Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Broken Glasses and Broken Dreams

The other night I stepped on my glasses and broke the hinge off making them unwearable. I can't see without them or without my contact lenses. It just so happens that I only have enough contact lenses left for two days since I wear them off and on.

Yesterday, I went to glasses store that accepts my insurance, had an eye exam and began to pick out glasses. The total for the glasses was exorbitant even by Israeli standards but I felt  uncomfortable questioning the woman. I should've asked for the other price list from a different lens manufacturer, I should've chosen a cheaper frame. I have excuses, I was tired, it was the end of the day, my youngest (who generously accompanied me) kept saying "I have to get out of here" since we'd been there for a while. 

I bought them.

Now switch stories with me for a second. I have been following the Aziz Ansari story along with the #metoo movement. For me, as with so many other people, that is a familiar refrain. When I was younger, I was in many similar situations and honestly, considered it normal. I spent my teenage years self medicating by "hooking up" with boys thinking that if they found me attractive, I would feel better about myself. I never did. I always felt used, a little dirty, and honestly, sexually frustrated. I was never fully present in the moment, going through the motions, looking for something I wasn't going to find, at least not in that situation. I never contemplated that there might be pleasure in it for me and I never demanded it. This behavior continued until I met my husband and he, in all his generosity and love, showed me what sex has the potential to be between two people.

There were two incidents that I knew were dangerous and that things had crossed a line and I did say no and I felt threatened, in physical danger and scared. These two occurrences stick in my mind and I can clearly remember them in pretty good detail.

The story about Aziz Ansari, as you can probably infer, didn't seem that terrible to me. He seemed like sort of a horny douche, but why was it meriting so much importance?

After last night, I began to think about what if, instead of someone selling me glasses, someone was trying to get me to have sex with them. I'm an almost 50 year old woman, admitted reader of people and interested in pop culture; I would've been very impressed with his celebrity, and I couldn't even tell someone I didn't want to buy glasses I couldn't afford. I would probably have been "Grace". I know from experience what she felt like afterward. (see above)

I was listening to someone on the radio discuss this who was my age, and another woman who was a generation younger. I heard myself and my experiences in her. I heard my daughters in the other woman. They are right. The women of tomorrow are leading the charge and making changes.

Later last night, I called the store and asked them to hold my order. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. ABOUT GLASSES. I will go back to the store today and see if I can "redo" my purchase.

If only I had that chance as a teenager.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Yes, you can be a Feminist and a Zionist

Read the original article in the Forward by Miriam Barghouti here.

I'm sure I'm not the only woman in Israel and abroad who was upset by the headline alone of this piece by Miriam Barghouti.

Full disclosure: I am American born, live in Israel and my son is currently serving in the Israeli army. I have two daughters who will be joining the army in the next two years.

Barghouti states that "Being a Zionist today means giving support not just to the idea of a Jewish state and Jewish sovereignty, but also to Israel's actual policies as they are manifested on the ground."

I am a Zionist. I believe in a Jewish state and in Jewish sovereignty. I do not support the actual policies on the ground and I do not support our current government. I do not support the occupation. I don't willfully ignore anything. I make it very clear to my sons and daughters what I expect of them in their treatment of women, men, other religions and in general, the other. In fact, I moved here in order to specifically try and change Israeli society from within. To smash the patriarchy, to end the occupation, to recognize other expressions of Judaism as legitimate, to allow my gay daughter to marry and on and on.

What bothers me is the broad strokes about Israeli women or Zionism in the article. I don't agree with Barghouti's all or nothing idea of feminism. I do agree with her end goal, and I agree with statements by her and others that you must be anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-oppression. Unless your willing to go and live in a cave, your world, your nation, your society contains all of these elements. If you refuse to oppose those ideas from within, then you will never bring about change.

"The alternative I am suggesting to the Zionist feminist is to recognize and join the struggles against systematic oppression. Be brave enough, and stand against the many faces of subjugation and inequality, and embrace feminism as the all-encompassing and formidable force that it can be."

Here are a few examples of Zionist feminists doing just that:

Women Wage Peace: If you wish to be part of something big, Join Women Wage Peace!

Tens of thousands of women from all over the country, Jews, Arabs, religious and secular from the Right, the Centre and the Left – are all united in the demand for a political agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Yes it is possible! Difficult conflicts around the world have been resolved and we believe that it is possible to resolve the conflict in our region too.

I know at least two women involved in this group. One of whom has spent more than 20 years delivering Arab, Jewish, and Christian babies in Jerusalem. She helped all of these mothers bring their children in to this world with the love and joy all families deserve.

Machsom Watch: A volunteer organization of Israeli women who are peace activists from all sectors of society. We oppose the Israeli occupation in the area known as the West Bank, we oppose the appropriation of Palestinian land and the denial of Palestinian human rights. We support the right of Palestinians to move freely in their land and oppose the checkpoints which severely restrict Palestinian daily life. 

Breaking the Silence: an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. We endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population’s everyday life. Our work aims to bring an end to the occupation. 

These organizations aren't popular in Israel (or with Jews in other countries). They are demonized locally and abroad. Yet, they persist. They climb uphill against a society that is becoming more and more nationalistic. Against a government that is increasingly emboldened to openly embrace ideas that were once thought shameful. Call it the Trump effect or the Duterte effect or the Netanyahu effect. It affects every part of a nation, from civil rights to the behavior of soldiers in the army.

At this moment, there are many voices clamoring to be heard in every part of the world. Some come through m ore loudly than others like Black Live Matters and #Metoo in America. Some lie forgotten already, like in Syria or with the Rohyinga.

What would happen if everyone just stopped because because no one can ever reach the high bar we set for ourselves as feminists and as believers in our right to autonomy? I think you can check off boxes on your wish list out of order as long as you continue to work towards fulfilling the entire list.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Theodore Parker) It doesn't bend by itself and it doesn't bend without reaching over to clasp the hand of your ally and your enemy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Year in Review

The Jewish year comes to a close tomorrow evening and as most of us probably do, I thought I would look back at this year. Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. In April, I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on my upper left arm, that fell somewhere in between stage 1 and stage 2. The first in office surgery I had, completely removed it but I was sent off to a top specialist at the skin cancer clinic of Tel HaShomer Hospital. He quickly informed me that I had to have further surgery on my arm to remove tissue surrounding the area of the melanoma and to test the lymph nodes under my arm. In June, I underwent this surgery and now have a 9 inch scar on my upper left arm. My lymph nodes were clean, the dermatologist said the rest of my skin looks good and I will see the oncologist in the beginning of October. In a country famed for it's sunshine (among other things), I spent the summer indoors or dressed in long sleeves and a floppy sun hat.  I hope to live a long life, however it will be smothered in sunscreen and hidden under long sleeves and long pants.

2. America, you're breaking my heart. This is the title of a blog post I started and never finished. Since the election and inauguration of Trump, this has been a constant refrain for me. This and What the Fuck? but I digress. What is happening in America greatly saddens me and I obsessively check Twitter each day to find out what astounding thing  happened while I was sleeping. I never finished that blog post because I have nothing to add to the chorus of voices who decry the actions of Trump and the Republican party. The lessening of empathy and the value of human life.

I was arguing with my SO the other day and he insisted that part of the problem is that the "left" doesn't allow the right to speak. My answer was the very erudite and vocabulary rich response of: "Fuck your misogyny, Fuck your antisemitism and Fuck your racism".  The Twitter equivalent of don't @ me.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I live in Israel, a country that is equally as messed up as America. You might be right, as a good friend of mine used to say. Our prime minister is most likely corrupt, takes his political cues from the playbook of neo-nazis in a Jewish country and we most certainly treat Arabs as second class citizens, similar to how America treats POC. Now, more than ever, I believe that a homeland for the Jews is essential to our survival. How that land looks and how it behaves, I am willing to help change through my vote, my actions and my feet. Believe me, it can happen there.

3. Obligatory children update:
#1 less than a year left in the army, plans to work and travel afterwards
#2 senior in high school, soon to be 18, finally has a job, went to Poland on a historical trip with school
#3 made it through the school year, performed in a play, continues on her journey of self discovery

On the subject of children, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this year, my HCPLL and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It's been a hell of a ride, but this year especially, his love and support was just the touchstone I needed and need.

4. I'm feeling my age. This coming year is the last one I will spend in my 40s. My back hurts, my knees hurt. Three surgeries this past year and more and more frequently, my house is empty at night.

As Scarlett so famously says "where will I go, what will I do?", and this is a question I find myself asking more and more. Luckily, my spouse does give a damn and like Sandy and Danny, we will sail off in to the sunset in a flying vintage car together.

May the year to come bring us all peace, happiness, health and impeachment! Shana tova!


Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Caution! This post contains TMI. If you don't want to know TMI about me, I suggest you move on to another post.

This morning, my doctor confirmed that I had medically reached menopause. My hormone levels fit the exact levels for a woman in menopause.

I am some what ambivalent about this news and feel as though I've suffered a loss. Every time, I got my period, I said how much I hated it. Every time, I didn't get my period, I held out hope I was pregnant.

Except now. At 47, I didn't get my period (of course, the last one HAD to occur when I went on vacation ALONE with my husband. Karma is a bitch). I thought, what if I am pregnant? It happens (at least in the movies - cue Father of the Bride 2). It also happens in the Bible and Sarah was much older than I.

This time, there was no appeal to being pregnant. As I wrote in my last post, I have a 20 year old son and two teenage daughters. I don't want to go back to sleepless nights, exhausted days and never a moment to myself. I'm happy to leave that to my younger friends and borrow their babies for now (I said FOR NOW, I'm talking about grandchildren, are you listening kids?).

My older (and wiser) sister told me to get over it and move on, as did a friend. A new phase of life. I'll be honest though, it feels more like a downward slide to the  end of life, not a new phase. (this might be a Debbie Downer part - be forewarned).

What happens now (beyond the financial savings on not having to buy sanitary products)? I suppose deep down, I already knew since I've been having hot flashes for a while. Of course, I've googled all the information on this, what your hormone levels should be, what the average age is (I'm at the very edge of the low average), etc., etc.. I'm prepared for more hot flashes, vaginal dryness and perhaps some moodiness (I say some, since I'm damn near perfect now)

I'm sure in a few months, this will be the new normal. It's a bit of a wake up call because I know that the healthier I am now, the better off I'll be when I'm really ancient. When I'm all dried up like a prune and even KY Jelly won't help. When I can't hear shit and my memory is even worse than it is now. When hitting the age to be a member of AARP seems like years ago.

When I turn 90 and all of my children, and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren all come together to celebrate my birthday. In August we are celebrating Mimi's 90th birthday together with her daughter, her 3 grandchildren and her 7 great grandchildren.

But for now, I'll just crank up the a/c and bid goodbye to my friend of over 37 years. It won't be the same without you.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

My 20 Year Old Gift

I haven't known many things for sure in my life, but I did know, from a young age, that I wanted to be a mom.  Of course, wanting and becoming are two different things.

I married at 23, and was ready to have kids right away. My husband felt differently so we waited a few years. I had trouble at first getting pregnant. I finally did and promptly went away for the summer to work at camp. The day I was leaving camp, I began to miscarry. I was scheduled to meet my husband at the airport and fly directly to visit his family in Mexico. Instead, I ended up in an ob-gyn office in Chicago hearing that I had miscarried. I went home to Louisville where we were living at the time, had to have a d&c and that was that. We went to Mexico in the end and i remember crying hysterically in the car the night we went to see Silence of the Lambs.

Once we returned home and were working, the miscarriage hit me like a truck. I couldn't sleep, I was petrified of dying and I had panic attacks. When my husband traveled for work, I had to stay with my parents. After a bout of therapy, we decided to move to Skokie and get a fresh start. A year had passed and I still wasn't pregnant again so I began to take a round of Clomid.  And then, I didn't get my period. I took a home pregnancy test and it was negative so I was sure I had some horrible disease since I had been having my period like clockwork since age 10.

Again, I found myself in a strange ob-gyn office, having just moved to Skokie. I told the nurse I had done a pregnancy test at home and it was negative. She said they were pretty accurate and then decided to do one anyway. Lo and behold, I was pregnant. To say I was thrilled is an understatement. My husband too, was over the moon. At the doctor's office, I had done all the tests, etc. and a day or so later, received a call telling me that my hormone levels were low and I was in danger of losing the baby. The panic came roaring back. I was prescribed hormones to take in hopes that would boost my levels and keep the pregnancy.

It did. My baby boy was determined to be born. My pregnancy wasn't easy, I had off the charts blood pressure and ended up on bed rest. On one of my doctor's visits at 36 weeks, my blood pressure was so high that the doctors determined I had to go to the hospital and have the baby. So off I went, scared and tired, only to be caught in an enormous traffic jam on the way to Evanston because Princess Diana was speaking at Northwestern University.

For three days, they tried to induce me. They took me on and off the induction - they were too busy and then took me off at night so I could "sleep". I had an amniocentesis in the middle of the night to see if the baby's lungs were mature and to determine if he was ready to be born.

My parents and my sister came immediately along with my nephews. In the end, we all settled in to wait. I starting going into labor but the baby didn't like contractions, and his heart rate would go down whenever I had one. The residents kept coming in and out, they broke my water which meant I was going to have the baby in 24 hours. My parents and sister went to dinner and a movie and we sat and waited, watching the baby's heart rate.  My doctor came in, took a look at the ekg of the baby and that was it. I was going in for a c-section. Immediately they prepped me, took me in, gave me a spinal block and began the surgery. Once I wasn't contracting, the baby's heart rate was fine, so I was allowed to stay awake. During the surgery, the loudspeaker in the OR started announcing: "crash cart" "STAT" "anesthesiologist STAT". I knew it wasn't me, but I felt like I was in an episode of ER. (ok, I'm old that was a popular show then). The doctor later told me they had to put in some blood pressure medicine because it had spiked during the c-section. Hmm, I wonder why.

And then he was there, this beautiful, tiny little boy. Perfect. The doctor came to see me and told me I was very lucky. You see, I had a blood vessel running through my placenta instead of around it. It's very rare and she even showed it to the residents in training. When they broke my water, if they had nicked it, I would've hemorrhaged and we would both would have died, me from blood loss, the baby from drowning essentially. Had I given birth vaginally, the pressure of pushing would've broken the vein and it would have been the same result.

Today, that beautiful baby boy, the first of three gifts that I had wanted so badly from such a young age, turns 20. My memory sucks, my kids will tell you that, but I remember this story like it was yesterday. For the last 20 years, from that beginning, I have watched his story unfold. No longer a baby, no longer a kid, no longer a teenager. He has achieved his goals and fought hard what he believes in, including himself. On that day, 20 years ago, his being born alive was the gift. Now, on this day, 20 years later, who he is and what he has become is the gift.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Teenagers (eye roll)

Yesterday, my youngest daughter participated in a "lobby" day for LGBT rights at the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). She went as a member of her youth group which also serves that community. She suggested I write a blog post about it because it was a very important day. She is right, it was an important day.

I want to write mainly though, about her. This summer, she came home from camp early and as part of the process, announced that she was bisexual. My first reaction to this was "are you sure you just aren't gay?" (#parentingfail? Discuss.) She said no and so we went on. This was truly no great revelation for anyone as I already had my suspicions since she was in grade school.

As time passed, she adopted a more "masculine" physical look, cutting her long hair and choosing not to wear skirts or dresses anymore (pink was gone a long time ago). She also finally decided she was ready to tell us she was actually gay (!). Her line was "have you seen me?".

Yes, we saw her and so did everyone else. It takes courage and a firm resolve to  unequivocably show who you are, especially as a teenager. I am proud (pun intended) of her and continue to be as she conquers the world beating to her own drum.

Her friends and her school and our family and friends have been and continue to be supportive. It honestly doesn't matter and doesn't change the essence of who she is.

Lately, she has worked hard at pushing the limits much like any other kid her age. When I think on it, there is more there though. More than just a teenager experimenting with limits and trying to find herself.

In fact, she finds herself in a world that isn't truly hers. She is one foot out and one foot in. The world around her isn't mostly gay.  If you follow Buzzfeed, watch Ellen DeGeneres and go to your local pride parade, it may seem that the whole world is gay.

But it's not. It's taken until now for Barbie to come out with dolls in different body sizes. We still haven't had a woman president and the police are still killing people of color. When you look around and you see an ad with a same sex couple or a family with two moms, you remark on it. It's still different. There is still work to be done which is why its important for her to be involved in helping to advance change.

It struck me that she feels like I felt as a Jew in America. Not everyone who is Jewish feels the same, but I did. Maybe because I didn't grow up on the East Coast where "New York Values" prevail. Maybe because it was the thing which I identified with most as my core self. I am American surely, and nowhere is that clearer than here in Israel. When I look around though, my identity is reflected in the society around. Israel moves to the rhythm of the Jewish Calendar and when I pepper my English with "Jewish" words, we all smile at the commonality.

Teenagers like to bulldoze through the world around them. They either want to stand out or fit in. There is no mild in between for them. The louder they shout, the more they think you will notice them. How easy it would be if we could just give them the answers they seek about who they are and what their place in the world is. What they will become and that all their dreams will be fulfilled.

I'm not the first parent to "suffer" through these years (sorry, Mom and Dad) and I won't be the last but when it's someone else's turn, I'll be the wiser.

Let her push. Let her search. She'll discover it all soon enough and I'll be standing there, waiting for her to come home.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Closing the Door on Childhood

When I was a senior in high school, I remember walking in to school one day and being confronted with the news the one of our class members and a friend of mine, had been killed by a drunk driver. It's hard for a teenager to stare mortality in the face as at that age, you feel invincible which is one of the things that leads to teenagers to do stupid, dangerous things. One of the few ways to get teenagers to pay attention is to slap them in the face with it and that is what something like the death of a friend does. Why it might not last forever, it leaves its mark.

The death of a young person is also a blow to adults. We all know the potential that was stopped, frozen in its tracks. The waste and the loss, while at the same time we thank God it wasn't us.

Recently, my oldest child, my son, was drafted into the Israeli army. Israel has a universal draft for men and women and this is a formative experience for all Israelis. Israel is a small country and even though he drafted into the army on Thursday, he was expected to come home the next morning for the weekend. We woke up early, the whole family going to Jerusalem to drop him off, wave him goodbye and see him tomorrow. The time came, they called his name and he was off, though the door to the bus, holding the candy and a prayer book that had been given to him by the Israeli equivalent of the USO.

I never though I would get into the car and cry or that I would sit the rest of the day in my office with a pit in my stomach. The way I described it to my family and friends was that it was as if the door to his childhood shut closed, never to be reopened. That part of his life and our life as his parents is closed. We are on a different path now, fill a different role and feel a difference in our house.

Yesterday, another key turned in that door, causing it to close even more. A friend of his, a young man who graduated school ahead of him, was killed by a car. This young man was also serving in the army was on his way home for a few days break. As I said, Israel is a small country and the community of English speaking immigrants is even smaller. This young man was friends with my son, his sister with my daughters and many other overlapping circles of our lives.

The army gave my son permission to leave his basic training for the day in order to attend the funeral with his friends. He came home but I didn't see him before he took the train back to his base after the funeral. I didn't get to hold him and comfort him and explain to him about how this all works. I didn't get to fulfill my own urge to touch him to remind myself that he was still alive.  I did speak to him after the funeral, when he was on the way back to the army and he sounded drained. This is part that journey to adulthood.

The day my son was drafted, I thought about why it had such an effect on me when I was going to see him the next day. I was reminded of a book by the prize winning Israeli writer, David Grossman, who himself lost a child in the 2nd Lebanon war, titled To the End of the Land. In the book, a mother, who is convinced the army is on her way to inform her of her son's death, takes off on a journey to hike the countryside in the hope that she won't be found and thus, won't be able to hear the news.

I began reading the book, but couldn't finish it. It was too much. Certainly, this is what we all experience as soon as we bring a child into this world. This fear that is mostly pushed to the back of our minds, allowing us to function normally, sometimes surges to the forefront of our thoughts when bad things happen to young people.

There are many things to be scared of these days. Shooters and stabbers in Israel, Paris, San Bernadino. Acts of political violence occuring randomly to try and make you flee to the hills and give up. But, if we allow this fear to paralyze us, we could not function and so we ignore it as much and as often as we can.

The family of this young man (of blessed memory), they don't get the luxury of ignorance, since their most dreaded fear is now their most dreaded reality. We, the lucky ones, only glimpse their pain in the faces of people who have lost someone and hug our loved ones a bit closer before returning to naggin them about putting away their laundry.

So welcome to adulthood, my son. Maybe once in a while you'll still let me hold your hand. You might not need it, but I certainly always will.