Oh, Jerusalem!

I’m not a good chess player. I know how all the pieces move, I understand some opening gambits, and I might be able to see one or two moves ahead. What I lack is any sense of strategy. This week feels a little like my chess-playing.

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Of course it’s great news that the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel! Yay! (Though let me just note that we don’t need anyone to tell us where our capital is, but it’s good that it is recognized on the international stage.) Even with the recognition, moving the US embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, which has been in process for 20+ years, was still deferred.

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(I like to use alternative pictures of Jerusalem. How many times can you see the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. Seriously, Jerusalem is so much more.)

Everyone knows that if you keep doing something exactly the same way, you will not get a different result. Trump is not a “business as usual” president and the Middle East might just need a shake-up to get things moving.

Alright, let’s assume this is a covert, L-shaped knight move. We don’t know where it came from or where it’s going.

What’s the next move?

Condemnation by leaders around the world, veiled or unveiled threats from Arab leaders, Palestinians protesting.

Ok. That’s probably a rook making a strong appearance in the center of the board.

And then what?

The middle of the board will be messy, so we’ll have to sacrifice a few pieces to clear the way.

Bishops will certainly be involved. Pawns will be strewn everywhere.

Real life is not a game of chess (thankfully!). If it was, it would look more like this.

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But I’m still left with questions. Why recognize Jerusalem as the capital now? Israel gains on the international stage to some extent, but there will likely be a price to pay. So what does the US gain?

I’m not a good enough chess player or political strategist to have an answer for that.

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(Yes, I went a little crazy with the Pixabay chess pictures.
What does this one mean? I don’t know.)

A little rant

Call me Grumpypants.

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I’m annoyed this week.  Lots of things annoyed me this week. Here’s just one.

Black Friday

Did you know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now international holidays? I wrote last year about Israeli ads touting sales for Black Friday.  This year, I saw that there were Black Friday sales in Germany and Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales on my Korean beauty products websites.

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Not an endorsement, just a good image of Black Friday in Hebrew

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Cyber Monday sale is still on!

Now to be fair, Israel, Germany, and Korea don’t celebrate in the traditional way by rolling out of bed at 3am to beat down the doors of stores in order to buy the latest, most popular doohickey.  Moreover, they don’t even have the preliminary turkey feast to prepare for the onslaught.  It’s just a regular Friday and Monday (sales extended through the week!) to sell stuff.

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2 images I found on the internet, above Germany and below from India

What I wish had been exported from the US was the idea that there is a holiday to celebrate gratitude. But unfortunately, that idea exists in a fantasy world with unicorns and Care Bears.

Turkey day

In the real world, Thanksgiving – also known as Turkey Day – is squeezed in between the sugar-fueled, scary/sexy cosplay festival of begging your neighbors for handouts and the colorful, tree-killing, shopping extravaganza pushing everyone deeper into debt and destroying any chance of clutter-clearing.

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Image from my personal copy of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags! …
Maybe Christmas … doesn’t come from a store.

I’m glad Dr. Seuss isn’t around to see this. He would be so disappointed in us.

Or the video, if you prefer.

In transit 2 – The joys of Berlin’s public transportation system

After five days in Berlin, I felt like a public transportation ninja, mistress of all trains, trams, and buses, conqueress of the Bahns. I didn’t need to follow my blue dot on Google Maps. I’m clever and experienced. I’m practically a Berliner!

Or not.

I went to Berlin to take an abdominal massage course and I can personally attest to the mental relaxation that this massage gives you. I had transported myself across the city for the past three days using various forms of transportation and felt like I had a handle on all of them. I could not have been more wrong, but I blame the mental relaxation of the massage course. On the plus side, I was so relaxed, I didn’t get upset or nervous.

I chatted with a new friend after class and was closer to the tram than the subway, so I decided I would go home by tram and bus today. It was a little rainy and already dark, but since I took the subway in the morning, I’d just add some tram-bus variety to spice things up a bit.

The tram came and I got off two stops later and realized that it was the subway that dropped me off in Alexanderplatz in two stops not the tram. Oh, well. I hopped on the next tram a few minutes later and went on to Alexanderplatz.

I looked around and didn’t see my bus stop. Hmm. Now it’s starting to rain. Well, since I’ve already made one mistake, maybe I’ll pull out my phone and look at Google Maps for a second. Ok. Walk two minutes. Here it is. Next M48 is in 13 minutes according to the real-time updated digital screen at the stop. Whatever. I’m in the bus shelter with all these other Berliners and I’ll read this article on my phone, just like them.

Several Bus 100s come by, quite a few 200s, one or two airport buses, a couple of M85s. What the heck! I check the digital screen. The M48s keep getting pushed down the list. I check my watch. It’s been a half an hour!! (To be fair it was an interesting article.) Fine. Now it’s not raining and I know that the subway station is nearby. I’ve already wasted 30 minutes on a bus that wasn’t coming.

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I get to the subway station and I think to myself, “I’ve been here before. I need the train on the left track.” It’s packed so I miss the first one. I get on the next one and take a seat and continue reading my article. A few minutes later it occurs to me that I should check the names of the stations as they go by. I turn my head and, just as the doors are closing, I see the name of the subway stop for my school.

I am an idiot.

I get off at the next stop, cross the platform to the train going the opposite direction, and commit to riding this train all the way to my stop. I confirm by checking the stops as we go along that I am finally going the right direction. I feel silly as we pass Alexanderplatz.

Then I realize that I haven’t checked my travel plan for getting to the restaurant where I’m meeting a friend for dinner. Ah, it’s a two-line subway trip. I see that the transfer station is an M-O-umlaut station. I look up and I see that we are at an M-O-umlaut station and I get off thinking that I could transfer here to get to the line that takes me closer to where I’m staying.

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Of course, it’s not this station. As if there is only one M-O-umlaut station in all of Berlin. Not only that, if my brain had actually been functional, I would have known that this transfer wouldn’t work, otherwise, I would have taken this route to the school in the first place. Why walk 10 minutes to another subway station in the freezing cold if this one would be more convenient?

I am an idiot, but I’m just about to start hysterically laughing because this trip home has now reached the level of the circus of the absurd, starring me. (In an alternate version of this story, this would be masterful spy craft. No one would be able to follow this circuitous route!)

I get on the next train and totally commit myself to staying on it till my stop and also to not missing it. I arrive and walk home.

Now I only have a half an hour to drop off my stuff and get ready to go out for another half-hour trip on the subway. I’ve learned my lesson now: Google Maps, carefully assure myself that my blue dot is following the path, and do not wander.

I go to my subway station. Good. The train is coming in four minutes. And right then an announcement: the train is delayed. Internal hysterical laughter. Of course the train is late!

Google Maps gives me an alternate route. Out to the street again and the M85 is on the way. I will not wait for the inconsistent and betraying M48! I make it to the subway and I’m on the way with no more problems.

On the way home after dinner, some young drunk people get on the train and serenade the crowd with The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” followed by A Flock of Seagull’s “And I Ran.” And that seemed like the perfect end to my transit adventures.


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Thank you for reading my blog and

joining me on this writing journey!

In transit

Actually, I’ve already arrived in Berlin. Last night, I stayed at a fun, party hostel with loud dance music – think “Despacito,” “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me),” German drinking songs, and house/hip hop – and enjoyed my complimentary “martini.”

Now I’m in my more stable accommodation that will be my actual “mobile office” and home base while I take a massage course.

Just getting here was an adventure…

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The airport in Tel Aviv was ridiculously crowded. Four budget airlines with all their weekend flights leaving at approximately the same time.  It was madness.

But we’ve reached a new age in travel seating – charging stations!

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My flight seemed to be running on time and we got in the air.  About 15 minutes into the flight, “Is there a doctor on the plane?” Yes, there was a medical emergency, and yes, there was a doctor on the plane.

Next announcement, “We are returning to Tel Aviv for an emergency landing.” And we turned around.  The landing was smooth but felt extremely heavy.  After all, we landed with a full tank of fuel.

Thankfully, the person with the medical emergency walked off the plane under his own power.

Next announcement, “Please stay in your seats.  We will take off after we get our landing gear checked.”

Then: “For security reasons, we have to remove the luggage of the person who got off the plane.”

Eventually we got back in the air, only about 2 hours later than scheduled.

But then those calm, understanding people who had allowed for a medical emergency and who mostly stayed in their seats on the plane faced a single passport official dealing with all the non-EU passports. At one point they tried to crowd the booth nearly causing a security incident because they just couldn’t understand why we were standing in this dang line for so long. (But seriously, she examined each person’s passport like she thought she should run them all through INTERPOL.)

Once I passed that endurance test, my bag was practically waiting for me on the carousel, the bus pulled up to take me into the city, and R2D2 showed up to let me know everything was going to be okay.

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“What’s past is prologue …”

Israel doesn’t do Halloween, so there were no flash sales on every kind of candy and no wild costume parties.  Chanukah donuts are now showing up at bakeries though, which is pretty much like seeing Christmas decorations in September.  It doesn’t feel right.

Instead, this week Israel did what Israel does best, we marked historical occasions.  This week was the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, 100 years since the historic ANZAC battle in Beer Sheva, and 22 years since Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.

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The Balfour Declaration is a one-page letter written by Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild.  The main paragraph says:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

Since Jews had been coming to settle in the area since the 1880s, the Balfour Declaration was not permission, but was rather an international recognition of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

Prime Minister Netanyahu went to London for a ceremony, many historians and commentators have written or spoken about the Balfour Declaration, and the Palestinians have demanded an apology and threatened a law suit over the document.  So pretty much just like any other day in Israel.

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Source: By Niv Singer from Tel-Aviv, Israel (Yitzhak Rabin’s Grave) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The commemoration of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination was apparently quite different this year. The theme was national unity with the slogan “We are One Nation.” From the little I read, it seemed that everyone was united in not liking the way the commemoration was planned.  Israel and the Jewish people are quite skilled at remembering, so I think it will be quite a few more years before the heat of emotion cools enough for national consensus about how to commemorate and remember Rabin’s assassination.  It’s not simply remembering the life and work of a national leader, but his assassination represents a tear in the national fabric that has yet to be truly repaired.

Anzac

I’m reminded of my trip to Gallipoli while reading about the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) reenactment of the Battle of Beer Sheva. Descendants of ANZACs come to famous battle sites on pilgrimage to honor their ancestors.  I’m sure that they’ve come before to Beer Sheva, but because this is the 100th anniversary, it’s a much bigger commemoration with a delegation of 100 descendants visiting Israel.  The news stories have made a special point of Aboriginal soldiers making up about a quarter of the fighting force and because it was a cavalry battle, it was their expert horsemanship that helped win it.

Maori War Dance for PM Netanyahu for 100th anniversary ceremony (video)

The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Vegetables

I’ve been trying to eat more healthfully and so I’ve been trying to add more fiber and fresh foods to my diet.  Israel has great vegetables, but I just hate cutting them.  I know.  That sounds awful.  It’s a few minutes of my day.  I have a good knife.  But I don’t get any joy slicing and dicing.

I can’t seem to get past this aversion to vegetable dissection.  But eating a cucumber whole seems weird and eating a tomato like an apple is not as easy as you might think.

Enter mini-vegetables.

I found these in the store last week.  The carrot is included for scale.  And it took all my strength to pretty it up like that.

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Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, radishes, and a carrot for scale.

Feeling a lack of protein?  Each vegetable is a hummus spoon.  Even the spice in the hummus is evenly distributed throughout the container.  No more stirring.  No more getting too much spice in one swipe.

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All I have to do is wash these bite-sized wonders and I’m good to go.  Except that after a couple of handfuls of vegetables, I not only feel full, but a bit bloated as well.  At least, I’ve added some fiber to my diet.  That’s good, right?

Safe-ish

One of the things I tell female travelers is that as a woman I feel very safe walking alone at night in Israel.  I haven’t taken a formal survey, but I’m pretty confident that many women would agree with me.

But with the #MeToo campaign this week, I’m reminded that Israel isn’t safe for women at night because of its enlightened attitude toward women. #MeToo hit Israel and turned into גםאני# (gam ani or me too).  It’s not really a surprise given the scandals we’ve had in the past few years, including a former president serving 5 years of a 7-year sentence for rape and other sex crimes against several women.

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Screenshot: Source

I’ve spent this week wondering how these two things can be true at the same time: I feel safe as a woman and yet there is sexism embedded in the culture and sexual harassment is a daily occurrence.

A bit of internet research revealed that indeed in Israel people generally feel safe walking alone, so the statistics bear out that people are generally safe from crime in the street.

Sexism exists even in the socialist utopia of equality on the kibbutz: When I volunteered on a kibbutz and worked in the banana fields, I could drive the tractor and climb the ladder with a machete to do the trimming, but I could not take the ladder out of the truck as it was considered “men’s work” and banana harvesting was extremely physically demanding, so only men did that. To be honest, I don’t imagine that any woman really wants to catch 100-kilo bunches of bananas on her back and deposit them on a flatbed truck.  I certain didn’t.  The ladder thing was silly though.

And I don’t wish to minimize the sexual harassment that goes on. Men do take advantage of women. There’s no reason or excuse. They do it simply because they feel that they can get away with it. From catcalling in the street to power-plays in the office, Israel is not immune.  Worst of all are the cases of sexual assault and rape that occur in all kinds of situations – at the office, in the army, and even at home.

And yet, I still feel safe when I walk alone at night.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to reconcile these two facts about life in Israel for women.  Was it cultural? Was it religious? Was it specifically Jerusalem? I thought about things that have happened to me in my years in Israel.

The only thing I can come up with is that both men and women benefit from the lower incidence of street crime. So feeling safe in the street as a woman is really just my view of a feeling of safety that applies to both men and women.

But in terms of sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape, Israel has a long way to go.  Thankfully #MeToo and גםאני# have shined a spotlight on this pervasive problem and finally made it headline news in Israel.

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Screenshot: Source The translation of the main headline next to the women reads, “Yes, I too was raped.” Six stories from Israeli celebrities were printed in the paper, but the internet site of Yediot Ahronot has sixteen stories.