Tuesday, 5 September 2017

How Chosen is TOO Chosen?

I was looking at something on Facebook, and it was some feminist topic, and the comments ranged from reasonable to troll, and then there was a negative sort of comment from some guy who had a very Jewish sounding surname, Rosenberg or something like that. It was a rather dicky response, among many; but the first thing I thought was - uh-oh; I wonder how long it will be before one of the sisterhood picks up on that.
Well, it won't surprise you to hear that it didn't take long. Not more than a few heartbeats, actually. And then it was, surely YOU would know of oppression and victimisation; and how could you possibly take that stance, after all YOUR PEOPLE had to deal with discrimination  yada yada; and my personal fave (NOT), haven't you learned the lessons of the Holocaust and where bigotry leads etc etc.
(I just Love that 'lessons of the Holocaust' thing that Jews haven't learned. Oh, I've learned these lessons well. It goes like this:
1) We Jews can't rely on anyone but ourselves, and
2) Without Israel, we are screwed.
You idiot, YOU'RE the one who is supposed to learn the 'lessons of the Holocaust'. And that is, don't be a fkn BIGOT, and don't be an ANTI-SEMITE.
But I digress.)
And a few people were debating on whether this was actually a Jewish name or perhaps a German name? So was the writer among the discriminated against, or among the oppressors? My impression was just that the guy was just a douche, and if his name was John Smith, it would have ended there. And don't forget, this was not exactly Storm Front I was looking at, it was a feminist site, love, tolerance, acceptance, kumbaya.
So my question is this: When will you all just get over the Jews?

I have a fantasy of a Q& A session with a bunch of people in the room, where I ask everyone, how many Jews do you think there are in the world today?
I have asked this question even of Jews, and it's amazing how few people actually can answer.
So let's be a bit roundabout; what is the population of the world? Oh, easy one, about 7 billion.
How many CATHOLICS are there in the world today? Not, Christians, but Catholics.
About 1.4 billion. (There are about 2.3 billion Christians, in case you were wondering.)
How many Muslims in the world? About 1.8 billion. The most rapidly growing of the major religions.
OK, let's go geographical: What's the population of China? about 1.4 billion. And India? A bit less, say1.3 billion. The US? About 330 million, less.
And what's the population of Australia? About 24 million. And in Australia, how many Jews are there? Ooh, bit of head scratching in my Q&A here. Two million? A million? NO. About 100,000.

So how many Jews are there in the world? Wildly varying answers. 100 million? 50 million? NO.

Let's go historical: How many Jews perished in the Holocaust? Most people know about the 6 million. Fewer know that 1.5 million were children.

So how many Jews were there in the world BEFORE 1936? I'll tell you: about 15 million. About 9.5 million in Europe. This means that over ONE THIRD of the Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. You know the word 'decimated' that is thrown around when people describe massacres and devastation? That means that one in TEN people die; it was a punishment meted out by the Romans against rebels or whatever. The Jews were triated. One in 3 Jews of the world population of Jewry, were killed. One in THREE. If you look at just European Jewry, TWO out of three Jews were killed. This is why, by the way, we can't 'get over the Holocaust'. You know that argument, I suppose? Move on! War is hell! Millions more died in World War 2, especially Russians, about 20 million directly due to Stalin's policies. Let bygones be bygones! Stop playing the victim card! And other BS. Not even going near the deniers, by the way, this is just general comment.

Anyway, we come back to our original question: How many Jews are there in the world today?
And the answer is (drum roll) around 14.5 million.

We have not yet reached the pre-Holocaust population.

I think the only religious groups with fewer adherents are Baha'i and Zoroastrians, and if you add up all the pagans and spiritists, there are far more than there are Jews. Hell, in Australia there are as many Jehovah's Witnesses as Jews, and nearly as many Mormons. Do people go on about these religious minorities?

Jews comprise 0.2% of the world population of 7 billion. You can't even see us on a pie chart of the world.

I know we punch above our weight in Nobel Prizes and stuff, but still. And don't get me started on Israel, (7.8 million, 6.5 million Jews) surrounded by 340 million Arabs, 92 million in Egypt alone, and yet - big bad old Israel, what a threat to the world. When it's not making breakthroughs in medicine and science and tech, that is.

So tell me, why can't the world just GET OVER THE JEWS?

It's like the old joke where the Jew asks G-d, 'Is it true that we are the Chosen People?'
And G-d says, 'Yes, you are my chosen people.'
'Well, would you mind choosing somebody else for a change?'


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Jewish Pyromania 101

Lag B'Omer

What is it with Jews and fire?
We're hopeless but we can't keep away. 
The siren song of the fickle flickering flames beckons us. And now we are nearly upon the mother of all Jewish fires- Lag B'Omer. 
It's not enough that we risk immolation every week, not only with shabbos candles, or, better, oil lamps; no, we also have the blech on the gas flame which burns for 26 hours. And every festival demands the 48 hour yohrzeit candle, used to light the festival candles. 
And of course every yohrzeit calls for its candle. Flickering naked flames dot the year. And Chanukah of course; especially when every kid in the household has his or her own menorah to light, and then the smoke alarm goes off. 
Then we build up to the burning of the chametz, which every year brings its share of disaster. Jews! You cannot build a fire for the purpose of burning chametz and then shove plastic bags of bread into it. Do not burn plastic! Toxic fumes! And don't nearly smother the fire and then decide, thinking it a stroke of genius, to revive the fire with accelerant! You will blow yourself up, for real. And yet, every year otherwise quite intelligent people do this. If they're lucky they only singe their forearms and maybe lose an eyebrow or two. 
But all of this petty chometz toasting is nothing compared to the Lag B'Omer bonfire. I've been to Israel for Lag B'Omer and I am totally amazed that entire neighborhoods don't go up in smoke. The kids scout the locale for weeks before looking for anything combustible. You see them with their little wagons and wheelbarrows, multiple siblings down to about 2 year olds, scavenging building sites for bits of timber, parkland for dry twigs, rubbish dumps for furniture legs, anything. And on the big night, it all gets piled on and of course on goes the accelerant and WHOOOSH, huge conflagrations around which everyone dances like imps in Hell. It's insane and terrifying and all I can say is that the Israeli firefighters, who are for sure on high alert, are doing a sterling job of saving Jews from their own pyromania. I bet they just roll their eyes every time they are called out. I can just imagine:
'Od paam im haNeft, achi?' 'Again with the kerosene? What's it going to take? Burn down the whole street and melt the road? Put your kids in hospital? Enough already with the damn bonfires!'
And then they go back to the station to their mangale, which is a barbecue grill set over, you guessed it, open flame. There is no celebration in Israel that doesn't involve a mangale. At least nobody puts accelerant on that fire, because the meat would taste disgusting. 
Jews and fire. Not a good mix. So this year, please be careful and don't do anything stupid. You don't need bloody Vesuvius just to toast marshmallows. 

PS Can someone remind me why we do this in the first place? 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Yom HaZikaron 2017

I've told the story of my brother, Yehudah (Julian) Pakula, who fell on Yom Kippur 1973, at the Mezach, an outpost on the Suez, part of the 'impregnable' Bar Lev line of defense. He was a kibbutznik doing his reserve duty and he was one of the first casualties of the Yom Kippur War. Wrong place, wrong time, balls-up of a war. 
I just remembered another story. Because every time I visit Israel, there is another story; everyone knows everyone. 
My family - my husband's family actually- different surname- had donated money to build a small park in Chevron (Hebron). If you've ever been to Chevron you would know that there's not much joy there for the Jews who live there- almost without exception, for ideological reasons- and the kids don't have any green area to play in. 
So in 2012 the time came to 'unveil' the park. There was a wooden plaque set up, dedicating the park and thanking the donors. It is called Gan Dagan, named after a commanding officer of the garrison in Chevron, Dagan Vertman, who had fallen  in 2005 in Gaza. He was well-liked by the community, and was in fact related to Rabbi Danny Cohen, the Chabad rabbi of Chevron who was the main fundraiser, who basically noodged us to donate to this cause, among others. 
Anyway, my husband and I and my parents-in- law came, along with most of my husband's family. It was Channuka time, quite cool, but the night air was clear and pleasant, and the little park was pretty, and nicely lit. There was a table laid with piles of sufganiyot, Channuka donuts. There was a menorah lighting. 
Dagan's parents, Eli and Debbie Vertman, were in attendance. Eli spoke of his son, and it was very moving. My mother-in-law was asked to speak, and she made a short speech in which she mentioned how sad it was that Dagan had died, and gave condolences, and I can't recall what else she said. 
Eli became quite agitated and quietly but firmly corrected my MIL, saying the Dagan didn't 'die'; he was killed, and there is a difference. 
I was at the donut table, I regret to say, and didn't know what was taking place a few meters away; but my husband was talking to Eli, and calming him. He apologized, told him that we meant no offense, we were no strangers to bereavement; his father was a Holocaust survivor.  'In fact', he said,'my wife lost her brother in the Yom Kippur War.'
At that, Eli raised his head and said, 'Point her out to me.'
My husband beckoned me over and introduced me. 
Eli looked at me hard; then he called his wife Debbie over, and said:
'Hinei haachot shel Yehuda Pakula.'
'This is the sister of Yehuda Pakula.'
Just like that. I nearly fainted. 
Turns out that Debbie had been in the same Garin -group of young kibbutzniks, sent out to start new kibbutzim- as my brother. She befriended Yehudah. And he was Australian. And we are from Australia. And how many Australians were killed in the Yom Kippur War? One. My brother. 
I still get goosebumps when I think of that encounter. And there have been others, similar. 
We are all one family. We are all limbs of the one body. What happens to one of us, happens to all of us. 
May the memory of the fallen be blessed. 
Yehi zichram baruch.  
Am Yisrael Chai. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Commonality of Loss

Bibi is nearing the end of his Australian tour, which has seen him greeted like a rock star by school kids, subjected to questions both stupid and smart from journos, written up in all the papers, and it seems to be that there's not too much protesting going on from the usual suspects, the JVP or the regular antisemites. That could have something to do with the masses of security people he has with him? Well, if anyone needs security, it would be Bibi.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to lunch with him and 1,000 intimate friends in Sydney, so I flew there and joined the fray. The format was welcome from MC, eat a bit, then speeches from the PM Malcolm Turnbull ('I love and admire Israel and the Jews!'), then from Opposition leader Bill Shorten (I love and admire Israel and the Jews even more! Even though my party is being hijacked by pro-palestinian factions. Plus, I did more research on my speech!'), and then from The Man himself. Then eat more. Then a 'Q&A' with Bibi and Malcolm, except that the only person allowed to ask anything was the MC. That was a bit lame, I thought.
Anyway, I wanted to talk to Bibi. There's a lot I want to say to him, like, don't fawn so much on Donald Trump; and if the economy is so fantastic, then why are Holocaust survivors having to choose between buying food and buying medicine? Why do we diaspora Jews donate millions of dollars for social programs helping youth at risk, and the elderly, and the poor, and supply reinforcement and bomb shelters to those on the periphery, out of the cities? And please explain why there has been zero trickle-down effect from the booming economy; instead we see that a few people have become very wealthy from selling their successful start-ups to large companies, but not a lot of jobs are created and Israelis are generally struggling. There are some exceptions, but not enough.
But I know I wouldn't be discussing this with him, because - well, lame Q&A, and huge security. Yet, there were few opportunities between entree and main, and after the speeches, to approach him. So in the end I had my 90 seconds with Bibi. It went like this:
Hello, hello, hand shake, smile. Then:
'We have something very sad in common; we both have lost brothers, and my brother is buried on Har Herzl 6 graves away from yours.'
He stopped and actually looked at me. The smile slipped away from his face.
'My brother was on Miluim and he was killed in the Yom Kippur War.'
'The Mezach.'
(All Israelis have the same reaction to that word- always a grimace of pain, because it was such a debacle; and so did Bibi.)
 'And then his body wasn't returned until the Camp David Accords, so not until 1978 was he buried, so that's why he and Yoni are so close to each other.'
'What was his name?'
'Yehuda Pakula.'
I won't say that his eyes filled with tears, because they didn't. But he gave me such a look of sympathy, and the understanding of the pain of bereavement was so clear. And then he smiled sadly and shook his head, and was whisked away.

Soon after, I was standing in a line in the hot Sydney sun, waiting to be processed by security outside the Central Synagogue, where Malcolm and Bibi would address 2,000 of the faithful. I had been standing in the registration line for over an hour, and there we all were now waiting to be searched. I felt a bit swoony and wondered if I was actually going to pass out, but then I found a patch of shade and I realised that I knew the tall, nice looking guy in front of me; he was an Israeli that I had met on Keren HaYesod business in Israel, and here he was! (I'm not usually good with faces but this guy looks a bit like a movie star (Christopher Reeve, FYI) so I even remembered his name which NEVER happens.)
'Hey, Adi! How are you?'
'Hi! How are you!' Etc Etc.
And then he introduced me to the person he was with, a slight young man with a pleasant manner and a relaxed smile. His name was Tzur Goldin.
'Why do I know that name?'
'Because you know the name of my brother, Hadar Goldin, who was killed in Protective Edge.'
So it turns out that his parents are going all around the world to raise awareness of the fact that his body has to be returned for burial, but Hamas still refuses to return him. And he is in Sydney to speak also.
So, twice in one day:
'We have something very sad in common, then.' And I gave him the rundown, but the thing is that awful waiting time, those years until my brother's body was returned. That's what we had in common this time.
'We had to wait over 4 years to get my brother back from Egypt. But we did. Dental records, dog tags, cadaver dogs. It took a peace treaty. But he is buried in Har Herzl, very close to Yoni Netanyahu.'

From Yehuda, to Yoni, to Hadar. A chain of loss and bereavement, of parents and siblings coping however they can. I'm happy to say that grief counselling is available today in Israel,  because there was nothing around when my brother was killed, not in Israel, nor in Australia, and I would think the suffering that we- my mother especially- experienced was all the worse for that.

So next time we meet, Bibi, we'll talk about social justice. And meanwhile, let's pray for the time that there won't be any more bereaved and desperate parents and siblings.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Send in the clowns?

I was thinking about the shemozzle that is the state of the union right now in the US, and it occurred to me that Donald Trump is Achashverosh. 
He is the perfect embodiment of a powerful, impulsive, cunning fool. Really, think about it. What other powerful leader can you think of who throws out orders without too much thought, who makes comments and tweets with even less thought? The media might be doing a job on him, but when it comes to making Trump look bad, I think he's doing a great job by himself. 
And the cronyism. And the surrounding himself with 'advisers' who just seem to enable him. I mean, if they are somehow reining him in, then I do not want to see what he is like when not being reined in. 
And is Melania Vashti? Exiled from Shushanington (I'm not saying he'll off her, but she sure ain't Esther, even if she did win some sort of beauty contest in Slovenia.) (I'm pretty sure Ivanka isn't Esther either, and nope, Jared may be a smart Jew, but he ain't Mordechai.)

So Trump is Achashverosh. But he is not Haman. Haman is alive and well in Persia - Iran- from whence we have just heard the latest threat, about how it will take only 7 minutes for the missiles to reach Tel Aviv once they are launched from Iran. 
So let's not forget who the real enemy is. 

And let's hope and pray that Achashverosh will do the right thing when called upon.  

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Year of Shopping Dangerously

This year was a busy one for travelling, because 3 grandchildren were born overseas (and 3 here...mazel tov, much nachas ptu ptu ptu), and travelling means jet lag, and jet lag means having time to scroll through my phone in the wee small hours looking at interesting shopping sites that pop up on my FaceBook feed. Especially when I am by myself, because of course presence of He Who Must Be Obeyed cramps my phone shopping style. A Lot.
So it's time to look back now and see how much was actually a supreme waste of money, and how much actually stacked up to be worthwhile.

It looked like such a good idea. OK of course it's a Chinese site so quality control is but a dream, but all I wanted were some summer dresses that I could just fling on, that covered arms, legs, not too low in the neck, and yet I would be cool and comfy. Yes, I know the models in the pictures are tiny petite Asian women, but they offered a good size range. Banggood.com was one site, I can't even remember the other. I measured myself and worked with their size chart. I bought 3 dresses for less than $100. I then bought another dress on the other site for about $30.
The first parcel arrived. The white dress made me look like an unlikely virgin sacrifice. The red dress, which looks like a brick red on the site but is actually vermilion red in the real world, will come in handy for Purim. The brown dress actually looked and felt great. And then I washed it- according to instructions!- and it shrank. Actually, the word 'shrink' doesn't really cover what happened. It contracted. Like 3 sizes, in all directions. Unwearable. My diligent housekeeper ironed and stretched it and it's better but too short now. So FAIL.
The second parcel came. The blue dress fit and looks ok - blue is my colour- and I wore it once, it got some food grease on it, and I had it dry cleaned. Of course, it is cheaper to buy another few dresses and throw them out, rather than dry clean them. So partial success, not as far as 'easy care' goes.
Inexplicably, there was another brown dress in this parcel, which I did not order - at least I don't think I did, but I probably did, it's all a mad whirl -which SAID it was larger than the other one, but was in fact far smaller, and didn't even make it round my shoulders, forget my tummy. So it's in the op shop bag. FAIL.
Contrast this sad experience with the US sites I purchased from:
Bloomingdales- Eileen Fisher skirt and top, crazy Columbus Day sale, WIN
Eddie Bauer - leggings, T Shirts, travel skirt, also crazy sale, WIN, had to return some leggings, no problem, my card credited.
Jockey undies- eh, so-so, I liked some that I had bought in store, so I ordered more, and turns out I don't like them as much as I thought. I am always searching for the perfect undies. Aren't we all.
Vanity Fair- same idea, bought in store and liked, and went online to buy more. These are supremely comfy but I would have liked a little more holding power. I don't want Spanx, but there must be something between these and Spanx. Partial win. (They really are comfy.)

While scrolling the Bloomy sales at 1 am, also ever-searching for gifts for my girls and grandies, I found assorted Kate Spade bangles, some lovely little single pearl necklaces and other bits and pieces which were well received, so big WIN there.
And I also found wearable tech, in the shape of a Q-bracelet, that you can charge your iPhone with. Big sale, like 60% off, so I bought a gold bangle; range was gold, matte black, and matte silver. 'We suggest that Small fits most women and Medium fits most men', so stupid me, I bought a Small, forgetting that I am not Most Women, although my wrists are hardly large. So I gave it to my slim-wristed daughter-in-law, she likes it, it looks great, it really can charge your iPhone enough to get you out of trouble, so WIN. And I went back and ordered 4 more, because I am mental, and because free shipping to Australia (I was home by then), through Borderfree, which is amazing. So I have 2 now, gold and black (Medium) , and 2 more waiting for a recipient. Semi Win.

Stuff for Kids:
I've bought lots of stuff online for kids in the past, but that was from reputable sites, so not really risky. But this year, I saw these mermaid tail blankets and I bought 3 which I will be giving to 3 granddaughters for Chanukah, so let's wait and see how that goes. They seem to look OK, of course some obscure Chinese site, so better be good. Win? not sure yet.
I'll just mention Peter Alexander, whose PJs I have been buying for grandchildren for years, but only on sale because overpriced. Such cute stuff.

Kitchen stuff:
Well, what a mixed bag.
The first thing that sucked me in was the Pyramid Pan. At first I looked away, but after a while it called me back, and again, and then I thought, screw it. And I bought 4. The parcel arrived and out flopped one silicone Pyramid Pan. Odd, thought I; maybe they are sending the rest separately. The invoice suggested that there were 4, and the rest was in Chinese, so, I waited. And waited. And then it occurred to me that there was an email somewhere confirming the order, so I found it and told them about only one, where are the others etc, and they said: Have you checked that they aren't all stuck together? And I did, and they were! So the good news is that all 4 came, but the bad news was that they were a LOT thinner than I thought they would be. BUT. They REALLY WORK. Reheat pizza, fried fish, schnitzel for a really crispy finish! So unexpected WIN.

Feeling confident, I ordered the Stretch and Fresh, 4 sets -  I don't know why I do that- and they came, no problem. And they are, in the main, despite glowing testimonials, unusable. It's as if what I have received bears no relation to what was offered. You need 4 hands to do it, they don't stay on, and when I tried using one in the microwave, for which they are supposedly safe, it tore. However, serendipitously, I have found that they are great for opening jars; they give you great grip. Still, I would call that a FAIL. All complaints have gone unacknowledged. So I gave them a really crap review. Don't mess with me.

Pictured: Stretch and Fresh FAIL.

House stuff:
BIG SHERIDAN SALE online and I ordered sheets and towels. The ones I bought 25 years ago (!) are wearing out, so this might be the last I ever buy. But does my party pooper husband appreciate that? No he doesn't.  Complain complain. They're coming tomorrow, I'm so excited, they had better look as good as they did on the website.

Thus winds up the Year of Shopping Dangerously; some wins, some losses, just like life.
I've got a bunch of these Stretch and Fresh things to give away, they're really great.

Monday, 28 November 2016

I think the correct term is WORSHIP.

I see a lot of mothers and babies in my line of work. All sorts of issues, all sorts of levels of distress. From time to time I see the rare creature known as The Father. These range from anxious first timers to calm and supportive types. And I do see my share of - how shall I put it - less than supportive types too. Unreconstructed jerks. Fortunately not that many real full on dicks, but a few. 
For the few Fathers that may be reading this, I just want to point something out to you:
Your wife has just turned her body inside out and produced the child that she gestated in varying degrees of discomfort for the last 9 months or so. She has pushed a large being out with tremendous effort and some risk to her life, through an amazingly narrow path, or had her body cut into, and hey presto. A baby. Your baby. The baby that you put into her in an event that was pleasurable to you, and now you reap the dividend. 
I cannot tell you the number of times that I've witnessed petulant little boys, sorry, fathers, get cross because their exhausted newly delivered wife can't remember something that she was about to ask or can't quite find the right way to say something like please pick up some groceries, or, can you come home early, I feel crap, or needs to be asked to, I don't know, make dinner or empty the garbage or say thank you. 
I'm not calling all men jerks because that's unfair and untrue. But many need to have some damned respect. When your wife can't even think what she needs because she is so exhausted and mental from hormones and fatigue, not to mention pain from a sore bum or nipples, BE KIND. That's all. Be kind. 
No, that's not all. This woman has done something which is the closest to Godlike that any human can do. She has created a person. And she has all but torn apart her body to do it. Yes, generally she wants that baby, it wasn't forced upon her. But it's still bloody hard work, even if it all goes smoothly. And it isn't over after the birth, because it's only the beginning. 
You should be prostrating yourself at her feet, not getting annoyed because you're out of milk because she forgot to tell you to buy it. Or maybe she ate the last cookie or something. Or she put a milchig spoon in the fleishig sink. Or she forgot to pay a bill or some shit. Or, heaven forfend, she spoke sharply to you. Whatever. I've seen scenarios like these played out and I just want to slap people. Fathers, some grandmothers, mothers in law. 
'Primitive' and traditional societies usually let mothers rest and recover with the help of a carer for 40 days or so after birth. Here, in our modern Western world, you have to back into your bakakteh skinny jeans by 3 weeks or you're just not trying. Back shopping in the supermarket with your baby in one of those delightfully clean plastic capsules on top of the trolley.  Back at work by some ridiculous time. Motherhood is so disrespected and so undervalued, and we wonder why there is so much post natal depression - 12% and rising- and so much anxiety. 
You can't fix the world, you can't heal today's twisted values, but you can BE KIND TO YOUR WIFE. I know you're tired too BUT. Do I have to say it again? You didn't gestate that fetus and you didn't give birth to it and your hormones are not like a bloody roller coaster. So GET OVER YOURSELF and worship your goddess wife. And remember to buy the milk without being told. 
Rant concluded. For now. 

PS I'm now going to appeal to your self-interest, fathers, because that usually works. Spousal support is the single most important variable for breastfeeding success. Supportive and kind men's wives have better psychological outcomes. Happy wife, happy life. Have you heard that one before? It's generally true. If you support and nurture your woman through the post-birth months, you are putting money in the intimacy bank and it will pay tremendous dividends when you resume your intimate relations. Short term and long term. In summary,  BE KIND.