Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I was going to put up a different post but then decided to hold it for a day

Because it's Yom Yerushalayim! Or Jerusalem Day. It's the 44th anniversary of the day Jerusalem, our capital, the holiest city in the world was liberated and united. It is a day of joy and pride for us. I'd like to remind everyone that in 1967, Jews were denied access to our holy sites, then under Jordanian rule. Jerusalem was liberated after Israel fought a defensive and decisive six-day war. Yes, we were defending ourselves. Had it not been for Arab aggression, parts of Jerusalem might still be under Jordanian rule. (Gee, I wonder how the Jordanians would feel about handing it over to the Palestinians would that be the case).

Under Israeli rule Arabs and Christians have access to their holy places. The Palestinians want Jerusalem in any kind of peace deal they may negotiate with us.

Do you think we'd be given access to those places should such a scenario take place?

In any case, Happy Jerusalem Day to all. In honor of the day, I'm posting a recipe for Meurav Yerushalmi , or Jerusalem mixed grill. It's yummy, but you should know I skip the livers,hearts, spleens and kidneys in the recipe. And some of the spices. Which basically leaves chicken and onions.

Meurav Yerushalmi

The traditional “Jerusalem mixture” is a medley of local meats and spices served mainly in market eateries. This version comes from Sherry Ansky, author, Eating in Jerusalem and The Food of Israel.


Chicken breast, liver, spleen, and heart (small morsels)
Beef kidney (small morsels)
Steak pieces
Whole egg yolk (optional)
Coriander seeds
Curry powder
Black pepper
Grilled chopped onion
Pita bread


Mix meat and egg ingredients. Season with spices, grilled onion, and garlic.

Heat an open grill plate or skillet. Place the mixture over the heat and sear, then lower the heat until the pieces cook on the inside. When cooked thoroughly, briefly increase to maximum heat before removing from grill.

Stuff in pita bread and serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Jewish Dog (no, not Ozzy) or three+ years in and there are still firsts for me

Those of you who know me, know that I love to read. When I was a kid, we were allowed to take out ten books at a time from the Brooklyn Public Library. My mother would take us there every Friday, so I pretty much read ten books weekly--sometimes more when I read the books my siblings took out.

As an adult I continued to read voraciously. Not ten books a week, but I used to be able to polish off two or three for sure. With the advent of Blogger, Facebook and all that other stuff, I read less books, but I read many, many articles and blog posts. I still average 2 to 3 books a month.

When we moved here to Israel, I started reading the newspaper in Hebrew and I have to say I was pretty pleased with myself about this. But I never thought I would want to read a novel in Hebrew. Reading is such a pleasure for me that I thought reading in Hebrew would slow me down. If I have to work at reading, where's the pleasure? I have plenty of sources for English books, including my book club here in Modi'in, my book sistas (including Hilary who sends us books from the US), and various other sources. Sometimes I even buy books.

But this week I was inspired to read an actual Hebrew novel. (Okay, I wasn't really inspired. What actually happened was that on Shabbat morning I was downstairs and had already read all the papers. The English book I was reading was upstairs on my night table and I was too lazy to go upstairs to get it).

I sat down in our Archie Bunker chair and began to read the book titled "The Jewish Dog" by Arthur Kravitz. It is a holocaust story, told from the perspective of Koresh, dog of the German-Jewish Gottlieb family. From page one it grabbed me. It's fairly obvious that Kravitz parallels the holocaust experience of the Jews through Koresh. This dog goes through everything: he wanders and hides in the city, Selection, Treblinka, escape from Treblinka, is hidden by a sympathetic Pole. He even joins a partisan group. The book focuses on the dog's relationships with the humans in his life, the most important one being with his first Jewish master. The irony of the dog's humanity versus some of the animal-like behavior of the humans in the story was not lost on me.

The book was a page turner that had both humor and of course, much sadness. I had my handy-dandy Hebrew-English dictionary close by, but I only used it occasionally. There were times when I may not have understood a word, but if I understood the sentence I let it go, because I didn't want to lose the flow of the story to often. I looked up words only when I felt I wasn't getting it, which was rare.

I learned something from the experience. A good story is a good story in any language. I fell in love with the title character of the book. I've always been an avid reader of holocaust literature, and well, you know how I feel about dogs. So the book was for me, a perfect introduction into reading a full-fledged adult novel in Hebrew.

Being lazy inspired really pays off.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

And a happy Naqba Day to you, too

I never heard of it until a few years ago, but the Naqba thing is definitely growing. Naqba (in Arabic) means tragedy. It is the day that Israel received Independence, our Yom Ha'atzmaut that the Palestinians commemorate their Naqba Day. For them it is a day of mourning the destruction and occupation of their land.

I'm sure I've said this somewhere or other on this blog, but I'll say it again.

A bit of history:

There has always been a Jewish and an Arab presence on this land. But until the late 19th/early 20th century, it was mostly unpopulated; the land was desert and undeveloped. At that time Jews started arriving en masse from Europe. And they started to work the land, to bring the desert to life if you will. By this time the land was under British rule. Tensions between the Arabs and Jews intensified until the UN granted Israel independence.

In November, 1947 the United Nations partitioned the British mandate to look like this. The Jews were to be granted what appears on the map in blue. Over 75% of the land allocated to the Jews was desert. We accepted the plan; the arabs didn't. After Israel declared independence in May, 1948, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria attacked Israel, vowing to destroy us.

They attacked us. We were willing to accept partition. We were willing to share; they were not. Note that Jerusalem was given to the Arabs--and we were okay with that. Well, maybe not okay, maybe we were heartbroken, but we were willing to accept that partition in order to live peacefully with our neighbors. They were not. They attacked us.

They attacked us!

People who just have vague knowledge of the Arab-Israeli conflict don't know this. THEY DECLARED WAR ON US! THEY ATTACKED US! In commemorating their Naqba day they conveniently forget this fact.

It was war, people. Five countries attacked us, vowing to drive us into the sea. We had a right to defend ourselves. To defend our borders.

We still do.

Today Hamas and Fatah are friends again, in what I am sure is a marriage of convenience, not true love. Hamas has stated that they are willing to return to the 1967 borders, but they will never recognize the right of Israel to exist.

How in the world will we ever have peace with people who don't recognize our legitimate right to exist??

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Best Yom Ha'atzmaut ever

Today, instead of having the traditional mangal, or barbeque with friends, we decided, together with those friends to take the mangal to an army base.

I'll explain.

Several weeks ago a message was sent out to the Modi'in listserve (You know the type of internet list where people post things like: "If you're giving away your I-Pad for free, I'm looking for one". Or: "For sale: 20 year old couch that the dog only peed on once a day for 20,000 shekel" [just kidding!! The list has actually been very helpful to me]) Anyway the list posted a message from the organization Standing Together. This organization, run mostly by volunteers, is dedicated to showing the people who protect Israel, its soldiers, our appreciation for their hard work. With their truck and "hospitality trailer" volunteers visit IDF soldiers at their bases and offer support, gratitude, treats, hot and cold drinks etc. One of their biggest events is their Yom Ha'atzmaut barbeques, where they try to reach as many bases and soldiers as possible.

Understand something about Yom Ha'atzmaut in Israel. It is in my opinion the most celebrated holiday here. People go crazy getting ready for their mangal. Cows, sheep and chickens have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide this time of year. The supermarkets are busier than before Passover. (Trust me on that one, I stood on the line at Rami Levi day before yesterday). And most importantly, it is a time for families to come together.

I suppose that bringing barbeques to army bases on Independence Day is not something that many native Israelis do. Most of them have seen enough of army bases in their lifetimes and they have their families to celebrate with. For us, olim, immigrants, well, our friends are our families. So when Ahuva decided to organize things, well, Casa Baila was in.

Our young men and women get drafted here at age 18. This is the price we have to pay to remain strong, to defend our country and its right to exist. Some of these young men and women do get the day off for the holiday, but you just can't close down an army base for the day like you would a toy store. The day, one of the happiest of the year in this country, can be sad and depressing for soldiers who are away from their families and their own personal traditions.

And so off we went. Standing Together provided the meat and we provided the grills, charcoal, manpower. The pita (in Israel they don't do buns), chumus, tachina, salad, ketchup, mustard (yeah they don't do that either....), potatoe chips, drinks, paper goods and various desserts (Elianna's rice krispie treats were a big hit after being eyed suspiciously by those tough soldiers). We were four families who were friends from Modi'in, and we were joined by a lovely family from a nearby moshav.
We fed two shifts of soldiers, male and female, about 70 in all. Their average age was 19-20. The commander of the base was 24-years-old. They are young, strong, intelligent beautiful men and women.

I didn't think I would actually have conversations with the soldiers because it is hard for me to speak to strangers (nothing to do with the language, my Hebrew is good). But I did, mostly because they spoke to me. They were curious about why we made Aliya, about our kids and how they adapted, about what New York was like. And I asked them questions. About their work, about what their plans were when they would be done with the army. In speaking to one of the chayalot, she told me a bit about what she does. She's fairly new, been serving for about six months. She told me that the soldiers from this base work the nearby machsom--which is the checkpoint. Their job is to check both Israelis and Palestinians crossing through the checkpoint. She does this for 8 hours a day every day for two weeks and then gets two and a half days off. Sometimes she does 16 hour shifts (with a two hour break between). She misses her family terribly and even though the other soldiers in her unit have become like family, she told me she feels very lonely at times. She said that the most difficult part of her job was the relationship between the soldiers and residents of the area. "The Palestinians?" I asked, and she answered, "Actually both the Palestinians and the Jews". She told me that both have to pass through the checkpoint and both can be asked for ID for various reasons, and both can get angry about that.

At the end of the day, many of the soldiers came over to thank us. We made the day "שמח"--happy, and "חגיגי"--festive. Thank us???? The sacrifices that these young people make are astounding and they are thanking us for a couple of hamburgers and some Fanta. And rice krispie treats. I guess the treats makes us even.

I have a job to do, the soldier-girl told me and I will do it, and serve my country and protect the people in it as best as I can. But she said, "הלוואי שיום אחד לא יהיו מחסומים ויהיה שלום".

"How I hope and wish for the day when there are no checkpoints and there will be peace."

Me, too. And for the day our young men and women can spend our Yom Ha'atzmaut with their families at home, far, far away from any army bases.

***For more pictures, visit me on facebook. Feel free to friend me to see them. I won't be insulted if you later de-friend me.***

Saturday, May 7, 2011


This is the number of sacrifices our people have given so that we can have our own state.

Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day began this evening. Take a moment to think about all of the soldiers and citizens who have given the ultimate, and their families who remain behind.

For them, Yom HaZikaron is everyday.

Note: This is a post that I've updated from 2008 and 2009. (I missed 2010 due to the death of my father). Today, more than ever, Israel finds herself having to justify her right to exist even though she is surrounded by terrorist, despotic states.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An unfortunate name

Four years ago, Liat was recovering from a severe infection and was just moved to a regular bed from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Every morning nurses or doctors would come around to take blood and Liat quickly became an advocate for herself, not allowing just anyone to stick a needle in her.

One morning a young doctor cheerfully walked in and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Osama", he said. (The doctors in the pediatric unit tended to introduce themselves by their first names, probably as per some memo from the higher-ups).

"Osama?", she asked.

"Yes, I'm here to take some blood.", he answered, reaching for her hand.

"Are you a resident?" she asked.


"I don't let residents take my blood", she said. "I prefer for the ICU nurses to do it, when they can".

He looked at me and I shrugged.

"Okay", he said. And left.

When he was gone, Liat said to me, "I hope he doesn't think I didn't want him to take my blood because of his name".

Again, I shrugged.

"Although", she added, "it is an unfortunate name".

Osama, as a name, will go down in the annals of history with that other name that personifies evil, Adolf, moniker of both Hitler and Eichmann.

I'm glad he's dead. I'm glad they dumped his body into the ocean and didn't bury him somewhere where the loonies of the world can go visit his grave.

But I'm not so sure his death brings closure to the families of his thousands of victims. They still live with the gaping hole Osama left in their lives.

At Ground Zero, yesterday there was dancing and celebrating. At the 9/11 memorial site someone had placed a sign.**

"Freedom, hope, peace, USA", it said. Written on the sign's side, someone added,

"Wish you were here".

**Seen in the Jerusalem Post, Print edition, May 3, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Today I remember

Eight years ago I visited Israel for a week together with my friend Carol and her family who were celebrating her son Ilan's bar mitzvah. It was my first trip to Israel in 12 years and I was thrilled to be here and drinking it all in.

Our first night here we strolled along Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, talking and laughing. At one point I found myself sitting next to Carol's father and he said, to noone in particular, and to all of us, "58 years ago today I was liberated from Matthausen. If someone would have told me then that I would be in Jerusalem almost 60 years later with my children and grandchildren celebrating the bar mitzvah of my grandson, I would have laughed hysterically".

I cannot imagine what it was like for Carol's father and so many men and women like him who picked themselves up, literally from the ashes, and moved to strange countries, built families and businesses and were able, in spite of it all to laugh and sing and show their children and grandchildren, and all of us what it means to be a Survivor.

Today I dedicate this post to Carol's father and all my friend's parents (much to many to recount here) who survived the Nazi horror and raised their daughters and sons, my friends, to be strong, proud Jews.

Today, I remember.