When a Muslim Asks For a Ride

Quite a few weeks ago, we spent Shabbat in Kfar Chabad.  Traveling back after Shabbat, we had two options:

1. Take the train all the way home, which meant a second train switch.

2. Get off where we normally would, in Be’er Sheva, and take a bus.

Although our hosts thought the train was a better idea, we didn’t have a carseat for Shlomo with us, and so we preferred to take a bus, instead of having to take a taxi from the train station.  I checked the times and found out that from when we were supposed to get off, until the last bus home left, was fifteen minutes – which should be exactly enough, giving us 2 minutes to spare if we moved fast.

As it turns out, I made a mistake.  The time we were supposed to get off the train, that gave us 15 minutes, was the time we were supposed to get off the train at a previous stop, to catch the connecting train.  The train got to Be’er Sheva five minutes before the bus was supposed to leave.  We ran and ran – and missed the bus, the last bus, by two minutes.

Then we had two options: Wait until the wee hours of the morning, or take a cab.  Yitzchak insisted that there were night lines.  He’s said this a lot, and I know that at one point such bus lines existed, but in practice, we have never seen any sign of them.

There were two other people who needed to get home to our city there, also.  We thought about finding a big shared taxi (together, if we paid for both kids, we would be 6 people, and even if we paid the extra for the others who weren’t there, it would still be cheaper than a regular taxi).  But none of the taxi companies were answering their phones.

A shared taxi, or 'monit sheirut'.

A shared taxi, or ‘monit sheirut’.

Then a religious driver offered to take us for 60 shekels off the usual price, in his words, “I’m practically losing money, but I figured, you’re religious, and I want to help you out.”  We were going to split the cab with the other people going, but when the driver saw how many we were, he refused to take all six of us.  I told G-d we were going to do this once, He should protect us from our stupidity and get us home safely, and next time we go anywhere where we might need a cab, we are going to bring a carseat for Shlomo.

During the drive, the taxi driver (religious with a knit kippa) started talking to us.  I asked him why there was such a huge price difference between a taxi during the day and a taxi at night, and he told me.  Then he said that when he sees an Arab, he doesn’t take him.  I asked how he would know just from looking that it was an Arab – some of them are almost indistinguishable from Jews, if you just look at them.  He said, first of all, he locks all the doors and closes the windows.  Then, he pulls over and opens one window a crack.  He asks where the guy is going and talks to him a bit, and if the man is an Arab, or even if he’s simply not 100% comfortable, he finds some excuse and drives away.  “It’s not worth it, even if he would offer me 400 shekels, it’s not worth the money, and I’m not going to take a risk by picking him up.”

He’s the first taxi driver I ever heard of who does this, and I think, honestly, that he’s a smart guy.  Maybe a little racist, maybe the refusal in itself carries risks, but it is still the safer route to take.  What is absolutely true is that picking up an Arab – whether you are a taxi driver or just a nice guy willing to give him a tremp (let him hitchhike) – can be very, very dangerous.  Often, it leads to carjackings, and more often, to murders, though these have become less common recently because of the awareness.

And like we saw last summer, taking a ride with an Arab, or even someone you don’t know (because they can dress as Jews and some speak beautiful Hebrew) can be very risky.  Three teenage boys took a ride with someone whom they believed to be a religious Jew, and who turned out to be a Hamas terrorist.  They were kidnapped and killed . . . remember?

Yesterday, a 60-year-old man in Tel Aviv agreed to give two young Arabs a tremp.  In return, he was stabbed, bound, put in the trunk of his car, and driven by those same Arabs towards their home in the PA.  By some miracle, the police decided the car was suspicious, and heard his cries for help in time.

Think about it: The guy lives in Tel Aviv.  Why under the sun didn’t the terrorist find someone closer to home?  Why does he need to go all the way from Tel Aviv?  Is there no one murder-able closer to his home?  Of course there are (unfortunately).  But here he had a chance to kill two birds with one stone: He gets home free of charge, and takes a Jew, dead or still living (and therefore torturable, and a good bargaining chip, as well) back with him.  Eventually, of course, he will kill the Jewish captive and get his 72 virgins (when he dies) – as well as a nice, fat, salary while he lives.

And if any of you had any doubts whether these Muslim extremists kill Jews because they are oppressed and want a decent life, or whether they kill Jews because they are taught to kill Jews, no matter how good their life is – watch this:

Neville Chamberlain vs. Barack Obama

Did Neville Chamberlain do the right thing?  If you can honestly say yes, then you agree that Obama is doing the right thing.

If you think that in retrospect, Chamberlain was absolutely wrong and inexcusably stupid, then I ask that you try to open your eyes and see that Obama is following in his footsteps, and ultimately, if we do not stop him, Obama will cause World War Three by giving Iran a free pass to do what Nazi Germany failed at.

Notice, please, two things:

1. Neither Obama nor Chamberlain directly sold their own country; instead, they sold their allies’.

2. In the first case, war was imminent and broke out the same year.  If we do not prevent it, the second case, might G-d forbid turn out the same way.

We might also add that both believed in peace, despite clear warning signs that the people with whom they were signing treaties had done several things that clearly showed a lack of desire to actually achieve peace.  Both of the other parties are extremists who believe that the entire world should be under their rule.

One difference:

We can forgive Chamberlain, because he had no one to learn from.

We cannot forgive Obama if he does not wake up and learn from Chamberlain’s example.

There are many, many other comparisons, but I think the point is made and therefore I will not cite them all.

I would add something else at the end but I am afraid of U.S. government trolls and do not want my citizenship revoked; therefore, I will just say that if we do not want another world war, we need to do something about Obama’s mindless race after a place in history, before he kills us all.  Obama may get his place in history, but at the rate he’s going, it’s not going to be a very honorable one – IF there is a free world around to learn about him in the future.

Holocaust Memorial Day

This past Thursday was Holocaust Memorial Day.  Outside of Israel, it falls on a different day (I don’t remember which anymore); in Israel, Holocaust Memorial Day is right after Pesach – on the day that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.  Calendar-wise, it’s not the best day, but okay, it works.

At 10am, the Home Front Command (Pikud Ha’Oref) sounds the sirens all over Israel.  It starts off like an air-raid siren, but keeps going “flat” instead of up and down.  However, the first five seconds sound the same, and I have to admit, even though I was expecting the siren, my heart still dropped when it started.  Obviously, we told Shlomo that the siren would sound, and thank G-d, Shlomo took it well.  When he got back from gan, he told me, “In two days (holding up 2 fingers) there will be a siren, okay?  I’m not scared, it’s not a woo-woo.  In two days there will be a siren, Mama.  Okay?  In two days and I’m not scared of the siren, it’s not a woo-woo.”

The soldiers in charge of sounding the siren invited a Holocaust survivor to be their guest, and to be the one to activate the siren.  It’s a very, very sweet video.

As a kid, and as a teenager, I read a lot about the Holocaust.  Maybe because there was so much material, maybe because it was so recent, and maybe just because it is so, so, horrendous, it was the period of history that I learned most about.  At some point, I grew up, and shortly after that, I found that I just couldn’t stomach it anymore.  It’s just too awful.  But what is most important, as one survivor told Netanyahu, is to prevent another Holocaust.

Unfortunately, the world hasn’t yet learned its lesson.  To be honest, the world may never learn.  But even more unfortunate is that we, as Jews, refuse to learn the lesson.  The “rabbi” (more like principal) of our school gave a speech during the school Holocaust ceremony that I really didn’t like.

The first part was about the fact that we need to realize that this is not in the past, and that not only can the Holocaust happen again, we are seeing the warning signs right now, and that if we don’t do something, it WILL happen again.  He quoted what Netanyahu said about Iran’s goal being to wipe Israel off the map.  Yeah, duh.

holocaust, little kids, yellow star, jewish kids, world war 2

I wonder if these cute kids survived . . .

He said that one day, our great-grandchildren will say, “Wow, you actually saw Holocaust survivors?  You heard them speak, in person?” and that what we are seeing and hearing is not just for ourselves but for all future generations.  Okay, fine.

The next part was not so fine – in an attempt to make everyone feel better, he said that no one will ever be able to annihilate us – they always try, and always fail, and then they try again.  The only thing we can do is add light to the world, and strengthen our connection to Torah.  We must pray, we must become stronger, and only through this will our nation survive.  We need to make sure that the life we live is true life, that we make the most of it, and the way to to make sure that we live to the fullest, and to make sure that we preserve our nation’s legacy, is by keeping Torah and strengthening ourselves spiritually.

Now, I am a religious person.  I agree that we need to keep the Torah, and that we need to add light to the world; I agree that we cannot lose faith and that the core of our nation’s existence is our belief in G-d.  BUT, first of all:

a. His first part and second part are complete non sequiturs.  There is no connection between them – he jumped from one topic to another with no bridge between them.

b. The people who believed in G-d, strengthened their connection to Judaism, and did nothing else – DIED.  Yes, they all died.  Entire communities, who chose to play Ostrich, died.  Those who saw the warning signs, including great rabbis, and decided, in addition to their learning, praying, and belief, to pick up and leave – and aid anyone else who would agree to leave – they all survived.  Because G-d doesn’t want us to sit and do nothing but pray and keep Torah.  G-d wants us to do what we can to save our own skins.

Now, I don’t believe that leaving Israel will help – after all, if Iran gets a nuke, the entire world is at risk of being nuked.  Even Antarctica will suffer the consequences.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do – and saying that there is nothing to do but pray does two undesirable things: It causes hopelessness and helplessness by tying everyone’s hands behind their backs, and it says that there is nothing that can be done.  Both are harmful.  People who feel trapped become trapped, and depressed  Plus, there is lots that can be done:

We can fight propaganda with propaganda.

We can get the other 2 senators to override Obama’s veto (turns out not to be necessary, but still).

We can write on the Facebook pages of Israel’s leaders, American leaders, and others, pressuring them to fight Iran.

We can push politicians to give Israel the green light to nuke Iran before they can become dangerous.

There are lots of things to do – but no one will do anything if they feel trapped and useless.

Last Thursday, as I was walking out of the classroom with some of my tenth graders, two of the students asked me, “Teacher, what happened to your family in the Holocaust?”

I smiled and said, “My father’s parents are from Russia.  My mother’s father was put on a boat of orphans (even though he wasn’t an orphan) and came to Israel; later, by some miracle, his entire family came to join him.  My mother’s mother’s family immigrated to Israel at the start of the war.”

And they said, “Wow.  That’s a real miracle.”  And I said, “Yes, it was definitely a big miracle.”  And it was.  Still is.  That’s not to say that my grandparents didn’t have aunts and uncles that died in the Holocaust – of course they did.  But they and their immediate families were spared – because they saw what was coming and left.

If we are ever going to be able to prevent another Holocaust from happening, we will have to look it in the face before it hits full-on.  Unfortunately, there are many countries in the world who would like for Iran to do their dirty work for them, and there are many countries who don’t really care either way.

The problem is, Islam is Islam, and the idea is to take over the world.  First they want to kill the Jews; then they will go after the Christians, and then the other “heathens”.  Anyone who is left will either convert or die.  Those who convert will live the oppressed life that many Muslims already live.  Gone will be feminism, gone will be freedom of speech, and gone will be democracy.  Islam isn’t a fun religion, and living under Muslim extremists is not what any of the Western world really wants to be doing.

But, if the world doesn’t wake up, that is what will happen – and while it’s true that the Jews will probably be first, it’s also true that the Christians will be second.

Obama: Please, Iran, Nuke [the] US!

After all of his talks, promises, sanctions, and deals;

after Obama has agreed to let a dangerous nation possess and develop nukes, and has given them the green light to forge ahead and go for a zero breakout time;

after everyone has told him that he is crazy; after he has insisted that he is not;

after it has become known that the Senate is planning to force Obama into cooperating and consulting with them;

after he has told us one version of the agreements, Iran has told us another version, and he still insists on making this deal –

after all of this, what does Obama do?

He admits to the whole world that he has allowed Iran to nuke the entire free world, by reopening the Cheyenne Mountain.  And then, we also realize that North Korea is capable of nuking the United States, as well.

Obama, we congratulate you on your failed second term, and on making history as the president who not only ordered Israel to allowed itself to be completely obliterated and its citizens brutally murdered by Islamic murderers, terrorists, and extremists, but also gave these same Islamic extremist terrorist murderers the go-ahead to obliterate the United States and the entire western world.

Obama bin Laden, we congratulate you on aiding your brother’s mission.

Formula: Sometimes, Medically Necessary

When?

Well, once upon a time, the gene for not being able to produce breastmilk was pretty rare.  If a woman couldn’t produce enough milk, she needed a wet nurse.  Wet nurses were expensive, though.  So if she didn’t have the money, and didn’t have the milk – well, let’s just say the gene wasn’t passed on to the next generation.  Survival of the fittest, did we say?  Perhaps of the richest, who often used a wet nurse even when it wasn’t necessary, to spare Mom the “burden” of breastfeeding.

Over the centuries, many tried and failed to find a substitute for human milk.  The formula we have today is the grandchild of the earliest experiments at alternative feeding; usually these alternative methods resulted in infant mortality within the first year; some from the food itself and some from bad hygiene.  In other words, it is the grandchild of the first non-toxic formula.  Obviously, back then, no one gave formula unless the baby didn’t have a mother, or the mother had not a drop of milk and no one to nurse her baby.

Since the age of barely non-toxic formulas, we’ve come a long way.  We’ve come so far, in fact, that unless you know a person’s medical history, it’s hard to guess which kids were formula fed and which were breastfed.

In other words, formula does a pretty good job of enabling these babies to grow, develop normally, and have a great chance at a good life.

That doesn’t mean, though, that formula is for everybody.  Formula isn’t human milk, and because of that, it wasn’t made for human babies.  However terrific a job it does at compensating for the lack of breastmilk, it still isn’t the ideal baby food.  Formula is like medicine.  In many ways, it IS medicine.  It was made for certain situations, and in those situations, it literally saves thousands, if not millions, of lives.  But just like you don’t give your child penicillin if he doesn’t have an infection, you shouldn’t give your child formula if he doesn’t absolutely need it.  Giving either of them too frequently, and without just cause, can have unwanted results. But, that’s not the topic of this post.

With the advent of good infant formula, a lot of babies survive who wouldn’t have had a chance previously.  With the advent of successful fertility treatments, and good prenatal monitoring, a lot of babies are born who wouldn’t have had a chance to be otherwise.  Combine these factors together, including the fact that if a couple’s infertility is female-factor, the same hormones that made pregnancy difficult may make lactation impossible – and there you have it, growing numbers of mothers and babies who are simply unable to breastfeed.

And – that’s fine.  In fact, it’s great.  It is absolutely terrific that these mothers are able to have babies, and that these babies are able to survive.  It’s a modern-day miracle, and one that we all have to be thankful for.

Again, the problem isn’t formula.  The problem is the abuse of formula. Let’s take a look at some possible contraindications to breastfeeding:

– As usual, mother has no milk.  By no milk I mean that she tried supplements, she tried dietary adjustments, she went to lactation consultants, she nursed and pumped around the clock to raise supply – and no luck.  Nothing doing.  The mother who suffers from this often feels inferior, because she feels betrayed by her body and unable to give her baby its most basic necessity – food.

– The baby who cannot form a vacuum.  This is usually fixable by some surgical procedure (yes, even clipping a tongue is technically a surgical procedure, even more so fixing a cleft palate), and until then, the mother has to stick it out by pumping and/or nursing.  Many mothers, too many, give up prematurely.  (There, but for my research, go I.)

– The mother who is taking a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding, and there is no breastfeeding-compatible medicine available for her.

– The baby who is lactose intolerant, including lactose from human milk.  Sometimes this is fixable by a change in the mother’s diet.  Sometimes, no matter what the mother eats or doesn’t eat, the baby reacts.

– The baby whose mother got pregnant only a few months postpartum.  While this doesn’t mean that you have to stop nursing, if the baby is less than nine months old, chances are high that supplements will be needed.  Sometimes, the baby will start eating more solids.  Sometimes, if the baby isn’t old enough for solids or refuses, formula will be necessary.  Here I want to add that for the first two or three months of pregnancy, the milk stays suitable for the older baby.  Around week 16-20, it begins to turn into colostrum, and possible supply will decrease.  Again, any breastfeeding is better than none, and even if supplements are necessary for a few months, when the baby is born, the mother can dump the supplements in the trash and nurse tandem.

– The baby whose mother chose a method of birth control that is incompatible with breastfeeding.

– The mother who is hospitalized without being given an opportunity to pump.

– The mother who was given bad advice by medical or lactation “professionals”.

– The baby who has no mother.

There are probably more, but these are the main, basic, categories that come to mind right now.

Let me ask a question: Why aren’t there more banks for human milk?  At the moment, at least in Israel, there is a government-supervised bank, but the milk goes mostly to preemies, gastro-intestinally compromised babies, or babies without a mother.  Why can’t a “normal” baby get donor milk?

Some of you will say that it’s gross.  Well, I have news: Birth is gross.  Changing diapers is gross.  For goodness’ sake, any bodily fluid is gross.  Well, except breastmilk, in my mind; it tastes okay and it’s good for you (I tried a drop of my milk so that I’d know the difference between good milk and sour milk).  What grosses most people out, I think, is the idea of sharing the breastmilk.  But think of it this way: When you need a blood transfusion, do you say, “Ewww, gross, that blood was in someone else’s body?”  Of course not.  So, why is it gross to use donor milk?  As long as the donor is healthy – and if she is willing to feed the milk to her own kid, I think that she can pretty much be trusted – there’s no reason why not.  The only difference between donor milk and the wet nurses of old is that donor milk can be fed to the baby by its parents, while a wet nurse took all the responsibility on herself.

So, now there are Facebook groups and community milk banks.  But they aren’t widely enough spread, they don’t have enough donors, and not enough recipients are aware of them, or willing to use them.  But if formula, in the mind of someone who tried to breastfeed and couldn’t, is a sign of failure, why is donor milk worse?  It’s better – no, you couldn’t breastfeed yourself, but you still made sure that your child got breastmilk.

I think society needs a change of mindset.

Formula is a legitimate choice for those mothers who cannot breastfeed, or whose babies are unable to breastfeed.  Formula is a very, very, good thing, as long as it is not abused.  Those mothers who use it without medical necessity ruin how society views formula for those who have a legitimate need to use it.

Those who need formula should not have to pay the inflated price formula companies ask.  It is not fair, it is not just, to force someone who has no other option to pay an outrageous fee, for that many containers a year.  Formula that is medically necessary should be hugely subsidized.  Formula that is not medically necessary should be off the shelves.

Breastmilk, even donated breastmilk, is better than formula.  Feeding someone else’s breastmilk to your baby is not a sign of failure but a sign of courage and dedication.

Breastfed babies are the norm, not the exception.  Breastfeeding needs to be accepted and encouraged, not something shameful and disgusting.  I am not for a woman exposing her entire front and side on a park bench.  I am for women being able to sit and nurse, modestly and decently (I don’t use a blanket, but between the blouse and the t-shirt underneath, no one sees anything), in public places.  Without worrying if they will be yelled at, without feeling that the whole world is staring at them, without worrying about a smoker coming to sit down next to them (and then they are either stuck second-hand smoking for half an hour, or they have to get up and move in the middle), and without having to walk ten minutes, with a screaming, hungry, baby, to find a place to nurse.

Pumping should be legitimate and supported, especially for working mothers.  It should not be easier for a mother to switch to formula when she goes back to work, especially since, in the long run, it costs us all money.

Society needs a change.  But it won’t happen if we play Ostrich.

 

 

“I Want My Mommy”

Well, maybe not exactly.

It’s not easy living far away from any kind of immediate family.  We have extended family in a few cities in Israel, second and third cousins of mine, and over the years, we developed family-like relationships with some other people.  But they are in Jerusalem . . . and we don’t live there anymore.  Which means that before I had Tova, we had a period of time when we didn’t know who would be able to watch Shlomo while we were in the hospital.  If we had still been in Jerusalem, or if I had had a guarantee that I would be in Jerusalem when I went into labor, we wouldn’t have had to think twice – we have people who we can ask.  But, from Jerusalem till here is at least two hours.  Luckily, some neighbors, whose kid is in gan with Shlomo, offered to watch him – even at 1am.  At first I was kind of uncomfortable about disturbing them, but in the end it worked out.

Living so far away also means that when we’re both sick, we have to manage on our own.  Usually, Yitzchak and I get sick in turns, one after the other.  Maybe we have a day of overlap, when the one who got sick first still feels sick, but feels decent enough to be able to manage.  This time, we were both sick the same day.

On Friday night, after the meal, I couldn’t fall asleep.  I tossed and turned, I was cold, nauseous and couldn’t get comfortable.  And then I jolted upright and asked Yitzchak for a bucket.  He brought me a basin from the bathroom and I filled it more than halfway with my supper and drinks.  It was more than I ever, ever, remember throwing up at once.  Then we went to sleep.

This morning, I woke up achy (as I have been for the past few days), and Yitzchak woke up “feeling queasy.” Over the course of the day, he threw up about six times.  I think.  Towards afternoon, we both were thinking that it was a shame that we didn’t have family close by, because we would’ve really liked if one of us could have gone over to ask for help.

To be fair, Shlomo was terrific.  He played nicely, quietly, by himself, for 80% of the day.  10% was spent playing with Tova (and annoying us a bit, because he was sitting beside one or the other of us, and kept accidentally sticking one of his limbs into a sore spot on one of us), 5% being difficult (he needed attention), and 5% eating or doing other things.  He peed a bit in his pants (I think because he forgot to go to the bathroom), changed himself, and then told us that he’d peed.  He let us sleep a couple hours in the morning, and then again in the afternoon.  And I think if Tova had been more willing to play or sleep, instead of demanding attention, we would’ve gotten even more sleep.  As it was, we stayed in bed the entire day.  I got up to pee and give Shlomo food.  Yitzchak got up to pee and puke.  We changed Tova’s diapers on the bed.  Every time we smelled her tush and mentioned changing her diaper, Shlomo ran to bring us a new diaper and spread out the changing pad.

The house is a disaster, it’s true.  But Shlomo was a big, big, big, boy.

And still . . . it would’ve been nice if there was someone to take care of Shlomo and Tova while we slept.  Or to help me with Shlomo, Tova, and the kitchen, after Shabbat, while Yitzchak slept.  Or to go buy Tylenol (we only have 1 left and don’t have a car, so it’s a looong trip, and longer when you’re this sick).

Yitzchak said, “If Mom lived around here, I’d crawl over to her house and ask her to come help us.”  I said, “I was thinking the same thing, it would be nice to have Mom around.  But don’t crawl.”

Yes, well . . . it would have been nice.  But we managed anyways, like we always do (thank G-d).

Coalition Disappointments

I promised I would get back to the elections, and I am.

Truth to tell, I’m disappointed in Bibi.  He promised to take Bayit Yehudi as one of the first, if not the first.  He promised to remember that we gave him 4 entire mandates.  He said he was indebted to the national religious, as he should be.  He even made his first post-election phone call to Bennett.

And now?  Nothing.  He had a meeting with Bayit Yehudi, but it was just general talks, with nothing concrete.  He is sucking up the chareidi parties, who want him to give them billions of shekels for their institutions, and want to reinstate the draft exception favor that they had until two years ago.  And Bibi will suck up to them, because as long as they have their money, you can sell half of Israel for peanuts and they won’t say boo.  It feels sick.  It feels completely wrong.  Give them money and they let you do what you want.  Blackmail?  Bribery?  I don’t know.  But it’s free votes for whatever you want, as long as they have money.

Deri as Interior Minister? Here I have to agree with Lapid, even though I can’t stand him.  G-d save us, the guy got put in jail last time he was Interior Minister, for corruption.  The guy shouldn’t be allowed to represent anyone religious, and shouldn’t be allowed to sit in the government.  Both he and Zoabi should be in jail.  The stupid thing is that because of anti-Jewish racism in Israel, Deri is more likely to sit in jail than Zoabi.  Even though Zoabi is the wose of the two.  And Deri, again, shows his maturity level.  Yes, Lapid was a huge failure as finance minister.  But he didn’t bring thousands of families to starvation, sorry.

Bibi is smart, though.  Kachlon, who has been threatening to refuse to join the coalition if he didn’t get what he wanted (finance), has finally reached an understanding, or unofficial agreement, with Bibi.  I believe (I could be wrong, though) that Kachlon should get Finance and that he would do the job fairly and well.  However, UTJ has insisted on chairmanship of the Finance Committee, and so the two parties are “fighting” over the post.  Bibi very cleverly solved the issue, by giving Kulanu (Kachlon’s party) the final word on budgetary demands.  So, as it looks now, Kulanu is in the coalition.

It looks like UTJ (Aguda) is also in.  Shas – I would hope not, except that they’re necessary to form a coalition.  I hope Bibi finds a way to get them to join without landing us a corrupt Interior Minister, reinventing the draft favor, or putting us all in debt by paying for too many people to sit in yeshiva.  I’m all for people in yeshiva being paid.  I really am.  But I don’t think that every single chareidi man should be in yeshiva – that’s not what G-d wanted, it’s not what most Israelis want their tax money to be doing, and most importantly, it’s not good for the vast majority of yeshiva students.

But I think that Bayit Yehudi will be stuck with the leftovers.  The question is, will they take the leftovers, or will they insist on sitting in the opposition?  Somehow I think that they will take the leftovers.  Yitzchak says that they will get deputy minister of every important ministry.  I don’t know.  But I hope that Yitzchak is right and I am wrong, or I will be very, very disappointed.  Part of what makes Yitzchak so certain is that Bibi knows that a lot of his mandates came from Bayit Yehudi, and that he will lose them if he doesn’t make up for it.  I think he’s right.  The question is if that’s what Bibi will do in the end, or if he’ll get too heady with so many mandates.  I said Bibi was smart, did I?  He is.  Let’s hope Yitzchak is right and Bayit Yehudi gets richly compensated for their loss of mandates.

Bennett seems to think that Bibi is looking to form a unity government.  Maybe yes, and maybe no.  There are two reasons Bennett would keep insisting on this: a) he really thinks this is going to happen, b) if he says it enough, people will be more aware of it and not allow it to happen.

Speaking of which, Deri is a disgusting and self-serving.  Only.  He makes me puke.  “You only have 8 mandates and we have 13?”  Really?  If Bayit Yehudi hadn’t donated four mandates to Likud, they would have 12 on their own – compared to Shas and Aguda’s 13 when they are put togther.  Besides, Deri, are you a kindergartener?  Nananakishka, I have a bigger cupcake than youuuu! Nanabanana, nanabanana!  Real maturity, huh?

What I think about the PA, Iran, and international stupidity, I will save for another post.

P.S. – I just realized that while here in Israel it is a regular [matza-eating] weekday, all of the Jews outside Israel are still observing a second day of chag.  Oops.  But hey, for me it’s a regular day.  One seder, that’s it.

 

 

A Trip to the Consulate – Continued

The first section of this very interesting story of travel and bureaucracy can be found here.

Part Four: Going to the Consulate

I called Egged at 7:30; the call center wasn’t open yet.  I called again at 8:30, and was told that there was a bus at 8:45, and a bus at 9:45.  My appointment was at 10:30, and the bus ride was supposed to take 50 minutes.  Meaning, from 9:45 to 10:35.  If you remember that there is a line outside the consulate (so that you can prove that you have an appointment, receive a pass, and go through security), you will understand that arriving at 10:35 meant entering the consulate at about 10:45, 15 minutes after my scheduled appointment.  I got up and ran to the bus, calling Yitzchak on the way to bring me the money.

I felt bad about running so quickly, because my cousin had just asked me to watch her two youngest (she has a Shlomo-aged kid, a Tova-aged kid, a two-year old, and four older kids) while she took her Shlomo-aged kid to gan, but we both realized that there really wasn’t an option.  So I went.

I made the bus; Yitzchak missed it, and me, by 3 minutes.  I figured that there would be an ATM somewhere around the consulate; I figured wrong.  I got to the consulate 70 minutes early, because the bus had only taken 40 minutes, and discovered that I couldn’t go in until half an hour before my appointment.  I found a bench under some trees and finished nursing.

united states consulate, jerusalem consulate, american consulate

The oustide of the consulate.

Yitzchak ended up taking the 9:45 bus and arriving at 10:27 to hand me the money.  Of course, since Yitzchak couldn’t prove that he had an appointment, I needed to walk out of the consulate.  Because I had told the security guard, when I first went in, that my husband was bringing me the money, I was able to skip most of security and the guard told the inner security workers to let me through easily.  Therefore, I walked back into the actual consulate at 10:33, and they gave me a number with no problems.  It would have been smarter to take the number and then go out to meet Yitzchak, but I didn’t think of that at the time.

Obviously, in order to find out where Yitzchak was, I needed my phone, so I had to go through the cell phone security bogus.  But my phone was Yitzchak’s phone, and his was mine, so it made sense to switch them instead of just waiting for him to appear.  After Yitzchak had given me the money and I was waiting to go back inside, I saw that the person next to me was holding a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority.  Ha, I didn’t know they issued passports.  Is that kind of like a little girl pretending to serve tea to her friends?  It was actually kind of funny, and I said something to myself (or to Tova) and chuckled.

Finally, money in hand, diaper-and-clothes-changed (I had forgotten the diapers on the bed, and had to borrow a 4+ from another family; I told Tova not to poop in it because it was too big on her and would leak, and she actually listened until we were off the return bus and walking back), I had time to sit for a few minutes.

Part Five: The Catch

Then my number was called.  The lady at the window was very efficient, asked for all my documents, and I gave them to her; answered my questions about the social security cards; asked for Shlomo’s passport so that he could get his, and seemed surprised when I handed it to her; and sent me to pay.

She asked if I was still married to Tova’s father.  Yes, I am.  And in my head, I think that it’s a funny question to ask.  Can she have the marriage certificate?  I gave it to her.  She asked if I was going to pick up the report or if I wanted it sent to me.  I wasn’t sure I had enough to have it sent, and kicked myself for not asking Yitzchak for another twenty shekels when I had met him earlier.

I went to the shipping-and-number-giving desk, where I waited beside a guy with a thick accent who wanted to know where to go.  I tried to help him, until I heard his accent and saw his manner.  What does he need?  He wants to go to America. Does he need a visa?  Yes, he says.  Is he a citizen?  He doesn’t know what that means.  Where is he from?  “Palestine!”  Ha ha.  I laughed at that one.  The number-giving guy called for another guy and told the other guy to “help this gentleman”.  No one can tell me what the exchange rate is, and they are annoyed at me for asking and ‘being angry’, when I am not angry, just kind of frustrated at having to explain such a simple question over and over.

I go to the paying-desk, now that there is no line, and say, “Mah ha’shaar (what’s the exchange rate)?”  He thinks I said, “Mah hasha’a (what’s the time)?” looks at his watch, and tells me 10:45.  It took me a second to figure out what had happened, and then I repeated my question.  This time, he understood, and told me “4”.  I gave him the receipt from the lady who had handled my documents (and was waiting for my return) and gave him 400 shekels.

When I get back, the lady tells me that I can’t get a social security card for Tova because she doesn’t have a passport.  Huh?  I didn’t see that written anywhere.  As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be an American passport, but if we have never applied for any passport, from any country, for Tova, then she cannot get a social security card.  And she hands me back the form, apologetically.  Okay, fine.  At least Shlomo can get one.  She tells me to wait and that the consular officer will call me.  He will give back the documents.  If I want to apply for a passport, then my husband will have to accompany me.  Yep, don’t I know it.

I sit and wait for the consular officer.  While I wait, I see someone holding a credit card.  Hm, I think, can I pay for shipping with a credit card?  The shipping-girl isn’t at the desk, and while I wait for her to return, the consular officer calls our name.  We don’t usually use credit, even though our debit cards are really credit cards.  But sometimes, it’s a good option to have.  Although, we have been known to say that we don’t have an option for credit.  I suppose you could say it’s lying, but the truth is that it’s not usually an option, financially and budget-wise.

I ask the consular officer if I can still have the documents shipped to me, provided that shipping-girl will take a credit card (and I saw a machine for it on the desk).  He doesn’t know if she will take it, but says that it’s not a problem for me to get them shipped, even at this late stage.  Then he asks for Shlomo’s birth certificate.  I need proof that we are his parents asking for his social security card.  I don’t have the beautiful Report of Birth Abroad, nor do I have his Israeli birth certificate.  I thought the passport would be enough, and the consulate site didn’t say otherwise.  In fact, I thought the consulate site said a passport was enough.  And the lady didn’t say anything . . .  So, we can’t get a social security card for Shlomo, either.

Part Six: The “Solution”, or, Making the Most of An Aggravating Trip

However, Tova’s Report of Birth Abroad should be ready in a week and a half to two weeks.  I can drop off the social security forms at the same time as I pick up the Report of Birth Abroad, no appointment necessary.  I guess that’s what I’ll have to do; I don’t have a cell phone to ask Yitzchak his opinion (because, if you remember, it was taken when I came in), so I decide to make the trip to pick up the report and drop off the forms.  The consular officer is nice and makes sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted so that I will have an easy, fast, trip next time.  I appreciate it.  And I am frustrated that every trip to Jerusalem seems to leave loose ends that need to be tied up by another trip.  Another 80 shekels; another wasted day.  Arg.  We will not be able to get the social security cards by the 15th of June, but we can file for an extension.  Better yet, we can talk to a CPA and get him to help us out.

But, maybe we should get Tova an Israeli passport in the meantime, and then apply for both social security cards when we pick up the report of birth.  Hmm.  Sounds like it could work.

And that’s where we stand now.

I also didn’t get to buy what I wanted for myself when I was in Jerusalem.  Yitzchak said he’s going to check some places here and ask if they can order it in; if not, then I guess I will have another chance in two weeks.  Maybe we will plan it for a Friday that we are in Jerusalem.  But we are not pulling another stunt like this one; it was too difficult.

Part Seven: The Israeli Passport

We debated whether or not to get Tova an Israeli passport.  On the one hand, we aren’t planning on going anywhere.  On the other hand, we need it for a social security number, which could potentially save us, or give us, a lot of money, and the passport is good for five years.  Plus, it would be kind of funny to see two “baby” passports and compare the pictures.  We decided to get the passport.  From what I saw on the internet, it would cost between 125 and 140 shekels, which is not too bad.  Much, much, less than $105 (which right now is 420 shekels).  Plus, we probably wouldn’t have to wait in line.  Not too bad . . . so we went for it.

Tuesday morning, Yitzchak went to sell the chametz with the city’s rav, at the city’s commercial center.  At the same time, he took Tova to get passport photos taken, and parted with 25 shekel.  He went into the Ministry of Interior and asked for a passport application, only to be told that they don’t give them out, and we had to come in.

From what I had read on the internet, I knew that both of us needed to sign the application.  My plan had been for Yitzchak to pick up the application and sign it, and then I would fill it out, sign it, and take Tova in to the Ministry of Interior to apply.  Now, this plan got changed.  So, at 4:15, we all got on a bus and went to the commercial center, where they asked if we wanted a regular passport or a biometric passport (regular, thanks), and told us that since we’re married, only one of us has to sign the form.  The passport cost us 140 shekels.  Sigh.

On the bright side, they also said that the passport would be put in the mail either that day or the next morning, and we should have it within ten business days.  Sounds good to me.

And so, we now wait for Tova’s Israeli passport to arrive; hopefully before Pesach vacation ends and I have to go back to work.

Update: About an hour and a half before this post was published (I had scheduled it to post, ahead of time), we had a knock on the door: The passport had arrived, through registered mail, a day and a half after we applied for it.

A Trip to the Consulate

Part of being an expat is deciding if you want your kids to be registered as citizens of your birth country.  Sometimes you want the tax benefits; sometimes you think that it is better for the kid in the future; and sometimes you think that it is worthwhile, or necessary, of the present.

We never really debated the subject; it was just kind of obvious that since Yitzchak and I are both American, and we have family in the States, that we would register our kids as American citizens.  When Shlomo was born, and we realized the expense involved (admittedly a pittance in comparison to expats who are not married to other expats, or who did not spend any time actually in America), we thought about just getting him a visa for his Israeli passport whenever we wanted to travel.  Not only did this turn out to be against the rules, it wasn’t even worthwhile financially.  We spent about a thousand shekels on getting him a Report of Birth Abroad and an American passport, and then we still had to get him an Israeli passport (because we were planning to travel).  Now, we had to register Tova.  Having no immediate travel plans, we pushed it off and pushed it off and finally decided to get it over and done with, for the sake of taxes.

Here is the story, for those who are interested in life in Israel and life as an American expat.

Part One: Making the Appointment

There is a U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and there is a U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.  Because we used to live in Jerusalem, we went to the consulate to register Shlomo.  Because I hate Tel Aviv, and know where the consulate is (since I’ve been there before), I emailed the consulate and asked if we could still come to Jerusalem, even though technically the consulate is only for the residents of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  The response I got was that we could go to the consulate and did not have to go to Tel Aviv.

Throughout this narrative, I write, “I,” because while we weren’t sure if Yitzchak would end up coming, it was pretty obvious that I had to go, since I am nursing Tova, and was still on maternity leave.

Then, I had to make an appointment with the consulate.  There were a few issues with this:

1. It is, at minimum, a two and a half hour trip into Jerusalem, not including the bus that goes from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the consulate.  Two and a half hours, multiplied by two trips (there and back) is already five hours minimum.  From the Central Bus Station to the consulate is about an hour each way, by bus.  Taxi might be faster, but costs a lot – maybe 100 shekel, or more, per trip.  The taxi may not save us time, either, because Jerusalem has awful traffic jams.  So far, we have a seven hour trip at minimum – and that’s not even counting the time we would spend at the consulate, which is calculated to be about an hour and a half, on average.  Total amount of time to travel from home to the consulate and back: 8.5 hrs.  Or, in other words, an entire [work] day.

2. We needed to get Tova a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  Let it be known that this is an absolutely gorgeous document.  We also wanted to get her, and Shlomo, social security numbers.  When Shlomo was a baby, I sent in an application for a social security card, but we never got the card.  I don’t know if the application was rejected or if the card never reached us.  At any rate, because we wanted their social security numbers for taxes, we wanted to make the appointments in enough time to send in the forms at least before the June 15th expat tax date.  Looking back, I realize that my calculation was foolish, since it can take up to six months to get the social security cards.  But no matter.  We need to do it, and the sooner the better.

We debated whether to get Tova a passport at the same time.

The pros: No need to worry or race if we end up traveling, or if we decide to move back for whatever reason.

The cons: An extra $105 (about 420 shekel), and it expires in 5 years; Yitzchak would need to waste an entire day so that both of us would be present, or we would have to waste money on a notarized consent form that he allows his child to get a passport when he is not physically present; if both Yitzchak and I are at the consulate, where is Shlomo?

Which leads us to #3:

3. Only the people who are absolutely necessary for the appointment are allowed into the consulate.  In other words, if you are applying for a Report of Birth Abroad, one parent accompanies the child.  If you are applying for a passport, both parents.  But – if you have another child who has nothing to do with the appointment – he will not be allowed into the consulate.  Hmmm . . .  I considered making a fake appointment for Shlomo (because, after all, he did need a social security card, even if I didn’t need a separate appointment for it), but Yitzchak reminded me that Shlomo coming with us meant Shlomo running laps in the consulate, for about an hour.  We decided to that it was worth trying to avoid having to discipine him.  After all, what’s wrong with running laps?  (Answer: Nothing.  It’s just that the consulate isn’t really the place to do it.)

4. We are always loath to part with such large sums of money.  The trip to Jerusalem is about 80 shekels round trip.  The Report of Birth Abroad is $100 (400 shekel).  That’s a LOT of money.  But we have no choice; we are required to file taxes and we want to be able to write down all exemptions possible, just in case, somehow, it may in some fashion look like we earn enough to actually owe something.  Plus, we probably qualify for $1000 a year, per child, in tax returns.  With Shlomo we were too lazy, and stingy, to get an accountant to deal with it, and we didn’t know how to file ourselves.  But things have changed since then (mostly expat tax laws), and it looks like, lazy or not, we need to file this year.  Which means, why not do it all at once?

5. The appointments are made online.  You can only make one appointment per child.  I cheated the system, not knowing which day I wanted to go, and wanting to make sure I had an appointment that worked for me.  The system allows you to make appointments only for the next three weeks or so, and they get taken very quickly, leaving only 8 or 8:30am appointments, and even then, only on one or two days out of the month.  You need to really keep on top of the appointment site in order to get one that works.  I made two appointments for Tova, and got past the system’s block by changing a letter in her name.

Part Two: The Stupid Rules

American security is infinitely stupider than Israeli security, for the simple reason that they do not know what they are doing.  One example is what I wrote above – only the people pertinent to the appointment are allowed entry.  Here are a few others:

– If you come more than half an hour early for your appointment, you may be denied entry and your appointment will be rescheduled.  Gee, it’s nice you wrote that on your website and not just on the window outside the consulate, for folks like me who are dependent on buses, live a few hours away, and called Egged, only to be told that the only bus that goes to the consulate leaves once an hour, at a quarter to the hour, and takes 50 minutes to get there.  It’s a shame I didn’t schedule my appointment differently.  On second thought, maybe I couldn’t have scheduled it so that it worked with the bus schedule.

– If you have a stroller, you need to leave it at the gate.  Oh, and they aren’t responsible if it gets taken.  Make sure you bring a sling, if you have a baby, or your arms will get exhausted.

– In order to be allowed entry, you first need to prove you have an appointment.  This you do by handing them the printout of your appointment details and the documents and forms that you brought with you.  The guy you proved it to gives you a pass.  Then, pass in hand, you go to the security guy, who asks you more questions, gives you a basket to put your phone and charger in, and asks if you have other electronics that need to be in the basket.  Basket in hand, you go through the doors, to pass through the metal detector and put your bag through the x-ray machine.  If, like me, you have forgotten about an electronic device that you happen to have in your bag (I forgot that I had the camera), they get very angry at you and treat you like you are a bigger threat than Iran.  The contents of the basket are put into a “cell” and you are given a card with the cell’s number, which you present in order to get your belongings back when you are done.  By the way, they are not responsible for any electronics put in the “cell”.

– Let’s say you need to make a phone call.  You go back to security, show your card, get your belongings (all of them), walk outside, make your phone call, and need to be readmitted by the guard.  Let’s say you need to get a document or whatever, and you walk out for a second.  Same deal.

– They take checks, written for the exact amount, according to that day’s exchange rate.  No credit cards.  They take cash, but do not give change.

– No one is allowed to wait outside the consulate.

– No sealed envelopes are allowed in.

For more stupid rules please see here.

Part Three: The Debate 

I had a Thursday appointment and a Friday appointment.

Advantages of Thursday:

– If only I go, and I am on vacation, it is just a waste of a day (and not a waste of two peoples’ days and double the money).

– It leaves me all of Friday to prepare for Shabbat.  Therefore, it is less stressful.

– I can also do some clothes shopping while I am there (I hate clothes shopping, but sometimes there is no choice); on Friday the stores close early and I probably won’t have time to shop.

Advantages of Friday:

– If we are not home for Shabbat, it is not a wasted trip.

– Yitzchak has books to pick up in Jerusalem; if we go as a family and are not home for Shabbat, we “kill” two birds with one stone.

– We do not want to be home for Shabbat anyways, since it is the Shabbat before Pesach.

– If I go on Friday by myself, I can meet my friend, who I haven’t seen in ages.

In the end, my cousin saved the day.  We went on Thursday afternoon to Jerusalem, I did some shopping, we stayed at my cousin’s overnight, and early in the morning I went to the consulate, and Yitzchak went to pick up his books.  Then, we all traveled to Kfar Chabad for Shabbat, and after Shabbat went home.  On Thursday night we changed the clocks, which meant an hour less of sleep for everyone, but more time to get things done.  It was tough, because we were exhausted from all the running around, but we made it.  My cousin was also traveling for Shabbat, so we helped them get out, as well.

Total time spent going to and from the consulate: 4 hours.  Not bad, considering that if we had traveled to Jerusalem just for the consulate, it would have taken an entire day.

Oh, and I forgot – Friday was our fifth anniversary.  And we spent it traveling.  To and from the consulate, from Jerusalem to Kfar Chabad.  We had thought to do something else, less for the anniversary than because it was an excuse to get a babysitter and take a breather.  But in the end, like every year, we forgot the date until afterwards.

Stay tuned for the next section of this riveting narrative . . .

Wow, Obama! Your Revenge is Stunning!

Seriously, Mr. President?  Grow up.  You’re acting like an elementary school kid.  I should know, I’ve taught them.  What was your point in letting the world’s worst-kept secret out of the bag?

Israel is not a nuclear power.  We have no nuclear reactors, no nuclear bombs.  We never always have.  What’s your point?

I mean, of course we don’t have a reactor.  Well, duh.  Why would we?

Why would we?  Because, if you will recall, we are the only democratic, free, state in the entire area.  We are surrounded by hostile nations, and we need to keep them in fear of us, for survival’s sake.  That’s something that you seem to like to forget, with your two-state solution garbage and refusal to let us kill terrorist murderers.

Yay, so you proved that Israel does have nukes.  Wowee.  We are all impressed, Mr. Obama Bin Laden (or, as Grunt likes to call you, OBozo).

Obama, I believe that you are worse than McCain, by far.  I would’ve loved McCain for president, and I voted for him, despite Palin.  I believed that you were better than Romney, though I didn’t get to vote in those elections.  But now, I’m not sure.  Because however bad Romney may be, he’s not a ten-year-old out to get revenge on Netanyahu, and all of Israel, simply because we didn’t vote the way he wanted.  Boo-hoo, Obama.  A democratic state didn’t vote the way you wanted.  Would you be taking revenge on Romney if he had won the elections?  Would you be taking revenge on America?

Get over it.  And leave Israel alone.  It’s enough that you tried to interfere with our democratic elections.  We beat you, because we don’t believe, justly, that the “Palestinians” want a two-state solution.  If they did, we would sign a deal with them.  They don’t.  All they want is to push us into the sea.  In their words, not mine.

Now, please explain: What was your point in declassifying only the section on Israel, in this report from 1987?

By the way: We have a Fisher-Price plane that comes with a luggage thing, a skateboard, and two people: a white kid with a helmet, and a black captain.  The luggage thing is used as a podium.  The black captain stands on the podium, and Shlomo says, “I’m Obama-rama making a speech.  Pchhh,” and pops “Obama” off the podium.  He learned this from us, with our warped sense of political humor, obviously.  I think I started doing it because I was frustrated with his kvetching and wanted to distract him.  But right now, I feel like it’s really appropriate.  Obama-rama, stop making speeches; get off the podium and stop trying to run Israel.  You’re president of America.  Not prime minister of Israel.

But I promise, if anyone pushes you off the podium, we will make sure that they go sit in the corner.  Pushing isn’t okay, and it counts as violence.  We just ask you to step down, of your own accord.