Sunday, December 28, 2008

Morality Improvement or Deterioration?

A news item caught my attention a few days ago. It was about a father who killed the mother and then committed suicide leaving 7 orphans, the oldest being 20 years old. The item was followed by an interview with a mother of a foster family with 7 other children, orphaned in some other tragic event. She was asked about the way the extended family of the children copes with the situation and she explained how she keeps the family ties between the children and the other family members.

Why doesn't the extended family take care of the orphans? Some families do, they even 'fight' for the right of raising the orphans. Why doesn't the oldest sibling assume the role of head of the family and act as mother or father of the young ones?

In the not so distant past, about 60-70 years ago, it wasn't unheard of that a mother died, say during the childbirth of her 8th child and the father abandoned the children to start a new family or brought a step mother for the young children who treated the first wife's children badly. This was the life story of my husband's grandmother. Her mother died at the age of 44 in a disease and the father abandoned them to start a new family. She (the oldest sibling) assumed parental responsibility and raised her ten younger brothers and sisters, then got married and raised her own three children.

Nowadays, fathers in the Western world are much more involved in raising their children as the boundaries between the traditional parental roles are blurred. They take an active part in pregnancy and childbirth, feed the baby, change diapers, wash them, play with the children, tell them bed time stories and spend quality time with them. They are equal parents and sometimes beyond. When widowed, they don't feel as helpless as their grandfathers or great grandfathers. They are attached to their children and try to do what's best for them, physically and mentally. Society and second wife candidates condemn abandoning fathers. Improved morality indeed.

But young people in their twenties faced by such tragedies don't rush to give up their dreams, change plans and 'get stuck' or 'ruin their lives' by raising younger siblings. While it is true that life is more complicated now and you need to prepare for them longer, I suspect this is not the sole reason for such selfish behavior. Perhaps their parents spoiled them and did not ask them to take any responsibility. They are here to enjoy life and reach self-fulfillment (the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid.) They don't seem to be grateful for peaceful life and never contemplate sudden changes brought by illness, accidents or war, as I frequently do.

Another relative of ours, a father of two, who lost his wife to cancer and raised his children single handedly, became ill with cancer a few years ago. Naturally, he was worried about the future of his children if treatment fails. I had no doubt about raising to the challenge, being fully aware about the consequences on my own life and the life of my family. Thanks to modern medicine and his endless willpower, he was cured and so my choice was not put to test. There are moments you simply 'have to do the right thing', whatever the cost, in family life, public affairs, or in the battlefield.

Sadly, I am revisiting my previous post about the next generation. Yes, they are smarter, more sophisticated than our generation, but more selfish. Not all of them, of course. Keep posing good examples and they won't be.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter of Our Discontent

Living in Israel's coastal plane defines winter as a rainy 15C. Not really cold compared to the winters of my childhood, but the feeling is equally cold. The two sure signs that winter is here is taking out the goose down comforters (and using flannel bedding) and positioning my winter clothing at the easily accessible front side of the closet. I did both about a week ago.

During winter nothing new seems to happen, nature hibernates. Even ideas. This was my impression from the theater play we saw last week. I love theater, especially when after the play I am left with food for thought, in addition to the aesthetic experience itself. But the new Israeli play "French Movie" by Reshef and Regev Levy had no message, other than reaffirming known truisms, such as couples need love and communication. The play is about two couples: one bonded by common possessions and children but no love, while the love of the other couple is being challenged by the inability to communicate after their child's death.

Winter also means Hanukkah, which in addition to its traditional symbolics brings such culinary disaters as doughnuts and pancakes. Consuming one doughnut made me sick of guilt. Also spent a huge deal of time in traffic jams in rain, as people were taking their children to traditional Hanukkah musicals.

Today the sun came out. Next week will definitely be better.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


The economic depression causing psychological depression led us to spend a few days in a geographical depression.
The Dead Sea lays a few hundred meters below sea level in the Great Rift Valley, a geological depression in southwest Asia and eastern Africa that stretches from northern Syria along the valley of the Jordan River to Mozambique. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. More than a third of its water is salt. That's why you stay afloat.

The hotels on its Israeli side offer heated sea water pools, which is nice because at this time of the year the sea water is a bit cold for bathing. Unless one wants to tour the surroundings, it's the best place to rest because there is absolutely nothing to do there, except enjoying the sea and spa. That's what we did for 3 days. I'm not much of a beach person myself, but my husband is, so we went.

From Arad, the nearest city, the road curves and turns through a former seabed landscape, feeling like expectation for a imminent buldozer to come and level the soft rubble and boulder hills.

At the hotel, you feel relaxed in an instant as you enter and see the people walking slowly in their soft white terry robes. Coming back from the beach to get our 'keys' (archaic term for magnetic cards) we saw a row of beach facing rooms, each with its own little lawn, marble coffee table, deck chairs and parasol, just like our room in the Maldives. To our pleasant surprise, we got one of those. But when you are depressed, you somehow manage to see the half empty glass. Most robe wearers appeared to be noisy retirees, busily making sandwiches at breakfast (for the lunch they didn't pay for).
Next morning I decided to enjoy some quiet time and read a book in the deck chair in front of my room. Just as I found a good spot in the shade, a lawn-mower truck appeared and started working, shortly followed by a man with a hand held mower so now the noise came in stereo.
Getting off the ride of my life, resting and then getting back on, energized, seemed like a good idea, but while resting I realized that my daily routine contains good things, such as less and healthier eating and phgysical exercise at the gym. Not keeping these at the hotel for different pretexts made me feel guilty, miserable and more depressed.
Back at work, there was a lot of tension because of the firing going on at many firms around us. So far, my company decided to cut on vacation days and not fire. The husband of a friend of mine who got fired, asked me for help establishing a firm to sell here services provided by Indian workers. This would mean that even more people will lose their jobs on the altar of quick profit. Instead of help, I gave him the Zionist speach of his life. I know I can't stop globalization and such things happen daily on a grand scale, but I must act according to my own conscience. Does he secretly refer to me now as the righteous bitch?
The relief came with the sudden realization that being away from our loved ones has a positive aspect. We don't take their presence for granted and we experience feelings, such as longing and missing. The bad helps us appreciate the good. Relativity and dosage are the secret.