Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jewish Pride

Even in Phoenix the evenings can get chilly during Chanukah and I was cold as we stood by the huge menorah at the city hall plaza. The Chabad rabbi lit the candles with a torch while a handful of Jews and dozens of vagrants looked on. There were some holiday songs and then volunteers handed out warm potato latkes to all. That’s why the vagrants were there, free food. One of them, obviously more than slightly inebriated, stood to the left of me waiting for his handout. This man was twice my width and a good head and a half taller than me. His breath stank of alcohol and he began swaying slightly. As he swayed farther and farther to the right I envisioned him collapsing on top of me. There was no escape so I quickly I gave him a shove to the left, stabling him, and then grabbed my husband.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Remembering Pearl

She was born on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, and they named her Pearl, but it wasn’t because of the naval base in Hawaii. She was born eleven years before the attack on America that heralded its entry into the Second World War. I met her some thirty years after that attack when I was a college freshman.

At that time there were basically three families in the observant Phoenix community who invited Arizona State University students from Tempe into their homes as Shabbat guests.  Pearl, her husband, Zalman, and children were among them. They possessed a talent to make guests feel immediately at home. Pearl was different than any of the women I’d known in Kansas. Besides being observant she spoke with a strong New York accent peppered with Yiddish words like tacha, mamaesh,  and oy abrach. I had been in her living room less than a half hour after candle lighting that first Shabbat and she already had me, a shy eighteen-year-old, talking as if I’d known her for years. Among the details she discovered was that I was three days younger than her oldest daughter. That piece of information characterized the relationship we would have for the following decades. Sometimes she was my surrogate mother and sometimes she was my friend.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving in December

We’ve all been there. Someone we know and love is having a Bar Mitzvah, getting married, graduating, or celebrating some similar milestone that warrants a present. We think carefully about what we’d like to give him and spend time shopping for the perfect present. At last we find it, write a loving note to enclose with it, and wrap it as prettily as possible. The gift is delivered. We wait a week, two weeks, three and there’s no acknowledgement.  Finally a month or so later his mother tells us how much her son likes the present and thanks us for him. It doesn’t quite cut it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Coping Skills

On Wednesday, November 19th, the day following the synagogue massacre in Jerusalem, there was a news headline that announced Police Make it Official: Intifada 2014. No one needed a PhD in political science or criminology to understand that here in Israel we’re in the midst of another Intifada. Just walking down the street and seeing pedestrians tense whenever there’s any suggestion of unusual noise is enough of a clue. We seem to be back in the mind set of dreading to hear the news but at the same time not being able to ignore it. We’re beginning to instruct our loved ones to call us as soon as they get there. And we’re weighing carefully whether it’s even worth it to try and get there. All signs that life is not as normal as we’d like it to be.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

That This Prayer Will Be Answered

Following a terror attack there are usually rhetoric and opinions galore. This week’s assault on a Har Nof synagogue leaving four worshipers and a policeman murdered was no exception. People can make the most extreme statements when they’re dealing with such horror and shock.  To me, some of those statements made perfect sense, like the suggestion to ban all Muslims from the Temple Mount until the terror ceases. I also agree with the calls for CNN to dismiss the reporter who broke the story of the synagogue massacre with the headline, Police Shot, Killed Two Palestinians. And I fully support Rabbi Ronsky, former head rabbi of the IDF, when he states that when Jews are murdered while praying, it is important to unite and not divide.

There are other comments, though, that leave me troubled. Right after the butchery a witness on the street spoke to a reporter. He was quoted as saying, "This is a yeshiva community. Ninety percent don't serve in the army. We're not violent," I have no idea if he was misquoted or if his words were taken out of context. However, the implications of his words are an anathema to me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Paying for the Chupah: sequel to the short story Praying for a Chupah (July 2011)

My last three posts have dealt with the on-going terror in Israel and I was determined to post something fun this week. I haven’t wavered from my resolution but in light of the gruesome murders in the Jerusalem synagogue this morning I beg all my readers to pray for the wounded*.
It was happening. It was finally happening. Tirza felt like a character in a romance novel, pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. But the batch of brownies she was pulling out of the oven smelled too delicious to be a dream. Neither was her sparkling clean house. As she arranged the already cooled marzipan bars on her grandmother’s china plate she hummed happily to herself. Tonight they were going to meet Gavriel’s parents. Tonight, with HaShem’s help, Bracha would finally become a kallah. Tonight, at last, Tirza would be able to hold her head up and no longer think everyone was feeling sorry for her since she had three children in their mid-twenties and no one was even close to becoming engaged. Oh, she couldn’t wait to drink the l’chaim and then begin calling everyone.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

We Don't Have Another Land

Everything moved to slow motion Monday afternoon when the news broke of yet another murder, this time at a bus stop in Gush Etzion. The frivolous activities I had planned were forgotten. The phone calls I needed to make were postponed. For how could I know who was connected to this newest victim of Arab terror? I kept abandoning my necessary tasks to click on the computer screen. Had the news released the name yet? Was there an email with information about the young woman? Soon enough I learned some details. Dalia Lemkos, age twenty-six, a physical therapist who was known for her love of children and continuous giving, was stabbed to death by a convicted Arab terrorist, who’d been released in a goodwill gesture made when Israel bowed to American pressure.     
Dalia Lemkos H'YD 
I felt numb. Then I felt angry. Underlining it all was a feeling of dread.

“We got through this before. We’ll get through this again,” My husband told me. “I don’t know how we did, but we did.”