Friday, June 26, 2015

Reasons 2B Cheerful 123

Somewhere in the Blogosphere there's a weekly weekend linky called "Reasons To Be Cheerful 123." It's being hosted by Ojo's World atm. I always read some of the others so I don't know why I've never done one myself before now.  Here are my reasons.

Whilst clearing out a kitchen cupboard that I've not seen the back of for some years - I kid you not, I found 4 pairs of non-latex washing up gloves. I've been looking for these for ages and not seen them anywhere. I keep forgetting to buy them when we're in England and forgetting to ask friends to bring me some when they visit. For ages now I've just not been using gloves and my hands are not thanking me. Neither are my finger nails.

In a massive coincidence, two mothers of boys I teach gave me an end of year present of a manicure. Is that timely or what? So now I have to wait about 10 days for my shortest broken nail to grow to a repsectable length to justify using the manicure and I'm set for an elegant summer.

I'm famous. Well a bit famous in my little corner of the world at least. A mother of one of DD's school friends told me she was on a flight to Italy a few weeks ago and she sat next to a woman who is a single mother. My name came up, or at least I was referred to by description (I have no idea how it happened actually) and the woman exclaimed, "I read her blog! Do you know her?"

My friend said she felt quite important as she answered, "yes, our children are in school together." LOL, so I've ordered 500 photographs which I will autograph and hand round before everyone goes flying off for the summer. ;~)

Another friend with grown up children called me last week. Her student son has gone away for six months so she got to do a thorough clean out of his bedroom. In a drawer she found two child's multiple-entry tickets to our local swimming pool, valid until October 2015. We have 10 visits for which I only have to pay for me and not both of us.

4 (You're not resticted to 3)
I have lodgers for five weeks starting on Sunday (hence the cleaning out of the kitchen cupboards so I can give the lodger some space for her food). This Summer is looking less like bankruptcy by the minute.

It really is THE SUMMER!!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Blessing Opens A Pandora's Box

A piece of parchment paper came home from school with a note asking me to write a blessing for my daughter for her Torah (Bible) Party. My first thought for a blessing was: hamotse lechem min ha'aretz. That's a joke, it's the blessing we say before eating bread.

The problem was that I missed the meeting where most of the parents wrote their blessings and handed them in straight away. I didn't know if it was to be stuck into a Bible to be presented to the children, made into a bookmark, or displayed on the wall. I didn't know which way round the parchment should go (portrait or landscape) so I wrote my piece twice - once on each side in the two different layouts.

Actually that was wasn't the biggest problem. The biggest problem was what to write. I wanted something meaningful and to do with the Torah. Maybe a quote from it or an inspiring quote about how the Torah can be your guide for life, etc... And, of course I was going to write in Hebrew as DD's schooling is in Hebrew and it's the Torah, for Goodness sakes. Of course it should be in Hebrew.

As DD had handed me this thing just as Shabbat came in, it was too late to have the discussion about what to write on facebook. I looked for some quotes online but, funnily enough, they are all written in the masculine form. Well I object to that.

I didn't just object, but it brought up a whole load of memories of being denied the chance to read from the Torah on my Bat Mitzva like the boys get to do on their Bar Mitzva. Of being relegated to the Ladies' Gallery in the synagogue where we were not a part of the service at all. I used to sing as loudly as possibly to make myself heard but no one really cared.

On my Bat Mitzva, a joint ceremony of seven girls on a Sunday afternoon, we weren't even allowed to stand on the raised platform from where the Torah is read. We had to stop on the second step. We were allowed to read some psalms in Hebrew and the prayer for the Royal Family and another prayer for the State of Israel in English. We were not permitted to utter any words of Torah in Hebrew or English.

Looking back on it now I'm angry in a way it didn't even occur to me to be angry back then. I accepted it all and more. But with my adult head on now, they spoilt it for me. Later when I actually read more of the Torah, with a more feminist head, I felt alienated from this history of the men of Israel.

So what do I tell my daughter? How can I tell her to love the Torah when I don't love it. When I don't think it's very relevant to her as a girl. Yes I know it holds the fundamental laws on which western civilization is based, and therefore it's not unimportant. I agree with don't kill, don't steal, don't covert, honour your parents, etc... Being kind to strangers, turning the other cheek, giving charity, and feeding your animals before you feed yourself are all hugely good and wise ways to conduct yourself. But what about the narrative. The story. Where are the women in all this roaming around the desert?

I could pull up my big girl's knickers and let it go. I could justify it as being true to history. The Bible stories are about an era when women did stay in the tent and were owned by their husbands. The problem is that we look to this book as a guidebook for life. And the commentaries throughout the ages were written by men, perpetuating the whole women as chattels issue.

I took advice from friends at lunch. They told me to forget trying to find a quote from the Torah, there's nothing in there for girls. They suggested a quote from English literature or poetry. Something personal. So this is what I wrote:

To Adiele Hanna Luisa Selby (My Adieli-Weli-Wooshwoosh) 

"Everyone has good news inside her, The good news is that you don't know how great you can be." - Anne Frank

God bless you and make you a good big girl

"You see I love you more each day. Today more than yeterday and less than tomorrow." - Rosamonde Gerard. 

I have no idea what anyone else wrote. Possibly I wrote too much, They might not like it that I wrote in English. Oh well, this is my blessing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Anti-Vaxxers Shocked And Devastated

Spain has its first case of diphtheria in 28 years.  A six year old boy in Catalan has come down with this potentially fatal desease after his parents chose not to vaccinate him or his sister.

The article states that the family is devastated. Obviously. Who would not be devastated with their son in intensive care with a potentially fatal desease.

They also feel tricked as they claim they were not properly informed. I'm assuming that this is not a family of rural peasants with limited understanding of the modern world. Uneducated simple folk are much more likely to do as the doctor tells them and take the vaccinations. So how could it be that they were not as informed as the rest of us, unless they chose not to be.

We were all worried about the MMR and autism connection scare. Those docmentaries were very convincing. And even after the connections were debunked by scientific research, what about the conspiracy theories that said the pharmacutical companies paid to skew or cover up the real results?

I, like every other parent I know, took to the internest and read everything I could about the value of vaccinations, the risks of not being vaccinated versus the risks of the vaccinations themselves. In the end there was no contest. The miniscule risk of an allergic or otherwise bad reaction to the vaccinations against the possible devastating effects of having the actual deseases was a no brainer.

I don't doubt those poor parents who witnessed the onset of autism the day after giving their child the MMR. I personally believe that either the signs were already there and they had not picked up on them yet or maybe the trauma of the vaccination triggered a still latent condition that was going to manifest itself anyway in the near future.

There does seem to be a recognised phenomenon of vaccine induced autism which is different from classic autism, which is still devastaing and life changing. However, 'recognised' means that the courts recognised that the vaccine brought on the condition and made the drug company pay out. It does not mean that it's been scientifically proven. The alternative to taking this risk is a return to the polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, ridden days of previous centuries.

And the parents I find most irrisponsible and deluded are the ones who don't vaccine thinking they are safe because the rest of us have. Not only do they endanger their own child's life but also endanger babies below the vaccination age, old people and those with compromised immune systems. All it takes is one intrepid traveller to have picked up something from a remote corner of the undeveloped world and to return with an album full of photos and, for example, diphtheria,

The health authorities are helping the parents in Spain, who have now had their younger daughter vaccinated, to rid themselves of their feelings of guilt. Why? Feel guilty. I hope your son makes a full recovery and let this be a lesson to everyone.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

An Adoption Time Bomb?

I'm hard on the Daily Mail Online. It irritates me that they don't proofread properly, that half baked articles with no real information get passed for publication, that they write sensational half-truth headlines to get you to click (because a click is a hit for the advertising statistics), and stories that are not stories but just the disgruntled having a whinge in public.

And yet there are times when they use their massive readership and advertising revenue to good use. Times when they grab hold of a story and won't let go until justice is done. And times when they go over and beyond the call of a newspaper to try and help the wheels of justice but sadly can only go as far as the law will allow.

I concede that I'm willing to overlook the shoddy reporting and lack of proofreading on some articles for the flip side, when they intervene and get some customer service where it's due. When they publicize a major injustice and sudenly the company involved apologizes and pays out. When they expose corruption in high places. All this I appreciate.

Today I read the story of Nicky and Mark Webster whose three young children were taken away by social services and put up for adoption because the middle child had some bone fractures that could not be explained. They took the toddler to the hospital, did nothing wrong and everything right, there was no other evidence of anything amiss with their two other children aged 4 and 1. The children were taken and adopted even though the judge (in the secret court) said there was reasonable doubt and no abuse had been seen by anyone or proved. They rejected the plea that the children be adopted within the family.

Three years later they had to fight to keep their new baby and the DM stepped in to pay for first class lawyers and get some justice. They got some justice. "Some." The evidence showed that due to a milk allergy their GP had advised them to give their middle child soy milk instead of dairy. He had been suffering from scurvy as a result of vitamin C and calcium deficiency. There was no abuse, They had followed instructions and loved their kids is all.

Nicky and Mark won the right to keep the baby Brandon and they went on to have another daughter, Both children are well looked after and loved. However the judge said that as the three older children had been with their adoptive family(s) for three years it would be too disruptive for them to be returned to their real parents.

I think the judge was wrong. Three years is a long time in the life of a child but for the girl who was wrenched from her mother's arms on her fifth birthday, she'd had more of her life in her real home. And three years is not a long time in a lifespan of 80 odd years. During the war there were many children who were sent away for three years and then returned.

Howver, it's what has happened since that makes me think those adoptive parents are sitting on a time bomb. One that is due to go off in about three years when the daughter, who is now 15, turns 18. The real parents were supposed to get an update letter and photos every year but this stopped when they went to court over the new baby. The grandparents were supposed to get regular visits but this was stopped. The adoptive parents had to know the whole story. They had to know how the real parents were found to be good parents and had done nothing wrong. And yet they went along with stopping all contact. The children will know this in the future. I'd be surprised if the 15yo daughter has not seen the article in the DM or been told about it.

You cannot go against the courts but you can deprive your children of the truth. Of their truth. You can make a bad situation worse by continuing the suffering and the secrecy. A compromise could have been found whereby the real parents had visitation on some level and communication was kept intact. They chose not to and I think they might come to regret it in the very near future. There are no secure secrets in this age of instant worldwide media.

Me, I dissolve into tears every time I think of that 5yo screaming to her mummy, "Mummy why can't I come home with you? Is it because I was naughty?"

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Book And A Cup

Jerusalem people will know that I'm referring to the iconic bookshop Sefer VeSefel (A Book And A Cup), a second-hand English bookshop in the heart of downtown Jerusalem.

I'm not sure when it opened but it was here when I came in 1988. For over a quarter of a century Sefer VeSefel has been one of the famous places for Anglos to book themselves out (well you know what I mean) whether they be students, gap year participants, new immigrants, or veterans. And I've been all of these in my time. We all have Sefer VeSefel books in our bookcases.

Sefer VeSefel
The book part is obvious but what of the sefel (cup)? It was once a bookshop-cafe. Years ahead of its time. Decades before every trendy bookshop had an in-house coffee shop, we would go to Sefer VeSefel for a cup of tea, a pastry, and a good read. Of all the famous hang-outs of our youth, Sefer VeSefel is perhaps the only one that has stayed constant and survived. Except that at some point the cup of tea part stopped.

Everyone knew Uri Rucham the resident book mavin and confidente. So it was an enormous surprise to read that not only is Uri retiring but that good friends of mine, going back 25 years, have bought the bookshop. (I don't want to brag but the owners of Sefer VeSefel are old friends of mine...)

Zia and Michael Rose are the new proprietors. I went in today to visit and of course to buy some books. I cannot describe the excitement of seeing my friend owning the shop. It's like if one of your friends owned the cafe in 'Friends' and you were one of the friends.

I'd brought in three books from my shelves to exchange. I say 'exchange' as they don't buy your books but rather give you credit towards a book purchase. If you bring in enough books you could in theory do a straight exchange with no money involved. In practice this is impossible for any real book lover.

I took in three books and I left with five books (although two of them were from the bargain boxes outside). It was sort of my housewarming gift to buy a few extra - I won't always buy five books. My three books would have been an exchange for one new book if I added a few shekels.

Here's today's bounty - the five and the four
As I was choosing which books to take in, not an easy task after I'd decluttered my bookshelves for the Yedidya Bazaar in March, I decided that I'm going to read all my books again and only keep those that I absolutely love. The rest can go to to Sefer VeSefel in an ongoing downsizing exercise whereby every three books out equals one book in. This could take a few years.

Meanwhile, as I approached my building on the way home, I found a pile of books sitting on the wall outside. This is another traditional way to get rid of unwanted books in Jerusalem (possibly throughout Israel). No one wants to throw away books. Books are sacred, So we leave them out for the taking. I took four. LOL, I came home with nine books!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Air Raid Drill

This week Israel is testing all their emergency and security systems. Today we had two air raid sirens. At the schools and kindergartens all the children had to go to the bomb shelters. I can see DD's school from my balcony. Here is one of the entrances to one of the bomb shelters a few minutes before the siren.

Here is the same view during the siren.

We had fire drills when I was at school. The fire bell rang and the whole school would file out into the playground for counting heads. Girls sitting by the windows must shut the windows before leaving, last one out must shut the door.

Then in about 1976 when IRA bombs were going off in London, we had a bomb scare whilst packing up all our textbooks for the Christmas holidays (why did we do that?). The fire alarm went off and we knew it wasn't a drill on the last day of term. And when we were marched past the playground and all the way down to the car park, we knew it was a bomb scare.

The police (or bomb squad?) had to come and inspect the building for suspicious looking parcels. LOL, 1,000 girls had just wrapped all their textbooks into neat brown paper parcels and thousands more brightly wrapped Christmas presents were placed under trees in every classroom. Eventually they decided it was a hoax. Probably some boys from another school who had broken up the day before - that was the rumour anyway.

In Israel we do this 5-day exercise every year. We at home and at work are also supposed to go down to the shelter, which each building has to have prepared. Those with reinforced security rooms are supposed to go into them.

A few years ago I was one of the few people in my building who had the key to the bomb shelter because I kept DD's buggy in it. As I was working from home I felt obliged to go down and open up. Actually a couple of neighbours also came down so it was good that I went with the key.

This year the bomb shelter has been in a constant state of readiness (I refuse to use the un-word preparedness) since we had to use it for real last summer. None of the adults I know bothered to go to their shelters - believe me, we remember how to do it.

This evening we had another drill and DD is old enough to understand that it's just a practice and old enough to remember how we did it for real last summer. We didn't bat an eyelid.

But watching the children run out of school and into bomb shelters this morning made me cry. I know we've all grown up with fire drills. Some of my friends even remember drills for a nuclear attack during the end of the cold war. Under your desks and hide your face. I know that it's no big deal. Maybe it's a motherhood thing. It just made me so sad that my little girl aged 6 1/2 has to run out of school and practice hiding in a bomb shelter.