Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cute pic from last week

Me with Lili & Maoz's beautiful girl, Almog, aged 1.
Cholent is looking forward to inheriting Almog's beautiful crib and tons of her clothes!

Miserable Cold

I've been home since yesterday with a blasted cold. It's not so horrible but it feels worse because I'm pregnant and I'm not taking any drugs.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Freak Out

So last night I freaked out around bed time. We had just watched two episodes of the 4th season of "Coupling". Adi noted that we didn't laugh as much but the content is more relevant to us. Rather than dating, the main couple is now attending birthing classes. We could identify. But it also made me freak out.

In the episode, the birth class members are divided into discussion groups by gender and asked to discuss attitudes towards pain relief. The men unanamously decide in favor of maximum DRUGS. While the women's views are more varied. I find myself siding with the men. Why suffer if you can safely reduce suffering? True there's the issue of the big needle in your back. And that in general drugs are best avoided if you don't need them.

For me the discussion is largely academic, since as far as we know now, I'm looking at a scheduled C-section. [Why? because I have myomas just below my cervix. They are thank God not bothering Cholent now but if I draw you a picture even a two-year old could see that they could get in the way of the exit.] I can expect the pain to be greatest after the actual birth. Hopefully by then I will be so excited to have Cholent that I will be able to deal. In any case I won't have much choice.

But then I started thinking: what if the myomas shrink and I don't need the C-section? What if I go into labor early? In that case it is less the pain I fear than the fact that the whole thing just seems so, well, UNLIKELY.

Despite abundant living evidence to the contrary, it seems amazing that any mother or child could survive such an ordeal.

All I wanted Adi to say was "It will all be OK.". He did say that but he also teased me about scheduling the operation on a day when he does not have any classes!

So then I started freaking out about afterwards, about fighting the hospital staff to breast feed, about making sure I have "biyut maleh" meaning full in room something. I forget how we call it in English. The term the birth class teacher was very British anyway so it was unfamiliar. It means that I am totally allowed to have the baby with me all the time rather than in the room with all her screaming peers. More better! But people will try to talk me out of it, saying that I need to rest and so on. I will have to have Adi and my family help me. I want her close. Close!

[post got cut off, I'll try to finish later]

Meat. To Eat or Not to Eat.

Thanks ccjane and Harmony for your comments :).
Happily I do love eggs and cheese so no worries there. I've been taking iron suppliments since week 13 with (tfu, tfu!) none of the usual trouble (example: constipation). I'm trying to take the iron with OJ now that I know that it makes it easier to absorb.

Harmony actually reminded me of a third reason I've started eating meat. Fear of tofu. I am a big fan of tofu. But recently I've become afraid that I'm ingesting too much phyto-estrogen. Apparantly soy is no longer the good guy. Too much soy mimics estrogen. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But for me, one of the theories about the myomas (fibroids) is that hormones makes them grow. Who knows?

Then again, meat (unless organic) is pumped FULL of hormones. Growth hormones. Which no doubt do my myomas no kind of good either.

It reminds me of the fish debate. On the one hand, Omega 3 and other good fishy things are recommended for the pregnant consumer. However, there is the mercury fear that says that pregnant women should limit their fish intake.

Some of the food guidelines are curiously cultural. For example, in Israel, women are told not to consume mint (very popular here as a natural tea). Yet the US-made Herbal Medicinals "Pregnancy Tea" a friend gave me is packed with... you guessed it, mint!

On the flip side, Israeli women are told to "limit" their coffee intake, but not to close out caffine all together.

All things in moderation I guess. Listen to your body. Eat a tasty variety of foods.

That granola sounds great. I'd loove the recipe. Nuts and fruits are things I virtually gave up these past two years in order to lose weight. I am enjoying eating them again!!

And oh yes! I just found some molasses, a most delicious source of iron and vitamins.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Easy Lemon Chicken

Friday night I made Faye's "Easy Lemon Chicken". My technical writing students have already learned to snicker at use of the word "easy" in technical writing. It's a big no-no. Why? Well 1) What's "easy" to you may not be "easy" to your user, and 2)It just doesn't add anything.

I'm pretty skeptical of recipes that include words like "easy", "faultless", "perfect", or "impossible" in their title. What can these words mean? Not much really but they do tempt you as the makers of yogurt have discovered. Local options include "perky peach", "naughty strawberry" and such.

Easy Lemon Chicken was in fact pretty easy. It was even easier the way I made it, without all the transfers Faye suggested. Being raised on a healthy stir-fry diet, I am confused by instructions that tell me to remove ingredients (sauteed onions, say) that will only be returned to the same pan later. I tried to obey for the sake of learning and recipe fidelity but I just couldn't bring myself to do all of them.

For me the barrier to "easy" was in cooking chicken in the first place. I have been a vegetarian for more than a decade. A few factors caused me to reconsider, tentatively.

1) With pregnancy, my tastes have changed. The idea of meat is occasionally appealing to me.
I was worried also at first that there was also some truth in people's concerned cries that I "must" eat meat during pregnancy in order to get enough protein. Not really. Turns out a couple glasses of skim milk take care of your daily needs rather nicely. Add some ice cream, a serving of yogurt or cottage cheese and boom, I'm easily surpassing my daily needs.

2) After we got married, I decided that Adi deserved more meat in the home. When I was single I kept kashrut wonderfully simple by maintaining a meat-free home. When Adi started living with me, meat made some slow invasions. First, I accepted cold cuts, consumed on designated plates. Then I actually bought him some frozen shnitzel which he could heat himself in the toaster oven and eat on same designated plates with designated silverware.
He valiantly respected my rules, despite strident secular protests.

But after our wedding, I vowed to set up my kitchen to accommodate cooking some meat dishes too. I had to do some soul-searching to decide if I really care about maintaining different dishes because it is rather a pain in the tuchus. But I decided that I didn't come all the way here on aliya just to eat treyf in my own home.
So I haven't totally got the separation thing down in a way that would satisfy the most strict... but we basically have a separation.

OK, so I'm making some meat and even eating some too. But I couldn't quite face chicken parts as the recipe called for. I stuck to cutlets. Yes, it's kind of cheating, it's that whole thing about meat not looking like the animal it came from. So be it for now.

To make up for the lack of skin and bones, I added some bread crumbs to make it a bit more interesting. That plus onions, some lemon, broth (example: soup mix), and a couple of disappointing olives thrown in and voila, easy lemon chicken, vaguely North African in style. I thought it was kind of boring. Next time I would avoid pre-boiling the lemons. I would have enjoyed more of their tart flavor coming through.

Adi was visibly psyched when I handed him his plate. So even though I was only able to eat one piece and felt a little funny about it afterwards, it was totally worth it. We rounded out our meal with a tasty impromptu creation of my own.

While cooking I asked Adi if he'd like pasta or sweet potatoes on the side.

"Pasta with sweet potatoes!" he exclaimed cheekily. He got what he asked for. To fusilli I added some sweet potatoes I'd parboiled then cut up and sauteed with onion & fresh rosemary. Yum.

Reminds me of a great New Yorker cartoon. A piece of rigatoni with legs, arms and a face (obviously) is standing at the phone saying,
"Fusilli, you crazy bastard, how are you?"

Give Me Comments

So, I like getting comments. I guess it is fair that I have not had any in a few days because I have not written any entries in a few days. I will try to be good, but I like that encouragement!

To the commenter who was skeptical about the term "skirat marachot", I checked. It's right. See for example. Dr. Shapiro actually told us that he is involved in setting the vocabulary for related terminology in Israel. He had something to say on this term too but I forget what it was. He said he keeps a page on terminology on his website, but I couldn't find his website.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Faye Levy

Feeling good about my decision to tackle Faye Levy's cookbook, I read the Acknowledgments section this morning. As I get older, I enjoy reading Acknowledgments sections more and more. More and more often, the name of someone I know pops up there. I didn't personally know anyone in Faye's list, but there were many connections confirming her clout and qualifications.
Turns out she worked for Ruth Sirkis for two years. Ruth Sirkis pretty much wrote the book (several books, actually) on Israeli cooking. Every Israeli household has at least one of her books. I thought about selecting her as my Julia but a)I might have to read her in Hebrew and b) though classic, many of her books are really dated and none too attractive looking. Still, she's an authority and it's nice to know I can get a taste of her so-to-speak through Faye.

Also Faye recieved inspiration from none other than - you guessed it - Julia Child who told her to write a "high-class book on Jewish cooking". So there you have it.

Pepper Salad

OK, so I started with that North African pepper salad. I was too frustrated and tired from traffic to make it Sunday night, but it was still on my mind when I woke early Monday morning so boom, I made it. Truth is I've made it before. Or some variation of it anyway, inspired by the version my host mother in France used to make. Basically you roast some peppers and tomatoes and garlic, peel 'em, slice into fleshy slivers and marinate in olive oil and lemon juice.
I decided to make it more interesting for myself I would really try to follow Faye's instructions, including the idea of putting the roasted peppers in plastic bags for 10 minutes before peeling. That way I'd learn something new, perhaps.

Well the cool thing was that I finally made the right selection on my oven for broiling. So the peppers got charred right quick. I wasn't so crazy about the plastic bag plan. It made me nervous thinking that poisonous somethings might be getting into my food, also they might stick. I learned a neater variation of this trick from my friend Jordan back when we lived in Paris one summer and cooked together a lot. He used paper bags. You trap them then shake the paper bags and the charred skins come right off. Mostly. Well we don't really get paper food bags here so it was just as well to try the plastic. I thought maybe it would keep them juicier, more flavorful. I'm not sure. What is true is that it still takes some struggling with fingernails and or knives to really get the last bit of cellophane like skins off. Days later I found bits of the red suckers under my nails, each time thinking I was bleeding.

Roasted pepper flesh is very nice, very fleshy, soft and rich. I was lazy and used frozen garlic bits, a concession I started making since I came back from bed rest. Roasted would have been better and I made a note to buy some real garlic again. The frozen stuff is fine in a soup or sautee. Anyway I added too much lemon juice because well, my lemon was a small, green, tough little sucker and once I'd gotten its juice out I didn't want to stop at 2.5 tablespoons. This made the lemon juice: olive oil ratio a bit off. It should have been 1:1. OK, so it was a bit extra lemmony. Anyway this salad is best after sitting for a while so I left it and moved on.


I didn't get to my next recipe until today. As Faye notes, pita bread is available "everywhere" but hey, why not make it at home? Couldn't be easier. A simple dough of flour, yeast, salt, and water. Zehu. That's it. Except that Faye had a funky idea to roll them in sesame seeds. O-kay. I've never seen that before. I've seen 'em with Za'atar and stuff, but not speckled on both sides with sesames but why not?
I had a sense of how the dough should look, example: sliky. What surprised me was Faye's instruction to smack the dough on the counter. I mean, as in whip it down with a vicious slap. A throw. I thought about mashing Hezbollah heads as I did so. Or about Hezbollah wives doing this at home. Maybe the agression they put in their bread got transfered to their men. Anyway it surprised me a bit.

Rising went well in this heat. Shaping them, rolling them out... pretty easy. Now the fun part: baking. I was very very curious to see if they would really puff out into pocketed breads. They did. Or at least the non-sesame ones did. How did they know how to do that? How is it that these same simple ingredients can make so many different kinds of bread? I was stunned to see them looking like, well, pitas.
Except for the sesame ones which didn't look like anything I'd ever seen.

They were all tasty when hot. But frankly I've always found pita a bit boring. So I think I won't be making these again. I prefer the more pillowy, more focaccia like Druze pitas slathered with zaatar and olive oil.

Oh and one more thing. What's with the pita triangle? It's NEVER done here. I mean, NEVER. Never in the history of the Middle East has anyone cut a pita into "triangles"?
OK, maybe I exaggerate. Maybe it has been done. I might have even seen my mother-in-law do it once at a party. ONCE. But don't be fooled, it is not natural. Even though Faye says to do it with your left over pitas, just say no.
What if you just want a little bit of pita? You rip it. With your fingers. The way civilized French people do in the comfort of their own homes with baguettes. You put the unused portion back on the communal plate.

Meanwhile, the pepper salad while still very lemonny has mellowed into something really nice.

For a quick dinner I made Faye's eggs with mushrooms and cayanne pepper. It was speedy except for washing the mushrooms which I always find to be so very annoying. Why can't they get those last bits of dirt off in the mushroom washing center? If you leave them on, it's nasty. But you don't want to abuse the poor mushrooms too much, braise their dainty skins or whatever.
I hacked the mushrooms into quarters. Or in some cases, less than quarters because some of them weren't that small. I sauteed them with olive oil and butter. Why not? Fay said either or, or both. One thing I've noticed since abandoning the self-starvation of the last two years in favor of pregnancy indulgences: butter is delicious. I added salt and pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes and oops, almost forgot it, some cumin. Then toss in the scrambled eggs and scramble some more till they set.

Not too pretty, really. The eggs get a bit brownish and really we're just looking at scrambled eggs with mushrooms but it tasted good and it fit the tall order of being ready in time for Adi to wolf down before rushing off to his Yiddish lesson with Bertha.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cooking Project

I swam Sunday after work. I tire more than usual but I'm way stronger than I was during the 1st trimester. I am very floaty. Must be the extra body fat! I felt so happy though to be strong enough to swim and safe enough to swim outside at my gym in Haifa.

But then I drove home and hit post-war (example: usual) traffic. I wanted to scream. In fact, I did scream though no one heard me because I had the AC on and the windows closed. It took me 30 minutes to get home. I know that may not sound like too bad of a commute to some people, but it's almost 3X what it should take with no traffic. Plus usually I listen to books on tape in the car. Even a bad book on tape makes traffic bearable. But I ran out of tapes. I borrow them for free from a great library in Tsfat but because various complications (example: war, example, bedrest) I got into some trouble with the library and they may have cut me off. I hope this issue can be resolved. Meanwhile, I am tapeless.
I know that theoretically I should be able to download stuff and put it on an MP3 player or something but a)it would force me to spend more time futzing on the computer than I already do b)I feel too old to have figured out that download thing. That's Adi's department and c) without investing in new equipment, I'd need to listen on headphones which are not as comforatable as the car stereo speakers. With the tapes, It is really just "plug 'n play" the way so many new fangled technologies want to be.

OK, so I tried to relax while driving by meditating. Not as in OM so much as trying to think in a focused manner about future plans. That sort of frustrated me so I turned to more immediate plans. What to make for dinner?

Julie and Julia

Inspired by the terrific book Joanie sent me, Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, I'm thinking about a cooking project. The book is about a frustrated 29 year old who decides somewhat randomly, to cook her way throuh Julia Child's classic "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Her decision becomes a kind of obsession but also an adventure. And oh yeah, she wrote about her adventures in a blog!

Julia learned to cook at age 37. I remember her in her blue dress and white apron apearing on public television when I was growing up in Boston. She was something of a local icon, larger than life, but was sometimes spotted shopping at our local kosher butcher and natural foods store. I might have seen her live too but if so I don't remember.

Her cooking, French cooking, is a bit too heavy on the treyf for me and my kitchen. At present I am not at all opposed to buckets of butter, but I am opposed to drowning steaks in them.

So who would be a good Julia for me? I want something dated enough to be foreign. Something that will expose me to new challenges but will not be absurdly difficult. Thinking to please my carnivorous husband, I thought about exploring the fatty underbelly of Ashkenazi cuisine. But a lot of it is just too bland to excite me.

I thought about going though the encyclopedic Chabbad cookbook, "The Spice and Spirit of Jewish Cooking". I have the Passover version. The recipes tend to be tasty and straightforward. Here's an example kuggel recipe:

6 poatoes
4 eggs
salt, pepper

Grate potatoes. Mix with other ingredients in big pan. Serves 12. Can be doubled.

OK, that's not an exact quote but you get the idea. Few ingredients, huge amounts. But satisfying and tasty.

Well one setback is that I don't own that cookbook. It's a big heavy thing too. I know because I bought a copy for my mother.

I did some research on the web for classic Jewish cookbooks. The Settlement cookbook seems intreaguing. But too many crazy, confused cookbooks out there.

For now I settled on Faye Levy's International Jewish Cookbook. Its cover boasts "over 250 New and Tradtional Recipes for Holidays and Every Day". I got it as a college graduation gift from my Catholic aunt back in 1992. It was a great gift. I've used it regularly over the years, mostly for holiday foods. I think Aunt Jill also gave me my most used cookbook too, "Moosewood Cooks at Home".

So back to Faye Levy. She looks to me like she should be a Leah. Like maybe her Hebrew name is Leah. She lives in LA but clearly spent time in Israel and, I just read, in France. Her roots would apear to be Ashkenazi, but she married a Yemenite. I'm going to make some guesses here and bet that her husband comes from a large Israeli family which connects her with an interesting shmorgasboard of inlaws such as an Indian (Jewish) sister-in-law.
I've always liked that she covers cous cous and cholent within the same covers. And she likes to sautee her apples in butter when she can. What really won her over to me as being project worthy is that she includes instructions for rendering chicken fat. Yep, she tells you how to make your own shmaltz.

I will work my way up to that one. Meanwhile I thought I'd start smaller, like with a pepper salad.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Breast Feeding

Thanks to Riqi for sending me this pro-breastfeeding poster.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Little Black Mumu

(I added a lot to yesterday's post, "Rissisim")

Thursday was great. My work group was back in full force. We went to visit Vaska, the adopted stray cat of Matam and found him in fine form with a clean coat of fur.

After work I took the train down to Tel Aviv to teach a makeup class of Word for Technical Writers.

"You know you can teach sitting down," Adi reminded me, worried I'd get overtired.

"I know," I said. I didn't think I would since this was a practical class and I what I like best is to walk around showing people how to do stuff on their computers. But happily the Barco was all set up nicely so I could sit and demonstrate. I was happy to sit. And happy to teach. It was a nice, small group and I had a good time.

After class ended I shed my "pregnant professional" outfit of blue Oxford and black pants and donned a new Old Navy maternity dress. It was so easy to slip on that it gave me a thought that made me giggle.

It's a mumu I thought. But a little black mumu.

A great buy at $26, it is a more forgiving version of a form-fitting dress I own. In fact it is so forgiving that it caused Carla and Graham some disappointment.

"You don't even look pregnant," they chimed when we met for dinner. I was pleased and disappointed, simultaneously.

We went to a new, untested place with nice decor that Graham's friend had described as "a little bit granola". It turned out to be a little bit BAD. But my lemonade was good for me and Cholent, fresh, lemony, and not sweet just the way we like it. And the company was great. It was sort of fun that we were all there without sig. others and could talk about relationships, the good old days, and gay sex.

I left most of my over-cooked penne, under-cooked garlic meal on my plate, focusing only on the sun-dried tomatoes and leaving lots of room for ice cream. We bought a pint of B&J at the supermarket and went back to Gloria's place to eat it. Carla and I were crashing there since Graham is babysitting a pissy dog. It turned out we crashed there alone since Gloria had to rush out to help a friend in need. Alas, she left before explaining how to work the AC. Either that or it was just broken. Either way, we were left to swelter in the Tel Aviv soup with just a fan.

The cool shower I took did not offer much comfort since the showerhead expelled more water from the leaks on its sides than it did from the holes designed for that purpose. Still we managed to reach a reasonable temperature before crashing out on Gloria's double bed, leaving her favorite couch should she stumble in later.

Two hours later I woke up sweltering. I thought we were going to die. Literally. I opened another window and the bedroom door. I took another squirty shower and drank lots of cold water. I returned to bed naked with wet hair, several degrees cooler. But I became terrified that Cholent had gotten over-cooked. I tried to calm myself with rational thoughts. Women in India have babies without air conditioning. Lots of babies. Cholent gave a comforting little flutter. Somehow I fell asleep.

I had a lovely dream about Cholent. Somehow she was born now, at 5 months of pregnancy but she was OK. She was formless and tiny, smaller than a loaf of bread and just as light. She was born in the middle of the night and somehow that meant I had to give birth alone, without even being able to have Adi there. And after a day and a half I suddenly thought, "OH no! She has to eat" and put her to my breast for the first time. Despite having a formless body wrapped in a white blanket, she put her little head at the proper angle and latched onto my nipple perfectly. To my amazement it didn't hurt a bit. After that I kept forgetting where I put her. She was so small, after all!

Despite what sound like alarming elements in this dream I woke up happy. Overall it was a good dream.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Going back to routine was not as easy as expected. The homefront command announced on Monday that we could go back to work, so on Tuesday I did. Only no one in my group was there yet. I had an unproductive day, maybe because at noon I went to the mall.

Shopping malls make me want to kill people. There was no avoiding it though. Sometimes you have to go to the mall. This time the reason seemed harmless enough. My mother-in-law very nicely bought me a maternity shirt that was a little too bright and a little too snug. True to family tradition it came with an apology and an exchange receipt. When Adi received a too snug shirt for his birthday, I bravely volunteered to exchange it for him to avoid exacerbating his annoyance at the injustice of it all. That time I got off lucky, going to an outlet of the store in question at a strip mall across from The Mall. I had to add more money to get him a shirt in his size, but still, I could park and go in and out before being overtaken by Mall Mania.

This time I had no choice. Since they were still serving airline-type food in packages at work (the kitchen wasn't yet back up to speed), I thought I'd brighten the grim mall experience with a trip to McyD's. It was a disappointment, except for the fries which are a delight. I had a chocolate milkshake which was really not as yummy as I'd rememberd 'em. Not that stopped me slurping every drop. At least they have a separate restaurant space with doors. It is a sad situation when the screams of children (heard in McDonald's) are highly preferable to the irritating music + constant inane advertisements for horrible mall stores (heard in the mall proper).

Then the store. The maternity clothes were part of a new "For TWO" line of the Israeli big size clothing chain, "Matim Li" or "ML" according to their chic logo. Overpriced, their style is not too bad as plus sizes go. But they didn't get it in the maternity line. I need clothes that are bigger. Not bigger AND uglier.

desperate after the pushy sales girl got me to try on items costing three times the exchange value, I called Carla from the dressing room for retail therapy support. She
is a power shopper AND has relevant retail combat experience as a GAP employee.

"Just get a mumu," she advised. She was only partially kidding about the mumu. Her main point was that I should just get *something* and get outta Dodge. I snagged a 3/4 sleeve tie-died t-shirt thing at the same price as my gift-shirt and busted out, smiling.


Malls raise the ever-popular nature vs. Nurture debate. Do mall rats naturally flock to malls? Or does the existence of a mall spawn more mall rats? I put this question to Bro and Charles via email.

Charles responded:
Maybe this is why the terrorists so often blow themselves up in shopping
malls. It is not because they hate the Zionist invaders so much or because
of the heat, but instead it is the soul sucking lighting and heart shedding
music that makes them so eager to kill themselves and others. Some might
even see them as doing a favor to the poor people who have to work in malls
and face this reality everyday!

He also expressed concern about the mumu recommendation:

I believe the baby is supposed to start putting pressure on your spinal cord thereby cutting off vital neural impulses to the brain which will render you
unable to distinguish between nice looking clothes and circus tents. Maybe
if you spend more time in the mall this process will be sped up a bit. If
not do not worry it just means that your child's exceptional intelligence is
augmenting your now impeded brain.

Do not listen to Carla! Do not buy a mumu Cholent will be unhappy!

Back to the subject of this blog which is risissim or the residual impact, the messy shrapnel of the war. So my Tuesday was tough and for Adi it was Wednesday that was bad.

He went to his parents' house again for more shiva and to study.
"How did I live at home?" he asked me. He had been interrupted and embarrassed when his mother loudly offered him lunch during a call with a professor he admires.

"You're a grown up now," I told him. "You got used to living in your own house, by your own rules." I was sorry his day sucked but was happy knowing he feels at home in our place, the house I bought, renovated and decorated. The house I adapted to accommodate him, the place he moved to directly from his parents house. Sometimes I worry that it may not reflect his choices. Sometimes I am jealous that he never had to buy his own silverware or lighting fixtures.

He was really, realy frustrated by his day and it took him a long time to cool down. I did everything I could think of to put him in a good mood for our first birthing class which like most fathers-to-be I'm sure he agreed to only because he knew that to refuse would be really unfair. I'm the one who puked for three months, I'm the one getting fat, and you won't even go to a dumb class? Don't even go there.

The Birthing Class

I'm sure I'll write more about it as we go. For now I'll just report that it was fine. Afterwards, to reward Adi I made him a rare offer.

"OK, because you love it, just this once, I will now let you gossip wantonly about anyone in the class!" He was so stunned at this unexpected gift that he was unable to be truly cruel or cynical.

"Well," he ventured, "I think I have a more interesting occupation than any of the boys." No arguments there. Most of the other guys were (boring!) electrical engineers (example: high tech computer programmers like). The exceptions were a guy who had his own gym equipment business and another who works for the electric company.

"No doubt." I agreed. When my turn came, I had mentioned MegaCorp by name. I don't always do that. Sometimes I say "I work in high tech" or "I work in computers" or "I work at Matam (name of my industrial park)" or "I work as a technical writer". It depends on the audience. But if they were throwing around their Towers and Elbits, I was going to weigh in.

The seven women had slightly more diverse stories. But I was more concerned with the fact that though we have the latest due date in the group, I felt like I was the fattest. I shared my concern with Adi.

"Are you kidding?" he asked. "You are the SMALLEST. And the cutest." I beamed. He is great at boosting pregnancy beauty self-esteem.

"Well," I said, "You were the cutest boy!"

"I think I was also the youngest boy," Adi observed. No doubt true. And though I didn't think about it until now, I'm sure I was the oldest girl. Israelis in our Haifa socio-economic sphere are pretty darn predictable in their coupling and breeding patterns.


That night both of us slept badly. We couldn't get to sleep.

"I'm afraid there will be a siren," I said around midnight when we were getting ready for bed. It was totally irrational. Not only hadn't there been sirens for days (well, two days anyway), there had only been one siren we heard in Haifa after dark. Ever.

"I know," said Adi. "It's hard. It's hard to get back to normal."

"I think that's part of why you had such a hard day today," I agreed. And why the mall mauled me more than usual, I thought.

Just then a little beebee-sized chunk of glass caught my eye. It was lying in the empty laundry basket where I'd tossed my maternity jeans before folding them and putting them away. I picked it up for inspection.

"Where did that come from?" Adi asked.

"Looks like the ones from my building," I decided, "but how did it get here? It must have gotten caught in my pants." Pretty weird and pretty disturbing.

Just like that little physical remainder, our psyches are marred by little beebee-sized reminders that seem to come out of nowhere.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Name Game

Yes, I have some ideas about Cholent's name. But no, I'm not telling yet.
You can offer your suggestions though.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Adi as a Baby

Adi as a baby. His kindergarten teacher said he was 'A cube. As wide as he was tall. Always optimistic and smiling.'

Shekel for Shekel Donations Matching

My company is matching donations. Let me know if you're interested in sending a donation through me.

Many of our employees have approached us offering their help to residents of the North of the country.

We have, therefore, decided to initiate a company-wide donations program and we are appealing to you to give what you can for the residents of the frontline areas in Haifa and the Galilee.

All employee donations will be matched by the company- each Shekel given by an employee will be matched by one Shekel from the corp.which means that we shall be able to double our contribution.

These funds will be donated to the following uses:

A double donation towards promoting coexistence

Activity days will be held for children in bomb shelters in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood of Haifa

Donations to frontline towns and villages in North of mineral water, ventilators and baby food and will provide activities for children forced to spend most of their time in bomb shelters, as well as for the “day after” activities.

I love my cubical!

Sarah in her cubical
I never thought I'd say it, but I do. I am happy to be back at work in my usual spot.
Emotional though too. My hormones and I had to get a grip in the parking lot, staring at the charred earth where the rockets hit.
Not many people are back yet. So far those who are back are just putting things back together, moving equipment back into place and so on.
Our floor is in pretty good shape. One window in a friend's nearby north-facing cubical is gone. The hole is covered with a plaster panel already. I found that grey thing depressing so I decorated it with markers, drawing flowers, "Welcome back!" and an Israeli flag.
One of the glass walls on the north bridge that links our work area to the one on the other side of the absurd empty space is gone. Many of the glass plannels facing north in the big open space are gone but save for the noise, you almost can't tell. It just looks like the windows are very, very clean.

Today may be the last day of free icecream. Then again, we're still gettting the crap lunch today so it evens out.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Good News!

Cholent is healthy and she will be a GIRL baby! We just came back from the super sonic ultrasound test at Dr. Shapira's and all is well. I knew everything would be fine but still it was great to walk out with a long list of body parts and organs all marked "healthy". Fingers, toes, kidneys, heart chambers... it was all there to see. All parts measured within the normal range for her age.

When I reported the good news to my father and told him that Cholent is a girl he said, "Oh good! One of the two best kinds!" Indeed we are more excited that she is healthy than anything else, both sexes are good.

And in more good news, Haifa was quiet today! No sirens, no bombs. Well, one siren at 7Am but nothing since the cease fire went into effect at 8AM local time. We are hopeful that the quiet will continue and that we can go back to work as usual tomorrow.

Dr. Shapira was a student of Adi's late maternal grandmother, Ahuva. He remembered her very well. She told his mother, "Your son is very bright. If he tired, he could be a student!" She was a tough cookie, but managed to instill in Dr. Shapira a love of grammar. On his website he maintains an updated list of ultrasound-related vocabulary in Hebrew. He credited himself with inventing the term "skirat marachot" or "organ scan" which is the test he did today.

We are happy and excited with our news and so glad to be home! Let's hope that the cease fire sticks and ALL Israeli soldiers still in Lebanon come home safely.


Nassrala's video dating profile.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Funeral Under Fire

North-facing side of my office building after nerby rocket blasts fell on Friday.
Saturday afternoon we had a delicious nap in Jeru. I think my sub-conscious absorbed news of the cease fire and allowed me to rest more deeply than I have in a while. It would have been nice to get in one more museum but sleeping was also a good way to spend our time.

We said goodbye to our wonderful host and took the new toll road (kvish 6) back to Haifa to save time and avoid traffic. I was on the road only once before, after Yom Kippur a few years ago. It was dark and Jeremie and I decided it was too scary since it went right next to the territories and in those days there were lots of shootings. When we realized we were on it, we got off it somehow.
This time though it was worthwhile. And interesting. We passed some portions of the famous separation wall. Good fences make good neighbors, I say.

Coming home this time was easier. Koshka was fatter than ever but very happy. She seems to be taking the war in stride, better than many pets. (I heard today that some 500 dogs in the north died of heart attacks.)
The apartment was also in much better shape than when we left it last: the fridge was clean, we knew that within five minutes of opening windows and turning on fans the air would be good, and the home improvements we made last Saturday were welcoming. (I just added a cute pic of Adi installing a smoke detector to that post.)

We watched a couple episodes of our current favorite TV show, the BBC series "Coupling" before going to sleep. We both slept poorly. I had bad dreams , so did Adi and we both found ourselves awake around 4:30 AM. I guess again our sub-consiences knew it would be a tough day.

Tough, but beautiful. I woke again around 6:00 and saw a colorful sunrise on Mt. Carmel. It was one of those sunny days where the Mr. Roger's theme song, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!" played around my head. I made pancakes and eggs for breakfast and enjoyed a cup of my own espresso, the way I like it. We dressed and packed an overnight bag for Adi's parents' house. (It is getting so easy now, our toiletries are all ready, I keep Cholent's medical file with me at all times in my work bag with my laptop.) Adi put the finishing touches on his speech and I hung out the laundry to dry.

We drove quickly to the cemetery and got there right on time. Right on time for a siren too. Apparently there'd been one a moment before that we hadn't heard on the road (just as well). Most of us huddled under the corrugated roof of the simple structure at the cemetery entrance. We were told that we would not be able to make speeches at the grave, in keeping with the guidelines of pikud haoref which say you shouldn't have a gathering of too many people outside in one place.

It was a pretty good turn out considering it was only close family and a few colleagues who had seen the death announcement in the paper. The hazan started the service near the buildng then we drove up the hill a bit and the sons-in-law and grandsons lifted the stretcher with the corpse to the grave site.
The body was tied in a simple shroud (a white sheet). On the walk over the shroud was covered with a velvet covering like the ones that shield the aron hakodesh in synagogue. The cover was removed, and the carriers lifted the body by the shroud and placed it in the waiting grave. Several buckets of rocky earth waited by the side of the grave. After appropriate prayers were said, concrete slabs were laid on the body and then the gransons emptied the buckets into the grave. We laid flowers on top.

Below us the Med sea shone a gorgeous blue. Above us the minarets from the Ahmedim mosque of Kababir pointed to the sky (the Ahemedim are, as I understand it, to Islam like what Reform Jews are to Judaism). Several sirens blasted during the service and I inched a little closer to the mountain side. Then they subsided and the rav encouraged us to return. After a brief debate, Adi decided to go ahead and read the brief words he'd prepared.

He spoke of a kind and giving grandmother who enjoyed life. He spoke of his excitement when this year he discovered that even through the cloud of Alzheimer's he could communicate with Gila in her native German. He had never heard her speak it before. It turns out she shared Adi's love of the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine and Adi chose an appropriate quote of his, something about how you should enjoy every pleasure in life for life ends.

It was a perfect quote for Gila, apparantly.

With more hesitation, Adi's mother Nava read her piece too. She spoke of the fact that so many young people are being buried now, but Gila completed a full natural life. Despite a life filled with loss she was able to transmit joy to her family.
On our way to Adi's parents' house for the shiva Adi and I swung by my office building for a look. The area where my group sits (on the 5th floor, facing West) is mostly intact. But the north-west corner and the northern wall are pretty much shattered. Luckily the attack came on a Friday (not a working day) and no one was injured. Also, the safe rooms where we've been working proved to be safe. But I wouldn't have wanted to be getting a coffee (near the glass windows on the north side) when it happened!

They've already managed to board up most of the windows with cardboard.

There are two big scorch marks on the incline between the parking lot I use and the coastal highway ramp above. Also amazing that no cars were hit either on the road or the parking lot and that the highway wasn't damaged.
At the house we looked at family albums, ate, and talked. It was quiet (no sirens). I noted how much Adi looks like his great uncle did around his age, and how much he looks like his freckled, smiling grandmother did as a little girl. "If I'm one quarter Schrieber, then Cholent will be one eighth Schreiber," Adi noted.

In the afternoon I napped. While I slept there were many sirens in other parts of Haifa and several rockets. Adi woke me just before a siren here, followed by three loud booms. The window shook, but here we are several floors down, in a room with internal walls. We will sleep here tonight and I'll work here tomorrow.

Tomorrow at 5:00 PM Cholent has an important super-sonic ultrasound. We will see if Cholent is sporting boy or girl parts. More than that I'm just curious to see him or her since it's been more than a month since our last ultrasound. I read last night in the wonderful book "Great Expectations" that at this stage Cholent is basically a mini-baby. Parts are all in place and from now to delivery Cholent's main task is to put on weight.

We'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cease Fire!

For the last few days we've been waking up in Jerusalem and asking each other: "Is the war over?"
I had started to get tired of following the news. Yesterday's news was so totally grim that I feared going back to Haifa on Sunday in a way I hadn't felt before, not even when we were there last week. Rockets hit an open area near my office (see picture) and it is highly likely that I do not at this moment have an office to go back to. The walls of my building on three sides (the three you don't see in this photo) are all floor-to-ceiling glass. They are now undoubtedly shattered from the boom and or the shrapnel of the rocket hits.

Anyway, I just woke up from a deeper, more delightful nap than I've had in weeks. I believe my sub-conscious understands that something has changed for the better. Let's hope it's right and that we'll be able to give Adi's grandmother the proper burial she desreves.

To those who asked: Savta Gila was ~85. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's for several years and lived in a home near us in Haifa. She was lucky enough to go peacefully in the night. I had the honor of meeting her before our wedding. She had gorgeous white hair and sparkling blue eyes. She smiled and laughed when Adi practiced his German with her. It was her native tongue and he'd never heard her speak it before.

Time to get ready to go back home now. I have developed an appreciation for Jerusalem and am very glad that we had the chance to spend some time here. I never
got it before: Jeru always seemed tense, dirty, and chaotic to me. Funny how everything is relative.

This week I got to taste a world-class cultural capital. It is a city for walkers, full of pleasant surprises, alleys and tunnels, arches, and views. The gardens of ancient white-stoned homes overflow with pomegranite trees, flowering bushes, and vines.
Last night walking home from shabbat dinner, we were struck by a sweet, magnificent smell. "Figs!" proclaimed Tobie with delight.

The days are sunny but dry. Birds sing happily. Wild cats play in the shade.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Up and Down

I was in such a good mood yesterday, the concert still with me. We went out at night to the American Colony Hotel, a world unto itself. I felt like we'd walked onto the set of Laurence of Arabia, when they're in that fancy hotel in Cairo. Cholent loved the lemon juice I ordered. It came unsweetend, like a citron presse only taller.

But this morning, bad news came at 8:30 with a phone call. Adi's dear grandmother Gila, aged 85, passed away in the night. After he got of the phone he burried his head in the pillow. When he rose the first thing he said was "We won't even be able to sit shiva properly."

Plans are being made for a Sunday funeral in Haifa. But it is a tricky situation. Adi's mother doesn't want to take the responsibility of inviting people to come to Haifa. And it's clearly not safe to have a large group of people outside in the cemetary for any amount of time. Very tough and sad.

We were just about to head out for a good day in Jeru, deciding it would be the best way to honor cheerful Gila's memory. We plan to go back to Haifa tomorrow afternoon, to be there on Sunday (anyway we were going to go Sunday).
And then reports came in of "heavy rocket fire in Haifa". It was the first attack that Adi's parents heard in their somewhat removed mountain suburban home.

More crying.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I got through my day at MegaCorp in a conference room with three other refugees. Some of them had been for three weeks already. One cracked jokes, another had lunch with me. So it was OK. Some work stresses came up during the day, only tangintially related to the war so I'll leave out the details but suffice it to say that I finished the day feeling pretty haggard despite the nice air conditioning. The lack of splendid snacks at the Jeru campus was also a bummer. They make you PAY for yogurts here! What chutzpa!

I enjoyed observing other subtle differences between the holy city's campus and my home site. The women's bathroom on the third floor had a two-handled laver for ritual hand-washing. It also had free tampons. The non-applicator kind, as though proving how tough Israeli women are. The gumball machine had a prominent sticker marked KOSHER. Many heads were covered: scarves and hats of varying lenghts and colors for women, kippot of every shade, perched at every angle for men.
But the generic chairs, cubicals, and free coffee were comfortingly familiar.

A colleague who has been working at another site told me that as sirens were being heard where he lives (south of Haifa), he and his wife had been discussing taking their kids to the States for a while. We talked about the work implications. In essence, we can do our work anywhere. All we need is an internet connection and a telephone. Many of the content experts we consult with (all the people I work with) are not even in the same time zone. In fact, if I were to sit in New York, they'd be closer.
But the local managment has been understandably working hard to save face vis a vis our US mega bosses. Otherwise MegaCorp would invest in places that are not under fire. It is not clear if our actual boss (who sits in California) would or could approve a temporary "work from home (in the USA)" situation for us. I could probably play the pregnancy/heatlh card if I have to. In fact, that is the main reason I'd consider relocating.

After managing to get out a little early (6:30 PM), I found my way to the Jeru suburb where Adi's parents were staying with friends. Friends with a pool, I'd been told. The pool turned out to be a strange little triangle fit in the corner of a concrete yard. They had a fish pond too and many cats.
The concert was in Beit Govrin, a good 40 minute shlep south of Jeru. On the ride we heard the news. Somehow I find the radio news even more stressful than the TV news, perhaps because I must strain harder to understand it.
I thought about wheather going to the States for a while would make sense for us. There would be a huge price to pay psychologically and emotionally. I started writing about it here and decided I'm not ready to share that stuff, I'm afraid it would hurt too many people I love who might not understand. Suffice it to say that it would NOT be easy for me to come and if we can work out a way to stay longer in Jerusalem, I'll be very relieved to do so.
I must also say that Adi, being a native-born Israeli (sabar) does not have the same baggage that I do. But I think he has not fully weighed how painful it would be for him to sit in the US worrrying about his family and friends here every minute.
We will have to make a decision together, with the best interests of Cholent in mind. Cholent has alreday made it clear that he or she likes Jerusalem ;-).
Various pieces of the news intruded my personal thoughts, pushing them this way and that. On one end is the very real and very scary possibility of a serious escallaiton of crap. If it gets too bad, leaving won't be an option because the airport would close (no flights out if no flights in). On the other end is the voice of some minister saying "This is a fight for our existence." If that's true (and I believe it is), then leaving= abandoning, giving up on the Zionist experiment, and kissing goodbye the land I love.

So my mood when we got to the concert wasn't great. I was hungry too.
But things brightened when we got out of the car and smelled what Adi's mother called "kibbutz air!", example: cow shit. Ahh! To me it is a comforting smell.

There was a lovely surprise too: fabulous food! For 30 NIS we bought plates piled high with many different healthy, vegetarian salads. Not your usual fairground fare. But this was no ordinary concert.

Neshama Carlebach is the daughter and musical heir apparant to Reb Shlomo Carlebach of blessed memory. He was a real presence, a modern-day hassidic leader who wrote 5,000 songs, practiced the love he preached, and brought joy to the lives of many. A religious Jew and a hippie, many people found inspiration at Reb Shlomo's concerts and in his presence.

The concert was held in an ancient Roman amphitheater, delightfully fitted with modern seating and nice lighting. It was Tu b'av, the Jewish festival of LOVE. Being a lunar thing, the full moon shone gloriously in the open sky.

It was a women's concert and accordingly drew a largely female crowd. The audience was mixed in terms of age and religiousity, but there was a preponderence of women in long flowy skirts, modest shirts, and colorful scarves wrapped around their pretty young heads. Many of the women were pregant, I noted with pleasure.

Before the headliner, a series of five different female vocalists appeared on stage. Yemenite Etti Ankary appeared in a long orange outfit. Yasmin Levy tickled the air with ululating hazzanistic tones. Hadara ? blew us away with rocking screams of "LORD, make me HIGH!" that seemed to shoot from her pink and blue hair strands. Leah Shabbat looked like she'd been grabbed from her kitchen and sounded like she smoked too much, but still exhibited a rare natural talent and depth. Mika Carni teased on the violin, standing squarely in distressed jeans. And Ruti ? was just wow (The MC introduced her as having a "black voice"?? and a white something else. That made me twist my face to Adi in a huh?) Soul. That's what her voice was. A voice that made me turn back to Adi and say, "Who says that Jew's ain't got soul, my brotha?". Pure gospel glory flowed from her.

And the content, I forgot to mention: all Shlomo-inspired, G-d glorifying, beautiful stuff. Many of the tunes were familiar, and almost all of the lyrics struck a happy chord in memory for they all flowed from the prayer book.

And then: Neshama appeared. I was expecting someone older. But she was no older than me. And she was BURSTING PREGNANT! Her glorious big big belly bounced under an Indian print dress, lifting it above her knees. She reminded me of a happier Janis Joplin.
Her name, Neshama, litterally means soul. She was all soul. She gave her soul, big time. She talked lovingly about her father:
"If you knew my father, you remember how he would have hugged you. And then kissed you. And then he would have said: 'SHABBAT SHALOM! GUT SHABBES!'
And it could have been a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Because to him, Every day was shabbat!" The audience laughed. I gave Adi a thumb + forefinger to my mouth + inhale symbol and he laughed. Right on.

She sang solo, she sang duets with the other women, lovingly. When Etti Ankary came back, she urged us to keep singing a niggun amongst ourselves while she told us a story:
"When the children of Israel fought the battle of Jericho, they did so by circling the walls of the city," (I turned to Adi: like I did to you at our wedding!)
"And while they circled the city, they SANG. And the enemy inside said, 'uh-oh. we ain't got a chance, because this people, they are SINGING'. So c'mon everybody, and SING!!!"

We sang. Neshama called for the love of this concert to reach right up to heaven and stop the war. Before the show there were thanks to the organizers for carrying on with the show despite it all, and for offering free tickets to refugees like us. This of course made me cry.

Finally Neshama urged, "OK, everyone! For my father, come DANCE!" Women came forward. I joined them, grabbing hands in a circle. Old and young we smiled at each other and rocked out, moving and singing and shouting. Tears streamed down my face. I thought about my sisters and felt them dancing with me. You know who you are! Especially you who would have rushed up there with me from the beginning! A. and R. and S. and L. and J. to name a few. Just us girls. It felt so good to have "girl time" especially now, while I'm cut off from my girlfriends and when this stupid war is bringing out the most macho parts of men.


Am Yisrael Chai!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

MegaCorp, Jerusalem

It took me a while to leave our host's beautiful, sunlit apartment this morning. I was procrastinating, afraid I'd get lost on the windy streets of Jerusalem on my way to Mega Corp offices here. Afraid that once I arrived at the unfamiliar site that the other kids wouldn't be nice to me. But the drive was fine. I took the Begin North highway to the Golda Meir exit and could see the MegaCorp logo rising comfortingly on the mountain in front of me. My tag opened the parking gate. Inside the door I was in awe. Awsome views of the Jerusalem hills lay beyond the cafeteria. I could clearly see the replica of 777 Eastern Parkway that the rebbe's faithful followers built for him (though he never made the trip from Brooklyn).
I called a co-worker to see if she'd relocated here too. Nope. But no sooner was I off the phone than a pleasant-looking man said, "Excuse me, is your name L.? Did you recently marry Dadi's son?". It took me a moment to reconcile the family nickname for Adi's father, different from the one Adi's mother uses.
"Um, yes." I said, bewildered. My name he could have gotten from my tag, but... how did he...

"We're related!" He said smiling. Turns out Adi's great grandmother's brother is his grandfather or something like that. His parents were at my wedding and showed him pictures. I checked his name tag and indeed his name had a familiar ring though I dindn't know him.
"I recognized you from the pictures my parents showed me," he said. "Great program, by the way."
"Thanks," I said. The simple wedding program I made to explain some of the customs in our ceremony (including the contravertial kittel) was a runaway hit with Israelis. Apparantly they're not used to seeing such a thing. Little did I know the program's fame had made it's mark all the way here in the holy city.
I asked Yaron W. to have lunch with me but he said he already had plans with a friend being drafted tonight.

Small world.
Yesterday I spoke to my friend Ahlass. She is Druze. Her twin sons, Fadi and Shadi, were called up for reserve duty. Luckily they work the ground crew at an important air force base. So while they are doing vital work they are not in significant danger. She urged me to come visit. I miss her. She also told me about a cousin who gave birth at Carmel hospital (very close to my house). She had to give birth "in the bunker" (probably the basement) but that the girl was an absolute beauty queen.
And speaking of queens... last night we went to a screening of the movie "Paper Dolls" by Israeli filmmaker Tomer Heyman. It told the story of a group of Thai guest workers who take care of aged Israelis by day and performed in a drag act by night. It was a sad story but also very touching, interesting, and well-told. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

City of Peace II

Monday was rough. The short walk to the dentist (just past the Shulamit hotel) was exhausting. My legs felt like they were full of lead. Walking home was even harder because two strangers told me I should seek cover, that there were warnings of an attack coming on Haifa. With every leaden step I scanned to see where the nearest building was in case sirens roared and I'd have to run for cover. I was afraid my legs wouldn't be able to run. I considered calling Adi to get me by car but I was scared that stopping the car to run to safety would be even more dangerous.

At home I couldn't function. Adi made me lunch. I showered to stay cool and tried to work between resting.

In the evening the sirens struck. We took no chances now and instead of stopping one flight down went down both flights to the basment "bunker" room. After the 2nd or 3rd I came up and threw up. Cholent doesn't like broccoli I guess. That and despite my semi-calm, my body wasn't enjoying the stress.

That's it, said Adi, start packing. I decided to let Adi decide. I didn't want to leave but I felt I was no longer able to decide.

The drive was uncomofortable. I had a pillow from home and lay in the back, but couldn't really rest. My stomach hurt. I could feel every bump in the road. Adi was listening to the news and it was all so grim. Crying widows. Reports of rising anti-semitism around the world.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Going to Jerusalem

Last post interrupted by two siren blasts.
I threw up after the 2nd.
We're going to stay with friends in Jerusalem.

Haircut and Dentist

Between sirens and running to bomb shelters, I managed to get a haircut yesterday and go to the dentist today.
I'd been putting off my haircut (long overdue) when we were living in exile outside of Haifa. I briefly entertained the idea of going to someone else. Afterall, there must be decent hair dressers in Zichron, or I could have gone to the "famous" OFER G salon in the big Y. But I've been faithful to Amir & Riad of Kav Tzair ever since I moved to Haifa in 1997. Back then they were in a modest little shop on a residential street. Now they occupy a chic space overlooking one a central shopping intersection. I wasn't sure they'd be open so I called.
"Amir's on vacation," said Riad. "What time do you want to come? I'm closing at 4:00 today." I got there at 3. I was somewhat surprised to see that both helper girls were working and three other customers were there.
It was quiet though, very quiet.
"How nice and quiet," I noted to Riad.
"Yes, it's on purpose," he answered, "So we can hear the sirens." At least we don't hear the news, I thought.

One of the clients, a man named Samir, spoke to Riad in Arabic. Riad is from Haifa, and Arab. That subject really deserves a whole other blog: Arabs among us. It's not a point that gets much emphasis on CNN. I guess it is subtle. So subtle it's almost not worth mentioning except that it's probably unexpected and surprising to many a foreign reader and perhaps even to readers from outside of Haifa or the north.
If I look back on recent blog posts and highlight as it were, where there were Arabs in each scene I documented, here's a sampling:
-S., one of the kind technical writers who so warmly welcomed me at our Yokneam branch, is Arab.
-At the romantic beach in Habonim where we enjoyed the sunset, an Arab family (mother in modest dress + head cover)

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Bad day in Haifa.
We're OK.
Lots of hits and casualties here in our city.
I'm tired and want to stay tonight. Thinking seriously about going to Jerusalem tomorrow. Adi points out that next to Al Aqsa is probably the safest place in the country, the only place Nasrallah wouldn't dare hit. He certainly doesn't seem to mind killing Arabs. He simply declares them shahids, martyrs. Today some of the worst damage was in Wadi Nisnas, Haifa's Arab neighborhood. We often take visitors there for humus and honey-filled pastries. Ironically one of the hits destroyed the offices of a communist newspaper. The local communist party is essentially an arab party, not particularly communist. They have been protesting Israeli activity in Lebanon.

Home Improvements - Saturday

Sorry for being offline for a while. I didn't mean to cause worry. Will try to check in more often.
An article from Bill Maher I loved, The World is Mel Gibson.

We're fine. Spent a quiet Saturday at home resting and completing some long-overdue home repairs. We finally hung our beautiful kettuba over our bed. It looks wonderful. The colors go perfectly with our lime green & purple bedroom. I continued chipping away at clutter, clearing unnecessary stuff out of the bedroom and setting up a nice candle on my dresser.

Adi struggled with the broken bedroom window shuter, an ancient, rickety thing that got bent out of shape during a harsh winter storm. Thanks to Adi's patience, we can now raise it and close it again. I'd forgotten how wonderful the view out that window is.

Of course it wasn't all sunshine. We were rudely awaken from a deep nap by the roaring sirens again. All in all there were three sirens on Saturday.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Yesterday I heard my first loud sirens. I did not enjoy.
SIREN 1: The first sounded around 10 AM while I was working wirelessly at a cafe. We went down to the basement\bunker\kitchen until the noise stopped and a few extra minutes passed. There were no booms following the screaming siren but I felt shaken up. I was also tired and felt this just confirmed my sense that I should not have gotten out of bed today. Adi called a few minutes later to say he'd been driving to the university library and had barely heard the siren but was surprised to see no guard waiting at the gate. Apparantly the guard had sought out a safe place and was not yet back at his post.

At Adi's advice, I sat inside the cafe. In addition to the rockets, there are increased warnings of suicide bombers and several armed terrorists were caught yesterday in the center of the country. This cafe had no guard, but a pretty circle of concrete flower planters slows the path of potential bombers.

My friend Shirley, her colleague Ronit and I each had our own wooden cafe table. We lined them up in a row, our backs to the wall. The waiter brought us an extension cord with 3 outlets for us to plug into. It was very cute! A lot of people asked us what we were doing so diligently.

An unidentified chunk of metal about the size of an apricot fell out of the sky, tearing neatly through a red cloth umbrella shading one of the outdoor tables. It landed inches away from where a man was sitting. It smelled like gunpowder, he said. The bomb squad was called but no identification was made or at least none given to us.

SIREN 2: I had to rush home for a 4 PM meeting. After it ended, I continued a meeting-related IM chat with a colleague when suddenly... ARHGGHDHHAAAHAHAHAHHAHAHHWWWOOWOOWOOWOWOAAHAHH a nerve-wrenching blast of noise broke through the apartment right into my core. Adi rushed to the window in a valliant attempt to shield me from the noise. This only freaked me out more and I shouted at him to get away from the window. We ran down one flight of stairs. I was bearfoot, in a T-shirt and underwear. I was shaking. I grabbed Adi for support and cried into his neck.
When the blast stopped, we tapped on the door of Lola, our neigbor, to make sure she was OK. She welcomed us inside and gave me some water to calm me down. She welcomed us to come to her place whenever the siren sounds since she has more of an internal wall than we do. Lola is a great grandmother and a Shoah survivor. One tough cookie and a lover of life.
She showed us a beautiful pair of Channel shades she bought last week in Tel Aviv, explaining:
"I got a discount because I'm from the north." Go, Lola!

I wasn't able to keep working after that but instead took a cool bath and tried to relax. I then organized all the toiletries in the bathroom, carefully packing a bag of supplies we'd need if we decide to flee our home again.

We considered our options but didn't decide yet.

SIREN 3: This time wasn't as terrifying because I knew what it was. I put on shoes and walked down this time, after Adi had made me promise not to run. Adi didn't come right away and later I scolded him for the reason: he wanted to put away his humus and pita so that Koshky wouldn't eat it. Not a good reason! He promised not to do that again.
We discussed leaving again but I pointed out that it was already 7PM. It would be dark soon and they haven't been shooting after dark (since we'd be able to pinopoint their exact locations).
Before my next work meeting (an exhausting 8-9 PM and beyond) we watched some relaxing TV and some news.
The news showed IDF footage of Hezbollah rocket launchers mounted on trucks. When the truck drivers sensed they were about to be targeted, they drove into parking garages located in people's homes. Another scene showed arms caches stowed in a hospital. Another, piles of weapons in a private home. So you can see why the civilian casualties in Lebanon have been so high.
Meanwhile Hezbollah targeted and hit Naharia hospital yesterday. Somehow I think they knew that we do not hide our weapons behind civilians.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Business As Usual - Take 2

(Pic is from the very first day of the war, when I spent 3 hours with colleagues in the basement of our office building, waiting for instructions. As you can see we had cold drinks, good company, and some people with foresight had their laptops.)

Tuesday I went into my regular office. I could tell by the plethora of empty parking spaces what kind of day it was going to be. Example: not normal.
Forbidden from working in our cubicals, we were restricted to working in safe conference rooms that are also secure rooms. A good chunk of these stuffy little spaces is taken up by monstrous air filtration contraptions installed during the last Gulf War (aka, "Gulf War 2, Electric Bugaloo"). I chose a small conf. room very close to my normal work space. I was able to water my thirsty plants and get supplies and imagine sitting there again.
Work in the bunker wasn't the most comfortable, but there were some perks. At 11:00 they brought us ice-cream. Cold mineral water stood on the table all day. There were special boxed lunches and fruit and muffins in the afternoon.
I got to have coffee with my friend Sarah in the afternoon. Her visit made me realize how horribly cut off socially this situation makes us. I mean, in some ways we are more intimately connected but normal interaction is seriously compromised.
That is probably why at the spa I had a nightmare that all my girlfriends left. I drempt that it was before I knew Adi and one by one all my girl friends left the country and I had no one. Awake, I've decided to make more of an effort to connect to everyone.

Tuesday night I went to meet Shirley for coffee at the cafe where she's been working during all this. She was frazzled. Determined not to leave her cat alone in Haifa for more than a day, she'd had non-stop siren stress from the start. Still, after a while we were able to talk about "normal" subjects and it felt great just to be out and about again.

There's No Place Like Home

We came home to our apartment Monday night after the spa. As we had planned, there had been no sirens in Haifa for 24 hours. That was my minimum condition for returning and it was very nice of the Hezbollah to respect our plans.
I cried a lot when we came in. A mixture of pent up emotions released. Hormones surely played a role as they always do now but it wasn't just that. Sometimes you get so used to holding a stiff upper lip that you don't even realize it until suddenly you're home, the door is closed, and you can grab your kitty cat tight and just bawl and rage and get all blubbery. I felt like I'd been a horrible Mommy to leave Koshky at home all that time, though she was fatter than ever, happy and loving. The house was very stuffy until we opened all the windows and turned on the ceiling fans. I lit some incense. I cleaned the fridge again which had gotten a little mildewey and we set to getting it to work. No go. Adi called his father who came and fiddled with the outlet and somehow got it working again. I did mounds of laundry and started unpacking. I realized that I have a lot more energy (physically) than I did before we left. Seems I've gotten to a more comfortable phase in my pregnancy that way.
More energy is good but it takes me some time to recalibrate. More does not mean unlimited and I quickly got tired and frustrating trying to do EVERYTHING including clean up clutter that has been building since the wedding filled our house with beautiful gifts we have no place to put.

Disgruntled, I shuffled off to the post office to pick up packages waiting for weeks now. The post office was closed. Not because of the situation, just because they work half-days in July. The streets seemed semi-normal, semi-deserted. The city of Haifa and many individuals hung Israeli flags from lamp posts, windows, even on bushes. Someone put a collection of hand-written signs with messages like "ALLA TAKE NASRALLA!" over his balcony.
The cafes, normally full, were only half occupied, one of them by members of a TV crew. There was a semi-musty smell in the air, as though like our apartment, the city had been only half-lived in lately.

Still, it was good to be back. There is no place like home.