Monday, October 28, 2019

Live from Jerusalem, It’s the WP

At this moment, I am sitting in a flat in Jerusalem. No, I’m not on a tour or with a group. I’m visiting friends which means this is slated to be 10 days of goofing off in Israel. Four of which will be spent here in Jerusalem where I also have a mirpeset...albeit with a slightly different view from the one at home.                              
Light show Mameluke period
We just got home from the light show at the Tower of David and, all things consideredit was amazing. This is the first show I’ve seen in person on this scale and I was bowled over. We did the VIP thing which turned out to be pretty smart since it was cold and they provided fleece blankets and some lovely red wine. And reserved seats on the upper tier. The Citadel folks do a pretty slick job of presenting a timeline of the city’s history, from rural to cosmopolitan. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that people live here and have lived here for a few thousand years. They had lives, marriages, births, deaths, good times and some pretty gruesome times. It’s equally easy to overlook the reality of just having a life when faced with the vast, seemingly unending chain of incredibly important historic events. One tends to lose sight of reality when faced with that overwhelming history. It’s easy enough to do.

Here’s the thing: the two Temples were destroyed, Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed any number of times, the Jewish population decimated, defeated, exiled, executed, and denied again and again. But this is our city, our hometown. We, the People of the Land, are the fore-bearers and the inheritors of that less-than-stellar legacy. Call us what you will, it doesn’t much matter. Jerusalem may be home to many faiths and followers, but it was our home first. Kinda like the Indigenous Peoples of North America. We had 5000 years of turmoil; they’ve only had 500. Not to worry; their turn is coming. And we will stand with them because we know what it’s like to be denied one’s home. 

And that’s another thing about being here: I’m not a minority person here. That’s a very heady feeling. I also notice the range of skin color, clothing color, scarf color, eye color, and just about every other selected color and for the most part, not too many people care. Oh, I’m sure some people care because hate is universal, but traveling from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem today, I saw lots of couples whose appearances were vastly different one from the other. I saw Arab Israelis, Ethiopian Israelis. Asian Israelis, American Israelis...all of whom were busy being Hebrew speaking Israelis. If you listed to dimwits like Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib, you’d think Israelis are white Europeans. They are not. They are a veritable well they should be. 

No, gentle readers, that doesn’t mean life is a Utopian paradise here. It doesn’t mean the government behaves well or that there is no strife. There is. Plenty of it. As I mentioned above, hate is universal and Israel has added a whole classification to internal hate. It has significantly less to do with skin than it does with how you believe. Hate flourishes on an inter-Haredi scale that is terrifying. I am equally as certain that G-d did not have this kind of incredibly poor behavior in mind when Torah was given. Nowhere in any of the canon does it say hate your neighbor, much less hate your fellow Jew.  The Rabbinut has cornered that market on self-loathing and, as hard as it is to believe, antisemitism. Israel is supposed to be a democracy, and happens to be the closest government to a democracy in the entire Middle East. The last two Israeli elections have driven that point far enough home so that it is almost impossible to form a government. But that’s a different rant. 

This rant is about what it means to live here, in Israel, even if I am only a visitor. Just as I consider myself to be a New Yorker living in exile in Minnesota, I am also a Jew who lives in the Diaspora. There are more and more days I wonder if I could survive making aliyah. The thought is never far from my mind (especially these days) because ultimately, this is our home turf. Once you’ve walked on it as a Jew, you get it. It feels different. And you are never the same again.

The Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
Oh, and lest I forget, here’s a little Muppet News Flash for the Crusaders: 
ultimately, we won.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Conversations With An Almost-Past-4-Year -Old

If you are reading this on Monday, not Sunday, Almost-Past-4 is 5 years old. But until she is officially five, she told me rather emphatically, I cannot call her 5, almost-5 or just-about-5. Nope. That would be wrong. But I did have quite a conversation with her last night, Saturday, while Junior Son and Mrs. Junior Son went out to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. 

After Young Sir went to sleep, we watched a couple of pre-selected videos. No Cinderella or Disney Princess for my granddaughter! First up was The Thunderbirds. Not the cartoon, but a cockpit view of the U.S. Air Force squadron flying in formation. She loves when the fighter goes upside-down. We talked about whether or not passenger planes could to that, too, and what might happen to the passengers.  We talked about the face mask and why pilots had to have oxygen while flying those F-16s. Now, you might think I don't know squat about those birds, but not quite so. You see, I had a son that was an F-16 junkie. His idea of a bedtime story had to do with payloads and cargo capacity. We had a video drawer full of Wings Over America, Wings Over Europe, Wings Over Wings, Wings over Those Wings. We once pulled off the road in Pennsylvania because he spotted F-type planes on a tarmac. Like father......

The Thunderbirds video was followed a series of clips of soft landings made by Space-X, including one that fell over. That was exciting. We talked about how the feet of the rocket splay out right before it lands, and how hard it is to get it precisely in the center of the landing pad. We talked about the difference between being a pilot and an astronaut. It was a fascinating conversation, that eventually turned to gliding. 

This was a new concept, so we found a video of a guy with a glider and we watched with great interest as he was towed into the air and then the tow was released. I had been gliding, so I told her about how silent it was if compared to being in a plane. We talked about updrafts and downdrafts. At the end of the video, the guy said, "And this is my new instrument panel. Let me take you through it." Little Miss was totally hooked into his talk...until he kept saying instrument. She had me stop tape. "Savta, why does he call that an instrument when you can't play it?"

Try explaining homonyms to a Not-Quite-5-Year-Old. Not as simple as you may think. She told me words cannot possibly sound the same and mean totally different things. I worked on that for a bit, but she was yawning, and it was time to change into Arts Savta!

We turned our attention to tap dancing. Two UPTOWN FUNK mash-ups, one classic that included Shirley Temple (Little Miss could  not believe that Shirley Temple was not much older than she is right now when she made THE LITTLE COLONEL, dancing up the stairs with Bill Robinson) and the modern version. And the last video before sleeping is her standard request when she is with me, the one where the girl goes off the stage to dance. 

Jessica Meir and Kristina Koch
When I am with Little Miss, I try to feed the science and math kid I see growing stronger and more curious with each passing day. I want her to be comfortable in her very mathematical skin, tackling numbers with relish and passion. I want to see her soft landing, flying upside down, and looking at a picture of the two women astronauts, one of whom is Jewish, and think I can do that!

At the same time, I want her to know how to point her toes, execute a proper pas de bourrée, and know how to do a jazz square with jazz hands. I want her to see a Degas and instantly recognize the difference between that and a Monet. My dream for my granddaughter is to have access to all those spheres of knowledge and to have a thoroughly working familiarity with all of them. 

But that's only part of the dream. When she talks to me about what's still in the garden and how it's time to get ready for winter, I kvell. When she asks if the-tomato-that refuses-to-die will give us a tomato in February again this year, I tell her all we can do it water it and hope. There are no guarantees, yet I want to guarantee that there will be a planet to have a garden on! 

The leaves are especially brilliant this year, but I also know that's not necessarily a good thing. The weather was uncommonly wet with sporadic hot and cold patches. I watch maps of the jet stream and even though I know our ability to track it is a relatively new skill, I also know the Arctic and Antarctic core samples don't show a history that matches our current meteorological model. Ice caps are melting and sea level is rising. And the US officially has pulled out of climatology science. This is not a good thing. 

I want all good things for my grandkids. I want them to be happy and healthy, well-balanced and still be able to reach for the stars. 

Most of all, I want to keep having conversations about sciences and arts with my Not-Quite-5-Year-Old granddaughter who, right now, has the world at her fingertips. After all, she gave me really good pointers about my new iPad in between videos.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Let kids ask questions.
Answer the questions if you can, and if you can't, you get to say,
"Let's go find out."
Nuthin' wrong with that. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

No Honor In America

It's getting close to sundown and I have a lot to do before I'm ready for shul and Sukkot adventures with Little Miss over the next two days. This is kinda a family tradition that started when I was a kid. On yontiff we went to shul in the morning and then had an interesting afternoon, usually at home or with friends who were also out of school. With my kids, we had shul in the morning, followed by lunch in the sukkah and adventures with moms and friends. My favorite was always when I arranged for a trail ride at the gone but not forgotten Diamond T Ranch where I worked mucking stables, handling horses, and leading trail. Ah, those were the days! (No money ever changed hands!)

Little Miss and I have specific things we like to do after lunch in the sukkah. We go to Como Park. It's free. This year, we're hoping it's warm enough to walk the Japanese Garden and the Zoo. Then dinner in the sukkah at Sean and Katherine's. Tuesday will bring another lunch in the sukkah followed by a visit to Uncle Misha's friend Ben at the Science Museum. I'm a member; it's free. We will go "backstage" to see wondrous things regular folks don't get to see. 

And as much as I will love doing all these things with her, I will not be unaware. 

Memorial commemorating the murder
of the Jews in Golovanevsk, Ukraine
On the eve of Yom Kippur, the Holocaust Memorial in Westchester County, dedicated to the murder of 900 Jews in the Ukraine, was defaced. On Yom Kippur day, a gunman tried, but failed, to enter a synagogue in Halle, Germany. Feckless Leader turned his back on one of our long standing alliances and is forcing millions of Kurds to flee their homes...again...leaving them to be slaughtered by the Turks.

Now for the part I don't get:  Turks are Muslims. Kurds are Muslims, most are the Palestinian Muslims. There are about 2,000,000 Kurds in Syria. Currently they are being slaughtered by the Turks. We see videos. We hear eyewitness reports. And in America we hear silence.

Where is Ilhan Omar? Where is Rashida Tlaib? Don't those Sunni Muslims matter at all? Where are the demonstrations and the protests? Where is the outcry?

Dozens of IDF reservists have called on Israel to provide military and humanitarian support to the Kurds in Syria following Turkey’s attack in the north of the war-torn country.
“We, as Israelis and Jews, must not stand by when we see another nation abandoned by its allies and left defenseless,” read an online petition started by Maj. (res.) Yair Fink. “We remember very well the blood of our people, what happens when the nations of the world abandon the fate of a people.”  
The petition, signed by dozens of reservists with the ranks ranging from captain to lieutenant colonel, was addressed to Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi. 
The letter was sent shortly before the prime minister himself announced intentions to offer support to the Kurds. 
The petition called on Israel to provide food, clothing, medicine, intelligence and military assistance to the Kurds in northern Syria. 
“Israel is a country that has the means to help the Kurdish people, and now is the time to do so,” it read, adding that while “we know that there are broad strategic implications here, and of course we are not fully aware of the overall picture, we, who have been educated on the values of personal examples and the sanctity of life, cannot help but feel it at this time and would be happy to assist in any action.”

These are important voices in Israel and they are being heard. Israel is reportedly sending emergency aid to the Kurds. That's because Israelis are a racist, apartheid nation that cares for no one but itself. Really? What is the US doing besides removing all the troops from Syria?

From the Times of Israel:
Dozens of Israelis joined thousands of others across Europe Saturday protesting against the Turkish assault on Kurds in northern Syria.
Holding signs reading “never again,” and warning against a genocide of the Kurdish people, some 100 people gathered at Jerusalem’s Paris Square outside the Prime Minister’s Residence to demonstrate against the Turkish offensive and show solidarity with the Kurds. 

“As a Jew, I cannot watch what is happening and remain silent,” organizer Roni Lesser said, according to the Ynet news website. “My daughter just returned from a trip to Poland and we are speaking about ‘never again’.”
It's a beginning. This will take root. Israelis know all too well that what happens to the Kurds can happen to them when the world turns its back.

Where are the demonstrations here? Why are Omar, Tlaib, and Ocasio-Cortez silent? Maybe they like Kurds as much as they like Jews. There are Kurds living in this country. Ask them how they feel right now. 

I don't know if a happy chag is possible this year, knowing people are being erased from the earth because our President unilaterally decided to abandoned them.

You tell me. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Hug your kids and your grandkids. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

What We Can and Cannot Do

Well, once again, it's the night before Kol Nidre, the eve of Yom Kippur. Instead of being at work today, I slept. Pretty much the third day in a row, felled by a lousy cold. Thankfully, I had already scheduled tomorrow, and of course, Wednesday off, but now I will need tomorrow to get my act together for atoning. 

I pretty much know who I pissed off this year, and I've tried to be more consistent with dealing with issues in a timely manner. There were some apologies accepted, others not so much. I worked to own my own behavior, good and bad, and face the unpleasant parts in short order. I dislike having things hanging over my head. I also know there is one apology, made with as much contrition as humanly possible, that will never be accepted. I won't go into the details; suffice it to say, I was wrong, I recognized I was wrong almost immediately, and I apologized at once. It wasn't enough.

We all own what comes out of our mouths and keyboards. If we said it or typed it, we own it. There is no spell-check defense for being an asshole verbally or in print. And the unrelenting instant response makes it way too easy to be just that kind of media is a breeding ground, as we all know. The problem with tweeting-while-pooping is that the excreting of bodily waste seems to give us some sort of cosmic permission to excrete verbal waste at the same time. There should not be a correlation here, but.....

Today, the United States turned its back on a long standing alliance and threw an entire ethnic group under the tanks, not simply the bus. The abandonment of the Kurds says a lot to the rest of the world, none of it very nice. We, the People, have vacated our traditional place as staunch ally who can be trusted. That is no longer a given. We really are not who we once aspired to be. If we ever really were. Hard to say these days.

As individuals, there is little we can do to change the course of this country until the 2020 elections....if they happen. I'm not so sure. The deeper into the international maelstrom we sink, the more I fear for suspension of government. Feckless Leader intimates he will not leave office if he is not re-elected. Even as a joke, this scares me. He's coming to Minneapolis this week for a "rally." that scares me, too.

As I turn inward for the next two days, I will examine and re-examine the past year. I will look to see what I can do better. The forgiveness I will seek will be between me and the Holy One; the KBH (Kodesh Boruch He...or Hu..aka the Holy One) cannot forgive for things I've done to others. 

G'mar chatima tova: may you all be inscribed for a good, kind, and peaceful year. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Fix what you can. Own what you can't. 
Find a way to make peace with yourself as well as others.