State of the Blog/Inaugural WWZ Mailbag!

You wanted the best, you got the best!

So goes the name of the Kiss live album. Well, this is the best I’ve got, my loyal readers. As I said the other day, I haven’t been able to post too much as of late. Hopefully that will start changing as soon as I return from Romania. ROMANIA?! Why would anyone go to Romania when they’re unemployed? UNEMPLOYED!? We’ll answer all these questions and more in our first ever…

What War Zone mailbag!

Here we’ll tackle the most burning of questions in the Middle East in no particular order. Let’s jump in, shall we?

What’s the cutest thing you’ve seen all week?
I’m tempted to say it was the first suspended peeing of the spring season. Oh right….no, I’m not. B’ima sheli, what in the hell is that? If we haven’t talked about it before, apparently somewhere between “Thou shalt not murder” and “Thou shalt eat chumus 495 times a day” is the commandment “Thou shalt walk around Central Tel Aviv and hold your two year old up in the air, pants off, as he pees into the wild blue yonder. If there’s not a functioning bathroom within a 50 feet radius that you could of course be using, it doesn’t count. WHAT IS THAT?!?!? (Note to parents: if you teach your child to pee in the Mediterranean when he’s STANDING ANKLE DEEP IN WATER while everyone is watching, that is grounds for imprisonment. Fine, so everyone pees in the water while IN the water. We don’t talk about it. Like “Fight Club.” Don’t break the social contract by flaunting your toddler’s little bulbul.

That said, the cutest thing I saw all week would have to be the daughter of Harry of the brand new Jerusalem.com.

Is this an advertisement for aliyah or what?
And no, I’m not bitter that Israeli toddlers wet the bed yet
still use passive tense better than me.

Do you ever wish something would never end? Like your summer at camp? Or your morning coffee?
Why, yes. I’m almost to the bottom of my morning kos kafeh. I try to only have two per day, and definitely not back to back before 9 AM. Otherwise bad things happen. Like when you get Gremlins wet.

Did you recently get back in touch with a friend you hadn’t seen in 10 years, via Facebook?
Yep. She was an Israeli scout at Camp Young Judaea-Texas fifteen years ago who I hadn’t seen since a vacation here in 1999. If you don’t know what the Israeli scouts are, they’re sort of like the boy scouts in America except they’re both boys and girls, they’re Jewish, and they can make things like UNIX servers using only wheat and berries. Seriously, these people are ridiculous. The most insane thing I can remember from camp is the refrigerator they built. No kidding. Three large sticks tied together like a teepee whose three sides are covered with leaves hanging from twine, cooled by an apple juice can dripping water from the top. Did it actually work? I don’t know. But after watching them build beds and fire signs before reaching legal driving age, why doubt them?

So, yes, Facebook is big in Israel. And no, I didn’t just write this question so I could insert a link to my article in the previous sentence. I wrote it so I could tell you this: when my scout friend and I were walking in Tel Aviv, we passed an advertisement for the recent Sean Penn film which won him an Oscar. Well, it’s not like we had a choice. When a movie comes out, they put a sign on all four corners of the intersection. Why do they do that? Don’t know. But if you manage to be the movie of choice for Israeli advertisers in the city that always sweats, rest assured, everyone will know about it. So what’s this movie called by at least some people she overheard?

Milkee: Such good acting….and, mmm, mamash ta’eem!

Didn’t something happen this week for the first time in 28 years?
I changed my sheets last month. That?

OOOHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! That thing? Yeah, so apparently this past Wednesday, people woke up at the crack of dawn (or before, rather) to watch the sunrise and recite Birkat Hachama, the blessing said when the sun reaches the exact position it was in at the time of creation. My G-d, is there anything science can’t figure out??? How does any crime go unsolved? “CSI” really shouldn’t be so compelling; well, of COURSE they figured out who did it, they found where the sun was exactly 82 bajillion years ago! Or 5769 years ago. Same difference.

It didn’t even occur to me to wake up early and watch until after the fact when it hit me. I’m not so religious but isn’t anything that happens only once every 28 years worth watching? If you called me right now and said that a bunch of ants will get in line and carry a piece of string one inch, I’d be all in. “I got nothing else to do, why the hell not?”

By the way, I could have chosen a Jewish website to link to two paragraphs up, but I chose Wikipedia. Can you even imagine trying to explain to teenagers these days doing research that Wikipedia is not necessarily fact? No WAAAAAY they give a crap. You could edit the page of the number five to say that “this is the sum of 2 and 2” or “five is the father of Madonna” and teenagers would write it and turn it in as part of their senior project.

So what’s with Twitter?
As some around me realize, I have jumped on the bandwagon over the last month. I’m not one of those who will say you HAVE to get on it. It took me a few weeks to “get it” but I totally see some of its merits now. But Bahngee, you never change your Facebook status update with meaningless details of your life, only when you need some information or want to get the word out about something. Well, that’s exactly it. I’ve found it useful in building a community with whom you can exchange or market information. Recently, I met an Israeli filmmaker who I want to help to market his comedy in the States. (The movie is called “Hamosad Hasagur” or in English, “Israeli Intelligence”, and was made my Alon Gur Arye in the silly slapsticky style of the “Airplane”/”The Naked Gun” movies of the ’80s.

Here’s a teaser.

The movie’s showing in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv all the time so go check it out.

Anyway, in an effort to help him out, I asked on Facebook if anyone has contacts at Jewish film festivals in the US and around the world. Almost immediately, about 15 people responded. Impressive, right? It seems strange to be using Facebook in an example of how Twitter can be useful but this could have just as easily happened on the latter. It just so happens that I have a lot more “friends” on FB than I do “followers” on Twitter. People regularly “Tweet” interesting links and ask questions to which they can get answers quickly without all the other crap getting in the way (really, I don’t need any sheep thrown at me, thanks though.)

And while it’s nice to not have too many Tweets to wade through and nobody wants “everyone to find out about it”, I’m not worried about spreading the word here. I see an article in the NY Times about Twitter just about every single day so don’t flatter me, my Tweeps, by thinking if too many people jump on, it’s going to be because of this little bloggy blog.

There’s just something weird about seeing Hebrew ads placed on UrbanDictionary.com. “Ehhhh….waht eez sheezneet???(Yeah, I guess the world is flat.)

And straight from the Old City of Jerusalem on Good Friday, here’s a fun interview with friend and technology lover Ahuva about Twitter.

And what the blip is blip.fm?
This one I have no attachment to. But here’s another fun interview.

Is spring cleaning fun?
Yes, why do you ask?

Why haven’t we seen pictures of your Purim costume? What gives?
I told you I’ve been busy. Plus, I haven’t gotten around to playing with my new camera, my fourth in just over two years. First one, I broke. Second one, on its own (warranty wouldn’t cover it). Third one, somebody else broke. Recently bought a new one so cross your fingereem. Plus, I just wasn’t so into Purim this year. More on that below.

Pretty low-budget but at least got a few smiles on the street.
(It was either this or Benjamin NetanYahoo! Maps.)

Hopefully we can now all return to taking happy pictures again. On that note…

Best costume?

More pictures?

What’s the most popular breakfast cereal for hungry Arab boys?
Definitely Rice Krispies.

Snap, crackle, ALLAHU AKBAR!!!

Why on earth would anyone ever park in such a way that their car takes up two spots (TWO SPOTS!), preventing another car from using the spot next to them?
I don’t know but I’m ok with someone shooting them in the solarplexus. Your options are either that, do your best to fit in the spot anyway….

and/or leave an angry note on their windshield, referencing their “LACK OF CONSIDERATION.”

You think my Hebrew’s that good? I was just along for the ride.

Or you could burn their house down. That seems fair to me.

So Passover’s here! How are you dealing with all the matza?
Probably best not discussed in this forum. Moving on…

So I went to Seder the other night obviously. You want to see messy? Take a look at the tablecloth after your average Passover meal. It looks like a scene from a movie where the hero comes home and realizes the bad guys have completely ransacked his home, looking for something important. Now imagine that the hero lives in a Manischewitz factory. Just crumbs of destroyed matza everywhere. A plane after an international flight is the same, but replace matza with newspapers, toilet paper, napkins, plastic from headphones or blankets or whatever, and general filth.

“Hey, was there an IDF operation here?”
“No, just El Al #001 to Newark.”

Mothers, PLEASE, keep your children off the baggage claim.

Keeping Passover of course also means using different dishes and utensils. You know…if you have different dishes and utensils. I actually just used the tiny lid of the gefilte fish jar as a plate. Is it possible to be embarrassed when nobody else is around? That was two levels below wiping your mouth on your sleeve. (Is this still allowed?)

Enough silliness, what the hell is going on with you?
Hey, did you hear? I quit my job.

What are you, an idiot? Do you know we’re in the middle of the biggest global recession since the Great Depression?’
B’sedeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!!!!!!!!! No proh-bleeeeeeeeeeeem!!!!!!!!!!

Nu, b’emet.
Fine, so remember how I took a new job planning trips? And how I moved to Jerusalem for the job? Zehu. Maspeek. I *had had enough. Nuff said. So the timing is unusual due to the economic crisis. You know what? What’s more important than being happy? Besides chumus, I mean. That’s right, not much. I didn’t need to take much into account: aleph, I’m making decisions which I think will make me happiest, and, bet? YIYEH B’SEDEEEEEEEEEEEER!!!!!!!!

Don’t believe me?

The freaking banks are now telling us “yiyeh b’seder”???
Isn’t that how we got into this mess in the first place???

The truth is that the final factor in my decision-making process came after my job, along with those of at least half our department, was slashed to 50%. Don’t know if any of you have done half-time jobs before, but they’re never half-time jobs. So the decision was fairly easy. And if you enjoy doing full-time jobs for half the salary, I’d love to hire you to clean my room and cook for me. I should warn you though: it’s a half-time job.

On that note, olim, do you ever feel like every subsequent decision after aliyah is easily justifiable because nothing will ever be crazier than moving here? Like, I feel like having told everyone I was making aliyah, I can now get the book of Exodus tattooed on my back and announce my intention to become a professional giraffe without anyone being surprised. “Well, the guy already moved to a war zone, I really don’t know what he could do next…”

*I cannot imagine trying to explain to a non-native English speaker when to use “had had.” I’m still trying to figure out the difference between “sagur” and “nisgar“. Sagur=closed and nisgar=is being closed??? Experienced Hebrew speakers, you’re on the clock.

Does it ever happen to you where you’re sitting there deep in thought, maybe reading, and suddenly, without warning, you drool?
Of course not. And it definitely did not just happen.

I know you’d have to be crazy to take a vacation while you’re unemployed…but, bo nagid, let’s just saaaaaaay that you did. Where between #80 and #485 on your list of places to go would Romania rank?
The list only goes to #485? Sadly, tickets to Slovenia were too pricey. I have two words for you: “cheap flight”. And here’s another: VAMPIRES! My friend Yoav is also unemployed and we both badly need a vacation. Not just want. NEED, people. After reading his guide book this week, I figured out that it’s going to be less of the American “see eight thousand sites in five minutes” trip and more of the Israeli “sit on your butt in India for eight months and have a healthy, fun experience” trip. Hiking….seeing a different culture….laughing….what’s better than that? The only famous “must-see” is the Transylvanian castle associated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula character. What a lot of people don’t know is that he actually grew up on a small moshav called Kfar Nyah-nyah-nyah! (If you didn’t laugh at that, do take into account that I’ve been in front of the computer for about 4.5 hours.)

Here are a few more famous Romanian things:
1) Nadia Comaneci, of the 1976 perfect 10 in the Olympics
2) The Kazakh village at the beginning of “Borat”? Filmed in Romania. Yeah, I’m sure they love that.
3) I forget what else.

After this stressful year which of course included 6 months of commuting to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv WITHOUT A CAR and everything else, magia li (I deserve it.) Should be a good time. And if you don’t hear from me in the days following April 20th, I probably just got bitten by a vampire.

“Two! Two falafel balls! NYA! NYA! NYA!”

You did make sure to get health insurance when abroad, right?
Seriously, this is where the whole “whatever”/b’sedeeeeeeeeeeeer thing came from. How many people in this country ACTUALLY CAME FROM THIS COUNTRY? You know, going back several generations? I’m talking to my kupat cholim (HMO) yesterday about extending my coverage abroad and the nice woman is telling me all the details. Well, she’s saying something anyway, I just assumed it was about the insurance. I’m like “could you repeat that part again? I didn’t understand it”, at which point she says it slower and I still don’t get it. So I say “b’seder” and we move on. On one hand, if there’s anyone you don’t want to say “b’seder” to, it’s

1) the woman explaning the fine print of your health insurance policy, and
2) the dude cutting your hair

(in foreign language) “I will now shave a picture of Dora into the back of your head.”
(clueless) “B’sedeeeeeeer!

On the other hand….b’seder! Whaddya gonna do? Life is short, I got things to do, nothing’s gonna happen (tfu tfu tfu, knock on wood), and even if it does, guess what? YIYEH B’SEDER! (“Yiyeh b’seder” and I make the most ambivalent relationship since David Addison and Maddie Hayes on “Moonlighting.”)

Are you going to get a job when you get back?
If you must know, yes, and I already have one in my sights. Here it is, third from the top.

Are you going back to Tel Aviv?
No immediate plans. As I detailed in my moving here post linked above, I do want the Jerusalem experience. And now that I’m no longer in my job, I should actually have time to live in the city in which I live. Let’s hope anyway. And it’s not like life was perfect in Tel Aviv anyway. And moving sucks.

So how is Jerusalem?
It’s not bad. Best part by far would have to be Shabbat. Totally relaxing in a guilt-free way which I never found in Tel Aviv. Having brunch out with friends Saturday morning is fantastic but so is sitting on your tooseek when the entire city is quiet and calm. These two cities are so different, you really can’t compare, even though it’s almost impossible not to. The hardest thing to compare is of course the social/going-out scene where Tel Aviv kicks the chumus out of Jerusalem. If anybody can tell me where to go out in this city, I’d love to hear it.

Jerusalem definitely scores big points in the “flat-out interesting, different, and surreal experiences” department. Like when I joined Ahuva and David of Jewlicious (seen in video poking head in) for a walk through the Old City on Good Friday. People everywhere from every color, speaking every language, a couple even dressed as Romans carrying Jesus on the cross, packed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre chanting in Latin and other languages. Heck, the Old City’s interesting on a normal day. The Arab shuk….always funny to me.

Vendor: “Hello! Hello, my friend! You like dis?
Person: “Eh, it’s ok.”
Vendor: “For you? 300 shekel. I bought it for 500.”
Person: “I don’t want it.”

All principles of economics….OUT THE WINDOW IN THE ARAB SHUK!!!

Oh, and looking for something fun to do in the Old City on Easter? Look no further.

Is spring cleaning fun?
Why, yes, it is.

So, tachlis (bottom line), what are you going to do now?
Live. Get life in order. Do things I’ve been putting off for months. Not even only fun things, especially not only fun things. Things around the house, health things, how about financial things so the mas hachana (IRS) will waive their 1250 shekels fee for me being late with my taxes? And to be understated, since I could have made a whole post out of it (and perhaps I still will someday), but if you’re still reading, I suspect you like what you see here in the War Zone. The feedback I’ve gotten from my writing and other creative outlets has been pretty positive (evidenced by this recent tour). As long as I was in my last job (or any full-time job truthfully), it would have been impossible to further explore and develop these types of things. Along with trying to, oh I don’t know, have enough time or more importantly mental energy to improve my Hebrew or have any kind of healthy life in my still new place of residence.

If the writing and stand-up is what I’m good at, it would seem to me that perhaps I should do what I can to actually devote time and energy to them. And since I wasn’t loving my last job anyway, the decision at some point became an easy one.

I should now have time to actually start contacting the Jewish papers in the States to let me write for them. Or to figure out how to add some simple ads to this site.

So….any newspapers in Israel or around the world want to give me a column?
Can anybody recommend an acting class?
Any students out there want a comedy show for your university Hillel?
Anybody want to move a blog to WordPress for a minimal price, pro bono, or in exchange for services? Bartering is back, baby!

We hope you enjoyed the first installment of the What War Zone??? mailbag. If you enjoyed this mailbag and want another one in the future, be sure to send any burning question about anything to blovitt [at] gmail [dot] com with “Falafel Jones” in the subject, and your name and city in the body of the message, just for fun. Whether you’re thinking about moving here, have lived here 15 years, or just have a ridiculous question, be sure to write.

And if you don’t?


We leave tonight. See you on the 20th!

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