Friday, November 25, 2005

I've got one, do you??

If you don't have it than don't talk to me!! Yes, we were all given a name at birth, but the real name comes much later. We wear it on our shirts affixed to a nice plastic tag, we keep it in our wallets on magnetic cards that go on refrigerators, we hang it up on our walls under a piece of glass surrounded by a fancy frame. You need to have some type of verification, something, anything, which shows that you're real. Without it, it just won't do! The longer the name the better. If you can manage to get some type of stamp on it, than the world is now yours.

Don't even attempt to look at my pipes unless you have the 'master's county public board certificate of plumbers.' If you want to remove the fleas from my dog, stay your distance unless you can prove you have a certificate from the 'American Association of Veterinary Practices.' If you want to vacuum up my years of excrement from my clogged sewage system, than you better show proof of your' Federal Sewage Treatment System Certificate Of Compliance," and the stamps better be current or get your mega vacuum sucker off my land.

Get your hands off my hands if you are not a 'Certified Astrological Professional' and can show proof you have been accepted by 'The International Society for Astrological Research' If you want to remove the extra dirt from my land you better be licensed and bonded by 'U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)' if not, hands off my mud.

You see, you can't give yourself a name, it has to be given by someone else. Someone has to verify that you're real. It doesn't really matter if anybody has heard of that somebody, as long as that somebody is bigger than you and also has a name. It helps if that somebody has a name in all caps or has a stamp of somebody else that has all caps. If not all cap's than it better be a long name with at least the beginning of each word in caps.

Once you got one, you're all set. All doors are open to you. You can walk with your head up high! You can now go to parties, conferences, and banquets for special people with names just like you. Only those with the same or similar type names are allowed in. As you compare your tags and certificates it gives you a warm feeling. Now you are finally real, you can be accepted by others. If you don't have one, you are shun by those with. Some won't talk to you, they won't sit with you on the bus, they won't eat with you, and certainly they won't invite you to their functions. Family will make excuses for you saying "oooh he is working on getting one."

So don't waste time, get with the program! Soon you will not be allowed to be a part of society without one. You will not be allowed to do the most basic of things; grocery shopping, post office needs, public bathrooms needs, restaurants, public parks, inter-county streets and freeways, public utilities, recycling centers, use of sidewalks, and specialty gift shops.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The technological blues jam

I wonder how they survived back then. What did they do? You see back than there was no electricity, no TV's, no internet, no video games, no phones, no air conditioning, not even refrigerators or washing machines, nothing!!! The kids must have been bored all day long, nothing to do! The Adults must have been miserable without all the luxuries we have today. We are so lucky. We've got it all.

Most of them lived in dark houses made of stone or wood and the floors were not more than the earth itself. We live in solid homes with the highest quality of construction, we choose between wood, tile, or carpet floors. We can now even put heating under our floors to warm our cold feet. They used to escape the heat by finding the shade of a tree; we click a button on our multi-system air-conditioning systems.

In order to eat they would have to go out in groups to hunt down their meals. The Villagers would than gather together to finish off the prize, you see they didn't have fridges to keep the leftovers. We can order the finest of cuisines from the touch of a few buttons on our internet. Today we can even buy meals that come in boxes that can last on the shelf for years, within moments our electro-neuron microwaves give us a hot tasty meal.

The kids back than had to make up games to play, mostly out of sticks and various size stones. They didn't have Milton-Bradley, Game boys, or even Atari!!!!!! We now have the choice of thousands of board games, but why even use them when all the games and entertainment one could possibly imagine are on the internet. They had to deal with all the pains of playing with one another, sharing, and having to be nice to each other. Our kids can play against the computer. The computer never complains, you don't have to share with it, and most of the time it behaves just fine. All in the comfort of our cozy homes!!!

Back than they had to deal with living amongst all of the family. I mean everyone: aunts, cousins, grand-parents, second cousins even! You see they didn't have transportation back than like we do. Where ever they were born, they usually lived their whole lives there. To go on any type of trip was a big deal, the whole town knew about it. We very rarely live in the same town or state as our parents. Families are spread out across the world. To visit one another we hop in a big metal vessel that flies across the skies to where ever we want to go in no time. We can speak to them when ever we want on the telephone, email, instant messenger, or even by teleconferencing. Our warm words and thoughts are rushed at an ever high speed through small wires to loved ones around the globe.

Most problems they had turned out to be everyone's problems. The village had to figure out a solution. They had to work together! We have specialists for practically every problem that could possibly arise. They come right to our own home to take care of it, the neighbors don't even have to find out about it. For those that choose they can even take care of the problem themselves with the many 'self help' on line guides.

There wasn't much privacy back than! family, friends, and neighbors were in your hair all the time. The only escape was to find a secluded spot outside the village. We can sometimes manage to go days without speaking to anyone if we want. We have balconies and nice yards to go relax, but there is always the risk of seeing a neighbor or peer, or even worse having to speak to them. Today we use our balconies and yards only when we buy and sell our homes. We have everything we could ever want within the four walls of our homes, we don't ever have to leave.

Can you imagine what they had to go through to make a loaf of bread? We push a button on our electronic bread makers. They had to comfort each other with any back or neck pains, we click the 'ultra mega sonic message cycle' on our automatic electric message chairs. They had to cheer up their peers when they were down, we have books and cds to tell us how great we are. If that doesn't help we have special engineered pills that make us feel great!! The choice of foods they had to eat were very limited, we choose between fine meats, vegetarian delights, micro-biotic, raw food diets, and pill supplements that fill any gap.

How could one possibly make it through the day without all the goodies we have today! We have to feel sorry for them and the hell they must have gone through!! How un-happy they must have been. So we say thank you to technology and smile as we sip our espresso from our very own automatic 'in-home' espresso machines.

Outhouse in the middle of nowhere

"What are you talking about!!! I used to have to walk 2 hours in the freezing cold of winter through 5 feet of snow to get to school." It seems every parent has one of these trump cards up their sleeve to lay on a child when in need. I've got my trump card.. Do you?

When we moved to the mountains to build our house in the middle of nowhere, my parents thought it was a good idea to buy a small trailer to live in while my father finished the house. When I say the middle of nowhere, I mean it. One hour to the nearest store, one hour to school, one hour to the nearest hospital, and our nearest neighbor was more than a mile away!!

Our trailer had no electricity or water. We had to go with buckets to the stream every morning to fill up the small water tank, which was just enough to wash the dishes. My father built an outhouse about 20 steps away from the trailer. I still remember the fear I had going in that thing at night, the monsters that lived deep within that pit. At night we had a kerosene lamp that gave us light and warmth.

We of course spent as much time as we could outside, there was always something to do. When it got dark though, the four of us would make our way inside our humble abode. There wasn't much room to move around. I remember counting about five 11 year old steps from one side to the other.

We lived there for about 8 months until moving into our home. I will never forget those 8 months! For me it was 8 months of camping, and I love camping!! I remember a feeling of excitement over moving into my own new room, which was of course bigger than the whole camper. I also remember a feeling of sadness though, leaving that small womb that helped us bond so much as a family. I will never forget the sound of the kerosene lamp burning, the smell of breakfast being cooked a few feet from my head, the feel of the ice cold water from the snow runoff, but most of all, the family all being together.

The trailer does mostly bring back good memories, but a trump card is a trump card!! When my little ones complain about their living quarters or the like I always got this one up my sleeve.

Monday, November 21, 2005

What you didn't learn in Ulpan

"Is it possible for me to order checks from this branch even though my account is at another branch?" she answers "ani lo betucha!" loosely translated as I'm not certain, but really the translation is far off, really far off!!! There are quite a few terms that you really don't learn from Ulpan and just have to learn on your own. It took me a while to learn that lo (no) ken (yes) and a slew of other terms really mean something quite different.

You see things work quite different here in Israel. Let me tell you what she meant. "ani lo betucha" means of course it's possible, but it's a lot of work and I'd rather you take it as a no and get the heck out of here. If she were to tell me "b shom ofen lo" (certainly not) this means: it's a pretty good chance that it can be done, you just need to speak to someone different.

If she were to say "ma pe tom" (what are you talking about, are you crazy) this means maybe yes, maybe no, she has no idea whether it can be done or not. Now in a case where she just lays down a flat out "lo" (no): This actually can be a sign that you can't do it, but you never can be sure. It would still be best to try to speak to someone else to see if it really is possible.

Sometimes you will get a "ain davar cazeh" (there is nothing like this, impossible) In rare occasions it does mean no and that what you are asking is crazy. But in most cases if you ask the person next to her or the manager you will find that its no problem and people do it all the time. She will than give you this strange look like (wow I never heard that before!!), this look is usually accompanied by a low groan haaaaaaaa.

What you really have to be careful of is the quick yes!!! The results will almost always be different than that what you requested, like getting a debit card sent to you instead of checks or worse yet, you leaving thinking you accomplished your goal and later finding out that what you really wanted was impossible in the first place. So Yes, a ken (yes) really mean no a lot of the times. Another red light is "ain beyah" (no problem) what it really means is take off the "ain"(no) and that's what you are going to get, the "beyah"(problem)

Now you may think that all these people are out to get you, the taxi driver is trying to rip you off, the bank teller is just trying to get out of doing her job, the post office guy really meant to sent your urgent letter by ocean, on purpose, the sale items in the store are never entered into the computer(therefore the cashier has to go get one of these cards to swipe in order to ok that item, that's right one card!!! Its usually on the other side of the store and every 30 seconds a different cashier needs it), no matter how many papers you bring to them they always need you to come back and bring something else(interior ministry), you decide to purchase the extra insurance just in case the thing breaks and find out that it covers everything else except that!

For the new immigrant it can be frustrating at times and can even drive some to threaten to take the next plane back. With patience, an open mind, and a sense of humor these sometimes apparently backwards events can turn into positive experiences, and only strengthen our love for this greatest place on earth, Israel!!!!!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What type of hug do you give?

So you just get introduced to your 58 year old Aunt who doesn't know the first thing about Judaism and she makes a move towards you. Her arms start going up for either an all out hug, or possibly a shaking of the hand. As someone stops her and explains that you are not able to touch her because it may lead to something more serious, you give her a half Chinese bow, a nod of your head and feel like a complete idiot. Now don't get me wrong this is not about some type of revolution or anything, its just a thought. I've read "the magic touch" and a few others like it and have even recommended them to people. I just think maybe the world might be a better place if maybe we could just hug a little bit more.

You can learn an awful lot about people by the way they hug! There are many different types of hugs and people are usually pretty consistent on the type of hugs they give. I will name a few of the hugs that I have encountered and give each a name and description.

The dead fish hug: The name says it all. You get ready to lay into a full fledged hug, you wrap your arms around them and get nothing in return. Their arms are usually laying down vertical to their body. The return hug is about as much as you would get from a tree. It will most likely be the last time you ever give that person a hug again, you feel a bit insulted.

the stiff neck hug: you give it your all and it feels as though you just hugged a side of a cow, fresh out of the freezer. You may get some type of hug in return but usually its very quick and very cold.

the hugaphoebic hug: you give them a hug and you get one of those tapping of the hand on your back reactions from them. They want to end this thing as quick as possible; they are not sure what to do in the meantime so they decide to have a little drum session on your back in the meantime. Sometimes they feel guys shouldn't hug guys, or just they don't like giving hugs in the first place.

the Leaning Tower of Pisa hug: you go for the hug and get stuck with their shoulders ramming into yours with the bottom half of them as far away as possible. Its usually accompanied by either a one handed tapping on the back and every once in a while, a double hand pounding to the back. Its probably a little worse than the hugaphoebic hug!

the dog licking hug: This is a rare one, but everyone has had it happen at least once, especially if you have been to the Middle East. You attempt to hug them, immediately they grab you by the shoulders and lay a kiss on each cheek alternating from cheek to cheek four to six times. It can sometimes end there, but most of the time it leads to a full hug accompanied by some serious heavy duty hand tapping to the back. In extremely rare occasions they will release you for a second and go in for a second hug.

the bear hug: you lay into a strong hug and get one right back. Usually it's pretty strong. If its too strong this could really be a hugaphoebic hug in disguise. The nervous reaction is to put all his/her strength into it!! Sometimes there is difficulty in breathing, that's not a good sign.

the blind bear hug: you lay into a strong hug and get one right back. its not too strong, it lasts for a while and usually the eyes will be closed. If done right one could want to maintain this for a while.

Just imagine that every time you met someone new, and every time you run into someone you know, you had to give them a hug. Regardless of sex!! People would be hugging all over the place. Fines would be imposed on those who refused to hug or accidentally forgot to give a hug to someone. Kind of like getting a ticket because you forgot to put on your seatbelt. There would be special schools and mandatory courses to learn how to hug properly.

There would be no jealousy by seeing loved ones being hugged by someone else because it would be understood what a hug really is. The mitzvah to love every Jew would be made so much easier! Its hard to leave a hug and not feel some type of warm feeling towards the other. Even in tough times, you get in a small fender bender with someone, the first thing that you have to do is give each other a hug, after all it is the law!

Crazy! Absurd! you say. I guess your right but I don't think anyone can tell me that it wouldn't be a much happier and warmer place to be if it were possible..

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

a flash of death, a flash of life

Whenever I get into my army uniform for my yearly tour of duty I somehow feel like someone made a mistake of some type. Should they really be giving me an m-16! Should I really be standing at a post at which anything could happen at any time! Where exactly was that button that changes it to automatic, semi-automatic, and safety! At any rate we were sent to the beautiful town of Ramallah for a 28 day stunt. I asked our MM (commander) that maybe I was sent to the wrong unit being that most of these guys were in para-trooper units and the like. His response was short and all too familiar. "yehayae basder" That means just get out of my hair, you'll do just fine.

My second day is the one in which I would like to share with you. I was on duty from 12:30 to 6:30 in the morning. We were in two jeeps touring around the Ramallah area making sure the roads were free of hoodlums. I was in the back of the jeep with my friend Yossi from Spain. Yossi quite the opposite of me loved action, and would seek it out at every opportunity. We got a call at about 1:00 from some unit sitting on top of one of the hills with some high tech radar equipment. They told our commanding officer that there was movement in one of the wadi's moving towards a Jewish settlement. Somebody had to check it out!

I was informed that our two jeeps from our unit were chosen to go and see what was going on there. The radar picked up four people moving on foot on the bottom of the wadi. Now I understood that I was in one of those two jeeps, but they couldn't possible mean that I would be taking place in this outing.

The two jeeps went as far as they could go, the steep cliffs would not allow them to go further. The plan was as follows: our jeep was on one side of the valley and the other jeep was on the other side of the valley. Each commander had a radio and night vision goggles. Along with the commander would be three soldiers. We would meet up on the bottom of the valley taking these four unknown characters by surprise by both sides.

This particular night was one of the darkest nights that I can ever remember. I couldn't see a thing. We started making our way down this steep cliff. What made the trek even more difficult was the weight. I had a helmet, bullet proof vest, five full cartridges of bullets, plus my m-16, no water!! yes I forgot to fill my two now empty bottles in my pack. After 15 minutes of sliding down the side of this cliff we got word from our commander that one of the soldiers from the other side of the valley had slipped and seriously injured himself. That leaves now two commanders and four and a half soldiers heading down the valley to face the unknown. The injured guy was brought back up the hill by two medics.

We continued our decent. More than an hour has passed! The people with radar informed the commander that we were about a football field's distance from the four deadly terrorists who were ready, waiting for us. Yossi was very excited! I wasn't sure if I should cry, run, or just pull a Rambo and run straight forward leading the pack with my finger on the trigger yelling all types of foul words. I choose to keep trekking forward following the orders of the commander.

We were now within a half football distance from them. The two commanders informed each other that they each saw nothing, no sign of anyone! The commander gathered us all together and said " alrighty I want you to load your weapons! I was hoping that they were going to be Bedouins, but being that there are no dogs or any type of animals around I've rulled that out." At this moment I knew things were looking pretty serious!

We moved closer! still nothing! The commander told the other unit to come around the side and join us. This would take another 20 minutes! He was worried that since we didn't know where they were, the chance of friendly fire was high. We had to stay perfectly still in the meanwhile.

As I was sitting there with my finger on the trigger a lot of thoughts ran through my mind. I could die here! I might have to kill someone here! I saw headlines on tomorrows papers! I pictured these four guys with two machine guns in each hand, hand grenades around their necks, rocket launchers on their shoulders, fire coming out of their mouths! You see ,you always have to expect the worst. All of a sudden I felt confident, proud, ready to defend my country! I was in Israel, I was defending Jews, I was right where I needed to be!! I felt great, I was ready for anything.

We were given our orders, we were told where to walk, where to aim. We continued on. we were now 20 yards away and still nothing. The radar unit assured us we were right on top of them. They saw us, and they saw them! We though still didn't see anything. The commander decided to send a flare missile to light up the area. He gave the unit on top of the valley the coordinates and told them to wait for his word. One thing for sure, when this flare goes off its going to wake up everything and everyone within many miles.

He gave the word, they fired the flare!! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! the boom echoed off the valley walls. The coordinates were off, the flare went off about a kilometer behind us! Now everything behind us, including us were totally lit up. Everything in front of us, total darkness!!! not good!!!! This was a very stressful time, it seemed like hours!! Within seconds he gave new coordinates, and a new flare exploded in the right spot. Everything was lit up!

We saw a rock cave in front of us about 15 yards, we surrounded it! We knew they were up! We knew they knew we were out there. My heart was pounding so hard, I knew they heard it from within the cave. One of the soldiers knew Arabic. He yelled for them to come out. No movement. A million thoughts rushed through my head. They were preparing for a mad rush out of the cave with all they had. All of a sudden one guy comes running out of the cave with his hands in the air "beseder beseder" He was a big guy! our soldier yells to him "where are the other three" He motioned with his hands "ain" (none) like there was no more. He didn't know we had some guys with radar miles away that told us there were three of them, not one. Finally the other three came out with their hands in the air.

They claimed to be picking grapes in the vineyards, we checked their id's they were clean! They were sent back to Ramallah. We were send back up the canyon, a three hour hike. It turned out we all forgot to fill up our water bottles. Not good!!

no blood, no killing, I was alive! I was more than alive! I saved Jews, I defended Israel! At least I was ready to. I was faced with those difficult questions: What are you living for? What would you be willing to die for?