Israel Stories

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Cup

Some people will use any excuse to turn a minor insignificant incident into a major disaster either by their own design or just because of their nature.

Spilt coffee can be cleaned up, chocolate puddings can be wiped of the wall, and a little scratch on the car in unforgivable, but we’ll get used to it in time. It’s been one of those mornings.

It’s all about how you approach a situation. Whether it’s a knighthood or cartoons some people just don’t understand perspective.

I would say to these people who would rather burn their towns and people than be civilized that we are ‘not at home to mister temper’. I could have worked for the UN or the BBC! I could also say to the people of Sderot that its your fault that you are being bombarded, now if your don’t mind please, you and all your people, cease to exist so we can have world peace. Now my job at the UN or the BBC is surely secure.

It’s all about perspective.

The Kotel stood there before me, its huge stones reflecting the afternoon light as they had done for 2000 thousand years. Filled with or and renewed spiritual vigor I slowly backed away from the wall determined to do some good in the world, determined to shine some light on these dark times and determined to repair the worlds ills.

My opportunity arrived quicker than I determined when I saw an old Hassid milling about the worshipper, plastic cup in hand. Here was my chance. The first step on the road to spiritual renewal was to give to the needy. And what better way than slipping a few coins to a schnorrer at the kotel.

Without wasting another second I raced over to the old man. He said nothing as he lifted his cup. I opened my wallet looking for a decent amount, finally selecting a shiny 10 shekel piece. I smiled at him and then dropped the money into his cup and turned to walk away.

“Oy”, shouted the old man. Wasn’t it enough, I thought to myself, had I insulted him, was he being rude?

“Oy”, he shouted again. I turned to face him, uncertain on what my next move would be.

"Oy”, he wailed for a third time, “you’ve ruined my coffee!”

“I may have ruined your coffee” I answered kindly, “but at least you’re ten shekel up. You can buy a new coffee and still have change for your chosen charity. And anyway look on the bright side at least your cups half full now.”

His old face cracked in a beaming smile and he went on his way giggling with the words ‘my cups half full’ trailing after him.

It’s all about perspective.

This story is for Chen to celebrate her Bat Miztvah

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Mobile Phone

“Abba, Abba, I need the phone”. Those are the words that every parent dreads. It means two things; firstly, the kids are growing up and secondly, the phone bills are about to skyrocket.

“Whoever it is you’re going to phone you’ll see in school tomorrow, cant it wait?”

“Abba, what are you talking about? I don’t want to speak to anybody; I want to take a photo.”

And so my fear of aging continued. First it was being in the company of people who were not born when Star Wars premiered and now it’s my techno savvy kids who equate telephones with taking pictures.

After banging our heads together trying to come up with an idea for a surprise birthday present for my mum, we decided to have professional pictures taken of the kids. Nice idea, easy to arrange, get a nice frame and there you have it. Tears, pride, happiness and a lot of schepping nachas. Everything you could wish for in one complete bundle.

My wife was in charge of the clothing. I suggested we all wear jeans and white tops. Sort of smart casual. But my wife was thinking Yom Tov. Then I suggested that the kids should wear their hair down, but she was thinking clips and tails and plaits and everything you could possibly affix to hair. So I suggested I stay out of it and she finally agreed with me.

Seconds after I had sat down, the yelling and screaming started as the kids began to object to be decorated like circus ponies, I got the inevitable call to deal with the situation. Of course it was my fault for suggesting a photo in the first place. Words were exchanged, bribes were negotiated and peace retuned to the region.

Sof, sof, finally, finally, we were all ready. Everybody looked smart, nobody’s bottom looked big in anything, and the kids were beginning to relax.

The photographer started schepping nachas as only an Israeli photographer could. She commented on their beautiful hair (sarcastic smile from the wife), she noted how they might be slightly over dressed for the spring (no smile for her), and she started telling us about her nieces and nephews and extended family until early into the night.

Arranging the kids posing positions was, as you can imagine, a whole lot of fun. Our youngest wouldn’t sit down and the two older ones started fighting. After stepping in to diffuse the situation we told the kids to look natural. Don’t over smile or under smile, look at the photographer and don’t look at each other.

Then my youngest started saying something. “Picture”, she called out in a very stressed voice, “Picture,” she repeated.

“Yes we are going to have a picture, look at the lady and smile.” But she wouldn’t be consoled and her little face creased up in that all to familiar ‘I’m going to let them know I am not happy with the situation but since I am very young they will have to guess what the problem is to diffuse my frustration’.

And then the tears started and crying and screaming. “Picture”, she shouted “Picture”.

Now its not often that I get flashes of pure inspiration and while everybody tried to calm her down I spoke to the photographer.

“Look”, she called “picture”, and as they all turned to her the tears stopped almost immediately.

“Look at the phone,” she called.

Smiles all round and good job well done