Even if you’re not a Washington junkie, you might still know Helen Thomas. She’s kind of famous, for being part of the White House press corps since before fire was invented.
Anyway, apparently she also feels that the Jews should, “get the hell out of Palestine,” and “go back to Poland and to Germany.”
Wow – let’s work to make this part of her Wikipedia entry, ‘mkay?
I learned about this story from the great blog, Jewlicious.
Filed under: Feelings, Hey!, Identity, Struggles | Tags: blockade, Flotilla, Sandra Bernhard
A lot can change in 24 hours. Sunday night I got to watch Rihanna perform in Jafo’s Bloomfield Stadium, and she was magnificent. The concert was part of a cool initiative called the Orange RockCorps. To score a ticket you had to do four hours of community service or know my friend Beth and get given a ticket for doing nothing. This was RiRi’s first time in Israel.
I had a stupendous time at the show. I almost didn’t make it! Beth told me RiRi was performing at Ramat Gan Stadium. I set out on my bike with plenty of time – dressed in “26-year-old drag.” My friend Ashley told me that the RockCorps tickets were only for kids ages 16-26. With bad lighting, sleep in your eyes and visual impairment, I can maybe appear 32-years-old; 26-y-o would be really pushing it (#understatement). But I wore a baseball cap and little O.P. corduroy shorts and gave myself a fresh, clean shave.
Google Maps on my BlackBerry got me there easily enough, and I realized the stadium (actually in Bnei Brak) was across from two skyscrapers where I had business meetings in the last few weeks. I was feeling that “more has been revealed” satisfying feeling that (unknowingly at the time) those meetings had helped familiarize me with this location to help me find the concert.
Except, major #Fail, b/c RiRi was not performing there at all. She was performing at Bloomfield Stadium in Yafo, which is basically the southern tip of Tel Aviv. Bnei Brak was like two towns over, north of Tel Aviv.
Fortunately, this whole country is the size of a peanut, and RiRi is Diva enough to never start the show on time, and I made it to the correct stadium about :10 minutes before she went on.
I passed for 26-years-old or, they just weren’t checking! I had a ticket to stand on the floor, which was fine b/c it was very close up. Even arriving as close to showtime as I did, I still was maybe 15 feet away from her when she came stage right. It was like I was babysitting or 15,000 teenagers, but it was fine.
Don’t you love it, when you remember to bring your camera and when you whip it out to take your first shot, you’re greeted with this message on the display: “CHANGE THE BATTERY PACK.” #Fail !!! Why doesn’t the camera have a gauge that shows you battery strength as you go along, but instead tells you nothing before – “Hey, doufus – I’m done. Change me.” #Fail !!! BlackBerry pics had to suffice, mainly of the video monitor, b/c cam was not high quality enough to get good shots of RiRi directly, close as I was.
Great show. Of course, I’m gonna find all the ways she was derivative of Madonna, but she really turned it out and rocked hard. It was really fun. Since I’m building my own business, I work *A LOT*, and it’s a real challenge to make myself get out for social activities. Seeing a big act like RiRi feels tangible to me, like I can point to it and feel – See, I do stuff.
Next day, late morning I see one of the new friends I’ve made from this crowd that’s really active on Twitter, Benji, tweet something like – “So sad, can’t stop watching the news.” Part of me thinks Uh-oh, what? , but I’m swamped as usual w/ work, and I don’t pay full attention. I can’t remember how long, but later that day the twitter chatter becomes loud enough that I realize something big has happened.
I’m trying to remember now what the first coverage I read was like – was it the US and global press accusing Israel of a “massacre of peace activists” or was it links from the people I follow on Twitter, who told a different story – that the IDF soldiers were “brutally ambushed by the terrorists at sea“?
The Ynet article really made me feel better – See, we’re not barbarians…we boarded the boat and *they* attacked *us* !! In an interesting twist, right afrter reading that article, the next tweet I see in Tweetdeck is from comedian/actress/author/personality/singer Sandra Bernhard – who I have adored ever since the mid 80’s, when she seemingly appeared on Late Night w/ David Letterman every few weeks. I remember thinking – Who *IS* this chick !?! I don’t know if Sandra was out then (I certainly wasn’t), but I was captivated by the way she clearly marched to her own drummer and seemed so much more authentic and original than the celebrities I was accustomed to seeing.
Anyway, so I’ve been a fan of hers for 25 years, and I read her tweet saying:
Not mean spiritied. Just a question – a *good* question. But in this environment – when, AGAIN it seems the world is unifiyingly holding Israel to an unfair security & self-defense double-standard…and yes, I was probably taking on some of these critical attacks on Israel personally…because Sandra is influential (and Jewish) and many people pay attention to what she has to say, I didn’t want her question to go unanswered or manipulated for another person’s purposes or change the opinion of someone still making up his/her mind up about what was still breaking news.
So, I answered her over Twitter:
And I included a hyperlink to the Ynet story I had read. Then, I continued working. I was still swamped, and flotilla or notilla, that hadn’t changed. When I checked Tweetdeck a little later, I saw that Sandra had answered me. While I had half-hoped she would, I certainly didn’t expect her to. Anyway, here is our conversation:
OK, so maybe it’s less of a conversation and really Sandra’s response to my tweet, and then my 3 replies to her, plus one re-tweet from my new friend @Jewlicious. (But if you remove the 140-character limitation, then – yeah, it’s her response, then mine, then me forwarding something.)
Anyway, I continued working, but of course that means checking both Facebook and Tweetdeck (and Atraf) every 5 seconds, and I came across a link to video posted by The Huffington Post, and it made Israel look just awful. A British Al-Jazeera reporter is giving a report from the deck of the raided flotilla boat. He mentions in his report that the flotilla was “carrying aid” when the “Israeli commandos descended upon it in International waters after surrounding it with ships from all sides” and mentions that on board the raided boat were “activists, parliamentarians, women, children and the elderly” and that “tens of people were injured, and there were still sounds of live fire despite white flag having been raised.”
I started feeling bad after watching this report. Not just – Oh, shit, this is *Bad* for Israel, but more like self-doubt, like – Oh, shit is this who we are? Are we barbarians? Am I in denial when I say the world is being unfair in its condemnation of us for what transpired? Are we really evil?
Another report I read on HuffPo had a pundit calling the incident “Israel’s Kent State” and a “massacre” and referred to those on the boat as “activists.” Head was starting to spin. Were they activists delivering aid, or terrorists attacking soldiers with metal rods? What was the truth ??
The HuffPo post was updated with video from the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) that showed the people attacking the soldiers when they first boarded the boat. This did a lot to reassure me – both that we had not perpetrated a massacre, and that more balanced coverage was making it’s way to American media, if not Europe.
Here is close-up of the same footage I found on the IDF’s YouTube channel:
I felt even more reassured when I read my friend David Hazony’s report. David is a writer and author on religion, Judaism, Israel, and the Middle East. From his piece I learned that the flotilla had written a press release in advance about the attack and were able to send it to news media around the world as soon as the incident occured. Premeditate much? David’s piece talked about the need to win the media war via press releases and Twitter, and I popped a PR boner. This is what I do, man !!! Maybe this is the reason I am here in Israel – I’m supposed to offer my PR and communications expertise (all in mother-tongue English) to the Israeli government and IDF and help us win the media war the next time.
I fired off a tweet to Sandra Bernhard, with a link to David’s piece. Then, I went to the gym to get rid of some of this anxiety and fat. But first, here are two exchanges with friends on Facebook. But are friends I love. One is Jewish, and she thanks me for “getting the truth out.” The other is not Jewish, but he lived in Israel before and loves Israel. But after the news coverage he saw, he had decided Israel and the IDF were in the wrong here, and he was condemning the IDF raid. Can you see why this was very confusing and heartbreaking for me?
I got my gym on. As I opened my locker to shower after, I saw that Sandra Bernhard had replied to me on Twitter! I was really happy about this. Because our conversation did not devolve into argument, but remained kind; other people could be following it over Twitter and having their thoughts on the incident broadened, and Sandra and I found some common ground in the end. Plus, I was able to get my starfuck on with a performer I have always enjoyed and admired.
Cool, right? Look, I didn’t know when I’d ever be talking to Sandra again, so I could not resist telling her about how I first became a fan. It’s like when I met Debra Winger while working on the red carpet of the Gotham Independent Film Awards and got to tell her the scene in ‘Terms of Endearment’ where she says goodbye to her kids is my favorite moment of cinema ever. I still didn’t get what Sandra meant about my response being disproportinate. But whatevs. This was still a cool thing on a lot of levels for me. Headed to a cafe to work for a few hours. Logged on and saw Sandra had responded!
Then, when I get home, I found out she had asked me what I do for a living here in Israel. Wow, I thought that was really nice.
I could have asked her what she meant by that. Israel is a democracy and all 7.1 million citizens have full rights and participate in government and society (not just the 5.6 million Jews), but it was almost 4am, and time for a few hours of sleep.
It’s a couple of days later now, and I was happy to see more examples of US media coverage that I thought was fair. Like, when Vice President Joe Biden appeared on Charlie Rose and defended Israel’s actions. And then, this wonderful opinion piece by Charles Krauthammer.
Almost finished, those of you who are still with me. Saw this last night. Superbly powerful parody/commentary of the Flotilla called “We Con the World” (like the 1985 USA for Africa single, “We Are the World”). I think it’s brilliant and the creative force behind it, Caroline Glick, is my new hero. Watch:
Alright, it’s Shabbat, my dog is dying to get outside, and I’ve been writing this post for more than four hours. Time to get cleaned up and head to Hilton Beach. I just knew I had to do a long post about my reaction to this international incident, though. Because I am an Israeli, but not a native one. I’m an American, too, and most of my friends live in America. America is more supportive of Israel than any other country, and American news media coverage of Israel is more balanced than most coverage in the world, which has a very anti-Israeli slant – maybe because the world views Israel as an illegitimate country who shouldn’t really be here at all. From my unique perspective as an Oleh Chadash (new immigrant) living in Israel for less than a year and a half, I am in between worlds, in a way. I live here. But I read American news via the New York Times, and links to US news sources sent around on Twitter and Facebook. I have friends in both countries. I dunno, it occurred to me that my reaction to this event was probably not the same as the average Israeli, and I wanted to document it (for me) and share it – in case there are other Olim who can relate to parts of it.
P.S. Here’s a good summary piece from NYT.
P.P.S. Footnote: that I have a friend in New York named Kevin, who works as a professional drag queen. His drag name?
It was one of those “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” maneuvers. When my weight gets to a certain point, it feels like every “sensible meal,” every 5- mile jog – just has no effect. I know of course it does, but my fat rolls try and convince me otherwise.
So, I go on a colon cleanse Beyonce’s diet I starve myself the Master Cleanse. Intended as a detox for your colon and intestines, but with strong weight loss properties, the Master Cleanse – while controversial – is safe to do between 10-30 days. I’m cool with it despite all the Haters, b/c my doctor from New York gave me her blessing, and I have done it successfully three times before (10 days twice, 7 days once).
Anyway, with summer arriving, and me topping out at 183 pounds, it was time for the MC again. I loaded up on 50 lemons and 200 grams of cayenne pepper at the Shuk and found Israel’s only connection to importing Grade B maple syrup. (Grade A, while it might sound better, is actually more refined. Believe me, if all you’re “eating” is maple syrup, you want the less refined kind with more nutrients). Yeah, I found this guy who owns a health food store and – with one phone call, made a case of Grade B show up the next day, so I bought the entire case.
Click the MC link above for all the deets (or Google “Master Cleanse,” “master cleanse lemonade recipe,” or some other variant), b/c I don’t want to explain it all, but in a nutshell:
- You make a lemonade of 10-12 oz filtered water, 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper. Drink 8-12 glasses of it a day, whenever you feel hungry. (But really you can drink as much as you want)
2. In the mornings, mix a quart of warm water with 2 tsp of sea salt and drink it down. (Nasty!) Called “brackish water,” it’s not salty enough to make you vomit, but it is salty enough that your body fast-tracks it through you system, and you “poop soup” 30 minutes after drinking it, for about four rounds on the John. (Don’t make plans or leave the house for the next 90 minutes.) Also called “top down enema,” this is what flushes the toxins out of your body that you have dislodged from your intestines by drinking the lemonade.
Anyway, that’s it. I went for 12 days this time and lost 17 pounds! It’s a week later, and I’m holding steady at 170 pounds, a net loss of 12 pounds. Perfectly happy with this.
I usually don’t throw parties for myself, but you only turn 40 once each lifetime. So, this year I knew I must.
I went with my friend Phil last month to see this place my friends the Becker-Barkins recommended called Betty Ford. By mistake, we went into the wrong place, but we liked it immediately. Called Nachalat 52 (creative!, it’s the address), it had a Western-sort of vibe, with a lot of wood, which you typically don’t see in Israel. The shister manager Ronen promised me the upstairs room to myself for the party. They had a pool table up there and Guitar Hero hooked up to a big flat screen. I told them I needed to take a look at some other places, and I did check out Betty Ford, but I got a slimy vibe from the BF manager, who wanted my guests to each pay a minimum charge, so I went with Nachalat 52.
T.I.I., baby. It’s an expression my friend Liron’s friend made up; stands for “This is Israel.” It’s sort of a catch-phrase for whatever ridonkulous shiz goes on here or peeps try and pull. Ronen, the Nachalat 52 manager wound up imposing the same minimum charge per guest bullshiz that the other guy wanted. Basically, we had to spend 3000 ($790) shekels total or else I’d be responsible for paying the difference. You know what? I was inviting a lot of people, and I told everyone to bring their friends, so I wasn’t worried.
I mainly invited people through Facebook:
And I was so excited when the actual party came around. Although, there was a speed bump and I was pretty peeved when Ronen called me last week to confirm. At the end of the call, he tries to casually throw in – Oh, yeah, and there’s just this one little thing. You won’t be able to use this one couch and table in the corner of the room. You see, I, er, ah, booked another party of 15 for it.
T.I.I., baby. I had a choice – I could have flipped out and ripped him a new one over the phone. But I didn’t feel like doing that. And it was too late for me to find a new venue anyway. So, I just said – Look, I know what you did. When I booked the party, the place was only open two days and you jumped at my business. Since them, you’ve become a big hit, and you just want to make more money. Well, I just wanna say ‘I’m very disappointed about this.’ The vulture He promised me free drinks.
Anyway, last night was the big event. And it was super. It wasn’t just those 15 other people, though. When I got there around 8:40 p.m., the upstairs was kinda close to filled up already with random peeps. I put my shit down on two big tables (I had “just happened” to bring along a duffel bag and two big shopping bags “in case” people “happened” to bring me gifts. Look – normally, I made a point to say – NO GIFTS! Your being there is all I need or want. But this year, I’m 40, bitch, so you better be packin’ present when you walk in that place, ‘mkay? No, really – I didn’t expect everyone to give me something, but I knew my closer friends would, and that’s just how I wanted it.)
So, if I could plan it again, I would have picked a quieter place. At it’s peak, it was loud and crowded – and smoky. There is a anti-smoking indoors law in Tel Aviv just like in New York, but not every place enforces it, and this place didn’t. But, you know what – it served its purpose. I was so happy greeting each of my guests. And it gave me great pleasure to watch my different groups of friends interact with each other. There were my ulpan friends, my Tikva friends, my gay friends, friends from work, friends I made from the dog park, people I’ve schtupped and more – like some people I met on Atraf, the Israeli gay dating site and a new friend I met at a Nefesh b’Nefesh Olim welcome ceremony last month. My friend Danny had his professional cake baker friend make my cake. It was 100% from scratch – including homemade chocolate on top and homemade raspberry puree inside. [Said in the over-the-top style of Oprah introducing a guest on her show:]
I also ordered a bunch of bar food for everyone to nosh. I chose chicken fingers, calamari, little fajita-type things, and Israeli platters of humus/olives/tahina/pita. But it took a long time for the stuff to get served (delaying the cake/Happy Birthday song), and it was a lot more salad-y type stuff than I realized. Not really finger food. I’m sure we wasted a lot.
But whatevs. It was great, and I shined very brightly. I knew I was going to hear from people – 40 !?! You do NOT look 40, Scott! But I wanted to maximize that effect, and for the pictures from the night, so I shaved instead of sporting my usual stubble. With my longer hair, baby butt smooth face, and Paul Smith textured/patterned shirt that I got at a sample sale I earned every compliment I attracted. Peeps started to leave around10:30 p.m., but diehards stayed until almost midnight. Here’s some pics from the night.
I didn’t have one. I’m talking about a Nefesh b’Nefesh Olim Welcome Ceremony. NbN is the nonprofit that helped me “make Aliyah,” and they arrange for charter flights where the whole plane is full of Olim (immigrants) doing this. But I needed to be in Israel for work before the next scheduled charter flight. (They also book up blocks of seats reserved for Olim on regular EL AL flights, but again – I couldn’t wait for one of these.) So, I made the 12-13 hour flight solo. And although the AACI (Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel) arranged for someone to greet me after I landed to help process my paperwork, basically there was no fanfare, and I just took my complimentary taxi to my friend’s house and crashed quietly started my new life.
But yesterday (at 4am!) I got up to go to Ben Gurion International Airport to welcome my blogging buddy Lauren Gelnick, an Olah Chadasha from New York City who was on the final Nefesh b’Nefesh Olim Charter flight of 2009. Lauren’s been supporting me by commenting on G-Fish all year, and she invited me to come welcome her to Israel, so how could I say no? Plus, since I never got one of these Official Welcome Ceremony deals, I was also going for me.
How awesome was it that I got a ride to the airport with my Besties the Becker-Barkins, who were coincidentally leaving for the US on an early morning flight? I’ll save you the trouble of racking your brains – it was pretty effing awesome. Our friend Moosh was in the car, too, so he could borrow it while Anna & Eric were away. Even though most of the flights depart and arrive at Terminal 1, my instructions were to go to Terminal 3, so Moosh dropped me off there.
There were a lot of people already there when I arrived at 6:15 a.m. Everyone had to be on a pre-approved registration list for security purposes, so I showed I.D. and got an official “Guest” sticker to wear, then waited in a line mob to clear security and go into the main terminal, where the ceremony was to be held.
Like I really needed it, but I had a few complimentary pastries and some coffee. The place kept filling up. There seemed to be a lot of youth groups. The energy kept rising. It was like a bunch of ‘Heads as the start of a Dead show approached – if no one was on drugs, had just showered and dressed preppy, didn’t know any Grateful Dead songs, and was incredibly Zionist.
I learned some cool stats that an official NbN guy announced from a stage: the 210 Olim on this flight were part of a record year for North American Aliyahs – 3800 people, of which I am one! The youngest Oleh on the flight was just two months old, and the oldest person was 86! Here’s a couple of shots as the anticipation built…
Then, they announced the plane had landed and the Olim would be bussed over shortly. Peeps got even more riled up, and when they removed a barrier, everyone bum-rushed the tarmac like it was some Black Friday shiz.
What happened next was very special. I tweeted that it was basically like Zionist Orgasmo. Throngs of tweens sang along to the instrumental muzak-ized adult contemporary songs (Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart,” “A Whole New World) interspersed with more traditionally Jewish hora-style music. People were waving Israeli flags with a rapturous fervor. It was an explosion of happiness!
Then, I was lucky enough to see my personal Guest of Honor, Olah Chadasha Lauren Gelnick and get what will hopefully become memorable shots for her.
I know I’m going a little picture happy with this post, but I can’t resist. Here’s a great shot of who I presume is the 86-year-old Olah they were talking about. It’s hard to tell in this pic, but the younger man (son?) hugging her had tears streaming down his face. It’s was such a powerful and beautiful emotional force.
Then, I made my way back inside. I stayed for the ceremony. They had some very big VIPs there. Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom said, “Ahmadinejad may have his own plans for Israel, but you [Olim] make Israel possible, by continuing to come here.” Nefesh b’Nefesh founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass quoted a remark Mark Twain made when he visited Israel, “You can’t depend on your eyes, when your imagination is out of focus.” (I didn’t exactly understand the point of the quote, but I was impressed by the fact that Mark Twain had visited Israel.) Then, he spouted a statistic that 81 singles were on this flight and there was some sort of promotion on J-Date about them, and that 1,100 single Israelis had signed up to meet them. Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel had a nice quote about the Olim on today’s flight, “finishing up a thousands-of-years march through the desert.” He also told us that a record 16,000 Olim made Aliyah in 2009 – double the amount that came last year (thank you, world economic crisis) – with 20% increases from the USA (the highest amount in 23 years), Latin America, South America, the UK, Russia this year over last year. He had another great line (you could tell this guy’s a really good speaker) about modern-day Zionism being criticized lately for being, “a bunch of wealthy American Jews paying to break Russian Jews out of the Iron Curtain to make Aliyah,” but today’s North American Olim deserve props for, “breaking the Golden Curtain around New York, breaking the Silicon Curtain [nice touch, Nate] around San Francisco….we need your knowledge, your experience with democracy, your commitment to civil rights.” Senior Deputy Head of the Division for Promotion of Aliyah at the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption Shifra Kirshenbaum also spoke, and I had to resist the urge to go up to her after and ask for a personal extension of my Sal Klita.
I really needed this infusion of Zionism. With fatigue from my current job, having to dip into savings to make ends meet now that my own Olim financial benefits have dried up, anxiety over an exciting job prospect I was waiting to hear back from, a potential search for new housing on the horizon…all of this felt like it had been piling up on me lately, and I used the ceremony as a personal pep rally to remind me what I was doing here, at least in part. Thanks, VIPs and fervent Olim energy.
I’m also kinda glad I didn’t have a ceremony like this when I arrived. I may not have had anyone there to receive me personally, and to be welcomed by such over-the-top enthusiasm in the aggregate, but have no one there for you personally, could have left me feeling very lonesome. I’m glad it worked out this way, that I got to have my ceremony ten months after-the-fact, by way of showing up to support someone else. Thanks, Lauren!
Saturday evening I went to an Israeli Blogger’s Evening outside of Tel Aviv in a town called Nes Tziona. To me, it looked like a suburb. Yeah, I think this was my first trip to the Israeli suburbs. The homes were nice looking, but still made out of concrete with tile floors inside. It appears these construction materials are not limited to apartments. I think it’s because combined, they have a very cooling effect, which is appreciated in the summers.
I was late, but at least it’s because I was blogging. I wanted to have a lot of new content up before the event, in case any of the other bloggers went to visit G-Fish. I ended up stupidly fLYinG on my bicycle, in the street against traffic with no helmet, rushing to meet the bloggers of Cafe Liz and Apples & Honey at the central bus station , and kinda almost died once or twice. Thankfully I didn’t, but I did miss my bus.
When I walked in, the event’s speaker Jacob Share, who publishes two blogs including the popular job search blog Job Mob was already well into his presentation. While I was stumbling around the neighborhood searching for the right home, I was pretty OK with how late I was and that I was missing the start of the presentation. I didn’t have any particular expectations for what I might get out of the evening, and I was primarily going just to check it out – meet some nice writers and also to get out of Tel Aviv.
But my mood sort of fell a little when I got inside. The conversation was about monetization and growing your personal brand. These are interesting topics, but only marginally to me right now. I wanted to be mixing it up and having conversations with new people.
But then there was a break, and the networking portion started. Yay! This was more of what I was hoping for. I asked Jacob a question about self-hosting my own blog on WordPress, and talked with The Baroness Tapuzina, who had just gone through the same experience. I talked with a few more bloggers including:
Tchochkes, Terror Finance (about how terrorism is financed – interesting!), Israel Restaurant Review, I’ll Call Baila, Blanche and Guy Designs, Israeli Kitchen, A Mother in Israel and NRK le-israelim baolam ha-asakim (in Hebrew; about Israeli business culture). There were a lot of food bloggers there!
After the networking, we did a round robin, giving everyone a chance to talk a little about their blog. I began to enjoy the evening more and more as it went on. This continued into my sherut ride back to TLV with Jacob, Liz and Yael, and even my bike ride through TLV with Liz.
I’ve since given and received some link love, which has been very nice. I would definitely participate in an evening like this again. Thanks, Hannah, Miriam and Sarah!