Books, Community, Kibbutz, Middle East Conflict, Politics, Spirituality, Survivalism, Terrorism, War, Writing

Not quite the end of the world

I just finished reading Station Eleven, a post-apocalyptic novel by Emily St. John Mandel. I highly recommend it. It’s the one of two five-star ratings I’ve given on GoodReads after going a long stretch without being able to give more than a three-star. (The other recent five-star was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, more to come on that soon.)

Whenever I read a dystopian novel — and moreso when I read a well-researched, well-written one like St. John Mandel’s — I can’t help but examine my own life and my own “what ifs” in the face of some future life-altering catastrophe I somehow survive.

Lately, as my mind has been busy with the America vs. Israel conversation (a two-sided dialogue I engage with myself at least once a day exploring the pros and cons of leaving or staying in Israel), I considered the events of the novel. The Earth is ravaged by a pandemic, killing off 99% of the population. Those who are not sickened and killed by the flu are left figuring out how — and more existentially, why — to survive. Some survivors are stranded in an airport far from home. They understand quickly they will never return. And this, today, is the question that occupied my mind:

What if I knew I would never see America again? Would never see my parents? My brothers? Any of my friends who live there?

Could I be happy, or satisfied at least, living in Israel, remaining here on Hannaton?

What if it weren’t the apocalypse (meaning: what if I abandoned the upset of knowing my loved ones were ill or gone), but an event that meant the end of international travel?

Could there be such an event? After which my parents were still alive, but inaccessible? Following which we in Israel still lived a somewhat normal life, but simply could not fly anymore? Or buy passage on a ship, even?

No. All I can imagine is disaster. There is no in-between in my imagination. There is no mild cataclysm. Either things are as they are now or the worst-case scenario.

*  *  *

However, if I were to play fiction writer, for a moment, I might say, “Hold on now. Let’s consider Donald Trump.” 

Donald Trump as American president is possibly the in-between disaster I can’t imagine; the wonky future in which the world still runs on electricity and internet and Dunkin Donuts, but international travel is forbidden. Let’s say, for instance, a Trump presidency leads to a law being passed in which American immigration is on hiatus, but citizens living abroad have a brief window to return. Once they do return, however, they are required to remain on American soil for the next four years. America, in this fictional scenario, is testing out a new policy for the duration of Trump’s term. It’s called something like “No American Left Behind.”

“The In-Or-Out” law, the talking heads dub it.

Would I leave then?

Would we pack up our belongings and run back home?

What if there was no time for belongings? Only time for the five of us with one-way tickets and that which we could fill in our suitcases?

Would that be a home we would want to live in anyway?

What’s scarier? I considered. America as a gated-community? Or the idea of being stuck in Israel for an indefinite amount of time with no certainty of ever seeing my family again?

What kind of decisions, I asked myself, do we make in the face of black-and-white? Of choose this or that?

And what kind do we make in the face of seeming interminable uncertainty?

*  *  *

To be honest, I’m not paying too much attention to the U.S. presidential election, but I noticed on Facebook today someone saying they planned to vote Republican in the primary — vote for Rubio — as a way of derailing Trump’s run. But what if that was the plan all along? Democrats, for all their intellectualism, can be pretty stupid. Conservatives are wiley. Strategic. Cool cats. Liberals, with all their free love tend to act irrationally, emotion-based, don’t think enough before jumping in heart first.

Then, on Twitter later in the morning, someone wrote they thought the media hype equating Trump with Hitler was an exaggeration. I don’t quite align myself politically with this person, so I can’t put my faith in his ease. But as a reader of post-apocalyptic fiction I can say with certainty that there is always the guy on Twitter who thinks it’s not as bad as everyone says it is. This is classic disaster narrative. Bad guy/bad storm/bad killer disease. Makes no difference. The experts keep it quiet at first, but then feel compelled to reveal the danger to the masses as they realize their calculations were too understated. Upon learning of the now likely unavoidable danger, half the masses freak out, and the other half cry hysteria. Usually, there’s the goofy teenager who makes fun of the hurricane/flood/asteroid (he’s the first to go), and often, the old guy saying in his old guy voice “I never thought I’d see the day.”

No matter what, though, there’s always the guy who — just before the shit hits the fan — says most assuredly, “It can’t be as bad as people are making it out to be.” This is the point at which you should start storing water and supplies. 

I haven’t started shopping, though. In fact, my storage room/bunker is as empty as it’s been since we’ve lived here. And I wonder why. I wonder if it’s acceptance or if it’s resignation.

And does it matter? Am I saner if I am accepting or saner if I am resigned?

Acceptance: Yes, this is the world we live in.

Resignation: Yes, there will be disaster.

Acceptance: There is no certainty.

Resignation: Why bother? You will likely not survive the apocalypse, anyhow.

I don’t know which it is. What I do know is that reading Station Eleven has me grateful for my flushing toilets, and for my Google search, and especially for my at-home, self-grinding espresso machine. It had me abandon for a few hours my ongoing, inner turmoil over where to live now or next; which direction to choose.

Neither decision, I suppose, would be the end of the world.


Poetry, Terrorism, War

When there is beauty inside bad news


“Parking lots have sprouted
outside each kibbutz;
as reservists mass
for entry into
Gaza, their hatchbacks
with toddler seats
the dust of days.”

— Jodi Rudoren in
The New York Times
Tunnels Lead Right to Heart of Israeli Fear
July 28, 2014

Family, Love, Poetry, Survivalism, Terrorism, War

Head Shaking Madness

This war    this war    this war    this war

This  world    This world    This world    This world

My kid’s food allergies.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Cancer. The bad kind.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

The boogeyman’s make believe.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

My husband on a plane somewhere.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

I can’t throw up like that again.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Miss you.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Money in the way.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

I killed the cat. That was       THE CAT.     FUCK.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

Gotta make it before the siren.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

How many miles til Hadera?

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

She’s going to die. She’s dying.

This world.


This war    this war    this war    this war

This world    This world    This world     This world

These people      These pronouns

These words            These words

This world.

Health, Parenting, Politics, Survivalism, Terrorism, War

What’s worse? Jet lag or war?

As if jet lag, back-to-school prep, protecting my kids from a polio outbreak and returning to work after a 2 1/2 week long digital detox wasn’t stressful enough, now I have to worry about a Syrian attack before Thursday.


TOMORROW is Thursday?

Holy crap.


I should have bought more Tums while I was in the States.

Or I should have taken a longer vacation.

Either way, I am in deep doo doo because my stomach just can’t handle the stress.

Last night was the first full night sleep I have gotten in three days. THREE DAYS.

And tonight I have to attend a women’s birth circle on Hannaton. (Don’t ask.)

I have no time to clean out the MAMAD!

No time!

No time before Thursday!

Do you hear that John Kerry! No time!!!!!

Okay, I’m breathing.

And eating Tums.

And hoping all of this goes down the way of the Japanese dinosaur prank.

It’s scary for a few minutes until you realize the dinosaur is wearing jeans.

Climate Changes, Community, Environment, Family, Middle East Conflict, Survivalism, Terrorism

An imaginable future

When we first moved to Israel, I felt uncomfortable sitting on buses and in cafes.

I would casually look around, trying to avoid notice, to see if there were any suspicious people or packages about; not sure, exactly, what my reaction would be if I spotted one.

Over time I have found myself less and less suspicious. More at ease in public places, as it so happens, but still not at ease.

“At ease” is not a behavior I was born with — or maybe I was — and was just spooked one too many times by a mischievous friend or traumatized by too many VC Andrews novels.

The world, for me, has almost always been a scary place.

And I have almost always been easily startled.

While here in Israel, I cautiously scan the room for bombs; in the States, I cautiously scanned darkened evening streets for rapists and quiet alleys for thugs. I walked quickly through empty hallways and avoided elevators with lone men. I double and triple locked my doors, and was known to sometimes sleep with the lights on. Especially the night after The Blair Witch Project.

I remember being in a bar watching a band perform in New York City once, in the months just before 9/11 but fresh enough after Columbine to still be jumpy, and leaping off my seat at the sound of a small explosion in the back of the room. Someone’s hair had caught fire accidentally on the tea light candle intended for atmosphere, and instead of atmosphere we were treated to dramatic special effects.

After I caught my breath, I laughed out loud at my reaction, but internally asked myself what I had been so concerned about. What immediate danger did I think the noise indicated?

A gun shot?

An explosion?

A brawl?

It’s the first time I remember my unease extending from mild anxiety to a heightened concern for my immediate well-being and the well-being of others.

From then and there, unfortunately, my unease has only become gradually uneasier.

And not because my anxiety has worsened, and not because I moved to Israel.

In fact, my anxiety has significantly improved in the last decade since I started acknowledging it and paying attention to it and using focused breathing, meditation and mindfulness.

Moving to the slow-paced countryside of Israel, in some ways, has helped, too.

But no matter how significantly my anxiety has improved, the world hasn’t. Since 9/11, the way I see it, we have been witness to more violent crimes like those in Aurora and Newtown and Boston and have experienced the communal aftermath of incomprehensible tragedies like Katrina and Sandy and are becoming more and more awakened to the devastation of our planet and the resources we have taken advantage of all our lives.

And suddenly I am no longer a minor statistic in a clinical journal.

It’s not just me and my world viewed through an anxiety-colored lens.

The world itself has become anxiety-colored. The world itself is on edge.

I watched this video of grown men jumping out of their seats; seemingly reaching to hug each other at the sound of thunder booming loudly over Yankee Stadium during a rain delay.

At first, I giggled. It was cute. Funny.

And then I paused, and realized, it wasn’t funny at all.

Grown men — baseball players, even, symbols of fearlessness and recklessness — jumping out of their seats at the sound of a …


We are living in a world in which we are now, clearly, all easily startled.

scaredy cats

I know I’m not the first to make the claim that the world is growing bleaker and blacker.

There are voices much louder than mine that have come before.

And even though my voice is not the first.

There is always a glimmer of hope it can become one of the last.

The year I was born poet and activist Shel Silverstein wrote:

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

(Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein)

Those children are now grown.

Those children are now us.

And it’s indeed possible we have come to where the sidewalk ends.

And we need to choose in which direction we will continue.

We may continue to jump at loud noises, and then numb ourselves to an unacknowledged shared pain.

Self-medicating with food, technology, entertainment, drink, drugs, sex, consumerism, waste, whatever — silently signing the same consent form to ignore, to waive liability.

Or we may create together a world in which we can imagine its future.

A future not out of a dystopian film, but one lined with the vibrant green grass of my childhood memories and narrated by Shel Silverstein.

I want a future lined with colorful sunsets for my children to fall in love under.

And I want to hear thunder… and scream,

then giggle.

Knowing my fears are only imagined.

Climate Changes, Culture, Terrorism

Experts say Israel safer than most

So I was thinking about the zombie apocalypse the other day afterreading the story about the Florida man who was shot while attempting to eat another man’s face. I was tweeting about it with comedian Rachel Dratch (okay fine, I was retweeting Rachel Dratch, who doesn’t know I exist…yet), and felt once again a sense of security in the belief that if the apocalypse were to happen, Israel would be the last sucker to go.

Since moving to Israel 18 months ago from New Jersey, I have slowly let down my anxiety-induced guard. Now it’s actually possible for me to walk into a Café Aroma and not worry about being blown up, especially at the Café Aroma in Karmiel, where I eat lunch every now and again and where I feel somewhat irrationally appeased by the fact that half the patrons are local Arabs and would make this particular Café Aroma a poor terrorist target.

Terrorism is no joke. I know this. Sarcasm is my crutch. Along with meditation. And 70% dark chocolate.

But just as some of you worry about terrorist attacks and the possibility of a nuclear attack from Iran, I worry about the zombie apocalypse.

Or  the pole shift phenomenon as dramatized in the 2009 Roland Emmerich film, “2012.” Or snakes crawling up my toilet and biting my privates when I pee in the middle of the night.

While there’s certainly a lot about living in Israel that exacerbates my anxiety, you might be surprised to know I actually feel safer living in a country that is prepared for the shit to hit the fan.

Israel is the place you want to be when Michael Crichton books start coming true. We have loads of creative scientists who can immediately turn their focus from investigating testes in a test-tube to finding the magical antidote for the zombie virus.

If an asteroid really does come super close to earth, enough to cause danger to human civilization, Israel can come to the rescue. Gather up all the engineers working secretly behind Rafael’s secured gates and hole them up inside Israel’s Space Agency until they come up with a plan for as asteroid destroyer, one that puts the “Armageddon nuke to shame. (Did you know that Israel is the “smallest country with indigenous launch capabilities?”)

I feel comfort in the fact that I don’t have to be a crazy prepper survivalistwith my own YouTube channel in order to feel comfortable saying out loud that I actually have my very own secured, hideout bunker stocked with canned sardines and a month’s supply of toilet paper. My MAMADcame standard with my house. So there, haters!

I may still get nervous boarding public buses, and watch my back on the windy Galilee roads I drive to and from work. Yeah, I still feel jittery about the end of the Mayan calendar, and notice with interest the billboards about the Rapture that occasionally pop up even here in Israel. But in a nutshell, I have faith that unless an advanced alien civilization (the one that secretly runs the New World Order) shows up on December 21, 2012, and tells us our time is up and that we need to be pulverized into dust for messing up this planet beyond repair — well, I actually believe that living in Israel is as safe as living anywhere else.

If not safer. (Or so claim the imaginary expert voices in my brain.)

This was originally published (with a lot of fun zombie pics) on The Times of Israel.

Culture, Love, Middle East Conflict, Politics, Religion, Terrorism

Tears in the desert

When I really want to feel life, I put on Billy Joel’s “Songs in the Attic” and drive to work.

It doesn’t have to be Billy Joel. Jackson Browne also works. Depending on the season, so does Randy Newman or the Beach Boys or Elvis Costello’s and Burt Bacharach’s Painted from Memory. In fact, I created a “Songs that Move Me” mix for the very purpose of crying in the car.

If I was more disciplined, I would commit to a regular heart-opening practice, such as meditation or journaling.  But as a full-time immigrant executive mom of three, my ride to work is about the only reliable stretch of quiet time I’ve got these days.

I realized this one day, as I was driving the 20 minutes from my house to my office, amongst the green hills of the Western Galilee. “Hmm,” I thought. “Rather than listen to the news or gripe about the traffic, this would be quite the picturesque opportunity to feel.”

Not move. Not do. Not think.


I can’t speak for the rest of humanity, but I’m not well-trained for feeling and being.  Very well-trained for moving and doing, but not feeling and being.

One of my intentions when I moved to Israel was to get better at “being.” Being present. Experiencing life fully.

If there’s a place in the world to live that brings you ever closer to the realization that there’s “no day but today,” it’s the Middle East. But since I got a full-time job here, and moreso since I was promoted to a senior level management position at the company for which I work, my doing is trumping my being. I realized how severe the problem was when I started dreaming about people from work.  I started to understand just how not present I was when rockets started falling again in Southern Israel a few weeks ago.

Like everyone else, I thought a lot about it. I read about it. I posted articles on Facebook.

But, in all honesty, I didn’t feel it much.

And that worries me.

I don’t miss the booming or the shaking — For that, I am grateful. I am grateful that we live three hours North of where the kassams are falling. I am grateful our kids are still going to school.  I am grateful I can leave for work in the morning and feel fairly confident that all will be well when I return in the evening.

As much as any of us in the world can, at least.

But I worry that I don’t physically feel that ache in my heart for the children who are missing school because the sirens won’t stop or physically feel in my throat the lump that represents compassion for the parents who have to drop down to the ground and shield their children each time there is “tzeva adom” (red alert).

Of course, I am not an animal. I think compassion and I think worry and I even think fear. I think about it a lot. But I don’t know that I feel it. At least, not deeply enough to do me good.

Martha Beck writes,

“Emotional discomfort, when accepted, rises, crests and falls in a series of waves. Each wave washes a part of us away and deposits treasures we never imagined.

Out goes naivete, in comes wisdom; out goes anger, in comes discernment; out goes despair, in comes kindness. No one would call it easy, but the rhythm of emotional pain that we learn to tolerate is natural, constructive and expansive… The pain leaves you healthier than it found you.”

In her bestseller, Expecting Adam, Beck also writes, “You’ll never be hurt as much by being open as you have been hurt by remaining closed.”

I know this to be true. And yet sometimes I forget.

And while I can’t speak for all humanity, I would guess that a lot of us do. Forget, that is. Feel numb, that is. Turn our faces away from the scenes that disturb us. Turn up the loud music to drown out the voices that worry us, or the memories that cause us pain. Breathe a sigh of relief that someone else’s worry is not our worry today.

I won’t drive down South with my children to experience the fear and pain of rockets for myself. But I can and will drive to work with my “Songs that Move Me” mix or my Billy Joel so that I feel the rhythm of emotional pain.

It’s an emotional pain I can tolerate. It’s, as Beck says, constructive and expansive.

I often compare my “heart-opening drive” to Holly Hunter’s cry in “Broadcast News.” For some reason, since I first fell in love with this film at age 13, I always related to the Holly Hunter character. In particular, to the scene when she unplugs the phone in her motel room and allows herself five minutes just to cry.

What is she doing? I always thought, when I watched this movie as a young adult. I don’t get it.

But now I do.

That motel room. Those five minutes of silence. It’s a safe space for her to flirt with deep emotion.

And my mountainous, twisting and turning commute up towards the Western Galilee offers me the same.

The solitude provides me with the opportunity; and the right choice of music weakens my chest just enough to let a little feeling in.

Today on my car radio, Billy Joel sings Summer, Highland Falls. And I cry.

Perhaps Joel was writing about his messy divorce, or his childhood, but this morning when I listen to the emotionally heavy poetry woven into his words, I only hear Israel:

“And so we’ll argue and we’ll compromise, and realize that nothing’s ever changed.

For all our mutual experience, our separate conclusions are the same…

Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity…A reason coexists with our insanity…

And so we choose between reality and madness

It’s either sadness or euphoria.”

Culture, Middle East Conflict, Politics, Religion, Terrorism

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

(This originally appeared as “Israeli in Progress” on The Jerusalem Post)

Before I lived in Israel, I was a tourist to Israel.

I visited Israel three times as a program participant between the years 1992 and 2000, and twice independently with family.

Each time, there were outright rules and admonitions from tour guides, concerned locals, or experienced travelers to Israel (“Don’t drive to Jerusalem via Jericho.”); and unspoken or whispered advice (“You’re young. You’re blonde. Stay out of Arab villages and east Jerusalem.”)

The message received? “Sure, Israel is a lot safer than she often looks on t.v., but there is a real danger here nonetheless, and that danger is Arab.”

Twice during my earlier travels to Israel, I found myself alone with Arabs and frightened. Once deservedly – an Arab cab driver picked me up near the Kotel in Jerusalem and made me ride in the front seat with him and more than once on the way to my destination caressed my knee. Funny enough, I was less worried about being raped than I was of the idea of being dragged to east Jerusalem.

The second time was when I ended up lost on my way driving alone from Tel Aviv to Tiberias, and found myself in Nazareth. All it took for hysteria to set in was the sight of a billboard in Arabic promoting a fruit drink endorsed by Yasser Arafat. I quickly pulled into a parking lot and hid in my car trembling while I consulted the map. Thankfully, no one tried to make me drink the Arafat fruit punch.

When we made Aliyah, I arrived to Israel carrying the “Arabs are scary” baggage still.

In fact, it was only after we decided to live on Hannaton that I realized that Kfar Manda, the next big town over, was an Arab town, and that essentially, we were surrounded by Arab villages (some Muslim, some Druze — all Israeli). Once I found out, outwardly I felt proud, in the same way a white girl living in Harlem might. But inwardly, especially when I heard a rumor that Manda houses an active terrorist cell, I felt that same sense of discomfort. “Arabs are scary.” Whether or not the terrorist cell rumor has any truth to it, I still don’t know. But so far my comfort level extends only to getting gas at the station just outside of town (because it’s on my way home from work), but not heading into the town center alone for a shwarma or some vegetables.

I’m fully aware that my fear of Arabs is directly related to my ignorance and to lack of personal experience. That it has nothing to do with personal human interaction, and everything to do with stories spread by fearful people. Some of these stories are true, of course; but some are exaggerated. And, none of the stories belong to me.

In fact, all of my interactions with Arabs since I’ve moved to Israel have not only been benign, but a few have even been memorable examples of human kindness.

For instance, there’s a Middle Eastern restaurant my in-laws frequent: of all the restaurants we’ve been to Israel, it’s the one where the kitchen staff is the most sensitive to my kids’ food allergies. And just yesterday, I was driving home from a business meeting in Tel Aviv when I realized something was terribly wrong with my car. I ignored the noise for a good ten minutes, long enough to get off the beach highway and pull over to the shoulder. It didn’t take long to understand that the piece hanging off the front side of my car was not necessarily going to stop the car from running, but certainly was not going to allow me to get home safely if it kept dragging. I made it to the nearest gas station, one near an Arab Village, where two Arab attendants fixed my car temporarily. They didn’t hesitate when I asked them to help me and they didn’t ask for payment.

If I had followed the “Rules for American Jewish Girls Travelling in Israel,” I would have never made it home. The Arab-run gas station was the only one around for miles.

I can’t hold myself up as the picture of co-existence or tolerance just because I live in the lower Galilee and ask for help from handy, young Arab guys. But I have realized in the short time that I have lived here that my understanding of the situation between Jews and Arabs in Israel is transforming from one informed by stories to one informed by experience — and we all know that it’s real, live interaction between people that is the miraculous cure to both real and imagined conflict.

And my real, live Jewish interaction with real, live Arabs makes us all one teeny tiny step closer to peace

Climate Changes, Middle East Conflict, Terrorism

Looking for trouble

Apparently, I missed an earthquake today. I don’t know how. I wasn’t riding in a car. I wasn’t swimming. In fact, at 11:53, the time at which it happened, I remember looking at the clock on my computer and wondering how long I should wait before taking lunch.

But I missed it.

I’ve been waiting 36 years to be at the center of a natural disaster and I missed it.

Okay, a 4.1 magnitude earthquake centered some 50 miles away from you is not quite a natural disaster, and I should be thankful for such a statement.

But, since my coworkers, just a few desks away from me, felt the shaking (most thought it was construction going on in our office building), I’m a bit bummed that I didn’t feel a thing.

Maybe I was too hungry.

Others would brush it off, be happy that it wasn’t “the big one” that apparently Israel is due for. But, not me. I have this unexplanable desire to feel the earth tremble.

I don’t know when my obsession with disaster began.

Certainly, when I was still a kid. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d put my money on The Wizard of Oz. I was entralled with the film from a tender age, and those of you who are American and in your thirties or older will remember that  it used to be an annual tradition to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV, like the Ten Commandments during Passover, or The Year Without A Santa Claus, during the holiday season.

I remember being as young as five and sitting Indian style in front of our color television watching intensely the cyclone rip Dorothy away from Kansas to Oz. Since the movie simultaneously thrilled me and petrified me, I spent half the time in front of the TV and the other half behind the couch hiding.

So, it could be that my fascination with catastrophe is thanks to L. Frank Baum.  Or, preferring smut to literature, you could subscribe to the Audrey Rose theory: I was reincarnated into this life after perishing in a terrible catastrophe in a previous life; my soul is haunted by said catastrophe; and I naturally seek out to learn all I can to prevent it from happening again.

Or, more realistically, perhaps I’m just one of the many thousands of sensitive human beings who, without trying, automatically attempts to empathize with another’s suffering by imagining what it’s like to be in one of those situations: from tsunami to hurricane to flood.

I know I’m not alone in my fascination. There’s a reason why in recent years we’ve seen an explosion in catastrophe related entertainment:  With shows like “Storm Chasers” and “Full Force Nature,”  The Weather Channel and The Discovery Channel expertly take advantage of our society’s growing interest in (and dare I say understanding of) the frequency with which disasters occur, how ineffective we are at predicting them, and how often they signficantly impact civilization.

When I moved to Israel, I was really surprised to learn we are located on a bunch of active fault lines. Furthermore, there are some dormant volcanoes sleeping in the area of the Golan Heights. Who knew? Here I was anticipating only the anxiety of terrorist attacks or regional turblulence (aka “war.”) I had no idea that earthquakes and volcanoes were a possibility, too.

Don’t mistake my glibness for a death wish or insensitivity for those who have suffered horrible losses in the face of disaster. I know I can afford to be glib because I’ve never gone through it. 

But now, with the ghosts of war and terrorism constantly hanging over my head, I suddenly realized I don’t want to. In fact, I wonder if there is some way to retroactively reverse all that wishing for disaster.

Because, truth is, there is only so much turbulence this sensitive soul can handle. Considering I still jump every single time they make innocent announcements over the kibbutz loudspeaker, I think it’s probably best I didn’t feel the earthquake.

I need to stock up on my adrenaline for when I might really need it.

Living in Community, Middle East Conflict, Politics, Religion, Terrorism


It’s 9:30 am on the day of the supposed Rapture.

If you’re a good friend of mine IRL, you’ll know that since 9/11 I have been minorly obsessed with and concerned about things like cataclysm, apocolypse, and your basic run of the mill doomsday scenario. Truthfully, my obsession goes back even farther: I remember sitting in my parents bedroom in front of their color TV and watching The Day After with intent, alone. From that day on, from time to time, I imagined myself in disaster scenarios. How would I make it? Would I even want to make it? What’s the benefit to being one of the survivors in a new world that sucks? Where you have to eat rodents and pull your own teeth out when they rot?

When my book club read The Road, I had nightmares, but I also took mental notes.  I want to be prepared, truly I do. But it’s an expensive proposition to have a fully-stocked underground bunker. Since 9/11, however, I have had a medium-sized tupperware container stocked in my basement with a week or two supply of food and some basic disaster kit items like matches and flashlights. Truth is, though, what I really want is a stronghold out in the woods seriously stocked for survival, but when I asked my husband for this for my birthday, he got me a pretty purple scarf instead.

He’s practical.

Now that I live in Israel, you’d think that I would be even more frightened. You’d think that the Middle East is certainly the part of the world that will “end” first.


Or maybe it will be the place where most people survive and start anew.

I jokingly told this to my friend Jami before I left in December. She knows that I partially believe December 21, 2012 might indeed be TEOTWAWKI. I said to her, “If the shit hits the fan in 2012, Israel is either the first to go or the only place standing.” (Ha ha ha, I laughed. But I really meant it. I mean it still.)

So, now that my Facebook friends are jokingly posting REM videos on their status updates and news media outlets are trying to maintain serious tones while reporting on the beliefs of Family Radio, I sit and breathe deep, hoping that we can all laugh about this tomorrow.

What? you ask. Are you actually worried about this Rapture thing?

I can’t say that I’m actively worried, but The Rapture is just another impetus for me to start thinking about the things I have been anxious over since 9/11 and even moreso in recent years in which we’ve been witness to the world, at the very least, “having a really hard time.”

War, economic crises, tsunamis, tornadoes. I can see how the folks who take the Bible literally can get on board with Harold Camping’s prediction. It really does seem like end times in many ways, if you believe in that sorta thing.

But getting back to why I think Israel is the place to be if TSHTF. Most survivalists — the guys and gals who have cabins up in the mountains of West Virginia stocked full of food, electric generators, and guns — tell you that living off the beaten path is much better than living in the city. You’ll want to be near a natural water source (I have a reservoir less than 1/2 a mile away.) You’ll want land to grow your own food — we have orchards of olive and grapefruit trees here, not to mention a dairy farm.

In addition, because of years of war and conflict in Israel, we do have bunkers stocked with weapons right here on the kibbutz. Furthermore, as every Israeli citizen is required to serve 2-3 years in the army, I have friends and neighbors who know how to use said weapons. They’ve been paratroopers and medics. They know which herbs are safe to eat and which can be used to soothe burns.

I have gas masks stocked in my office. We have a national warning system. Not to mention ancient caves and waterways to hide in. And don’t forget about Masada.

Israel, if anywhere, is ready for shit to hit the fan.

Now, none of this will help me too much if the Earth opens up and swallows me as some Rapturists believe.  And it certainly won’t help me if an asteroid hits the Mediterranean and a huge tsunami sweeps us away into Syria.

But, I kinda think my odds of surviving cataclysm have increased just by making Aliyah.

Not an advantage you are necessarily going to advertise on the brochure. But useful nonetheless.

Politics, Terrorism

In case you’re wondering, I’m okay

When you live in the States, unless you work for an American Jewish communal organization, an American Jewish newspaper (like I did at one point), or a synagogue, you are less than aware of the back-and-forth between terrorists in Israel and the IDF.

Unless there is a bus bombing.

Then, the major news agencies like CNN and MSNBC start paying a little bit of attention, and if Israel is lucky, the attack gets a minor International news headline somewhere mid-way down the list. Thanks to social media, a few more Americans might know when children are killed in Israel or bags explode near bus stations; but only because one of your Facebook friends works for an Israel-related non-profit or because your brother is there on business and checks in to let you know he’s okay. Or because your loud-mouthed blogging friend made Aliyah recently.

I hear a very deafening silence from my American friends today.

 Of the almost 700 friends I have on Facebook, not one has asked me if I am okay following the terrorist attack yesterday in Jerusalem, in which a British tourist was killed and 39 others wounded. Not one of my friends has posted on my Wall or sent me a message.

You might think this is because I am unpopular. Not so. Despite what my Facebook friends might think about me in real life, they do enjoy interacting with me on Facebook.

For instance, a month ago, I wrote on my Facebook status update that I thought I saw a UFO flying one night over my kibbutz in the North. About 20 people commented. Even last week, when I told my Facebook friends I wouldn’t be able to attend an adult Purim party due to a fever, I received about ten heartfelt condolences.

My friends care about me, and they interact with me frequently on Facebook.

Yet, no one seems to be worried about my condition following the Jerusalem bombing.

You might think this is because I don’t live in Jerusalem, and therefore my friends confidently know I am safe. But, how can that be? I’ve traveled to Jerusalem at least four times since I made Aliyah in December. My husband has been to Jerusalem for a job interview. The bombing occurred at 3 pm in the afternoon. For all anyone knows, my husband or I easily could have been at the bus station waiting for a ride back to HaMovil Junction, the bus stop nearest to our home.

You might think my friends were sure I would never take the bus, and therefore were positive I was not at the bus station when the bomb went off. Not so, either. Just last week I got on a bus at the Haifa central bus station after trying out an Ulpan class, and subsequently rode the bus home, sharing it with a wide variety of Israeli residents, Jews and Arabs alike.

You might think my friends are not worried about me because they know I am alive and well.

But that’s not what I think.

I think most of my friends don’t even know it happened.

I don’t think my friends — who have been glued to news stations and web sites for a week now following the earthquake, tsunami, and danger of nuclear fallout, or the uprisings and activity in Libya –have much of an idea that anything scary or dangerous has happened in any near vicinity to me.

Which is good in the sense that I haven’t yet received a call from a worried mother or father asking if we are all okay, and more important, “When are you moving back to America?” But it’s also makes very clear to me what Israeli citizens have been saying for years: Save for a few diehard Israel fans and outspoken opinionated members of the community, American Jews are extremely uninformed or extremely desensitized to what’s going on in Israel. To make it plain, they are unaware or just don’t care. 

Which one is it? Did you know there was a bus bombing in Jerusalem yesterday?
And if you did, why aren’t you concerned?

Where are you, my American Jewish friends? My friends who donate money to kindergartens in Beersheba? My friends who sit on Jewish organizational boards? Who send their kids to Jewish preschools? Who plan Solomon Schechter fundraisers? Who get drunk on Simchat Torah at that hip Jewish synagogue on the Upper West Side? Who lead Federation missions? Who read Lifecycle announcements in The Jewish Exponent?

Where are you today?

Please understand: I am not criticizing you. To be sure, until recently, I was you. The busy Diaspora Jew who counted on the mainstream American media to tell me the truth and to appropriately prioritize my news for me.

But I’m not anymore. Now, I’m the friend you should be checking in on when there is a bus bombing in Jerusalem.

If only you knew it happened.