Saturday, March 30, 2019

Crossing The Red Line - R2BC

The weather and DD's school play are my reasons 2B cheerful this week. The linky is still with Becky on Lakes Single Mum as we see out the month of March.

School Play
DD was a monkey in her school play. She told me, "I only have two lines but I exaggerate them. She was great!

The play was a joint project with students from Nissan Nativ - a film and drama school in Jerusalem (like Rada). Kobi Marimi, our Eurovision entrant, went there. Unfortunately he has graduated and had nothing to do with DD's school play.

The Red Lines
We've had the rainiest winter following a five year drought. Not no rain, but very little and not in the north, in areas that feed The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee - not a sea at all but rather a largish lake, smaller than Lake Geneva for example). When we went there in the summer it was a good walk down to the water, over what had once been the rocky sea bed. It was very sad. And two islands have appeared where once there were no islands. However, this year the lake has filled up to above the Lower Red Line for the first time in two years.

There are two red lines. The Upper Red Line, set at 208.8 m below sea level, is full capacity and they open the Deganya Dam to send the excess down the Jordan River to the Dead Sea (also not a sea and now two distinct lakes :( ). The last time they did this was in 2013 following spring flooding and a need to replenish the Jordan River. This is something I would love to see again but it won't be this year.

The Lower Red Line is the point at which they are supposed to stop pumping water as any lower causes ecological damage and the water quality deteriorates. There is 4.2 metres between the two lines and we are only at about 1 metre above the Lower Red Line.

We need to be a good two meters above the Lower Red Line in order to stay above it for the duration of the summer as 1 cm per day can evaporate in the hot weather. Apparently there's still lots of snow on Mt Hermon to melt and, amazingly, it's still raining - with another storm expected this week! I check on the level daily. I'm a bit nerdy like that.

I have to mention that there is also a Black Line, 1.87 m below the Lower Red Line, which is below the pipes so you couldn't pump even if you wanted to. This is also the historical minimum. When things get this dangerous they plan to pump sea water from the Mediterranean into The Kinneret. But we absolutely don't want to go there again!

There's something exciting about heavy rain in springtime because you know the summer is coming so you don't get depressed thinking that this is the situation for the next three months. I intend to enjoy every minute of what could be the final storm this year. 


Monday, March 25, 2019

A Purim R2BC

I didn't get round to doing Reasons 2B Cheerful last week and this week I'm mega late. So lots of catching up to do. The linky is with Becky on Lakes Single Mum.

Purim in the Park
We had a blast. On Thursday we went to Kfar Saba with friends, to a big park for a picnic. This was our festive meal as outside Jerusalem they celebrate Purim a day earlier. (Walled cities like Jm celebrate a day later - dunno why exactly except that Shushan, where the story happened, was a walled city.) [Update: I found out why. The fighting only stopped outside Shushan a day later.]

There were trampolines in the park and elastic jumping thingies that the children loved. We also brought roller blades and scooters so we were well prepared for a long day in the sunny weather. And the weather didn't disappoint.

Butterflies Everywhere
On the way there we commented that there were loads of butterflies everywhere. And in the park there were even more. The next day there were reports in the news about how millions of Painted Ladies had swarmed all over Israel on their annual migration from Arabia and Africa to Europe for the summer. It happens every year but because of the high rainfall this year, there were more than ever before. Apparently these exact butterflies won't survive to make the journey back south in the autumn, but their offspring will.

Queen Esther
We returned to Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon to go to the reading of the Purim Story (The story of Queen Esther) at our friends' house. The 'rule' is that  you are supposed to hear it read twice - once in the evening and once in the morning. It's great fun. Many people in fancy dress and every time you hear the name of the wicked Haman, you shake your noise makers and hiss. As fun as it is, once a year is enough for me. I had intended that DD sit with me to hear it too but the other children disappeared downstairs to play so she also disappeared. However, she'd already heard it in school last Tuesday so she was covered.

After the reading, we all eat. People bring food to contribute to the meal. There are some very wonderful and creative cooks in this crowd. I bought stuffed vine leaves and carefully took them out of the tin before leaving home so they looked a bit home-made. They almost all got eaten so that's what's important.

Liquid Courage
On the Friday, which was Purim in Jerusalem, DD and I delivered some Mishloach Manot (food parcels) and then went out for lunch. Just the two of us as we'd had our Purim meal in the park the day before. One family turned up at our house dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz with a basket containing all sorts of Oz symbols. The miniature liquid courage has gone down well in a hot toddy each night for me. And I have one serving left for tomorrow night too.

A Lovely End
We stayed in on Friday night but went to friends for lunch on Saturday. A great end to a lovely, low key and relaxed Purim weekend (except for the Costume Drama on Tuesday).

And now I'm writing this during a massive electrical storm over Israel. It's of The Sound of Music proportions. I'm a little disappointed that DD hasn't woken up and come running into my room so we can sing My Favourite Things while jumping on the bed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Costume Drama

"I look ridiculous!"
If you've been reading my blog for a number of years, you'll know that DD hates dressing up. Since the age of two, she's refused to dress up in a costume for Purim. Purim, the festival where even adults in the streets can be seen wearing silly clothes and costumes, is a nightmare for DD. I've given up trying to persuade her and she usually goes to school, the only child in her class without a costume. And she doesn't care. Or, like last year, she doesn't go to school.

This year she was invited to go shopping for a costume with her best friend. She declined even though I said she could choose anything she likes from the costume shop. And costumes for DD's size can be up to 250 nis (£50). We have a giraffe onesie in the wardrobe but for sure that wasn't coming out. And so I thought another costumeless year would go by.

Then, on Sunday, on the bus, on my way home from school, DD phoned me. "Mummy, do we have anything that I could use to be a girl pirate? I just don't want to be the only one with nothing for a costume." So I got off the bus three stops early and went into Max Stock (like Poundland). I found one Alice-band with a pirate hat, a hook, and a plastic telescope. 5 shekels each.

At home she put on black leggings and her boots, I found a red T-shirt and a black waistcoat of mine and we were done. For £3. :)

Today was the day that all the kids dress up for school. DD woke up this morning and refused to go to school. She had to go as she had to reveal herself to her secret friend - they've been playing Giants and Dwarfs in the class. So she agreed to go but she wasn't dressing up.

Obviously it wasn't about the money, but I was fed up with the dithering. I knew she'd be happy once she got there. The costume was the most unridiculous costume you could find. I would wear it, without the hat and hook, on a normal day... if I looked as good as DD did in it. So I did what any mother would do. I threatened to take away her phone and her computer, and I pushed her out of the front door in tears.

By the time she got downstairs she had already taken off the hat and the hook. I watched some amazing costumes walking to school. DD looked up at the balcony where I was standing, and scowled.

Four hours later she came home with a friend, all smiles. It had been a really fun day. "Are you pleased you were dressed up?" I asked. DD tried hard not to smile as she refused to answer.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

I Am Someone

Love love love it!
Israel's entry to Eurovision 2019 was released yesterday. I woke up this morning to find my facebook feed full of opinions about it. It seems that either you love it or you hate it. The song, Home sung by Kobi Marimi, has sparked facebook responses like, "I was so bored I couldn't make it to the end." And, "we obvioulsy don't want to win and have to host again next year." 

I love it.

I admit that the first time I listened I was underwhelmed. Kobi Marimi has a beautiful voice but the video was a bit too film noir for me. And what on earth does it mean? 

I listened again. And again. And again. It grew on me so much that I'm a little obsessed with it now. I think I might be a little bit in love with Kobi Marimi. Or maybe it's just that amazing voice and the hint of a smile. It's certainly not his suit which, imo, needs to be one size larger. But the rest is... well it makes my heart sing.

So what does it mean? I think it's like the Josh Grobin song, You Raise Me Up, in that it can be taken as a romantic ballad or a prayer. There is a hint of someone with no self esteem who is possibly bullied until be starts believing in himself, with the help of a woman or God (you choose). It makes him someone. And now that he's found himself, he's coming home. Did he go out into the world to find himself, and therefore is now literally going home? Or is going home a euphemism for going home to his love, place in the world, his childhood self esteem, or even home to God? 

Or perhaps we could look at it as symbolic of the Jewish People - done with accepting antisemitism, we're coming home.

Do we have a chance of winning? I don't think so. Last year's Toy sung by Netta Barzilai (also a love it or hate it entry) was perfect for the moment. It clicked with the "Me Too" movement and spoke to women everywhere. Toy couldn't be ignored but I think that politics will prevail again this year and Israel is not in a good place on the world stage atm. 

The lyrics are below. You decide for yourself. Do listen more than once as it grow on you. Here's the link to the video. 

Caught up in this moment 'til my heartbeat stops
I've been running barefoot to the mountain tops
Nothing comes as easy as it goes
I can hug the water when it snows

I feel the sun upon my skin and I am someone, I am someone
You pulled my heart, I took it in, it made me someone, I am someone
And now I'm done, I'm coming home

I used to listen to the way they talk
Counting down the minutes from the ticking clock

I feel the sun upon my skin and I am someone, I am someone
You pulled my heart, I took it in, it made me someone, I am someone
And now I'm done, I'm coming 

Home was so far, collecting scars, I refuse
Another touch won't be another bruise

I feel the sun upon my skin and I am someone, I am someone
You pulled my heart, I took it in, it made me someone, I am someone
I am standing tall not giving in
'Cause I am someone, I am someone

And now I'm done, I'm coming
Now I'm done, I'm coming
Now I'm done, I'm coming home

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Rather Pleased With Myself R2BC

The rosemary's in bloom
and I'm seriously running out of photos for the blog
There's a local career women's facebook group where they have a Wednesday Brag. Some of the brags are quite spectacular - I've been nominated for a Nobel Prize sort of spectacular. So I can't brag on that scale but I am rather pleased with myself this week, about a number of things. 

The Linky is back with Becky on Lakes Single Mum if you're looking to read more Reasons 2B Cheerful.

Coffee Dates
I think I wrote here a few weeks ago that I messed up with my work schedule this year by agreeing to spread my hours over a full five days. It's nice to be earning the money but, as a single mother, I had no time to meet a friend for coffee once in a while, not to mention all those other errands and appointments that need doing during office hours.

So this week I got tough with my college online students and have made myself available for meetings on only two Tuesday mornings a month instead of every Tuesday morning, Tuesday being the day I teach in college in the afternoon. I have to meet with each online student twice during the year but I found I was going into college for one or two meetings each Tuesday morning. Of course I used the rest of the morning to get work done, but it was annoying.

Last Tuesday morning I went out for coffee with a friend that I hardly ever see. I have another coffee date arranged for this Tuesday - someone visiting from the UK. And I already know who the next friend I want to see is - in three weeks time if she's available. I am very pleased with myself for making this small adjustment that adds so much to my quality of life.

Swimming Lessons
DD started swimming lessons this week. Each year I've paid for a course of swimming lessons for her at the beginning of the summer but this year she gets lessons with her class at school. Every 5th or 6th grade pupil (each school gets it once every two years for both grades) in Jerusalem gets 10 lessons (2/week for 5 weeks) at a local pool. DD was put in the middle group - she knows how to swim but needs to improve style and strength.The lower group is for pupils who can't swim yet and the higher group is for serious swimmers who start learning life-saving skills.

The first lesson on Monday was a bit of a disaster because as she put it, "I didn't have a system for getting showered and changed afterwards so all my clothes got wet." By Wednesday we'd worked out a better arrangement of putting everything into plastic bags inside her swimming tote and taking spare clothes just in case. She also told me that by the second lesson the girls already didn't care about stripping off in front of each other so she didn't have to take her dry clothes into the shower cubicle with her. "We've all got the same bodies, after all," she told me.

Deborah's Friends
We had our annual get-together in memory of a dear friend who died too young. It's not a memorial service but rather a celebration of friendships that go back to childhood. Between 10 and 20 people usually show up for a light supper and a loosely arranged programme. I wrote yesterday about my eventful journey to get there but once I arrived, it was a lovely evening as usual. I have to say that I was extremely pleased with the solution I came up with for getting there and so were my three fellow travelers who were very grateful for my taking the initiative.

This year the theme was all about giving. One friend told us about his volunteer work for Paamonim which is a country-wide organisation that mentors families through budgeting and getting out of debt. All the mentors are volunteers who take a serious 30-hour training course. Check out the Paamonim website. It's in English and fascinating. Another friend spoke about volunteering at the library and how we tend to think that people don't read anymore because of the internet and streamed tv, but actually the library is as popular as ever. One friend works for the Foreign Office and he spoke about all sorts of irrigation and educational projects in Africa that he's involved with. (Turns out that a group of African Principals who visited our school to learn about how we use the greenhouse to teach agriculture, were from a group he organized.) And I spoke about the Yedidya Bazaar as it's close to my heart.

A great innovation for this year is that instead of writing cheques for our annual collection for Zichron Menachem, to help send children with cancer on a fabulous summer camp holiday, we've gone digital. The donations department at ZM opened a group for us so that we can donate directly. I'm hoping that we'll raise much more money as it's easier and also some of our friends in the UK (and USA) will also donate via the website. I organized this and I'm pleased about it but I have to admit that the impetus came from having lost the cheques last year and then having to phone round everyone who was there, apologise profusely, and ask them to send another cheque. Woops.

I wrote an article and sent it to a features editor of a paper. She wrote back that she likes it but needs to give some thought about how it might be edited to suit her paper. And if it's not accepted in the end, I'll edit it for this blog. Win win, but I'm pleased with myself for writing and sending it.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Just Selfish (Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel)

Blue and white workers keep this country going, not black hatted shirkers.
Last night I tried to get to J's house in Bet Shemesh, about a half hour ride from Jerusalem. I dropped DD off at another friend where she was staying the night, and went to catch my bus into town. Who knew that there was a huge demonstration by thousands of ultra-orthodox Jews, blocking the roads leading to and from the Central Bus Station (CBS) and the light-rail system?

You have to feel sorry for them - not. While everyone in Israel has to do some sort of National Service (not necessarily in the military - it could be in the voluntary sector) the ultra-orthodox are exempt.

It's an old law from the beginning of the State, when there were only a few remnants of ultra-orthodox Jewry left after the Holocaust. All the huge Jewish study halls (yeshivot) in Europe were gone. Thousands of years of learning were in danger of being forgotten. Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, decreed that these men could receive a stipend to study the Jewish sources full time and that they would be exempt from Army Service. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And it was a good idea for its time.

Since then a lot has changed. For one thing, we now have an alternative Voluntary National Service for those not suitable for combat. However, the main problem is that after 70 years, and with a religious ban on family planning, there are now thousands of ultra-orthodox men who opt out of real life and spend their days in the study halls. And believe me, they are not all scholars. They live off charity, and/or they send their wives out to work - the women who also have to look after a household of, give or take, 10 children.

They say that they want nothing to do with the State while using the roads, sanitation, electricity, water, gas, engineering, doctors, hospitals, schools, police, transport, agriculture, food, other commodities, and national security that the working people of the State provide.

The demonstration was about new laws that cancel the exemption from National Service. Why should ultra-orthodox men take any responsibility at all? For anything? So they chose Thursday evening for maximum disruption.

Thursday night on public transport is crazy at the best of times as our weekends are Friday/Saturday. Hundreds of people leaving for the weekend. Many with backpacks or suitcases escaping the city after a long working week. With half the system down it was absolute chaos. The buses that could run were crushingly crowded and the roads were in gridlock.

I eventually arrived at the CBS to find that all buses had been suspended until 7.45, after the protest. So after a week spent in the study halls (because they don't work) while others earned the taxes to pay for their everything, they then shut down the transport system so the tired workers couldn't get home to begin their weekend.

It was 6.15. At the Bet Shemesh terminal, people were just sitting and waiting. I had somewhere to be at 8 pm and I wasn't going to wait. A taxi to Bet Shemesh costs about 200 shekels (£42.50) but if four people split the cost... I called out loudly, "Who wants to share a taxi to Bet Shemesh?" Three people jumped up and off we went.

I got to my event on time but people travelling further afield couldn't just take a taxi. And after a while there were very few taxis available. Another friend walked for over an hour to cover the part of his homeward journey that was void of public transport. As he said, not everyone is young and fit enough to walk long distances.

On Friday morning there were special prayers for the new month at the Western Wall. A group of women pray there on new month days, days, which are attributed special status for women. The ultra-orthodox selfish brigade regrouped to heckle, throw stones, and physically attack these women for the crime of praying the full service with a Torah scroll - an act traditionally reserved for men.

The ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel protest against doing army service because combat would sully their pure, but selfish, souls. Yet the next morning they come and beat up women who only want to pray. It's not about purity or serving God. These men have only basic education, if any, outside of religious studies. They are not equipped to think for themselves. They do as their rabbis tell them and for the despot rabbis, it's all about retaining control.

It's all about power.

It has to stop.