Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It’s Not Your Land Chimp Bitch

Simmering in my head, all day long are these words: “It’s not your land, chimp bitch.”
(photo credit: Craig Lymm)

Five days ago, a well-meaning American friend invited me to an event called “I Stand with Israel.” She meant to show me that American Jews are standing in solidarity with Israeli Jews during this critical time of war. I decided to decline the invitation as irrelevant. When asked to offer a reason for not attending, I could not tamp down the cynic in my breast and wrote, “Um. I stand IN Israel.”

“Um. I stand IN Israel.”
I forgot all about that event and my pithy response until this afternoon. There was a siren and a boom. I stayed in the safe room for as long as I could stand it which wasn’t very long. I was FURIOUS.

I was furious at my government for not going in to Gaza with a ground incursion. I paced with furious speed inside my safe room, pounding the walls with my fist and screaming the f word over and over and over again, until I just couldn’t stay inside those four walls anymore.

I came out of the safe room to send a message to my mother to let her know that all was well. I tried to breathe.

I wrote just one line: We are fine.

I Clicked Send

When I clicked send, I saw that my inbox was overflowing so I went to clear out some of the messages before getting back to my work. Among those messages was a rant on that event page for standing with Israel. The comment was apparently directed toward my response. Something twisted about Zionism and secular Judaism. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Normally, I would not have answered him. Clearly, the guy’s a nutcase. But I was feeling reckless after the siren and after all these days of waiting, waiting, waiting, for Israel to go in and do what it needs to do to stop these endless rockets, sirens, and misery. Maybe I needed a small battle to contend with the larger one: the one I cannot control.

I was feeling anxious and emotional. So I ventured a few lines just to clarify that I live in Israel because the Torah commands me to live in Israel and not because of this or that political ideology. I told him that I live in Israel because it is my land.

(photo credit: Ministry of Tourism; www.goisrael.com)

And he wrote: “You can disagree all you want. I see fact for what it is. Genocide, starvation, apartheid, murder, =racism…

It isn’t your land chimp bitch. Stolen property does not belong to the thief.

That is common law around the world.

And you are a liar, or too fuckiing [sic] stupid to understand your own Torah.”

Too Stupid

His name is Don Leonard. Feel free to report him for hate speech. I did.

I was just struck dumb by that phrase, “It isn’t your land chimp bitch.”

I repeated it over and over again to myself, sometimes aloud. I found it had a certain ring. It evolved for me until it became, “IT’S NOT YOUR LAND CHIMP BITCH.”

My husband giggled.

But while I was acting all tough and saying, “It’s not your land chimp bitch,” inside I was feeling wounded and hurt, anxious and angry. All of that emotion just churned inside me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around my work project; the work that pays our rent.

Then the fury boiled up and spilled over and I did something I’d been threatening to do for days. I quit a long-held volunteer position with a Jewish organization for the simple reason that not a single one of my co-volunteers had inquired after the well-being of my family since this whole thing escalated. My son is called up three days after he is engaged to be married. I am calming down frightened children in bomb shelters and hearing sirens, but NOPE. Not one word. I’ve been with that org for more than a decade.

Photo by Cpl. Shai Wagner, IDF Spokesperson's Unit

They all voted for Obama, all of them, at least the Americans. They sold me out: me and my people, their OWN PEOPLE.

The President-elect and Vice President-elect meet with the Supreme Court Justices. (Photo by Pete Souza)
They knew their votes would put Israel in a precarious situation, all 70 damned percent of them. And they did it anyway. They were so much more worried about who would sit on the damned Supreme Court. They don’t care about a million of their brethren suffering PTSD in Southern Israel and now dying from Arab

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

They don’t care. They only cared about Romney going all Big Love on them. They cared about minor domestic issues that didn’t even affect them personally. Women my age often aren’t even menstruating for goodness’ sake. They’re not getting pregnant. Abortion is NOT their issue. But ISRAEL IS.

None of them are GAY. But they ARE Jewish. So why is gay marriage more important to them than Israel? I’m sorry. I just don’t buy their frigging excuses ANY MORE.

Can you tell I’m angry?

President Barack Obama listens to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 1, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Arabs started this latest escalation as a direct response to the election results. And don’t any of you Americans think otherwise. This is ON YOUR HEADS.

Anger talking. Sure. But there it is. It’s what’s inside me. It’s how I feel.

So I wrote the guy above me at that org, “I quit effective immediately. Best of Luck,” and felt relief suffuse me. It felt good. I also called out, “IT’S NOT YOUR LAND CHIMP BITCH,” one more time for good measure. That was amazingly powerful because it just made me laugh. Laughter is better than fury and helplessness.

The phrase makes me laugh because I have a deep-seated belief that Israel belongs to me and my people. That makes the phrase seem utterly ridiculous, even absurd! I said it a few more times:

Then a friend posted this Oliver North clip:  http://video.foxnews.com/v/1978528038001/

I stopped laughing. North said that President Obama is threatening Netanyahu behind the scenes, telling the Israeli prime minister that should Israel go ahead with a ground incursion, the U.S. will block all airplane part replacements.

Well, I figured all those oh-so-supportive-of-Israel statements Obama was issuing right and left were a bunch of horse-pucky. Like anyone thought he’d support Israel? So I was inclined to believe Ollie North.

The fury just built inside me. If we don’t do this ground incursion, that’s it. Nothing left to talk about. I can’t bear it. I just can’t bear it.

The whole thing is falling apart.

Israel will still be here. The land won’t go anywhere. But it will become more and more dangerous for Jews to live here. We’ll have lost control of the entire venture.

I will not be afraid. I will not be afraid.
(photo credit: Kewima; http://www.flickr.com/photos/kewima//)

My fury knows no bounds. I want to break something, smash something.

And now the rumors start to flow about ceasefire declarations.

My anguish is so enormous I have no more words.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Birthday Blessings and Baseless Hatred

A Blessing On Your Head
When I joined Facebook, I noticed that many of my Orthodox Jewish friends dispensed blessings to their Jewish friends on their birthdays. Not being orthodox from birth, I like to try out new customs for myself and see how they feel. In this case, I liked the idea that I had a special superpower on my birthday.

It reminded me of being a new bride. According to Jewish custom you see, a bride is granted whatever she prays for on her wedding day. Except that in this case, it seems, I had the power on a single day each year. I’d just never been aware of that power.

I didn’t look into why people were giving out blessings on their birthdays. It may be a Chassidishe custom and I am a Litvak. But it seemed like a nice enough custom to adopt; one that would result in no harm to anyone and might even be beneficial. Who can’t use a brocha—a blessing? Besides, the sudden assumption of power seemed a heady thing that I wasn’t about to forego.

And so it was that I made my decision. This year, when Facebook informed everyone it was the day of my birth, I would answer each and every birthday greeting I received with a blessing. Not only would I give out blessings, but I would do so in the same way my mother taught me to write thank-you notes: each and every blessing would be particular to that person.

No rote blessings would be allowed. There would be thought and intent behind my blessings. My blessings would be caring and specific. I didn’t want my power wasted on emptiness. I wanted that power imbued with and applied with meaning.

My friends seemed genuinely pleased with my largesse and in many cases, commented on how apt my blessings were—how much they desired those very blessings. But toward the end of the day, I received a birthday greeting from a fellow blogger and writer who wrote only half in jest, “Happy birthday. Are we still friends?”

Interesting, considering how many times I’d thought of unfriending this particular woman. My hand had even once hovered over that, “remove from friends button,” on the precipice, so to speak. But each time, I had refrained from completing the action.

The issue in question was this woman’s adamant dislike of Haredim, or black-hat Jews as we called them back in the alte heim (old country), expressed over and over again on her own blogs, in talkbacks, and in other people’s blogs. She had an utter hatred, it seemed, of my co-religionists, and could not be reasoned with on the subject. Though I tried. Repeatedly.

But every time I thought of unfriending her, I thought that if I just continued to be a shining example of the breed, I would ultimately persuade her and make her see another side of the story. It was a long shot. But it seemed to me that it was in both our interests for me to continue to try and cajole her into seeing a different, good side of Haredim.

So when she greeted me on my birthday, I thought of it as an opportunity to drive home the point. My blessing to her was, “May you come to see the good in all your fellow Jews and shun baseless hatred. May you learn to strive for the unity of our people and develop a true love of Israel.”

Yes. I’ll admit. It was a dig. She knew where I was coming from with that. But then again, she’d opened the topic by asking if we were still friends. She knew exactly what was between us and what it was that needed to be resolved.

As far as I am concerned, what needed to be resolved was a willingness to include me and other Haredim as part of her people and not single out specific negative actions perpetrated by a few rank individuals as justifying her mental exclusion of us from “her” nation.

Hatred: like an arrow (or several) to the heart
Consider this: a month ago, my grandchildren, who look quite obviously Haredi, came to visit me in my town, which is overwhelmingly of a National Religious character. My 13 year-old son took them to the park and immediately, the resident children at play, began to shout epithets at my grandchildren, “Stinky dirty Haredim,” they cried. “Go play in your own parks.”

Now, where did they learn that? You know the answer to that as well as I do. They learned this bias and hatred from their parents.

Starfish are People Too
It was a horrible, even traumatic experience for my grandchildren who immediately left the park and returned to my home to spend the rest of their visit indoors and safe from the hatred extended toward them during what should have been a pleasant visit to Grandma.

Going back a few months further, my husband and I attended the wedding of a friend and at our table, the guests vied to best each other’s jokes which focused on denigrating Haredim. They must have thought my husband and I were of them and not Haredim, though I wore my sheitl and was otherwise dressed according to Haredi shita (fashion).

My husband and I sat through it all, not saying a word, waiting it out, not wanting to create any kind of dissension at our friend’s daughter’s wedding. When I returned home, my whole body ached from the tension of holding back a response, of deflecting the hatred in each word and glance and trying to defend from any sort of penetration. Like the meltdown of adrenaline after an incident. Like the aftermath of fending off a rape.

I thought of all this as I typed and sent my blessing to my Facebook friend. Can you guess what happened next?

Of course you can. She unfriended me. She took offense at my blessing. She took offense at the obviousness of the lesson I was trying to impart: at the inference that she was at fault for her hatred rather than I for the sins of a few people who wear similar clothing to my own and adhere to the rulings of some of the same rabbis.

I shook my head in despair when I realized that this woman had finally found me annoying enough to unfriend me, rather than work toward resolving the issues between us.

This is the three-week period during which Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples due to baseless hatred. I hope that at least, from time to time, during the next 20 days or so, my unfriended friend will think about my blessing and let it sink in, as it was meant to be, as a blessing on both of us, for all of us, for our people.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's it Worth to Ya?

Today I received the most beautiful compliment from a reader.

Dear Varda,
You write so beautifully, why aren't you rich? :)

Not Rich

Well, my dear fan, what follows is a little story that illustrates why I am not rich from my writing. This story typifies the trials and travails of the freelance writer.

Last week, I finished polishing off a great little article that I thought would be perfect for a Jerusalem Day feature. Jerusalem Day is four days from now. Since that meant there was a time factor, after some deliberation I sent a query to several different publications at once, explaining that I would give exclusive rights to the piece to whichever editor expressed interest first.

Two of the publications wanted my piece but when I asked about payment they said they have no budget for guest features. They wanted my piece as a freebie.

I have enough writing credits to date that exposure in these publications does nothing to further my career. I thought that I might as well post the piece on my blog rather than give it to one of these places for free, so I said thanks but no thanks.

We Don't Care

The next publication suggested I send the piece to a different editor at that publication. I did so and to date, have not heard back. The lack of a response is irritating and hurtful. It’s like saying, “We don’t care enough about you or your query to respond.”

The final publication I queried rejected my piece. The editor said, “We’ll pass on this one, thank you.”

I thought about asking my friend Israel Pickholtz to guest host the piece on All My Foreparents since his blog features genealogy and my piece is a story about my family. He would have been happy to do so, but I wasn’t sure how this would help either of us or our respective readerships.

In the end, I decided I would post the piece on my own blog, four days hence, on Jerusalem Day, but with a caveat. Something along the lines of: “If you like the story, please consider using the donation tab.”

Darned Hard

I know it is counterintuitive to pay to read a blog piece but it is so darned hard to make a living as a writer.

But all I want is to be paid for the hard work I put into my writing. If you could only see me at work: I write and rewrite and write and rewrite, until each word and phrase is just so. It’s like polishing a diamond. I put my kishkes (Yiddish for guts) into my writing.

A Helpmeet

I am the mother of 12 children and writing is one thing I know how to do well. I only want to be recompensed for an honest day’s work.I want to work and be an Eizer k'Negdo--a helpmeet to my husband. I want to put bread on the table and pay my rent.

Is that so bad?

Question for my fellow bloggers: do you have a donation tab? Have you ever received any money through Google Adwords or through a donation tab? (To date, my blog has earned me a total of ZERO, which could be my faulty attempts at marketing my work.)

Question for my readers: Would you ever consider making a donation to a blogger for well-written, interesting blog posts when you can just as easily read them for free? 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Potato Thing

It is no mean feat to feed and fill 12 children and two parents. Back when I still had all of them at home, there were days when I told my husband that lunch would be creatio ex nihilo. Sometimes the meals I served were less than stellar from a nutritional point of view, but my kids never went hungry in our home.

A neighborhood child, the friend of my eldest daughter, developed a sort of crush on me. To my mind, she was at the age where the blinders were coming off and she was seeing her parents’ faults for the first time, and contrasting these to my qualities. She was coming up wanting.

Shoshanna’s* mother was a good cook, but disorganized and dirty. The mother of a large family like my own, she simply had a set of priorities that differed from my own. I think she attended a lot of classes and was probably more learned than I. She went to a lot of concerts. She was from a wealthy background and had grown up with a nanny and other help that cooked and cleaned. Her husband had grown up in South Africa with slaves.

Not Coping

In Israel, where every man does for himself, this family was all but dysfunctional. In fact, stories came out later that proved they WERE dysfunctional. It was more than just the externals of how the house looked (and smelled). This was a family that was not coping.

On the other hand, my need to be completely organized was standing me in good stead as the babies came. Shoshanna was jealous but in a good way. She would come over and offer to help me clean or cook. She wanted to learn from me.

I liked having her around and I felt it was a kindness to steer her through this much of her adolescence, if I could. But sometimes, our grinding poverty was so mean that I found it hard to feed her alongside my own brood.

Large Potato Pancake

Something I made quite often in those days (and still do today) was a kind of very large potato pancake that was quick to make, tasty, and satisfying: Rösti. In our house we called it, “Potato Thing.” 

One or the other of the kids, or Shoshanna, to whom my house was a second home, would beg me to make the potato thing and I’d drag out the skillet. But sometimes even potatoes were hard to come by and I’d send Shoshanna to go get some potatoes from her home and bring them to me to cook for her. She was always very happy to do so.

I could only make one potato thing at a time, or two, if I had two skillets going. It was a lot of grating, also, since in those days I had no food processor. But Shoshanna and the other kids would take turns grating and it was a very satisfying way to pass a wintry afternoon. It always felt warm and cozy in our crowded but neat little home. I think that even the sound of something frying was somehow comforting to us in those lean times. 

Hit The Spot!

The potato thing was hot and huge and filling: the tastiest thing going. With or without ketchup, the potato thing hit the spot and made us feel that all was right with the world (and still does).

Potato Thing (Rösti)

One very large serving

3 large, unpeeled potatoes, scrubbed clean

3 Tablespoons oil, butter, or a combination of the two (my current favorite combination is 2 Tablespoons olive oil and 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter)


1. Grate potatoes in the food processor or on the large holes of a box grater.

2. Place the oil or butter in a large, nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

3. Add the grated potatoes to the hot fat, pat down a bit, sprinkle generously with salt, and cover with a lid. Cook for around 12 minutes.   

4. A nice golden brown bottom crust should have formed. Give the pan a little side-to-side shake to loosen and slide the potato thing onto a dinner plate.

5. Turn the potato thing into the pan so that the bottom crust is now facing up. Salt generously, cover again, and cook for 10 minutes.

6. Slide the potato thing onto the plate and turn it over into the skillet for a further two minutes to crisp the now slightly soggy top.

7. Slide it onto the plate and dig in. Ketchup is good with this, but it’s also good plain.


*Not her real name.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

They Kill Children

Muslims are a special breed, for in pursuing their cause they have managed to slough off a primal taboo shared by all evil men everywhere: that children are sacrosanct. When terrorists deliberately target schools and school buses and engage in killing children, they have trespassed all boundaries of the moral code that may have once bound them to the rest of humanity.

Two days ago, 3 children and the father of two of the children were killed in a shooting spree that took place in a small Jewish school in Toulouse, France. During their manhunt to find the perpetrator, the police  looked for Neo-Nazis; in essence an attempt to misdirect the gut sense of the public that this vile crime could only have been committed by a Muslim. For appearances now trump the truth in every civilized city on earth.

But the truth in this case would not be suppressed.

These tender children were killed by a Muslim. There is, in fact, a war. This is not a war between countries but a great clash between civilizations that cannot be won by hiding our heads in the sand and pretending it isn’t so.

Looking Elsewhere

The dedication of Muslims surpasses our own. Our fervent wish is for a tolerant civilization where all are free to pursue their dreams no matter their race, creed, or color. But nothing stops them in their desire to make their god the ruler of the free world. Not even our whitewashing of their deeds, our looking for other candidates as perpetrators.

Not a Muslim, we prayed. Oh please not a Muslim. Let us look elsewhere.

But we need to save ourselves. For that we can only examine the truth of Islam in the way its adherents see that truth and strive with all their being toward imposing that perceived truth on the rest of us. In this war, children, tender children, lose their basic meaning. On home territory, their own children serve as human shields. Far from home, Muslims transform children from sacred objects to cannon fodder, mere vehicles for Allah’s unquenchable thirst for believers.

On Facebook we look at photos of cute kittens, puppies, and babies. We love them for their “Aw” factor. But they kill children.

It means nothing to them. It is like swatting flies.

They Kill Children

Or rather, it DOES mean something to them. It means that their dedication to their cause is greater than our civilized desire to preserve civilization. The proof is here: they will stop at nothing to attain their despicable goals.

They will even kill children.

They will gloat over the killing of children and boast of these deeds during television broadcasts on PA TV funded by tax dollars and Euros, a new kind of public implosion, a suicide by the world which, if we manage to survive may someday earn a sobriquet that gives reference to this unique kind of death by the hand of civilization against itself.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Memory and Music

Not long ago, a friend asked me to read over his draft of a blog entry about an acquaintance who’d died in a terror attack. After I read and commented, Israel said, “Did you follow the final link?”

I had not, so I went back in and found the link which took me to a late 70’s song. The minute I heard the opening notes, I cringed. Bad song. Really bad song. The genre itself was doomed to extinction: Country-Western Israeli.


I didn’t want to be a poor friend so I listened to the entire song. It was NOT a good experience.

I reported back to Israel who told me that whenever he hears this song he thinks of his friend’s smile; that of the fellow killed in the terror attack. There was a photo. The poor guy did have the proverbial million dollar smile.

It hit me then: the musical merits or demerits of the song didn’t matter. The fact that it was just a really bad song filled with repetitive hooks didn’t matter. The point was the association. When Israel hears that song, it evokes certain bittersweet memories of a time, place, and person.

‘Did I have a song like that?’ I wondered. Of course I did. The Bee Gees’ song, “How Deep is Your Love,” came to mind straight away. Whenever I hear that song, my mind flashes back to a place (Detroit), a time (my angst-filled 16th winter), and the people I hung out with back then.

That got me thinking about other songs I love that deep down, I know are egregious top 40 crapola. I get excited when they’re played on the radio and know all the lyrics by heart.  My iPod is filled with those songs. Earphones make it possible to forego insults like, “Ew. How can you listen to that stuff?” and “Can you turn the sound down, PUHLEEZE?”

I know I’m not the only one to think about this seeming disparity between bad songs and good memories. Ruby Harris billed as “King of the Blues Violin,” recently asked his Facebook friends to share the names of songs they love which have no redeeming musical value whatsoever. Several songs immediately came to mind and I put them out there, knowing that what I was really putting out there was my own neck and rep on the *gulp* sacrificial altar.

Always one to make a spectacle of myself I typed, “Alone Again Naturally!” and then in a burst of creative energy, “Afternoon Delight!”

I was on a roll. Filled with glee I then virtually blurted, “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me!” There followed this resounding (virtual) silence which somewhat resembled the sound of expelled gas during a brief quiet moment at a party.

The silence didn’t last long. Ruby wrote something along the lines of, “What’s WRONG with YOU?” and Dov (my DH) commented, “I don’t know her.”

But you see it’s not about the songs. When I hear, “Alone Again Naturally,” I am transported back to sixth grade and Marjie Rice’s living room on Wilkins Ave., in the time before her family moved to the bigger house on Beechwood Blvd. I remember Marjie putting this Gilbert O’Sullivan 45 on her turntable and hearing the tune for the first time. Sixth grade was really the age when it began to be cool to collect and listen to records. 

I think of the line, “I remember I cried when my father died,” and I feel a powerful twinge remembering my tears when my own father died, not two years later.

And I can identify just as strong a memory as that for every bad song I love.

I realized that there must be some kind of cognitive science behind our affinity for specific songs that lack musical merit. Some scientist must have done a study, right? I turned to Google to see what I could find. I typed “music memories and associations” and waited to see what came up.

While the scope of the research I discovered is too broad to cover here in any detail, I found that Petr Janata, an associate professor of psychology at UC Davis' Center for Mind and Brain had published a study on the subject in 2009. Janata’s aim was to discover what it is about music that evokes such vivid memories for so many people. Among other things, Janata’s findings help explain why music is able to elicit such a strong response in those with Alzheimer’s disease, long after many other cognitive faculties are gone.

It seems that the area of the brain in which past memories are held and retrieved serves also as a hub for linking memories, familiar songs, and emotions. This hub is located right behind the forehead in the medial prefrontal cortex region and is among the final areas of the brain to atrophy during the progression of Alzheimer’s.

"What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person's face in your mind's eye," said Janata said. "Now we can see the association between those two things – the music and the memories."

I thought of the way couples will refer to a specific tune as “our song.” I can’t hear the song “Take Five” without remembering the first time Dov caught my eye. I was playing this song on the piano when he happened into the room. “Take Five, Dave Brubeck,” he said.

“Wanna go out?” said I.

“Take Five” (Paul Desmond) happens to be a terrific song.

But apparently the quality of the song doesn’t much matter. When I hear the song , “Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)”—a musically undistinguished pop song—memories every bit as strong flood my mind. I think of the sweating sides of a bright red waxed cup of iced coca cola and the underground walkway to Kennywood,  an amusement park in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I think of summer, and Landlubber jeans, and men’s shirts tied at my midriff. I think of ponytails and Barbara Spiegel, my best friend in eighth grade.

I like hearing the song Brandy. It doesn’t make a whit of difference to me that it’s such a god-awful song. It’s all about the nostalgia.

What songs are linked in your mind with specific events from your life? Do you secretly like listening to a cringe-worthy song?

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brraveheart/2792747305/sizes/m/in/photostream/)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When is a Grapefruit, Not a Grapefruit?

Food blog today, peops. I just ate a pomelit and I realized that I should really write about them because I know that a lot of my American friends have never heard of or tasted them and that's a shame. They are SPECIAL.


I still remember the first time I saw the curious fruit known as a pomelo (the fruit I ate just now is its smaller kissing cousin, the pomelit or "sweetie").  I had been in Israel only a month or so. A girl in one of my classes brought out this ginormous thing I thought was a grapefruit. She started cutting away the peel. It took ages. When she was done, there was a HUGE pile of peel and a small pile of fruit. 


The pomelo looks a great deal like a giant grapefruit.  The skin is most often green but can run anywhere from pale yellow to yellow-green, going all the way to just plain green. The taste of a pomelo is similar to grapefruit, too, except that the pomelo is sweeter and lacks the acidity of grapefruit.  Just like a grapefruit, a pomelo is eaten without its membranes. One eats only the yellow or pink papules contained within.
A pomelo has a large ratio of waste to fruit and it’s a bit of work to get to the delicious insides. The peel is quite thick; there will be at least an inch of peel, if not more. A knife helps. 

Once you get past the thick peel, you still have to free the fruit from the membranes, which are thicker than those of other citrus fruits.  The good news is there aren’t too many seeds in a pomelo and they are easy to remove.

The fruit itself is dry compared to other citrus fruits. The sweeter hybrid known as the pomelit, is much juicier than its larger relative the pomelo and I tend to keep a lot of paper toweling around me when I eat one.

If you like using citrus fruits in spinach, avocado, or chicken salads, try substituting pomelo or pomelit. It’s like the fruit was BORN for this purpose. The sections hold their shape and look like colorful jewels. They add sweetness without the cloying insistence of say, mandarin oranges. At the same time, they don’t make your mouth pucker as grapefruit sections tend to do.

We’re really past the season of pomelos and pomelits, here in Israel, but I’m still buying them up when I see them. It seems I can’t resist them at all. Nor do I want to try.

My favorite fruits:

White Peaches


What are some of your favorite fruits?

Pomelo, of course!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Revering that which the World Reviles

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I like to sing. I may not always be able to summon up the energy to write in my blog, but I am always ready and willing to sing my guts out. The big news is I've been singing with a newish choir for a few months now and tonight we have our very first performance.

We may not sound exactly polished. It would have been better if we'd practiced for a few more weeks, but the opportunity to perform arose and so we are rising to the occasion. The occasion in question is an event for women only, the Women’s Beit Midrash Rosh Chodesh Adar Celebration which celebrates the new Jewish lunar month of Adar!

At the link cited above, my choir is referred to only as "Judy Kahan's choir." It was the vision of this advertisement which spurred us to try to come up with a name for our group. If we are happening enough to perform, we need to have a name! That's what we thought, anyway.

Now I like to sing, but I also think of myself as a wordsmith. I wasn't going to settle for just any old name for our choir, because naming things involves the use of WORDS. I started brainstorming names and tossing them out to my husband and jotting down likely candidates. I kept in mind something our director, Judy Kahan, had mentioned at our very first rehearsal: that she would like us to dedicate our singing to the memory of Elyse Steinberg (A"H), a woman in my community who succumbed to cancer some years ago.

Once I had a few names I sent some out to the members of the choir by email.

Pyncopation, I dared! Extra Soul, I ventured. Pink Cloud. Achayot* Elyse.

Uh no. They weren't buying.

Some of the women said nothing. Others said, "We don't care what we're called."

Two others suggested more conventional names most of them involving the name of our town or quotes from scripture.

I tried to prepare myself to accept a name that seemed, well, plebeian and just plain BORING to my mind.

Oh darn.

But okay. I squared my shoulders and prepared to give in on the subject. The majority of the women preferred a more normal name. I was a minority here. It was time to show a little sensitivity to my sistahs. I could do that.

I decided that when we next met, I would agree to one of those other names.

Then a funny thing happened. One of the women called and said, "I sense you are upset with me over the issue of naming the choir. I don't care that much about the issue and it's fine with me if you want to choose one of the names you thought up."

Here I was going to try to be sensitive and she beat me to it--the sensitivity thing. Ha!

Made me think of two people who desperately wanted that last portion of chicken going, "No, I'm completely full. You take it," and, "No you. I couldn't eat another bite," with each giving in to the other and saying they didn't care while meantime both cared so dreadfully that whoever won had actually LOST by showing her hand.

Did that make sense? The one who gave in was going to feel good for being kind to the other. That meant that if we chose one of those boring conventional names, my friend and fellow choir sistah was going to feel bad because she suspected I felt bad about the choir choosing HER name suggestion.

Either you understood that or you didn't.

But I realized that I didn't want my friend to feel bad because she would know I felt bad they hadn't chosen one of my names. So I decided I would win/lose and let the choir pick one of my silly creative choir names.

But first I had to come up with something better. Something really, really GREAT! So all the next day, I kept paper and pen close by and jotted down name after name after name. Here was the list I generated:

Jane Doe (get it? as in doh a deer?)
Singing Settlers
Slice O'Heaven
Inner Child
Slightly Unsettled
Kaptains of Kahan

We had our final rehearsal for our performance Monday night. When we polished off those songs as good as we were going to get them, the women all looked at me. Time to pick a name, their faces said. One of the ladies said, "Okay, Varda. Let's hear your list. Out with it."

And so I read them off.

They chose the second name in my list, "Singing Settlers."

I was a little disappointed. That was probably the most boring of all the names I'd come up with, but you know, at least we'd settled on SOMETHING. They were happy and I was, too.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it: Singing Settlers. The name said something about the ideology of the women in my choir: The world REVILES Israeli settlers, but we couldn't be more proud to bear the appellation of settler. In fact, darn it, we were going to SING IT OUT TO THE WORLD:

WE ARE SETTLER WOMEN.We are fulfilling our birthright by settling the Holy Land and we are filling the rarefied air of the Judean mountains with SONG.

That name is sounding better to me all the time.

Yesterday, I called Judy to ask her help with my part and when we finished our conversation she said, "You know the name Singing Settlers is really starting to grow on me."

Me too.

*Hebrew for "sisters" or "sisters of"