Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Smallest War Room of All

I confess, I spend too much time in the bathroom. On the loo, specifically. This was something that probably started when I had a bunch of little kids invading my every speck of personal space, using my body as a hangout and snack bar, not to mention overusing my role as general purveyor of food, entertainment and transport, sometimes 24/7. So where does one retreat in order to be away from the clamour and the needs of others? Where is there someplace private but not too far away, a place where there is peace but not so distant that I could respond in an instant to any cry of distress, like a superheroine, pulling up her tights in a microsecond? Right, you got it. (Although it would only be a few minutes before they started pounding on the door.)

Now the kids are grown and married and no longer noodging me in quite the same way, I guess I don't really need to retreat into the throne room, but there is a definite peaceful place there. And I can think. I can let the house phone go to voicemail. I can reflect on the state of the world.
AND I can be a cyber-warrior.

Yes, when I take my phone in to the loo with me, I do play Words with Friends. I do. And Scramble. Not as much, but I need the sound on to play well, and all the cheering ('Excellent!' 'Genius!') annoys my spouse no end, so it's only natural that I make myself scarce.

But what I really do a lot of is fight for Israel. My right thumb is powerful.

I am so horrified by the blatant open raw anti-Semitism that flies around cyberspace, I can't let it go. And it is a real education in the fact that being anti-Israel is actually exactly the same, but exactly, as being anti-Semitic. And in this I include many Jews; I'm looking at you, JVP (Jewish Voices for Peace). Martin Luther King Jr famously said that anti-Zionism was anti-Semitism, and he was right.
Every anti-Israel demonstration without exception, references Nazis and blood libels. There's really nothing more to say. If people can parade around with placards and banners displaying mockups of the Israeli flag with the Star replaced by a swastika, they are anti-Semites. Hitler didn't fight against Israel: his war was against the Jews. Ergo, any reference to Hitler in any forum pretending to be about feeling sorry for Palestinians, is actually raw, blatant anti-Semitism. The End. And anyone who marches with such folk while holding their own dumb placards ('Free Gaza!' Idiot, Israel withdrew in 2005, why don't you finish the sentence? 'Free Gaza- from Hamas!' would actually make sense.) is a fellow traveller and thus an anti-Semite too. Yes, Ms Lee Rhiannon, Greens senator for NSW, with your made-up surname, I'm talking about you, marching away there in Sydney, maybe no placard, but plenty of talk about Israel's war crimes. And all around you, swastikas and Holocaust references.

Today was the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day which commemorates the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple, and the beginning of the 3 weeks of mourning, culminating in the fast day of Tisha B'Av. These are sad and difficult times, and have been for 2,000 years. As I have said before, the recognition of these dates and the commemoration by fasting and mourning practices proves the deep and true link that the Jews have with Jerusalem; the mourning for the loss of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, in Judea and Samaria, in Jerusalem, is real. It is not propaganda, it is not manufactured, and if every Jew knew this, then we would be united in our desire to be in Israel, with Israel, and not be like these self-hating idiots of the JVP, and other groups. We would not be parroting those phrases 'Occupied West Bank' and 'Arab East Jerusalem' and all those weasel words which undermine our sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael.

Words have power. And, here's the thing, if anyone was occupying Yehuda-Shomron, it was Jordan, (manufactured after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by the British Mandate), which occupied it until 1967. Egypt occupied Gaza from 1948 until 1967; where were the cries of 'Free Gaza' then? Of course there weren't any, there was no Palestine and no Palestinians: there were Arabs and not that many. The population of Arabs rose in Israel from the minute Jews started buying land there in the 19th century; Arabs came from all over, for jobs and a better life in that backwater of the Ottoman Empire. And there was always a Jewish presence in Jerusalem, until the Jordanians came and kicked out the Jews in 1948. Suddenly it was 'Arab East Jerusalem', or better still, 'Historic Arab East Jerusalem', my arse. And let us not forget the pogrom in Hevron in 1929, where Arabs turned on their Jewish neighbours and killed 67 Jews. What 'occupation'? There was no Israel then; a Palestinian was a Jew who lived in Ottoman or British Palestine. My grandfather was a Palestinian.

I could go on and on about this stuff, I'm quite a bore. And I'm trying to educate a fence-sitter or a well-meaning ignoramus from time to time, because you can't educate an anti-Semite. A Hater will always find a reason to hate.
So I sit in a quiet, small room, my thumbs flying on my phone, trying to refute the egregious lies of the 'Palestinian Narrative', which have replaced historic truth in most people's minds, and frees some of them to spew the worst hate-speech and anti-Semitic slurs imaginable. Come to think of it, a toilet is the best seat in the house from which to be reading that shit.

At this time, as Operation 'Protective Edge' seems to be heading towards some sort of cease-fire, despite the persistence of Hamas' missile attacks, let us pray that Hashem will protect the People of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF who risk their lives to protect the people. We all want peace, but it's hard when the other side just wants Israel destroyed and all Jews killed, isn't it. Let this coming Tisha B'Av be transformed into a joyous Yom Tov, let there be a true and lasting peace brought by the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, now.

Disclaimer: The above post was written on a laptop while seated at a desk. Germophobes have nothing to fear from reading it.

Monday, 30 June 2014

No Words

After all the outpourings of prayer and all the rallies of solidarity and all the hashtag campaigns, the bodies of the abducted Israeli teens, Eyal, Naftali and Gil-ad were discovered a few hour ago, buried under rocks in a field in Hevron. It turns out that they had been murdered shortly after they were taken, probably when the kidnappers panicked, thinking that Israeli security forces were on to them. Which they weren't.
So after all the initial celebrations among the Palestinians with the usual handing out of sweets etc, and the heinous little hand sign of three fingers signifying '3 Shalits' who would be used as pawns in a prisoner swap, it turned out that the moronic shithead kidnappers had actually burned their trump cards and have gone into hiding  (and I wouldn't be surprised if they, too, have been murdered for their cock-up, by more bastards as evil as themselves.)
And now the cybersphere is swamped by outpourings of grief and calls for justice and retribution. Oh, nothing from our good friend Obama, who  urges 'restraint' in the response from Israel. I mean, he hasn't yet even worked out what to do about the murder of a US ambassador and 2 embassy staff in Benghazi, so how do we expect him to give a shit about 3 Israeli Jews, even if one was also a US citizen? And the UN, with their description of the 3 'settlers' who were kidnapped and murdered; not teens, not school kids, but 'settlers' whose presence and life in the first place is unacceptable, so who cares that they were killed for being Jews.
At the same time, rockets fly from Gaza and detonate in Sderot, destroying property if not life, and sending the kids on their last day of school running yet again for the bomb shelters.
And Gazan rockets blow up, killing a 3 year old Arab girl in Gaza.
And Syrian fire kills an Arab Israeli boy at the Golan border. You won't have heard of any of this if you rely on mainstream media; it's just not newsworthy. Maybe the rock throwing Arab boy who was killed while in a mob taking on the IDF in Gaza might have made it to the news, of course giving the worst possible impression of the IDF and creating false moral equivalence between the deaths of Arab children raised with incitement against Jews their whole lives, and Israeli children trusting enough to hitchhike in their own country.
The icing on the cake is the threat from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuri, who threatens that if Israel retaliates (to the rocket fire from Gaza),  this would 'open the gates of Hell' on Israel.
These bastards are child-murderers who celebrate death, who rain missiles on civilians while hiding behind their own civilian populations, who openly and brazenly call for the death of all Jews and the destruction of Israel.
I think the 'gates of Hell' are already open. Bring it on, scum.
Israel lives. We have survived this long, we will survive.
While you all kill each other in Syria and establish a 'caliphate', while you rape and kidnap girls and burn churches, while you murder your own children, while you worship your death cult, Israel builds, Israel contributes, Israel seeks to make the world a better place.
One little ray of hope- Mohammed Zoabi, nephew of traitorous Balad MK Haneen Zoabi, calls himself a proud Zionist Israeli Arab Muslim who respects all religions and prophets and calls for peace and support of Israel, and is consequently at risk of being abducted to Gaza and murdered by Hamas himself. I wish this brave 16 year old well, and I hope he doesn't end up like three other teenagers did.
Am Yisrael Chai.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Post-wedding farewell

Well, it's over. The wedding of our last one, our mezinka, the Sheva broches, the whole New York shtick, and today we go home. 
The gown, the fancy sheitel, the heels, the Spanx, the special pearls, all to be retired for the foreseeable future THANK G-D. 
It was indeed a memorable day even though I almost wiped my memory with two - two!- margaritas drunk rather unwisely and too fast just before the chuppah. The combination of heat, dehydration, jetlag, fatigue and tequila almost did me in. I swear that's all I drank all night but 3 hours later, when it was time for me to give my speech, I could hardly stand upright. They had to search for me in the bathroom where I was drinking water and taking deep breaths and trying to clear my vision and resisting the urge to lie down on the tiled floor. I have never found a bathroom floor to be more inviting. And then  it was time for me to speak and there was no lectern or light and, being an old-fashioned girl, I had paper notes rather than a backlit iPad and I couldn't see them. So the bride had to shine a light onto the paper so I could refer to my notes- no way was I risking winging it. Well, I think I did ok in the end but I have cemented a reputation as a lush, I'm sure. Two cocktails a whole night! Unfair. 
It was a great night, people managed to have fun even though there was no dancing- yes, you read that right, no dancing- and I'm thinking that a lot of people were quite relieved not to be shuffling around on a hot squashy dance floor but it was a bit odd. It felt like a fund raising dinner at times. I had to suppress the urge to hand out pledge cards. 
Why no dancing? Cultural collide. My hard core Chabad husband is totally against mixed dancing at weddings and my son in law is freaked out by the thought of dancing with a pack of drunk sweaty men so that was that. And it was fine. 
My kids did, however, manage to cobble together a mezinka tantz, much to the bemusement of most people present, with floral crowns and an enormous garden broom because the cute little prop brooms had been left in the trunk of someone's car, but a broom is a broom I guess. Sweep out the house! All kids married! Praise the L-rd! OY, these customs, who thought them up?
There was a photo booth set up which entertained the crowd but somehow I missed out, and the photos ae hilarious. I wish I had been there! Although I was there, so that was my fault. Damn margaritas. 
I'm making it all about me here, sorry about that. Because the bride was beautiful and the couple was so happy and the families on both sides are delighted and a young Jewish couple start their lives together. Mazel tov! Mazel tov!
But I will never NEVER drink tequila again. This time I MEAN it. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A slice of the Apple

So I'm back in NY for the wedding of my last single, my mezinka, and it's pretty crazy times! We decided to stay in Manhattan, midtown, at a hotel we like, and basically have some time with her before the wedding, and then we fly back home after Sheva Broches and that's that. 
I have to say that there were many times that I said to myself, what would be wrong if she had eloped? How hard would  it be, find a rabbi, 2 witnesses and a chuppah and ring, Bob's your uncle as we say in Australia. Save a lot of spendruliks too. But that's only a joke (no it isn't)(yes it is) because really, what a blessing, marrying off 7 kids. Who wouldn't want to be there? 
But it's been tricky planning stuff from the other side if the world. Anyway, here we are in midtown. Yesterday was Shabbos and we went to shul, Chabad of Midtown. It was a nice day, after a previous day of epic rain, and a pleasant walk down 5th Avenue. And I got to see a Hare Krishna parade, with the whole huge wagons, brightly decorated, with getchkes (idols) and garlands, and chanting and drumming, devotees of all stripes in saris and dhotis, with the air redolent of sandalwood incense. It was something to see. And then we went upstairs to the shul followed by an enormous Kiddush and lunch with the whole herring and kugel and cholent thing and 150 Jewish tourists from all over plus a few local manhattanites. 
We returned to the hotel for a shluf after which we went for a walk through Central Park where we encountered a huge concert of a Puerto Rican salsa legend whose band played music that would make a bronze statue get off its plinth and dance. All free. We met a character there who was clearly a huge fan, complete with snap brim hat and cigar, dancing with random ladies, who wished us a good Shabbos. 
As we made our way back to the hotel in the gathering dusk, we reflected on what an amazing city this us, to which I add, what a great country this is, for all its faults. 
Ok, back to wedding stuff. I'll let you know how it all goes. 
Only simchas!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Recently a horrible video was going around, sent originally by PETA, of an angora rabbit screaming while its fur was being pulled out by the handful by a worker in a Chinese production facility. I'm not that squeamish but I couldn't watch it through. It turns out that the angora that you see in some garments is not, as I thought, shorn from angora goats, but from rabbits who are generally plucked every few months for several years before being killed and skinned. After the torture, they are tossed into their small cages to recover. Sometimes they are shorn, by cruel and clumsy workers from the look of the pictures, but apparently the plucking method results in better quality fur.

I'm not a big fan of PETA and some of the more extreme activism which it advocates, but this left me in shock. We have seen so much evidence in recent years of cruel and careless handling of animals destined for slaughter, whether sheep in live exports, or cattle in Indonesian abattoirs. I'm also not a fan of the anti-shechita brigade, not because I relish the death of an animal for my plate, but because anti-shechita is usually tied up more with an anti-Semitic agenda than true concern about ethical handling of animals. There is no doubt that shechita, while in theory being a humane way to slaughter animals, is in reality often not done in a careful, mindful way. The shochet may be trained to have clean and fast technique and a holy mental outlook, but meanwhile the poor beast is hoisted and chained and flipped upside down; the coup de grace might be quick and painless, but the preparations are usually not. Ditto the handling of chickens.

Seeing the mass handling of meat poultry is also appalling. The first time I saw a kosher shechita line, in Israel at Mifalei HaEmek where the local kibbutzim send their poultry for processing, I was affected enough to become vegetarian for a few years; but I've seen a lot worse since then. (I even had a thing about fish for a while because, while working in the kibbutz kitchen, I had to cut the heads off fish that had been freshly netted out of the ponds; when I severed the spinal cord, the fish jerked in my hand. Very off-putting to an 18 year old, even if I was a medical student at the time.) And the non kosher lines are even worse because despite the stunning that is supposed to render the bird or beast insensate, it doesn't always work; and then the bird is plunged into boiling water so that the feathers are easy to remove.

But, despite all of the above, the rabbit thing was far worse to see. The animal screams and screams, then goes into shock. Then has to endure this time and time again. And for what? A fluffy sweater. At least the poor cows and sheep and chickens only have to go through it once. (Caged chickens might not have the best lives, but nobody is ripping out their feathers while they are alive. But wait! They do that to ducks and geese for their down, it turns out.) I can almost condone poor animal handling for food, but for fancy clothing, not so much.

I confess to be conflicted re meat-eating and I find myself eating less meat than I used to, choosing fish instead, because I have tried vegetarianism and I just feel like crap and tend to get bloated on the legumes. But I enjoy meat. Especially the offal. Which I guess means that I feel better not wasting the non-muscle part of the animal. I also take great pains not to waste meat; it's bad enough to kill the creature for our nourishment and pleasure, but then to throw it away?

But what goes through the mind of the worker, usually in China as that's where these industries are based,  as he straddles the screaming rabbit and tears out its fur, or the struggling goose as he rips the down off its breast? Or the worker that stuffs the corn mush down the funnel forced down the neck of the goose, so that we can eat foie gras? Just another day, another dollar.

One of the 7 Noahide Laws relates to avoiding cruelty to animals. Jewish law also says not to take 'Ever min haChai', a limb from a living animal.  And this is why. We have to be TOLD not to do it. If we don't get told we just do it without a thought. What an indictment of humanity.

There's no end to this and there's no clean and easy answer. We can't all be canvas-shoe-wearing vegans, and vegetarian self-righteousness is just so irksome to me. All I know is I'm not buying anything with angora in it. I can still hear the screaming.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lashed by Mascara

For the next few weeks I'm in between the sad days of Yom HaShoa / Yom HaZikaron, and the next sad days for me, namely, my mother's yahrzeit, 10th Sivan, and my other brother Marvin's on 2nd Sivan- so one before and one after Shavuot, which effectively screws Shavuot for me, by the way.

I have to get my mind off all this loss and sadness, and the best way I know how is to be really annoyed about something trivial! So here goes:

MASCARA. I have almost given up on mascara.

Right now, this is what I have. Now, aficionados  of mascara will look and say, huh, well, what do you expect, there are 2 cheapy-cheapy Maybellines, one Kirkland- Costco!- one Rimmel and one- what 's that? Arbonne. (That's a company like Amway crossed with Nutrimetics, on steroids, and I do use their products which I get through my dealer, and it's all good EXCEPT for the mascara, which is not. Despite her enthusiastic endorsements.)

None of them is any good. They DON'T go on smoothly. They DON'T cover every teeny lash. They DON'T last a working day. They DO shed little particles which irritate my eyes.
Even though they are cheap (ish) they make promises. And they should keep them, but they don't.
AND I have used many fancy-pants mascaras with funny brushes. I can't even list all the brands but I don't need to because they are all disappointing.
Revlon can't make a good one to save its life. Fancy designer ones - Guerlain and whatnot- not worth it. I think I had a good Orlane one once, but when I went to find one again, I couldn't.

So right now it's not too 'shvartz far'n oigen' ('black before my eyes' - i.e., sad, tragic) but it's 'shvartz unter der oigen' - black UNDER my eyes, and it's enough already!

I have gone back to my Ageing Rock Chick sort of look with a line of Kohl on my lower lid line, and I DON'T CARE, it looks better than crumbling mascara flecks on my under-eye pouches and it's less irritating.

BUT. If there are any readers out there who can suggest a brand I haven't tried, I'm still listening.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Yom HaShoa 2014

The Melbourne Yom HaShoa commemoration is an important fixture in the calendar. Seeing that Melbourne is home to the largest population of Holocaust survivors, outside Israel, it would seem fitting that we have a well-attended evening.

There is a formula to the proceedings, with the testimony of a survivor being the most important part, I think, as well as the lighting of 6 candles by 6 survivors and a family member. There are children's choirs, representing the Jewish day schools, there is a speech from the Israeli ambassador and there is Kaddish recited, tehillim, El Melei Rachamim, the Partisans' Song, and we start with the Australian national anthem and end with HaTikvah. In our city with about 55,000 Jews, about 1,000+ come to the commemoration evening. It goes for about 2 hours.

This year there was focus on the story of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, which took place from close to the end of the war, 1944, when the Nazis knew that were losing; yet they ploughed on ahead with the Final Solution. They were losing the war to the Allies, but they diverted time and resources to at least win their war on the Jews.

In something like 8 weeks, around half a million Hungarian Jews were murdered. Amidst the horrors of the Holocaust, this intensity of murder is a standout. While Jews were being liberated on one front, the Hungarians Jews were being obliterated on another.

I won't nit pick about the evening itself and about what could have been edited (but I will say that at last, the candle lighting was done electronically with a remote control clicker, or 'kvetcher' as I refer to such things, and we didn't have to sit on the edge of our seats in suspense, waiting to see if the match would strike or if the candle would stay lit etc. So that was an improvement.).

The schools represented by choirs or readings are Mt Scopus (Modern Orthodox) Yavneh (Dati Leumi- Zionist Orthodox) Sholem Aleichem (Yiddishist- they have a strong presence despite the small size of the school- the Bund is alive and well in Melbourne, the last stronghold) and I'm pretty sure the other schools are there too- King David (Reform) and Bialik (not sure how they are classified, but Jewish)... I think I got them all, I apologise to any I missed.
Beth Rivkah, Orthodox, Chabad, has a young girls' choir that sings at the beginning of the proceedings; their youth means that the laws of Tzniut are upheld, plus they sing alone so they aren't in a mixed choir; for years it has been thus and everyone is OK with it.
Yeshivah college boys, ditto Chabad, in the past have read Kapitel 20 of Tehillim in Hebrew and English and sometimes, Yiddish. (This year, inexplicably, it was Psalm 23, which doesn't really fit, and it was read by 2 girls, not by Yeshivah boys, so I don't know what happened there.)

But every year, among all the community groups, there is one that is missing; the Haredim.
It seems that Chabad is the only Haredi/Orthodox group that does the heavy lifting, or any lifting at all. The other Orthodox groups, I guess in Melbourne I'm talking about Adass Israel, are never there. This year it was particularly poignant, as there is a strong Hungarian history in the Adass congregation, with quite a few survivors' families making up the congregation. Another small school, such as Yesodei HaTorah, has been around long enough to field a choir, I would think; but also a no-show.

I need someone to explain this to me. It's not just in Melbourne either. On my last trip to Yad Vashem in 2012, the director of the English Language desk, Searle Brajtman, said that they were just starting to see Haredi couples and youths coming in to look around; it was as if they had just discovered the Shoa.

In 2011 I attended the incredibly moving Yom HaShoa commemoration in Jerusalem, and again, I don't remember seeing any Haredim there, in a crowd of about 2000 people.

I don't get this. I would think that the Shoa has meaning for all Jews, especially Ashkenazim, especially in Israel and Melbourne, with such strong historic links to Europe. Hitler did not differentiate between the 'frum' and the assimilated, or between the traditional or the intermarried or the converted, or full Jews or 'mischlings'. All were targeted, all were murdered.

Whatever it is that is stopping Haredim from attending the Yom HaShoa night in an official and visible way, it must be put aside. If they want to cloister themselves and live in a self-created shtetl in Melbourne, well, fine; but this is a night where community counts above all. After all, we have much more in common than we have differences. This deserves recognition.

We are all descendants of the 6 million martyrs and the surviving remnant of European Jewry.
May their memories be blessed- by all of us, in togetherness.