Friday, May 16, 2008

We're Gettin' Married...Again!

On April 3, 2005, Rachel and I were married in an amazingly spiritual and intimate ceremony before the eyes of God and an indescribably meaningful community of family and friends. But we were not married in the eyes of the government, and that fact has left a little aching void in our common heart ever since. As luck, and the tremendous insight and humanity of the California Supreme Court, would have it, just a few hours ago the California Supreme Court overturned the ban on gay marriage. Within about 30 days, gay couples residing in California will be granted a basic human right, that being the right for gay couples to hold equal legal status and rights as straight couples hold. There will be a ballot referendum in November, so ultimately the voters will decide our fate, but this is something by which to be overjoyed and inspired. Rachel and I will be arriving in California the first week of August to start over, again, and build our new life and home together. As soon as we are settled in a bit, we will walk hand in hand up the stairs of the courthouse -- and we will obtain a civil marriage. By then we will have been together for 13 years, and we will be given the great honor and privilege to once again say to each other "I do." We will have an incredibly important piece of paper to display beside our ketubah, and the world will indeed be a beautiful place. Stay tuned for party details....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Wonder Who Laura Bush's Decoy Is?

So, W has graced Jerusalem with his presence once again. It is mayhem. We unfortunately live less than a 5 minute walk from the King David Hotel where W and Laura are staying, and one block from the Inbal Hotel where a high security conference is being held. I haven't gone out today, yet, and have no idea what kind of problems I am going to have walking to city center where I work. There are barricades everywhere -- along with police, military police and military. The area is currently blocked off to civilian traffic. I was rudely awakened today to a police officer screaming something over and over into a megaphone. The only thing I understood was "Jabotinsky" which is the street we live on, so whatever it is he was saying, it affects us.

I just saw his motorcade go up Jabotinsky, having a nice view out our front windows. It was pretty standard fare for a motorcade with a few exceptions. There were 2 decoy limos, not just one as is typical in America, or at least in my experience in Washington, DC. And there were lots of men with lots of big guns. Lots. I was watching from the side of the street where I could see Laura in the limo. But which one was really Laura? All 3 limos had someone sitting in the same exact way with the exact same outfit on. And guess what Laura is wearing today? Something that looked to me like leopard print. I have to give kudos to Laura for her outfit choice today. If you've spent any time in Israel, you know that loud and gaudy clothes, such as leopard print, is quite popular among secular Israeli women (insert Russian joke). So at least the poor woman who has to be Laura's decoy felt right at home in today's outfit. I'm quite impressed with Laura's apparent cultural sensitivity.

Israeli security has apparently been practicing motorcades for a few days now. I took a video the night before last of one such motorcade. It didn't go so well. Traffic was jammed on both sides of Jabotinsky, and the vehicles in the motorcade were actually honking at other cars to let them by. How Israeli....

I'm hoping to get some photos later today and tomorrow. Maybe I can get a video of W's motorcade too. I feel quite indifferent about this whole thing. You might be asking -- okay, probably not, but I want to say it anyway, did Amy salute when W passed by? If you know me at all, you're asking yourself right now, just what "salute" would Amy have given.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Yom HaZikaron

For those who don't know, Yom HaZikaron is an Israeli national holiday -- a memorial day -- for Israeli fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. There are ceremonies and memorials all over the country, as well as educational programs and school activities. It is custom to wear blue pants and white shirts, and I did see a lot of that today. On the eve of the holiday, a siren sounds throughout all of Israel at 8pm for about one minute. On the day of the holiday, another siren sounds throughout the country at 11am for about two minutes. This is the same siren that sounds at 10am on the day of Yom HaShoah -- Holocaust Remembrance Day. The siren is the "all clear" siren that sounds once air raids stop during times of war. It is an unbelievably powerful experience to stop whatever it is you are doing and stand in silence as the siren sounds. Politics aside, the day is about remembering and honoring the dead, and it is important. I can't help but wonder why this isn't something America finds important. How many soldiers have died in Iraq alone? What about 9/11? The sound of the siren and a common experience for a society speaks volumes that no politician or grieving parent can say. Below is a link for two videos -- they are on the top of that page. The first was taken during the 8pm siren. I was standing on Rechov Keren Hayesod in Jerusalem. Notice how folks stop and stand where they are walking on the sidewalks, how people came out of the hotel across the street to stand in front, how the bus stops and everyone on it stands up and how people put their car into park, get out and stand. The second video was taken during the 11am siren. I was standing on Rechov HaPalmach in Jerusalem. The siren is much louder in that part of the city, so you can really hear what it sounds like. People do the same things I mentioned above. One thing you may notice is that during the two minutes, two different taxis drive up the street. My immediate thoughts on that were that A) it is an example of democracy at its best or B) it is arguably, but highly likely, that the drivers were Arab. I asked A LOT of people this question and found out that, understandably so, Arabs might choose not to take part in this extremely significant act of Israeli patriotism. I found the whole day to be quite moving and thought you might enjoy viewing these videos. What is possibly most striking is that, particularly in the second video, you can really see how time stops for two minutes, but then life keeps right on moving. The way it should be I guess. I write this at 3am, having just come home from an awesome, awesome night out, as tonight was Erev Yom HaMatzaut -- Israeli Independence Day. I have a camera full of videos and photos that I will post in the next day or two. If you've been dying to see some footage of the masses partaking in a little Israeli dancing, then you're about to be in luck. Tomorrow is a holiday, and like most Israelis, Rachel and I will be hanging out in a park with friends, grilling and smoking nargila (hookah). What a life. Can't wait!

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I just want to quickly touch base with all of our blog friends. First, thank you to everyone who has emailed us to check on our physical and mental health and safety. It was greatly appreciated and very moving to know that we are in so many people's thoughts and prayers. Rachel and I both went to bed feeling sad and unsettled Thursday night. It was shocking that the shooting happened here in Jerusalem, in our little safe space, and it was saddening to think that the next day, 8 children would be buried decades before their time amongst the sobs and cries of family, friends and anonymous faces writhing in pain. And knowing that just a few hours later, as it does every week, the siren would sound letting all of Jerusalem know that Shabbat had begun, and the air would fill with the hums of prayer and song as the religious, and secular, masses would begin to grapple with the difficult question of why. I went out Friday afternoon to meet someone and was somewhat surprised by how normal it felt. It was a few hours before Shabbat, and people were bustling around the city as they always do. It felt good. Rachel and I had a wonderful Shabbat with her parents and the friends who hosted us for dinner and lunch. The shooting was barely mentioned by anyone. Of course, everyone was sad and angry about what happened, but we are in Jerusalem, Israel, and this is life here. Indeed, the show must go on. Each day is a new day here, and a week is truly a long time. Tonight we walked around Ben Yehuda and the City Center once Shabbat ended, and there were throngs of people out like always, probably more, though, than the last few months because we got a little taste of summer these last days and it is in the 80s right now. There were religious families, secular families, kids of all varieties, tour groups, Birthright groups, street performers, etc. It was refreshing and invigorating to see so many people out and about who are not going to sit at home afraid of what could happen. It felt like home. And who can complain about that. It is indeed the start to a very good week. Shavua tov.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

We Are Okay...

...but sadly others aren't.

As the news has probably already broken in America, we want to let everyone know that we, and as far as we know, our friends and loved ones in Jerusalem, are okay. There was a shooting at a boys yeshiva in a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem. So far reports are that anywhere from 7-9 are dead and 30-something are injured. It is unclear if the terrorist gunmen are dead or alive or if they are captured or at large. There are many conflicting stories on the various news sources. We won't know exact details until tomorrow, at the earliest I imagine. We definitely feel shaken up and incredibly sad by what happened, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who are suffering and our hopes remain that peace will prevail and that, like our blog theme says, there will be shalom in and from Jerusalem. We will be in touch again soon. Be well.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Well...It Did

So I started to write this last night, but the power kept going out, as it had been doing the night before last. It was a lot of fun for it to snow in Jerusalem, but I really hope that's it for the season. And I'm a huge lover of winter and snow storms. Starting Tuesday afternoon it was incredibly windy and remained so until Thursday afternoon. And this wind was bitter, and it literally got into my bones. Couple that with precipitation that sporadically changed from rain to freezing rain to sleet to slush to ice to hail to snow and backwards and forwards and somewhere in between and you have a big, nasty mess. If we could have a calm, peaceful snow that falls overnight giving way to a beautiful and windless day, then by all means bring it on. But from what I can tell that is not how it happens here in Jerusalem. Overall, most people are saying that we got about 4 inches of snow. I had good intentions about getting up early Wednesday morning to go walk around and take pictures, but the wind was fierce and blowing around all of the mixed precipitation that I mentioned above, and I just didn't feel like braving it. I expected it to let up, which it didn't do, so I finally got bundled up and walked to the windmill park to take some photos. Afterwards I had to walk to a meeting I had scheduled with someone. I arrived quite wet from all of the slush on the ground and in the sky. When I left I walked down the hill to a main road to catch a cab home, and no sooner did I blink when a car drove by and gave me a full body splash from a giant puddle. I was soaked and freezing to the core and had to wait another 10 minutes until a cab would stop. I have found that trying to catch a cab in Jerusalem when it is rainy or snowy is about as easy as it is to do the same in New York City, i.e. nearly impossible. The snow et al continued through Wednesday night and Thursday morning. I left the house early Thursday afternoon to go to the shuk and got to take some more photos, and I happily stayed much drier than I had the day before. Families, kids, couples, singles...pretty much everyone was out at some point enjoying this rare occurrence. I was asked to take pictures for other people -- I wasn't sharp enough to count to 3 in Hebrew, so a big loud "smile!" was my cue that I was about to take the picture. A few things that I'm not used to seeing: 1) a snowman standing next to a palm tree and 2) people removing snow from sidewalks by hosing down the snow and using a large squeegee to push the slush away (everyone in Israel has tile floors and cleans them with squeegees). Today was sunny and warmer, yet some snow has continued to stick around. Jerusalem is nothing but hills and valleys, so some areas never really feel the kiss of the sun. And the extended outlook: the low 60s the beginning of next week. I used to be a cold weather person, but living in a country with stone and tile everything and in an apartment with no central heat has made me quite the complainer, so a dose of the 60s sounds wonderful. Maybe Los Angeles weather won't be such a bad thing after all. Look for January 30 and January 31 for pictures of the snow. I'm pretty sure I've put other pictures up on the site but haven't told you about it, such as my photos of Christmas Eve in the Old City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem -- I still need to blog about that. I plan to do some upkeep in the near future and will let you know when there's new stuff to look at.

Shabbat shalom from J'lem!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Will It Or Won't It?

Well, the wind is howling and the trees are swaying. The palm trees just don't know what to think, especially the tall skinny palm tree outside our living room window. We live on the 5th floor, and the actual palms are at a 6th or 7th floor height. This tree freaks me out on an average windy day, but everyone says that they are made to sway. The city high on the hills of Israel -- Jerusalem -- is preparing for a winter storm. But "winter storm" in Jerusalem doesn't mean much, at least compared to a lot of you readers back in the states who have been shoveling out your cars and sending your kids zipping down hills on sleds for the past 2 months. If it snows 2 inches in Jerusalem, the city will shut down for a day. There are only a few snow plows, and cars and drivers are not made to do well in the snow. They aren't made to do well on a clear and sunny day, either, trust me. There has been a buzz in the air for days now about the possibility of snow. If it snows at all, it usually only snows one time a year, so this could be it. I've been told by so many that Jerusalem is gorgeous when it snows. I believe it and can only imagine the picturesque views everywhere you turn -- the walls of the Old City and the Dome of the Rock crowned with snow. There appears to be a universal code for weather forecasters around the world, i.e. you can't trust them because they really just don't know what they are talking about and are often wrong in their forecasts. As I sit here and listen to the howls and whistles of the wind, I don't blame them for their inaccuracy, as Mother Nature is truly a force to be reckoned with, global warming or not. People are already canceling or rescheduling activities and appointments; Hebrew Union College sent out an email about what happens when it snows here and how it could affect the start of the new semester, which is tomorrow. I've even caught the bug and emailed someone to reschedule this evening's meeting. I laugh at myself over that one, but hey, when in Rome.... Will it snow tonight, or tomorrow, or tomorrow night, or Thursday...or not at all? That's how unpredictable it is. But it's kind of fun to be caught up in the buzz of it all, regardless. When Rachel wakes up early tomorrow morning to get ready for school, she'll tell me if there is snow or not. If not, then more sleep will be in order. But if there is snow, I'm throwing on some boots and warm clothes, grabbing my camera and heading out into the wild white yonder to capture some of the beauty that everyone talks about. Seeing snow in Jerusalem will most likely be a once in a lifetime opportunity for us, unless of course it snows again before the winter is over, which would once again prove the "weather rebbe" wrong and Mother Nature right, as it should be.

This is a link to an article I just found online after googling "will it snow in jerusalem?" See what I mean about Israeli drivers? Oh, and an "extreme cold front" here in Jerusalem means near freezing at night and around 40 degrees during the day. And one last thing -- Rachel learned today that when snow is predicted, Israelis from Tel Aviv and other warmer, coastal cities will book hotel rooms in Jerusalem so that their kids can play in the snow. For the sake of them, if no one else, I hope it snows. To be continued....