4%

I promised myself I would wait for a while to see what happened. I know that what I say will be offensive to some of my best friends and possibly a relative or two, but I can’t keep silent any longer.

You see, today a survey was made public that said that only 4% of Israelis consider Obama to be pro-Israel. It was no surprise to me. I cringed the day after his his speech to AIPAC when he said he didn’t really mean that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital. I knew all of those bright rosy predictions based on his “Jewish advisors” were fantasy. No one who has lived in Israel can deny that often the worst critics of Israel are members of Israel’s own suicidal left wing.

It was during the Cairo speech that I cringed once again. This time it was his implication that Israel’s legitimacy devolved from the Holocaust. This, of course, is the claim of our Arab enemies. They assert that the Jews were given Israel as recompense for damages done to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Hence Holocaust denial. If the Holocaust never happened, then the Jews don’t have a claim on the land. In fact, our right to this land is thousands of years old. This is the land of our patriarchs- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of our matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah. To dismiss this legitimacy of ours to live here, to work and to love this land is to deny us our very soul.

When he tells us that Jews should not be allowed to build homes in parts of the land of Israel, it shocks me. To say that Jews cannot live somewhere because of their religion???? I seem to remember some famous people who struggled for civil rights who said something about people not being denied equal rights because of the color of their skin. Is he asking for parts of the land of Israel to be Judenrein?

And so today, it did not surprise me to see that the percentage of Israelis who think Obama is pro-Israel has fallen from 6% to 4%. Frankly, I’m surprised that there’s anyone who still thinks so.

But here’s the scoop…. despite every US president’s commitments to the state of Israel, I do not believe that the US must support Israel. No, really, I don’t. The US needs to do what is best for the US. The great tragedy of this current policy of embracing enemies and distancing friends is not good for the US. Pressure on Israel from a country seen to have been friendly in the past encourages their fantasies of our destruction.

Israel can and will take care of itself, but the world is becoming an ever more dangerous place.

Not a zero-sum game

I have been thinking lately about families and what makes them so important for the individuals in them. Of course there’s love and affection. Of course there is respect and consideration. And there also is loyalty. When I wrote a couple of days ago about competition and how it is unhealthy in the context of a family, I didn’t talk about one very important concept: the zero-sum game.

The zero-sum game, briefly is: A situation or interaction in which one participant’s gains result only from another’s equivalent losses. Source: here

Unfortunately, most of us go through life thinking it’s a zero-sum game. That’s why people are so competitive. “I can only win if the other guy loses.”

When my children were young, we had a book of cooperative games. Instead of “King of the Hill” where one person gets to the top of the hill and pushes all of the others down, the book recommended a game where as many people as possible get to the top of the hill and they cooperate to see how many they can hold up there. Games which foster cooperation also foster healthy relationships. Games like “Red Rover” where everyone is on the winning team help children understand that there doesn’t have to be a loser.

When family member achieve personal or professional expertise, other family members need to not just be happy for them, but to rejoice in it for themselves. Every strength of every member of the family only increases the others’ strength. As my children excel in areas I can’t even touch or understand, I feel personally enriched. I share in their happiness. And, fortunately, that is how they feel about each other.

Shel Silverstein said it well:

Yonatan and his little sister Naomi Elisheva

Yonatan and his little sister Naomi Elisheva

Hug O’ War

a poem by the late Shel Silverstein
[Author of A Light in the Attic]

I will not play at tug o’ war

I’d rather play at hug o’ war,

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs

Where everyone giggles

And rolls on the rug,

Where everyone kisses

And everyone grins

And everyone cuddles

And everyone wins.

Pomegranates 2

I had so many lovely comments about the pomegranates that I was stunned. A few people commented that they had never seen what they look like growing on a tree. Since we harvested only some of them, I have included some pictures of the fruit laden tree in our garden.

Here is a view of the garden:

A view of the garden

A view of the garden

When we bought our house, I never realized how much pleasure I would get from that garden. We have only a small patch of grass, but yesterday it served as a base for the inflatable swimming pool I bought before I moved into the house. Yesterday was the first time I used it. Kinneret, 2 years old, enjoyed playing in the pool, emptying water from cup to cup and having my husband and me and her pouring the cups of water on her back, her head, and her chest. She giggled and laughed and splashed. It was idyllic– and it took place in the shade of the pomegranate tree.

The tree arching over the path

The tree arching over the path

And here are a couple of the growing pomegranates

Still ripening

Still ripening

Your enemy is my enemy

When I wrote about competition a couple of days ago, I was really writing about human relationships, particularly those among family and friends because competition is unhealthy in the context of friendship and intimate relationships– except as modified by Virginia Satir (if you haven’t already, see Competition).

But today, in thinking about close relationships I want to talk about loyalty. Loyalty is one of the most important elements of a relationship. Loyalty means that a friend or loved one will choose to support and defend their loved one no matter what. It means that we can always count on that other person to be there for us and stand up for us. It means that if we have been hurt or wronged, that other person will understand and feel the hurt and want to help us.

Early in our marriage, my husband, a loving and kind person, made sure that any time I felt hurt or slighted, I would know that the other person really was kind and good and that I was too sensitive. I found that hurtful– more hurtful than what the stranger had done to me. I wanted him to tell me that it wasn’t right that this person was insensitive or unkind to me. I didn’t want to hear why the other person was right and I was overly sensitive. To me, that was treason. His job as my husband and my best friend was to hear me and feel my pain and to take my side. I wasn’t asking him to retaliate. I wasn’t asking him to talk to the other person. I just wanted to be understood.

Fortunately, he’s gotten a lot better (though not 100%), but it is something I taught my children as well. The world can be a cruel and unkind place. There are people who unknowingly and knowingly hurt others. The people we rely on and love need to be with us. They don’t need to be our moral compass that informs us that no one really wants to do wrong or that the other person was busy/sick/preoccupied/annoyed etc. etc. We don’t want to hear excuses for why the other person was right and we were wrong. What we want to hear is, “No one has the right to hurt you like that; I love you; you are a good and worthwhile person.”

That’s loyalty. And that’s what we need to do as family members or close friends.

Pomegranates

When we moved to Israel, we bought a home with a garden. But homes with gardens here come with an unbuilt area filled with dirt– not soil, but dirt. From there, you are on your own. After living in our home for a year, I contacted a gardener to come and design a garden for us, put in all of the irrigation hoses (we do drip irrigation), and plant it. He asked what I wanted in the garden. I told him that I wanted something that was easy to maintain and that did not require a lot of water since we live in a water poor area of the world. He asked me if there were any specific trees I wanted and I told him that I wanted an olive tree, a lemon tree, a palm tree, and a pomegranate tree. He planted all those and more.

Each year we have watched our pomegranate tree bloom and then watched most of the blossoms fall to the ground. The most fruit we have ever had was 6 pomegranates. But somehow, for some unknown reason, this year, the tree is full of luscious looking pomegranates.

I have always loved the way they looked. When we were in Spain several years ago, we visited Granada whose name means pomegranate. While there, I bought a gold pendant in the shape of a pomegranate with a wedge cut out that had red stones inside. It was one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. Unfortunately, it was stolen. But I still have my tree and these beautiful round fruits to enjoy.

The first batch of pomegranates from our tree

The first batch of pomegranates from our tree

If this is Monday, it must be Oz

I am enjoying watching people post themed photos on blogs, and Mondays are “Mellow Yellow.” What could be more mellow than a trip to Oz?

Last summer we drove across the US (I blogged every day or two so you can read about it on the postings from last June and July) and one of the places we passed through was Liberal, Kansas, home of the land of Oz. In the complex there are artifacts and furnishing from the late 1800s and early 1900s as well as a house constructed to look like Dorothy’s and a large enclosed area with sets to look like Oz.

A documentary film was made about this attraction showing the young women who play Dorothy and lead people through Oz and how their aspirations to see the wider word mirror hers. I would love to see the film someday.

Here’s Dorothy telling us about her house (note her anachronistic ruby red slippers):

Dorothy at home

Dorothy at home

and here is the famed Yellow Brick Road (this time marked with the names of people who donated money for the building and upkeep of Oz.)

The Yellow Brick Road

The Yellow Brick Road

MellowYellowBadge

Competition

I haven’t posted in a while on anything therapy/growth related and it’s about time. For the last two days I have been thinking of competition. Competition seems to be hard-wired in human beings. Even very little children want to be able to do something better than their sibling. They want to be thought smarter, prettier, cuter. They say things like “I can hold my breath longer than you can” or “my picture is nicer.”

It makes sense that we compare ourselves to others. There has to be some yardstick for performance, else how would we know if a performance were better or worse than average. We looked at Susan Boyle and we compared her to other women her age, other women singers, and before she began to sing, we expected that she would be laughable. Her appearance was thought to be substandard and people expected that her performance would be too. Everyone was surprised when she opened her mouth to sing and her singing was beautiful. In our minds, we compared it to the type of singing a normal person does and it was much better and then we held it up to a higher standard and she met or surpassed it. Comparisons help us make judgments.

However, competition turns out to be inappropriate and even harmful in many circumstances. In relationships with siblings and spouses, competition leads to devaluing behavior, sabotage, and ridicule. In families, we are on the same team. We need to be happy when any of our team members scores a basket! We need to help them maximize their performance just as we strive to do our own best. Saying “great job” and “wow, you did it!” when someone else has achieved something costs nothing and helps to build good will and feelings of security.

We all accept the concept of sibling rivalry as natural. Parents struggle to help each of their children to feel loved and valued, but there is always an echo of that rivalry. However, even worse is the situation when people have been programmed from early childhood to be comparing themselves to all others around them. The result is either always feeling wanting and inadequate or feeling superior (often without reason).

There are sometimes good results from striving for the kind of excellence that would lead people to see one as superior. People go to school and study for years to become the most knowledgeable, the recognized authority. People design research studies to achieve benefits for the public at large, but also because they want others to recognize their achievement and superiority.

But when competition enters family life, it is often destructive. When husband and wife each strive to be the one who is right all the time or the one who knows best, both of them suffer. When children are compared to one another in a way that lessens the value of one, that is destructive not only to the child’s ego, but to the sibling relationship– a relationship that often is the most satisfying lifelong relationship a person has.

Virginia Satir, a talented and much loved family therapist once told a couple that their competition was not a bad thing. The bad thing was what they were competing about. She suggested they compete to see who in the couple be the most loving, the most caring, the most forgiving, the most supportive, the most helpful. It’s the kind of competition that families need. It’s the kind of competition the world needs.

Some smiles

Here’s a photo of the children and their Saba on the Greek Island of Kos. It was a beautiful sunny day and the children loved walking through the colorful market area and exploring.

Six of our grandchildren and their Saba (grandfather)

Six of our grandchildren and their Saba (grandfather)

The cruise was a wonderful adventure.

Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv

This is a photo I took on a warm day last month when my sister and I were walking through the Neve Tzedek area of Tel Aviv. On that day, she and I probably covered a few miles of Tel Aviv on foot, but we were together and so it was fun. Neve Tzedek is the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv and was actually thought of as part of Jaffa in the beginning. Tel Aviv is, of course, celebrating its 100th birthday this year! For a long time, Neve Tzedek was neglected, but in the last 15 years or so, it is being gentrified and homes are being restored. Now it is a very “in” place to live. This is one of the back alleys.

Shadows in the alley. Neve Tedek

Shadows in the alley. Neve Tedek

Here is another picture from that walk:

Open door, Neve Tzedek

Open door, Neve Tzedek