't you think the colors would be blue and white, the colors of the Israeli flag?" She replied that I knew nothing about art, and that the Jewish color was most definitively yellow.

Inspired by one of my all time favorite movies, "Field of Dreams," I stood up, called her a "Nazi Cow," and for the sake of the rest of the group, explained that the Nazi's assigned yellow stars to the Jews, before they exterminated them; and that the Swiss ought to know, because they got rich during WWII by stealing the Jews' money. And that I in fact had a degree in art and art history. No one in the tour group seemed shocked or surprised, and I thought at the time that a few people were thinking what I dared to speak aloud.

In Istanbul (1998), on a tour of a Sultan's palace, the Turkish guide made several minor anti-Semitic statements. My friend Ami, unable to hold herself back, asked the guide about the Turks' role in the Crusades, and about their occupation of the land we now call Israel; the man answered that he had no idea what she was talking about, and that she ought to go back and study her history.

This past week in Jordan (2007), Ali the Petra guide kept speaking about the Nabateans and the Fertile Crescent, mentioning every country along the ancient Spice Route except Israel. Ed, the American Jew from Philadelphia sitting next to me inquired Ali about this omission after it appeared several times, and Ali answered that technically, Israel did not exist then. Neither did Jordan, technically, but never mind.

History is told by those who survive it, and contrary to the belief proliferated by the Nazis, the facts do not change if you tell the lie enough times. Anti-Semitism, alive and well in our lifetime and only growing stronger, cannot be tolerated. We must all be on guard to protect our heritage and our history, and to not misconstrue the facts to suit political purposes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wadi Rum (Day Two)

A Story from the Koran: Muhamed ascended to chat with G-d, to ask the Ultimate Almighty Being how the new religion of Islam should be structured. They spoke, and on the way down, Muhamed bumped into the other prophets, Moses, Jesus and Father Abraham. This auspicious group asked Muhamed, "Nu, so what does your new religion have in store for its people?" Muhamed answered, "They must pray 50 times a day."

The other prophets immediately told Muhamed to return and negotiate that stipulation, that no normal human would stick with that kind of demand, that they would get nothing done. And so Muhamed returned with the more reasonable number of five times a day.

(Of course, Muhamed could have mentioned in the Koran that the Muezzin should not start at 4:30 in the morning in a five star hotel called the Taybet Zemen, where certain non Muslim guest are trying to sleep...)

Other things I learned from Ali2 about the Koran and Muhamed:

1. A woman experiencing her "Monthly Secret" [whispered the way people talk about cancer] does not do Ramadan, does not pray, cannot even touch a copy of the Koran. Nor do most woman in most situations, they pretty much get a free pass from the fasting. A man can buy Ramadan points by giving charity to poor people, or by organizing a prayer group.
2. Muslims do not use toilet paper, they must wash out their bodies on the inside with water every time, and they must wash their hands a special way afterwards. They also must shower immediately after having sex.
3. They can have up to four wives, but must treat each wife with "fairness." Which means that a husband must juggle his household with "White Lies." (Ali2's words, not mine) and give all his wives the same gifts.
4. The Koran has answers to every problem that has occurred and that will occur. The text covers physics and space and genetics, and solved the baby switching problem in the US during the Reagan presidencies.
5. Gosh Darnit, why haven't we all converted to Islam? It's such a terrific religion and it respects everyone!

All issues of Ali2's [another guide, also named Ali] proselytising aside, I spent a wonderful day in the Wadi Rum Desert Basin. The color of the sand, the crystal clear blue of the sky, the overwhelming natural beauty of the rock formations, ancient stone carving from the Nabatean and Stone age. We saw it, we walked it, we jeeped it, we built a fire in a cave and had a simple Middle Eastern lunch. When we ran out of specific places to see along the ancient Spice Route, we went on a dune buggy adventure in his 4 x 4, a mini roller coaster ride.

Ali2 also shared ancient Bedouin desert cures and survival skills. We had many discussions throughout the day, including topics of Middle East politics, which I elicited on purpose. He slipped once and called my homeland "Palestine," but otherwise remained quite respectful and open to the idea of peace. He doesn't like Hezbollah any more than I do, they are in his words, "animals."

My guide is quite an interesting man: wife(teacher), five children aged 18-3 years old, degree in Chemistry, served in the UN army in war torn Yugoslavia for a year. The man barely sipped water the entire day in the heat of the desert, instead at every brief stop he lit up a cigarette. Ali said he is planning on using the period of Ramada to quit for good. At least he did not smoke at all near me or in the jeep, though he only used the AC at the end of the day trip, arghh. We did some mounting climbing, me in my hiking sneakers and him in flip-flops, he is definitely part mountain goat.

Funny story, we were at a location called the bridge, a huge natural archway carved out of the stone by water during the flood season, and one of Ali's friends came over to say hello. Ali said (in Arabic) that I was a doctor, and this man shows me his ankle, full of burns. Ali explained to me that this man sprained his ankle, and the Bedouin way of treating sprains and fractures is to rub a special concoction of olive oil on the area, and then burn it. I told Ali to explain to his friend that not only am I a doctor who specializes in this area, but that I myself experienced a bad sprain a month ago, and that he should have done rehab and ultra sound instead. I end up giving a medical consult to a random Arab in the middle of the Wadi.

Moral of the Story: You can't escape your destiny, not in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, even on vacation.
Another Moral of the Story: Can I now write off this Petra trip as a Chiropractic business expense?

Photos cannot capture the sandstorms I witnessed on this trip. The phenomenon seem to appear out of nowhere and to be moved and motivated by nothing visible, except perhaps a will and magic of their own. On the drive to Acquba at the end of the day, a sandstorm literally crossed the highway, writhing in various smoky forms, but with purpose. I commented to Ali that it reminds me of the story of the genie, emerging from its bottle. Which started a whole new discussion about the Koran's view of angels, genies, spirits and the like. Each nation has good genies and bad genies, that speak the mother tongue of their chosen country. And a genie will only hurt you if you hurt them, kind of like killer sharks. Good to know, next time you throw a stone into the air, or a piece of garbage on the ground, you could be pissing off a genie.

Never mind Ali2, the point is that all aspects of nature have a soul of their own, and I absolutely learned and experienced proof of that in the past two days.

The return to Acquba and the border crossing were easy and uneventful; I have to compliment the tour company, I had an escort from beginning to end, right back to the door of the hotel in Eilat where I slept overnight. When I arrived at the hotel, a small kitten immediately gravitated toward me, sat on my (sweaty) lap, and purred itself to sleep; yet more reinforcement that I cannot truly escape my identity and destiny.

Final thought question: Why does Ali2 - Arab parents, born and bred in Jordan - speak English with an Irish brogue? And why can neither Ali properly pronounce the word, "investment"?

(End of Part II)

Petra (Day One)

Fact: There is a small village in Israel called Shittim.

My guide picked me up from my hotel in Eilat around seven am, and we crossed over the border at the Yitzchak Rabin crossing into the Duty Free zone of Acquba, Jordan. Myself and 19 other English speakers began an adventure in the desert. Technically, two of the members of our group live in Italy, two in Singapore, four in England, five in Israel and the rest in the United States. Including a pregnant Jewish woman from LA, who walked all the day in the sun, and whom the guide kept hoping would give birth in Petra at some point during the tour. ("We give your baby Jordanian citizenship.")

Our guide for the first day, Ali, gave us a thorough history of Jordan as a Kingdom and as a political entity, and just in case one would forget the current ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom, approximately every five feet, in both the cities and on the highways, some photo of King Hussein, past and present, appeared. The King in formal wear, the King in military wear, the King with his now dead (1999) father, the King with his wife and children. Ali explained that the nation loves their ruler, and that the photos show how powerful he has become since he ascended the throne. I look at this display and interpret it as insecurity, much in the same way that every house car and dog had an American flag wrapped around themselves after 9/11; if you create a fantasy and hit everyone over the head with a hammer with the message, maybe someone will believe it.

The city of Acquba boasts the largest free flying flag on the planet. This composite flag which represents the successful revolution against the Ottoman Empire, can be seen across the road so to speak in Eilat, and makes so much noise that it disturbs the sleep of those 100,000 port workers who live nearby.

Approximately two hours later, we arrived at Petra, and began a six hour hike in the most naturally beautiful canyons and Nabatean/Roman ruins. Words cannot do it justice, you will have to wait for me to post the photos. For fans of Indiana Jones, there is indeed a dramatic moment, when you round the corner in the canyon and come upon the Treasury Building seen in the movie, though our group did not find any treasure there that day. Also impressive are the rows of the Royal Tombs, carved into the cliffs, each in the style of the various civilizations that inhabited the site.

The taxis in the area, the camels and donkeys, seemed hot and tired and overworked to me, though I may be anthropomorphising these beasts of burdens. Ali assured me that their masters treat them well and feed them regularly. I was also slightly concerned at the very young children herding the taxis and selling jewelry; Ali assured me again that it is Jordanian law that all children go to school, and that the school year starts next week.

After a Middle Eastern style lunch, we were given two hours to return to our starting point, the Petra visitor's center, marked by two giant portraits of the Kings Hussein. I wandered back with my Singapore friends, Meg and Beng, and we took horses for the last 300 meters uphill, the heat had become overwhelming, but we Tigers (the name of our group) made it, albeit sweaty and exhausted.

Of note, Petra is located in Wadi Musa, named after the Jewish Prophet Moses, whom the Muslims seem to revere almost as much as their own prophet Muhamed. Throughout the day, Ali kept referring to the "Prophet Moses", and pointing out various springs in the desert named after him as well. Ali also taught me something I did not know: the Dome of the Rock is not in fact the place where Muhamed ascended, but the rock brought from the very spot in the desert where Moses had the whole burning bush discussion, he and G-d.

I came to learn much more about Muhamed and the Koran on the second day...

The evening was spent at the Taybet Zeman hotel, an entire Arab village near Wadi Rum which was converted to a five star hotel. This hotel has entire complex of shops bars and restaurants, a Turkish bath, a Heliport and a swimming pool. My room faced a stunning view of the mountains, including the mountain on which Aaron (Moses' brother, another revered figure in Arab culture) is supposedly buried. The suites are outfitted with the finest accessories and the gardens are beautifully manicured. Every time you breathe, some staff member asks if you need anything. If you ever find yourself near Petra, there is only one hotel in which to stay. (Not an official endorsement.)

And it was the best shower I have taken in a long time.

(End of Part I)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

One Politician's Priorities

Let's all sign a collective sigh for our sad Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. He wanted to take a vacation with his family in a private villa in Northern Italy, and his security team decided that it would be too dangerous for him, and that the extra security would cost Israeli taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. To quote the newspaper Haaretz, "that's the last thing he needs right now." Here he was, doing us Israeli taxpayers a favor, by choosing not to travel and relax within his own country, because he did not want to inconvenience the standard Israeli family on vacation.

Sigh. (Tear drops fall from my eyes in sympathy for his plight.)

Last week, one of the cars in this same Prime Minister's security motorcade, ran over a ten year old girl at a cross walk. It was not the car in which the PM himself was sitting, his security entourage scurried the girl off to Hadassah Hospital, and only told the Big Man that they almost killed one of his constituents when he was safe in his home. After all, Olmert need not be bothered with the little people and the small details. The girl is currently listed as being in "Moderate Condition," which means that she may only lose a limb or two.

I am overwhelmed by the accountability our PM feels for us lowly citizens.

When Olmert started his serious political career as Mayor of Jerusalem, he spent more time outside the country than taking care of the filth issues, the poverty problems and the crime statistics in the Holy City. He has great friends in high places all over the world, because while he was being wined and dined in the international setting, he handed over the running of Jerusalem to the Ultra-Religious politicos, who then ran the city into the ground.

As Prime Minister, he continually blurts out gaffes which show the gap between his understanding of and commitment to the Israeli citizens he is meant to represent. Like the time he announced to the world that we in fact have nuclear capability, a secret every other PM in history has officially kept from our Arab neighbors. Like the time he announced, during the war last summer, that this is the best time to give away more land and evict more Jews from their homes, because the Gaza pullout worked out so well. Like the time he told a bunch of teenagers at a high school that the government was not working all that hard to return the three MIAs, because "they were probably dead already anyway."

And way to show sensitivity by telling Holocaust survivors that they would receive an extra "life changing" $20 per month, when most of them are living in poverty and ill health, with no support from their family. Imagine a group of people almost exterminated by the Nazis, being told by their Jewish Prime Minister that he 'worked really hard' and 'gave it a lot of thought' and 'pushed for their benefit,' for an extra $20 a month. Disgraceful, that same amount of money would not buy Olmert one of his illegal Cuban cigars.

The two major parties, Likud and Labour, have hand picked new party leaders with the express purpose of ousting Olmert once and for all, trouncing his Kadima party in the next election. As far as I am concerned, Olmert needs to resign now, before the full release of the Winograd Report on his inadequacies during the war, and before he can do any more damage.

PM Olmert, while you are confined to your home during your vacation, instead of mingling with celebrities and heads of state in Italy, here are some projects you can attempt to resolve, while you still have the power and position to do so. (There will be a test at the end of the week.):

1. Three missing MIAs, no visible activity to get them home, dead or alive. Whatever happened to the Israeli ethic of leaving no soldier behind?
2. Over a million and a half children below the poverty line, not to mention the spade of children dying in cars this summer, because of lack of social services and proper education. Pay attention to the next generation.
3. Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and holy to all religions, is one of the dirtiest and poorest cities in the entire country. Shame on us.
4. Almost all of your top officials and advisers have already been convicted of crimes and corruption, or are on their way to prison. How about some staff changes?
5. The probable war between Israel and Syria, are we at all ready for another attack from outside and within our borders?

Israel has also exhibited a lack of initiative in highlighting and helping to prevent anti-Semitism around the world. We are meant to be a beacon for Jews, who must be able to feel that they have a homeland, a safe haven. Only 2% of the population [with a margin of error of plus/minus 3%!] respects this current administration, hardly the confidence needed to bring Jews to Israel, and to help its citizens feel secure from the threats surrounding us.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ode to Felines

I come to praise the domesticated cat, not to throw a cup of water over his head. (Shakespeare)

If you have the opportunity to put your ear to the stomach of a purring cat, I highly recommend that you do so. That rumbling, content sound is the energy of the Universe, at peace.

I have had cats in the house since childhood - Oreo and Harold, of blessed memory, and Kitty, who disappeared to parts unknown with her boyfriend - and when I imagined my life as a "grown-up," there was never a question that felines would comprise a central part of that picture. A bit over five years ago, my friend Nili took in an intelligent, verbal, pregnant cat, who then gave birth to five healthy kittens; Nili was willing to keep the mother, but could not keep the litter, and I inherited the alpha male of her kittens, whom I named Harry after my previous cat.

(I am a good Ashkenazi Jew, naming children after lost and beloved relatives. My grandmother named the orginal animal Harold after a human professor and friend at Brown University.)

Harry, a tiger striped British Tabby with piercing green eyes, started out as a house cat, until he accidentally fell off the balcony from the third floor and discovered the garden and an entire territory over which he could rule. But I am his human mother since the age of one month, I donned the "Gloves of Malice" to teach him to fight; he still "milks" me as a massage, grooms himself while sitting next to me, speaks to me on a regular basis and sometimes gets so happy to see me, he drools. Those who dislike cats, claiming that they are a selfish and unfriendly bunch, have not been owned by them, and have not felt the unconditional love and sense of purpose that flows generously and continuously.

While Harry resents the home office, because it takes away attention that he should be receiving, he will often come into the treatment room and warm a patient's stomach, because he instinctively feels that cat therapy will only enhance the results for this particular Chiropractic client.

Before Harry had his small surgery, he had a brief window to flex his fatherhood muscles and helped conceive a kitten who looks eerily like him, and shares the same birthmark on the inside of his mouth. This kitten lived on the street for almost a year, and I found him one evening, run over by a car, his tail literally flattened (like in the cartoons) and his hip broken. Having no intention other than to save him - or have the vet put him out of his misery - I rushed him to an emergency veterinary clinic, where he received orthopaedic surgery, and had his tail removed. Two weeks later, after coaxing from the vet ("Who else will take in a cat with no tail?"), Sarel joined the family.

Sarel has never gotten over the insecurity of living on the street, and so he has destroyed several pieces of quality furniture, and must sample any food being eaten or prepared. He camps out in my suitcase when I pull it out to pack -to prevent me from leaving, of course - and gets asthma when he nervous and feeling confined. Just the rustling of a plastic bag sends him into a panic attack. Because he lived on the street, he is the more friendly of the two, and has brought the complication of street cats into my life: Sarel adopted a gold-eyed ginger tiger striped street kitten from birth, now a fully grown cat. While this cat is afraid of me, he eagerly accepts food from me and has begun to come closer to me when I leave the house, much like the taming of the fox in The Little Prince. This cat has also found a way to sneak into the house at night and eat their higher quality food, and I have been forced to find creative solutions to keep him out.

Before you call me a Crazy Cat Lady, or tell me that it is my fault if I have indeed fed cats on the street, allow me to explain why I have chosen to regularly leave piles of street cat food where they congregate: after Hurricane Katarina, and after giving money to agencies to help the human victims, I still felt that I could not connect or relate to the tragedy on an individual level. Then I passed by a soaked, bedraggled, and starving cat, and decided that my continuing charity would be distributing street cat food to the Jerusalem feline population, and performing an occasional cat rescue, knowing that I make a difference in their existence on a daily basis.

I do not expect a thank you card from these animals, watching them dig into the food satisfies and gladdens me in ways that I did not think possible. On an otherwise uneventful birthday last year, one of the cats - I had fed her regularly and she disappeared after she gave birth to her litter- presented her almost independent kittens to me, lining them up like the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music. All five kittens stood politely in a row, while she meowed the equivalent of "this is the Human who will feed you and will take care of you now." The scene moved me to tears.

A cat lover will tell you that animals have a clear sense of the human who will hurt them, and the human who is sympathetic to the cause, an honorary feline. I seem to be broadcasting that billboard, because anywhere I go, in any city in Israel or in the United States, an injured cat will ask me for help, a hungry cat will ask me for food, and a bored cat will ask me for some petting and attention. I take pride in the knowledge that the Universe has blessed me like this, and will continue to enjoy this demi-cat designation.

Don't worry Mom, I do not see pets as a substitute for children and family, and I hope that some day, when I have my own human children, my cats will protect them as their own, as part of the family.

[Check out the "Cats, about Cats, People and Everything in Between" Exhibit at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, through December 31, 2007.]

Monday, August 6, 2007

Harry Potter 7, A New York Story

I myself cannot take credit for this story, which I relate from my friend Ami in New York, I wanted to share it. She writes:

"I was sitting in my Chiropractor's office the other day, in his waiting room, across from an older couple who were reading his and hers HP7. I was about 200-300 pages ahead of them, and got to page 697 (something like that) and started to tear up, to where I was sniffling a little bit. The man next to me and I had had a conversation about how he was waiting for his 13 year old to finish the book, and when he saw me reach for a Kleenex, he moved away. The woman of the couple across from me said, "Oh I can't take this, I'm sorry," got up and moved away from me as well.

I felt like a new breed of speed reading leper."

Meanwhile, here in Israel, my book club spent a solid half hour discussing whether the Potter series deserves all this attention, or whether it is just another reformulation of the classic Science Fiction/Fantasy genre of good vs evil. Needless to say, we had all read it, many of us instead of the assigned book of the month.

Look at the damage JK Rowling has wrought.

Suana Police (On Being Israeli)

Yesterday, I stood in line at the bank, quietly and patiently while at least one person cut in line, and several others started yelling at the tellers. When my turn arrived, the teller literally hugged me and thanked me for being so kind and patient, and that he wished he could do something for me, on account of my exceptional behaviour. Other than the embarrassment factor, I was relieved and proud to know that my New England upbringing continues to serve me well.

Flush from the victory of American civility, I revealed my other side, my Israeli side, today. Sitting in the sauna after my swim, I gave a group of 13 year old boys a lecture about how the sauna is not a clubhouse, that the sign clearly says that you must be over 16 to participate in the sweat lodge, and that their parents would be ashamed of them. I did this no less than three times until they actually left and closed the door behind them, and marveled at how I have truly passed into the ritual of being a stodgy grown-up.

My diatribe was not motivated solely by my concern for these boys' blood pressure, nor would I deny that I need to relax in the sauna, and I had personal gain reasons for kicking them out. In Israel, it is an accepted social norm to listen in on other people's conversations and chime in uninvited; to give strangers "constructive criticism" about their mode of dress and any other topic in which we are all, obviously, expert.

I never imagined that I would cross that line, and start disciplining other people's children, though it reveals that in the ten years I have lived here, I not only dream in Hebrew, but also think like an Israeli much more than the American, my place of birth. I fully expect to go to a supermarket and bag my own groceries, and to have my bag checked when I enter any building; and I fully expect that I will be that older woman on the bus who tells the young mother with the crying child that she has gotten it wrong, her child is hungry and not tired, and she ought to do something about it right now.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Anatomy of a Blind Date

Part I: Short Phone Call (Friday)

I had been expecting a call from "R" for several weeks now, his benefactor had called me several times to tell me how we were "perfect" for each other. R called today, and when I said I had been waiting to hear from him, I heard panic in his voice, as he asked, "Oh, did you get married already?" I explained to him that I was in fact still single, but that he had simply called at a bad time - I don't speak on the cell phone when I drive - and requested that he call me back a few hours later. No word from him the rest of the day.

Part II: The Phone Call (Sunday night)

Right away I could tell that he had taken the Romper Room "How to Win Friends and Communicate Annoyingly" course, because he literally started every sentence by saying my name in a lilting voice ["Doc....PAUSE"], whereupon I was meant to respond with equal enthusiasm and drama ["Yes R...PAUSE"] and only then would he finish his sentence.

He wanted to have a first date over the phone, to ask me enough questions for him to determine whether it was worth his time to meet with me in person. I responded by saying that I don't do dating interviews, and that I can much more easily gage attraction and compatibility if we actually meet in person and share a conversation over a cup of coffee. At that point he asked the most appalling question of all, especially since we had not yet met and there is no relationship to speak of, he said: "Tell me how I must change so that you will like me. Anything that you want me to do or change about myself, I am willing to do."

While I am a firm believer in negotiation and compromise in a healthy relationship, this question indicated a spineless (excuse the Chiropractic pun) and desperate individual who does not know himself, or is at the very least seriously lacking self-confidence. (Not attractive, and surprising for a man who has been built up as a 49 year old successful Israeli Doctor-Lawyer.) I told him right away that on a first date he must bring HIMSELF, because I care much more about his personality and integrity and how we get along, how I feel when I am speaking to him when we are in the same space. He answered that apparently novel request by saying that he was giddy with excitement about our date because I sounded "easy", I seemed to have no expectations and he did not feel threatened. I do not know whether to take that as a compliment or as an insult, and my instinct tells me that this date will be a dog.

Part III: Another Phone Call (Monday)

R called tonight, to confirm our date on Wednesday night of this week. As he does not live in Jerusalem, he asked me to choose a restaurant or coffee house that was intimate and quiet, so he could "hold onto my every word, and not be distracted by anyone or anything." When I asked him how hungry he expected to be, he replied, "I don't need food, I only hunger to meet you." (Ack, not making this up!)

Part IV: The Date that Didn't Happen (Tuesday)

After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to strangle him after spending a short amount of time with him on the phone, I could not pretend to be interested in him in person, just so as not to hurt his feelings. I have learned to respect my instinct, and my instinct - coupled with the hysterical laughter every time I thought of that "hunger" line - said that my time would be better spent elsewhere.

I called him up and told him that I would not be coming to our date this Wednesday, nor would I be finding the time to reschedule it to another time and day. I explained to him that after our various phone conversations, I did not feel that we "clicked." He seemed nonchalant, offering that should it become "relevant" for us to meet each other, I need only call him.

Part V: Moral of the Story

I don't want to remain that fabulous single woman with dating horror stories. Like the story of the man in Toronto who very suddenly, in the middle of a decent date, looked at his watch, jumped out of his chair as if his gluteus maximus were on fire, and said, "Oh god, I am missing the Simpsons." (Another true story.)

I plan on being that happily involved in a long-term relationship woman, who can laugh at my dating past, and who can appreciate and respect myself, for not having wasted the time on men who clearly were not appropriate.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Civilian Service

Currently in Israel, when a young man or woman reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school, they have one of four options:
1. Army service, which can last minimally 2-3 years
2. Sherut Leumi (National Service), a volunteer option chosen mostly by religious women who do not want to serve as soldiers in the army
3. Ideological Refusal, for men and women who find the army morally objectionable and refuse to serve and very often get jailed
4. Flee the country for the designated period of time that you would have to serve in the army, and hope that the next time you cross into the border the computer doesn't flag you as a criminal.

A proposed initiative has recommended a new category of Sherut Ezrachi, Civilian Service, which would allow men and women, Israeli and Arab-Israeli, religious and non-religious to volunteer in service of the country, and legally fulfill their army service. Reaction has varied, with the Arab-Israelis claiming that since they could never be treated as equals in Israeli society, they feel no obligation to help, for example, autistic Israeli children. Some of the non religious feel that they would want to volunteer out of personal choice, and not be forced by law to be "nice people." The religious across the board have said that they will do "whatever their Rabbis tell them to do."

Others, who have tried to volunteer, complain that the army is not interested in their service, whether or not there is official law in place, and I can relate. When I first came to Israel, I arrived at the army recruiting office in Jerusalem and presented my professional credentials, and asked to serve as a Chiropractor for soldiers and officers in Tel HaShomer, the army hospital. After a lengthy interview process and security scrutiny, I was told that "budgetary issues" and "ageism" prevented me from serving, apparently they would have had to pay me a decent salary. I would have been willing to forgo the full salary, in order to have a solid answer for my children, when they would ask me one day, "and what did you do in the army?"

So many artificial issues divide Israeli society, including race, Sephardi vs Ashkenazi, Sabra vs Immigrant Israeli, religious vs non religious; the Sherut Ezrachi initiative would remove some of those barriers, and make citizens feel that each person was contributing to the betterment of the country.

In deference to those who regularly serve in army when called up, despite the hassle to their lives and their family, and in honor of those MIAs, dead or alive, who have yet to be returned to us, it is only right that each person do their fair share.