Friday, January 30, 2009
I highly recommend it.
The more things change (a state that exists to defend Jews), the more they stay the same (Jews killed and attacked simply for being Jews, see Sderot and Mumbai, for the most recent examples).
When I lived in Germany in 1995 studying the Holocaust, I remember thinking that my generation would be the last one to have face to face contact with actual survivors.
In watching this movie, I became a bit saddened. Actually, more than a bit...with memory fading daily and survivors dying, how can we possibly help our kids (and the world) understand what happened?
That an entire shtetl of Trachimbrod in Ukraine (1,042 people) was simply wiped off the map to the point where people there don't even know it ever existed?
And the only thing that remains is a small marker in the ground?
It's a massive burden for this transitional generation, though I suppose that is something that Foer recognizes and why his book (and Liev Schreiber's film direction) are poignant, helpful, and critical.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
And I am more tired than ever before (yes, some self-inflicted).
But, I am starting to see the “stop and smell the roses” value (or as we say, ‘mental snapshot’) of the seemingly mundane.
The call to a client, who explains his problem.
The negotiation with a group that wants to hire me.
The challenge of getting reimbursement for my backed-up sewer drain.
I’ve begun to start appreciating these moments as the building blocks of a life lived.
Hard to explain and I’ll come back to it, I am sure.
The point is: the profound and/or memorable moments are not always profound or memorable at first glance…but can be made that way, if you want.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Readers of the Bible know that there are very often references to different flora and fauna as part of the narrative.
One of the excursions I enjoyed most was to Neot Qedumim, a nature reserve where the various paths offer up a Biblical connection to the land.
The native plants are highlighted and then an appropriate citation from the Bible is made.
What it really does is help bring the story and the connection to life.
Walks are of different lengths and the landscape is beautiful. Highly recommend.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
About halfway through our trek at the Jerusalem Zoo, I realized that the most interesting animals were not the ones behind bars, but the ones walking around.
It was about that point where I formed the opinion that Israel may be one of the most human-being diverse places on the planet.
In a span of seconds, you'd see ultra-Orthodox families of 20-something people, secular Israelis, Arab women with their kids in strollers, Jews of Ethiopian origin speaking Amharic, Russians, Americans, just to name a few.
And, in some sort of strange cosmic way, everyone is just “getting along.”
The zoo itself is fantastic, punctuated by a “Noah’s Ark” at its highest point. Definitely recommend it.
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Monday, January 26, 2009
Thanks to Hannah Seligson, I was introduced to Gretchen Rubin, the author of the forthcoming book "The Happiness Project."
I've been enjoying her blog on the process for discovering which methods work...and which don't...in reaching happiness.
From her blog:
I'm working on a book, THE HAPPINESS PROJECT--a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah.
THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will hit the shelves in late 2009 (HarperCollins).Worth checking it out.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Tel Aviv is Israel's economic and cultural capital. It is also the largest city, so not surprisingly, it is within striking distance of a number of FOJ's.
At the suggestion of Ayelet Miller Elyakam (a JDS and JHU alum), we met at Cup o' Joe on the corner of Weizmann and Shaul Ha Melech. Ayelet brought her beautiful 5 month old son and made one of the more poignant observations of the day.
"Peace," she said, "isn't possible in my lifetime. Until they stop teaching their kids to hate us, it just won't happen. All we can hope for now is 'an arrangement.'"
Over the course of two hours, in a "rolling arrival" format, I was blessed to see some great friends.
Ronen Netanel with whom I share the ignominious distinction of having watched the 2nd World Trade Center tower fall from the corner of 6th and Bleecker on 9/11, brought pictures (he's a fantastic photographer) of his kids and his recent trip to Georgia (the country, not the state.)
Danny Singer, also a JDS grad, former employer, and long-time Israel resident, made the trek from Jerusalem (he coulnd't attend the meet-up the previous week) to discuss his work with the noble Rashi Foundation, do some networking, and discuss Community Driven Marketing. He was also the one who noticed that there was a member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) sitting behind us. You can see her in the picture. Apparently, she's under investigation for some type of fraudulent behavior!
I was going to ask her (playing the ignorant American card) to take our picture, but the Israelis demurred and we opted for the waittress instead.
Ahava Zarembski (JHU grad) has a unique consulting business that helps align government, large business, and philanthropic organizations in Israel when they have mutual goals, but not necessarily mutually aligned processes or vernacular.
Arik Ziv, a more recent FOJ, who works for Collactive and Limor Ashkenazy of Yes To Carrots also made cameo appearance and had the opportunity to make some new friends...including finding out that Limor and Ayelet live on the same street!!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
You will recall my frustration with Panasonic over my non-functional TV
While waiting for prices to drop and my personal assessment of the economy to get completed, I borrowed an old TV from my brother.
Instead of throwing my TV away (the original plan), I figured I had nothing to lose by putting it up on eBay.
“Maybe,” I thought, “there is some tinkerer who will give me $20 bucks for it?”
If it doesn’t sell, I’m no worse off.
The auction was up for a day, when a message came in from a member known only as PRSCSY, who wrote:
I have the same exact TV and it did the same exact thing.
I took the back off and where plug cord plugs into the board there is a 6.3amp slow burn 125/250volt fuse, $1.00 part from radio shack, it DID NOT look burnt out but I changed it just to be in the safe side and the TV till now is serving me well. Let me know if you changed the fuse?
Refusing to believe it was this simple, but hoping it would work, I went to Radio Shack. It was actually $3 (for 4 fuses though), but bottom line,
TV is up and running.
I was flabbergasted. I offered to buy the guy a beer or dinner, whatever.
What motivated him? How did he find it?
Why would he be looking for a TV he already owned?
He simply responded:
I keep track of many different listings on ebay just for fun one of those being mt model of TV and when I read your listing I totally felt your pain.
Told my girl friend about it and she had a good laugh.
Now you'll have to pass on a good deed, LOL
And I will…
I was at dinner with Gadi, Jdub, and Yoni (among others) and the topic of our recent trip to Israel came up.
Gadi asked (spoofing our Coming to a Meal document): "so, what was the high point?"
I was still a bit jet-lagged at this point, but eventually said, "I have one for you..." and began to talk about an experience I had in a parking garage in Israel where I got out for free.
He looked at me and said, calmly, "I know that one already. Don't you have anything else?"
My brother, Asher, once put it more bluntly:
"Jer, since I read your blog every day, there's really nothing new for you to tell me when we get together."
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Just because it is easy for me to upload and send out 500 pictures doesn't mean it's easy for you to view them all.
This topic came up recently with the NFO as I relayed to her my impression of an email following our return from Israel.
I was processing our pictures from the trip and on the storage card were some pictures from other events. As I usually do, I sent the pics out to various others who were in them (or of their kids). All together, it was about 30 different notes.
They were prefaced with "sorry for the delay in sending these pics of your kids, but we were in Israel, etc."
Two types of responses came back.
- "Thanks. How was Israel?"
- "Thanks. Hope Israel was great."
- Write a terse response, such as "It was great."
- Write a lengthy, individual response.
- Not reply at all.
- If I wrote a terse response, he may take it as a brush off
- If I wrote a long response, I'd have to invest a lot of time to complete it
- If I didn't respond, she might feel I ignored her.
The question here is: if someone sends an email where the question is broad and open-ended, what is the best way to respond?
And a follow on: Given the nature of email, should we EVER be sending broad, open-ended questions or are they better reserved for phone/in-person conversations?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Image via Wikipedia
While flying to Israel, I managed to consume 6 different movies thanks to Delta’s great in-seat entertainment system. You can rewind, fast-forward, and pause (particularly helpful when flying with small children).
However, a movie on a plane isn’t the same as one at home on a DVD (at least, it FEELS different), so I can’t give a full review to each one. But, they do warrant 2 lines of commentary for posterity sake (me) and as a public service (heh) for you.
- Tropic Thunder –if you like slapstick humor, this is a good one. The hype from others was, IMHO, greater than the reality. Still, some clever lines.
- Pineapple Express- even more slapstick humor. Actually, really, really dumb, but if Seth Rogen does it for you (he does for me), there are some good belly laughs.
- Lakeview Terrace- What’s not to love about Samuel L. Jackson playing a badass type? Well, a lot, if it is the 800th time that he’s done it. The movie was fine, but predictable.
- The Dark Knight-ok, I get it. This one was FANTASTIC. I thought that the Heath Ledger accolades were trumped up due to the suicide, but I was wrong. He was just incredible. Of course, I wonder how much psychology played into that for me. Would have been cool to see on a big screen (or at least a TV).
- Mamma Mia!-if you like Abba (and who doesn’t?), then it’s worth it. If not, skip it. Hard to see Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan in a musical role (makes you understand how actors (see #3 above) get typecast for a reason. Light and airy, but not an all time great.
- Hancock-certainly the most unusual of the bunch. Thought Will Smith did a solid job. The special effects (as with Dark Knight) were definitely memorable. Worth investigating.
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Monday, January 19, 2009
I do my best to take advantage of it and make things work as well as possible.
Still, when my great neighbor emailed me while I was in Israel to tell me that the phone and cable lines to my house had been knocked down by a tree during a windstorm and then I put in a customer service request to Comcast...from Israel...for free thanks to Vonage, it kind of blew my mind.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
That meant, it was the first time I traveled where I had the requirement to have daily medication (synthroid) with me for my survival.
Losing checked baggage therefore becomes a much more serious concern.
I had to bring it all in my carry-on.
Not a huge deal, but one thing that I had to consider prior to packing.
Friday, January 16, 2009
All was well.
On the return flight, we checked in at Tel Aviv and I asked, “so, did we make it for the bassinet?”
The agent looked at her screen and called her manager over.
“Sir, the bassinets have been assigned. Some people came by the airport earlier today and asked for it.”
“I see, but have they checked in.”
“They spoke with me earlier today.”
“Right, I know that, but your policy as I understand it is that it is the first person to ‘check-in.’ Have any of these other people checked in?”
It was pretty clear they hadn’t.
Now, I don’t mind if we checked-in 5th and there were only 4 or whatever. What I do mind is that there is a policy and this manager decided it didn’t apply.
Image by RonAlmog via Flickr
Just doesn’t seem fair.
- What would you do in this situation?
- How would you go about doing it?
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Image via Wikipedia
Here’s the situation. Would like your input on what I should do.
The other night, it just stopped working. Can’t power it on.
(It was the TV itself. No fuse had blown. It was on surge protector. All other devices attached to the surge protector were fine).
After calling a few TV repair shops, one said, “it’s the power supply, this happens on that unit a lot.”
Estimates range from $170 on up.
Obviously, the TV is out of warranty (only 1 year).
I called Panasonic’s 800 number. Their response: “We can give you 15% off our TV’s through a loyalty program.”
The cheapest one is $1019
Note: I contrast this TV with the Sony in my basement. 20 years old and still going strong.
- should I just accept the fact that things break?
- should I call Panasonic and say, “hey, don’t you think this is ridiculous?” and continue to press the issue
What would you do?
And how would you go about doing it?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
But, then, there are women who are confident in their outlook, the fact that they are a “good catch” and in the reality of the situation that a 30-something mother of 2 children (6 and 2) just doesn’t have the time to invest in the traditional methods of finding someone to meet.
And, that tells you a lot about this woman, a friend of the NFO’s and mine.
So, put on your thinking caps, try to earn those “World to Come Points” and let’s see if we can make something happen.
First, her assets.
Smart, attractive, family-oriented, traditional/orthodox Jew, energetic, fun, and thoughtful. Trust me, she is indeed a “good catch.”
Now, what she is looking for.
- Possesses emotionally strength and is emotionally available
- Has a positive outlook
- Is spiritual and committed to his Judaism
- Is intelligent and motivated
- Is warm and giving
- Has the ability to laugh at himself
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
As we age, I suspect, there are fewer and fewer of those experiences. Sometimes, we forget what it is like.
That's what is so great about watching kids grow up.
They experience countless first every single day...of all kinds.
Sometimes, they get lost in the hustle and bustle. Sometimes, you recognize it after the fact. Sometimes, during the fact.
Today's three (at least that I recognized)
- Gianni eating raspberries for the first time
- ...and eating fish sticks for the first time
- Paco learning how to swing a baseball bat (and making four hits!)
Monday, January 12, 2009
One of the things I enjoy most about FOJ (Friends of Jer) meet-ups is seeing people from various slices of my personal history come together and meet each other.
It's like seeing historical eras overlap.
Jerusalem's FOJ meet-up provided that as well with 9 RSVP's and 3 attendees (typical drop-off rate, I might add).
Noa Hirsch Choritz showed up 9 months pregnant and with a 2.5 year old in a stroller. Our connection? We once went on a whitewater rafting trip together when we both lived in NYC 9 years ago. Thanks to the occasional FOJ email and the power of Facebook, we're still in touch.
Anat Farber, recently engaged (send her a shout-out) and the only sabra (native-born Israeli) in the group and I met on a boat in Vietnam in 1997. Yes, I am serious. A boat in Vietnam!
We've seen each other a few times over the years and she even canceled a business meeting to join us (shhhh....don't tell anyone).
She's looking for suggestions of where to hold her wedding that is both romantic, cost-effective, and in Israel.
To Anat, I give the award for the best summary of life in Israel and bonus points for giving it with the Israeli flair.
"It's shit here, but at least it's our shit."and Isaac Hassan has a particularly interesting twist.
Isaac and I met at a lunch in NYC 7 years ago. Thing is, he didn't remember me from that lunch (there were about 20 people there and he was jet-lagged, so I forgive him.)
In fact, we didn't really talk all that much, but I remembered one unique fact about him. He was from Gibraltar.
Now, as it turned out, the NFO and I honeymooned in Spain and Portugal and made a stop in Gibraltar. Prior to going, I 'worked the network' to find Isaac to ask him for the lay of the land. He introduced me to his sister and brother-in-law, with whom we had a great meal.
As a result, Isaac was put on the "FOJ mailing list" and has been receiving quarterly updates for the last 6 years or so.
He says that the experience of getting the emails consistently made him want to come meet me in person for the first time (at least, by his definition). And we were glad that he did.
Now, at least, we both know that we both have met each other! ;-)
Sunday, January 11, 2009
A parent's most dreaded question when traveling with kids.
There's no easy way to answer this (unless, of course you are actually 'there.')
What I realized, however, is that I have to redefine what "there" means for the kids. In 'there" I mean that "the journey is the destination."
We may be going to X, but the way to X is full of travel experiences.
Taking money out of an ATM in a foreign country, waiting in line to refill your pre-paid cellphone, parking in a garage...these are all part of why we travel. That's how real people live.
When I lived in Germany and Japan, I used to say that you didn't 'live' in a foreign country until you had your dry cleaning done there.
And the difference between traveler and tourist is, in my mind, how you choose to look at the events of your day.
Is a series of places you must see? Check off your list?
Or do you just say, 'no matter what I do here, I am traveling?"
The latter is how I like to roll...and what I am trying to teach my kids.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Thursday, January 08, 2009
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
There is the longstanding division between Ashkenazic (Jews of Eastern Europe descent) and Sephardic (North Africa and Middle East descent).
I've also noticed a much stronger integration of the Ethiopian Jews into day to day activities. When I was here in 1991, it was the time of the Operation Solomon airlift to Israel . When they came, they were (mass generalization here) mostly illiterate and completely unfamiliar with modern amenities (electricity, running water, etc.). No longer the case.(see Live and Become movie for more on this)
But, one aspect of Israel that many first-time visitors probably find surprising is the day-to-day presence of Arabs and Muslims among the larger Israeli/Jewish population.
You see them in the mall, grocery stores, airport, trains, etc.
And, at 4am, suffering from jet lag, in the next town over from where I was staying, I heard the muezzin perform the morning call to prayer for the Muslim faithful.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
I think israelis may have a little bit better and healthier perspective on life than other western societies.
When you live in a place where death is a daily reality, you tend to chill out a bit, to not sweat the small stuff so much.
You start appreciating things that otherwise you might take for granted.
And you recognize the beauty of things. Two times within one hour, random strangers said to me 'children are happiness', it sounds better in hebrew.
You would think that the stress kills you and wears you down.
In fact, it makes you live even more.
(Post dedicated to yaron and ariella, thanks for letting me blog from your blackberry in modiin)
How do I explain to them the nature of the sacrifice made by the fallen soldiers whose names are engraved on the wall in front of which they were playing?
How do you help them understand that many of these names are of people who were 19 or 20 years old when they were killed and never "grew up" to have families of their own?
Or, had families with young children the age of Tonka and Paco and to which they never returned?
In societies like America and Israel where freedom from persecution can carry the highest "tax" possible, how do you help those who benefit so many years down the road actually appreciate that "freedom isn't free" and what was done for them before?
It's a daunting responsibility.
(And, on a humbling note, I was saddened by how many names had been added to the wall at Latrun since I last visited in 1991. Too many.)
Monday, January 05, 2009
There is a special prayer said in many synagogues for the health and welfare of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
Like many things that are part of a routine, sometimes you forget to really think about the inner meaning of the activity.
The major purpose of our visit to Israel now was to attend the wedding of the cousin of the NFO. It took place on New Year's Eve in Jerusalem with approx. 750 people in attendance.
During the ceremony, the Rabbi paused the traditional service and read the prayer for the welfare of the IDF.
It really hit home.
Here we were in Jerusalem, arguably the most spiritual place in the world.
In a room where over 50% of the attendees had served or are currently serving in the IDF and where every single person knows someone on the front lines in the war with Hamas...both military and civilian.
The thought that only 1 hour away there were people putting their lives on the line...literally...so that we could sing and dance at this wedding was pretty humbling.
It gave one a sense of appreciation for the "price of liberty."
And the juxtaposition of emotion was intense. We were celebrating raucously, with legitimate cause and 1 hour south, others were in bomb shelters.
Just another day in the Middle East.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
I think the key to successfully traveling with kids is to severely limit the scope of your objectives.
My philosophy during this trip is to find one activity per day and spend approximately 4 hours round-trip involved in it.
No matter your age or how you are traveling, it is impossible to 'do it all.'
By setting unrealistically high standards for a family, you are preparing yourself for stress and disappointment.
It's just not worth it.
Pick one thing. Do it well. Declare victory. Go home (back to where you are staying, I mean).
Friday, January 02, 2009
It's been 30 years since my first visit to Israel. This is my 8th trip here.
On my first visit, Israel was a rough place. Basic amenities were clearly 2nd class.
Anyone who has seen the new Tel Aviv airport knows that.
But, even that is old news.
Where I have noticed a bigger than expected change is in customer service.
Yes, customer service.
For those of you unfamiliar with Israel, let's just say this...Israel and customer service have, historically, complemented each other as well as peanut butter and anchovies.
You're with me, right?
Well, and I realize it's still early in the trip (and yes, maybe I am in more 'tourist-y' places), but I have to say, I am impressed.
- I am seeing smiles.
- Unsolicited offers of help.
- Patience (ok, some)
I don't know how widespread this is yet (will certainly investigate), but it did catch me off guard.
Update: had another moment in a less 'touristy' place. We had used our credit card to enter a parking garage at a mall and when we left, the machine wasn't working. After waiting for 8-10 minutes for them to reboot the computer or whatever, I finally said to the attendant, "hey, I've got 3 kids in the car here. We've been waiting for a while, can you just let me out?"
And he did.
I hear more about the war from Americans than I do from Israelis.
Not that it's not on their mind, but as one Israeli said to me, "this is the Middle East. If we got all worked up about every war, we'd go crazy."
The guy who was helping me at the cell phone store today:
"How are you?"
"I'm fine. You?"
"Me? I'm excellent. Things in the south? not so good, but I'm excellent."
And I just talked to a friend of mine who lives within rocket range. She said:
"A couple of times a day, we hear the alarm. We have 7 minutes to run to the bomb shelter. We run. Then, it's over. Then, back to normal."
Definitely a different breed here.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Actually, we have only one objective every day, but that's another blog post.
It was to take the kids to see the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Old City of Jerusalem is most user-unfriendly to strollers and needs elevators in a bad way, we made it to our destinatino.
At the top of the stairs leading down to the main plaza, we stopped to take in the scene.
We pointed out the Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the hills in the background.
A security guard looked at me and at Paco and asked: "How old is he?"
"He won't remember this in a few weeks."
"True," I replied, "but he'll always have a feeling associated with this place and that's what I am trying to create today."
Transmitting emotion to your kids is difficult.
Just because I love the Redskins doesn't mean I can make my kids love the Redskins (why I would even think about that these days is a different topic altogether).
But, what I can do is to create experiences that I hope will generate emotion within them independently.
Israel and Jerusalem are important to the NFO and me.
So, we've invested the time and money in creating an experience for the kids that will hopefully
- create memories (at least for Tonka) and
- the seed of an emotional connection (Tonka/Paco)