Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Just Some Thoughts

There are a couple of blogs that I read just about every day. One of those is Treppenwitz. I like the way that David (the blogger at Treppenwitz) writes and how he shares with readers a slice of Israeli life. It's cool. It's intelligent and refreshing.

Recently he posted an entry about his (thus far) positive experience with the socialized medical system here in Israel. If you read the posting and the comments, you'll see that I made some remarks about not yet being able to receive these health benefits because I am not yet a "resident" (for official purposes -- on my way though). I have to buy private insurance that isn't so great. You'll see that he responds that he feels that countries don't have an obligation to provide health benefits to non-citizens or non-residents. I don't disagree.

My beef is that there is not a really good insurance plan for those of us that aren't yet residents to BUY! I can't even BUY coverage for pre-existing conditions. So, non-residents get stuck.

Today he posted about France not coming to the aid of a hostage in Iraq that had served for 21 years with the French Foreign Legion. According to the posting, the reason the French officials gave for not helping to rescue the hostage was because the hostage was not a French citizen. Of course, being a rational person, David has a problem with this answer. How could they not help after all the service this guy has given to France? I don't disagree.

It seems to me though that the reason France wouldn't help the hostage is the same reason David gave for states not having to provide health benefits - not a citizen. I don't see much difference between being held hostage by terrorists and being held hostage by cancer. Both situations are out of the control of the individual - nobody asked for it. Both situations require some outside help. I'm not judging David's response to the France situation. I am just noting that countries have to create "cut offs" otherwise there's not difference between us and them - citizens and non-citizens. Why should one country be demonized for denying military aid to a non-citizen (not matter what the person's connection to the country is) while another country denies medical care to residents?

Maybe there shouldn't be "cut-offs" - maybe we should all take care of each other as if we were brothers. What makes one man French and another Israeli or American? Why are the French blamed for not helping the hostage and not some other country? When we see someone that needs help, why do we pass them by and not take responsibility - because they're not a citizen? because they're not in our family?

Hmmm....

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Latest Read

I just finished reading The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton this morning. I started it before I left for the US, put it down for a while to read some other books, and just got around to wrapping it up.

This is an entertaining, "should read" book. Hamilton develops believable characters and through narration by Ruth, the main character, she paints a dramatic story of a troubled family.

A surprise ending helps pull the whole story together in the last fifty pages or so.

Frequent readers know that I like to provide some quotes from the book I've read. Here's one from The Book of Ruth.

I know, certainly, that there's nothing to the Rev's guarantee that the meek are going to inherit the earth. No on inherits one single thing. It's something I've thought a lot about. We're only passers-by, and all you can do is love what you have in your life. A person has to fight the meanness that sometimes comes when you're born, sometimes grows if you aren't in lucky surroundings. It's our challenge to fend it off, leave it behind us choking and grasping for breath in the mud. It's our task to seek out something with truth for us, no matter if there is a hundred-mile obstacle course in the way, or a ramshackle farmhouse that binds and binds. The Bible is right on one score: it doesn't do one bit of good to render evil for evil.

I think that I am going to return this book this afternoon and pick out some other good ones. I think that the next book will be The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It's just under 1000 pages with tiny type. So, I might pick something else. I'll let you know.

Read The Numbers Game

So, I made this blog so that my friends and family back in the US could keep up with me and see what it's like living in Israel. Since I have been here, I've realized that other folks are blogging for pretty much the same reason. We (new folks in Israel) share many common experiences. Sometimes they say it better than I can.

Check out http://www.postcardsfromisrael.com/numbers.html .

Back to letter writing...

Friday, May 27, 2005

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Goodness, saying goodbye to you at the airport the other day was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. I know the counter agent thought that I was crazy because I was still crying when I checked my bags. When I first moved to Israel I didn't know what to expect. It was exciting and fun. It seemed like a vacation. Now I know how far away it can seem sometimes. So, I was crying partly for myself. I miss you. Twice a year is not enough.

I was also crying because I care for you. I am shocked by my own feelings of protectiveness. I know that people in this world can be mean, deceitful, and just hard to live with. I wish that I could be nearby so that I could beat them up for you (so to speak). It would be so nice if everyone treated everyone else as if they were their mother. I am being extra nice to folks here (especially women) in hopes that by way of some cosmic ying/yang balancing people will be extra nice to you too. Just yesterday I was at the hair salon and I gave my seat up for a grandmother - she smiled and was able to take a load off.

I was crying because I am so proud of you. The past few years have been so challenging for you. I wish that I could have been there to help you more. You have met these challenges and have worked hard to overcome them in your own way. You have the resources to take care of yourself (no need for a silly old man) and you've proven it. So now that we all know that you can do it, please let me know if you ever need advice or help working something out. I am hear to help and to listen.

I was crying because it's really sad and frustrating that all the people I care about can't be in the same place at the same time. It's ironic that I have so much free time here (at least for now) but most of the people that I would want to spend my free time with aren't here.

Thanks, mom, for loving me...for being there. (I always thought that was corny to say "thanks for being there", but I am being to understand what it means. I don't think it's corny anymore.) Please take good care of yourself. Don't work too hard. Turn away from ugly people. Look out for those jerks. Look out for yourself. Call me if you need anything. Drive with both hands on the wheel. Say hi to Tom.

See you soon.

Love,
John

Letters

I finished reading The Love Letter yesterday. While I was reading it, I thought that I would use my blog to write some love letters of my own. I've thought about the public nature of this blog (anyone can read it) and if I should just keep my letters private. I think I'm going to keep names to myself, but people will know who they are. Maybe sharing a little love with stangers is a good thing.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Time for School!

As you can see from the several posts from today, not sleeping gives one time to do lots of things. I read. I did yoga at sunrise. I've took a shower and put my clothes on. I ate breakfast. I made a cup of tea and a cup of coffee. I goofed around on the internet and looked up books on Amazon. I caught up on some blog reading. All of this I did on my tip toes to keep Y from waking up.

Now I have an hour before I have to leave for ulpan (Hebrew school) and I still have to be quiet because Yaacov is still asleep. I can hear him snoring.

I am not excited about going to ulpan because I have missed the past two weeks and I'll be way behind. I did talk to Yaacov's parents in Hebrew a lot during out trip, but ulpan is school. If you're not there when they cover a topic in class, well, you've missed it. Everyone else is using a verb tense that you can't recognize.

This session of ulpan wraps up in a week or so and I need to do well on the final exam to be able to move to the next level. So, there's some studying involved. Where there's studying, there's procrastination. Look out.

Book update:
I read Life is Short - Wear Your Party Pants by Loretta LaRoche while in the US. It's a fun self-help book. The title sums it up well. It's good to get perspective on life from time to time...life is too short to be taken seriously.

I am still working on The Book of Ruth.

While on vacation I did something that I rarely do. I started a book before finishing another one. I am almost finished with The Love Letter. It's a cute summer romance. The characters are not that well developed. It's as if the author had particular types of personalities in mind while writing the book, but she wasn't able to convey them very well. They don't seem to have depth that helps us understand their motivation. Then again it's a love story - does love have motivation or cause? Hmm. Well, it's entertaining anyway and full of references to books that I haven't read. So, I'll finish it by the end of the day.

Tel Aviv from the plane

Tel Aviv from Space

Jet Lag

...In addition to the "tired-wired", "soar-crash" feeling that travelers experience after long, rapid air travel, there are numerous symptoms that may occur with jet lag, such as insomnia, daytime fatigue, stomachaches, headaches, irritability, and decreased awareness.

Ok, forget that describes how I feel on a normal day, I am having some jet lag. Well, I don't know if it's jet lag or insomnia. I have insomnia sometimes too. We'll call it jet lag because I just got back from the US.

I really didn't have any jet lag when I got to the US this trip. I stayed up for the full day once I landed and got great sleep the first night there. Now that I am back in Israel, I stayed up until about 9:00 but woke up a little past 1:00. 4 hours. Not enough. I tried to go back to bed, but no success. I'll trudge through this day and I am sure that I'll be fine in a couple of days.

I don't think that jet lag will kill you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I am Back! (again)

Made it home safe a sound. Look for updates soon!
J-

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A 12 Hour Flight

Tomorrow morning Yaacov, his mom and dad, and I are coming to America. I am excited. I am getting those pre-flight jitters. Did I pack everything? Do I have enough underwear? Yaacov says that I am a total "stress ball" whenever I travel. I just hope that I remember to take my camera this trip. I forgot it on the trip to Paris.

The flight to the US from Israel is about 12 hours. Then I am taking about a 2 hour flight to Charlotte. It's going to be a LONG day! On the trans-Atlantic Continental flights, all the seats have your own personal TV monitors. One channel has a map that tracks the plane's location. Each time I fly, I swear that thing is broken. It seems like you're flying over Greece for hours!

I am leaving Y and his family in NYC and heading down to York, SC to visit with my mom and family in Kings Mtn., NC. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone and eating homecookin'. You can't get fried okra in Israel! We're meeting back up in the middle of the week and will spend some time in Chapel Hill. I'll email folks tonight to let you know our Chapel Hill plans (Jenn et. al.).

After that we're going to Charleston, SC for some R&R. We'll slowly make our way back up through SC and they'll drop me off with my family for a final weekend. I'll fly back to NYC and have one night there. Then it's back to the Holy Land.

I thought about bringing gifts for everyone. But just the plane ticket was about $1000, so you'll have to do with my smiling face right now. Ok?! Geeze!

So, I don't know if I'll be blogging for the next couple of weeks. Maybe you'll get an update between now and the end of May. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What's That?!

I am learnig Hebrew. A lot of people haven't ever seen Hebrew before. What does it look like?
Check out these links. You might have to download the free Hebrew language thing-a-ma-bob if everything comes out all strange...but then again Hebrew looks kind of strange when you first see it.

Eonline in Hebrew http://eonline.co.il
Haaretz (the NY Times of Israel) www.haaretz.co.il

But I am learning to like it!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Pa-ran-oid


Ok. This is me. I feel kinda like a loser because I just took this picture of myself. But at least I have my clothes on unlike those other freaks. Anyway, there is a little pink patch of skin on my face just below and to the right of my sideburn. (Yes, I need to shave!) This little spot kept me up last night. (Click to make my head bigger. ha ha)

This gets kinda personal, so you can turn away if you want to.

See I have some halo naevi which is where the skin around a mole becomes pale. Most of the time these are benign and I've had a dermatologist check them all out. Sometimes the mole completely disappears and leaves the remaining pale spot. This has happened on three places on my back. It's generally not a big deal because my back is covered most of the time and the spots are pretty small.

In my research (thank goodness for Google, I think), I found out that folks with halo naevi have and increased risk of developing the skin disorder, vitiligo. This is where skin looses pigment. It's what Michael Jackson had and the reason why he had all of his skin bleached out to match all over his body.

So, this little odd patch on my face is disturbing to me. I don't want to look like Michael Jackson! I was up half the night obsessing about it.

I know you all will still love me no matter if my skin is white-white, tan, pink or whatever.

But still...

Monday, May 02, 2005

The View From Here


Look at our geraniums! Aren't they pretty?! They are the trailing kind and I hope they'll grow out of the box and over the rail. If you look carefully, you can see the grapevines in the garden about the large rock wall. I am writing another blog entry about that part of our neighborhood soon.

You're getting a couple of entries today because I am procrastinating from studying for my Hebrew test tomorrow!

Outside


This is the door from the living room out to the balcony of our apartment. Isn't it inviting!? We have two nice wicker chairs out there. The neighbor lady above us hangs out of the window above and talks to us. I feel like I am on 227! Mmmaaarrryyy!

Abu Gosh Restaurant


On Friday evenings Yaacov's family gets together to have dinner. Sometimes his mother makes delicious traditional Georgian foods with an Israeli flair. Other times we go to Abu Gosh and eat at the Abu Gosh Restaurant. Abu Gosh is full of good restaurants but we like the Abu Gosh Restaurant the best. Alex, the manager, takes really good care of us. The food is always good and there's a lot of it! Meals start with a variety of appetizers or "salads" including humus, tehina, grilled eggplant, falafel, pickles, pickled cabbage, and pita. You can have steak, chicken, or lamb for the main meal. We get a variety of meat served on kababs. Afterwards, we drink "Turkish" coffee or tea.

A View of Jerusalem from Abu Gosh

Nargilla


Nargilla is a named used in Israel (it has lots of names) for long, brass water pipes with a glass base. Smoking tobacco with a nargilla is a part of Arab culture. Locally, in cafes in Abu Gosh, the Old City, and in East Jerusalem one can order coffee or tea and smoke a nargilla. The tobacco mixture is placed in the cup on the top and covered with foil. Then hot coals are placed on top of the foil. You draw the smoke from the long tube. The smoke is light and pleasant. I think that it smells sweet and good. The length that the smokes travels and the water helps cool and filter the smoke.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cost of War

I've added a "cost of the war in Iraq" counter to this blog. You can click on it and find out all the mathematical details of the numbers. I saw it on another blog and was just amazed at how MUCH we're spending there. When you click on the link you can compare spending in Iraq to spending on other things like immunizations and preschool care. Check it out.

I might not leave it up forever because I think that the scrolling numbers are annoying.

For me, money really isn't a good way to measure the US "effort" in Iraq. There's just no way to put a price on the lives that have been lost and people that have been injured because of the conflict.

In other news...

I have re-added those darn Google Ads. I've gone back and forth on this issue and here's my reasoning. So, Google owns Blogger and Blogger lets me do my blogging for free. If I put up the ads, Google and Blogger make some money (I make a little too) and hopefully I can keep blogging for free. But the ads that appear on my site make me laugh. I don't get to pick them, so don't laugh.