Guilt baskets – an ingenious way to feed off armchair Zionists

There are some things in life that are constants. Some of them good, some of them not so good. Almost every chag (Jewish holiday), we are the unlucky recipients of the aforementioned Guilt Basket from a person we know in the States. If you peruse this website, the baskets contain items that can be purchased from our supermarkets for less than 50 shekel, but which costs the naive American over $50. Every chag, Josh and I keep telling ourselves that we should just phone her up and say, “Listen, it’s really sweet ‘n all, and I know you think that you are supporting the Israeli economy, but you are being ripped off good and proper, and the company is taking you for a ride with your guilt gift basket.” But we don’t have the heart.

Just a few days ago, this person told us that she wouldn’t be sending us the guilt basket, and that she would give us money instead. Hallelujah!! But as we got off the phone, and had a good laugh about it, we realized that these companies who market their gift baskets to Americans are sitting on a goldmine. How many American Jews are there who do not want to make Aliyah and relinquish their creature comforts, but who want to make themselves feel good by supporting the Israeli economy?

In plain English, what these sites are really saying is the following:

For $50, give yourself a pat on the back, and send your loved ones who are sacrificing their lives in Israel on a daily basis some Telma date spread and some stale cookies. They will be eternally grateful.

For $100, you will go down in the books as nothing short of a hero. With some choice Cabernet Sauvignon wine and some Elite chocolates, no one will ever wonder again why you are over 10,000 miles away sitting in front of your plasma TV instead of making sacrifices for the future of the Jewish people.

Ingenious.

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.

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.

Once an editor…

Welcome to Double Take! The problem with being an editor, and having an anal personality in general, is that you can never stop being…an editor. I recall countless blind dates, back in my single days, when I vowed that I would not point out to my date every ridiculous spelling mistake on the menu – and believe me, Jerusalem restaurants have their lion’s share of those! – but alas, I couldn’ t help myself. It would take me an hour to decide what to eat. This was not because I couldn’t decide on the dish, but rather the mental red pen was crossing out (Track Changes in Word is a lame substitute for the relentless and unforgiving red pen) each and every typo on the menu. Well, there is a happy ending – luckily I found someone who found this quality of mine to be amusing and even endearing, and after six weeks of dating, it was a done deal and we were engaged. So now he has to put up with my editorial observations on a daily basis.

As part of our engagement trip, we went to Disney World. My husband was extremely excited – as a child and teenager, he would travel to Disney World almost every winter, and now he was going to share with me the magic of Magic Kingdom. It was my first time in Disney World, and to be honest, I wasn’t convinced that it was going to be quite the magical experience for this British gal as it was for him, but to my credit, I was jumping up and down with excitement. If it meant something to him, it would mean something to me, too. Well, after 5 minutes of sitting on the train that took us into Magic Kingdom, I didn’t need to “act” anymore. I experienced Disney World in the same way that a toddler experiences his/her first taste of candy. I jumped up and down on the spot in order to be noticed and chosen by the magician. I was entranced. We entered the Hall of Presidents, which frankly bored me to tears (it’s hard enough to keep track of all the British Prime Ministers), and just when my husband thought that he had left the editor behind in Israel, and was traveling with his fun-loving fiance, I exclaimed upon noticing a typo on the board.

Once an editor, always an editor…..