Friday, 21 March 2014

Tightrope

We are always walking a tightrope, but we don't realize it. 
A young mother of 8 has a bad headache and lies down to rest and never wakes. 
On the day that she passed away, my daughter gave birth to a baby girl. The birth was straightforward and uncomplicated, drug free and about as good as a birth could be. The cord was wound loosely around the baby's neck, twice. As the midwife  unlooped the cord she pointed to the knot; a true knot in the cord, not that loose either. We looked at each other. She smiled; after all, the baby was well and vigorous, but what a thin thin line between celebration and sorrow. 
Today a friend passed away, too young, too soon, after months of illness and struggle. She was younger than me by some years and we were friends. I visited her on Purim and was shocked by her appearance, but I didn't think she would be gone in 5 days. She was supposed to start a new treatment program, but she didn't make it. I am numbed by the loss; it is too close and too immediate. I think she is the first of my friends and peers to die and I just don't understand it. 
Who can? We ask 'why?'  but there are no answers, ever. 
I sit here, cradling my new granddaughter, Rashi, and breathe in her heavenly newborn scent, and gaze into her unfathomable dark blue eyes. I think about that knot. I think about Rashi Minkowicz, the young mother who never woke, whose name, by -coincidence? Providence?- was one my daughter had always liked and had chosen before her baby's birth. May this new baby have a long and healthy life, full of joy and celebration. 
I think about my friend. I think about the narrow bridge that is life. 
In memory of Rivka Chaya Hindel bas Nechama Gittel. May her soul be an intercessor on all our behalves. 
I hope she and Rashi are making such a ruckus up there that they force Moshiach to come, NOW. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

STEPPIN' OUT

It's that time of year again, weddings weddings weddings, not to mention fancy-pants gala dinners and parties, and that can only mean one thing...dressing UP.
I hate dressing up. I hate clothes, I hate heels, and I hate the chit-chat and small talk.
And I'm one of the old ladies at weddings now, so I can't get shit-faced and boogie like I used to, with like-minded friends. My knees hurt too much, for one, and I don't want to be the embarrassing drunk old woman. But I am so OVER the shuffling round and round in circles! What IS with that?
Anyway, I might be able to get out of dancing horas but I still have to get 'oysgeputzt' as the occasion demands.

And the basic underpinning of the dressing up thing is what used to be called a 'foundation garment', with its connotations of concrete, bricks and mortar, but is now referred to euphemistically as a 'Shaper'. Popular brands are Nancy Ganz and Spanx.  Another name for this sort of elasticised body suit is a 'teddy'. I will never understand how such a soft and cuddly name can apply to such a restrictive garment, with hook-and -eye fasteners in the crotch, because snaps just won't take the strain. 'Teddy'. What a cruel joke. Spanx at least is more honest.
Because these things are implements of torture, or at least, Bondage and Discipline. Once you squeeze into one of those items, provided you can still breathe, you might as well get the stiletto boots and the riding crop to furnish the outfit. Might as well share the pain, because you already look like a dominatrix.
Of course, the paradox of these garments is that the ones who don't need them fit into them, but those of us who do need them, can't.

Then there's the other thing. The modesty thing. The covering up arms and d├ęcolletage. So you buy a nice outfit that fits and everything, but THEN you have to wear the Metallicus or Vigorella or whatever under garment, with the sleeves and the neckline, ON TOP of the shaper. Wait! Did I mention the hosiery?
Right, so it's the control top panty hose, THEN the shaper, THEN the Metallicus thing. AND THEN, a slip of some kind, because the actual dress is probably sheer. Layer upon layer upon layer.
By this stage, I am feeling like a menopausal super heroine. I often strike poses and sing 'Wonder Woman!' while looking in the mirror, feeling overheated.
And only now- the dress. With a sticky zip in some unreachable place. By the time that's all in order, I'm ready to lie down. But NO! The shoes.
I have almost, but not quite, given up on high heels. They kill my feet, my knees, my back, and if you don't wear them all the time, you walk like a klutz and descending stairs is life-threatening. But, DAMMIT, they make your legs look good. They make the whole get-up look good. And it's only a smidge more pain anyway. So I take 2 nurofen and put on the heels, and carry some ballet flats in a little bag in case of being crippled.

The make-up, trying to hang on to the illusion of youthful radiance, and not really succeeding. The sheitel, flowing shiny locks, such as no woman my age would ever have (according to a daughter who told me this a few years ago. Thanks!).

The Jewellery. When I'm feeling particularly annoyed at having to go to some fancy function, I wear my special pearls. They are enormous baroque white pearls which I received as a 30th wedding anniversary gift. They are so big, I feel like Wilma Flintstone. But they are pretty impressive. So I call them my F#%& YOU pearls. As in, you may be thinner, you may be younger, you may wear heels with insouciance, but F#%& YOU, I've got these amazing pearls.

So I pull myself into a semblance of a glamorous older woman and off I go, tottering on my elegant heels, taking shallow breaths,  and wishing the evening over. Oh, maybe I will have a few wines. To forget the pain.

Mazel tov! Such a lovely evening. Beautiful speeches! Only simchas! Mwa Mwa.
OY.




Wednesday, 12 February 2014

MY GPS; TRUST BETRAYED

People who know me generally think that I am smart, witty, funny, wise- oh, who am I kidding, I have no idea what people who know me think of me. And being that I am anti-social, despite putting up a good effort at being warm and charming, if almost incapable of small talk, I don't have that many friends anyway.
BUT. People who think they know me are often surprised to learn that:
1) I usually cannot recognise anyone that I am talking to unless I have met them more than 6 times,  unless there is something very striking about them, and
2) I have absolutely no sense of direction.

I've talked a a bit about 1) before and what a huge hindrance it is, considering that I am often in social situations, as a corporate wife etc, where I have to attend dinners and tributes and cocktail parties and fund-raisers, and smile and chat with people who may or may not be complete strangers, so I'm too embarrassed to admit to not knowing who they are. If I do, I get looked at funny because I HAVE met that person before (but NOT 6 times, or I would know them. Or they are just so nondescript that they don't 'stick', which is also insulting). Once I actually recognise the person, the name usually pops into my head, so I guess it could always be worse, and I would not even remember names.

Let's talk about 2).
When I say 'no sense of direction', even my husband of nearly 34 years, thinks I mean that I don't know the way to Moonee Ponds (which might as well BE on the Moon as far as I am concerned) or I can't find my way around Sydney. No. I have lived in East St Kilda and North Caulfield my whole life, and I still get lost and can't find streets. I'm talking within a 2  sq km block. I have been known to resort to my GPS to find, say, Hume Rd. I have even driven past my own home, which is on a corner, and I have lived in the same place for 34 years. If it wasn't for the tall camphor laurel tree (a 'Significant Tree of Caulfield') and the distinctive fence, I'm sure I would do it very often.
In short, the GPS changed my life. I have had a couple of really bad ones when the technology was newer, one in particular I was convinced had it in for me and tried to kill me a few times with absurd directions; I was quite relieved when it was stolen. The one I have now is integrated into my Mazda 3 and it's usually pretty reliable. And I thought it had been updated, as per my request, at the last service. But I was wrong.

I'll tell you a story.

Two weeks ago, on a stinking hot summer day, my daughter flew in from Israel with her husband and 2 small children. For some insane reason, my family, and I believe, many Melburnians, feel the need to pick people up from the airport. And drop them off. I've always felt that it's unfair to the poor taxi drivers. Just let them make a living! (Apart from the sort of Lear-esque attitude of 'Which of my children will offer to take me/pick me up, how sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child' bullshit that can come with this simple transport issue, in certain -ahem- families.)
Anyway, since there was a whole family with a lot of luggage including baby stuff, my husband decided that it would need 2 cars, so he and I would pick them up from the airport. In separate cars.

When I heard this, I felt the familiar frisson of terror down my spine. The conversation went like this:
'I don't drive to the airport.'
'Nonsense, you've been there 1,000 times, you know the way.'
'Not as a driver! Being a passenger isn't the same thing!'
'Of course you can, you're a capable person!'
So, still twitching a bit with anxiety, I accepted the flattery (which is true, I am in fact a capable person. With a piece of my brain missing, causing problems 1 and 2, see above) and agreed to go.

A few days before, I asked my son for use of the toddler booster car seat for the 4 year-old, and reminded him to put it in my car the night before. Well, he forgot.
So on the morning, I left the house at 9.30 in order to be at the airport at 11am. This gives me what I call 'getting lost time', which usually comes in handy. But I had to do an extra stop to pick up the car seat from where my son was. Fortunately, this was on the way to the airport. Corner of St Kilda Rd (the largest thoroughfare in Melbourne) and Kingsway (very main road also). So I used my GPS to get there (YES, YES, Melburnians, I know that's ridiculous, are you paying attention? I HAVE A PROBLEM). I found it, and I waited, as instructed, for the seat to be brought out to me, because you can't really park there. And I waited. I texted, I phoned, I called my son, my husband, his office, all the while ramping up the anxiety, until 30 MINUTES later, the seat was brought out. By then, my Getting Lost Time was severely eroded and I was already flustered, so when I took off for the airport, even with the GPS guidance, I managed to miss the turnoff to the airport. How is that possible? I don't know, but I did it. And I knew that I did it, and I knew there would be no mercy from the god of freeways; there would be no exit marked, 'You schmuck, you missed the airport turnoff, but here you go, take this exit and you'll be fine'. No such thing exists. I got pretty upset, I'm not ashamed to admit.

So if you miss the turnoff to Tullamarine airport, you don't end up on that huge 275 degree round turn that takes you onto the Bolte Bridge, with the ginormous yellow artistically stylised boomgate looking thing, and the E-pass toll thingies going beep, and the reassuring pictograms of the aeroplane on the green highway signs, beckoning you to the airport which is less than 30 minutes away in clear traffic. No. You end up on the Western Ring Road which goes and goes and goes FOREVER. You drive and drive and drive and eventually there is a little pictogram of an aeroplane; but by now, I hardly knew what airport I was going to. Yeah, the GPS was still on, but I didn't trust that bitch anymore. Yet, having no choice, I continued to follow her instructions. (By the way, I hope no readers suggest that I look at a map. I don't own a Melways anymore; I threw it away when I got the GPS because I CAN'T READ MAPS and anyway, now the print is too small and I can't even see them. But I digress.)

Of course, I'm getting texts and missed phone calls because PUNKT I had a new phone which I hadn't yet paired to my Bluetooth so I couldn't talk and NO WAY could I stop anywhere to check my messages. Eventually I think I stopped in an emergency lane and pulled myself together enough to let my husband know that I was in fact on the way but I had taken 'the scenic route' (a term I reserve for one of my getting lost escapades, as if the euphemism will blot out the memory of the distress). Then I kept driving. I knew I was getting closer and closer but the GPS was telling me to do stupid things, like U-turns where none were remotely possible, and so, sweating and swearing and shaking, I pulled off into a servo and there was the phone again, so I picked it up and basically screamed at my husband for making me go to the airport because I can't do it, don't ask me to do it ever again, etc etc. And he said, in a slightly jovial tone of voice which made me realise that a) he had my son-in-law with him b) on speakerphone, something like, 'Well, ho ho, I'll remember this next time you ask me to do something I think I can't do', as if I ever, so I thanked him emphatically for his empathetic helpful response and hung up on him. Then I composed myself and went to the guy in the service area and said that I know I sound like I'm mental, but I'm trying to find the airport, I know it's close, but I can't work out how to get there, and he said, 'No worries luv, that's Mickleham Rd, turn right on to it, then turn right at the next corner and you'll see the sign for the airport.' Just like that. And so it was.

By the time I got to the airport, everyone was there and had been waiting for a while but even so, do you think I could see them? No. Anyway, eventually it all worked out and I had my daughter and the 2 kids in the car, with carseats, and, leaving the airport, of course I was in the wrong lane and thought, bugger, I'll have to do a circuit thought the airport precinct, when my daughter, freshly arrived from Israel and therefore fearless in traffic, just waved at the driver in the adjacent lane to stop and then ordered me to push through to the correct lane, and we were on our way.
Amazingly, I didn't get lost going home, even though my daughter, who hasn't lived here for some years, tried to tell me how to get on to Kingsway, but if I would have listened to her we would have been in the Docklands, which she didn't know about. Hah. I was right, and the signage was actually readable and helpful. Not always a given.

Later that day, I had to drive out by myself to the beach house in Shoreham, an hour's drive, with the GPS trying to make amends for all the crap she had fed me, all nice and polite. But the ignorant cow didn't know anything about the M11 freeway and kept trying to tell me to turn off into embankments and things. I laughed at her. I had survived the airport. I could survive this.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

MY BRAIN HURTS (again)

I've so many things that are on my mind
I thought I'd set it all to rhyme.
Smoky haze is in the air
From bush fires which are everywhere.
The winter Olympics started but
All I know is of culling mutts.
Torah Bright, despite her name,
Has come 7th, so- no fame.
Australia likes to score, you know,
Despite Oz not being known for snow.
What else? Oh, Catherine Ashton is a cow,
But that is really nothing new.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day
She gave a speech, omitting to say
Or mention the words 'Jewish' or 'Jew'.
I'd have thought that would be hard to do.
Then there's Scarlett and the Soda Stream;
Now, I don't want to sound too mean,
But she ain't no lover of Israel, no Ma'am,
Cos she got kicked out by Oxfam
For whom she'd worked for years and years.
But she didn't really shed any tears.
Let's face it, who's paying her more dough?
Soda Stream or an NGO?
John Kerry's running to and fro
Tween Israelis and their implacable foe,
And wants Israel to freeze and give
Up land; who cares if there's nowhere for Jews to live?
But he gives no assurances, only threats
Of more intifadas and BDS.
Meanwhile the mullahs in Iran
Are following their nuclear plan,
And Egypt is a total mess
And Syria- well, Allah bless,
How many thousands have now died
While Assad tries to save his hide?
So there's turmoil in the Middle East,
But the worstest place, the biggest beast,
Is Israel, where a Jew who wants to build a villa
Is more maligned than the worst of killers.
Nothing new here, boring, yawn, ho-hum.
Let's talk about that odious bum,
Dieudonne with his new fascist salute
That anti-Semites think is rather cute.
Ironic really, to have Hitler's back,
When he himself is- well- pretty Black.
Adolf was no fan of Colour,
Study history, Mr M'bala M'bala.
So on that note, I take a break
Because all this crap makes my head ache.





Monday, 16 December 2013

FAST DAYS, FASTER DAYS.

Last Friday was the 10th of Tevet, Asarah Be'tevet, a minor fast day which, along with the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, commemorates a stage in the destruction of Jerusalem by hostile forces. On Tevet 10, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzer, began the siege of Jerusalem. I've talked about Tisha B'Av before, where the First and Second temples were destroyed, and which also is a day where many other tragedies befell the Jewish people, and this is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar and a major fast from sunset to sunset. Tisha B'Av alone, I believe, cements the truth of the relationship between the Jewish People and Jerusalem; for why else would we be fasting and mourning, sitting on the floor, not wearing leather shoes, not even using a chapstick or any form of 'anointing' the skin, or bathing, or having any form of pleasure, including sexual, in other words, as deep mourning as in sitting Shiva, if not for the fact that Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael are our heritage and birthright as Jews? I believe that this practice alone justifies our presence in Israel and certainly our right to an undivided Jerusalem as our capital.
But there's more: 3 other fasts, minor ones, i.e. sunrise to sunset, with fewer restrictions, all associate with the fall of Jerusalem. Tevet 10, Tammuz 17 and The Fast of Gedaliah.
(To get you up to speed on Jewish fast days, there are 6. A handy mnemonic is:
Man-Woman
Short-Long (or Winter-Summer)
Black-White.
Man = Tzom Gedaliah
Woman= Ta'anis Esther
Short or Winter = 10th Tevet in the northern hemisphere and 17th Tammuz in the southern
Long or Summer= vice versa
Black = Tisha B'Av
White= Yom Kippur.
I hope that clarifies things.)

So we don't just mourn the actual destruction of the Temples and subsequent exiles, we mourn and commemorate the events that led up to the Main Event; the setting of the siege, the breaching of the walls, the assassination of a Jewish governor; the Babylonian attack under Nebuchadnezzer, the Roman under Titus and Vespasian, the Diaspora.

So we had this land; and we were kicked out of it, and stomped on (Babylonian exile); and we came back and rebuilt and then we were kicked out again and stomped on a lot harder (Roman exile and Diaspora); and we were scattered and settled and were kicked out and settled again and were kicked out again etc etc, (England 1290, Spain 1492 yada yada), but note well that during all this time there was a presence of Jews in Israel and Jerusalem, unless it was decreed to cleanse all Jews out of Jerusalem as during the Byzantine period.

And after 2000 years of exile, we are still Jews, and, remarkably, after centuries of separation, Ashkenazim and Sephardim have the same religion, the same Torah, despite differing customs. But you just have to love it when the Arabs and fellow travellers have the gall to criticise us as some sort of multi-ethnic rabble who are neither a nation nor a culture and therefore do not deserve a country or a state of our own. And who then go to great pains destroying and disputing any archeological link between Jews and the Land of Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, and any anthropological link between the Jews of old and those of today. And of course, Hanan Ashrawi, that Oracle of Truth, jumps on this bandwagon repeatedly.

Yet the Palestinian People, who never had a sovereign state, nor a capital, who never had a king or leader before Yasser Arafat (who was himself born in Egypt), who never minted a coin, who never were known of or mentioned as a separate nation until the Jews laid claim to their own heritage, they want East Jerusalem as their capital; 'Arab' East Jerusalem, as if this nomenclature dates back to time immemorial and not just to the British Mandate with their policy of 'divide and rule' which stood them in such good stead during their colonial years. As if the Arabs were anything but tribes and families before the idea of nationalism was given to them by the likes of T E Lawrence, 'Lawrence of Arabia', in the early 20th Century. And it is still about tribes and families, if not religion, with the Arabs and their social strata. But the manufactured Palestinian people have served their purpose well, as a thorn in the side of Al Yahud, the Jew, who dares to claim heritage of Eretz Yisrael, to be a Jewish State amongst the ocean of Islamic states, thwarting the overreaching ideal of the Caliphate which will ultimately rule the world.

They will never tolerate a Jewish state or a Jewish presence, so they make up whatever they want and the West, which is also targeted for conquest,  and in fact is in the process of being conquered demographically in Europe, listens with earnest tolerance to the lies and bullshit; and the anti-Semites, who never need a reason to hate Jews, then slightly shift their stance to include anti-Zionism (which is really just anti-Semitism with a college degree). 

Meanwhile, John Kerry just keeps hammering away with his version of a peace process, clocking up those frequent flier miles to Israel, searching for a 2 state solution; but the Palestinians themselves are already in 2 states and in bitter internal conflict while sucking up billions of dollars of 'refugee aid'. And Abbas has already made it quite clear that, even if they get Yehudah-Shomron, and even though not a single Jew will be tolerated there, the 'Palestinian right of return' will still be enforced and the remaining vestigial Jewish state would be flooded by 'refugees' returning to homes that their great-grandparents left, or actually never lived in in the first place.

So there's no '2 state solution'; there's only the destruction of Israel. And it starts with the division of Jerusalem and withdrawal from Yehudah-Shomron (I refuse to use the term 'West Bank' as it denies the link of the Jewish people to our heartland of Judea.)

We have mourned the loss of Jerusalem quite enough, thank you very much. What we have today isn't a patch on what we had, but Jerusalem is unified and it's a hell of a lot better than when the Jordanians had it from 1948, when they kicked out the Jews who had been there for generations, till 1967, when Israel reclaimed and united Jerusalem after the 6 Day War. Oh yes, not forgetting how the Jordanians trashed the Jewish and Christian holy sites, subsequently opened and restored by Israel. 

I fear that there are too many Jews who, in the ignorance of our own history, are too ready to give up what is ours. 2,000 years of mourning the loss of Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael is not a manufactured piece of propaganda; it is deep and true and real. Daily prayers, grace after meals, holy day liturgy, wedding day customs, all reflect the yearning for Jerusalem for hundreds and hundreds of years. All these things, even the breaking of the glass under the chuppah which symbolises the  Churban, the Destruction, are not generally understood by uneducated Jews. Otherwise, how could a Jew countenance the loss of Jerusalem?

No division of Jerusalem; no Jewish withdrawal from Yehudah-Shomron. I don't expect the Arabs that live there to leave, nobody in their right mind seriously wants ethnic cleansing. We just want to live in peace.

Am Yisrael Chai.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Rolling home

And so another sojourn in Israel comes to an end. In 4 weeks I managed to go to 2 weddings, one funeral, 2 shiva visits, one tour of the Old City, one political lecture, one fund raising dinner, the 4th birthday of a grandson, and ...drum roll...the birth of a new granddaughter. Mazel tov, thank you, nachas. Always a lot happening here. 
And of course, Chanukah. And Thanksgivukkah! As I mentioned before, a bi-cultural Fress. 
So tonight, the last night of Chanukah, I ate my last latke followed by the last sufganiyah, thank G-d, because I think if I eat anymore they're going to have to use a shoehorn to get me into my plane seat. 
O, Israel, land of the mehadrin Magnum,  yea though I swim every morning and walk around a lot during the day, the calorie balance shifts ever against me. 
It's time to go home, laden with gifts for the folks back home, as well as with mehadrin gourmet French, Italian and Spanish cheeses (yes, I declare them and no, it's not illegal to bring cheese into Australia provided they are made in France, Spain or Italy.) 
I know it's time to go home because my nails are crying to be manicured and my feet ditto. And my eyebrows have escaped all control. I don't feel comfortable letting anyone but my usual peeps look after my aging bod. 
Now that the winter rains have finally begun, I think I have chickened out of my morning swim, I won't be able to walk around much so I guess it's off to the breakfast buffet for one more G-d Bless Israel breakfast. But definitely NO MORE DONUTS. Maybe a magnum later. We׳ll see. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Bi-Cultural Fress

Last night I fulfilled some of my Booba duties by making latkes. A lot of latkes.


Potato, of course, but I was also talked into making some sweet potato ones too. Ok, I can deal with that. Of course there is no comparison to a golden-brown, fragrant, crunchy potato latke, is there? None of this 'bake in the oven' rubbish, it's Chanukah, embrace the oil!
Then the question of accompaniments. Strangely, even though I was raised with savory latkes accompanied by ketchup in the context of a BBQ, I have taken to the sour cream dollop (no BBQ, obviously) but I don't get the applesauce so beloved of the Americans. I don't think it does either the latke or the applesauce any favors. Feel free to disagree. I guess it's what one is used to. 
(I wonder what we did for latkes in Europe before the 16th century, before the potato arrived from the New World? Kasha? I guess we still do eat buckwheat pancakes, why not?  But I digress.)

So tonight I went to a Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, beans, the whole works- but no latkes. So much for Thanksgivukkah! Not that I could have fit any latkes in, and forget about the sufganiyot, I'm over those already. 
And I'm trying to write this while feeling as stuffed as the turkey. My brain is in a food-induced stupor. 
I'm not the first person to notice that Chanukah and Thanksgiving have a bit in common, main point being that they are both about religious freedom. The Pilgrim Fathers were escaping religious persecution by fleeing the Old World for the New. And the Maccabees beat the crap out of the Hellenist Seleucids (Syrian by geography, Greek by culture) because they were denied freedom to practice their religion and because the a Temple was defiled. Then was the miracle of the oil which we remember while eating fried food (OY, do we remember. The heartburn doesn't let us forget). The difference is in the attitude to the food: with Thanksgiving it is a Seudot Hoda'ah, literally a meal of thanks, but with Chanukah it's the classic Jewish theme; 'they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat.'
Anyway, I reckon sweet potato latkes are the once in a lifetime Thanksgivukkah treat and I won't be making them again until 2021, I believe. And as for the 'healthy' 'latkes' my daughter was reading about -and suggesting I make!- containing cabbage and kale and carrots and onions, I say, that ain't no latke. That's fritters. 
Potatoes = latkes, The End. 

Happy Chanukah!