Love- of what exactly?

I remember the first time I got off the plane in Tel Aviv. The excitement at every little thing. Falling in love with Israel, my country.
The foreign landscape
The ancient trees
The street signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English
CNN international
Speaking Hebrew to ‘real’ Israelis
The sense of history
Jerusalem stone

Between that visit and now, I’ve been in Israel a number of times.
Each visit less and less exotic.

This time, as I sat in the sherut from the airport to Yerusahalyim
with the sun setting golden over the Jerusalem mountains
and the moon, nearly full faintly on display,
It should be more romantic.
Instead I felt empty.

Perhaps it was not Israel that I loved
but traveling.

Since that first visit to Israel
I’ve seen more foreign landscapes
more ancient trees
street signs in many languages.
I’ve watched other tv channels
spoken in more languages
and seen more history
and more stones.

There are memories I relish more
and places where I have felt more free.
What is Israel to me?
Why do I feel so empty?

Marrakech day 1.5

Saw more of the city, but most of it is moving so quickly (or so dark) that it’s hard to get sharp photographs. Here are a few highlights:

Donkey and cart- these negotiate the alleyways along with mopeds and motorbikes and lots of people.

Stork with the High Atlas mountains (we’re going there tomorrow)
Stork on the walls of Palais El Badi- It was in use for less than 100 years! Now it’s a home for storks and pigeons.
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Marrakech Day .5

We’re arrived safely, and all is (insha alla) well. Here are a few pics to prove it:

Tim waiting for the train at Casablanca airport- enjoying the station’s free (!) internet

Details at Medrassa Ben Youseff

Chair at Medrassa Ben Youseff

Tim at Medrassa ben Youseff

Details at Medrassa Ben Youseff
Tim’s parents are here too (admiring the details at Medrassa ben Youseff).
We’re all having a good time

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Kafka comes to NYC Part II

Thanks to MyUpperWest for covering this story.
Here are a couple of pictures taken at 8:50 this morning at Riverside and 96th st.

don’t be deceived by the fact that you can see the sidewalk…. this hasn’t been cleared since last week’s ice storm, so the sidewalk is very slick.

Though the city can’t work out which agency is responsible for clearing the ice, I’m sure that there are many lawyers who would be happy to work out who is responsible if someone gets hurt.

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Kafka comes to NYC

This section of sidewalk where Riverside Drive passes over 96th street, on the east side of the road is still icy and dangerous (especially for those who need to run to the bus).

Riverside drive and 96th street

For the second time this year, I called 311 to file a complaint to ask the city to clear the sidewalk. Instead I was treated to an excursus about how, since there is no private or commercial property around the sidewalk, the city is not sure which of it’s own department is responsible for snow and ice removal but they were starting an investigation to figure it out.

I explained that I don’t care which city department is responsible, as a tax paying citizen of NYC, I expect the city to work out its issues and shovel the sidewalk. I was told that though it is reasonable for me to have no vested interest in who does the job, the folks at 311 can’t enter it into the system until they can assign it to a department. Though I was assured that after my first complaint, they sent an officer to look at the sidewalk and he noted that there were no violations.

Thanks. I’m not trying to get someone a ticket, I’m trying to get the sidewalk shoveled! In the end, my complaint was put on a list of complaints that they were collecting as they look into the matter further. Not helpful.

Anyone have any practical or creative suggestions for getting the city to do its job?!

merit of tinokos shel beis raban??!

Went for the weekend to pick up my mail- and I received a letter from these guys.

The gist of the letter is really something that can’t be described, so I copied it from their website:

Our Torah leaders have recognized the increase in worldwide travel accidents. That’s why they are so enthusiastic about this powerful, protective measure: Shemirah Bidrachim – Protection on the Road.

In this revolutionary initiative, thousands of people just like you are protecting themselves with an effective method that has proven itself throughout our history: the merit of pure Jewish children whose prayers and Torah study keep the world in existence

To quote Hagaon Harav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, shlita,The pure and holy prayers of Jewish children have the ability to cease the casualties of vehicle mishaps!

For just a few pennies a day, you too can gain this protection for yourself and your family.

In exchange for a contribution made to the Ashdod Mercaz Chinuch Project, the pupils will study and recite pirkei tehilim daily, and entreat G-d to protect and save the insured from any trouble and distress and lead him toward peace, emplace his footsteps toward peace, and have him reach his desired destination for life, gladness and peace, and send blessing and success in all his endeavors, wherever he may turn.”

Seriously?! This raises a number of questions:
  1. How did I get on your mailing list? (no idea)
  2. Will they insure females, or since they should be at home anyway, they won’t be covered?
  3. Who takes this seriously? (from their website, Rav Eliyashiv, Ovadya Yosef and others)
  4. Do people buy this? (at least a couple people with a faulty sense of logic)
  5. Are they aware that their claim that the prayers of children studying torah might not work?
Apparently so, their website includes the following disclaimer:

This agreement is a spiritual agreement! It does not constitute any grounds for the Insured to claim money from the Ashdod Mercaz Chinuch Project.

I guess the prayers of tinokos shel beis raban are not as effective at protecting against lawsuits.

Levantine Pizza Roll

-conceived and cooked by Tim.

1 laffa (now available at Fairway)
olive oil
fresh mozzarella


  • Preheat oven to ~400 F
  • Brush laffa with olive oil
  • Place thin slices of mozzarella on laffa
  • Sprinkle with zatar
  • Bake in oven until cheese is melted but not brown
  • Carefully roll laffa
  • Hold for a few moments so it sticks together
  • Slice into three inch peices and serve

It looks something like this shortly after it’s finished cooking:


After checking in for our flight we decided to davan at the synagogue in our terminal. JFK is strange in that it has separate chapels for different religions. I hadn’t seen this before. To be honest, I think I might be more comfortable doing my airport davaning in a space that is not dedicated only to Jews. This eliminates the problem of someone else thinking that they have any right to be judgmental about my observances. Also, the room looks like a shul, complete with mehitza. You can see pictures here. This doesn’t bother me when I don’t have to stand behind it, but as I walked towards the end of the hallway where the synagogue was, it became clear that also headed in the same direction was a haredi gentleman, who was headed to the same place.

Uh Oh.

We got there first and we proceeded to do our thing. The haredi enters and quickly figures out that A Girl Is Wearing Tefilin!!!.

Uh Oh.

Actually he says hello and is just curious. He has never heard of this, let alone seen it. He asks if he can take pictures. I sigh and reluctantly say okay.
His English is weak and he asks if we speak Hebrew. I answer in the affirmative and the conversation switches to Hebrew.

He’s from Bnai Brak, and his mind is spinning, trying to process what is happening.
-Are we Reform?
No Conservative.
-Do we keep halakhah?
Yes shabbat and kashrut and everything.
-You don’t eat milk and meat together? You keep the rules of family purity?
Yes… everything.
-And you put on tefilin?
Every day… well except for shabbat.

He tells me that his wife is careful to davan three times a day, and actually seems to be quite understanding about women taking on extra mitzvot.

-So how are you different from Orthodox?
Well, we’re egalitarian.
-Apart from that?
Well, we tend to rely on leniencies in halakhah from time to time… (I hadn’t had this converstion in a while, so I did not answer as articulately as I would have liked).
-So do you follow the shulkhan arukh?
Yes, most of the time. Except for places where we don’t.
-Do you have other books that you use?
Yes, we have teshuvot and other codes.

I start to davan, and soon he comes over to interrupt and ask:
-Wait, so you wouldn’t say the blessing that thanks G-d for not making you a woman?
No I don’t. I use a different liturgy (and start to explain the historical origin of the positive brakhot).

He stops me. He’s just trying to figure out how this works. If Judaism doesn’t have to be the way he is familiar with, what has to change and what has to stay the same?

-Are there communities of people like you?
Yes, the shul that I go to gets 150 people regularly.

He asks if we have a problem with assimilation and intermarriage. I answer honestly that intermarriage isn’t generally accepted in the community, but some people do it, and not everyone observes kashrut and shabbat the way that I do.

Throughout the entire exchange he was pleasant. Smiling and not mocking. His questions were genuine and not antagonistic. In fact, much of the time he was unhappy with my answers not for the content, but because I was being defensive- like I had something to prove.

Walking away I was relieved but also sad. I used to be able to have these conversations without being defensive, without preconception for the way that others would react to me.

I’d like to get back to that. I’m glad to be wrong in the way that I think of haredim. I hope that when I run into other haredim, I will be able to assume they are as open-minded as this man. Reading the radicalization of Jerusalem in the press has had an impact on me. Clearly there is no substitute for face to face encounters.