Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's my party

Today is my birthday. It has been, for the most part, a wonderful birthday. I got many well wishes from many friends and relatives (thank you, facebook) and some unexpected thoughtful gifts. (Hey, look Ma, I can tell time.) I also got my haircut. These are all good things. But I can't shake this feeling of ennui.
I always go slightly haywire around my birthday. I believe this is in part because it just feels premature. I simply cannot be 28. I haven't done enough, experienced enough, loved enough. A person at my age should be more than I am. The world's pace is not my own. My birthday is in December, but I was meant to be born in April. I am still in my incubator, waiting to be able to breathe on my own.
Which brings me to the other aspect of my birthday that is difficult. My birth was a miracle by all accounts and I'm often regaled with tales of my shear stubborn will to live. I evidently learned to crawl with my head on the floor since I wasn't strong enough to hold my head up-but I damn well had places to be, so I went. But my birth was also a trauma for myself and my mother who almost died giving birth to me. We talk about that less. And if it is true that I learned to crawl with my head on the floor, it is also true that I pulled my respirator tube out numerous times. Maybe it was not my will to live that was so strong but rather my will to not be helpless. And perhaps my birthday reminds me that I am helpless- that I came into this world too early, too small and without any weapons to fend off the blitz on my senses that life must have seemed. So if I freak out around this time of year- if I pull out my respirator tube so to speak- isn't that to be expected?
In truth, it was a lovely birthday. I am surrounded by people who love me with an exceeding love and for this I feel extremely and inordinately blessed. It's gonna be a good year. Come hell or high water, it'll be good.

Thesis Watch: pg. 41

Book Rec: Tiki Tiki Tembo- a birthday tradition

Saturday, December 6, 2008

take our stand down in jungleland

My landlords have decided to sell our apartment.
I've been trying to come to terms with this latest development, but it's hard. We just moved in 4 months ago and while we most likely will be able to live out our contract, I find that you live differently knowing you're leaving. Why plant those herbs? Why hang those paintings? Why make this place home?
My sense of home is a very important part of my sense of self. The geography of my inner-life often mirrors the geography of the places I have lived. I have strong need for solitude and quiet- a need to allow those places to seep into my bones. If I have any serenity in me it comes from those quiet shabbat afternoons when I am left alone in my apartment with only myself and the cat and some reading material. I do not know where this need comes from, but it is something innate in me. I do not do well without it.
So needless to say I was slightly peeved when last Friday a gaggle of prospective buyers invaded my apartment and gave themselves a small tour. They emerged from the bathroom victorious, crying "we found a wall we can knock down!". I'd like to knock down some their walls. I tell myself that I am not going to let this touch me. I tell myself that I am going to write more, cook more, work more and swim harder; that I'm going to live more. But all I really want to do is stick a frozen tivol in the microwave and curl up in bed with my computer to watch a Paul Rudd retrospective on the Daily Show. (After all, Paul Rudd is a) hot and b) hysterical. What more could one ask for, really?). Being angry often times just makes me want to give up and lay down my arms.
My great-grandmother used to say, אז מען געבט נעמט מען, אז מען שלאגט לויפט מען, which in Yiddish means, "as they give, take. As they hit, run". I suppose this is good advice if you want to survive as a Jew in Eastern Europe, or in the world in general. Take what you've got and don't fight a battle you can't win. But sometimes that's not enough. Sometimes you want to be Bruce Springsteen. Sometimes you want to be Odetta Holmes. Sometimes you just want to take a stand.

Music Rec: Jungleland, Bruce Springsteen

Thesis watch. 33 pages.

Friday, November 28, 2008


This Thanksgiving-
My sister had either the stomach flu or food poisoning. Either way it wasn't pretty.
I ran out of stove gas in the middle of cooking.
I roasted an 11 pound turkey named Gillian.
We ate.
We drank.
We were thankful.
There was turkey and stuffing and pumpkin bread and sweet potato casserole and sweet potato rolls and green beans and salad and cranberry sauce and pecan pie. But alas, we couldn't find any football on the internet.
All in all, not bad. Well, I could have done without the vomit.

Book rec: The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuinn

Thesis watch: 27 pages, and writer's block

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another Dissapointment

Zoom Zoom the gerbil has passed on.
It looks like the Cubs are letting Kerry Wood go to free agency.
I had the stomach flu this week.

All in all, not the best week ever.

Thesis Watch: today Word decided to only write in CAPITAL LETTERS no matter what I did to the Caps Lock key. Not a good writing day.

Book Rec: Sunshine by Robin McKinley. Comfort book.

Cubbie Watch: Now that was just stupid.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Keep on Rocking in the Free World

I don't know what to do with this abundance of hope.
Barack Obama is a man I know. He lives in the city where I grew up. He taught at the university I attended and think of as my intellectual home. He voted in a public school that my mother consults to. I have been in the hospital his wife administered. His chief of staff is the son of a pediatrician who stuck swabs down my throat. I know this man and yet I cannot fathom this. How is it that he has inspired so many? How is it that he mobilized thousands of people to take part in the democratic process that they had been so estranged from? I don't understand this, but I hope.
I do not belong to the cult of Obama. I don't believe he is the messiah or the harbinger of a Utopian world. He is a man and a politician. His administration will be riddled with compromises and disappointments. He will fail as often as he succeeds. I also know that part of his success in this election is a matter of timing. The looming economic crisis and the sense of disillusionment with the Bush administration had a lot to do with his victory. But I can't shake the hope. I can't shake the feeling that this man has vision-and vision, to be clear, is not an ideology. It does not claim to know how the world ought to be, it is an idea of how the world might be. That is an important distinction. I believe Obama knows this. Of course, I'm taking that on faith. But when it comes down to it, most things are.
I've been traveling back and forth between the United States and Israel for five years now. Over the past few years I've noticed a marked difference in the atmosphere at the airport as I went through passport control. During the first years I traveled I would be greeted with a smile and "welcome home", which I always returned in kind because Chicago is home, no matter where I live. But over time the smiles faded and I heard phrases like the "Patriot Act" and "security" more often. I saw more guns than I was used to in an American airport. There was a feeling of nervous intensity; of fear. This spring when I went through Passport Control I was stopped because my passport picture no longer resembles me. It was taken 10 years ago, after all. But no matter how many pieces of identification I pulled out I could not convince the woman in the booth that I was who I claimed I was. Now, I suppose that's a legitimate reason for stopping someone, but to be honest, I don't much look like a terrorist and all my forms of ID were utterly consistent. I realized that fear had trumped common sense. This was not the America I had left behind. In this America there was distrust and "us versus them" and a low simmering panic. In this America, Homeland Security agents could burst into the home of my Israeli cousin, whose visa had run out in a bureaucratic glitch and arrest him in front of his wife and kids. He too, is not a terrorist. I do not know if people living in the states felt these changes as sharply as I did, but in coming and going, I felt them and didn't recognize them.
Growing up, I lived on a fairly multi-cultural block. There were a few Orthodox Jewish families, and a few non-affiliated ones as well. There was a Phillipino family and two Muslim Indian families and the Weisses who are Catholic, and have lived there longer than anyone else. The adults were neighborly and we kids all played together. We rode our bikes and fought block wars with the kids who lived around the corner. We traded words in Hebrew in Arabic, "baba", and "abba" and the shared cultural experience of not putting up a Christmas tree in December; of being a minority in America. During high school I attended a city-sponsored program for the arts. I learned how to write with teen-agers from all over the city, from every socio-economic background. On the first day in the program I found myself sitting next to a Palestinian boy. I wrote about the Holocaust. He wrote about the Palestine of his parents. We weren't close friends, but I don't believe we bore each other any ill will. I know that if anything, I felt a vague affection for him. I hope he felt the same for me.
I do not mean to imply that my experience of America was all rainbows and ideals and the American dream. I was aware of racism. I was aware of hate and poverty. I experienced those things, and I believe that they still exist. But we did not fear-not each other and not the world around us. With Obama's election comes the feeling that America is finally rousing itself from the specter of fear; that it is coming to understand that fear is a hollow and transient thing. It cannot sustain itself. It must be bred. It seems that America is learning to value the power of shared experience. That it too, is a potent weapon.
And maybe that is the draw and charm of Barack Obama. He comes from everywhere and nowhere and so we all see a bit of ourselves in him. For me, beyond the feeling of an intellectual kinship, it is the way in which he speaks to a reality I knew; an America I knew. I am sure that for other people it is different and for many other people, perhaps, his figure does not resonate at all. I do not know that he will be a great president. I hope he will be a good one. I hope he will live up to his promise. I hope that America will live up to the promise of this moment. It will make it easier to come home to.

In other, completely unrelated and insignificant news, last Saturday night my sister, my friend and I went to go hear the great Geva Alon play in honor of my friend's birthday. (Happy birthday, M.) I had heard him play about a year ago with his backup band and was duly impressed. This time however, it was just him and his beat-up guitar (and a harmonica. We mustn't forget the harmonica). I never knew that just a man and one stringed instrument could make so much music. He makes his acoustic guitar sound like an electric one. Seriously, there are no words for how awesome he is. The man is nowhere near as famous as he ought to be.
An added bonus was the kid who opened for Geva, dear, little Or Zubalsky (also known as Juviley). Listen to Geva and he'll blow your mind. Then listen to Or and he'll gently put it back together for you. Or's music is like a day on the shores of some secluded lake with nothing but a pile of books and a bottle of beer for company. Even at his angriest, when he's singing about another disappointment, or asking for patience, his music never loses any of that sweet, whimsical serenity. Go listen to them both-NOW.

Thesis Watch: Hey, I found the Book of the Himyarites

Music Rec 1: Geva Alon, Wall of Sound

Music Rec 2: Juviley, How to Miss the Ground

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prayer for a black cat

If you are gone, may it have been an easy death.
If you are lost, may you find your way.
Come on home, black cat

Thesis Watch: Christian Syriac and Greek sources.

Book Rec: The Incredible Journey

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The boys of summer are gone

The Cubs, once again, went 0-3 in the playoffs after winning their division. I sort of knew in my bones this was going to happen, but I didn't want to believe it. I've always thought that being a Cubs' fan is like being a Jew- you're always waiting for a redemption that refuses to come. And yet you still believe, because Maimonides told you to; because it's in your blood.
This year felt tenuously right and I don't just mean in the over-hyped 100 years way. It somehow felt redemptive. I was at Wrigley in early April at a freezing night game. There was a lightness in the air, that I hadn't felt before; an exuberance that comes with confidence, though it was a close game, and still very early in the season. Kerry Wood took the mound in the 9th and the crowd rose, chanting his name with every pitch. I have followed Kerry Wood's career since he first started with the Cubs in 1998. When he was young, he reminded me of the hero of J.R. Tunis's great baseball book, "The Kid from Tomkinsville", if only because both of them were young and could throw a deadly fastball. And when he was older, well, everyone knows the story of his freakish stints on the DL. But I had faith in him. In Tunis's book the Kid, the star pitcher and the hope of the Brooklyn Dodgers, injures his elbow coming out of the shower. His pitching career comes to an end in a way that does indeed bring the accident prone career of Kerry Wood to mind. But the Kid comes back, not as a pitcher, rather as an outfielder and helps his team to a championship. So even though last year, after nine frustrating seasons it looked like Kerry's career was done, I hoped that he would come back ala the Kid. And he did, not as an outfielder, but as an All-Star closer. When I saw him take the mound in April, it felt right. It felt like this year was the year. It wasn't just the new faces- the great Geovanny Soto, or the stellar starting pitching. It was the sense of redemption; of a team coming together to put to redeem all the failures of past years. And when the Cubs clinched the division a few weeks ago, it was Wood on the mound, thronged by his teammates. Tunis couldn't write it any better. Too bad life's not a book.
Didn't he deserve it? Didn't we deserve it?
For the past two days I've thought that maybe this time the scar runs too deep. Maybe this team is irredeemable. Nobody, not Lou Pinnela, or Carlos Zambrano, or Lee, Soriano, and Fukodome nor Aramis Ramirez and a Dempster-Wood switch, could save these Cubs. There is no messiah. Maybe there is too much betrayal and bitterness in this failure. It could be that it's time to fold up and turn my back on the Cubs. But I know that come March the rains will taper here in Jerusalem and the ground back in Chicago will still be hard and tinged with frost, but there will be something in the air, and I'll start to think about Passover and Chicago and of Wrigley. I'll cock my ear to the general murmurings of the baseball world.
Who knows what next year will bring? The team will certainly look different, with a new owner and probably some beloved faces gone. It may very well be that Wrigley will be silent and somber and wary of disillusionment; that this team will lose itself under the weight of these past two years and fall back into petty mediocrity. Or, alternatively, we, both fans and players, will get caught up in the days and the rhythms of baseball; in the standings and the pitch count; in the satisfying smack of a ball hitting a glove; in the beauty of a well turned double play; in the wind blowing off the lake and thin thread of hope will rise. Maybe we will become so used to being good, that we will be great. Who knows?
I started this blog well into the season with a Cubbie Watch. Looking back on the little comments I made, I realize how wary I was; how every little slide gave me reason to panic. I guess I knew that these Cubbies would manage to break my heart. They always do. Next year I will probably be even more wary. After all, baseball isn't so important. It isn't going to fix the economy, or save Darfur. But going back to my opening paragraph, there is a sort of spirituality in baseball; a sense of hallowed ground and unity of spirit; a belief in a world that can change for the better. Those things are important. My Cubbie watch is done. Until next year.

Book Rec: J. R. Tunis, "The Kid from Tomkinsville"

Thesis Watch: 16 pages, and a meeting with my adviser. He wants to publish. Scary yay.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's gonna be a long walk home (Hey, pretty darling, don't wait up for me)

They built a bridge in Jerusalem, which is slightly imprudent considering the fact that Jerusalem is a city situated in the middle of the desert. But they built it anyway. It is white and monumental, and it dwarfs its squat surroundings. Most people, when asked about it, will say that they hate it, or in the very least are actively indifferent to it. I love it. Yes, it is incongruent, and yes, the light rail system it is ostensibly part of won't be completed until 2011 and has done nothing but make navigating the city by any means of transportation near impossible, but this bridge, tall and elegant, with a central mast and clean lines, gives the perception of fluidity and paradoxically, of a fixed skyline. It draws your eyes upward. Cities should do that.
I grew up in Chicago, a city that historically has been a mecca for architects. A skyline rife with skyscrapers pulls your eyes up and out- towards the sky and the lake. It gives a sense of liberation; a thrill of power; an unfettered joy. Anybody who has driven north down Lake Shore Drive with the windows open and Led Zeppelin on the radio will know what I mean. Come around that bend at 35th street and let the city greet you, ever changing and constant.
Jerusalem is jagged-edged and labyrinth like. It sinks down into itself-it grows downward rather than up. It is rife, not with skyscrapers, but with ghosts and tension. Sometimes it feels like a city that is slowly choking itself on an excess of religious sentiment. But there are moments of grace here too, usually at dawn or dusk, in soft light. There are old Arab houses shielded by a deep green- fruit trees and climbing bougainvillea, rumors of the orchards they once were. There are courtyards and children, and quiet places that you can find if you know where to look. And at night, in my old apartment, I was sometimes woken by the sound of muezzin calling the faithful to prayer and then again by bells of the Byzantine monastery in the Valley of the Cross and then yet again by the voices of a couple or just some kids chattering in Hebrew among the young, growing things in the garden below. I didn't sleep that well, but that's ok.
A few weeks ago my sister and I celebrated 5 years of being Israeli citizens. Since then I have been trying to worry out how I feel about this anniversary. I miss Chicago often. And usually at this time of year I would be there visiting my family and friends. By now I would have done my typical Chicago things- I would have dropped my suitcases (had they arrived with me, which they usually don't) at my parents' house and ran out to the public library with my oldest friend to stock up on all the books I had wanted to read over the course of the year. They don't do public libraries around here. I would have driven down to the University of Chicago to use their stellar academic library; to breathe in old books as I walked through the stacks; to see the ivy turning red like I did when I was an undergrad. I would have given my nieces a bath. I would have watched the first Bears game of the season with my brother. I would have taken the Red Line down town and stood among a mass of humanity on Randolph and State near Gallery 37, where I learned how to write.; seen a play; heard some music and bad open-mic. I would stood in a late summer rain. I would have slept in my childhood bed with my grumpy old man of a cat at my feet. But I'm not there and it doesn't rain here- not until October.
So why am I in Jerusalem? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. This is what I have here: I have those moments of grace. I have a new apartment which I share with my little sister, with wooden floorboards in my bedroom and a pantry in the kitchen. I have a mural that I painted with a rediscovered friend. I have a job, which I sometimes like. I have a thesis that is more than a small part of myself. I have a new foundling cat, who I am trying to learn to love as much as I do my grumpy old man. I have little cousins who run to the door when I arrive at their house (when they're not too busy watching tv) and an uncle and aunt who appreciate me for the adult I am becoming. I have friends- many friends with whom I have laughed and learned and sat in restaurants too expensive for us, eating churros and drinking beer on new years day. I have a cohesive sense of religious self and a dynamic sense of inner self. Some days I ache for the lakeshore. Some days I think that I ought to move to Haifa. But until that time I have these things and a bridge reminding me to look up.

Cubbie Watch: Can you say, we clinched the division? Why, yes. Yes, I can.

Music Rec: Magic by Bruce Springsteen

Thesis Watch: 13 pages

Sunday, September 7, 2008


About the Bears this season.

*Holds on to Devin Hester*

I amend this statement. Bears 29, Colts 13. A happy surprise.

*Holds on to Matt Forte*

Thesis watch: Evidently my desk is too cluttered for me to be writing a thesis. Or at least that's what Joseph has to say.

Book rec: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Cubbie watch: Still holding my breath. Getting hard to breath

Thursday, September 4, 2008

C is for cookie

Today, Y informed me that I look prettier without my glasses. Duly noted. Thanks for the beauty tip, babe.
Apropos of beauty, I had the funniest "conversation" with M, Y's mother, in an attempt to help her with the instructions with her hair dye kit. What started in broken Arabic soon devolved into mime and then further into laughter. That's my favorite part-the laughter.

Also, I baked cookies today. Oh oven, you make me so happy.

Thesis watch: Enough with the pressure already!

Book rec: I'm re-reading Daphne DuMaurier's Jamaica Inn and so should you.

Cubbie Watch: Oh, God. Oh, God.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

מלאכי ציפורים מעליך מלווים את צעדיך

Hey, look. We painted a mural.

Here's to heroic action.

Come back and visit soon.

Music Rec: Ehud Banai, השביל הזה

Book Rec: The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander (For old-times' sake)

Cubbie Watch: Ugh.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some of my favorite stories begin...

My sister moved in to our new apartment today. I've been living alone (well, with the cat and gerbil, so I'll amend "alone" to "without human company") for the past month. Now I have a dining room table and chairs, a washing machine, a wonderfully stupendous oven in which I will bake delicious treats like biscotti without them being burnt by a crap heating element, and a sister who is also my roommate.
Some of my favorite stories begin, "One time my sister and I...". Like that time when she got stuck in the doors of the train in Madrid. Now, that's a good story.

Thesis watch: Working on it

Book Rec: Are you my boyfriend? (But the big thing just said 'snort')

Cubbie Watch: 5.5 games up

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In Which I become a Fangirl (Or, an Open Letter to Ian Crocker)

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about the sport of swimming. Oh, I know how to swim, and I do swim often- but only for recreational purposes. My appreciation of competitive swimming could pretty much be summed up as- "Oh, hey. Look at all the pretty going fast." But this August, like much of the rest of the world, I got caught up in Phelpsmania (את חטאתי אני מזכירה היום) and in doing so I found Ian Crocker's blog.
Ian Crocker, my friends, is fast . He holds the world record in the 100 meter butterfly at 50.40 seconds, which is faster than I can put on my shoes in the morning (also I have never learned the butterfly). He can also write. In fact, he writes very, very well. Reading his blog, I was torn between intense jealousy (He can swim! He can write! He plays the guitar!) and immense admiration (He can swim! He can write! He can play the guitar! He loves his car! Made entirely of win). Sometimes his posts are just very good. He writes with wit and sincerity about music, his car and truck, his cats and food. He's fun to read. But sometimes his essays absolutely resonate.
One of his more moving posts is about scars. He writes about small scars- the time he sliced his hand open while tinkering with his beloved car and having to call his newly ex-girlfriend to come help him out. It's a sweet story and you can't help identifying with his open, slightly self-depreciating tone. I've certainly got scars like that-the ones on my hands, because though I'm a good cook, I'm an absolute klutz with a knife; that guy who won't call (jerk). You know, little scars. And then, suddenly, his essay becomes something else entirely. It becomes about a moment- a single, irrevocable moment in time; the type of moment that's personality forming. (And yeah, I got me some scars like that as well.) But the tone of the piece never falters. It remains open, self-reflective and humble. He doesn't wallow in self-pity, or anger. He never closes down on his reader. That takes a lot of guts.
After I read that post I felt like I needed a good cry, or in the very least, a good hug. But nobody was around so I settled for some quality bonding time with the cat. (Mr. Crocker, Annie thanks you.) I enjoy reading blogs. It's a feeling akin to catching glimpses of people's houses through the windows of a fast moving train- it's amusing, enlightening and sometimes perplexing (Why, in the name of all that is holy would anybody furnish their apartment like that? Really. Really.) But it is rare that a blogger makes me feel like I would like to stop and admire their living space, so to speak.
So, dear readers ,(I have readers?) go and check out Ian Crocker's blog at Send him some love. He hasn't updated in months, but it's worth reading his older posts. And to Mr. Crocker -at the risk of sounding presumptuous, condescending and generally fangirlish (none of which is intended)- I say this: Swim. Swim for as long as it serves a purpose in your life and for as long as it keeps you happy. Break a few more world records, if you so desire. I'll watch. But please, please, write. I don't much care about what- you have talent and sincerity and an interest in the small details of life- all of which contribute to the makings of a good writer. I sincerely hope to walk into a bookstore at some point in the future and find a book with your name on it and be highly happy.

Thesis Watch: 10 pages

Book rec: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Cubbie Watch: a tenuous 4 games up

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In Which I am Dead Serious

I made a promise I intend to keep.
B is a refugee from Southern Sudan. He and his family arrived in Israel in late July of 2007 along with thousands of other African refugees who slipped through the Egyptian border with the help of Bedouin trackers. Unlike many of the other refugees, B was not jailed. He was boarded onto a bus, along with about 6 other refugee families and dumped on the grounds of the Rose Garden adjacent to the Knesset- the home of Israel's parliament- in Jerusalem. It is there that I met him.
To be fair, I will say that I met B's daughter, Y, before I met him. When I arrived at the Rose Garden, laden with clothing and food, (none of which was actually needed), the refugees were huddled in distinct groups, talking in Arabic and looking slightly bewildered by the mass of disorganized volunteers that had come to help. Y was standing amidst a group of men, dressed in a bright pink faux leather winter coat, clutching her father's arm. I waved at her, figuring that if nobody would direct me as to how I could be helpful, I might as well play with the children. She smiled and buried her face in her father's body. I was entranced by her smile and by her incongruent coat which she wore so proudly in the summer heat. I would follow her anywhere and I did.
B's family, through the kindness of various Jewish Believers (Jews who believe in Jesus), found a home first in one suburb of Jerusalem and then in another. They've been living in relative peace now for almost a year. B and his wife, M, both work menial jobs in the community where they reside and Y has started Israeli kindergarten. Her Hebrew is almost fluent. The other two kids, J and A stay at home. At the beginning, I would visit them at least once a week, now a days I'm lucky if I get there once a month. I miss them. The visits I pay them are sometimes for my own benefit as well as theirs. Sometimes I just need to get out of the city; out of my life and play with some kids for a while.
I told B that I would write down his story if he told it to me. This is more complicated than it seems. His English is manageable, but not entirely coherent, and my spoken Arabic is almost non-existent. This is what I know: B was born in Southern Sudan to father who was wealthy and involved in the separatist government during the Civil War. He was a pagan and had two wives. B is one his youngest children. During the war, all his property was destroyed and he and four of his sons escaped into Ethiopia. Of those four sons, one made it to the United States, two may have made it back to Sudan and one was killed. B's father himself returned to Sudan, but was killed along with B's mother soon afterwards. As for B, at some point he left his village for Khartoum, where he was educated. I don't know the extent of his education. At some point he told me that he worked during the day and learned at night, which seemed to imply that he has some sort of higher education. However, he has also told me that he was unable to attend university because he was avoiding a mandatory draft, which would have meant sure death.
It was the draft that compelled B and his new wife, M to Egypt. B had converted to Christianity along with his brothers, and the combination of being both a Christian and from Southern Sudan, meant that he would almost certainly be killed. Most of his classmates were killed in exactly those circumstances. At first, the army sent him letters, then it threatened him with jail, and then with death. With the help of the English missionaries who ran the school he worked in, B changed his name and fled to Egypt. He reached Egypt via boat, which he was able to board only by the kindness of a fellow Southern Sudanese policeman who didn't challenge his assumed name.
B stayed in Egypt for five years. At first it went well for him and his family. He had two more children (Y was born in Sudan) and he and M had opened up a restaurant. But soon the mood changed and the Sudanese in Egypt were being attacked and told they should leave. Then there were the notorious shootings in front of the Sudanese embassy. B knew he couldn't stay in Egypt. He payed some Bedouin friends of his to smuggle him and his family over the boarder into Israel. I don't know how he knew that Israel would give him save haven. Maybe he just knew to go north. In any case, he has told me numerous times that he had always dreamed to see his holy land and now he has. He also dreams of going back to a peaceful Sudan to fix his broken country. I am not sure that dream will come to pass.
Y is prone to asking the oddest theological questions. One day she asks me whether Jesus has a body or not. I want to tell her that wars have been fought over that very question, but I don't even know how to explain to her that I am a Jew and that Jesus is not exactly my area of expertise let alone discuss complicated spiritual matters. I assure her that God loves her (no matter His form) and tell her to ask her father.
One Thursday before Passover we are swinging in the little playground next to her house and she says: "Adam and Eve ate from the tree and then the Egyptians were evil, right?" I pause for a second, but then answer in assent. After all, that's as good an explanation for presence of evil in the world as any I've got. Later, we sit in the trailer and sing the Passover songs that she learned in kindergarten, while her mother looks on, amused, but not understanding a word. I do not realize how moved I am until I am waiting for the bus back to Jerusalem on a lonely stretch of road. Here I am, in Israel, singing songs that generations of Jews have sung, with a little Christian girl who indeed came up from Egypt. Maybe she has just as much right to the song as I do. Sometimes the world is a good place to be.
The next time I see B, I am going to urge him to try and get a visa to the United States. His brother now has U.S. citizenship. This might make things easier. and he might be safer there. I want to say that B and his family will be able to stay in Israel and live in security. I can't say that. There is a distinct possibility that the state will deport the thousands of African refugees that have illegally entered its boarders. It will claim that it is doing so for the safety and security of its citizens and not many people will gainsay the state's right to do so. The politics of these sort of things are always complicated. Except, sometimes they're not. Sometimes, there's a right thing to do and there's a wrong thing to do. Now is one of those times.

Thesis Watch: No Comment

Book Rec: What is the What, by Dave Eggers

Cubbie Watch: 4.5 games up.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Farewell to Hudson

I sold Hudson last night. Hudson is my sleek teal monster of an iMac, who has traveled with me half-way across the world and resided with me in 4 apartments. He is also ancient. I bought him used in 2003- a lifetime ago for a computer. He still works fine and I am still very fond of him, but for the past two years I have been forced, due to my work and the fact that Israelis seem to have no idea what to do with a Mac ("What's a Mac?" is a common refrain), I have been using Ba'ab, who is a laptop and not a Mac and therefore inherently inferior. So Hudson sat there on my desk, sadly neglected, and I decided that the time had come to pass him on to someone who would love him and use him.
I started him up one last time, reveling in his familiar chime and hum. I opened all the documents I had left on the hard drive. I found forgotten papers, bad poetry, general drivel and a cache of letters I had written over the course of a year to one of my oldest, dearest friends who was in the army at that time. Re-reading the letters, I was struck by my intense fear of losing him and my desperate attempts to connect with him. I suppose I loved him. He never wrote back, though he called often, leaving messages on my answering machine at odd hours of the night. I was also struck by how nice it is to have some reminder of my own life outside of the academic exercise that was college. I wrote to him about the concerts I attended, my roommates, the kids I taught; about life. It's important to remember those things as well.
I saved the papers, and the poetry (which is actually growing on me) and the drivel. I erased the letters. Said friend is married now and has moved to his wife's hometown. He is once again across the ocean and not prone to writing back. I miss him, though I am no longer so afraid, nor so desperate. I don't miss that part of me.
I sold Hudson and I started a blog. I'd like to have some record of myself and the odd commentary on my life that floats through my head as I stumble about. I'll probably post all manner of things-drivel, poetry and general going-ons. I don't know how often I will post, or how long this experiment will last, but it will do for now.
Farewell, Hudson. I hope the nice grandmother who bought you really will love you and treat you well and use you to communicate with her grandchildren who are far away and far more technologically savvy than her. I'll miss your Macness, your teal sleekness, and calming electrical hum. The time has come, the walrus said...

Thesis watch: 8 pages

Book rec: The collected works of W.B. Yeats

Cubbie watch: 5.5 games up.