Monday, May 31, 2010

......and so the world condemns us. Again.

Though this is not a political blog, I can't help but comment on the events of today. I am aware of how the world perceives us and the truth is I am outraged by it. Today's tragedy was preceded by a clear intention to provoke and ambush the Israeli Navy; and resulted in the lynching of our soldiers.

Our army has a right to defend our country. Weapons smuggling into Gaza, run by Hamas, a terrorist organization, is not a secret. The Israelis told the people on that ship that their aid could be sent into Gaza after it was inspected. They refused. Here's a look at some of their "peace activists":

And this guy looks like a real humanitarian, no?

I received an e-mail from Rabbi Hershel Billet, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere, sent out to the community. I thought it described the situation quite well and he kindly allowed me to post it here:


As many of you may be aware, a major confrontation took place off Israel's coast
earlier today. We wanted to bring you the most up-to-date information from
JFNA's Israel office, for your background. We have summarized the major points
below. This is followed by additional facts and links to other important
materials on this incident.

* Early this morning (May 31), Israel Defense Forces naval forces
intercepted six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

* The intercept took place after numerous warnings from Israel and the
Israel Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the
ships to redirect toward Ashdod where they would be
able to unload their cargo which would then be transferred to Gaza over land
after undergoing security inspections. The IDF stressed that the passengers
could then return to their point of departure on the same vessels.

* During the interception of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked
the IDF naval personnel with live gunfire as well as light weaponry including knives, crowbars and clubs. The demonstrators had clearly prepared weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

* According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to
break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent
activists holding pistols. These militants apparently grabbed the pistols from
IDF forces and opened fire on the soldiers.

* The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of reported aid to Gaza. Israel
provides 15,000 tons of aid weekly to Gaza.

* As a result of this life-threatening activity, naval forces employed
riot dispersal means, including, when they determined that their lives were in
immediate danger, live fire. According to initial reports, these events resulted
in over 10 deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injured.

* A number of Israeli naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and
others from knives and crowbars. Two of the soldiers are moderately wounded and
the remainder sustained light injuries.

* All of the injured, Israelis and foreigners, are currently being
evacuated by a fleet of IDF helicopters to hospitals in Israel.

* Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that some of the participants
onboard the ships had planned a lynch-mob attack, using lethal force on the
boarding forces.

* The events are still unfolding. Israeli Naval commander, Vice Admiral
Eliezer Marom is overseeing the activities.

* In the coming hours, the ships will be directed to the Ashdod port,
while IDF naval forces will perform security checks in order to identify the
people on board the ships and their equipment.

* The IDF naval operation was carried out under orders from the political
leadership to halt the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and breaching the
naval blockade.

Other important facts:

* The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has
links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.

* The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they
intended to violate international maritime law.

* The activists were carrying 10,000 tons of what they said was aid.
Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week
to the people of Gaza.

* "We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats
of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us," said one
of the flotilla’s organizers.

* Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said
"We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies
across the whole world.

* Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: "If the ships reach Gaza it
is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too.

* Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more
than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.

* Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it
does daily.

* No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters
without a security check.

* Earlier this week, Noam Shalit, father of Hamas-held Israeli soldier Gilad
Shalit, approached the flotilla's organizers asking them to take supplies to
Gilad. He was refused.

Just another day in the Holy Land.

(Oh, and yeah, Jameel is the one to go to for up-to-the-minute reporting as the situation continues to unfold).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ode to Ozzy

Those of you who know me, or have been reading for a while know about Ozzy, our wonder dog. What you may not be aware of is how Ozzy came to be a part of the family.

It was a dark and stormy nightIsaac and the girls always wanted a dog, but I resisted. It wasn't that I didn't like dogs on principle; I just knew that the girls would be to young to care for a dog and with Isaac's long work hours, the responsibility would fall on me. I didn't want to be forced to run home to walk the dog or to clean up after it's mess at home. So I firmly said no, time after time. I did agree, though to dogsit for some friends; I thought this was a nice compromise, where the girls would get the experience of having a pet and I knew said pet would be going home shortly.

All was well, I thought.

But it wasn't good enough for them.

They -- all of them, the three girls and my husband, did not stop asking, cajoling, needling, begging, demanding, beseeching me for a dog of their own.

Still I said no.

And then, in November, 2005 when Liat was diagnosed with her Hodgkin's, of course the issue was resolved. There was no way we were bringing a new pet into a house where someone was undergoing chemotherapy.

Several months went by, and thankfully, Liat's treatment went as expected. After chemotherapy, she began a course of radiation.

And during that time the pleading started up full force again. "No way", I said. I was exhausted and traumatized after our experience with childhood cancer. I didn't have the strength to even think about it.

But Liat didn't give up. She got on the internet and researched different breeds of dogs. She decided she wanted a westie and kept on telling me how good they were with children and whatever other things the breed had going for it. I paid her no attention.

The last day of Liat's radiation treatment came and of course we were all excited about it. Isaac was taking the day off to accompany her to the treatment. As was customary, he called me as soon as it was over to let me know it went okay, and to let me know they were on their way home.

"But first", he teased, "we're going to stop and buy a dog."

"Hah hah", I snickered. "Sure. Knock yourself out."

When I got home from work, Nadine's car wasn't in the driveway. "Strange", I thought. "Where could they be?" Liat was exhausted from the radiation and needed to be home resting. A few minutes later, Isaac and Liat pulled up in the borrowed car.

Liat walked in with a huge smile on her face, followed by Isaac, who looked like he was coming home from the hospital holding a newborn wrapped in a blankie. He was beaming even more than Liat.

"What the--?", I said. When I peaked in the blanket, I saw a snout and two [sweet] brown eyes looking up at me.

"Very funny", I murmured. "You took the neighbor's dog to play a trick on me. I'm laughing inside. Now take it back."

"No, honey, it's not a neighbor's dog, he's ours. Meet the newest member of our family." And he showed me the receipt from the pet store he had bought (which was, by the way, way more than we could afford).

I put my face in my hands. What had he done? I felt Liat looking at me, expectantly. "I can't do this, Isaac. Take it back. Take it back before Tali and Orli get home and fall in love. TAKE IT BACK!!!"

Liat started to cry. "Abba", she said. "You said Mommy wouldn't be mad. Let's take it back."

I left them and walked into the kitchen. I was angry, upset. What now? I heard Tali and Orli walking in, their squeals of delight washing over me.

I felt myself weakening.

Isaac walked into the kitchen.

"Please", he said. "This family has been through so much the past few months. Don't you think a dog would help the girls? He will add so much to this family."

I was gone. Totally manipulated. How do you say no to a child with cancer? To her sisters who could not help but feel like they were taking a backseat, much as we tried to pay attention to them? To a husband who had been a rock throughout it all?

You can't. Say no, that is.

"I won't walk him", I mumbled.

"No", said my husband.

"And I won't clean up after him."

"Absolutely not".

"And if he gets sick, we will not pay one red nickel for medical bills for him", I added.

Isaac didn't answer that. But he was smiling, and tearing up at the same time.

In the living room, the kids whooped it up. They had heard it all, and knew victory was theirs.

Yesterday, we celebrated four years since that day. Four years of recovery, of growing up and moving on, of a gratitude that I feel every day.

I can honestly say that Isaac was wrong. I have walked Ozzy, cleaned up after him, ran home to be there in time for him. That dog has chewed up my good leather gloves, several pairs of swimming goggles, eaten stuff out of the garbage can and ripped our leather sofa to shreds.

But for the most part, Isaac was right. Ozzy has been so good for us. He is always there for us. He has healed us. He loves us.

And I say this unapologetically: I love him, too.

Happy anniversary, Ozzy.

Nope, not a Westie, but a Shetland Sheepdog. Liat fell in love with him as soon as she saw him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Feels like June in New York City

In NYC, it was a rite of passage.

Every year, without fail, an enterprising young person would somehow manage to get a hold of the Regents Exams a few days before the test took place. This person would then begin selling the exam. Many kids too lazy to actually study would buy the answers and then spend days memorizing them or figuring out how to copy the answers onto a pencil or the bottom of their shoe. Stupid kids for several reasons. One, if they spent all that time studying, they'd probably do okay on the exam; and two, if they waited until the night before the test, they could get it for free. (Don't ask me how I know that).

The thing was it always seemed to be a Jewish kid, often from a Yeshiva that stole the exam. Really embarrassing.

Here in Israel, starting in the tenth grade, the kids take what are known as "bagrut". These exams are similar to what the regents are in New York, a standardized exam designed to make sure the kids are receiving an education worthy of them entering a university in the future (as far as I know, you need to have a Bagrut Diploma in order to even apply). The kids are under a great deal of pressure this time of year.

Liat, who is in the 11th grade, is in the throes of exam season and is scheduled to take the 4-point Math Bagrut (the Bagrut work in categories of 3 to 5 points) tomorrow afternoon. Last night she got a phone call from her friend: the 4-point bagrut had been leaked, and it was unclear if the test would be re-scheduled. Liat had spent several days studying and did not want the test pushed off.

Thankfully, the test will go on, as scheduled.

Of course, Liat and her friends are concerned that the new test will be deliberately be made harder as a kind of "punishment" to the kids. But I doubt it. Once you've seen one integral/differential/inferential/sine/cosine/whatever you've seen 'em all, no?

I'm not exactly sure who is responsible for the leaked Bagrut, but I imagine it's also someone Jewish. Which Israeli leader was it that dreamed of the day Israel would have its first robbery so that we would be a "normal" country? Does a leaked Bagrut fit with that vision?

Good luck to Liat and all her peers tomorrow and throughout Bagrut season.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I guess you'll have to save it for next year

I didn't get to post my famous cheesecake recipe before the Shavuot holiday and for this I truly apologize.

I got this recipe from Dena Feldman, a colleague of mine from way back when. I didn't even like cheesecake in those days because it always tasted so...crumbly. She swore to me that this is the creamiest cheesecake ever, and I tried it for my first Shavuot with Isaac. He loved it and we've had it every year since, except for once. That year I decided to make a low-fat cheesecake. After the holiday, Isaac begged me, "Please. We only eat cheesecake once a year. Can't we have the real thing?" And it's been the good stuff ever since.

Of course when I moved to Israel, I had to make adjustments. This

became this

and this

became this

The variety of cheese products here in Israel is amazing and in honor of the holiday new products are always introduced. These substitutes work great and we've of course continued our cheesecake tradition here. Only problem is, because the holiday is only one day here, there is usually a leftover piece for us to pick at...

Here is the recipe, in both American and Israeli amounts:

Honey graham crackers (petit-bars work fine here in Israel)
453 grams (16 oz.) cream cheese--trust me, use Tempt-tee in the US and Napolitan here in Israel
453 grams (16 oz.) sour cream
3 eggs
1 cup of sugar (divided in thirds)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 191 degrees (375 in the US)

Crumb cookies and press them into 8 or 9 inch (no I don't know the centimeters) springfoam pan.

Whip cream cheese and sour cream, well--NO LUMPS! Add one egg and 1/3 cup of sugar three times. Add vanilla extract and pour into pan.

Bake for thirty minutes and then turn oven off. Leave the cake for an hour, and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.

My cake always cracks and I'm okay with that. I know there's a way to prevent it, but the cracks don't bother me, I rather like them. You can always cover the cake with strawberries or caramel if you want. I've tried baking it in a water bath, but it came out the same so its not worth the effort, if you ask me.

I know it's to late for Shavuot, but hey, you can eat cheesecake anytime, no?

I'm no longer in contact with Dena, but I'll always remember her fondly for giving me the best cheesecake recipe ever.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gotta be in it to win it

Two and a half years into our new life here in Israel, the "firsts" are fewer and further apart.

But today I had one.

When I first moved here, a cashier at the supermarket asked me if I was interested in a lottery ticket. "Sure," I answered, already counting my shekels, "how much?"

"Forty shekel", she answered.

"Forty shekel???", that's like ten dollars. There was no way I was going to pay that. My gambling days were over, I sadly thought....

And yet, the lottery here is a popular business. Lots and lots of people play, and there are stands all over the city. I can even hum the jingle of the radio commercial. Surely if it were that expensive, it wouldn't be so widespread.

So today, while shopping, Isaac and I stopped by a stand and asked how it works. Turns out it's very similar to the New York City lottery. All you is need is about 6shekel and a dream.

Wish us luck.

(This could be us in a couple of days).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In the past month...

...The European economy has taken (another?) nosedive.

...all of a sudden everyone's worried about Israel and her nukes, rather than another unnamed country whose name starts with I and ends with N

...a terrorist event was thankfully averted in Times Square. And, oh yeah, surprise, surprise guesswhodunnit? ash cloud covered most of Europe, stranding thousands and causing the loss of bajillions of dollars to the airline industries. country commemorated Yom HaShoah V'HaGvurah (Holocaust Day), Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) and celebrated Yom Ha'atzmaut.

...I have appreciated the love of my husband, my kids, my family, my old friends in the US and my new friends in Israel, in a way I haven't done in a long time.

...and I've missed blogging.

It's good to be back.