Monthly Archives: May 2014

Last Night

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I have a new best friend, in my dreams.  In my dream he is rich and famous, enormously (suprisingly) talented.  He lives in New Orleans (surely that should be Memphis) and he wants to be my best friend.  In my dream he is Justin Timberlake.  Oh woe is me.  I have a teenage crush at 41.  Last night I joined an assorted crowd of JT fans in a park in Tel Aviv to see my new best friend in concert.  At the end of the concert I was shocked by the talent and professionalism.  I had enjoyed bobbing up and down to the music, I even raised my hands above my head at certain moments.  He can sing, play guitar, play piano, dance and lets face it he is easy on the eye.  He wasn’t however my new best friend.

Then I went home to sleep.

By 7am he was my best friend.  I was enjoying myself so much, hanging out in a cafe with him, introducing him to my family, being introduced to his friends that I asked my 3 year old to let me sleep a little more rather than admire the art work she had done for me and wanted to be stuck on the wall,  This surely is a mid life crisis.  I am already looking forward to going to sleep tonight so I can hang out with him again.

In very recent years the major acts are starting to add Tel Aviv to the concert circuit.  Slowly, slowly they are returning after the 2000 intifada and the fear of being accused of political/religious bias kept them away.  Now the instagrams of stars at the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock or floating in the Dead Sea are appearing on a weekly basis. Rihanna liked the Dead Sea so much she was still floating in it when she should have been on stage.

 

My first job in Israel back in 2005 was for a music promoter.  I was in charge of looking after the ‘stars’ from the moment they landed their private jets until we breathed a sigh of relief when they climbed back on.  It was still too soon for the really big names to come so unfortunately I didn’t meet the Madonnas and Elton Johns of the world.  My first band was Faithless who were actually very nice.  Their lead singer was a little demanding but by the time they left I was quite a fan.  The other bands were famous but I had to look them up before they arrived (I ain’t no music officinado).  Some were more demanding than others, ‘I want the tent dressing room to be swathed in white silk and filled with white lilies’ – the “star” in question was one of many acts at a festival, had a 3 song set and was in the ‘dressing room’ for precisely half an hour.  When she left I picked up the lilies which had been thrown on the floor and trodden on.

These backstage riders are actually negotiated before the arrival of the acts.  The promoter and the manager thrash out whether the stars will get French champagne cooled to a certain temperature or not.  In true Israeli fashion we agreed to everything and then provided a version of the requests.

My personal favourite moment was when Phil Collins arrived.  We had a police escort to the

hotel from the airport (why?) which was very exciting.  We weren’t allowed to address ‘Mr Collins’ directly and there were to be no tip offs to the press and no unauthorised photographs.  When the cavalcade arrived at the hotel the entrance was packed with the paparazzi (I was confidently assured that they had been tipped off to boost ticket sales).  The hotel manager came to greet Mr. Collins and the hotel photographer was summoned to take the official hand shake photo.  Collin’s manager was turning puce. The piece de resistance was the cake the hotel had prepared and presented to Mr Collins so he could cut it – again, why?  The cake was decorated with a life size sugar paper photocopy of Phil Collins’ face which he then proceed to stick a large knife into.  Classy.  Collin’s manager then demanded that the whole band, techies, entourage, et al be moved to another hotel.

So back to my bezzie mate.  I have tried to online stalk him just so I know where he stayed and I have wondered what was on his rider.  As I know him so well I think he would just ask for water – he’s no diva.  The one surprise is the fact that my crush is purely platonic.  That’s what age does to you.  I wasn’t the oldest at the concert I am happy to report but my friend’s 9 year old shattered my idea that I was doing something vaguely young and cool by asking,’who is Justin Timberlake?’.  Even Justin is too old for da kids.  Back to dreaming then.

 

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WTF?

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20140523-112458-41098568.jpgTen years on and there are many things in Israel, quirks shall we say, that I didn’t think I would ever get used to. In fact on arrival many of them struck me at the least strange and at the worst absurd.  Here are my favourites;

1. Cottage.  No not a small quaint house in the countryside but cottage cheese.  Yes cottage cheese is called cottage and when I told the childers that we were going to stay in a cottage they thought it was hilarious.

2. Breakfast of salad (with onion) and the ubiquitous, cottage.  Just. No.

3. Young men going out in the evening for a coffee.  In fact many go out for coffee and cake.  In touch with their feminine sides or just not lager louts like the Brits?

4. 1 day weekends.  I believe I have complained about this before.  Kids go to school, some people work.  The weekend starts on Friday afternoon and ends as the sun goes down on Saturday. Too darned short.

5. Shabbat.  I have also talked about this delicious day before.  When the roads are quiet, the stores are closed and you don’t feel you should be doing something other than hanging out with the family or relaxing at the beach.

6. What we in the UK would call cheek nay rudeness – chutzpah.  ‘How much do you earn?’, How much do you pay for your mortgage/rent/weekly shop?’. ‘Why don’t you have more/less children?’ etc etc.

7. Handball.  Its a game where grown men run around a pitch hitting a ball with the palm of their hand to each other.  What? (along the lines curling in its absurdity)

8. Going out at midnight.  I like to sleep.  I liked to sleep when I was still young enough to go out at night.  To rest until 11pm and then get up to go out is just plain weird.

9. Throw away cups, crockery, cutlery and soft drinks.  Go to any event, wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah or political meeting and you will find these arranged on the table.  There is a genuine reason behind it – the laws of kashrut for those who keep kosher – but it always strikes me as odd to arrive at an event and see orange squash and plastic utensils laid on the table.

10. Buy 2 get 1 free.  I only want one.  Where’s my discount?

Just add matches

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It’s that time of year again when the air smells of wood smoke, children are spotted pushing shopping trolleys of wood and the fire service are on high alert.  Yes, it’s Lag Ba’Omer which is which is I suppose the Israeli equivalent to bonfire night, minus the fireworks.  You can read all about the historical significance here and you may remember I have talked about this occasion in the past.

A few years ago I used to quite enjoy this holiday but now with the childers it is slightly more stressful.  On Thursday evening there were around 150 under sixes and a number of unmanned bonfires. Perhaps I am a little over sensitive but  trying to keep an eye on our three small childers (especially when one is a runner) in amongst the smoke and burning piles adds to a high level of stress. Add some skewers of charred boiling marshmallow and minus any kind of alcohol for the parents and I needed a lie down by 9pm.

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The childers have been coming home with instructions from their teachers, that you can’t light fires near trees, how you need to keep your distance from the fires and how you need to listen to the grown ups as fires are dangerous. I then saw this mini hot air balloonIMG_2236 being lit by a group of adults whilst surrounded by a group of children, whilst in amongst a crowded field of small people.  Even no. 1 son (age almost 6) commented on how dangerous it was.    I must admit it was lovely to watch it as it rose up into the evening sky but the previous 5 minutes of it falling onto the heads of the small children before it got going had me standing with my mouth open.  Let’s hope it didn’t come down over a dry forest.

 

Never Forget

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It’s a week of armies and war and soldiers and remembrance and the childer’s have reacted in a what I can only call a big muddle.

Their Dad is spending the week in the miluim which is the army service that all males do until around the age of 40 to 45.  He’s training which means in essence walking a lot, usually at night with a huge backpack.  To be honest I don’t know what he’s doing but I know he is carrying a gun and wearing army fatigues which in itself turns my blood cold.  The childers, sorry rephrase that, the male childers in our family think this is rather cool.  Daddy in uniform, with gun – yay.  Hmmm maybe not. Unfortunately for hubby he also turned 40 this week and what better way to spend a landmark birthday than tramping in the desert with a load of other nearing middle age sweaty men.

This week was also Holocaust Day in Israel where at sundown all stores, restaurants and places of entertainment close as a mark of respect for the millions of lives taken in the Holocaust.  The following morning businesses re-open but at 10am a minute siren is sounded throughout Israel and the country comes to a stop.  Everyone stands in silence, where ever they are.  Cars on highways pull over and drivers stand by their cars, buses stop, streets are silent.  It is a moving and awe-inspiring experience that I often believe should be replicated on war remembrance days around the world.

The government and Yad Vashem released new guidelines to teachers on how to answer children’s questions about the siren and what the Holocaust was and for the first time the recommendation was that State nurseries should also be included. So that is where my almost 6-year-old and twin 3-year-olds learnt a little about Hitler, Germany, anti Semitism and remembrance.

In reality when they came home and I asked them what they did at nursery this is snippets of the conversation we had:

Number 2 son (age 3) – we know about Eeeetlerrrr.  He drank poison and died.  He’s dead.

Daughter (age 3) – yes and he drank poison and he was a baddy and he was called Eeeetler.

son (age 3) – and and and and Joan (not her real name) the nursery teacher’s grandpa and grandma had to hide in the woods and he got shot in the leg and there was lots of blood.

daughter (age 3) and they didn’t have any plasters

son (age 3) – and they were on the roof

Me – who was on the roof?

son (age 3) – the soldier who shot him and they  tied his leg with material and they ran away

Me – and then what happened

both – he’s dead, he drank poison.  he was called Eetler.

other son (age 6) – who’s Eetler?

Yes indeed.  That is what happens when you try to tell history to children too young to even begin to understand.   I did  tell them that their teacher’s grandfather was not Hitler, at least I am presuming he wasn’t. I then let the subject drop rather than try to right the story.  I will wait for any questions to explain more.  Right now it seems like they think it’s an adventure story. There was no mention of remembrance or the siren, or paying our respects.

One day later number 1 son had been taught his teacher’s version of the government’s guidelines.  This is what he told  me:

‘Israel was at war with Germany and they used to be the baddies but now Israel is good friends with Germany. Germany put the Israeli’s in the prisons and some of them died and then the English decided to help and they opened the prisons so that the Israelis could go to Israel.  Some of them died and that’s why we have a siren and stand in silence so we can remember them.’

I have paraphrased as it was told to me in Hebrew but the particular use of Israelis and the English ‘deciding’ is word for word.

Since Holocaust day we have had 3 nights.  All 3 nights number 1 son has screamed out and shouted in his sleep – what he is dreaming about I don’t know.  He has told me he doesn’t want me to get old, he doesn’t want me to die, that he doesn’t want to grow up, that he loves his life and his family and he wants it to stay the same forever.  He has told me that when he finishes school he will have to go to the army and he wants to because soldiers have guns.  He also asked what do soldiers actually do and that there are bombs in the ground that blow tanks up. To say his brain is muddled is an understatement.  I think that Daddy is  a soldier at the moment added to the bits and pieces of what he learnt about Holocaust Day have merged and he is trying to make sense of it all.  Interestingly when he asked me why we need soldiers and an army I told him they were there to protect us and keep us safe and he said yes we need to defend ourselves from the baddies. “Who are the baddies?” I asked him (dreading the answer) and he looked at me like I was crazy and said “the other States who want to kill us and the robbers, the baddies” – duh silly Mummy.

I don’t know if his new fascination with death and old age is related to what he learnt.  I don’t know if the fascination with soldiers and armies and wars is due to the absence of his Dad or what he learnt.  I don’t know what he dreams about that makes him sit bolt upright shouting in his sleep.  I do know that it started this week and as a parent I have little or no control over what he has been taught or told in pre-school.  I hope what he told me is all he heard.  As for my babies I can categorically say that I think it is wrong that they were even taught about it at such a very young age.  I think personalizing it with tales from her own family was wrong of the teacher and the fact that they mixed her grandfather and Hitler rather suggests that it was too big a tale to tell.  At the very least the guidelines set down should have been adhered to more strictly and the same amount and type of information should have been given to all nursery aged children.

I didn’t grow up here, I am not Jewish so I have no point of reference by which to navigate the waters of Jewish history. I can only hope that I have dealt with their questions well. To remember and to respect and to never let the facts of the Holocaust be forgotten is incredibly important for everyone, Jewish or not. However, at the tender ages of 3 to 6 children’s imaginations are wild and the difference between fact and fiction isn’t clear.  As they grow they will develop the emotional intelligence to understand, for what purpose do they need to be taught about it now?

 

In remembrance of all those who perished in the Holocaust and during the Second World War.  We must never forget.

Holocaust Day

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this tricky subject.  Was the government unfair to the teachers? Are the children to young?