Purim – Celebrating Women!

Purim in Israel looks like Halloween on the outside – costumes, parties, drinking – but it’s actually the celebration of a woman who saves the Jewish people. Coincidentally, I saw Captain Marvel and On the Basis of Sex this month, which happens to be Women’s History Month. If you know anything about the story of Purim, you’ll know that that is also a story full of coincidences.

Unapologetically Feminine

What I found interesting in these three stories is that Esther, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Carol Danvers succeeded in a man’s world without forcing themselves to become masculine. Moreover, their inner spark and strength was hidden in plain sight. Esther was a beauty pageant winner and queen. She followed the rules and requirements of her position, and found a way to avert the genocide of her people. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a wife and mother, valued her family above all, followed societal rules, and still excelled in everything she did (except cooking; she’s terrible at it). Carol Danvers joined the Air Force, became a fighter pilot, and, in typical superhero style, was infused with the most powerful energy in the universe. At first glance, she seems “masculine,” but she leads with her heart and one “friend” calls her emotions a weakness. Rather than a weakness, she finds on her journey that they are her strength. The best feminist line is when she is set to fight a guy she thought was a mentor and a friend. He knows he can’t beat her powers, so he challenges her fist to fist, no weapons, to prove herself to him (he knows he can win). She shoots him with photon blasts from her hands. As he wakes, he sees her surrounded by sunlight and she says, “I don’t have to prove anything to you.”

Encouraging Allies

In Hero(ine) Journey style, Esther, Ruth, and Carol have an ally. The ally is not just a partner, but is a person who reminds our heroine who she is and helps her fulfill her destiny by lifting her up and acknowledging and celebrating her strengths and easing her weaknesses. Esther had Uncle Mordechai. He raised her, helped her win the pageant, coincidentally stopped an assassination attempt, and kept her in touch with her roots and her people. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had her husband Marty. He was her partner in life: an involved father and husband, a supporter of every choice, a peacemaker, and he was also quite a good cook. Carol Danvers had her best friend Maria Rambeau to remind her who she is and what her true strengths are and Nick Fury to help her navigate Earth of the 1990s and fight bad guys.

Stories for Women and Men in the Real World

Women can be inspired and fulfill their destinies. Men can see what true allies look like so that they can move forward by lifting women up instead of pushing them down to soothe their own egos. Armie Hammer who plays Martin Ginsburg said that he could never live up to the standards set by his character, but it was something to aspire to. He says (on The Graham Norton Show): “I think the model of their marriage and their relationship was the basis of the gender equality that Ruth later sought during her entire legal career.”

At the same time, I’m sickened by the news coming out of South Korea right now of Korean pop singers sharing hidden camera videos of their sexcapades, procuring prostitutes for investment schemes, and other crimes. This week a live streaming hidden camera site spying on 1,600 people having sex in their motel rooms was exposed. Under the banner of “My Life Is Not Your Porn” Korean women started taking to the streets last summer to highlight the phenomenon of cameras hidden in changing rooms and public bathrooms. This led to an effort to sweep public restrooms on a regular basis to check for spycams. I hope Korean women can find inspiration from a real person like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a possibly real person in their history like Jews have in Queen Esther, and if all else fails, they can take inspiration from the most powerful superhero in the Marvel universe, Captain Marvel. And from these stories, Korean men can learn to be allies instead of misogynists.

In every reading of the Purim story, we can learn a new lesson. Let’s let this year’s lessons be:

  • Women are strong
  • Sometimes only a woman can save everyone
  • Step by step, with patience and determination, women can change the world

The movies are very good, not the best I’ve ever seen, but they are definitely stories worth telling and sharing.

*This post is inspired in part by this article.

Nevertheless …

Objectively speaking, the world has had a pretty sh*tty week.

  • Massacre in two New Zealand mosques by a right wing extremist who proudly posted it live on social media
  • Rockets in Tel Aviv
  • Response in Gaza
  • Terror cell found in Syrian Golan Heights
  • Boeing 737 Max 8 making air travel scarier than ever
  • Scandal in the US of parents cheating the system to get their over-privileged children into higher-tier universities
  • Scandal in Korea of a Korean pop star who offered sex services for business investment that snowballed into a bigger scandal involving hidden-camera sex videos shared in chatrooms
  • Spa sex scandal in the US, which shines a light on human trafficking all over the US while delegitimizing the massage therapist profession
  • Learning about the despicable crimes of R. Kelly and Jussie Smollett, and wondering why Paul Manafort got off so lightly
  • Anti-Semitism showing itself on the Left and the Right (around the world)
  • Ugly election campaigns
  • Preventable diseases making a comeback because of misinformation and ungrounded fear

It’s weeks like this that make me think it might be a good idea to get off social media and stop reading the news.

Nevertheless …

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Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

I actually had a pretty good week.

  • Finished a big project on gender equality in the workplace
  • Saw a matinee of Captain Marvel and walked home in my blue suede shoes

Short review: So. Much. Fun!
Best feminist line: “I don’t have to prove anything to you!”
Best multi-level joke: Cat named Goose

  • Cheered for the runners in the Jerusalem Marathon – it rained the day before and the day after, but the on the day of the race, the weather was perfect
  • Took time for self-care, cooking (mushroom barley soup and quinoa fennel cranberry salad), and baking (molasses cookies)

This is not an ode to being selfish. Rather it’s a reminder to be grateful for the blessings in your own life and trying to make your corner of the world a little bit brighter. Human beings always have a choice. We can choose to have good people in our lives and do good things. We’ll slip from time to time and hopefully learn to do better.

But if we start to believe that the world is dark, horrible, filled with evil, and nothing we do even matters in the great scheme of things, well, then we will have a lot more weeks like this one.

So instead of looking at the world and saying “whatever,” let’s look at the world and say “nevertheless!”

 

A Cultural Interlude – Happy New Year!

It’s the New Year and I need a new day planner!

Sounds weird in September, but the Jewish New Year comes in autumn. It’s early this year, which is why it snuck up on me and I suddenly had to get a new day planner.

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The shelves were pretty empty so I feel quite lucky that I managed to find this snazzy one.

Notice anything odd?

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How about now?

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No filters. No flipping. Everything indeed goes from right to left.

Hebrew is written from right to left, so office supplies cater to the right to left flow of language.

NOTE TO LEFT-HANDED PEOPLE: Come to Israel for your office supply needs! I have known left-handed Americans who stock up on notebooks when visiting Israel because it’s just so comfortable for them.

One feature of an Israeli calendar is that candle-lighting times are noted every week (20 minutes before sunset usually) and the Torah portion of the week is noted.

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The first line in bold is the Torah portion: Nitzavim. (The Torah – or the Five Books – is divided into weekly portions that are named after the first word of the reading.)

You can see on the second line Friday night candle lighting times for Jerusalem (18:21, yes that’s a 24-hour clock), then Tel Aviv, Haifa and Beersheva.

The second line is when Shabbat ends. That’s about a half an hour after sunset. Then you can get back to your regularly scheduled activities.

A LITTLE HEBREW LESSON: The days of the week are not named, they’re numbered.

Sunday = Yom Rishon (First Day) | Monday = Yom Sheni (Second Day) | etc.

But Saturday is Shabbat or the Sabbath.

A LITTLE CULTURAL LESSON: A “day” starts in the evening because when God created the world, it was evening and then it was morning, the first day …

You might also note that holidays are colored blue in this calendar. Notice anything in this picture?

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January 1. Not a holiday. That’s what it means to have Jewish rhythms of life.

This week we are starting a month of holidays to start the new Jewish year 5779. More on this in future posts.

Let me take this opportunity to say Thank You to everyone who reads this blog!

Wishing you all a Shana Tova u’Metuka!

A year of much happiness, good health,

and great success!

(Did you think we’d get away from the Chinese theme? Not likely! A short video for the New Year about not giving up. May you all be inspired this year!)

 

 

 

 

Spring sprung straight into summer, and it’ll be okay

This week Israel changed the clocks to Daylight Savings Time. Personally, I like longer evenings and I don’t get too wound up about changing time.

So much happened in the world this week, but I was focused on my own projects. Can I say I didn’t have time to deal with it all?

The clock change coordinated with the spring equinox and we expect certain weather changes. While parts of the world were covered in snow, Israel was sweltering in 80–86 degree (27–30 degree Celsius) weather. Strangely, on the day of the equinox, we had actual spring weather of 70 degrees, but the rest of the week felt like oppressive summer. Today is another cool day with summer on its way again on Monday. If this is spring, what will summer be like?

And yet.

During times of change and when too many things are going on, I pay special attention to the little things. I haven’t watered my window boxes for ages and I’ve let everything lie fallow. Without my help or encouragement and even out of a pile of weeds, a few flowers found their way out and let me know that everything will be ok.

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There’s a lesson in that for all of us.

Marathon!

I’m extremely busy with my work projects and I was going to just go on hiatus this week.

And then –

Jerusalem Marathon!

It’s my favorite day of the year! I love the fact that the city shuts down for fun things. There were 35,000 people who came from all around the world to run up and down the hills of Jerusalem in what is considered to be one of the hardest marathons in the world.

This year the Jaffa Gate station was a bit more tame than previous years, but it’s still so inspiring to see people pushing themselves onward and striving to be just a little better than they were before.

Here is a 4-minute video from the Jaffa Gate observation station. Enjoy!