"Americans Eat Fewer Vegetables" - no kidding, sherlock

We normally get to the States once a year, and although I used to be a self-confessed shopaholic who admittedly spent her entire wages in those glorious single days on buying clothes from Zara, what really gets me excited nowadays when we travel to the US is not the prospect of H&M and Banana Republic, but rather THE FOOD.

I don't buy into the promises that scream out in large bold letters from the packaging - no-fat, no cholesterol, no trans-fatty acids - you only need to look at the obese people wheeling around the even more obese people in wheelchairs in Disney World to realize that there is something essentially flawed about eating zero fat snacks all day long.

That being said, hailing from England where the choice of Kosher products was painfully slim, and ending up in Israel where low-fat snacks are hardly in abundance, I feel like Alice in Wonderland each time we find ourselves in ShopRite. The aisles are so wide that you could bring your entire extended family along for a shopping trip - uncles, aunts, cousins twice removed - and you could still stand side-by-side. The choice of food is just mind-blowing. I really don't know how the average shopping trip in the US can last any less than 3 hours. I don't. When I go food shopping, it is a totally new and alien cultural experience. It feels almost futuristic.

The only thing I really miss about Israel, and find myself hankering for, when I am in the States is decent vegetables. The vegetables are SO tasteless that I am surprised that they are not automatically sold together with salad dressing as a package. It is no surprise, therefore, that according to this article, "fruit consumption amongst Americans is holding steady, but that vegetable consumption is heading down, even if you include French Fries."

Gee, I wonder why.

Divine retribution or murphy's law?

Less than 24 hours after my scathing attack against 93.6 RAM FM on this blog, a crime occurred that will prevent me from bad-mouthing or commenting on this radio station for a long time to come...

We were about to put our kids into their respective car seats this morning when I did a double take. I was groggy and tired after having been up with the kids since 6am, so I wasn't sure if I was seeing things, but soon enough confirmation came through: there were shards of glass covering the ground - our car window had been smashed and our car radio had been stolen. It only occurred to me much later on that in our now radio-less state, I would have little opportunity to ridicule John Berks and his co-hosts. Hey, maybe it was even John himself who made the trip from the West Bank to avenge my attack. Well, John, if you are reading this: it won't work.

Joking aside, it was a pretty nasty thing to wake up to in the morning. The thief didn't share our taste in music - he (or she, you never know) overlooked the CD case filled with close to 50 CDs that was on the passenger seat - it may as well have said on it: TAKE ME. But instead the thief opted for our cheap car radio. Well, no one said that car thieves are the brightest bulbs in the box.

93.6 RAM FM - Whatever is the world coming to?

Several months ago, I was very excited to come across a new independent English radio station which played non-stop music. 93.6 RAM FM started out as a demo radio station, so there was no talking or commentary - just amazing back-to-back hits from all decades, and the best part of this radio station was that you could almost forget that you lived in a country where the pop music is nothing short of appalling.

Israel may be at the cutting edge of medical innovations, and we may have the largest number of start-ups in the world per capita, but our music is AWFUL. Don't-give-up-your-day-job awful. Ayal Golan and Shlomo Artzi are conceivably the worst rock pop singers of all time, so it was a great relief when I finally found some music that could actually be classified as "music."

In fact, the first time I discovered 93.6 RAM FM, I was on my way to somebody's house for a meeting, and I was enjoying the music so much that I drove round the block three times once I arrived at the person's house just so I could listen to "one more song." (Wouldn't that make a great TV commercial? A person is about to get out of their car and head into the office, but enjoys the radio station so much that he just keeps driving.)

Anyway, before you get caught up in the positivity that is exuding from this post, let me tell you that this story does not have a happy ending. Cinderella did not go to the ball. A month ago, the demo period ended, and 93.6 RAM FM was officially launched, with presenters, the news, the works.

They call themselves the "Middle East Peace Radio" - yup, I should have known that trouble was brewing just from the name - and claim to provide objective reporting, avoiding such potentially inflammatory words as "terrorist," "suicide bomb" or "martyr" and instead will say, "A Palestinian blew himself up this morning."

In the words of Andrew Bolton, the station's news editor, "We are committed to telling both sides of the story. We are apolitical and will not toe any political line, other than peace." Riiiiiiiiiight. Is that why I have never heard the word "Israel" leave their mouths? If they ever do have to refer to Israel, they dance around the "I" word and will opt instead for, "the Middle East."

For a radio station that claims to be “objective,” they’re doing a “wonderful job” of hiding their bias. Not. They have yet to present the news from the perspective of the Israelis. In case you think I am bitter, I have no problem with a radio station that is pro-Arab, but do me a favor and don’t pretend to be impartial. It’s just annoying.

As for their South African radio talk show host, John Berks, known as the “Legendary 702 deejay,” I have yet to hear him string together a sentence that makes sense. His jokes are dirty, racist, and totally unfunny, and his tendency to repeat himself o-o-over and o-o-over again - “baby, baby”, “you teasy-tease, you” - makes you question what the nature of his “legendary” status was in South Africa. He has absolutely zero - nada - knowledge of the Middle East, and had to consult with the radio manager to find out what “RAM” stood for in response to a caller’s question.

If only they would have just stuck to the music.

Quite comical really....

This evening, as we sat down as a family to eat dinner, I tried to engage my three-year-old in conversation about Pesach. Purim was such an anti-climactic experience - Eliana was crying most of the day, she didn't quite get the concept of reciprocating when it came to Mishloach Manot - I thought it would be smart to get her in the Pesach spirit ahead of time. I asked her what she had learned in Gan about Pesach - it better be extremely profound for 2000 shekel a month, I thought to myself - and she replied, tilting her head to one side, "I don't know."

Not one to be deterred, I pressed her further. "Did they talk to you, sweetie, about what happened to the Yehudim (Jews) in Mitzrayim (Egypt)?" Bingo. I had used the correct targeted keywords. Her eyes widened and her expression became animated.

"Yes, Mummy, Tzvika [the ganenet's husband - don't ask - it's a really long story - if you really want to know why the ganenet's husband was doing his wife's job, send me an email and I will explain] told us that Haman HaRasha (Haman, the wicked one) was a really naughty man, and all the peoples were so scared!"

Josh responded, "No, honey, that's a different chag (festival)! On Pesach, the Jewish people are scared of Pharaoh!" That basically summed up in a nutshell our experience as the Jewish people. We go from one baddy to another!

Something you don't see everyday in Modi'in

Just when we were beginning to say our final goodbyes to winter in Israel, G-d delivered a surprise. It hailed today. Yes, hail. Here's some pics of our backyard and my husband's hand. (You can't beat bumming around working from home - you get to take pics of your garden in the middle of the day.)


Just three days ago, it was 80 degrees outside - now it is snowing. No wonder I'm feeling sick. Oh well. The change in climate at least gives us Brits something to talk about.

Age is something that doesn't matter (unless you are a cheese) - Billie Burke

My sister is turning 40 today. It is so difficult for me to think of my sister who used to braid my hair as a child as being 40 years old. The phrase "over the hill" comes to mind.

In a year and a half from now, I will be turning 30. My in-laws both turned 60 last summer. My dad turned 70 last December.

Obsession with age is central to so many people's lives in Western society that it makes me wonder what kind of world it would be if a person's age was unknown and irrelevant. I can only imagine that it would be a vastly improved world. So much of our opinions about other people, and ourselves, are based on age.

You can be the smartest, most capable, person in the world for a job - but you're over 65? Sorry, we are looking for someone younger (who is more exploitable and doesn't demand such a high salary). Statistics reveal that US firms are 40% more likely to interview a younger job applicant than an older job applicant. It doesn't matter that your intelligence and vast experience makes you a far superior candidate. Age rears its ugly head on your resume, and you're suddenly rendered useless and irrelevant.

Another scenario: You're a beautiful woman, you're vivacious, you're smart and perceptive - you're over 30? No can do. I'm looking for a woman in her twenties. Yes, I know that you and I would make a great couple, but you are older than me, and I really can't date a woman in her thirties.

Superficial judgements such as the ones described above sound so pathetic and lame that it is hard to believe that society attaches such importance to a number. But it does. We all do.

A member of my extended family - who shall remain nameless if I value my life - is convinced that now she has turned 60, she may as well start preparing her last will and testament. She is too old to look after her grandchildren, too old to have fun, too old to have dreams.... And why? Because two digits are controlling her life.

We live out our fears, and as a result, age defines us. I really believe that if we were unaware of our age, we would live longer, we would look better, we would be HAPPIER, and we would be free from the shackles of prejudice and discrimination. The mind is extremely powerful and our deep-seated fears about our age color our perception about our abilities. Age makes us think old, act old, and diminishes our pleasure. How many times have we heard doctors tell older patients, "What can you expect at your age"? I rest my case. Old age becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

Adultism, jeunism, aldutocracy, gerontocracy, chronocentrism, pedophobia, ephebiphobia (try wrapping your tongue around that one on a Monday morning), gerentophobia - these are all terms that have seeped into the English language as a way to describe the many different types of discrimination towards age.

The answer? I'm not sure. But it wouldn't be such a bad thing if we were to revert to the customs of biblical times when not only were the elders tolerated, but revered.

God is a Mob Boss

Posted by The Husband

If anyone is reading this blog then let me warn you that the following post will be heretical, heathenly, and hopefully, hilarious.

This weekend on shabbat, I was pondering the parashat hashavua and I decided that God has a lot in common with Tony Soprano. This (past) week's parasha was parashat Ki Tisa. In that portion of the Torah, there are a few passages that relate how God will punish the Nation of Israel if they do not follow His Law. Concurrently, though not on shabbat, I was reviewing the last season of The Sopranos in preparation for The Last season of The Sopranos which will return to television (and my computer) around the middle of April. For anyone unfamiliar with The Sopranos, the show is about a mob boss named Tony Soprano and his relationship with his family, therapist, and crew.

In the last episode that I watched, there was a side story about how one of Tony's front companies, Barone Sanitation, was being sold by the son of the owner. The owner had killed himself thereby passing on the business to his son. The son was never informed of his father's connection with organized crime and only wanted to sell the business for his mother. The part of the story that is germaine to this particular discussion is that the son gets involved in the shady business side of his father's business and ends up getting threatened, beaten, and then shaken down by one of Tony's own captains. Of course, at the same time, Tony is assuring the kid's mother that "nothing is going to happen to him, I swear."

So how is God like Tony Soprano? I'm glad you asked.

Go back a few thousand years. God does a favor for the Nation of Israel. They are slaves in Egypt and pretty miserable and God offers them a way out. "I'll take care of the Egyptians," says God, "and I will make a nation of you." Pretty good offer. "All you have to do," God says, putting His (figurative) arm around the pathetic slaves, "is promise to worship me and obey my laws."

Now the slaves, who probably were ready to do anything about that time, say, sure, what the hell, we'll obey, we'll listen, just get us the hell out of here. So God does. He sends a couple of His goons to break a few kneecaps, smash a few windows, and smite some firstborn sons. Israel rejoices and runs like hell to get out of Dodge. God sends one of his captains, Moses, to lead the newly freed slaves to the mountain of Sinai where God explains his business plan. Along the way, God gives the nation some seed money, in the form of manna, and helps them with some pesky legal troubles by splitting the Red Sea and drowning the opposing council.

God business plan is simple. "Here's My rules. 10 basic rules and 603 more to come. Follow the rules, do what I ask, and I'll protect you and make you prosperous. If you have a problem, don't take it to any other god. Don't go outside the family. Take it to me. I will take care of it. At some point in the future, I might ask you to do Me a favor. There's this nasty other family called the Amalekites who are trying to bust in on My action and I may need you to clean up that mess. Don't go to the cops, they won't help you. Other nations won't listen to you and will turn their hearts and hand against you. But I am your God. I will help you. I will make it alright. Of course, if you should happen to go against my wishes, I will smite you and your children and your children's children until you come back to Me and beg My forgiveness. But don't worry, I'm sure you are smart enough to do the Right thing."

So here we are, the children of the Nation of Israel who made a deal with God to protect and deliver them. God doesn't really talk to us anymore, but we're still obligated to Him. He hasn't done much in the protection racket lately, although occasionally He steps in and stops us from being totally annihilated. But we're still paying our dues and paying for the deal that our forebears made with God. And, according to the terms of the deal, if we don't kick up to the Big Boss, we are gonna wish we were never born.

The previous comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of Double Take. Thank you for your understanding.

A cheery post-Purim post (not) - attitudes towards death

My husband's cousin is a psychologist, so when he came to us with his wife and children one weekend, I thought to myself, who better to talk to about this issue that had been preying on my mind.

A long time ago, I came across a website that provided fascinating information about longevity, and it stirred up a hornet's nest of emotions inside me - anger, confusion, and frustration - and I wanted to use my cousin as a sounding board. (I know what you're thinking - what a thrilling weekend it must have been for him - but the truth is that when you talk to most people about death, they will either: a) if they're English, change the subject and talk about the weather; b) clam up completely; or c) chuckle nervously and look for the nearest exit out of the room. I figured that since my cousin deals with psychotic patients on a daily basis, my rambling thoughts shouldn't give him too much cause for concern.)

Most people consider aging, and consequently death, to be an inevitable part of life, and therefore are of the opinion that you should live your life to the fullest and not spend too much time worrying about something that you cannot change.  My cousin pretty much corroborated the approach voiced by many about the inevitability of aging, and said that denial is what keeps you sane, and that dwelling on death - or even on how to prolong your life - is unhealthy.

Be that as it may (sanity is over-rated anyway), I have problems  swallowing that attitude, and I will tell you why. In days of old, when there was no medical intervention, and people dropped like flies from a multitude of illnesses, it was understandable that people's expectations for their lifespans were very low. But I don't believe that in this day and age, when we have at our fingertips a wealth of medical information based on extensive scientific research, which is only growing day by day, we can take refuge in that excuse any longer. Furthermore,  it is denial that is holding us back from improving the quality of our lives, and extending the length of our lives.

When you are a teenager, you believe that you are invincible and that death strikes everyone but you, and when you do finally reach a time in your life - normally when you are confronted with your own mortality as you watch your parents age - that the big "D" word comes into focus, you enter a state of denial just so that your sanity can remain intact. No one knows what can happen from one day to the next - any one of us could drop dead at any second (cheery thought, I know) - and you cannot spend and waste your life obsessing about the "what-if's", but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be pro-active about prolonging your life to the best of your ability, and it was the longevity website that fuelled this strong belief.

Anyway, I recommend checking out the longevity website if for no other reason than it can give you hope for the possibilities that exist to prevent the causes of degenerative aging. I end this post with a quote from their website that struck a chord in me:

There are many people in the world who want you and everyone you know to suffer and die on their schedule, far sooner than you might. There are people in the world who would suppress all medical research for increased longevity - exactly the sort of research that has increased the healthy life expectancy of the old over the fifty years, and will accelerate this trend going forward. If everyday folk like you and I go along with these deathists in silence, if we do not loudly point the nature of the Emperor's clothes, then we will get what we deserve - suffering and death for failing to stand up for ourselves, failing to support longevity research, and failing to build a better future for all.

Goodnight moon - total lunar eclipse on Purim

You will have to excuse me if this post lacks coherency. It is 1 am, and I have just come in from the garden where my husband and I were sitting with a shot of whiskey and binoculars, as we witnessed a total lunar eclipse. It was the most strikingly beautiful sight in the world. Just now the earth's shadow covered the moon, and I couldn't think of a more fitting time for this to occur than on Purim night when G-d's face was concealed. This world is filled with so many miracles and wonders if you only look for them.

Goodnight and Happy Purim.

Writing on the wall - Jewish school targeted in Germany

I have never been able to understand how, after the atrocities of the Holocaust, any Jew is capable of living in Germany; yet the figures show that the Jewish presence in this country is formidable - over 200,000 Jews have made Germany their home, making it one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.

 A few days ago, a smoke bomb was thrown through the window of a Jewish kindergarten in Berlin. The thought of what could have happened if the smoke bomb had successfully been ignited sends shivers down my spine. Thankfully, no one was physically hurt, but the anti-Semitic imprint was left on this kindergarten after its walls were spray-painted with swastikas, anti-Semitic symbols, and Nazi slogans.  This was the first time that a Jewish school in Germany has been the target of anti-Semitism; unfortunately, I don't envisage that it will be the last.

 In today's world of senseless terrorism and hatred, where Jews are so often the target, people are scared to be direct in their obsession with being politically correct. "You can't generalize, not all Arabs are suicide bombers," "the Germans have learned their lesson - you cannot blame them for the sins of a previous generation," but these words ring hollow in my ears.

In this day and age, when it is unsafe to go on a bus in Israel, let alone fly, should I feel guilty about mistrusting each and every Arab I encounter? I definitely feel sadness about the reality of our world, but certainly not guilt. In my mind, I am responsible for keeping my children safe, and if that means that I won't let an Arab step foot into my home to do repair work, out of fear that he will stab me in the back, then so be it. The Arabs who built our apartment in Israel filled our pipes with stones; an Arab who my uncle hired to do odd jobs around his house, and trusted him implicitly, turned out to be an accomplice in a suicide bombing. The man who took money from my uncle and smiled at him deferentially each day was the same man who transported a suicide bomber to his final destination.

Yes, there are countless Arabs out there who are decent and who only want to live in peace, and yes, there are Germans who are shamefaced and are genuinely sorry for the unspeakable acts of cruelty that took place in Nazi Germany, but until Israel and Jewish communities in the Diaspora stand firm in their fight against anti-Semitism, generalizations and protective measures are the only defense mechanism we have at our disposal.