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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hit & Run Yenta-ing

Everyone knows that everyone is in everyone else's business in Israel, right? Everyone has an opinion, everyone has advice to give, everyone is a yenta. Some people think this is a bad thing. Not us!

I don't mind when people ask me personal questions. I draw the line at confessing age, weight and bank account figures. (The answer to the Israeli question "How much do you make?" or "How much do you have in the bank?" is always "Enough, thank G-d!" Thank you for this tip, Keren Dayan).

My husband's favorite story concerns the day he went to the market with a friend. Behind them, they heard two men start to argue about who was next in line. "Well, they were here first--let's ask them!" one man suggested. With this agreement, one of them tapped the Husband on the shoulder and asked which of the two men was the first to stand in line behind him?

My husband selected Candidate Number One. "Bah, what does he know?!" Candidate Number Two said disdainfully, and the argument continued.

On Yom Shishi, we drove the Boy to school (as Yossi wasn't around, having taken Ronit away on a long-anticipated vacation). Upon our return to the Baka neighborhood, we decided to park near Cafe Kalo and pick up some fruit and vegetables from the produce stand on the corner. For some reason never quite explained to me, the Husband chose a narrow and obscure side road to approach Derech Bet Lechem from the west. I thought we were in luck -- at the top of the hill, we could see an EMPTY parking space! We waited for the traffic to clear, then the Husband pulled to the left and backed smartly into this providential parking spot, less than a block from our destinations.

As soon as we were parked, a guy walks out of the shop across the street and down a ways and calls out to us in Hebrew. Not loudly or belligerently, but more in a tone of "Hey, you oughta know..." which the Husband understood but which went by too quickly for me to follow. As that man's utterance came to an end, an SUV drove by and the driver added to the shopowner's comments: "Yeah, its a 1900 shekel fine!" and kept driving.

Unbeknownst to us, BEHIND our parking space, visible only to the northbound traffic on Derech Bet Lechem, was a posted sign identifying this parking space as handicapped parking. Coming from the west, we never saw the sign.

But two complete strangers, seeing our mistake, casually and helpfully tossed the pertinent information in our direction to save us from a costly ticket, then went on with their day. If looking out for each other is being a "yenta" then I have to confess to loving living in a country where people take the time out to watch out for each other.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

If I Can't Eat It, I'll Talk About It

I am shamelessley stealing this idea from tafka PP at Slightly Mad .

I'm on a diet. I've been relatively successful at shedding the creeping poundage of the last 7 years. Like most Moms, the last person you ever take care of is yourself, so when our house started running in crisis mode a number of years ago, both of us working 60 hour weeks, splitting shifts in Kid-watching, running errands and doing laundry at midnight, I stopped going to the gym. Big Mistake. Pun intended. Dress size numbers kept creeping up. Now, they're creeping down. The shirts I bought last summer are now tents; the skirts are so loose that some have been retired.

What magic is this? Diet and exercise. Same ol' formula. But, as the Poet said, I still have "miles to go before I sleep" and if I want to be my old svelte self, I think I need to do this diet thing for the next year (it's okay--I'm now used to it and I like the results) and the exercise thing forever. That's okay, too -- I love to swim. Twenty to twenty-five laps a day is all I can do right now, but I'm working my way towards 40, which was my personal best after work for many years.

But food! Slightly Mad has a food meme going that is actually a great idea--veteran olim and newcomers can all chip in and share favorite spots.

So, here's my list of my 5 favorites:

(1) Steak Bibi in Talpiot: it's a grill place, with chicken, liver, beef, steak and kabob with starters that in Spain would be called tapas but here are just called salads. Good food, good price, nice people, and excellent parking if you drive. Beer and soft drinks also.

(2) Kalo Cafe on Bet Lechem: don't believe the panning that the Jerusalem Post's oh-so-Tel-Avivian reviewer gave it (the same reviewer who didn't know the difference between flan and creme caramel in her review of a Mexican restaurant). It was panned for being too junky-looking, too crowded, too Anglo with small portions. NOT!! Portions are big enough that I usually have to draft the Boy or the Husband to finish mine; its crowded because its really good; if its junky looking, it's because the furniture is all mismatched and funky and we like it that way, thank-you -- keep the modern minimalist chrome stuff in Tel Aviv, okay? Yeah, it's Anglo. It's also Israeli. The owners are Moroccan. Get a life and get over people speaking English, all right? We're also here to stay.

(3) Joy on Emek Refaim: okay, I know it's a tourist hot-spot, very Anglo crowd, American prices (but NOT 1868!) but the food is fabulous every time we go there. I usually get the steak salad if its on the menu, and its huge, its delicious and the Guys finish what I can't.

(4) Pasha on Pierre Koenig in Talpiot: maybe we were unusually fortunate, but we wandered into this Persian restaurant one night, not knowing much about Persian food, and daringly ordered stuff off the menu without really knowing what we were getting. It was all great! The waitress talked me out of ordering schwarma, pointing out that later in the day the schwarma won't be as tender as earlier, and I'm glad I followed her advice.

(5) Ragu on Bet Lechem: a meat Italian restaurant that provides excellent foccacia, excellent wine and wonderful ragu sauce. In the winters, I always order their soups, which are fabulous and a meal of soup and focaccia is plenty for me. The Husband inevitably orders the Spaghetti with ragu sauce--thick, meaty red sauce with lots of meat and a pureed root vegetable base. Yummmm. They're also open Erev Shabbat for Shabbat take-out, but come early. It goes fast.

You'll no doubt notice that everything is in the Talpiot/Baka/German Colony area....it's not that I don't love the downtown. I do. It's just that when we go out to eat, it's generally evening, and since we were car-less our first seven months in Israel, we got into the habit of walking to neighborhood eateries.

Personally, I'm in search of a genuine Chinese restaurant. Have car, will travel for Chinese food. Desperate ex-San Franciscan who really only misses two things -- fog and REAL Chinese food. I DON'T mean the bland, watered down, chopped meats and vegetables wholly missing traditional Chinese spices, oils and vinegars that is passed off to East Coasty Anglos as "real" -- I mean Hunan and Shechuan pepper pots with real peppers and onions cooked the traditional way. Can anyone out there help? Eilat is not too far to go for the Real Thing!

And while I'm on Asian food, does anyone know of a kosher sushi bar that serves oshinko-maki (the rolled rice with a pickled radish in it)?

The Medical Merry-Go-Round

Let me preface this with "I love my medical plan." I do. It's somewhat reminiscent of California's Kaiser Plan, with all the attendant woes of multiple referrals, long waits, etc. but the Meuhedet clinic up the street from me is staffed by wonderful, helpful people who have tried to make my life easier.


It's not Blue Cross. But it's also not $1000/month for a family of three (that was our share--my employer paid the other half) and going up every year. So I'm really NOT complaining....


I mentioned before that Yossi has a problem with his back. His doctor declined to offer physical therapy when they both sat down and talked about this. Yossi suggested PT. "What, you have a medical degree now?" the doctor asked, smiling. Pills were the doctor's solution, and then "we'll see how we're doing in another six weeks."

Who's this "we" he's talking about? The doc isn't the one with the bad back!

Sure enough, 24 hours later, in excruciating pain, Yossi saw the doctor again who then reversed himself and said, "I think we should try physical therapy immediately." Yossi was brought up correctly. He said 'thank you, Doctor,' and took his referral to the physical therapist....unlike me, who is inclined to snarl at medical professionals. I would've asked him what Cracker Jack box he pulled his medical degree out of, and why didn't you listen to me in the first place? Lawyers are NOT impressed by doctors.

So through this I discovered the Israeli medical profession's definition of "immediately." It means next month. That's right -- the first available appointment for PT is in July.

Nor is this unusual. We have friends nearby, a couple, who have been doing their own dance with their kupat cholim. The husband has had a prior heart attack. He's on blood-thinners and other medication to keep down cholesterol and prevent heart attacks. This year, he developed an irregular heart beat which was also very, very rapid. He was hospitalized, and went through some kind of electroshock procedure which restored the heartbeat to normal. Questions about the root cause of this sudden phenomena were shrugged off. The wife's suggestion that he have an angiogram was brushed aside.

Two weeks ago, the rapid, irregular heartbeat appears again.

Is he hospitalized? No.

He is summoned to do test after test after test for two days, returning home each night both exhausted and worried. This is not a good state for a man who has heart problems. It's also not a good state for his wife, who is then awake all night and exhausted from worry. She's also in a state of near-panic because Doctor said, "Call me," for the test results and she did--and Doctor isn't answering his phone or returning her messages.

After three days of telephoning, she finally reaches the doctor. Doctor tells her that the results "aren't in the computer yet."

Maybe Doctor could send someone downstairs (since we all know Doctor won't walk downstairs himself) to expedite putting the results in the computer? That Someone might even be able to get a copy of the results to bring back upstairs to Doctor!

Finally, Doctor announces that the husband has a blockage and the hospital needs to do first, an angiogram, and most probably an angioplasty.

Fine. At least there is now an identifiable problem with a solution.

Following instructions to the letter, the husband reports to the hospital for the pre-procedure work-ups. He and his wife were told he would go home following this -- but no, he was hospitalized instead. So his wife goes home, worries about why the doctor decided to keep her husband overnight, and comes back to the hospital the next morning. He's all prepped for the procedure when suddenly his doctor appears and says, "You're taking XXX medication (a blood thinner)!"

No s**t, Sherlock -- you were the one who prescribed it in the first place.

Doctor goes on to explain that they can't possibly do this procedure while the patient in on blood-thinners, and he needs to be off the medication for a specific number of days before they can do proceed. All very medically proper, and no doubt life-saving but maybe a closer review of your patient's file would have suggested that (1) you tell him first to quit the bloodthinners and (2) schedule the procedure the requisite number of days later instead of making this family run in and out of the hospital repeatedly.

Maybe Doctor should have listened to the patient's wife, who told him months ago that her husband needed an angiogram....she would probably have gotten Yossi's answer: "What, you have a medical degree now?"

I'm not complaining...really. I just hate watching my friends deal with bureaucratic silliness and institutional incompetence.

On the other hand, the world of Israeli medicine is overall quite positive. This, just in from Israel 21c :

Israeli-Californian research: Star Trek-like scanner could spot signs of cancer

By correlating images of cancerous liver tissue with gene expression patterns, a bi-national research team including a computational biologist from Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, a genomics expert from Stanford, and a radiologist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine has developed tools that may some day allow physicians to view a CT image of a cancer tumor and discern its genetic activity. "In almost every episode of Star Trek,' there is a device called a tricorder, which they used noninvasively to scan living or nonliving matter to determine its molecular makeup," said Chang. "Something like that would be very, very useful." In real life, this approach would avoid the pain and risk of infection and bleeding from a biopsy and would not destroy tissue, so the same site could be tested again and again.

As well as this, something I would definitely like to see on the shelves in my lifetime:

Israeli student develops novel drug that mimics feeling of 'fullness'

A Hebrew University of Jerusalem doctoral student has developed an innovative drug that gives people the feeling of satiety. Yaniv Linde, a 32-year-old student of Prof. Chaim Gilon in the department of organic chemistry, mimicked the activity of the naturally occurring hormone called aMSH. This hormone is naturally excreted during eating and binds to a receptor in the brain called MC4R. When this "communication" occurs on a substantial level, the brain sends out a signal that one feels "full." Linde and colleagues synthesized a peptide (a compound linking two or more amino acids) that can serve as an analog to the naturally occurring aMSH hormone. They were able to demonstrate that their peptide, which they call BL-3020, displayed good metabolic stability to intestinal enzymes when swallowed, and that it was able to cross the intestinal wall and gain access into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, it could make its way to the MC4R receptor and "close the circuit" to send out the "full" signal. The result is that a person seriously wishing to overcome obesity could take this compound orally in order to curb his appetite and lose weight naturally. In experiments with mice, it was shown that a single oral administration of BL-3020 led to reduced consumption over a period of 24 hours. Over a 12-day period of daily dosages, the mice weighed 40 percent less than the average for mice of their size and age that did not get the compound. (Judy Siegel-Itzkovich June 07, 2007)

With stuff like this being developed by Israelis, I guess I can be a bit more optimistic about the future of medicine here.....now, if we can just get the doctors to work on the bedside manner a bit more and actually LISTEN to their patients...after all, this is the country that developed the cell phone because the waiting list for a landline was five years. Maybe some genius will develop a pill that makes doctors listen to those of us who admittedly don't have medical degrees but DO own the bodies you're working on.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Reality Check

Amnesty International, in sync with the current fashionably racist trend of applauding all things Arab, regardless of how medieval, fascist and misogynistic, has entitled its latest report on the Israel-Arab conflict thus: "Enduring Occupation--Palestinians Under Seige In the West Bank."

Amnesty is supposed to be a human rights organization. That implies human rights for Jews, also, notwithstanding European/Arab cultural dissonance to the contrary. It certainly is not supposed to shill for Palestinians at the expense of Jews or anyone else.

Yet the title of this report alone is designed to present only one side of the issue: "Palestinians Under Seige In the West Bank." Right. They're "occupied." No question about it. The West Bank has been "occupied" by the Turks, by the British, by the Jordanians and now by the Israelis. The Palestinians (who in previous generations identified themselves as "Arab" then "Syrian" and more lately as "Jordanian") have been occupied non-stop. There has never been a "Palestine" although the Israelis have offered to provide the West Bank and Gaza to the residents as a future state of Palestine.

Why do the Israelis "occupy" the West Bank? It's occupied today because in 1967, the Jordanian Army tried to use the Occupied-by-Jordan West Bank (by the way, the Jordanians dubbed it the "west bank" because to a Jordanian, it is the western bank of the Jordan River) as the launchpad of its war on Israel across the 1948 cease-fire line, better known as the "Green Line." This is the same Green Line that the anti-Israel Left and Arab fellow-travelers like to call the "1967 borders."

There were NEVER any borders; there was a cease-fire line in 1948 after the Arabs failed to eradicate the UN-established state of Israel in recognition of the Jewish right to self-determination (think Kosovo, Bosnia, Slovenia, Slovakia and other small nations who have struggled for self-determination---a certain group of former British colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America comes to mind also. Self-determination is a human right, isn't it? Hello, Amnesty?). Borders? What borders? When Israel wanted borders and a peace treaty in 1967, what it got instead was the Khartoum Conference and its infamous "Three No's"--no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel.

1967 brought full-out war, not merely the terror attacks that the Jordanians had been lauching for two decades across the Green Line. People who want us to give back East Jerusalem forget that this was the ground from which Jordanian snipers killed passing Jews on the other side of the Green Line for simple amusement. Those who blindly insist, without any clue as to the history or geography of the area, that Gilo and French Hill must be returned to hostile Arabs don't realize that these were the ridges around Jerusalem from which the Arab armies fired artillery into the Jewish residential areas below.

Jordan, along with its erstwhile allies Syria and Egypt, lost the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel took not just Gaza and the West Bank but also the Golan Heights from Syria (who has no entitlement to it in the first place) and the Sinai from Egypt.

Egypt got the Sinai back when Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel. Egypt declined to take back Gaza, which it had occupied since 1948 and used as a dumping ground for Moslem Brotherhood extremists it didn't want in Egypt proper. You thought Hamas was a home-grown institution? Wrong again. Hamas IS the Moslem Brotherhood in Gaza, and the Arab fedayeen (now called shaheeds, or martyrs) who crossed the Gaza lines to infiltrate and murder Israeli civilians between 1948 and 1967 were armed, trained and sent by Egypt. Now they are armed, trained and sent by European and Arab-funded Hamas.

Like it's brother-in-arms Egypt, Jordan declined to take back the West Bank when it made peace with Israel. This rendered the West Bank and Gaza, in international legal terminology, "disputed territory." It is NOT ipso facto "Palestinian." It is, by both the terms of UN resolutions at the end of the 1967 war and international law, territory that can be negotiated for a final resolution of that war.

Fine. Why isn't Israel negotiating? Because when Fatah and it's terror leader Yasser Arafat was in charge, Arafat said, "Peace for us means the destruction of Israel." This was after the Camp David agreements and his undeserved receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now we have Hamas, who has stated often and frequently that its goal is to "end the Occupation of ALL of Palestine" which is defined by that entity as the State of Israel. No two-state solution for Hamas--it is on record as late as last month as stating that the war against Israel will not end while Jaffa, Akko, Ashdod and Jerusalem have a Jewish flag flying over them. In other words, Hamas's end-goal is to occupy Israel, wipe out Jewish culture and life here and replace it with the ideological equivalent of a medieval Islamic state. No Hebrew newspapers--only Arabic (don't believe me? Go talk to Iraq's Kurds, who were required to "Arabize" in order to own property in Iraq). Never mind Hebrew culture--all things western and progressive are on the chopping block with Hamas. That's why Gaza has had its internet cafes destroyed, women murdered for walking on the beach with their boyfriends, and why Israel regularly gives sanctuary to girls fleeing Islamic-sanctioned "honor killings" and gay Palestinians who have been "outed" and face death by impalement.

The goal of Fatah and the goal of Hamas is identical -- the destruction of Israel. Arafat started the Second Intifada and sent other people's children to blow themselves up in cafes and buses.

Israel, which had already relinquished the majority of the West Bank, moved the army back and re-occupied it. Checkpoints were set up; soldiers patrolled the hills and goat-paths; curfews were imposed; terrorists arrested and killed; suicide bombers were intercepted. Life in Israel, which had been a daily bloodbath in the joint-venture terror tactics of Fatah, Hamas and their junior affiliates, returned slowly to normal and is now blooming again.

Life in the West Bank is, well, under military occupation. You reap what you sew. It will stay occupied, regardless of what the PC-Pimps like Amnesty cry, until the Arabs of the West Bank can prove to Israeli satisfaction that IEPs, car bombs, and suicide bombers are a thing of the past, and that the State of Israel and its citizens can live in peace. I should be able to let my son eat in a cafe with his friends without it being a death sentence. My neighbor should be able to take the bus downtown without wondering if she will survive the trip or orphan her children.

According to Amnesty's report: "The movement of Palestinians is constrained by a host of restrictions, including over 500 checkpoints and blockades, and a network of roads for Israeli settlers to use (which are) off-limits to Palestinians."

Yes. That's true. And the army is still intercepting suicide bombers and wanna-be car bombers; the army is still uncovering and destroying suicide-bomb-belt factories and Kassam factories. Yes, there are separate roads for Israeli settlers--but also for West Bank Arabs. There is a road that runs from the West Bank to Jerusalem which ONLY Arabs are allowed to use. This separation was designed to facilitate peace-keeping and to stop each side from shooting at the other in passing car wars. Yes, the West Bank is occupied and will stay occupied until Israel no longer has to place soldiers there to keep Arabs from murdering Jewish women and children in cafes, in restaurants, and on buses.

We're ready to end this "occupation" when we have proof that life in Israel won't resemble life in downtown Baghdad, thank you.

These facts are conveniently overlooked by Amnesty and the other Lefty peace shills. "If only Israel would end the Occupation, then there would be peace," they cry. They're right in part -- if Israel agreed to commit suicide and allow the Arab hostiles to overrun the country, wipe out the state and its citizens, and call the land "Palestine" there would indeed be peace. A peace of the dead in our millions.

Of note is the total absence of any mention by Amnesty of what happened when Israel DID end an "occupation." Israel withdrew from Gaza and took its citizens with it, forcibly moving those who didn't want to leave.

The Arab response? Daily rocket fire into Israel. Over 4,000 rockets have been fired into Israel in the last six years; they come daily now, in barrages of anywhere from 10 to 40 or more. The rockets, despite being derided by the MSM as "homemade" and "not effective" have killed. No, its not a Tomahawk -- but if your husband or son is the fatality, it is equally devasting.

And Amnesty thinks the West Bank is under seige? Welcome to my world, you idiots.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


The MSM loves to point out that Israel's self-defense is "disproportionate" meaning, I suppose, that we can only fire Kassams and Katyushas at Palestinian civilians rather than target Kassam factories and Hezbollah command bunkers with bombs.

Little mention was made in local papers, and none at all in the foreign media, of last week's death of Chai Shalom Cohen. Like my son, Chai Shalom suffered from cerebral palsy. Unlike my son, who has impaired vision, Chai reportedly suffered from a heart defect, hearing loss and speech deficits. Like almost all of the special needs children in Israel, he was transported daily to and from school in a special bus.

Last week, his bus was carrying the children to school when Hamastan fired another of its endless volleys of Kassam missiles into Israel, hitting Sderot again. One Kassam exploded next to the special needs bus, blowing shrapnel into the bus and wounding the children. Chai Shalom's legs were broken. He was rushed to Soroka Hospital, where complications set in, and he died.

He was 13 years old.

Every day, across this nation and across California where we hailed from, parents of special needs children entrust those children to the special buses which transport the kids to and from their schools. My husband and I, paranoid products of too many police reports, chose to transport the Boy every day in our car rather than entrust him to the care and driving of strangers. We had that luxury. Chai Shalom's parents did not. In a city under seige from Iranian and Saudi bought-and-paid-for terrorists, the parents undoubtedly tried to keep to as normal a routine as possible for their child. Special needs children, more than most, need a stable environment and routine. Many parents can't leave Sderot for fear of losing their jobs, their homes and hence their lives' savings. Many parents do not have adequate shelters in their homes and feel that the schools are marginally safer for their children.

I have watched all the major news stations this week: Al Jazeera, BBC, Sky News, FoxNews, CNN, France 24. No mention was made of the death of Chai Shalom or any other child who has died during the Terror Seige of Sderot in the last 6 years. Every MSM anchor and field reporter was careful to be "proportional," always mentioning first that Gaza took a hit then second that the hit was in response to rocket attacks on Israeli towns nearby, while running more staged footage of Red Crescent ambulances disgorging the bloodless "wounded" into a hospital amid screaming and panic. I recognized some of the footage as stock rerun from the last year's incursion into Gaza for Gilad Shalit.

No photos of Chai Shalom were displayed on the evening news. No film of the shrapnel shredded school bus appeared nor were his grieving parents interviewed or his teachers asked about him and his life. An internet search under his name yields almost no mention of his too-short-life and death.

THIS is disproportionality. When the media ignores the tragic death of children, disabled or not, in a civilian town with no military function, following a total withdrawal from all of Gaza, and the subsequent bombardment of that town and its civilians, then "disproportional" is the mildest thing I can call it. It is, instead of merely "disproportionate", it is criminal: the mainstream media, entangled in its outdated Old Left agenda, has failed to recognize the rising fascism of the Arab people it constantly extolls as the only recognizable ethnic group with a claim to statehood in this part of the world (never mind the UN and League of Nations decisions to the contrary, or the Jewish presence here continuously for thousands of years). The MSM has connived with terror and abetted the genocidal agenda of so-called Palestinian nationalists--people who define their nationhood solely through terror attacks dating back to the 1920s.

My heart goes out to the family of Chai Shalom. My heart has hardened towards Gaza and its despicable indoctrination of hate in Arab children of all ages. Someone should remind Hamas that those who sew the wind reap the whirlwind.

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