The symbolic act of a walk

Today my Uncle Avrum got up from shiva, the seven day mourning period when the immediate relatives of the deceased sit on low chairs as friends, family and acquaintances pay respects. As his shiva came to an end, we stood by him and gave him our condolences for the passing of his mother, my grandmother. He then stood up, put on his outdoor shoes, put on his jacket and went for a walk around the block by himself.

Avrum’s first reventuring out into the world seemed almost like a rebirth as a new person into an altered world. He has spent the last week embraced by those who love him and now he’s begun his reintegration into the world.

On the one hand it is so sad to see my uncle take his first steps. On the other hand, the post-shiva walk symbolizes the inner strength of the individual, especially the strength of which we are unaware.

I know those steps were only the first of many which will sometimes feel heavy, sometimes empty and sometimes full of potential. When Avrum came back, I gave him a hug and we all sat back down with our loved ones to have breakfast and to talk. Because thankfully he the cocoon of the home and family will continue to be there, waiting for his return.

חזק ואמץ.

What it’s really like in Jerusalem these days

With the precarious and terrorizing situation in Jerusalem currently what it is, if you aren’t here, you can’t really know what it’s like. And so, while sitting on my balcony at 2AM, listening to the stillness of a seemingly peaceful city, with sporadic sounds of people still out having fun, I’m going to tell you what it’s like in Jerusalem these days from the perspective of one Jerusalemite – yours truly.

Too much news

I’m  tapped into the news almost constantly. I look at it before I go to sleep and when I wake up. I try not to but end up doing it anyway. When I forget about it for a while, I feel a mix of relief and panic, happy for the break but wondering what might have happened since the last time I checked.

Listening for sirens

I am tuned into the sound of sirens. I can tell the difference between a regular emergency and a terrorist attack. I’ve heard the response of emergency vehicles to at least one attack. The cacaphony of sirens is unmistakable and it’s very traumatizing sitting in your house imagining what is going on right then, really very close by.

How safe I feel

How vulnerable or safe I feel fluctuates on a regular basis. Every time I am indoors, it is nerve wracking going out again. And the more I am aware of the news, the more I fear for my own safety.

Still safer than Canada?

Tonight I walked through the park to an event. Yes, tonight I walked through a park by myself. I wondered if it was a bad idea but found a couple of girls sitting eating sushi by the playground (when they turned around to make sure I wasn’t a terrorist, I told them not to worry, I don’t have a knife – we all laughed), others were exercising and still others were sitting quietly on the grass with their arms around each other. I thought, even at the best of times in Toronto I’d never walk through a park by myself at night.

Giving moral support to each other

Many people are creating initiatives to give moral support to each other. One day a family walked around the Mamilla Mall giving out notes with a candy attached. The other day a few women stood in the German Colony and handed out flowers and cookies to put a smile on people’s faces:

Women hand out flowers and cookies to cheer people up (photo by Marian Morgan)
Women hand out flowers and cookies to cheer people up (photo by Marian Morgan)

And tonight I went to an amazing music and art event created especially to give people strength:

art and music event
Art and music event at the Open Studio

Appreciating each other that much more

I keep thinking how lucky I am to be with my family and my friends. I keep thinking, “Thank you. Thank you.” And I wonder superstitiously if the more I say thank you, the more we’re protected.

Facebook for laughs and cries

My Facebook newsfeed is to a large extent about the situation and it has me infuriated one moment and laughing out loud the next.

Still alive and well

A colleague created a Facebook event in order to encourage people to post photos of themselves out, continuing on with their lives. The hashtag: #enjoyjerusalem in English and “now in Jerusalem” in Hebrew (#עכשיובירושלים). People were doing it and it was heartwarming and fun. Until the two terrible attacks in Jerusalem the following day when the businesses emptied out and people felt the need to stay home.

Empty restaurants

Seeing empty restaurants, cafes and bars open, all the tables out and welcoming, with almost no one, or literally no one, sitting in them, is absolutely heartbreaking. Jerusalem’s businesses are hit repeatedly over the years by the security situation here and it’s hard to imagine how they get through it.

empty streets
Hillel Street, a central street in downtown Jerusalem, empty on Tuesday night

Supporting businesses

A friend decided to organize a trip to the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market for drinks in order to support the businesses there. Afterwards he estimated that we spent around 800 NIS that night which was probably a large percentage of the transactions made in the normally bustling shuk bars.

empty shuk
Tahrir, normally hopping Middle Eastern style bar in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk sits empty besides for us.

A sad day in the city

The only reason I could get myself to go to the shuk that night was because I was already out. That day I’d already heard the sirens of the attack in Armon Hanatziv, I’d stood at a bus stop with other people, wishing we weren’t such a good target, traveled on the bus looking carefully around at the other passengers who were looking carefully at me, walked through a quiet downtown Jerusalem and spent the afternoon in Tmol Shilshom, a Jerusalem restaurant, where barely anyone showed up besides a handful of European tourists who, I figured, don’t have to worry about being targeted because they don’t look Jewish. I then walked around town, taking pictures of the empty restaurants and then walked to the shuk. I know that if I’d just been at home, I’d have been too afraid to venture out in the dark of the night.

Looking Jewish

I think about how looking Jewish is a liability right now and it’s so hard to see Jews, yet again, being targeted especially if they look Jewish, aka, ultra Orthodox. I jokingly write on Facebook that I want to walk around with a Canadian flag draped around my shoulders, the way I saw a tourist doing with a British flag, and a Facebook friend points out the irony and tragedy that I’m even toying with the idea of hiding my Jewish identity in the Jewish state.

Shabbat conversations about self defense

Friday night, after dinner at my friends’ home, they demonstrate stabbing each other with a fake plastic knife in a myriad of different ways and show me self defense moves for each scenario. We talk about whether or not we’d have the presence of mind to actually do something productive in such a terrifying situation and my friend, an aikido expert, explains that fear is our worst enemy because it doesn’t let us do what we’re capable of doing. He says that running away is dangerous for you because the terrorist could just run after you and stab you some more and it’s dangerous for those around you because he’s still not neutralized. He says that the last thing the terrorist expects is for you to make a move and so it’ll catch him by surprise and if you’re already stabbed, that’s also OK because a person doesn’t feel pain right away after being injured.

And for the millionth time I remember what a Holocaust survivor once said to me – that every Jew should learn krav maga – an Israeli-developed self defense system.

New walking style

Whenever out I use the new Israeli walking style implemented by many of us here – walk, look behind, no earphones, listening around us, look behind again and keep on walking.

Trying to keep track

I try to keep up with who’s been injured and killed even though it’s really hard both technically and emotionally. I look at pictures of the people who have been in the attacks, read what they have to say and hope for their full recovery.

Israeli humor

Just like during the Gulf War (which happened our first year in Israel), terrible situations bring out some serious humor among Israelis. And many of us revel in it for comic relief. For example, people are laughing about all the random items being used to fight off the terrorists – like umbrellas, selfie sticks and even nunchucks. Someone also wrote a parody song about one of the female terrorists: “She only wants to stab.” Humor maybe only Israelis can appreciate.

Pride and frustration

I fluctuate between great pride for not “being like them” and great frustration for not being stronger.

The park

It’s 2AM and I’m sitting on my balcony. Over the last hour I’ve heard teenagers hanging out in the park and now a group of bikers (seriously) chilling. There was also a biker who rode by a few minutes ago. You almost wouldn’t know that anything is wrong.

So hard to concentrate

I know I have two meetings and lots of work to do tomorrow but in general it’s so hard to concentrate while we all wait with bated breath, hoping there are no more attacks and wondering what’s going to be.


Now I’m going to go to sleep and then wake up, check my phone, nervously leave for work, pray nothing happens to any of us, knowing full well we just don’t know what’s going to be. I’ll go to my meetings, talk about the situation with people, check the news and try to concentrate on my business.

And meanwhile I’ll keep saying, “Thank you. Thank you.” And I’ll keep laughing and crying and feeling infuriated and hopeful and I’ll keep holding my breath that little bit I keep holding it, hoping we’ll all be OK.

Shavua tov.

From one Jewish wanderer to another…

I can relate to finding a way to live in relative peace and comfort with a certain personally-defined lifestyle/outlook. But in my opinion and experience these are relatively short-lived (the same way the externally defined lifestyle+belief system is not sustainable). I think that’s first and foremost because they don’t successfully address the most important unanswered existential questions and issues, which at a certain point makes the lifestyle/system feel arbitrary and forced, even if was initially, supposedly, to a large extent self-defined.

My mediocre pursuit of mediocrity

The Jewish new year is imminently upon us and amazingly, I remember my resolution from the beginning of the year that is coming to an end. The one new year resolution I had was to stop pursuing perfection.

So how did I fare? Have I internalized more that idealizing perfection is a creativity and fulfillment killer?

Well, it’s complicated, I’d have to say.

I’ve exposed my perfection demons to my consciousness. I’ve become more familiar with how they behave, how connected I am to them and what I think about them.

Being more aware of their presence has allowed me to make some exciting and scary decisions. Namely, I am spending my days on things more connected to my talents and loves. This is an amazing development and couldn’t have happened unless I was more able to admit that I can pursue my passions without being perfect in them. It’s so much easier to fail at something that isn’t a dream.

But now that I’m doing more of what I really want to be doing, my expectations of myself and of my life have skyrocketed which hasn’t been fun.

Tapping into my hopes and dreams makes failure seem scarier than ever.

Bottom line? In a perfectly  mediocre manner I am succeeding beautifully at fighting my urge for perfection. I am allowing myself to pursue my dreams despite my fear of failing and I am fighting my pursuit of perfection when so much more is at stake.

How did you fare with your resolutions from last Rosh Hashana?

Shana tova. :)


I will never remember

I may never forget the Holocaust but how can I remember it if I wasn’t there?

The survivors can’t remember all alone. Especially as they get older, their numbers are dwindling and, as Melabev put it, a lot of them physiologically literally can’t remember anymore.

melabev on yom hashoah

But truthfully, the Holocaust is full of untold stories of people who died along with every single person who ever knew them. There is no one to remember them individually and so they are only part of our collective remembrance. It is our job to remember them.

holocaust poster

And so we do it. We all join the band of the surrogate memory-bearers so that the survivors can have some peace of mind, knowing that although we don’t understand, we will try and although we can’t remember, we will never forget.

Yom Kippur, a lamentation

I really hyped up Yom Kippur yesterday in my post on The Times of Israel hours before the fast began. I meant what I wrote and yet, post-Yom Kippur, I need to make a confession.

This year I had a very annoying and pretty upsetting Yom Kippur.

First of all, I really hate fasting. I’m not the worst faster but it makes me feel uncomfortable and weak and the whole time, I just can’t wait for it to be over.

Secondly, I knew I might have menstrual cramps on Yom Kippur and I wouldn’t be able to take pills for them. This stressed me out all day.

And then, thinking about cramps without pain killers got me thinking about other people who would suffer more than usual because of the extremely strict fasting laws on Yom Kippur. Ynet’s overly dramatized Yom Kippur in numbers article mentions that 108 fasters were taken to the hospital by ambulance after fainting today. Oy vey.

Third, Yom Kippur really stirs up the emotions and sometimes that means we get to see the stuff about ourselves that we wish wasn’t looming there, ready to rear its ugly head. My oh my.

In yesterday’s piece I said that I was going to focus on the positive – imagine a better me and a better world. But instead I kept thinking about how crappy I can be and that wasn’t fun. (For some odd reason.)

Finally, this year I didn’t feel like being in shul. I normally spend quite a lot of time there but after Ma’ariv last night, I decided not to go to during the day. This gave my Yom Kippur much less structure and maybe, much less meaning.

Of course Yom Kippur this year wasn’t all bad. Last night I walked to Emek Refaim with a few of the kids in the family and that was really nice. Instead of going to shul today, I took up camp on my parents’ couch and stayed on that dear couch from approximately 8:30 in the morning until around 5:00 in the evening. During that time, I read (Great Expectations), slept and had many visitors in the form of parents, sisters and nieces and nephews.

At around 5:30 this evening I decided to go to shul for the end of Ne’ila. I got there in time for the very dramatic and touching ending of the Yom Kippur prayers (I’m not being facetious).

And then it was over.

Usually when Yom Kippur ends, I am giddy that it happened and relieved that it’s over. This year I’m left feeling a bit empty. Maybe I would have felt better if I’d forced myself to go to shul at least for Mussaf today. It’s hard to know.

It’s interesting that I had such a frustrating, forced Yom Kippur after I wrote such an excited piece about this holiday a few hours before it began. I wonder if I jinxed myself or maybe, through writing the piece, I realized that actually I don’t exactly feel the way I thought I do.

Or maybe this Yom Kippur I was just in a bad mood. Everything being said, I think the truth is a mix of all of the above.

Shana tova.

The perfection in mediocrity

My grandmother has a new idea. She wants me to wear a t-shirt when I go on dates that says:

I know how to bake bread and apple pie. I’m an amazing balabaste. With me you surly will never know hunger.

It’s a gimmick, for sure, but it just might work. As long as it’s a flattering t-shirt.

Another year has gone by and I’m still single. Often, at this time of year, I think about my singlehood, I feel pretty badly about it, and I hope that in the coming year I’ll meet my beloved.

But this year is different. So much has happened this year and I have so much going on even as I write this, that I hardly have time to focus just on that. There are many matters that are much more pressing.

I see that I am most definitely dealing with issues that are forcing me to grow in very interesting ways, and I am thankful for this. Although I am most definitely sad that I am still alone, I think that I am living a full life.

Even in the dating arena I can’t have many regrets. I am a very proactive dater and as I become more refined over the years – I am like good wine – I understand more about what is important for me and what is not. As a result, this year I dated quite a few guys who were on the right track. As other singles can attest, this is a huge accomplishment.

I have heard the idea that if there is a goal that is very important to you, then you should put a certain amount of time towards it on a daily basis – maybe half an hour a day. Well, I can definitely say that I put at least that amount of time towards this goal. The fact I’m still alone continues to bother me, but I know I’m doing what I can to remedy that and all the meanwhile, I’m involved in a many other good things too.

While I cannot feel too badly about my relationship status, I am feeling very frustrated by my writing. Writing is so important to me but something has created a huge block in me over the last year or so and it isn’t letting up. Yes, I wrote some of my most “successful” pieces this year but I know there is so much more where that came from and I yearn to be getting many more pieces out on a regular bases.

But I have been very down on myself about my writing – my style, my vocabulary… It’s been poisonous the thoughts I’ve been feeding myself.

As a young girl, writing was never considered my thing. On the contrary – my mother always called my spelling creative because it was so far removed from proper spelling. I have come to love writing but am aware of my shortcomings. My lack of vocabulary, my sometimes preachy tone… One of my biggest challenges is the fact that I don’t write about extremely personal things, especially if they involve others, which removes the option of writing about a huge amount of stuff about which I have a ton to say.

It’s been difficult and upsetting. I walk around wishing I could write more but it’s not happening.

And so I know what I want to work on in the new year. Well, besides all the other things. I want to work on seeing the perfection in mediocrity. So often I stop myself from creating something or doing something because I am scared it will be insignificant. So often I do get myself to do things but the actions are accompanied by a great amount of fear because I am scared I’m going to do them imperfectly and possibly cause harm.

Basically I’m scared to act. I push myself and I do a lot of things that are very scary but I know I’d have a real blast if I decided to do my best – the key being “do” – and hope for the best. And whatever comes, let it come.

It means having faith in my ability to deal with whatever comes… But of course I can do that.

I want to publish posts that aren’t great and be OK with it. I want to then move on to the next post without dwelling on the success of the last one.

I want to hone the skills I know I have and discover the ones I don’t yet know about. And this will happen if I let go of the need for perfection.

I have a belief that unless you are one of the greatest – musicians, artists, writers, actors – you aren’t making a significant change in the world. I want to contemplate what it is that leads me to have this black and white belief and work on throwing it away.

My perfectionism has, to a large extent, frozen me in place. The modern world trains you to believe that perfect is something that exists. For example, I just bought a new computer bag and keep thinking that maybe I should have held out for something better. For something more perfect.

What a waste of energy.

Perfectionism is a freezer. It doesn’t allow me to act because I know the chances of me being perfect are so slim that it’s a lost cause before I even start.

And I want to stop this destructive way of thinking.

I just saw an old woman, being taken on a stretcher out of her building to an ambulance. She seemed lucid; she was looking around. If she is in fact lucid, she could have been thinking many things. But I imagine she was thinking, “How did I get here? I’m not old.”

And she grew up in a time when time went more slowly. Today, time is zipping by quicker than we can grasp. That day is going to come sooner than we realize and we won’t feel old but we’ll be old and that’ll be a simple fact. And maybe we’ll be able to remember facts from our lives and maybe not.

All those things are out of our control. What is in our control is to look at our lives today, see what we have control over, and take action there.

Someone recently taught me that you need to look at a situation and figure out until what point you can have an effect and from what point it is not your responsibility because you simply lack control – even if you lie to yourself that you have it.

I hope to work on all these things this year.

To put it in one short sentence:

והעיקר לא לפחד כלל – the main thing is to not be scared one bit.

Shana tova.

Read about my mediocre success one year later.

Sh*t everyone says

It’s all the rave. It must be somewhat inspired by Sh*t my dad says, a Twitter account by a dude who documents the hilarious and inappropriate things his father says. (Which has since become a book and I think a TV show with William Shatner.)

Anyway, about the rave. Someone came out with a video “Sh*t girls say” which got tons of hits and was quickly (very) followed by many other sh*itty videos. I found the original pretty amusing:

And I just saw the one about frum girls which I found pretty funny:

OK fine, one more. I just spent too many minutes watching a few of the other ones that have popped up on YouTube and they’re starting to make my head feel stupid (or is it sh*tty) but just maybe check out this one last one, at your own risk of feeling your head go a little numb:

Me? Enjoy praying? My post-Yom Kippur thoughts

As those close to me know, I reeeally don’t enjoy conventional prayer. I mean, I talk to God as much as the next Jew but I can’t stand conventional Jewish praying for the following reasons:

  1. I don’t like feeling pushed to the side because I’m a woman.
  2. I don’t like reading lots of text.
  3. I don’t connect to a lot of the text in the siddur.
  4. I actually have issues with a lot of the prayers. I don’t get showing such reverence to God as if He/She needs it and as if that creates anything close to a healthy relationship with our Creator. (There are other things I don’t get about the prayers in our siddur like talking so much about the animal sacrifices in the time of the Temples in Jerusalem. Yuck.)
  5. It’s boring.

Well, now I’m glad to announce that this Yom Kippur (which was yesterday), enlightened me to some of the positive aspects of conventional prayer. I actually enjoyed being in shul this year and I had enough time to try to figure out what it was about the prayers this year which made it meaningful. I think there are two things about the Yom Kippur prayers that make it more meaningful to me than regular prayers during the year.

There is nothing better to do

I know it sounds a little lame but hear me out. I spend most days of the year so distracted that if I ever attempt to partake in conventional prayer, I’m almost always thinking about the other things I could/should/prefer to be doing. Prayer can seem pretty unproductive when you feel like a busy person.

On the other hand, on Yom Kippur, there is really almost nothing better to do than sit in shul. You can’t eat. You can’t check your email. You actually very possibly don’t want to check your email. It is such a unique day for me in that regard. It is the one day a year that I really want to disconnect and do “nothing much.” And when you have really nothing much to do at all, sitting and reading from a prayer book or listening to the prayers being recited actually feels quite nice.

Personally meaningful prayers

Yom Kippur prayers are so much about introspection. You are actually given a pretty thorough list of possible things you’ve done wrong so that if you choose, you can take the opportunity to try to think of what you did wrong over the last year and consider how you might improve yourself in the coming year.

Now that I can relate to. I don’t like the major guilt trip and I try not to let myself go there but I do try to think of what I did wrong and consider how I can try to improve in the coming year.

Yom Kippur rocks

Don’t get me wrong. I hate fasting and dread it every time. But this year’s Yom Kippur taught me a lot.

It made me realize that I really am unable to be still in my day-to-day life. My mind is so busy that I can’t allow myself time to just contemplate/meditate. And contrary to my feelings on contemplation/meditation (that it’s pretty bothersome and annoying), I don’t think it’s a waste of time. I think it can be very good for me and I’d like to see how I can add more of this into my life this year, even if it’s through conventional prayer! (Shocking, I know.)

I also realized how much I love Yom Kippur. It is by far the most unique day of the year, especially in Israel. The silence of the cities is awesome. The feeling that every Jew in the country is doing what you’re doing is just amazing. The feeling that we really all have “nothing better to do” than be together, because that is what we’ve all chosen for ourselves, is very exciting.

I honestly think that Yom Kippur might be my new favourite holiday. It is the day that has the potential to calibrate us. If we’re capable of stopping and listening to the silence.

Shana tova!

Photo by chajm on flickr.

Important lessons from this past year

Tonight is Rosh Hashana. Everyone is writing their introspective thoughts on Facebook, emailing shana tova blessings and calling each other. And yes, I’m also feeling introspective and extro-spective. I am looking at my world thinking about what’s gone down and what hasn’t. Feeling grateful for all the wonderful things in my life and sad about the tragedy of life.

I’m working in the same company as last year but have since learned plenty about content, about online stuff and most recently, learning a ton about project management – my most recent position. I’m learning how to work with all kinds of people. I’m learning when to take charge, when to make decisions and when to lean on those around me.

I’m learning about the cyclical nature of relationships. I’m learning about the importance of keeping the peace and keeping the relationships good with those closest to me. I am learning that if both sides will it, it’s usually possible.

I’m learning that I’m not always perfect so I should really get over that idea.

I’m learning that it’s so often not about me.

I’m learning that life is most definitely a bed of roses – it is full of wonderful fragrances, beautiful views and lots of thorns.

I’m learning that it’s really easy to want something you don’t have.

I’m learning to appreciate the time I have, the health I have, the people I have, right now.

I’m learning that sometimes it is best to follow the recipe.

And, thank God, I’m learning to be a nicer person.

And why do I write this all in present tense? Because none of this ends. It is all part of the process of my life.

Shana tova umetuka,