31 January 2008

31 January 2008

The other week, days before the now infamous January 2008 snowstorm, I bought waterproof boots. Besides being insulated and rather inexpensive, they were made in Israel. Just as I had lowered my moral standard and was willing to buy Made in China for the sake of dry feet, the clouds broke and a beam of ethical consumerism shone through the windows of a nondescript shoe store downtown.

They’ve more than paid their dues in the last week. They withstood horizontal rain in Herzliya, snowbanks near my apartment and tidal waves from passing cars driving fast through puddles. Trudging through the snow is much more fun when you can walk straight into a snowdrift and emerge dry. Today was spent helping a friend with a major appliance and taking more pictures of people enjoying the day off. I got videos of snow falling on a palm tree and the only plow noticeable on the streets (more like a bulldozer, holding up traffic on a one-way road). Snow can transport a place into another dimension, cutting it off from the humdrum of reality into a much-needed break, with people smiling and regressing in age. Sort of like Christmas in the States, but without the commercialism.

That break was exactly what everyone needed, as the second report regarding the war in 2006 came out yesterday during the storm. When the plows were nowhere to be found, they were probably escorting the panel to the press conference by the entrance to town. The report isn’t anything surprising, self-toned down in its criticism of the government. Everyone expected (or more appropriately, hoped) this would be the report, the one that would satiate the public’s disappointment with the war by damning the Prime Minister and government enough to force them to resign. The current PM has survived scandal after scandal – why would a report about a war in which hundreds of civilians on both sides died and exposed our lack of preparedness be any different from those other affairs?

Reading the coverage on the US Presidential elections from this side of the world is satisfying, perhaps ironically for those of you saturated by the ads and propaganda. At least over there, there’s a real potential for a turn-over in leadership – here it’s gonna be a long time until people my age, so disenchanted with the world of politics, not only will feel compelled enough to take on the mantle of national leadership but will be able to push past the barriers of cronyism and condescending attitudes.

The situation is that bad, there’s going to be a new reality show devoted to it. Move over “A Star is Born” (Israeli American Idol) and “Born to Dance” – introducing “A Legislator is Born.” Written up in last week’s weekend edition of the paper, a new show aims to find the best young leaders in Israel and the top nine winners will receive various parliamentary positions in the Knesset. A tremendous an important opportunity for this country that hopefully will begin the end of the “Lama, mi met? (Why, who died?)” attitude many of those in power have towards being questioned.

In the interest of making the competition as fierce as possible, if you know anyone with Israeli citizenship in their 20’s or 30’s, the website is http://www.manhigut-project.com/.

30 January 2008

30 January 2008

Last night, everyone had their noses pressed up to their cold windows, condensation forming all over the panes, eagerly waiting the snow this town has been preparing for since last weekend. The national news reports yesterday were all about Jerusalem’s preparations. The free paper that’s now delivered to my door every day gave tips on surviving the snow, including “Wear warm clothes and layers. On leaving the house, wear a coat, hat and gloves.” Another column discussed how those who study Kabbalah roll around in the snow in order to atone for sins, but fear not those of you who don’t study Jewish mysticism: the article goes on to say how rubbing your arms and forehead with anow along with the recitation of a verse has the same effect.

Having to trek out to school yesterday, I got stuck outside in the rain that was traveling horizontally across the coast.

After a few spats of wintry mix, the snow properly arrived some time last night. I didn’t sleep well, eagerly anticipating its arrival. I set my alarm for 8.30, but was well awake beforehand. I opened the blinds and there it was: winter wonderland. At least an inch had accumulated overnight, too heavy to be supported by the trees already in turmoil from the gusting wind. The streets look barely plowed, if at all, and are amazingly silent like only a snowstorm can make them. No public transportation this morning, no school, not even healthcare at the clinic next door. A few cars here and there; otherwise, nonstop snowfall. As I’m writing this, I’m watching the neighbor’s orange tree get covered in snow, the one lone orange atop a branch beaming brightly against the surrounding evergreens, wet limestone buildings and accumulating snow.

This afternoon, venturing out in the snow was like reliving snowstorms in DC. Two world capitals whose inhabitants are so consumed with manmade power than when nature reintroduces herself into the party, everyone leaves. More appropriately, runs screaming from the party, raiding the closest grocery of all bread, milk batteries and eggs.
The streets near me, adorned with multimillion dollar apartments, are unpaved, yet another similarity with DC. Assorted families build snowmen on sidewalks, a nice family outing, until they leave and their monstrous creations stay behind, waving passers-by with their twig hands and eventually decapitated forms. Schools are cancelled today and tomorrow, with the municipality’s Annual Snowman Building Contest taking place both days.

The snow doesn’t come alone, rather somewhere in a sequence of rain, freezing rain, hail and sleet. By this evening, a lot had melted and more had fallen, preparing the roads for a nice sheet of ice come morning. Day 2 in the snow to come.

16 January 2008

15 January 2007

I just got back from one of the oddest interviews. The job’s to help develop a website focusing on a very current and important topic in the Middle East and abroad. Arriving at its offices, the labyrinth needed to get there entailed choosing one of three doors: A, B, and yes, C (the correct answer, as opposed to the others with man-eating tigers). The interview consisted of me listening to the idea of the website and restraining any facial movements after understanding how myopic and bigoted the operation was. The only way I would work there, I thought to myself, was to not get credit for my work, as it could potentially damage academic and professional interests in the future.
To top it all off, I was asked after the interview to submit to a handwriting analysis, as part of the hiring process. I was told this was a procedure everyone did as a means to ensure the right personalities were brought into the organization. In Internet parlance, this is known as “WTF?!” I copied a random note to fulfill the requested ¾ page of writing, thrice signed my name, wrote out the numbers 1-10, and last but certainly not least drew two different trees. As soon as I was done I thanked them and hightailed it outta there.

As a postscript to the previous post about the cold and lack of insulation:

The windows are dripping with condensation. The process of wiping down the frames and panes, spraying the occasional Clorox on the windows to deter mold, and strategically placing American-bought chemical dehumidifiers around the apartment has become ritualized. It’s not just cold, it’s American cold. And if we’re gonna continue to be in the grips of this American cold, I think it’s only fair for us to get some snow. Bush and his entourage just paralyzed this city for 48 hours, mind as well snow now while people still remember what it’s like to be trapped inside for hours at a time.

Speaking of Bush, his motorcade caused havoc in the Capital City. Growing up in DC, one is always aware of motorcades and when streets are closed; but whole areas of major transport and commerce never close. When Bush came to town, every major street was closed down. For days ahead of time, residents were warned which streets would be closed and when, publishing maps of the motorcade’s routes and schedules. Even with the advance knowledge (which seems a bit problematic security-wise), people were trapped. I didn’t leave my house from the time he landed at the airport to when he left for Ramallah, giving me a few hours to get out of town to school. Between having to finish a paper, American sharpshooters everywhere, and the preferred target for a Walking While Semitic profiling stop by bored cops, I decided to hunker down indoors.

He’s long gone, with American flags still suspended on poles throughout the city and the ever-present American cold penetrating every layer of clothes valiantly worn outside. Whether or not Bush’s push for a comprehensive peace plan will be in place by the end of the year is completely up for grabs. Whether or not the strike in higher education will allow the semester to restart is equally up for grabs. In the meantime, I want some snow.

14 January 2008

14 January 2007

And now, a much-needed update.

It’s freezing here in the Middle East, the longest spell of cold temperatures in recent memory. It’s so cold, there was snow in Baghdad!
Despite living in the mountains and normally subject to temperatures lower than the rest of the country, Jerusalem homes are notorious for being poorly insulated. At the risk of jinxing the heat contained in my apartment through the use of a few different contraptions, I’ll only say that I’m staying as warm as possible.

Since there’s a chance of getting my power cut off, I’ll give the top highlights of the past few weeks and what’s in store:

-Finished coordinating another group of Taglit-Birthright Israel buses the other week. Completely wiped out afterwards, but had a great group of staff and students. A few good stories here and there, which I won’t repeat online, but in general drama-free.

-After finishing the trip, only to go right to a full afternoon of school, my mom arrived for a conference. We were both staying at family friends near school that night, so I dragged myself to their place, said hi, and went to go pass out for a few hours. As always, great to have a parent come and visit for a few weeks.

-The semester’s finishing up, so it’s been an onslaught of work and studying. One paper completely wore me out, now there’s one more paper and three tests left. Amidst all the talk of the public universities cancelling the semester, I remember how lucky I am to have transferred to “my private, bougie school” (as I call it), notwithstanding the trek it takes to get out there each time.

-The job search goes on. One position, after three separate interviews, has left me waiting for almost a month. I’m going on two interviews tomorrow, I sent out my resume multiple times today….Outsourced call centers are looking more and more attractive.

More to come, I promise, just wanted to give an update before a full month passed with no post.