I didn’t dare

We had a sick baby last weekend. So when Sara and her husband Rami knocked our door on Shabbat evening last Friday, I was still busy trying to soothe a feverish child.

When my husband came to get me I gave in to the sleep fighting sickly toddler. I decided to take our daughter to the living room, where Sara’s expression shouted “mixed emotions”.

“I didn’t dare to come over”. She said. “But it was your birthday, right? So I made you a cake.”

She pointed proudly at the glorious chocolate cake on the table. Decorated with a heart. We both raised our hands to our hearts.

Sara and I love each other through all the storms. It is a bond I can’t explain. We hugged tightly, our youngest ones on our hips.

Did you hear about what happened in the synagogue last Tuesday? Her eyes shimmering with fear. I didn’t dare to come over, she repeated. Because, you know, there are Arabs living here.

Sara and I live maybe a 150 meters apart from each other. She, in a bubble of Orthodox Jews, piled on top of one another in small shabby semi modern apartments. Large families who all follow the same Rabbi Eliezer Berland.

We live in an equally shabby but ancient Arab building that has been housing Jews for at least fifty years now. I haven’t seen any Arabs living close to us. But since we live close to East Jerusalem, Arabs tend to walk through our street. Or are hired by neighbors for repair jobs.

It was enough to scare Sara away. It is also enough to cause a close neighbor to run after his four year old screaming as soon as he goes out the door by himself.

Sara was hushed by her husband: it was Shabbat and there could be no mentioning nasty subjects. This was a joyful day. So Sara hushed and we continued patting each other’s knees, having her husband translate words for us without me looking him in the eye. Our usual lingo.

We switched topics: Rami had just returned from the Netherlands to visit his Rabbi. Eliezer Berland has recently taken refuge there after accusations of sexual abuse of young women.

Not that we talked about those accusations, mind you. It was Shabbat!  And he didn’t do anything anyway.

Without Rami mentioning it, it became all too clear we might just be a sign. A sign from God that Sara and Rami’s true life destination is to be found in the Netherlands.

The Rabbi had urged Rami to start praying for a job in the Netherlands as a kosher butcher. So that is what he does now. Every. Single. Day. Almost as feverishly as the child attached to my hip that night.

And as much as I would enjoy taking my best friend here home with me, I feel sorry for them if they would succeed. I can not believe them being happy when taken out of their bubble, to be placed in the cold Netherlands.

Where family is far away. Where like minded religious people are hard to find. And perhaps in these times the most important part of all:

Where there’s no constant need to be afraid of Arabs.



The Uprise

There’s a lot of debate going on lately. It’s all in a name. What should we call all the terrorist attacks of the last weeks?

It might be a bit arbitrary to the innocent bystander. What to call something. It’s not as if we are trying to name the new Messiah.

At all. There is little salvation in the continuous acts of revenge and hatred that have been flooding the country lately.

There’s no relief. Just grief. Anger and fear. Spiraling upward.

That, in itself is an uprise. An Intifada.

So should we or shouldn’t we call the current situation in Israel an Intifada? Maybe we should call it an Urban Intifida because it takes place mostly in Jerusalem? Or maybe we can call it the silent Intifada because it seems merely a set of somewhat unrelated incidents?

The debate is if we may call it an Intifada because there appears to be no guidance. There’s no structure. It is an unorganized sequence of terrorist attacks. Or so they say.

There is a certain modus operandi, though. The new fad is to drive a car into people. Whoever is waiting at a bus stop is a plausible victim. In a comment to an article in Haaretz newspaper a Palestinian woman mentioned that there were no other ways to demonstrate anymore. That all people wanted was their territory back and being treated as equals.

The incredible tragedy is that the regular ways to demonstrate do often lead to death, imprisonment and torture on the Palestinian side. And the building of more settlements. And a wall to protect the settlements.

Today, the Knesset votes about a Jewish Nation State Bill. In it, there’s no room for Arabic as an official language in Israel. It sets out to establish democracy for Jews only.

There is no voice the Palestinians can use to make themselves heard. Driving over people or stabbing them is certainly not doing their cause any good either.

Not helpful and very wrong. It’s an act of utter despair. It’s a cry of help of those that live a life of constant frustration, humiliation, fear and anger.

It does make it more daunting to take public transport these days. It’s the kind of adventure I do not feel comfortable with yet. Nor am I numb enough yet to not be afraid. So we walk. Take routes that will not come close to the bus and light rail stops.

Blocks are placed in front of bus stops to protect the waiting passengers from drive-in terrorist attacks. When we drive through Jerusalem or through the West Bank, we have to drive around the people waiting for busses in front of the concrete blocks.

Yes, I said that right: people are waiting on the wrong side of the protective blocks.

And it strikes me: People are so used to fear, they do not recognize the feeling anymore. Fear turns in to anger. And angry people wait for the bus on the street. Angry about the bus that is always late. Angry about terrorist attacks. Angry about the way the bus driver shakes them on the ride (our children call it a free roller coaster ride). Angry about their life.

But never afraid anymore. Or so they think.

An Intifada would be scary. So we will not call it that. No uprise. Just a lot of angry people fighting each other.

And nothing changes.




No worms

The first time I bought flour here, I posted a photo of the bag on facebook, adding “good to know”.

On the bag was the recommendation: “sifted, no worms”

I thought it was hilarious. Although I also learned from my friends to keep flour in the fridge. Just to make sure.

But this week I got a peak of our future, by going back decennia.

It was the little bag of pistachios in the back of our kitchen cupboard. I just kept forgetting it was there.

We would keep on buying new pistachios to nibble on right away. Even our terrible two loves pistachios so we made sure to never be short on them.

The location of that ol’ bag was unpractical. Tucked away behind the peanut butter and the Tahina. When looking for snacks I just always skipped that shelf.

Until last week. I needed to create more space on this particular shelf and found the long forgotten bag. Deciding to throw the now stale batch away, I took one last look at the contents of the bag.

Let me first explain something. I have elaborated on our apartment before. On how I learnt this country is a far cry from the organized Western World as I know it. Things break. Things get shabby. Things leak. And amidst it all, one tends not to notice when things get a little shabby here and there.

Dirty floors? Sure thing with all the kids around. Dusty surfaces? The desert is not far away, and paired with the air pollution in Jerusalem things get grimy pretty fast. And apart from that, with helicopters roaring over our heads, shots in the not so far distance, who cares about the upkeep of the house.

In short, I hadn’t really noticed a lot of extra dirt in that cupboard.

With the colder weather and thanks to Ze’ev’s poison I haven’t seen a roach in ages. I am slowly relaxing about the whole tiny animals situation here.

Until I lifted the bag of long forgotten pistachios. The first thing I noticed was that the contents had turned in to pistachio shells and… something that looked like saw dust.

And then it became clear: the insides of the bag moved. My pistachios had become alive.

Quite literary, actually. The bag was swarming with maggots. Tiny cream colored new friends with darker heads, or tails for that matter. Never having enjoyed fishing I haven’t seen that many maggots before.

A closer look learned the whole cupboard was infested. Lots of pets for my animal loving middle child who radically changed her mind about becoming a vet.

My reaction was an interesting combination of disgust and some sort of “homeschooling teaching opportunity interest”. Not to mention a bout of obsessive compulsive cleaning afterwards.

The day passed. A last lone little one crawled up the tiles in the kitchen. My disgust had now almost vanished. It was ironic, really.

Here I was in my vegetarian kitchen, killing living creatures. But also in touch with tomorrow. Maggots are wonderful sources of protein. Possibly one of the more important sources of protein of the future.

I am regretting not having been courageous enough to fry our home grown livestock. They might have been quite a treat: Pistachio fed Maggots.

They had also snacked on various other foods they had found in that cupboard. And as grossed out as the kids were, they couldn’t part from their beloved sprinkles.  So now we check the sandwich for movement before eating.

Not long before moving back home again, we start feeling like seasoned Middle East travellers.

Pistachios, anyone?