Sunday, December 26, 2004

My Astrology Snapshot for 2005

LEO!
Pursuing a successful career, along with the usual social and financial advantages, will be easier this year than it has in a long time for you, Leo! The most difficult thing might be deciding which path means the most to you and where to put your focus. You'll be able to create opportunities for advancement almost out of thin air. Romance in 2005 will make it a year to remember—you'll be the envy of all your friends. Love comes willingly and easily. Money may suddenly become tight at a very inconvenient time; yet, this is no comparison to the advancements you'll make overall and by the end of 2005, you'll look back in sheer wonder and happiness.

We'll see...

Part of the Solution?

Gladin: Facing a low point in American history
by:Susan Gladin
www.heraldsun.com

Disappointment comes in different forms, and this week it was that my truck wouldn't start for the very first time. It was about time for the 5-year-old battery to give out, but the slow grind of the engine symbolized the end of an era. This truck is no longer new.
When the big truck was purring again, I made the mistake of turning on WUNC while I drove to town. Every click of the tuner brought more disappointments, and these of grave proportions. I learned that our earth will warm more in the next century than it has in the past 10,000 years, and that the ocean level at our state's shores will rise by a whopping 18 inches, flooding most of the areas we refer to as "the beach."
Then the voices of Dan Eagan of the Washington Post and Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union told of newly released FBI reports of prisoner abuses at Guantanamo where detainees were tied to the ground in the fetal position for 24 hours. On orders that originated in high places, prisoners were given no water or food and had to defecate and urinate on themselves. Some of those detainees have since been found to be innocent. I don't know why the American people have not taken to the streets to shout to the world, "THESE ARE NOT OUR VALUES!" Instead, our government tells us to be patriotic and go shopping.
I did go shopping -- for groceries -- and my disgust continued as I perused the shelves and bins full of poisons disguised as foods. Pick up any box, bottle or can, read the label, and there among the names of preservatives you can't pronounce, you'll find "high fructose corn syrup." This is a cheap sweetener that is highly suspected in the obesity epidemic in our country. We're the only nation in which the poor people are fat. But if someone tries to diet, they're faced with aspartame, an artificial sweetener suspected in a host of neurological problems.
I heard that peanuts are one of the most heavily pesticide-contaminated foods. But peanuts are darned good for us. Fish is good for us, too, but the radio says we can't eat much tuna or salmon for fear of mercury toxicity. A lot of the fish we used to eat, like cod, are now gone from our shores because we've taken and taken without letting the breeding grounds replenish.
Taking and taking seems to be the core American value. Have you seen those little Christmas books that people fill out called, "What I Want?" What a way to celebrate the birth of the One who called us to turn away from wealth and greed. Some have tried to turn religion into a consumer product. They say we can feast like vampires on the blood of Christ, and all we have to do is believe. "Take," their Jesus says, and never mentions the poor or the meek.
Driving home, the radio brought Howard Davidivowitz, an investment banker who told that the economy is "gonna get worse." We're running on fumes, he warned, because both the consumers and the government have borrowed (taken) beyond their capacity to repay. "[Do] you understand that our economy is operational only because the Japanese and Chinese are buying our bonds?" he asked. I hadn't understood it was that bad.
Later I listened to a story about a new danger from pharmaceuticals -- this caused by failures at the National Institutes of Health, where scientists are allowed to take consulting fees from the manufacturers of the drugs they are studying. Science and advertising got confused by Dr. H. Brian Brewer, and a potentially dangerous drug (Crestor) made it to the market with high acclamations and few warnings.
And then came the news that the 22 soldiers who were killed in the mess hall blast in Mosul did not have the most rudimentary security measures protecting them while they dined there in Iraq. The yearly increase in our military budget is greater than any other nation's entire military budget ... yet we didn't provide the most basic security for our soldiers.
So you can see that the faltering truck is the least of my disappointments. I am not going into 2005 with a fist full of naïve resolutions, nor with a heart full of optimism. No, I think 2005 will be a low point in American history, and the downward spiral will continue until enough citizens muster the gumption to do something.
I was merely disappointed by my truck but am devastated by the greed that has raped our environment, threatened our health, bankrupted our economy, abused our prisoners, poisoned our food, and failed to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend us.
But mostly I am disappointed in myself. Over the past few years I have tried to do the things that could make a difference in some of these issues. But in the end I lost heart, gave up and went shopping.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Missing Christmas


I think that this is the first year that I have missed Christmas. It's Christmas Eve and it doesn't feel at all like Christmas here. Sure, the weather is cool (sometimes downright cold!) and there have been some rainy and cloudy days. But for the most part the days here are like beautiful fall days in NC....crisp, cool, dry, with lots of sun. The sun here seems to shine from a different angle. Even on the shortest day the year it's very direct. Today we had showers kind of like the showers we have in the summer in NC. They would last for a minute or two and then the sun shines through.

For the most part, there aren't any decorations in the stores, not really any Christmas music on the radio, and the anticipation of a couple of days of rest after a BIG meal is missing. Life goes on here just like every other day.

What Christmas means to me has evolved over the past few years. I think that I have missed several of the past few holidays with my family to travel off to NYC, Israel, or Paris. Even on the times that I was traveling I was able to get a good dose of holiday cheer. Paris at holiday time is a beautiful thing! But this year I have been away from the holiday buying frenzy, the carols on the radio since Halloween, and from my friends and family.

Yaacov tried to convince me to get a little tree and decorate it for Christmas, but I decided against it. Next year when we have more friends and when we're more settled (yeah right!) we'll have Christmas. I'll bake and make white chocolate covered pretzels. It will be fun. Right now it would just be stressful. We're still arranging furniture and deciding on where things go. I have learned that we're not very good at putting things away and our stuff has a tendency to stay wherever it lands after coming through the door. I want to make room for everything--then we can party.

Well, I hope that everyone reading this has a wonderful Christmas wherever you are!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas!


This picture was taken at the Latrun Monestary where Yaacov and I visited a few weeks ago. I am posting it now because in the picture I am standing in front of the biggest poinsettia that I have ever seen! It's huge!

Happy Holidays everybody! Let me hear from you!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Bodie Island Lighthouse in the Snow!


Photo: AP/Drew Wilson

A rare dusting of snow covered the grounds at the lighthouse on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore near Nags Head, NC.

There is a slight chance of a white Christmas there this year!

Happy Holidays everybody!

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Tree Grows...

I recently finished reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. It was a good read. I enjoyed the way that the characters uncovered truths about human nature. My copy of the books was great-- a first edition paperback printed in England in 1951. I picked it up at a used book store on King George St for 5 NIS. The pages are yellow with brown edges and so brittle that you can't dogear them because they'll break.

Here are some quotes I particularly like from the book.

(After the start of WWI)
'Send Francie. The last time I asked for sauerkraut he chased me out of the store,' complained Neeley.
'You've got to ask for Liberty Cabbage now, you dope,' said Francie...
'Did you know that they changed Hamburg Avenue to Wilson Avenue?' asked Francie.
'War makes people do funny things,' sighed Katie.

-----

'People always think that happiness is a far-away thing,' thought Francie, 'something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains - a cup of strong hot coffee when you're blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you're alone - just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.'

-----

To look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus your time on earth filled with glory.


If you haven't, you should read it.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Addresses!

Hey everybody!
I am trying to get all my cards and things in the mail, but I want to be sure that I have your correct address. Send me an email to make sure I have the most up-do-date one.

Use the Christmas Lights Web Cam!


There is this guy that has rigged up the holiday decorations on his house so that you can control them through the internet! You can turn the lights on and off and zoom all around his yard!
CLICK HERE to go to the site.

Update: You can go to this guy's website where he says that the web controlled lights were just a hoax. I wasn't ever able to "log on" because I think that the lights were "active" when I was sound asleep due to the time difference. I don't know what I think about this. I mean, I guess people got some Christmas joy out of it. But in a way he's making fun of us all for believing. The holiday time is a time of believing in things we can't really see...hope, promise, light, and love. And for this guy to trick us, well, it leaves me feeling disappointed and foolish. It's a little grinch-esque.

The World's Biggest Menorah!


The Jerusalem Municipality, ''Meir Panim'' Organization and ''Ariel'' , in association with The Israel Electric Company built the world's largest menorah in Jerusalem.

The ''Menorah of Lights'' is built in the entrance to Jerusalem. The menorah is 21 meters wide, and has nine branches, each of them 20 meters tall. It is made of 1800 light bulbs, each of them 500 watts strong, and weighs, in total, 50 tons. The menorah produces more light than all the lights along the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway!!!

Yaacov and I saw this last weekend on our way to his parent's house for dinner. It is SO incredibly bright! I had to go back last night (the last night of Hanukkah) and take a photograph. It is like Las Vegas!


Notice how BIG it is compared to the traffic light in the picture. You can see the green light of the traffic signal near the center of the page.


Yaacov basking in the glow! Look closely and notice his very short hair cut! Sorry for the bad photo, but I couldn't get my flash to work. All the bright lights were tricking my camera and I of course don't know how to override the automatic flash thingy. Too fancy for me.


Can you seen how it towers over the cars in the intersection?! It's huge! I bet you can see it from outer space!

The Last Night of Hanukkah

You can see all of our candles are lit. The idea is to place your hanukkia near the window so that you can share about the miracle to others. As you walk through many neighborhoods in Jerusalem, you can spot the hanukkia. What's a "hanukkia"? Well, in Hebrew "menorah" means lamp. So, here any lamp (table lamp, reading lamp, etc.) is a menorah. Traditional menorahs have just six branches. Hanukkia are special lamps for Hanukkah. They have eight branches or places for candles plus one for the candle to light the others.

Our Hanukkia


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Oooooh! It's Chilly!


Sarah Jessica Parker gets dressed for winter.
Lux soap (yet another Unilever brand!) recently unveiled it's new promotion with Sarah Jessica Parker. The posters are on billboards and, you guessed it, on the sides of buses all over Israel. The top image was put out first. Within 24 hours there was a public outcry from the Jewish Orthodox community in Israel about these "indecent" images. They threatened a boycott of Unilever. Well, Unilever got busy fast and changed the posters saying that they had covered her up for winter!

It was a little dress.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Map of Israel


Click on the map to make it BIGGER! You can check out all the places I've been talking about on this blog. Once the picture opens in a new window, you can click on it again to enlarge it even more.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Happy Hanukah!


I have next week off from school! Yeah! Maybe I can catch up! Look for some interesting posts. I am going to visit a Greek Orthodox nun from my Ulpan class and do some sightseeing!

Oh, my friend Heidi (xoxo to Heidi!) sent me this funny link about Hanukah. It's a little anti-Semitic, but it's still funny. It has music, so make sure your speakers are on (but not too loud)!
Click HERE to PLAY the song/video! (BTW, we don't make Motza Ball soup for Hanukkah! That's just for Passover! If you're going to rgith a song, get it right!)

(And by the way, I don't think that it matters how you spell Hanukkah/Hanukah/Chanukah because it's a transliteration from Hebrew. The confusion about the H/CH as the beginning sound is because it's a sound we don't have in English. It sounds like someone clearing their throat...a very hard and raspy H sound.)

On Being Rude

I am from the Southern United States and we have a long history there of genteel culture (among other things). Maybe this is the the root of my musings today...maybe not. People in Israel are much more "in your face" than in the US. People here will directly express their (dis)satisfaction with you--in traffic, in the shop, wherever. There is not some much concern for being "nice". Now, I don't think that this means that people here are rude or impolite. Just different. It's actually very refreshing.

But somethings are just RUDE and GROSS no matter where you are and I see more of it here than where I lived before. Most of the problems are with men, so guys, listen up!

Public Urination-Guys, keep it in your pants! Just because you have to go doesn't mean that you can! Yaacov was showing me a nice restaurant the other day and around the corner from it these two guys were peeing! Just about every time I have been on a highway in Israel, I have seen a least one person peeing on the side of the road. They have gas stations here. They have bathrooms here. There is really just no excuse for this. It's NOT healthy and it's not ok.

Not Picking Up After Your Dog-I HATE this! If your dog poops, pick it up! Here's the deal. Nobody likes to step in poop, nobody! The other day there was a mountain of dog poop on the sidewalk near our apartment. Seriously, I would hate to see the dog that left that! The reason dog poop is bad is the same reason people don't poop on the street. It's not healthy. Here's why. First, just the poop itself isn't nice. People step in it and smear it on the sidewalk. Then they track it in offices, buildings, and home. Gross! Now, it doesn't rain a lot in Jerusalem, but when it does all of that poop gets washed into the fresh water supply. Of course the water we drink gets treated (we hope). But what about the water in the stream and lakes? All that poop adds up to a real biological hazard. Do you want to swim in the poop soup?! The surplus of nutrients in the poop cause algae blooms. It is NOT good for the environment.

Blowing snot out of your nose without an handkerchief or tissue-Who came up with these snot rockets?! This has GOT to be the most revolting thing I have ever seen!!!! Can't you wait 5 minutes to find some tissue?! If you're congested, take some toilet tissue with you and blow your nose. This is not "rocket" science. People do not want to share in the things that come from your body. Keep them to yourself! Yuck! I think that I am going to start coming up to people and yelling at them and offering them tissues. I have seen this twice here and it turns my stomach.

Maybe in the US we just spend so much time alone in our cars to notice this bad behavior. Maybe people are shooting snot in their vehicles and we just don't see it. Either way, blow your damn nose, pick up after your dog, and hold it to you get to the bathroom!!!!

Ok, I just remembered what started all of this rant...the straw that broke the camel's back, if you will...

This morning on the way to school, I saw a guy shaving himself with an electric razor while waiting at the door for a shop to open. The other week I saw a guy shaving in his car. Here's the problem--all of those little hairs don't evaporate when you shave them. Guys, they end up on your shirt, or in your car...not nice at all. Maybe you're married already and don't care or something, but let me just tell you ...IT'S GROSS! STOP IT! Shave at home! In the bathroom! By YOURSELF!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Sometimes Life is Crazy

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Another Reason to Love Israel

On Thursday I forgot my scarf at school. I got halfway home and realized that it was missing. I was so lazy, I didn't even go back to look for it. I thought that it would give me a chance to buy a new scarf or make room for ones I might get for Christmas. It was totally a rich, American way of thinking.

Today I was pleasantly surprised to find it still hanging on the hook in the classroom where I left it. Isn't nice when the world suprises you? There probably weren't other classes in there over the weekend, but it's still nice to think that people left the scarf there simply because they knew it didn't belong to them.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Latrun Monestary

Today Yaacov and I visited the Latrun Monestary. It is a beautiful place. It was built in the 1890s by a group of Trappist monks from France. The make their own wine and have many olive groves.


The Garden at the Latrum Monestary-those big red flowers are poinsettias! They grow to be huge shrubs here. They are just amazing! The plants are at least 15 feet high and have hard woody stems.

View from the monestary.

Rolling hills...beautiful!

The chapel at the monestary.

View of the monestary from the olive grove.

In Tel Aviv

We went to Tel Aviv today and did a lot of walking around. We left Jerusalem and it was chilly there, but as you can see from Yaacov's short sleeve shirt, it was very nice in Tel Aviv. There are many interesting shops in Tel Aviv on sprawling tree-lined boulevards. Many people are very hip. It's a trendy, modern, very European place.
Yaacov reading on our trip to Tel Aviv.

Rothschild Street in Tel Aviv

My Big Fat Georgian Circumcision Party

Yaacov's cousin had a baby and this past week we attended the Bris which is the Jewish ritual circumcision and naming ceremony.

The Bris happens eight days after the baby is born. You can read all about the ceremony by clicking HERE.

This was an interesting party. Both sides of Yaacov's family are Georgian. There was a TON of food. Each table was set with full place settings and lots of salads that are typical of Israeli meals. Here "salad" means anything from hummus, to pickled cabbage, to pickled cucumbers, and lots of other tasty items. In the middle of the table was a bottle of Absolute vodka, a warm bottle of white wine, pitchers of water and orange juice, and Coke!

After all of the cutting, it was time to eat. There was a DJ and loud music. We had lots of food (I think that there were four courses) and then there was dancing! Yaacov's aunt dragged me onto the dance floor. It was great seeing everyone having a good time! After the circumcision the baby fell right back to sleep! (Maybe there were drugs involved?)

The party started at about 3:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. It was great to see a family come together to celebrate a new child.

It was a lot of fun to say the least and the party lasted several hours.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Again!

I bought another bag of chips the other day. I got another prize/scratch thingy. I won a bag of chips and then lost it...again.

Duh!