Archives for March 2007

The Turkey Saga

In our family, we have had a tradition of eating turkey on the holidays. In addition to Thanksgiving, Rosh HaShana and Passover wouldn’t feel right without the traditional turkey. Purchasing kosher food in Israel is not difficult. In fact, all but one of the large supermarket chains are fully kosher, under rabbinical supervision all year round. However, in Israel, virtually no one who is not a former American cooks a whole turkey. In fact, the small European ovens that most of us have make it quite a challenge. However, in certain areas in Jerusalem and other places where there is a concentration of American immigrants and finally in Modi’in, the meat department of the supermarket has gotten used to odd requests around holiday and non-holiday (Thanksgiving) time. So, each year, I order my turkey a few days in advance of each holiday and each year, we have our turkey. Our local butcher is used to ordering for me and it is a fairly simple process.

But a year and some ago our daughter married a man who prefers to eat “mehadrin” turkey. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, suffice it to say that it requires a special type of religious supervision and it is not sold in all supermarkets. Since they will be with us for seder, we need a mehadrin turkey.

Last year I bought it in a place not far from here. It was a large store with no customers. Now it is a large empty building.

For Thanksgiving, I ordered a turkey in Har Nof (a neighborhood of Jerusalem where I teach) and when I went to pick it up on the appointed day, it hadn’t come in. After many calls on the part of the friendly butcher, starting at 3 in the afternoon and ending at 11 at night, a suitable turkey was found in a supermarket in a suburb of Jerusalem. That did not seem to be a good option for this Passover.

So I trekked over to Kiryat Sefer which is the chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) town not far from here. It’s a particularly good place to shop before Passover as they cater to people who like us are “Ashkenazim” (of Eastern European descent) and don’t eat beans and corn and rice on Passover unlike the “Sefardim” who are of Middle Eastern/ North African/ Spanish/ Dutch origin. Many of the Passover foods sold in Israel are made with those as ingredients and are not consumed by people who follow the “Ashkenazi” customs.

The supermarket was filled with food, but there was nary a whole turkey in sight. I went to the front desk. The woman there called the person in charge. He didn’t answer. She tried his cell phone. He didn’t answer. She announced his name. He didn’t respond. She told me to come back to the desk after I finished shopping and perhaps she would find him by then. I checked back a few times and finally, he was there. He was a very nice person and he was very helpful. He made a number of telephone calls and determined that the best thing for me to do was to show up the next day at 1 p.m. when the turkey supplier was scheduled to visit.

I thought that was a bit odd since it was clear he wouldn’t have the turkey on him at the time and I didn’t quite understand why I had to show up in person when I could more easily call him on the telephone, but I agreed since I didn’t want to embark on another wild turkey chase.

Later in the day my daughter-in-law called to find out where I was getting my turkey since she needed one for the 24 people she is having to seder (her whole side of the family!). I told her my story and suggested that she call the store and perhaps she could get more cooperation than I could since she was born in Israel and doesn’t have that tell-tale American “R” (that should be my only problem!)

She called me back and told me that she was told to call “Yoram” (not his real name, although he turned out to be such a nice guy that I probably should use his real name) between 9 and 10 in the morning. I told her that since I would be the one to go and pick up the turkeys, it made more sense for me to call and she was happy to allow me to do that.

So at 9 I began calling the supermarket. The phone rang for a very long time and finally changed to a busy signal. I redialed. The same thing happened. Again and again. Until 9:40. Finally someone picked up the phone and I asked for “Yoram.” The woman said she would find him. She hung up the phone. I began calling again. Finally 10 minutes later, someone answered. He told me Yoram was busy– I should call back in 20 minutes. Twenty minutes later I began calling again. After another 10 minutes of ringing, a woman answered the phone. She said Yoram wasn’t anywhere around. I asked her if perhaps he was somewhere else in the store. She told me that she couldn’t see him. I should call back. I told her my story and she said, “How is that my problem? Am I supposed to go wandering through the store calling for him?” I suggested she make an announcement asking him to call. She did. He called. Finally he came onto the phone and told me that no, there is no possibility for me to get a turkey at that store, but that he was a supplier to a number of stores and there is another one in Kiryat Sefer that he will call while I hold. He got back on the phone and told me the name of the store that would have the two turkeys.

I quickly got ready and left the house worried that someone would snatch up the turkeys. Well, actually, that was not the problem. The problem is that no one buys whole turkeys and what butchers do when times are slow is to cut up the whole turkeys in anticipation of the customers to come, and I wanted to save my turkeys from that fate.

So I arrived at the supermarket, put my 5 sheqel coin in the cart and immediately realized that one of the 4 wheels was about to fall off as the cart lunged forward and to the right. The security man fished my coin out of the cart and I went and got another one. With hope in my eyes, I went to the meat counter.

Behind the counter were three jovial men. I asked for my whole turkeys. Their eyes glazed. It was as if I had asked for a side of unicorn. They looked at each other with the look usually reserved for “does anyone here speak Navajo?” Finally, I could see them beginning to focus as I said, “One of you just spoke to Yoram and told him that you have whole turkeys.” One said to the others, “Hmm, yes, I think we might have one.” The others just stood there. Finally he located the one whole turkey. I said I was told there would be two. He said they were expecting a shipment any minute. I asked if they thought it would arrive within the next hour. He said that it was supposed to have arrived at 8 a.m. (by now it was about 11.) They weighed the one turkey, put it in their fridge and I went wandering through the nearby stores for about 40 minutes. When I got back, they told me there was good news. The truck had left supermarket 1 and was on its way. It should be here any minute. The three men were actually rather jovial and friendly. I got updates every 5 minutes or so. “Should be soon.” “He’s about to turn into the parking lot.” “He’s at the back door.” “He’s unloading.” I felt like I was giving birth. How many centimeters am I dilated?

Finally finally turkey 2 arrived. I won’t describe the awkwardness that accompanied the older butcher as he attempted to put the 18 pound turkey into a plastic bag “this thing is HEAVY!!!” But after an mere half hour wait in the checkout line, I was free! I returned from the turkey hunt successful.


First let me give you some background. This past week, among all of the other things I have been doing, I have been corresponding with a young woman who had some questions about how to comply with advice given to her by a rabbi who is a “healer” that would result in hurting other people. I have been talking to her about the fact that I don’t believe in healers. I don’t think that anyone has supernatural powers that enable them to tell you that you have a 35% of something good happening to you if you remain in your current city and a 95% chance if you move to another named city. I don’t think that there are prophets among us. I don’t think that there are people who have a special line to the Almighty. It worries me that in Israel we have a lot of people who believe in people who read palms, tea leaves, coffee grinds, and people who do numerology and graphology– not to mention the famous rabbi healers. I think, and, unfortunately have seen for myself, that many of those who hold themselves out to be healers are actually people who prey on the innocent and naive and extract from them their money and their dignity. I feel very strongly about this. Once, in the US, I had a client who was in crisis because she had been at a party the night before and a “psychic” told her that her husband was having an affair!

Call me a skeptic. Call me a killjoy. I just don’t believe in healers.

But then yesterday, I found out that I was one.

A long time ago I had worked with a family that had multiple problems. You name it, it wasn’t working: marriage, kids, finances, relationships with people and settings outside the family– nothing was the way it should have been. I saw this and that part of the family- a parent, one child, two children, the couple, a number of times (perhaps 8 times total) over a period of a couple of years. I got occasional calls, maybe once in a year or so with additional information about issues the family was grappling with, but they seemed to be functioning.

On Friday, I was out shopping and suddenly I heard someone call my name. It was one of the parents of the family. I was told that the family is doing not just well, but very well and “thank you”. And the best part was I was told, “It was because you were with us all the way.”

It isn’t the first time something like this has happened, but it was just as magnificent a feeling as if it had been.

Of course, I know that I am not really the healer… this family had all of the elements of its own healing inside. I just helped them access them. And that is why years later, the work we did together was still effective.

Oh, and I still don’t believe in healers.

Spring is in the air

Spring isn’t a season. It’s a state of mind. I don’t know how to make it appear, but suddenly on a day like today with the sun shining and my garden newly planted with summer annuals and the trees in bud and the birds singing, my heart lifts and the feeling of clean, fresh renewal fills me with happiness.

This hasn’t beeen a good week. Someone we knew and appreciated was killed in a car accident. Someone else we knew died suddenly. We found out about the serious illness of yet another acquaintance. It has been, in short, a sad week.

But then, after the rain comes the sunshine once again, and it was a week when I accompanied my youngest to the doctor for a pregnancy checkup and a week when the details of the China trip are being firmed up and a week when my own Chinese-style garden is taking on that springlike look as the lemon blossoms are ready to pop open.

It was a week like every other as I move through life and realize that there is sadness and joy and both are legitimate parts of the experience of being human.


From Ynet News:

Road accident orphans 8

Head-on collision near Hebron kills parents of eight, Palestinians stone rescue services

Efrat Weiss Published: 03.15.07, 14:09 / Israel News

Eight children were orphaned Thursday morning, when their parents, Rabbi Avraham (41) and Simcha (38) Cohen-Or, were killed in a head-on collision with a bus near Hebron.

One of the couple’s daughters was critically injured in the accident, and three others were lightly injured.

The accident may have occurred as a result of poor weather conditions, [it was snowing this morning] which caused the driver to lose control and collide with the bus at the intersection.

A Magen David Adom crew arrived at the scene in order to treat the injured, but found the parents already dead. Their daughter, who was critically injured, and three other victims, were rushed to hospital by helicopter.

While the MDA crew was working to evacuate the victims, Palestinians stoned the ambulances and police vehicles at the scene.

Since the beginning of the year, 89 people have been killed in road accidents in Israel .

I am out of words.

Road Safety

Of all of the dangers of living in Israel, the one that claims the most lives is road accidents. Consistently, more people are killed in road accidents than in terrorist bombings and even in the recent war. It’s not hard to understand why there are so many fatal accidents. All you need to do is to drive a couple of kilometers to see people speeding, following dangerously closely, passing in such a way as to threaten to clip the front of the second car’s fender on the way back, flashing lights, honking horns, urging those in front of them to speed, or to cross intersections where people are walking.

I call drivers who do this “It’s my right” drivers. It means that whatever I want to do is OK. If I want to terrorize someone’s grandmother by flashing my highbeams in her rearview mirror and by attempting to transit her car by driving through it, then I just do it. It’s OK. I deserve to have things the way I want them.

Then there is the even more frightening driver. I call this kind of driver the “grudge” driver. He (and usually it is a he) works out his need for power on the road. So if someone passes him, he must catch up with that person and pass him, because after all, it’s important to be the first and the fastest. Sometimes the grudge driver will actually engage in totally self-defeating behavior such as getting in front of a slower moving car and slowing down to 30 or 40 kilometers an hour (18-24 mph) to “teach” the slower driver “a lesson.” Of course that means that the grudge driver actually takes longer to get where he’s going, but at least he has the satisfaction of annoying someone else.

None of this is funny. Every day our most frightening, unpredictable battlefield is the road we drive on and our worst enemy are drivers who feel entitled and competitive. These issues need to be worked out in other settings. These people need to play sports or chess or wield their power in other ways. But please, fellow drivers, be careful out there. We have real enemies. We’re on the same side!


Let’s talk about respect.

I get a lot of people coming to my blog searching for respect. Sometimes they are looking for respect from their children. Sometimes they want respect from their teens. I am going to try and help them get it today (and now you can have it too, without even asking!)

Here is the definition of respect from the free dictionary

1. A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem.
2. The state of being regarded with honor or esteem.
3. Willingness to show consideration or appreciation.

So what parents are asking is that children be appreciative, that they honor and esteem them, and that they show them consideration. All of this makes perfect sense. After all, parents are the people who have cared for these children. They have given them food, clothing, shelter, and above all else, love. They have protected them, advocated for them, treated their bruises and wiped their noses. Children should appreciate them.

But is appreciation inborn? Well, there are theories that say it is not. In fact, when we are infants, we like being fed and cared for, but when the caregiver doesn’t show up at our beck and call, we get pretty peeved. We think that he/she is withholding from us what he/she should freely give. We don’t have the capacity to understand yet that we are not the center of the world.

In a normal home environment, a baby begins to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around him/her. Perhaps it happens because he or she has siblings who also demand attention. Perhaps it is because his/her parents simply explain to the baby from a very young age that sometimes Mom or Dad is busy and the child will simply have to wait. At some point, most parents teach their children that waiting patiently is a good idea. That cannot be accomplished if after waiting, the child still does not receive what he’s been waiting for.

You see, for an infant and for a young child, the universe is very confusing (Sometimes I think we adults are fooling ourselves if we think that even we can figure it out). So what the child does is to try and figure it out by applying logic. The logic goes something like this: “I want something. I scream and yell and kick my feet and finally, they either give it to me or give me a cookie to shut me up.” What the child has learned is that crime *does* pay. If the parents are consistent and tell the child that, “If you can’t wait nicely, then you will not get it” and MEAN it, then the child will learn to wait nicely. He/she will figure out that crime doesn’t pay. It’s the consistency that children use to build their image of the world and what it offers and how to get it. A child who does a good deed for a parent on a whim (making the parent’s bed or taking out the trash) and is rewarded for it by smiles, hugs, or a similar gift of love from the parent, will understand that doing good produces good. If the parent doesn’t notice or says “but you didn’t make the bed right” or “you dropped some trash on the way out” and doesn’t show any appreciation, then the child doesn’t learn about appreciation and gratitude. In fact, he/she learns that trying to get good things from parents by helping in the house won’t work.

Children give us a myriad of opportunities to make the right decisions. No parent is 100% consistent, but the more consistent the parents are, the more predictable the world becomes for the children and the more the children will see the parents as people who are fair and stand by what they say. Respect is gained by being that consistent, predictable person that the child needs to help him/her figure out the world.

But that isn’t all. Of course it’s more complex than that. If a child doesn’t feel respected, he/she will not give respect. I have seen on many occasions the following type of dialogue between parent and child.

Parent: So which do you want, the red one or the blue one?
Child: I want the blue one.
Parent: But the red one is so much nicer.

So the child has been offered a choice. The parent then tells the child that he/she made the wrong choice. This is the ultimate in disrespect. If the parent wasn’t ready to accept either choice as equally valid, he/she should not have offered the choice at all and simply said, “I would like to buy you the red one.” A non-acceptable choice should never be offered by the parent.

Similarly, the parent needs to respect differences in tastes and perceptions as long as they are not harmful. A teenage girl should be allowed to buy clothing that the mother would not have chosen for her because of style, color, or pattern, but the mother has the perfect right to veto the purchase of something that is inappropriate to wear (too short, too revealing, etc.).

So I am not advocating the abandonment of standards, of course not! In fact, mother/father holding the child to standards is something that engenders respect from the child. They may resent mother/father imposing standards, but they respect the parent’s willingness to stand up for what they view as important. A parent who folds in the face of pressure is a parent who is less likely to be respected.

Finally, respect is something that is caught, not taught. If mother and father show respect for each other even when they differ, if the children see esteem and valuing on the part of the parents for each other and toward the children, they will come to be people who can value and appreciate their parents.


Oy. Another Purim has come and almost gone. It seems that every year the family increases in size. Of course, that is because it does. Last year, we gained 3 new members, one by marriage and two by birth. That means a lot of chairs to be set up in the living room where on each of the last 7 years my husband has read the megillah to our gathered tribe. It is a happy happy time. We sit amid a sea of beautiful faces with big smiles and fancy costumes and we read of the Jews’ miraculous deliverance from the evil Haman and his followers.

And there is a sense of vulnerability about the whole experience– not just reading of what could have happened to us in Biblical times, but thinking about the threats that have existed to our physical survival over the last 7 years or so with terrorists blowing up buses, restaurants, shopping centers, clubs, bars, and hotels. And then we look out at the Iranian threat and we understand why we are commnded to remember. The world’s memory is all too short. The Holocaust is still a vivid memory for people who survived it and are alive today, and yet knowledge of the horror that occurred is not enough to influence people in the US and in Europe that madness can take hold and innocent people can be murdered by the millions.

So I sit here and look at all these beautiful little people with bright smiles and sharp minds and hearts filled with love, and I pray that the history books will record their era as one in which the evil are brought low and goodness fills the earth.