Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

A fond farewell

This summer has been unlike any other.  Rather than scrambling to find camps to send all my kids to, I’ve kept my bigger two home and plan to have my third home for August as well.  (Bill is campin’ it as long as I can arrange it.)  As my kids have been growing older, I have found their company to be easier, more joyful, and their needs less physical and more emotional.  Where during the school year I can barely find the time to sit and help a kid with math or Torah homework, this summer I’ve been effectively home schooling my big girls in English, working at keeping their reading up in Hebrew as well, teaching Beans cursive writing, working on multiplication tables and time-telling with Peach, and helping Banana keep up the leyning skills she just learned in kindergarten.  I can sit at the piano and help the big girls practice their lessons, take walks with them and stretch afterwards (where I kill them with my 100 situps and they reassure me with their gymnastics stretches, “It’s supposed to hurt, Ima!”), and teach them the eye-killing art of cross-stitching.  It’s been a pleasure.

This means that my online editing work has been bumped to nights after they’re in bed, and I am spending less time on the computer – a state I’ve wished for for some time since realizing the hypnotic power of the computer screen.  The fact is, I believe the computer is an addiction, not unlike caffeine or cigarettes.  It troubles me to realize that I can sit down to it with a particular task to perform, get up two hours later and still not have done what I set out to do.  I’ve checked email, written one or two, looked at my Facebook page, maybe left a comment or two on postings by friends, gone and looked at stuff from links, read a few blogs, the news, researched a few facts and checked out Cake Wrecks – and completely forgotten what I’d sat down to do in the first place.  There goes two hours I could have spent knitting the fabulous Norah Gaughan sweater I’m working on (pictured at right), listening to a collection of CDs of the essays of Rabbi Y.Y. Rubinstein (a delightful Scots rabbi), doing small maintenance projects around the house, taking a walk or reading one of the half-dozen books sitting on my bedside table waiting to be read.  Or working.  (But let’s not take it too far.)

Of late, too, I have not had much to write about.  The news is still packed full of the same old dreary tidings, bad PR for Israel, boycotts and counter-boycotts but I have little to add to what is being said elsewhere.  I find that when I spend my time reading what happens in the world and think of all the things I have to say about it, I do not find it satisfying to have sat down and written about it.  Sometimes I feel the opposite.  A friend told me that she had once attended a seminar on how to increase happiness in one’s own life.  In the facilitator’s opening remarks, he said, “I haven’t read a newspaper in 10 years.”  I don’t think I could ever go that far but reading to be informed feels different to me than reading to digest, process, and analyze or comment.  The latter feels too invasive to me nowadays.  I remember after 9/11 it was a good year before I would read a newspaper; I just couldn’t take it in.  It was too much.  Living in Israel sometimes feels as intense as life in America in the recent aftermath of 9/11.  We don’t have disasters on that scale every day but we have many smaller ones much more often.  That, combined with the scrutiny Israel lives under and the internal divisions that exist in Israeli society, can tax one’s patience and good humor without the added absorption in writing about them.  The news sources and well-informed blogs (many of which I link to on this blog) are there for those who take an interest.

So I have decided to sign off from blogging, if not forever then for the foreseeable future.  I feel my life calling me and would like to answer the call while upping my filter of the outside world for a while.  I’ll miss the writing outlet that it’s been and gratefully thank my readers for their kind, supportive readership.  May the road rise to meet you.

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Saving time

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been exhausted after a day of working, housekeeping, and child rearing, and just wanted to get into bed to sleep.  But before I would drag my weary self upstairs, I would think, “Oh, I’ll just check my email first.”  And then, before I know it, the owl on my Audubon bird clock in the kitchen is hooting midnight, and I’m still at the computer.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the computer is just another addiction.  I’ve never been into smoking, or alcohol, or drugs, or even caffeine.  I don’t have what I’ve heard called an “addictive personality,” which relies on outside substances to wake me up in the morning, keep me going, or get me to relax.  But the computer has become something entirely different.

Billed as a “time-saver,” it’s true that the computer, with email, word processing, and the Internet, enables me to keep in touch with my family and friends on the other side of the world, look up obscure facts in a trice, work from home, and write posts like this one to be read by anyone else who has time to kill.  Until computers came along, I was content with the occasional phone call or letter, ignorance about all kinds of subjects, and working from home and blogging were virtually unknown to me.  But what I really find is that with the convenience comes a hankering to spend even more time on the computer, taking me away from my kids, my other responsibilities, and my sleep.  In the end, what I have found is that to a large degree, the computer is an even bigger time-waster.  Last Friday, I knew that my work had been buttoned up for the week, there was nothing in the news that I felt a strong urge to follow, and anything else could wait until Sunday.  We were having guests for dinner that night and I had to bake for a neighborhood seudah shlishit, so intent as I was on cooking with no distractions, I left the computer turned off all day.  The result?  Except for one stovetop dish, I was finished cooking by 12:30, filled the hot water urn, dusted the shelves in the dining room where my Shabbat candles and the kids’ artwork is displayed, checked my kids’ heads for lice (zero for four, thank God), took a leisurely bath, and read the paper for a little while.  No rushing at the last minute before candle-lighting, no writing emails until I smell something burning in the oven that I forgot about, no showering in the dark after the Cap’n has gone to shul.  It was luxurious.  The computer may save me time for some things, but on Friday, NOT using it is the real time-saver.

I realize some parents severely limit their children’s daily screen time (TV and computer).  I think this is a great idea—so great, in fact, that I think I should probably exercise it on myself, too.

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Michael Totten has posted an interview with Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist, who recently published a book entitled A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism. The book documents the impact on Israeli society of terrorism by telling the stories of thousands of Israelis murdered by Arab terrorists. Meotti’s choice of title does not seek to compare the quantitative loss of life to terrorism in Israel with that of the catastrophic loss to European Jewry in the Shoah, but rather to draw a legitimate comparison between the two events in which Jews have been killed for no other reason than the fact that they were Jewish. (Here is the link to Totten’s interview with Meotti.)

One of the issues Totten and Meotti discuss is the resurgence of open anti-Semitism in Europe. Meotti defines “[t]he current European anti-Semitism [as] a powerful mix of Islamist pressure on Europe by large Muslim communities in its midst and a leftist-progressive ideology.” Students of history will note that for decades (even before the foundation of the State of Israel), European powers such as England, Germany, and Italy were sympathetic (and sometimes more than that) to Middle Eastern Arabs, always at the expense of the Jewish population, and this attitude has not changed significantly in recent years. Not surprisingly, the charge of anti-Semitism (which modern liberal sensibilities like to reformulate as the much more politically-correct anti-Zionism) rankles with some readers.

Nearly as interesting as Totten’s blog posts are the comments which follow the articles. Some nut jobs get on and leave absurd comments, but most readers have something legitimate to say. I was struck by the comment and counter-comment of two readers in particular. Read what “Craig S” has to say in response to the interview:

Very interesting article, and sounds like a very sobering book but it’s very frustrating to read about Sweetish and Norwegian prime ministers ‘hating’ Israel. And no I’m not anti-Semitic, I have Jewish grandparents, Judaism is part of my history. I’m also not anti-Israel, but to read any criticism of Israel’s governments policy as being hatred is just so frustrating. The Swedish and Norwegian governments don’t hate Israel, by stating International law, as accepted by the UN, the International criminal Court and the vast majority of states in the world. Calling for a withdrawal from the West bank and East Jerusalem is not hatred, it’s not anti-Semitic! Yes I’m sure there is a fringe in the British trade union movement that is anti-Israel, probably even a few individuals that are anti-Semitic, but calling for boycott of what I believe was settlement goods not Israeli goods is not anti-Semitic its a legitimate tool to try to pressure the state of Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories…

I’m sorry to rant but defining criticism of Israel as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic takes away from the real anti-Semitism we see, the desecration of Jewish graves in France and other parts of Europe that is anti Semitism, not criticism of the occupation and a boycott of (illegal) settlement goods. ‘Hatred’ shouldn’t be banded about to delegitimize policies and statements which criticise Israel and call for the creation of Palestine on its national homeland, side by side with Israel on her national homeland. There is no hierarchy of national aspirations; the Palestinians have the same rights as the Jewish people or any other national group seeking the right to self determination.

Craig S’s is the voice of Western liberalism, the type of person who defends the right of free speech for those who criticize Israel, champions the Palestinian right to self-determination, and resents the label “anti-Semite” being applied to those who use the BSD movement as a “legitimate tool to try to pressure the state of Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.” (And as an added bonus, Craig S has Jewish grandparents, which gives his words—like those of Richard Goldstone—the added legitimacy it needs.) I can read Craig S and think to myself, “Yeah, it’s all just a misunderstanding. All this criticism of Israel around the world is completely legitimate, and any pro-Israel voices who cry foul are just stifling debate. All Israel needs to do is clear out of Judea and Samaria, give the Arabs back their land, and all will be well.” It’s enticing, and it sounds reasonable. What’s the big deal?

And then “Daniel in Brookline” logs on and takes on Craig S’s points one by one. Check out his response:

to read any criticism of Israel’s governments policy as being hatred is just so frustrating.
Why does this issue keep coming up? Criticism of Israeli government policies is not the problem; Israelis do it all day, every day. (Read any Israeli newspaper, and I do mean any Israeli newspaper.)
If you think that Israelis should not settle in the West Bank, for example, you’re entitled to that opinion, but let’s explore the connotations of what that means. Presumably you don’t think any nation is entitled to use land it captured in a war, and as such you also advocate America’s evacuation of Texas, New Mexico, and California. If you don’t feel that way, then, to make your point, you must also explain why you think Israel is different.

The Swedish and Norwegian governments don’t hate Israel, by stating International law, as accepted by the UN, the International criminal Court and the vast majority of states in the world.
“The law is an ass.” Please don’t tell me what the majority says; Israel is not up for election by the combined population of the world. Tell me, instead, what is right and what is wrong.

Calling for a withdrawal from the West bank and East Jerusalem is not hatred, it’s not anti-Semitic!
See above. Is there any other nation you’d advise to cut its national capital in half, and hand over much of its territory (and all of its strategic depth, such as it is) to its sworn enemies, who are on record promising that they’d use that territory to start a new war?
If you advocate such policies for Israel only, then you should be prepared to explain why only Israel deserves such treatment. Because believe me, Israel’s situation is not unique in this regard; if anything, Israel is exceptional for its generosity, compared to other countries.
None of this is antisemitic, unless it’s Israel’s character as the world’s only Jewish state that bothers you.

Yes I’m sure there is a fringe in the British trade union movement that is anti-Israel, probably even a few individuals that are anti-Semitic, but calling for boycott of what I believe was settlement goods not Israeli goods is not anti-Semitic its a legitimate tool to try to pressure the state of Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
Would you care to explain why this is ‘legitimate’? Would you refuse to buy goods from one American state but not another? (With Arizona attracting a lot of attention lately, this might be closer to reality than we think.) Would you expect the United States to jettison one of its states in response to your actions?

There is no hierarchy of national aspirations; the Palestinians have the same rights as the Jewish people or any other national group seeking the right to self determination.
Israel has no obligation to commit suicide, and she does not have to honor the yearnings of self-determination of those pledged to destroy her.
As far as I’m concerned, if the Palestinians really want a state of their own, let them prove that they can, and will, be good neighbors. Let them prove by their actions that Israel can vacate territory, as she did with Gaza, without the response being a daily rocket barrage, as it was in Gaza.
And let’s not forget that the West Bank was offered to the Palestinians, by Ehud Barak in 1999 and again by Ehud Olmert a few years ago. The offer was rejected both times. What have the Palestinians offered? Have they offered, for example, to stop killing Israelis for a time?
I don’t know where you live, Craig. But I guarantee you that, if the Palestinian territories were only a few miles away from you, and treated you the way Israelis have been treated, your country would respond at least as harshly as Israel has.

All those facile notions, those calm, rational, democratically sound opinions get blown out of the water. The double standards applied to Israel, the irrelevance of “international law” (as though such laws were truly applicable or binding) to Israeli settlements, the absurdity of establishing an enemy state on one’s borders, the madness of splitting one’s capital with a sworn enemy, the total ignorance of past offers of land for a state in the last 10 years, and the naïveté of those who think that the Palestinian Arabs only want “self-determination” instead of Israel’s destruction—all rendered dust.

The only thing I would add that Daniel in Brookline didn’t write is the fact that this IS the homeland of the Jews, and NOT the homeland of the Arabs. The Green Line does not delineate the line between two distinct homelands; it’s the line marking the 1949 Armistice between Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Hebron is NOT part of any Arab homeland, nor is Shilo, Jericho, or the Old City of Jerusalem. This whole thing is the Jewish homeland, and the Arabs are recent arrivals, with a handful going back to an Arab colonization effort in the 7th century, and most having come from neighboring countries as a result of Jewish immigration in the 19th century to avail themselves of the new economic opportunities that opened up. Jewish offers of land on which to build an Arab Palestinian state are gifts, and certainly not within the Arabs’ “rights.” Those offers are based on over 2500 years of Jews being driven from our own homes and being packed off to exile or death, and serve as an acknowledgment that however they got here, the Arabs are here now and to uproot and expel them would be cruel (though certainly not unprecedented in world history), expensive, and assuredly violent. If the Arabs were really only interested in “self-determination,” they would have embraced one of these offers and gotten underway building themselves a state years ago. The fact that they haven’t should raise eyebrows, including those of Craig S and others like him.

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Grave matters

While trying unsuccessfully to research where in Boston I saw a plaque with a quotation by William Bradford (the Common?  The Public Garden?) I came across a fascinating blog.

I have always enjoyed strolling through cemeteries, reading the stones, marveling at some of the names (especially in New England), and paying tribute to Those Who Have Gone Before.  I’ve visited the Old Granary Cemetery in Boston; the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna (Beethoven’s final resting place); Pere Lachaise in Paris (a veritable Who’s Who That’s Dead, including Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Isadora Duncan, Seurat, Richard Wright, and Chopin sans heart, which is buried in Warsaw); the Safed cemetery where Channah and her sons, as well as Rav Yitzhak Luria, are buried; the Mount Zion cemetery (to pay tribute to Oskar Schindler); the Warsaw cemetery which, on our Tragical History Tour, was actually one of the more uplifting places to visit, since unlike the camps, Jews there died of natural causes; and dozens of others.  This interest of mine freaks the Cap’n out; he thinks it’s eerie.

But it’s not just about dead people.  (I don’t see any when I visit a cemetery.)  It’s about history, art, naming trends, and people’s lives.  So for anyone interested in a fascinating tour New England art and social history, I highly recommend the blog Vast Public Indifference.  Caitlin GD Hopkins uses humor, wit, photography, and considerable writing skill to explore topics such as “Hot Baby Names for 1710,” “101 Ways To Say ‘Died,'” and “Scalia On Grave Markers.”  She gives recommendations for reading, and I also enjoyed reading her recommendation for a book about King Charles II and Restoration history.  (It seems she and I have many interests in common.)

Most of my readers probably won’t find this of great interest, but I know one of you will.  Enjoy, Mom!

(Click on this link to read her post about this stone marking the grave of a mother and her two daughters.)

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Baruch Dayan HaEmet: RivkA

As many who follow the Jewish blogosphere are aware, RivkA, authoress of the blog Coffee and Chemo, passed away.  Her funeral is underway in Jerusalem as I write this.

I first became aware of RivkA at the first Jewish bloggers’ conference two years ago.  While most of the bloggers present had Israel advocacy as one of the central concerns of their blogs, RivkA actually had much more in common with the world at large in her fight against cancer and her struggle to maintain a normal life with her husband and children while living with her illness.  A few months ago, I had a dream after reading one of her blog posts in which she debated when to tell her children that the cancer had spread to her brain.  (Should she tell them as soon as possible, or should she wait until they had attended some activities they had been looking forward to?  How would she be able to tell some at one time, and others later?  How to put off giving them bad or frightening news as long as possible, without withholding from them news they had a right to hear?)  In my dream, I was diagnosed with cancer and was faced not only with the daunting task of treatment, major life changes, and a likely shortened time on earth, but the even more devastating job of informing my young children and living with all of our feelings for the rest of my life.

My nightmare was RivkA’s reality.  Reading her blog could be difficult, but in addition to the concern I felt for what she was living with, I also found profound wisdom there.  She once wrote in a post (my paraphrase), “I used to think there were two types of people: those with easy lives, where everything is pleasant and goes smoothly, and those whose lives are difficult and a day-to-day struggle.  Now I know there are two types of people: those with difficult lives, and those we don’t know very well.”

This is my first experience in my short blogging life of losing one of our own, and one of our finest.  To RivkA’s family and friends: HaMakom yinachem etchem b’toch sha’ar avlei Tzion v’Yerushalayim. May RivkA’s memory be blessed.

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My presence in the blogosphere has been pretty sparse lately.  Some of it is due to the near-blackout I’ve had since Bezeq (the phone company and our internet provider) “upgraded” the service in my area.  It’s also been because I have been weighing my options returning to the world of work.  But more than anything it’s been due to the fact that for the last few weeks, I’ve had at least one child at home, and beginning this week, all of them for the rest of the summer.

This hasn’t scared me as much as it might have in the past.  With getting older has come an increased ability to do things for themselves.  It has also made them more helpful around the house, so that any complaints of boredom are met with a possible list of tasks around the house in my service.  During the school year, the girls have school or gan every day but Shabbat.  This, plus whatever after-school activities they have going on, give them very little time to pull out their many craft supplies and spend a chunk of time producing something.  We have little time to read to one another, or to sit and watch videos on YouTube and talk about them.  This summer has given us plenty of time around the table while sucking on ice pops, talking about friendships, birthday plans, school uniforms (a new requirement for Beans), and the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann by the Mossad.  The girls have made some headway making sukkah decorations to replace those destroyed by a rainstorm last year.  They continue to practice what they learned in gymnastics on their new mats.  Banana has learned the alphabet.  They’re all teaching Bill to talk.  Beans and Peach are learning to sew and have each completed a couple of cute projects.  I gave Banana her first couple of swimming lessons.  I have finished reading them the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, read Roald Dahl’s Boy, James and the Giant Peach, and Danny, the Champion of the World, recently completed Alice In Wonderland, and am now in the middle of Through the Looking Glass.

My summers growing up almost never included any camp attendance.  (The one exception was a two-week girl scout day camp experience when I was 11.)  I loved waking up at leisure, puttering around, reading, sewing, playing with friends, running through the sprinklers, and going to bed while the sun had not yet set.  (I didn’t like the dark.)  I helped my mother grow a vegetable garden, and would go pick a lettuce as she was making dinner at night, and make a salad of it and the tender little carrots I would pull out of the ground.  There were raspberries and grapes growing in our yard, and we children would occasionally be impressed into blueberry or blackberry picking service, being turned loose in the blistering heat with coffee cans hanging from our necks with twine.  (Okay, those weren’t my best summer memories, since my mother would make pies from the berries and my piece always seemed to be the one with an earwig or a wasp in it.)  Oregon was a wonderland for me in every season, and summers were sunny and dry with only the occasional day or stretch of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Our house was comfortable in every kind of weather, and our yard shady, grassy, full of flowers, an apple tree, and a filbert (hazelnut) bush, with a swing hanging from a bough of the large maple (which I would as soon climb as swing from).

I try not to be a parent who over-schedules her children’s time.  They are free to choose whom they play with, and are encouraged to make their own phone calls to arrange dates.  But their schooldays by nature are filled with lessons, homework, and the few chugim (activities) that they themselves choose and I encourage.  Beans and Peach attend gymnastics classes twice a week, which have done wonders for building their strength, coordination, and flexibility.  Banana has had a great introduction to tae kwon do through a kiddie class, and wishes to continue.  Aside from those, I am resolved this year only to add swimming lessons to their schedule to enable us to skip camps altogether next summer and get a membership at a kibbutz pool a short drive away instead.  With the kids ages 5, 7 and 9 (turning 6, 8 and 10 next summer) I will only have to watch 2-year-old Bill closely at the pool.  Packing a picnic and towels, we can while away the hours with friends who also have a membership there, playing, swimming, and spending time outdoors—exactly what summers are for.

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I recently had a spirited interchange with a fervent advocate of “human rights” who dubbed those who agree with his politics “decent human beings,” and declared that I (and, by extension, others) who disagree with him, should “be ashamed” of ourselves.  Since he could accuse me of nothing more than being right-wing (I’ve been called worse), and unfairly deleting his last tiresome, repetitious, and fact-free comment (an act he called “censorship” and “stifling debate”), I consider myself lucky.

I would like to make a few points about how I see the blogging enterprise.  First, after consulting other bloggers, I am inclined to agree that my blog is like my living room.  (The living room image is particularly espoused by Treppenwitz and Seraphic Secret.)  You are invited, even if a stranger, to enter, read what I have to say, and participate in the conversation.  You are allowed to disagree.  You are allowed to present an alternative viewpoint.  But one of the things I do not have patience for is hysterical, obsessive Israel-bashing.

This leads to my second point.  I like to employ facts in my search for truth.  As the reader, you’re allowed to disagree with me, but you’d better have some facts to back up what you say.  If you’ve never been to Israel, only read the New York Times, listen to Pacifica, and make it a point never to talk to people whose politics aren’t in line with your own, you’re probably not very well equipped to comment on this blog.  Even more so if your own inclinations are to dismiss any information compiled, recorded, or published by Israelis or Jews in general, since your view of Jews is that as a group they are devious, untrustworthy, and untruthful.  This blog grapples with difficult issues, and I find that complicated issues lend themselves to greater understanding through the employment of science, history, and actual events.  Wishful thinking, fantasy, sloganeering, idealism—these all have their place in our lives.  But they have little purpose for the sort of exploration I attempt in this blog.

At the end of the day, this blog is an outlet for my own thoughts and opinions.  I bring everything I am, where I’ve been, and what I’ve learned to my posts.  I attempt to be circumspect, to see things from more than one point of view.  I do read columnists and journalists I disagree with.  But when I write a post, it’s going to be about what I think.  It will in most cases be accompanied by links to sources I consider reliable, and include facts or observations from my own perspective.  When you read this blog, you’re reading ME.  You don’t have to like what I say.  You don’t have to come back.  But if you do, it’s still going to be MY posts you’re going to read.  (Jimmy Carter doesn’t post here.)  If you must have an outlet for your opinions and cannot do so on my blog within the constraints outlined here, start your own.

This leads me to my final point.  This blog is not a public forum; just go to any talkback section after a news item, read the comments, and you’ll see what a free-for-all, low level of discourse exists in a public forum.  I expect the level of discourse on this blog to rise above that.  If you have information or a well-substantiated opinion to offer, please share.  But as a schoolmarm and an academic (I have three master’s degrees), I will expect you to support what you say with verifiable facts or intelligent thought, not just shoot from the hip.

Now that I’ve said all that, welcome to Shimshonit.

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