Even The Dude might not abide

It was Thanksgiving this week and Israel doesn’t do Thanksgiving, so we Americans do what we can for ourselves. My family tradition is to go around the table saying what we’re thankful for and I have to admit, my thankfulness was clouded by the annoying week I had. In general, I have a lot of blessings and I’m truly thankful, but this post is a little bit of a rant.

 

Black Friday

For some reason, Israel has really embraced Black Friday. It’s especially weird since Thanksgiving is not a national holiday and “the day after Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas shopping season” doesn’t exist. It’s not a kickoff for Chanukah shopping either – just to be clear. I’m mostly annoyed because if you are going to take something “Christmassy” from America, why would you take greedy materialism? It’s not even balanced by popularizing How the Grinch Stole Christmas or A Christmas Carol. There are no friends and family values as we find in It’s a Wonderful Life.

The weirdest part of Black Friday is that this year it’s mostly written in English. There were ads a year or two ago that gave us shishi shachor the literal translation into Hebrew of Black Friday. Since no one knew exactly what that meant, they switched to English so that everyone would understand it’s a big sale weekend (just like in America!). And because there is no Thanksgiving, Black Friday is a week long. Because that makes sense.

black fridayTraditional. Nothing says Black Friday like balloons.

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Because blue is so much more festive.

Pink Friday 2

Guess what’s for sale? Make-up and beauty products. I’m not convinced this is better.

Bowling league

I was channeling Walter at the bowling alley at the work league match this week. I’m not a great bowler, but I do enjoy it and usually the games are fun. Not everyone is Walter-serious about the matches, but the other offices participate with good sportsmanship and a sense of camaraderie among all the players.

This week we were playing against the municipality. That was probably the first strike against them. No one likes the municipality in real life, so we aren’t going to change our opinions even if it is a league game.

Their team was a rooster surrounded by hens – one was a grandmother who thought it was a good idea to bring her grandson, surely he could bowl a few turns, right?

I should mention here that bowling in Israel would horrify even The Dude. You don’t have to rent shoes; we just play in sneakers. No one follows any bowler etiquette. Thankfully the scoring is automated, otherwise who knows what would happen.

Some players are new to bowling, but obviously these people have had no guidance at all. These hens picked up a ball using their thumb, index finger, and second finger; walked up to the foul line (often over the line); started swinging the ball (and-a one, and-a two, and-a three); let go with no follow-through causing the ball to plonk on the lane and miraculously roll its way toward the pins. The worst part was that it worked sometimes – usually when I was looking. (I did manage to calm myself down by looking at their total scores; they weren’t that successful.)

I confirmed that the unusual hold is used in bowling, but it’s not standard. The swing and plonk method is ridiculous. I tried to be an example using the 4-step release, and they even noticed, but somehow didn’t realize that their bowling style was the equivalent of toddlers who need gutter-guards.

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Correct form

One might forgive the lack of skill and knowledge, but to top it off they were rude bowlers. They were constantly in the way. They took over all the chairs with themselves and their stuff – they had more than 4 people on their team, to allow them to switch out in different games (which is legal), but they didn’t care that there was another team there.

But worst of all was the attitude that they couldn’t understand why we were annoyed. It’s like the bully in the schoolyard who pushes you to your limit and then says, “Why are you getting so upset?”

At this point, even The Dude can’t smooth it over by saying, “It’s just a game, man.”

I wanted to show the Walter “over the line” video, but it had too many f-bombs in it and I don’t want to encourage threats of gun violence. Better the dulcet tones of The Stranger reminding us to take ‘er easy while we sip a White Russian with The Dude.

Israel is not the 51st state

Sure, there’s turkey and fixings for Thanksgiving (Chag HaHodaya – Hebrew for Holiday of Thanks), there’s bowling and everyone knows about The Big Lebowski, and it was just announced that the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats are coming to Jerusalem for the first night of Chanukah. But no matter how American Israel might think it is, it’s still in the Middle East.

Practicing Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving!  This is the time when most Americans are thinking about food and football.  We had that at my house too, but my mom had a special Thanksgiving tradition.  We went around the table and said what we were thankful that year.  Sometimes we were cynical, sometimes genuine, rarely sappy or cheesy (our family doesn’t do sappy and cheesy).  Mom was always thankful for the same thing every year.  She was thankful that she came to the US and was able to give her children the freedom to make choices about their lives in a land of opportunity.  (My living in Israel seems like a rejection of the American dream, but it actually isn’t.  I made a choice and I used my opportunities to live my life to the fullest.  I am and always will be a proud American, but I chose to live in Israel.)

I want to be grateful today but I have to say it’s been a crappy week and frankly a crappy year.

This week the office where I work was broken into.  The windows in my office and another office were smashed.  The thief – well, intruder, it seems he didn’t take anything – tore up the other office and thankfully left my office mostly untouched.  He rifled through my drawers and why he pulled out my Kleenex box, I’ll never know.  Still, it’s a basic violation of space and it felt awful.  What I’m grateful for, though, is that that he didn’t steal anything and he’s been arrested.

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Israel is on fire – literally and figuratively.  It seems that some of the fires around the country have been arson and others are just due to the dry conditions we’re suffering right now.  Of course now it’s political.  The arson is not classified as criminal, it’s being called terrorism.  The hashtag #Israelisburning is trending in some Arab countries.  And at the same time, there are Israeli Arabs and Muslim organizations are pitching in to help out.  Fire trucks from the Palestinian authority have been dispatched to help contain the fires.  There is nothing to be grateful for when disaster strikes and when disaster becomes a political debate, but it does give people the opportunity to be generous and helpful to their fellow humans.

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Source:  StandWithUs Facebook page

It is extremely dry in Israel right now.  I happen to have an electric superpower at the moment.  If I touch metal, people, my cats, or water, I get zapped.  I’m not really grateful for this, but it does give me an opportunity to remind myself that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

This year we lost many of our cultural icons.  And I lost my dad.  I’m certainly not grateful for these losses, but I am grateful for the influence they had on my life.  I’m also grateful that my dad went out pretty much on his own terms.  That’s all anyone can wish for.  I’m also grateful for the fact that death reminds us to live our lives to the fullest.  If today was your last day, would you be doing what you are doing right now?  It’s good to be reminded of that.

I think gratitude is a choice that we make.  We can be bitter, blame everyone and everything, complain until we are blue in the face, but that is just a huge waste of precious life.  Sure, it’s been a really crappy week and a generally crappy year, but I still have a lot of blessings in my life and I’m generally happy with my choices.  If today was my last day, I’d still probably be doing what I’m doing right now.  And for that I am truly grateful.