Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Pendulum Theory

This is my last theory for 2009. Actually, it's not really mine, as during the research for this post I found another blog that explains this social pendulum from a different angle. My example is on a much larger social scale, specifically related to what happened 20 years ago, in 1989: the revolutions of 1989. Back in 1989, I followed the revolutions on TV. Actions that were unimaginable before, were really happening. The masses courageously took action.

Many documentaries were broadcast to mark the anniversary and I watched one describing the fall of the Berlin Wall.  One little story in this documentary made a big impression on me. It was about an East German lady in her fifties, working for the local ice cream factory. Apparently, there was a constant ice cream shortage in East Germany and the entire quantity this factory produced was always sold in an instant. When western goods started to be sold in eastern shops, people stopped buying eastern products, among them ice cream. After the eastern ice cream could not be sold, the shopkeeper asked the factory to take its products back. This lady came and tried to convince clients to buy her factory's ice cream by explaining that otherwise the factory will be closed down and the workers will become unemployed. The clients couldn't care less. One client even replied that he was fed up with this ice cream for 40 years while it was the only one available and now he was taking his revenge. This woman disposed the refrigerator and its contents. A few month later the factory closed down and she was unemployed.

Lately, people are nostalgically reviving former East German products, including Trabant cars. A new word, "ostalgie", has been coined for the phenomenon.

These days people are buying agricultural products from local farms, for helping them stay in business and for saving transportation carbon dioxide, and non-profits help the unemployed, although volunteering and civil society are much weaker in the east than the west.

Initial large pendulum swings are human and understandable, but after 20 years, the pendulum motion has slowed down, swings are more moderate.

Friday, December 25, 2009


We left the apartment in the morning and locked the door with 2 locks, as usual. Forgot Tom was home and that the upper lock can only be opened from the outside. When he realized he was locked inside the apartment, he called. "I feel so frustrated having the keys and not being able to open the door. If  I could only stand on the other side of the door, I could open it".

I hope he applies more logic to his IDF work, otherwise this country is in real danger.

For the logically challenged: if he already stands on the other side of the door, he is outside, no need to open the door.

Happy ending: He called his friend, who happened to be in the neighborhood walking his dog, threw the key from the balcony and the friend came up and released him.

Additions to this post after Tom's comments:
Disclosure: Of course I understood what he meant at the time, he wished he could have got out without his backpack, stand on the other side of the door, open it and then take his stuff. I think it's still funny and we both shared a laugh on this little episode.

Full disclosure: Every mom would like to have a son like Tom, but only I, the luckiest mom on Earth, has the privilege of having him. And I thank God every day for it. I do.(Now I embarrassed him).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What's Wrong with Healthcare?

There are millions of people who don't have access to potable water, not to mention healthcare. In the US, healthcare is so expensive that middle-class unemployed cannot afford it. The democrats are working on improving the system, with no results so far. In communist countries healthcare is free, albeit usually not of the best quality. I was told that in ancient China, people paid their doctor only when healthy, but not when ill, so it was in the doctor's best interest to keep them healthy. What an incredibly clever idea!

Since the mandatory healthcare tax was introduced here, we get less for more, but everybody is insured and gets medical care through one of four existing sick funds. The insurance includes a finite number of consultations, lab tests, hospitalization, rehab and a 'basket' of medicine. Naturally, not every possible treatment is included and many hold different gold and platinum insurance plans or private policies to augment the basic coverage.

For historical reasons, dental care is not included in the basic package of any of the sick fund offerings. My private dentist schedules periodical check-ups and hygienist appointments and that seems to work out just fine. The less you use the sick fund service, the more it makes. So why should they tell you about screening tests you are entitled to according to your age group, gender and other criteria? To compensate for the lack of preventive medicine, one should take ownership over test requests and stats. Thanks to my employer, I attend a yearly medical check-up, but the results are not accessible by my GP, I have to bring them to him on paper and make him enter them into his computer, so that he can see the broader picture.

In recent years, since a wealth of medical information is available on the web, the doctor is no longer the only source of information and many look up their symptoms, lab test results and disease information. They read about treatment options and ask their doctor intelligent questions. According to our friend Andrei (the husband of a doctor and father of a med student), doctors will soon be replaced by software that given your symptoms will diagnose your problem. According to a radio program I recently listened to, personalized DNA-based healthcare is around the corner. Everything seems to go in the right direction, so what's wrong then?

My medical pet peeve is personal medical records. You should own them and not the private physicians or organizations that treat you for a certain condition. How? On a smart card or disk-on-key. The different service providers will add their data and the accumulated records will be analyzed by an ever upgraded software application that will provide you with stats and trends, recommend screening tests, remind you to take your prescribed drugs, renew prescriptions, make appointments, suggest further reading and keep you on top of the latest findings, procedures and rights. It shouldn't even cost you since many service providers will be happy to advertise their services based on your location. If you carry it with you at all times it can also be used in emergency situations by ambulance and trauma center personnel. The infrastructure is there, the funding is there, and I don't believe I'm the first or only one on the planet to think about this. So why doesn't it work that way? It takes a few champions to lobby for the initiative with the legislators and fight their way through red tape.

Anybody to take up that [surgical] glove?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Role Model

While kids at my age were crazy about ABBA and Boney M, oddly enough my teenage years were fandom-less. I listened and danced to their music, but wasn't into knowing every little fact or gossip about them. Many years later, in a work related training session, the trainer asked us who was our role model. "Marie Curie" I replied and was shocked to see nobody else in the room seemed to have heard about her. Her tremendous determination and achievements inspired many.

Of course there are many others whom I appreciate for achievements in other areas, such as the Hungarian Kishon-Lapid-Dosh trio. They made it despite all odds. I won't miss Yair Lapid's Friday column in Yedioth Aharonoth and I often watch him on Channel 2 on Friday evening as well. Often the two are inter-related. Shortly after he started to host the Friday news magazine, he instituted a "one good thing" corner, where he presented a positive news story. I enjoyed it, but after a short while, it was discontinued. In one of his articles he explained that its rating wasn't high enough to keep it going. Strangely enough, yesterday there were two very positive stories on the show: one about an Israeli ex-businessman who donates hundreds of millions of dollars to create a successful computerized learning system for schools and another one about Israel's newest Nobel prize winner, professor Ada Yonath. From the reportage I learned we have the same role model, Marie Curie (not that I can even remotely compare myself with them). Professor Yonath was annoyed to constantly being asked about the dress she will wear at the Nobel Prize award ceremony and about her hairdo for the event.

"Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas." - Marie Curie

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Matter of Geography

You know those shampoo/dye ads with women's soft, shiny yet strong hair?. Now imagine one such hair in your soup it out in disgust. Same hair, different place.

Think about an appetizing dish, nicely laid out on your plate. Same on the other plates at the table. You finish eating, gather all the plates with the remainders on the top plate. Much less appetizing, isn't it? You throw the remainders into the garbage, but a few pieces land accidentally next to the bin. You grab the sticky matter and place it inside. Same food, different attitude.

You pet your cat. Nice, calming feeling. The cat goes away leaving a bunch of hair on the sofa. Damn cat!

These deep thoughts come to me after too much housework, especially in the kitchen. This is what I do on weekends, as during workdays I return home late from work and other activities. This weekend I made some above average food for the boys' birthdays. I usually don't write about cooking, as there are plenty of food blogs out there, but this time I'll make an exception as I feel you are really curious about the menu. I made peanut and coconut Chinese chicken for Friday, Hungarian stuffed chicken for Saturday and a punch cake.

Now, there is a really high pile of washed clothes on one of the armchairs in my living room, waiting for folding and returning to their respective closets. The same garment in the pile or on its shelf in the closet, different feeling. A matter of geography!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's in a Uniform?

Since I defined happiness in a previous post, I had a few happy moments with my kids, mainly when visiting Tom and taking him out for a fancy breakfast, together with Dan. On one such occasion we went to a nice garden restaurant in Nahariya (excellent food), on another occasion to a cafe in Tel Aviv (nothing special). I realized that despite the quality of the experience (Nahariya was far better), my level of happiness was higher on the Tel Aviv occasion.

It took me a Yad Vashem visit to realize why. There, the witness videos unfold a myriad of 'private' cruelties and murders alongside the well-planned mass-murders. The war gave legitimacy to many people's evil tendencies. At some death camps, most operations were carried out by local volunteers! At the end of the visit at the Holocaust History Museum, the triangle shaped building opens up into a balcony with a breathtaking view of the Jerusalem hills. This was the point I broke down into tears. Dan was standing by me in his IDF officer uniform, trying to comfort me.

"The feeling is indescribable", says my friend Jeff. "It's like the Exodus theme music playing in the background", he easily and beautifully describes it.

So what made the difference between the two occasions? At the Tel Aviv breakfast, both 'kids' wore IDF uniforms and that made me infinitely proud of them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Communications - Take IV: A Confession

Two recent triggers gave me the courage to confess about this little problem of mine, although I was drafting this post in my mind for a long time. The first trigger is a blogpost about identifying yourself with a description in a text. I don't remember reading such text, at least not recently. I'd like to think the reason is that my personality is more complex than a descriptive, even well written, paragraph. The other possible reasons are much less compelling (not reading enough, not remembering in general, not paying attention to details), so I'll just conveniently ignore them. But it is possible that a description matches one facet of my personality. This actually happened on page 87 of Marianne Legato's "Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget", under the topic "Say What You Mean" (the second trigger I referred to). According to the author, 85% of women (me included) don't say (mostly to their partners) what they really want or mean. We expect them to read our minds and respond to our unverbalized wishes. When they fail doing so, we conclude that our relationship is just not working. There might be a few reasons why we act like that, but most probably it's a combination between our brain structure and upbringing.

In my special case, I take this even further (you didn't really expect me to define something 85% of women do as "my little problem", right?). After going through a long thought process, involving analyzing different possibilities and reaching a conclusion, I am surprised when the others don't have a clue about my conclusion. That's because I never told them. I think/feel I did, but I actually didn't. Is it a 'senior moment'? Am I having Alzheimer's? Do I expect others to reach the same 'logical' conclusion? All of the above?

Now don't tell me you don't understand how this image is related to the subject. It's Citrine. According to a website, it helps overcoming difficulty in verbalizing thoughts and feelings, among its other healing powers (if you believe in such things). Now I'll be really disappointed if I don't get a few of these as a present. Preferably in the form of jewelry.

P.S. Just realized how relevant my previous post is.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Communications - Take III

When I started blogging, my husband was suspicious. Then he started reading and even enjoying my posts. Now, he reads my posts to keep up with my thoughts.
Me: "Would you like to invite M and his wife for dinner or dine together in a restaurant?"
P: "Who is M? Is he someone you mentioned in your blog and I didn't read the post yet?"
Me: "No."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Social Theory

Recently I've incidentally discovered the meaning of social anxiety. Someone I know wrote she suffers from it and I looked it up. My next logical step was to categorize it to file it in my mind. Hence my social theory about coping with uncertainty. If I understand correctly, person suffering from social anxiety abstains from communicating rather than facing the other party's anticipated negative attitude. They avoid uncertainty (the other party's reaction), because they presume it to be judgmental and basically negative in nature.

However, there are many types of uncertainty and many reasons to avoid them. Uncertainty avoidance is one of Hofstede's five dimensions for assessing culture. He defined uncertainty avoidance of societies as preference for explicit rules (e.g. about religion and food) and formally structured activities vs. preference for implicit or flexible rules or guidelines and informal activities. We all want to avoid uncertainty to a certain degree, which may be below or above the norm and the national or international average. Israel's uncertainty avoidance index is quite high (meaning Israelis prefer to avoid uncertainty), which somehow contradicts our general feeling of existential uncertainty. We thrive in uncertainty; we like to stretch the limits (even our borders are still not defined) and we are referred to as the start-up nation. This paradox is yet to be explained.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky define our behavior and decision making in financial uncertainty in their Nobel Prize winning prospect theory.

After mentioning all these great names, I feel awkward presenting my own little theory. The action we choose for coping with uncertain situations depends on our own uncertainty tolerance and the level of predictability of the situation (uncertainty magnitude). People suffering from social anxiety have low uncertainty tolerance, they don't cope well with uncertainty, and so they either avoid uncertainty (yellow square) or, if possible, reduce it by preparing in advance (green square). Others either just act normally (blue square), or, when faced with a low predictability situation either consider the worst possible outcome (and from there they can only be pleasantly surprised), or just face the big unknown with no expectations at all to avoid disappointment (red square).
Critiques welcome.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


In my childhood food was something you eat when your parents put it on the table. Heavy, greasy, tasty. All households had cookbooks, but the real treasures were hundreds, if not thousands of recipes diligently collected by mothers along the years. They came in all shapes and sizes, handwritten, typed, on small pieces of paper, on napkins, newspaper clips, many untitled. My mother had a sweet tooth (see the chestnut incident in a previous post), so she collected mostly cake recipes.

Our old family cookbook (written by Szmuk Iren) is now barely in one piece, its yellow pages crumbling away with every touch and turn. I still consult it many times when I want to prepare something with a childhood taste. During the past years, I also bought some new trendy cookbooks I consult on occasion, but I find myself more and more searching for recipes on the net. My technique is synthesizing a few recipes of the same dish and making my own combination. I also watch the Food channel on satellite and get ideas from there.

Recently, my husband started organizing some old stuff in our storage and surfaced my mom's collection of recipes I kept after she died 20 years ago, and his mom's. One one hand I really don't feel like investing a lot of time in understanding, sorting and digitizing age old recipes. On the other hand, there is a slim chance I might discover a few true gems. In the mean time I keep procrastinating and crying out for sound advice.


Saturday, October 10, 2009


The essential elements of my daily survival are hair cream, dental floss and optalgin (pain killer for my headaches). And my glasses, of course. Without them the world is a moving collection of colored patches. A hairbrush and water spray are welcome too. My Fa deodorant, creams for various body parts, and my perfume, Happy, complete the list. Oh, and also soaps (3 types), shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and paste, scissors, tweezers, razor, nail file, physical exercise, medical checkups, hairdresser and occasional beautician appointments, dental checkups and treatments, hygienist appointments, food (preferably healthy), drink, toilet, shower, bath, whirlpool, bath foam, towels, sheets, clothes, shoes, shelter, clean and hygienic conditions, sex and air to breathe. These are all for body. Those who eat and dress for their soul have large bodies and bank accounts, respectively.

For soul: vacations, nature, movies, theater (OK, the last play I saw, 'Uncle Vanya', left me unhappier than all the characters in the play so I'm not sure that counts), music, dance (starting ballroom dancing course soon), literature, radio, television, newspapers, writing (including this blog), spending time with family and friends, status, art appreciation, aesthetic surroundings, achievements (personal and of meaningful others), stress free environment, shrink, relationships, pet, holidays, festivals and celebrations, love.

Isn't life complicated?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Only in Israel

Seven o'clock in the morning. Dan in his officer uniform and me lock the door and enter the elevator on the 6th floor. The elevator stops on the second floor and a neighbor (50-ish woman wearing heavy makeup) gets in. On the ground floor Dan gets out to throw the garbage.
Neighbor: "It's always so touching to see soldiers."
Me: "I have two."
Neighbor: "May they return in peace."
Basement. We get out, say goodbye and get into our cars to head for a day's work. I pick Dan up at the parking exit, next to the garbage room, drive him to his base and then drive to the office.

Monday, September 28, 2009

So, how was Canada?

Not Canada, just the Canadian Rockies, or the four national parks to be exact. That's where I spent a 3-week vacation and concluded that Canadian Rockies are a larger and friendlier version of Switzerland.

CPR and Fairmont

Although scenery is superb and people very friendly, some weirdnesses are quickly encountered by the innocent tourist: cable cars are called gondolas, toilets are washrooms and some nature spots are named after businessmen (mostly after past CPR executives). Although the history of the CPR is tightly connected to the parks, you still wonder whether there is a shortage of Canadian pioneers, scientists, artists or heros who deserve to be immortalized more than P&L mavens.

The CPR sold its luxury hotels to the Fairmont company, that is holding them today. The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is one of our first targets, a piece of local history.

As we enter the lobby to find the exhibition, a black porter in Scottish uniform approaches us and releases a "what are you doing here?". He explains where the public areas we can visit are located, asks us not to move any furniture (why would we?) and not to bother hotel guests (huh?). He sumarizes the places that "will keep you busy for a while" or was it "out of trouble"?

About a week later we return to Banff and decide
to take Victorian-style pictures of ourselves. The photographer makes us imagine we are one of the Fairmont guests in the early 1900s to get proper facial expressions out of us. He also tells us the recession made Fairmont offer lower prices of about C
AD 200 - a tad more we paid for our own accomodation. I could have been the one whose peace was so fiercely guarded by that porter.


The weather can be pretty tricky. It changes in a matter of minutes from sunny to snowy and back to sunny again. This is exactly what happened to us on the Chester Lake trail. Above treeline, it can get very windy. Near Takakkaw falls, the mist turns the air very cool and walking on 300m of ice of the Athabasca glacier definitely warrants wearing those thermal undies.

There, I learn from Marianne, a twenty something driver-guide of a Brewster Ice Explorer, a wealth of information about glaciers. Later on, I apply my freshly acquired knoledge to the landscape of the Edith Cavell Trail, the best trail in all the parks. My other favorites are Emerald Lake and the view from Whistlers Mountain (reacText Colorhed by the Jasper gondola).

Hidden Spots

On the Kananaskis dirt road, noon reaches us at the Mount Engadine Lodge, a true gem amidst fabulous scenery. They don't serve lunch, but the table is soon covered with cold goodies, all nicely layed out and very tasty. (I am still trying to reproduce their lemon-poppy seed cake). I am truly enchanted. Back home I found out I'm not the only one. According to TripAdvisor, the lodge is 'among Canada's top ten hidden gems', while the Canadian Geographic Magazine refers to it as 'one of Canada's hidden treasures'.

Another gem off the beaten track is the Glenogle Mountain Lodge in
Golden, BC. Norbert and Doris are the friendliest hosts on the planet. On the evening we dined there, we were the only guests. While sitting on the terrace and indulging into Doris's delicious German dishes, a couple of deer and a baby deer slowly pass their yard and disappear in the forest.


Wildlife in the Canadian Rockies is abundant. The most widespread species is the mosquito. (Still haven't figured out how the little beasts got under my clothes.) We also spotted deer, caribou, elk, coyote, bear, hoary marmot, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, Canadian geese, different species of squirrel and some more I haven't been introduced to. For us city dwellers, observing wildlife is really cool, but the 'natives' don't appreciate the large herbivores eating their flowers and the bears collecting fruit from under the trees in their yards. Don't get close to big mammals and they won't bother you.

Travelling with Friends

Travelling with friends can be fun but also challenging, especially if you want to remain friends after the trip. We quickly learn the 'rough spots' and adjust (after getting yelled at in the middle of pouring rain). The central issue is how much togetherness is right for the group. Should we walk together on the trail, should we all dine together? As Dan planned the program, I made the lodging reservations and Peter did most of the driving, we also absorb all the complaints. The praises too.

Things to do

Most days we are out on the trail, walking. While in Jasper, the guys go on a half-day fishing trip on Malign lake and the girls go shopping. After the first shop (pricey indian art) I lose interest and find myself a chic cafe. I sip a decaf capuccino and devour a brownie. I feel on the top of the world.

Back to Calgary

On the highway back to Calgary, we decide to stop next to a deserted house to strech out a bit. 3 kids on bikes and a dog approach, but stop at a distance. A few minutes later, a man comes in a white van and questions us, then tells us we are in an Indian reservation and threatens to call the police.

Next morning in our Calgary hotel, businesmen and people looking busy at breakfast make me feel unease. Then I remember I'm on vacation, which is probably what they'd want and I conclude they should feel bad, not me. As cities make me nervous, I decide to take a day trip to the Royal Tyrell Museum to see dinosaurs. The visit turns out to be disappointing - vacationing kids ruuning around skeletons, not really understanding what they are looking at. The only intersting exhibits were 46 creatures from the Burgess Shale, a 505-million-year-old underwater world once home to over 140 species of soft-bodied organisms, one of the most important fossil resources discovered on a 2300m Canadian mountain top. One small creature turns out to be the ancestor of all vertebrates, so ultimately ours too.


Regular restaurant food is boring: steaks, hamburgers, salmon, pasta. Cilantro seems to be the most fashionable ingredient in Canadian contemporary cuisine. I hate it. It's used in organic agriculture to prevent bugs from eating nearby crops, as even bugs hate it and don't come nearby.

The Last Supper

We ask the hotel receptionist in Calgary to recommend a place for dinner. She sends us to a fashionable bistro on the posh 17th avenue uptown, a few minutes walk from the hotel. At first, I feel awkward in my tourist outfit among other well-dressed diners, but I soon recover and delve into people watching and my dinner (halibut with couscous, asparagus and... cilantro).

At the table to my left 4 guys are eating steaks and discussing the ultimate guy subject - making money. Actually only 3 are discussing, one is just mostly sitting there silently. On the bar, 2 young women, one overdressing the other and trying very hard to look cool. At the table opposite ours, a yuppie couple is dining quietly, almost apathetically. Seems they are out of discussion topics even before they are married (diamond ring on her finger). They are being served by a dancer postured waitress. Our waiter has longish curly hair, pulled back with a band. A slant-eyed waitress moves among the tables, pouring water from a stylish white designer jug. On the terrace an older man with different-aged blondes, one chicly late. A young couple enters. She is radiant wearing a fabulous short dress, moves out of my site. I spot her on my way out, sitting at a semi-dark corner table. Definitely a place to see and be seen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Naive Question

The Goldstone Report left me with a naive question. International law defines this, international law defines that, why doesn't the international law define that war is against the law? Instead of defining what weapons and conduct are allowed during war, wouldn't it be simpler to just not allow war at all?

Former military industry workers and soldiers will use former defense budgets to create new and exciting things for humanity. Disputes between countries will be solved by international court and police. Disobeying countries will be sanctioned up to cutting all ties with them.

Don't raise your eyebrows, told you it's naive.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I know what you think

Two new insights from the past weeks:
1. If you need a manicure, don't ask your tailor.
2. If your bank invites you to the movies, you're gonna like it.

I know what you think: this woman is logically challenged, completely non-coherent. So here are the (true, of course true!) stories to prove you wrong.

For the first time in about 25 years, I felt the urge to have my nails professionally done. As I don't know any manicurist or pedicurist, I searched the local Yellow Pages.

I know what you think: this woman probably looks like a neglected slob. Wrong again. My nails look rather nice, actually. Clean, with no nail polish.

So, in the Yellow Pages I saw a large concentration of manicurists in Weizmann square, where Michael, our long time alterations tailor has a modest shop. As I needed to visit him anyway, I decided to ask him to recommend someone form his neighborhood. He took me to a nearby shop, where I was seated and waited for my turn. After taking in the non-appetizing scenery and considering escape, I decided to try at least a manicure. Bad decision. Both the outcome and the process were subzero.

I know what you think: she expected a 5-start treatment for her lousy $10? Nope, but I didn't expect to see bits of dead skin all over the place either, not to mention the lack of attention to the customer.

Our investment banker called. Strangely, she wasn't pushing a rewarding (for the bank, of course for the bank) investment. The bank invites us to a movie in one of the VIP halls of Cinema City. This turned out to be a very pleasant evening that also coincided with Peter's birthday. There was a free buffet in a private lounge before the movie, where I had coffee and cake. The hall featured leather armchairs with electrical tilting and leg rests, plenty of room for our stuff and refreshments and an absolutely huge screen. And blankets, too. They played the chick flick The Proposal, which was cute, stupid and entertaining. I know we indirectly paid for this via the bank commission, but we would never do this without their intermediation.

I know what you think: I expected her to be more cynical.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I remember an archeology program on TV about excavations in Jerusalem. 3000 years of existence give plenty to dig. 'Here are our true roots, not in some shtetl in Poland', the archeologist said. Perhaps he's right, but 2000 years of diaspora made their mark on the Jews.
Deportation and enslaving by the Romans, burn-alive, torture and deportation by Spanish Inquisition, pogroms and other atrocities were all suffered before the terms 'human rights' and UN were invented.

For some reason unknown to me, lately I think more and more about the Holocaust. The other day, I was standing in my shower and thinking about the poor souls who were told they are about to take a shower, just to die suffocated by Zyklon-B a few minutes later. I wonder what they felt in those last moments. It's not that I am in a generally morbid mood, it just crept up on me.

When it comes to certain isues, my usual logic is suddenly suppressed by emotions. An American gentile acquaintance of mine (now in a divorce process from an Israeli) asked me for a recommendation letter to help him with the authorities against his residency revocation. I hesitated. On one hand he is a nice person and a potential positive citizen, on the other hand, he is not Jewish.
Israel is not like any other country, very deep roots and emotions attach the Jews to it, even those who do not live here. The sheer fact of its existence gives Jews around the world a sense of security and pride. It is true that many non Jews also live in Israel, spouses or family members of Jews, and native arabs. For those who don't fall into one of these categories, no citizenship is granted by law.
After an internal debate, I realize that luckily I don't have to make the decision. The Minstry of Interior has. That's why my taxes pay their salaries. I write a letter listing all his achievemnts here, as objectively as I possibly can and send it to his lawyer.

Forty years after WWII, Jewish genealogy was one of two major Internet applications. (Sex was the other one, in case you wondered.) The primary challenge of the Jewish people today is bonding together the Jews who live in Israel with those outside it. One great way of doing this is the Taglit-Birthright project. Dan just returned from a week of accompanying 30 Hungarian Jewish youngsters. Don't know how the trip affected the Hungarians, but Dan's Hungarian improved significantly.

I am thinking of visiting the death camps in Poland around Passover. Just feel every Jew must go there once. Some read books, some watch movies and some feel they have to physically touch the remnants of evil. The plans of Auschwitz have been recently found and handed to the Israeli PM during his visit to Germany.

The residency issue is not over. Now I'm facing a series a emails on behalf of my acquaintance requesting me to donate money to pay his lawyer. After some soul searching, a gut feeling takes over me. I'd rather have a [criminal] Jew as a citizen than a honest gentile.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Between Love and Violence

What sort of sick mind would starve her own 3-years old child to 7 kg and make him undergo several unnecessary medical treatments and hospitalizations? Sick or criminal? Whatever the answer, when a child is abused in his own home, he is left without a safe harbor, he ventures into the world without a base camp. What kind of life is that when you can't trust anyone and don't have a refuge? Will he be able to have a normal life as an adult? To establish his own family and provide a safe environment for it? I guess it depends on your age when something like this happens and the help you get. He is still young, he can make it. I hope.

Former Israeli TV rating king Dudu Topaz grew up in a normal family and made it to unprecedented stardom, but ended up hanging himself in prison after ordering attacks on influential TV people who wouldn't hire him anymore. He could have done a million good things with the money and time he had, but he perceived himself worthless without audience adoration and that affected his psyche and acts. He lost his internal compass and got addicted to liking by others until his self definition became completely dependant on external rewards. Sick or criminal? In this case, it doesn't really matter anymore.

According to Aaron Ben Ze'ev and Ruhama Goussinsky's 'In the name of love', 'some of the worst evils have been committed in the name of love'. Just extrapolate the romantic love analyzed by Ben Ze'ev to love of a child and love of audience to get some indirect insights to the cases above.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My First Demonstration

I watch demonstrations on TV from my armchair in my airconditioned living room, no matter how just the cause. Many times I wondered what would be THE reason to make me actually get up and demonstrate. Perhaps personal freedom or religious coercion.

Well, life proved stronger than any planning. Following the hate attack at the Tel Aviv gay center a week ago, I was one of 25,000 people who demonstrated yesterday in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. As I circulated among the protesters, I overheard a woman asking about the meaning of a 'closet' and a youngster saying he's there with his lesbian aunt. Everybody looked straight into my eyes (usual Israeli behavior) as if they were trying to figure out my ties to the GLBT community. Or at least so I felt.

One sign said 'My son is gay, so what?' and another 'Today they hate gays, tomorrow they hate you'. This is probably the reason many came to demonstrate. They realized hatred has only a beginning, but no end. Today they hate gays, tomorrow they'll hate fat people, or bald people or any group you can imagine.

After a few speeches, I went to find some icecream. I'm not a serious protester. Yet.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Communications - Take II

In an older post, I discussed how different new communication means affect our relationships. This week's events got me think about how they affect our lives.

First, we had to change our Internet infrastructure provider from ADSL-based to cable-based. Why? He (it) who has the money (my husband's employer) has the say.

Cable technician Dima came early Friday morning and announced me that if he can't pull in the cable, we might need to change our TV provider from sattelite to cable. Then he managed to trench the cable. He just asked me to call my ISP and notify them about the infrastructure change, so they can set their systems accordingly. 3784 calls later I realized that the ISP I called was no longer my ISP for 2 years and managed to find the number of my current ISP and the access data. Another 62 calls later between Dima, his back office and the ISP tech support, and after he replaced the modem and cable (twice), bingo! The Internet connection was back. What a relief, I couldn't bare the thought of not being connected for the weekend. Since when did it become so essential? Since it is commoditized and I can't even remember who provides what service and how do I connect to it (it's automatic!). I just expect it to work transparently.

The riots in Iran prove that even despotic regimes understand the importance of Internet or phone communications . That's why they cut them off. Protesters can better organize themselves and share news with the world using modern communication means. Of course, they can succeed also without (after all French revolutionaries didn't have Twitter or cell phones), but presumably at a higher price.

The ability to communicate [enhanced by modern means] should be considered a basic human freedom. Any readers from the UN?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Same Difference

Parents often think of their children as their extension, but youngsters need to define themselves as separate (different) entities. We want to do things our own [better] way. After years, when we are sure we succeeded (perhaps with some question marks along the way), we find ourselves smiling as our parents, repeating their gestures, line of thought, food preferences, attitudes or other similarities. By this time, we acknowledge the similarities with understanding and even love. It reminds us of our beloved parents and we feel these resemblences bond us together (in the chain of life, if in a philosophical mood). We are different, but in some aspects, the same.

Statistically, battered children have a higher chance of becoming beating parents, children of self-employed/entrepreneurs have a higher chance of becoming freelancers and children of divorced parents have a higher chance of divorcing. According to popular psychology, we choose our spouses according to the model of our parents. Something deep inside us recognizes an imperceptible resemblance of the potential spouse to something familiar from home and that subconsciously affects our decision to marry them. A friend told me about a young fellow whose mother suffered from severe depression. He married a nice young [healthy] women, who one day felt she couldn't get out of bed. She was different than the mother, but in some aspects the same.

Another friend told me about an unhappily married collegue of him who was having an affair with another women because of the problems in his marriage. At some point he divorced and married the other woman. Years later he confessed to my friend: "did I know there is so little difference between the two, I wouldn't have bothered to make the change." Different woman, same problems.
We have to acknowledge that our decisions are not as independent as we'd like to believe. Yes, they are completely ours, but in a context. And this is not negative, but human.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Domino Effect

Greedy bankers in one corner of the world mess around with subprime mortgages and next thing you know your shares go down and your employer (in a different corner of the world) is firing. Welcome to globalization 101.

After two nerve wrecking weeks, my employer fired 10% of its workforce and stripped the 'lucky' rest of 20-25% of their income. I won't be working every other Sunday. Yes, I have plans: from firing the cleaning lady and cleaning my place, through lunching with friends, making hairdresser appointments, touring around to volunteering. Some friends suggested learning French, some think I should find another income creating activity. Decisions, decisions.

Have advice? Comment on this post.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Legitimate Rights of the Tung People

In the aftermath (me and my overanalyzing everything) of a great meal at friends (professors, doctors, engineers and alike from Transylvanian origin), I found a troubling lack of parallelism.

The people were really nice, the food was great, and so was the music and general athmosphere. For no ulterior motive (other than a laugh), there was some ridiculing of the ways of the 'natives' or other ethnic groups, their clothing (weird combination of nightgowns, slippers and anoraks) and their grammatical mistakes with foreign words. Someone mentioned a contestant at a trivia show on TV answering 'Tungestan' when asked about the element found in electric lamp filaments, instead of Tungsten. One could think it is a former Soviet state, like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or another 'stan'. In Hebrew writing there are no vowels, and so when reading a word you don't know, you might pronounce it either just incorrectly, or with a different meaning. This could be the possible cause of the mispronounciation.

The underlying subconscious assumption here is the natives' lower cultural level, compared to Europeans. At the same time, European immigrants' mistakes in Hebrew pronounciation or writing are considered chic, certainly not related to cultural level. To all hypocrites, I suggest reading Horace Miner's 'Body Ritual Among the Nacirema'.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Detachment and Fears

A few days ago I went to a funeral and noticed a distancing trend of funeral participants. In the past, people would stand right at the front, close to the mourners, the body and the Hevrah Kaddisha rep conducting the ceremony and then close to the grave itself. They would watch the body being lowered into the grave and covered with earth. They would actually participate. Not anymore. People stand at a distance, barely there, as if detaching themselves from the ugly details, would send death away. They want nothing to do with death, they are afraid of it. Or at least that's my interpretation.
I am afraid of many things, mostly of sudden incidents that would change my life in a split second. I'm afraid of plane crashes (leaving orphans), of animal attacks (not clear where would I meet them), of cockroaches (actually, I'm more disgusted than afraid), diseases, unemployment, false arrest, loneliness and war, although I'm pretty sure I can cope with most situations, should they occur. Now that I mentioned them, I'm even surer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Two Reasons to Party

While decorating my balcony with flags for Independence Day, I'm wondering about its meaning for me, about the type of love I feel for Israel. It's not the blind, sentimental type of bursting in tears when listening to the national anthem (although that can also happen depending on the occasion), it's more of the mature type. I love it depsite its negative sides. Thank you Israel for being. I watch the fireworks from my new balcony and feel happy.

In a previous post, I complained about the missing ceremony. This time, at the open house on Independence Day, Jeff (mentioned in another previous post), in addition to reciting the blessing for setting the mezuzah, also gave a short speech that made all the difference. "Write [my commandments] on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days will multiply, and those of your sons, on the land which God promised to your forefathers, to give it to them like the days of heaven on earth." -says the Bible and we do. "This book is the reason we are here", says Jeff and makes me think.

The mezuzah housing is tasteful and symbolic. It's made of stone (natural and durable material), it has different color stripes (archeological/historical layers or stages in our life if you wish).

People came and went all the day, took Dan's guided tour, ate, drink, brought more food and drink. You can see some pictures in this album.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lieutenant Energizer

Last Thursday Dan was promoted lieutenant (see the picture here). We were invited to the well attented (more than 50 soldiers and officers) ceremony at his base. While we waited for the ceremony to start, some soldiers spotted Tom in uniform and asked me what is he doing in the unit. 'He is attending a course', I informed them. Mentioning the course number generated a big 'wow' in response. They don't know exactly what this number stands for (neither do I), but they know it's something prestigious. This reminded me the nuthouse joke, where the inmates laugh at joke numbers rather then the jokes themselves.
I fixed his new ranks on one of his shoulders and my 'being Dan's mother is a challenge' short speech was followed by general laughter. Three of his commanders spoke highly of his achievements and attitude, and told funny anecdotes to prove their praises. The highest ranking officer summarized it all by comparing Dan to the Energizer Bunny for his relentless activity.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Came down from the office and saw the Italian restaurant closed. Weird, I thought, the times must be really tough. The nearby coffee shop was about to close. "It's Holocaust Day", came the waiter's answer to my enquiry. I felt so embarrased I forgot it starts tonight.

Usually we go about our daily business and don't think about the Holocaust. I'm not sure even the survivors think about it every day. For me the Holocaust is not just a big tragedy that happened in the past, it shapes the way I am, think, do or don't do things, even my children's life.

My Berger (that's my maiden name) grandparents lived in the small Hungarian village of Szentjobb in today's Romania. They were a traditional Jewish family with 8 children, a village shop and a soda water filling station. My aunt Ester survived Auschwitz and my father survived labor and prisoner camps. My other grandparents were luckily on the right side of the border, and after just one week of German-Hungarian occupation (during which they already implemented anti-Jewish laws), the Russians liberated their town (looking for watches to steal and women to rape).

My parents married late and I was a late and only child. They had no energy for more. My husband's story is similar. He is also a late and only child for the same reason. Our children have no cousins. I could have had a large happy family, to be loved by and lean on.

The murdered third of the Jewish people could have bettered the world. They won't compose music, write literature, win Nobel prizes for outstanding scientific achievements, raise new generations of followers. Their potential contribution is lost forever.

Monday, April 13, 2009

It's All in My Head

I used to look at healthy appearing people claiming to suffer from migraine headaches and couldn't understand what is this mysterious invisible disease that cripples them. A few years ago when I started suffering from migraines myself, it was like the famous Schweik replica "ormester ur, alazatosan jelentem meg egy szimulans diszno meghalt" (pardon my accentless Hungarian, it roughly means "Mr. sergeant, I humbly report another pretender pig has died"). And, thanks to medical tehnology, the disease became less invisible (see its MRI image on the left), although still mysterious, despite the excellent information available in the Mayo Clinic disease index (which I use and recommend to anyone in need of medical information).
After trying all sorts of remedies (accupuncture, medication, stress free lifestyle-I wish) I still suffer from migraines, but less often than before. So how does it feel? It goes in stages:
Stage 1: Optimistic Disbelief
Starting to feel a headache creeping up, but there's no way this will develop into a migraine. I'm not taking any stinkin' medicine, it will go away by itself. It doesn't.
Stage 2: Minor Realization
OK, it's not going anywhere without some help, I'm taking my usual OTC headache pill. 20 minutes and it's over without noticing. Or not.
Stage 3: The Show is On
It hurts so much that all I can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down. I crawl into bed. Time for the heavy ammunition: my migraine pills. I fall asleep.
Stage 4: Victory and Fear
I open my eyes and the pain is gone. I'm happy. How long will it last? I'm affraid of moving or doing anything that might bring the pain back. It's like walking on thin ice. One wrong step and you fall into the icy water.
Stage 5: Joining the Partisan Movement
The self-fulfilling prophecy works. The pain is back and is here to stay for another day. Ammunitionless, I surrender. I'm trying a new weapon to defeat the bastard: I'm blogging about it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I'm overwhelmed by the density of events over a short period of time. Tom's pre-IDF course ending celebration, Tom's enrollment in the IDF, his swearing-in ceremony, end of basic training, starting of professional course. All this coincided with our moving with the 120 boxes, all the things that went wrong, the dragging of apartment arrangements and proximity to Passover, when I'm already hosting family for the Seder (traditional Passover dinner). Work, gym, choir and vacation planning in the background.

In a previous post, I was trying to advice Tom whether to take the pre-IDF course and so far so good. He loved it, made new friends and will enjoy a paved path in the IDF. One tiny caveat though: he is sharing this path with youngsters just like him and misses the opportunity to meet 'kids' from different backgrounds. He is in a social bubble, just like myself, to an extent.
The IDF enrollment is an icon of Israeli life experience, parents and family accompany the youngsters to the recruting center and wave them goodby while they are being taken away by bus to start their 3-year journey in the IDF. This is the time for deep thoughts and mixed feelings. But how was I supposed to do this with giant Disney-like puppets dancing around on Purim songs from the loudspeakers? How was he supposed to have all the right thoughts and feelings with Disney figures in the soldierization (I made this word up) process, including vaccine shots? It was definitely weird being enrolled during Purim.
The swearing in ceremony is another IDF icon. Tom's ceremony was held in Sde Boker, next to Paula and David Ben Gurion's tomb. On the way to Sde Boker, which is 3 driving hours away from my house, I was asking myself how would parents living in the North (even further away) manage to come to the ceremony. The ceremony itself was moving but not very impressive. The highest ranking officer spoke about a little kid asking his father on Passover during WWII wether they will survive the war. The father replied he didn't know specifically about themselves, but there will always be a Jewish kid somewhere in the world to ask questions on Passover and a father to answer. The officer concluded that this is one of the main reasons for the IDF existence and activity. After the ceremony, one of Tom's comrades asked us if we have some food as he was hungry. (Bringing food to the ceremony and eating together with the soldiers is customary at such occasions.) We gave him a sandwich and offered sweets. I knew if Tom would have been hungry, any of the families present there would have done the same. I asked where his parents were, why didn't they come. "We live in a moshav (agricultural settlement) north of Nahariya, which so so up north that is already in south Lebanon", he replied joyfully.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Where Have I Been?

I've been busy packing, moving, unpacking, arranging, getting used to my new place. This is how our building was supposed to look like. Well, it's pretty similar, except the balconies on the right don't exist. The building was partially built on a eucalyptus grove and I can see the remaing eucalyptus tree tops from my large, 6th floor bedroom window. I'm watching the crows from above. The view from this window is so far the best feature of my new place. I watch it before falling asleep at night and first thing in the morning when waking up.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tribute to Darwin

In many National Geographic programs I watch, carnivores kill and eat herbivores and sometimes steal other carnivores' prey. Although eating another animal while it is still alive (in one of the documentaries hyenas started eating a buffalo's behind while it was still alive) seems very cruel with my human eyes, that's how nature works. Carnivores have to eat other animals to survive, they can't eat grass.
On the bicentennial of Darwin's birth, we should reconsider telling childrens' stories that present carnivores as bad guys who eat the good guys. This stupid personification turns children judgemental, where no judgement needs to be applied. Wild animals just do what millions of years of evolution programmed them.
The birds on the treetop are programmed to soil my car parked underneath . Luckily cows can't fly.