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.