Lights in the Distance

Observations and musings regarding new mommyhood and life in general.

Friday, June 10, 2005

DD - Z"L

It is with deep sorrow that I announce the passing of DD, the husband of my friend, mentioned in my previous post. He passed away just over a month ago, peacefully, having had the opportunity to say goodbye to his family. A terrible, terrible tragedy; such a useless loss of a vibrant young life. And yet, there is also relief. Relief that he is finally free of pain and suffering, relief that he is no longer trapped.

Not a day goes by that I do not think of my poor, brave friend, and all that she has lost. I am amazed at her will and courage to go on, despite being dealt this cruelest of blows. Her wonderful, supportive family cannot fill the hole she feels in her heart, the emptiness left behind by the loss of her best friend, her partner. Despite this, she has chosen to continue living, to not allow herself to be beaten by his death. I am awed by her strength and decisive will.

Never take your loved ones for granted, for you never know what tomorrow may bring.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Prayers Needed

As an avowed atheist, I am not prone to believing in the power of prayer, and in some sense, I am envious of those who can derive comfort from religion. It just isn't something that works for me personally. To believe that there is a being, someone or something controlling our fate, and that everything in life is predestined is a powerful concept, one that I find very difficult to accept. What I can accept is that there are people who believe in this idea, and I respect our differences. When religion and prayer are used to further causes that are noble and good, the spiritual aspects of my personality kick in, and I want to believe that perhaps somehow, it can make a difference. It is for this reason that I feel the need to turn to whoever is reading this, and ask for prayers, positive vibes, or whatever positive spiritual channeling that anyone can offer.

Several weeks ago, the husband of one of my closest friends fell ill and was taken to the hospital suffering from what they thought was dehydration. It turned out that his liver was damaged, and following the onset of acute liver failure, he underwent a liver transplant. During the course of the surgery, he suffered a heart attack and a series of strokes that have profoundly damaged his brain. His doctors have declared that he is awake, but completely unresponsive, and has little chance of recovery. The fact that he survived the transplant surgery is a miracle in itself, and I guess that I am really just hoping for another miracle. He has surprised the doctors once, and even though the chances are slim, I am hoping that he can somehow do it again. As long as they haven't said that there is no chance, I am not prepared to give up my last shred of hope for some sort of recovery, even if it isn't complete.

My friend is a wonderful, giving, strong person, and her husband is a terrific young man in his early thirties. Their life was on a good track before everything was suddenly blown completely apart by this horrible nightmare. She and I are now living on different continents, and it breaks my heart that I cannot be there in person to help her through this, as she has helped me through some of the darkest days of my life. I feel so terribly helpless, though probably not nearly as helpless as she does as she tries to bring her husband back to her, knowing that despite her best efforts, she may lose the person she loves above all others.

So, I am humbly asking all who read this, please pray, or do whatever it is that you do when you desperately need a miracle. Maybe together, we can all make a difference. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Respect Your Neighbors...

In the town where I grew up (Niskayuna, New York - we always used to joke that "Niskayuna" was the Indian word for "Land of High Taxes"), two of the primary employers were General Electric and the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (referred to locally as KAPL). As a result, our town was populated by a mix of well-educated people from around the world. These scientists, engineers and doctors moved to Niskayuna for the quality of life and the high quality of education provided by the local schools. Our friends growing up had roots in India, in China, and in Iran, as well as a plethora of other cultures. I can remember Ernie, two houses down, speaking with his parents in Spanish, and Afshean down the block, impressing us with his Farsi. There was Mickey, who came to school in the turban representative of his Sikh background, and I'm almost certain that I can remember the saris that some of my friends' mothers wore. We were a veritable melting pot of religions and cultures, and for us kids, it was totally normal. It would have been unthinkable to separate us from our friends based on these differences, and indeed, it was probably the unconditional acceptance of this diversity at such an early stage that led me to seek out friends from other cultures throughout my school and university years. In fact, one of the reasons that I chose my university was due to it having such a large percentage of international students.

I cherish my friendships with people from other backgrounds, and revel in the knowledge gained about childhoods so different from my own. I remember discussing religion late into the night with my freshman roommate - a Catholic woman who had spent the first 11 years of her life in Peru before moving to Tennessee. Her father had been in the Peruvian military and her mother had been an American nun working in Peru, and her stories were fascinating. I remember discussing the Arab-Israeli troubles with my Lebanese Druze friend. Despite our diametrically opposing viewpoints, we were able to be friends, and I can still recall his stories about growing up in war-torn Lebanon. Best of all, I remember evenings spent during my senior year at a little salsa club in Cambridge, where my friends from Ecuador and Colombia tried to teach me how to salsa.

Cultural diversity should be celebrated. It is not something to scorn, and it should not be an excuse to remain separated. What made me think about this topic today? An article on the Haaretz website states that Jewish residents in the Kiryat Menahem neighborhood in Ramle are opposed to the opening of an Arab school in their neighborhood. They claim that it will decrease property values and cause an increase in crime. The school in question is for first through third graders, and I can only imagine what that will do to the crime rate in Kiryat Menahem. According to neighborhood Rabbi Shalom Mordechai, "They work systematically. They talk about pluralism, about high-level education. First they'll send their kids here, then the parents will come live here. That's their modus operandi." He then goes on to claim that there is no racism involved. "Nobody hates them. They have neighborhoods of their own, let them live and study there. Why do they need an Arab school in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood? I support progressive education, even appreciate it, but let them do it in their own neighborhoods," he said.

If this isn't racism, then can someone please tell me what is? Israelis often moan about the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment raging around the world. It's true - we are the current pariah du jour, and I don't see that changing any time soon. However, Israelis must look inwards as well, and stop turning a blind eye to the rampant racism within our own society. Intolerance and even hatred of those who are different is frighteningly prevalent, and jibes and insults based on stereotypes and misconceptions regarding different ethnic groups are all too common. How can we possibly expect to get on in the world community if we can't even treat our fellow Israelis with the dignity and respect that we all deserve?

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

From Karkur to...

Well, it's official. Israeli windsurfer Gal Friedman has won Israel's first Olympic gold medal ever. The folks over at Israel's channel 1 were beside themselves with joy as they kept rerunning the clip from the race's final moments, interspersed with interviews with the winner himself, as well as his coach, who apparently gave up his job as an engineer at Motorola in order to coach Gal on a full-time basis. It's all very exciting, and of course, it's always nice to see Israel shown in a positive light for a change.

What makes it even more interesting for me is that Mr Friedman (or at least his family) lives in the same town that I do - Karkur. While admittedly, I don't know the Friedmans, but I can't help but take neighborly pride in his accomplishment.

My husband asked me several days ago if I cheered for the Americans as I cheered for the Israelis, and if it made me just as happy to see the Americans win medals. At the time, I said yes, but qualified my response by pointing out that seeing Americans win medals was a more frequent occurence than seeing Israelis with medals. Having just watched the medals ceremony, seeing the Israeli flag being raised as Hatikvah was played, I can honestly say that I don't ever remember becoming emotional (just a few tears, I swear!) hearing the American anthem. Call me hokey, but today, I'm proud to be an Israeli. (Maybe slightly less proud when watching all the Israelis in the stands swarm around Gal at the end of Hatikvah, turning what was supposed to be a dignified ceremony into a free-for-all...)

On another Olympic note, who is telling the channel 1 reporters how to pronounce the athletes' names? Watching the womens' diving earlier today, I was appalled to hear the reporter refer to the South African diver as Yenna (on the screen it said Jenna), and even more distressing, the English diver Jane Smith became Yanneh Smith. My husband tried to defend him, mentioning the difficulty of some of the names, but even he had to concede that "Yanneh" was stretching things a bit far.

Oh well, time to watch the Prime Minister congratulate Israel's latest national (and my local) hero over the phone, and Israel's Education Minister Limor Livnat fall all over herself in her latest photo op, as she proudly tells Gur Steinberg, Gal Fridman's coach, that Motorola will roll out the red carpet for him to return. Too bad she can't arrange that for all Israelis who have lost their jobs.

Friday, August 20, 2004

You've Come a Long Way, Baby...

It had been a long time since I'd had to put in an appearance at the Interior Ministry, and was dreading having to go. However, in order to register my son as an American citizen, I had to go to the local Ministry office, which, in our case, is in Hadera, in order to get his birth certificate. As long as we were going, I figured that we would take care of his passport and renew my passport as well, which will expire shortly after the first of the year. Why rush to get it all done now, you ask? Well, as is typical for this time of year, the natives are getting restless, and the Histadrut/labor unions are threatening a strike, scheduled to begin on the first of September. How very original. In any event, we thought it best to get everything out of the way now, so that we wouldn't be sorry later. I can still remember the scenes shown on Israeli television during the last strike, with hordes of people stampeding to get into different government offices that were open for one day only in order to allow the regular folks to get things done. It was scary to watch, and I'm assuming even worse to experience, and frankly, something I'd prefer to avoid at all costs.

Having gone for our passport photos the evening before (with my husband's thumb in my son's picture, as he had to hold him up in front of a white wall for the American passport background requirement), we drove to Hadera, as I mentally prepared myself for Israeli bureaucracy at its worst. I can remember past trips to various Interior Ministry offices around the country - small hole-in-the-wall venues with inadequate amounts of both fresh air and pleasant, expeditious service. I remember the war stories from other Interior Ministry "survivors", stories which usually began with having to get up during the middle of the night in order to be at the Ministry office before it opened, so that you wouldn't have to wait for too many hours to be served, and ended with repeat visits to complete what should have been simple tasks, only to be frustrated by the inevitable to request to return with "all" of the necessary documents, because despite numerous phone calls beforehand (including the thousand or so tries when the phone was either busy or being left to ring because no one could be bothered to pick it up), chances were excellent that there would be at least one missing document (based, I am sure, on secret internal memos passed out to Ministry employees on a daily basis, designed to confuse and confound the public). Oh yes, the good old days.

Yesterday's experience could not have been further from past experiences. Having done my research online, downloaded and printed out the proper forms and gathered all of the required documentation, we made our way to the Ministry office in Hadera, located conveniently in a quiet shopping mall with adequate underground parking. We arrived at around 10:30; the office had opened at 8:00 AM, and I could only imagine the lines that awaited us upstairs. Yes, there were quite a few people in line ahead of us, but we managed to take care of the birth certificate and my passport in record time, without having to wait at all, as the birth certificate is printed on the spot, and thus doesn't require taking a number, and we convinced the very nice woman(!) to take care of my passport at the same time (personally, I thought it was because our son has the same name as her son, but why question our good fortune). Ten minutes later, we took care of our son's passport, and that was it. Less than 30 minutes spent on three tasks in the high-ceilinged, air conditioned, clean Interior Ministry office. Needless to say, I was amazed as well as strangely introspective, as I realized that I've been living in Israel long enough to remember how things used to be. Interior Ministry clerks who were both nice and speedy. Now, if only we could figure out a way to stop the strikes, get people to take smoking laws seriously, convince people to drive as though not every other driver is the enemy, put a stop to the absurd amounts of littering, and teach people to respect each other, we'd be all set!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A New Israeli Blog...

What promises to be an interesting new blog has appeared in Blogland. Israel Peace/Salaam/Shalom presents Deerlife's "ideas, opinions and comments about peace and coexistence in Israel and Jewish and universal spirituality."

Check it out!

Update: Just tried to access this blog, and it seems to have disappeared. Let us know if it comes back online.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

New Kid on the Block...

Big congratulations to Allison over at An Unsealed Room on the birth of her daughter! Hurrah! Another new blogger baby on the block!