Today he had me close to doubled over with laughter on a couple of occasions. He called me into his room because he was very excited about something. I moseyed on in and he said to me:
"Abba, my penis died."
"Oh, I see. How did it die," I asked.
"First it was really big and it was standing up. And then it became soft and fell down," He replied.
"So let me ask you a question. Were you touching it before it got really small."
"Yes, first I did a thing to it like this and then after a while it died."
"Ok, I see. Let me tell you a few things about how your penis works and let's see if that works for you."
A little time passes and he comes to find me to ask me a new question.
"Abba, what happens to your penis when you die?"
Ok, this is a variation on the theme of death that I had already covered. This I should be able to handle. And then it occurred to me that at 4.5 he takes much of what he is told literally so I paused for a moment to consider how to answer the question. As I paused he asked me a new question.
"Abba, do you feel ok?"
I smiled and said that I did and asked why he asked that question.
"Because you make a funny face when you are thinking hard."
Boy, the child is observant and smart. I was about to offer answers to both questions when I was saved by a new thought. He wanted to watch Scooby Doo and I consented. In part because I hadn't come up with a satisfactory answer to his question of what happens to your penis when you die.
It is not that I am stumped, but as I mentioned I want to be careful in my answer because he is literal in his understanding of some things. This is the boy who looked at the Mary Poppins DVD, saw Dick Van Dyke's face covered in soot and called him the black man. Actually he asked me about the black man in Mary Poppins and for a moment I was stumped because I couldn't think of a single character who wasn't white.
I am waiting for the day in which my daughter asks me these kinds of questions. Of course if at 4.5 she talks to me about a dead penis someone is going to find out that I can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
But I read a post yesterday that has stuck with me and thought that I would at least bring it to your attention.
It comes from Robert Avrech and can be found here. I want to quote a few passages that I think are noteworthy.
And the post goes on to ask why. And that is the ultimate question. Why Israel? Why is there no mention of any other country such as those listed in the post.
To be fair here is a link to the Presbyterian website about this topic. But if you go to this link you will find a detailed response that I am going to pull a couple of sections from.
I take issue with this item because all it says is that they have spoken out about the actions of these other countries, but unless I am mistaken they have not taken actions such as the steps they are considering levying against Israel that they are considering now. It seems hypocritical to me and less than honest to include this kind of statement.
Ok, a selective divestment. I am very curious to see how they determine what companies are considered to be ok and which are considered to fall short of the mark.
I haven't any problem with criticism of Israel or any country, but I like to see balance and when it is so easy to point out that it is missing I grow concerned.
I could point out further inconsistencies, but I think for now there is plenty of evidence of why there is a problem with their proposed actions.
I hope that they review this and carefully consider their actions because at the moment it makes it appear that there is special treatment being reserved for Israel and Jews in general.
I am really kind of curious about this. Not to sound callous, unsympathetic or I don't know what, but this is peculiar. First, if it was reversed I would imagine that the punishment would be more severe.
From a different standpoint, there is no doubt that men can feel violated and that we can be hurt and upset by unwanted attention of a woman, but this just throws me a little.
I wonder if he was so upset that he insisted on pressing charges or how this came down. Curious.
The following article has a rather innocuous headline Migrant Women Trapped in Europe's Sex Industry that to could have and should have been more powerful.
In some ways it is hard to believe that things like this still happen, but they do and they happen here in North America too as well as in other parts of the world. Here is the next part of this story.
The world can be a very cold and unforgiving place. So during a time in which I celebrate my freedom I feel that it is important to bring things like this up to raise awareness and to ask that we all try and do what we can to help make it a kinder and gentler world.
Take a moment to look around your community and see if there is a way that you can give something back. It doesn't have to be much, clean up a beach/grafitti, help tutor children, whatever. Just do something. The little bits add up.
And don't forget about the people like these poor women who slip through the cracks. There must be things that we can do to help them too.
Esther's post on Jewlicious tipped me off to his latest nonsensical and illogical rant in which she discusses his explanation for why single Jewish women are not married.
According to our dear man the reason is because
I am astounded by such a strong opening line. Insipid, vapid and meaningless come to mind. But I was dumb enough to read a little more to try and understand the man's point.
It warms the cockles of my heart to see such insight but I would be curious to see proof of some sort other than one person's opinion. It is weak and unsubstantiated.
Anyone who knows anything about statistics knows that you have to provide numbers to use as a sample. Our boy here doesn't bother to provide any of this. We don't know if there are 3 million female subscribers to JDate and whether he reviewed all of their profiles, or if he made his weak assumption based upon the three he bothered to look at during the five minutes of research he conducted.
Who does this man speak with. Has he been locked in a closet. Where does he come up with this. People fall in love all the time regardless of political beliefs.
Within the Jewish community we have a million discussions about interfaith marriages because they are rampant and a regular part of life today.
The argument that Jews will not marry Republicans and that Jewish women are all liberal is flawed and fallacious in nature.
Maybe next time he can come up with a real topic and real evidence to support his allegations because this was so bad it was laughable. And that is my five minute response to this.
When I was in junior high one of the slightly older boys told us a big secret about girls. To give some context, I might have been 13 and he might have been just about 15.
He told us that if we wanted to find a girl who was good in bed we needed to find someone who was really good at using a Hula Hoop.
I remember being very impressed with this information but not having the slightest clue as to what she would do with that thing in bed. Of course I wasn't about to share my ignorance by asking, so I just nodded my head and agreed.
And that is just one of the things I learned about girls/women from the guys who hung out on the corner in my neighborhood.
As I sit here and consider what I have learned and what I have experienced I have few words that are sufficient to express my thoughts in a way that is clear and truly descriptive. There are times when words fail me and all I can do is shrug my shoulders.
But you cannot see the shrug nor the quizzical look upon my face.
So many of the blogs I have read deal with raw human emotion, pain that is indescribable. Sometimes I can feel it emanating from the page as if I am some kind of codependent. It is a virtual howl and I wonder if the wave that smacks me has completely engulfed the writer. And then again I wonder if my reaction is solely based upon my own experience, if my own background is the source. I am not always sure.
On April 17th 2004 my parents left for New Jersey to attend to the birth of their of fourth grandchild. And on April 28th my father was taken to the emergency room where he was placed on a ventilator and then admitted to the hospital.
He had a series of things happen at once and like a house of cards his body began to collapse and shut down. When my sister called to tell me to start looking into flights it was because we were not sure if he was going to live.
I made arrangements to fly out the next day, but only after I was given pseudo-assurances that he would live long enough for me to make a few arrangements at home. Foremost among them was lying to my grandparents about why I was making an unscheduled business trip across the country for an undefined amount of time.
I couldn't take a chance on upsetting them until I knew what was happening and there wasn't time to try and figure out whether to take the two other siblings that live here with me. I hopped on the plane and prayed that he wouldn't die before I got there.
As the plane landed I was on my cellphone confirming that I hadn't flown 3000 miles to escort his body home. When I heard that he was still alive I exhaled and ran to the rental car facility. As I drove through unfamiliar territory I cursed the drivers around me and made my way to the hospital.
The sky was somewhat grey and forbidding, but the reality is that it might have been blue and free of clouds, but I couldn't see it. My overactive imagination pictured me going into battle. Clad in armor and a broad sword, or wearing white trunks and a pair of 16 ounce gloves it didn't matter. I was there to rescue my father. I was going to pull him out of the burning building, I was going to kill the evil people that had locked him up in captivity, I was going to be the hero because he would do it for me.
And then I stood at his bedside and for a moment I wasn't 35, I was 5 or 6, maybe 7. It was early Saturday morning and I wanted him to wake up and play with me, but he kept snoring. Only this time the familiar snore was missing, there was no breathing noises other than that the machine made and the occasional grimace across his face.
His arms and legs were in restraints and he looked far smaller to me than I knew he must be. Even though I had long been able to look him in the eye and had been big enough to borrow his clothes for close to 18 years I had trouble seeing him as being so small. It was hard and even harder was knowing that I couldn't go into battle.
I wanted to. I was ready to fight, but I couldn't do it in the manner I wanted to. The help that I was able to give was of a different nature.
It is a year later and my father, baruch hashem is still with us. He survived the experience, he beat the odds and my doctor friends have all confessed that they really did not expect this outcome.
I have written about this numerous times because it was a profoundly disturbing experience. For a long time I waited for the other shoe to drop. There were so many little things that happened alongside the big things, so many challenges and we managed to overcome them. The truth is that I always expected to and that is in large part because of the man he is and what I have learned from him.
There are some things that happen that you just have to deal with. Life does not always have a happy outcome, but you keep going because you cannot lay down and die.
As I sit here and reflect upon the past year I am in the position of holding my breath again. My grandmother is not doing well at all, she is hanging by a thread. I could get that telephone call today, tomorrow or maybe in five years, I just do not know.
But it is hard not to tread water, it is hard not to worry and allow this to impact how I go about life. My grandparents have been married for just short of 71 years. I worry about how this will impact my grandfather.
If things go one way I could end up losing two grandparents within a short time of each other. And none of this takes into account the other grandfather who has his own health issues.
I love all my grandparents very much and know that it is a matter of time before I say goodbye. It is not a secret, I have written about it. I try not to harp on it because there is only so much that I can do. It is smarter and more productive to focus on the positive and to take advantage of the time we have and not worry about things that are out of my control.
And for the most part I have been relatively successful in doing that. I expect that part of the reason that this has been more prominent in my thoughts is for the following reasons:
1) The anniversary of my father's experience.
2) The conversations regarding my grandmother's doctor's appointments last week and this week.
3) Pesach- It is one of my favorite holidays and I cannot have it without enjoying the memories of past seders. I cannot not think about my great grandparents and grandmother, their presence was missed but not forgotten.
But back to the initial topic. In truth I have to say that I have been very lucky, just fortunate that I have not had as much tragedy in my life as others. I thank G-d for what I have been given and am appreciative of it all. There are others who have dealt with far worse.
All that being equal is it so wrong for me to ask for some more time to share with the people I love.
Call me crazy, call me paranoid, but I have a hard time buying the story they are trying to sell here. If you go to the website of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools you can make your own determination about their objective. I didn't have to read much further than the biography of their president to become concerned. Look at this section:
The code word in that snippet is liberal where it is used as a pejorative term. But I took issue with her introductory message where she said:
The underlying message here is not the instruction of the bible as a foundation for understanding art or history, but that it is a tool to teach morality and it is clear that this is nothing more than a sordid and sad attempt to circumvent past decisions to separate church and state.
No one has lost their religious or civil liberties here, that is a joke and con job.
Let me add that having an endorsement letter from Jesse Helms is not something that is going to thrill me, but I digress.
And even if I was interested in considering such an idea I would be far more excited if there was a real cross section of people supporting this, but there is not. It is a religious right initiative and something that they are entitled to try, but I would feel better if they were open and honest about what they are trying to do here.
There is simply no place for this in the public school system.
Compared to my son I haven't written about her all that much. In part that has been due to her age. For a long time there wasn't much to say about her other than normal baby development stuff.
But for a while now she has really been making tremendous strides in showing her personality and interacting with the world around her.
Long time friends of mine have said for years that they couldn't wait to see what happened if I had a daughter. They giggled and laughed about it, come to think of it most of the people who made such comments are female. What is it that they think they see.
I suspect that it is case of Daddy's girl and I must confess that I can see that happening. When I walk into the room she gives me a huge smile and rocks back and forth to get my attention. She loves to sit in my lap and pull on my nose, or ears or mouth. She studies me so intently, I wonder what she is thinking.
We laugh and play and I read her stories and tell her that her daddy will always be here for her. When the little boys stare at her I glare at them. I have to practice for when she is older. It is one of the reasons that I work out so hard, when she begins dating I need to be big enough in my 50s to intimidate the young men that come calling upon her.
I remember going on a date many years ago in which my date's father took me aside for a little conversation about how I was to treat his daughter. He looked at me and explained that he wanted her to be treated with respect and dignity. I agreed, didn't argue at all and then he told me that he once was a boy and knew how boys think and that for that reason I couldn't bullshit him.
I said that I wasn't trying to and he said that if I meant that I would always stare at her eyes and not other parts of her body. I can remember wondering at the time if I had been so obvious, or if he was just guessing, but I didn't argue with him.
And now I can see myself saying something similar on my own daughter's behalf.
I saw her early this morning, around 4:30 am so I got a chance to give her a hug and a kiss before I left for work. As she went back to sleep I couldn't help but stare at her and smile.
She is so busy trying to learn how to walk now. I know that it won't be long and I know that it won't be long until she can speak. I am looking forward to sharing special time with her as I have done with my son.
What can I say, I am in love with my daughter. She is so special to me.
It really is kind of interesting to me to see how nature interacts as well as the manner in which human interaction affects things. Take a look at this.
Perhaps I'll blog more on this later.
I really enjoy your posts about your life with your children, mostly because I have children and have no life. How do you do it?
Balance, tenacity and dumb luck. Heck, I do not know how I do anything, I just do it.
I am getting married soon and was very interested in reading your post about sex and children. My girlfriends and I often speak about this because we do not want to be the wife that doesn't put out anymore. Most women do not want to admit to this, but it is a known fact. Keep posting.
You are going to make some man very happy and I suspect some women very angry, but what do I know, I am just a 30 something dad from Los Angeles.
I have asked you numerous times to blogroll me and all you do is belittle me in your posts. What kind of man are you?
You are an attention whore who would be better off diddling the post man or haunting a house. How much do you charge, the Engels place is available. Can't wait until I get your next note.
Happy Passover. Enjoy your holiday and I'll enjoy my pizza.
Thanks for the good wishes.
"PIKESVILLE, Md. - A herd of buffalo somehow got loose and wandered around an upscale neighborhood Tuesday, disrupting traffic and alarming homeowners before officers managed to corral them in a tennis court.
More than a dozen police cars and a police helicopter were used to herd the roughly 10 beasts, authorities said.
"Somehow they figured it out; I've got to give a lot of credit to the creativity of our officers," police spokesman Shawn Vinson said.
Authorities have identified the owner of the buffalo but did not release the person's name immediately."
Now there is something that you do not see every day.
You could even act it out and then suddenly notice the woman in the car next to you laughing hysterically.
I don't know anything about this, I am just saying that you could do this, if you wanted to. Not that you would want to do it, but if you did and it did well then....
"PETACH TIKVA - Regulars at a Tel Aviv-area pub catering to the ultra-Orthodox community say it enables religious youngsters to experiment with a more liberal, wanton lifestyle.
The popular hangout, Meidale, offers revelers a strictly kosher menu, but also serves as a meeting place where ultra-Orthodox males and females can mix freely and discover the joys of sex.
The pub makes ultra-Orthodox youngsters feel at home and gives them an opportunity to mingle with a variety of people, says “Zvi” (not his real name.) None of the pub’s attendees would permit themselves to be identified by their names.
"It's a place any haredi (ultra-Orthodox) can feel comfortable at," he says. "We don't feel alienated here."
Sex in the bathrooms
One of the pub's main attractions for Zvi and his friends is the chance to meet women. After all, members of the ultra-Orthodox community are forbidden from approaching females on the street, while couples meet only five times before getting married.
Zvi says he takes advantage of the opportunity to engage in sexual activity at the pub, although he frequents the pub to make friends.
"It's easier to make out with an ultra-Orthodox girl who's looking to breach the wall," he says.
Zvi says he does not look for full-blown sex, but admits some of his friends do just that. He says he recently came to the pub with a friend who ended up having sex in the bathroom with a girl he just met.
"The girls here drink a little and open up," he says."
I can't say that I am surprised to read any of this.
I found the whole exchange to be kind of funny. They were really bent out of shape because I hadn't reciprocated by blogrolling them. I had more or less forgotten about the situation until this weekend when I received a new email from someone else who said that they were going to unblogroll me for the same reason, I hadn't reciprocated.
As I mentioned in my reply I hadn't the foggiest idea that they had blogrolled me so the news that they were intent on pulling me out was the first time I had heard about it.
I also asked them what the purpose of their blogroll was. Is it just a tool to try and gain readers or is it a way to keep track of the bloggers you really like to read.
In my case I use it to follow blogs that I like to read, but it is not the only way that I follow those blogs so if someone is not blogrolled it is not a sign that I do not like their blog. I really do not spend any time considering whether I have or have not blogrolled someone. If you ask me to blogroll you, I may. I have done it on a number of occasions.
I think that the problem with the blogroll is tied into the obsessive need to track the stats. Who is coming to my blog, why are they coming, are new people coming, am I popular etc.
It would be dishonest for me to say that I do not enjoy following my stats, but it is tempered by the reasons why I blog. This place is my little corner for venting, crying, laughing and expressing myself. If no one commented I would still be here doing my thing.
I prefer the interaction. I appreciate the time that people take to read and to remark, but that is not enough to drive me to continue my blogging.
In short, the person that this is really directed to knows who they are and should take this in the sense that it is meant. It is not spiteful, angry or sad, just a simple comment to say that I hadn't a clue about any of this until you unleashed that silly email. And yes, it was silly. There are better places to concentrate your energy and frustration than upon whether you are blogrolled or not.
One of them is the attempt by the organizers of the vote to railroad this through by the timing of it so close to the Passover holiday, tied into that is the lack of debate on the topic and the third is the question of free speech.
Here is a short excerpt from the story.
"The Association of University Teachers today voted to boycott two Israeli universities over their failure to speak out against their government.
Delegates at a conference in Eastbourne voted, against the wishes of the executive, for an immediate boycott of Haifa University, which they accuse of restricting the academic freedom of staff members who are critical of the government, and of Bar Ilans University, which has a college in the disputed settlement Ariel.
The boycott, which is now official union policy, will follow a plan prescribed by a group of 60 Palestinian academic and cultural bodies and non-governmental organisations, which calls for British academics to severe links with Israeli institutions but to exempt Israelis who speak out against their government's policies towards the Palestinians.
The executive had asked delegates to defer the debate until the facts of the cases included in three motions were confirmed. A third boycott, against the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was dropped as delegates queried the evidence of accusations it had evicted Palestinian families to build dormitories.
There were cheers as the motions were passed. Shereen Benjamin, from Birmingham University, one of the authors of the motions, told EducationGuardian: "It is a much better result than we'd dared to hope for. What it does is put the issue on the agenda at a higher profile than it's ever been.
"As an educator I applaud that people are discussing this ... We think the boycott of Haifa will send a clear message about academic freedom in Israel."
At the end of the vote, delegates angrily demanded to be able to voice their opposition to the new policy and to the cutting short of the debate, due to lack of time, so that no opposition other than from the executive was heard.
Alastair Hunter, a delegate from Glasgow, speaking from the back of the Winter Gardens conference hall, where the debate took place, called the motions "divisive". He said: "I am disgusted we were not given a chance to debate fully."
Ninety-one years-old. It just blows my mind. They were born during World War I and lived through the Depression, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The Moon Landing, Watergate, the rise and fall of communism, 911, two Gulf Wars and a boatload more.
Tonight at our seder I paid very close attention to all three of them. I watched and listened to everything they said and did because right now it feels like we are in a race that we know will end but we cannot see the finish line.
My grandmother is not doing real well. She has had a number of issues with her heart and the cardiologist has said that she expects that it will give out before the rest of her does. Sooner or later her card will be pulled and it will be time to say goodbye.
But life is funny in that you cannot really plan on too many things following a schedule. We don't know when it will happen, we can only guess and I am not someone who lives my life in fear. It could be years or it could be minutes, but it is hard.
It is hard to know that my children will just never know my grandparents the way that I do, that they will always see them as being old people. I remember when they could run with me and when they would get down on the floor and play with us. I remember them in their 50s and 60s and in some ways it is hard to reconcile the reality that the elderly people I speak with are the same people who pulled me in my wagon and baked cookies with us.
So I sit here soaking it all up, trying to do nothing but enjoy the time we have because it will end and then the memories will be all I have. But it is hard when I see my grandmother like this, knowing that mentally she is all there but physically she is losing the fight. Inch by inch there are little pieces of her being taken away. I try to do what I can to give her strength and support, but this is not a video game, I cannot give her some of my life force.
But I do what I can and I smile when I see the joy on her face when she plays with my children. It really is a time to eat drink and be merry, because tomorrow is a mystery.
The piece below spends some time discussing what you might have to give up if you are interested in a boycott.
Here it is:
"Pay attention, British professors. If you support the boycott of Israel proposed by some of your fellow academics -- and if you are to remain intellectually honest -- prepare for a radical lifestyle change. Firstly, unplug your computers. Good. Now switch off your interactive digital television sets. Well done. And now throw away your mobile phones. Excellent.
You see, Professors, these machines are not only the engine of the globalized, capitalist world but they also depend on technologies that have been produced by Israeli academics in the Zionist entity.
Also, I'm afraid you may not use the British Library because it has been computerized by Ex Libris, a Zionist company that was spawned by the odious Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
And if, God forbid, you develop problems of the small intestine, you may not pop the Zionist-invented "video capsule," which passes naturally through your body as it monitors this delicate piece of your anatomy.
You will, sadly, have to take it up your respective derrieres, Professors. As a matter of principle, of course.
All this boycotting, you see, is the logical extension of academic sanctions against Israel proposed by some members of your Association of University Teachers (AUT) at their meeting in Eastbourne, England, this week. Just visit the Web site of Egyptian-born Mona Baker of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. She set the standard by firing two Israeli scholars from the boards of her translation journals as a matter of high academic principle.
You will see that Ms. Baker's ambitions do not end with the academic boycott. Her Web site also includes a section entitled "Boycott Israeli Products & Services," which features dozens of global brands that, inconveniently, are not Israeli at all. The offenders presumably have earned their place in infamy by dealing with the Zionist entity, by being owned by Jews or by having Jews on their boards. They range from Coca-Cola and Nescafe to Johnson & Johnson and Estee Lauder, from Hugo Boss and Ralph Lauren to Selfridges and Marks & Spencer, from Kleenex and Wonderbra to Lancome and -- all marked for boycott.
Absent from Ms. Baker's list -- and here I think I can help -- is a set of global companies that are arguably even more culpable because they not only operate in Israel but also do most of their R&D there. IBM and Intel each have three R&D centres in Israel, Microsoft established its first non-American facility there and Cisco Systems has built its only non-American R&D centre in Israel.
Then there is Motorola, which has its largest R&D site in Israel, and News Corp, whose company NDS develops those neat interactive technologies for digital television.
There are many more.
The AUT boycott brigade has cause for concern. It knows that these companies are attracted not only by the innate brutality of the expansionist regime but also by the cunning of its university graduates (most of the R&D centres are located on or near Israeli university campuses). Proportionally, the Zionist entity has more university graduates than any other country, while its scientists, engineers and agriculturists publish more professional papers per capita than do their counterparts anywhere else on Earth. The result is that Israel has the largest concentration of high-tech companies outside Silicon Valley. But the ultimate sin is that Israel, which came to independence in the process of post-war decolonization, stubbornly refuses to become a failed state.
So dangerous has the situation become, dear Professors, that at your meetings in Eastbourne, you have set aside the small matter of your salary disputes. Instead, you and your fellow intellectual heavyweights will ponder far worthier matters. Like foreign affairs. Of course, you will not have to bother your turbo-charged minds with last week's UNICEF report, which shows that half of the women in the Arab world are illiterate and more than 10 million children in the region don't attend school.
The issue that will preoccupy you will be the aggressive imperialist apartheid state: a state that has nurtured the Palestinian universities and colleges in the West Bank; one that offers equal rights -- and access to its universities -- to all its citizens, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sex; and which has educated tens of thousands of Palestinians at Israeli universities (several hundred a year still opt for an Israeli education). It is significant that Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian who is encouraging you and your British comrades to boycott Israel, is a doctoral student at none other than Tel Aviv University.
No, Professors, not all Israeli universities and not all Israeli academics would be boycotted by the AUT motion. Such a proposition was defeated 3-1 at the association's conference two years ago, and the boycotters are too smart to repeat past mistakes. The new motion, says one of its authors, has been "tactically" amended to get it passed. "We've got to be a bit more sophisticated," she says.
And sophisticated they are. They even had a dry run last December, when they met to rehearse their presentations and develop killer responses to potential critics.
Their sleek new motion -- which does not involve a single book-burning -- envisages sanctions against only the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Haifa University. And there's more: The boycotters generously offer Israeli academics the opportunity to buy themselves immunity if they are prepared to denounce their country, specifically, "conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies." Who could seriously question the integrity of your fellow academic freedom fighters?
But there are, of course, small obstinate obstacles in the way of you visionaries, Professors. Britain's academic institutions, for example, have not endorsed boycotting Israel's academic community. Indeed, when the Oxford don Andrew Wilkie told an Israeli PhD applicant that there was "no way [that I] would take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army," he was hauled before the university's disciplinary body and suspended without pay for two months.
Cambridge University's Professor Sir Aaron Klug, Nobel laureate and former president of the Royal Society, put me right when I asked him about the possible impact -- on Britain no less than on Israel -- of such a boycott: "How important is the AUT? That's the question you have to ask." He is no supporter of Ariel Sharon and his policies, but he does consider that the proposed boycott is "ill considered and doesn't promote anything at all." The AUT, he says, is out to attack Israel "but this is no way to proceed."
Sir Aaron is "not one who looks for anti-Semitism around every corner," he says, "but I do think there's an element of that here. It does give people who are anti-Semitic the opportunity to express themselves."
But relax, Professors. The AUT has solemnly concluded that there is a clear distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. They don't mind Jews. They just detest the Jewish state."
I can remember my great-grandather reading from the Haggadah and discussing the bitter herbs, only he always pronounced the h so it would sound like he was talking about my cousins, who were conveniently named Herb.
I remember my great-grandmother telling my sister and I that she was shikkered (drunk) when we knew that she was drinking grape juice. I can remember seders that lasted for what felt like weeks and the seders that grew shorter as my grandparents grew older.
Now there is a new generation at the table. I wonder what memories they will come to have.
Chag sameach to you all.
One of the things that I have enjoyed the most about being a father is watching my children grow and develop. My son is just about 4.5 and my daughter is 9 months old, so they are in two very different places. However they were both old enough to show their excitement at being there and interest in many of the things we saw.
As we walked through the park I watched both of their faces very closely just to try and soak it all up as they absorbed being transported into a new world. This was very different for them and they are not in a place or time in which magic can be explained. For now the Great Oz is a real wizard and they are not trying to pull off the curtains that conceal him.
It was a bit surreal to me to be one of the parents that I used to mock when I was younger. I was the guy carrying the backpack full of crap. I was the dad yelling for everyone to get closer so that I could fit them into a picture. I was the guy who at times looked like he was ready to run away screaming in the night.
By the time evening fell I was happy to be sitting at the restaurant with a glass of wine that was followed by three cups of coffee. It was very pleasant. We were even more pleased when they told us that our seats on the patio provided an excellent view of Disney's Electrical Parade because we had a goal of watching it with the children.
The hardest part about it was waiting for the parade. At one point in time my daughter got fussy so her mother decided to take her to see some of the shops. As they walked away I watched them and it wasn't hard to picture the day in which mother and daughter will really hit the mall together.
That left about 35 minutes for me to entertain my son. For a little boy he demonstrates remarkable patience and is quite good at entertaining himself, but some of that ability deteriorates with fatigue and by that point in the day he was quite tired.
So I picked him up and set him down in my lap for some father/son time. We spoke about the rides we had been on and what he had seen, the games that he played and what he really liked about the day.
As we spoke his head slumped against my chest and I could feel him beginning to consider the option of sleeping in my arms. But I didn't want him to miss the parade and was concerned that if he fell asleep that early he might wake up at 5 am the next day, so I made a point of keeping him awake.
I turned him around so that he was facing me and we could make eye contact. I told him how much I loved him and that he should never forget that. And then I spoke with him about learning and told him that for the rest of his life he should learn something new every day.
He listened intently and when I finished he nodded his head and with all the seriousness and sincerity a boy can muster he said "Daddy, I'll never forget that."
And you know what, I'll never forget that moment either. It is locked up in the vault in my head, a very special moment in time.
Several centuries ago, the Pope decided that all the Jews had to leave the Vatican. Naturally there was a big uproar from the Jewish community. So the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Jewish community. If the Jew won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would leave. The Jews realized that they had no choice. So they picked an elderly aged man named Moishe to represent them. Rabbi Moishe's Latin wasn't very good - in fact, he knew very little--but he was a man of great faith and well respected in the Jewish community. The pope agreed. What could be easier than a silent debate?
The day of the great debate came. Moishe and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him and raised one finger. The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head. Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope pulled out a wafer and a glass of wine. Moishe pulled out an apple. The Pope stood up and said, "I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay."
An hour later, the cardinals were all around the Pope asking him what happened. The Pope said: "First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions. Then I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground and showing that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and the wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?"
Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe. "What happened?" they asked. "Well," said Moishe, "First he said to me that the Jews had three days to get out of here. I told him that not one of us was leaving. Then he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I let him know that we were staying right here." "And then?" asked a woman. "I don't know," said Moishe. "He took out his lunch and I took out mine."
Typically I do not read my posts. Once I have posted them I leave them alone and try to forget about them. Last night just before my son fell asleep he asked me if I could describe what G-d looks like.
It is an excellent question and I am really trying to remember if I spent any time learning anything that gave me any sort of handle on this. I just can't recall if there was such a time. I cannot think of the Classical Judaic Response to this question.
If you asked me what the Christian G-d looks like I would mention Jesus, although I don't think that if such a man existed that he would look so European. I rather imagine that he would be a little bit more semitic in appearance.
So I have been mulling over what images I have in my head and what kind of response I want to give. I would have said something last night but he basically fell asleep before I could answer.
My initial image is kind of the classic image of a very large, muscular man with a beard and long hair clothed in a robe or toga. But thanks to the wonders of Hollywood and the media in general it is not limited to that, sometimes it could be George Burns.
It is hard for me to articulate. There are places in which I feel G-d's presence, but not in a place that I can see G-d. It is similar to the feeling you get when you have someone in your peripheral vision. You can almost see them, but not quite. There is enough to feel their presence, to sense them, to feel like if you turned around you might bump into them, but not quite enough of an image to really capture.
And in the past when I have tried to focus on this image it ran away. It was grasping water in my hands. The harder I tried to grab ahold of it the less I retained.
So I am stuck in a place where I am not real sure. I like the idea of the "everyman" G-d where G-d looks rather ordinary, like anyone you meet on the street.
When I think about it hard enough I come to the place where Moshe Rabeinu is on Har Sinai and asks to see G-d's face but is turned down. That has always bothered me. The almighty should be able to create the almighty shield that would protect Moshe.
Truthfully it has felt a bit like a cop out, but like I said I think that this is ok. I almost prefer the everyman approach so that everyone feels like they are G-d like as opposed to a society of Sneetches who fight over who gets to wear a star and who does not.
And now I find myself in the same place I was in when I started. I can provide an answer for adults, I can provide an answer for teenagers and children, but young children, I am not so sure about.
I am going to have to consider this one for a while.
The master of the Shack has cast his gaze upon my adversary and found them lacking in couth, courtesy, honor, dignity, and most unfortunately they have no sense of humor. They find the Marx Brothers boring and the Three Stooges to be boorish. They refer to slapstick as being the province of little minds and little people.
And so the call to arms has gone out and it will be answered by all of good faith and true spirit. We fight for justice and we intend to plow salt into the land of the evil denizens. They will not ever try our patience this way again because we are going to remove their tiny brains from their bodies and pick our teeth with their bones.
Our cause is just and our time is now and most importantly in the name of all that is good and decent in this land we cannot wait any longer.
I look forward to driving the enemy before me and to listen to the lamentations of his women. Or as someone once said to listen to the "laminations of his women." That makes me laugh every time I think of it.
And now on cue I hear "Have Fun Storming the Castle."
Sometimes the manchild inside of me goes to war, there is a struggle to be who I am and to become who I want to be. This probably sounds somewhat contradictory and or confusing and it is, but that is me, confusing. The whirlwind you feel is me passing by.
My children are asleep in the other room and I am sitting here wondering how it all happened so fast, how did these changes occur overnight. On May 9 I am going to be 36. It is not old, not old at all but somehow it seems a little strange that I am a thirty-something that is that much closer to 40.
Not that I really mind, life is better than death and I have buried too many people. I know far too many people who should be alive walking the Earth and yet they are dead and buried. Some were taken by cancer, others by drunk drivers or other random acts. And those are just the people I know or should say that I knew. Had they lived they would be between 34 and 38 now.
I try not to spend too much time living inside my head. I try not to ask too many questions that I cannot gain a satisfactory answer too, but I cannot ignore the reality of the world around me. I cannot ignore the questions my children ask because I am not satisfied with the answers.
Tonight the younger, smarter version of myself and I discussed how to speak to G-d. He wanted to know how to do it. Could he use a telephone, would it be better to use my cellphone or does G-d respond better to email.
It was cool to realize that he had spent time thinking about this before he asked. When we cross the street he wants to know why I am worried about cars because in his mind I am too big for the cars to hurt me. He once told me that if a car bumped into me it would break and the driver would cry because I broke their car.
It made me smile. It was so innocent and another sign of his complete faith in me. It is a hard thing to live up to. At 4.5 he still considers me to be infallible, I have all the answers and I can do anything.
He watched me work out at home and I put on a bit of a show. It was better than lifting in front of my girlfriends because I was more focused on teaching as well as just showing off. Sometimes my son taps into the little boy that lives inside and I just go with it.
Between the two of us there is around 275 pounds of child running through the house. My daughter watches us closely and I can see her frustration in not being able to chase after us. She hates when we leave the room and always smiles big when we return. In a short time she'll be able to follow us and the games will change a little.
Most nights I go to sleep and have a conversation with G-d. I ask G-d for the same things as most people. Health and safety for my family, guidance for myself and the strength to do what I need to do.
I sometimes wonder if the answers I seek from him are right here in front of me. Sometimes I pray for the ability to recognize the truth I seek but not always.
Prayer is such a personal thing and it is so very hard for me. It requires so much effort because I waver in my belief. At times there is no doubt and then there are times in which it is so apparent, so clear to me that I cannot imagine how I ever doubted his presence.
I have rambled on enough about this for now.
I had thought my post about the music of Ugandan Jews would get more of a response than it did, at least from the Jewish readers. But few people appear to have read it.
I am not complaining, just find it to be interesting.
I want to make clear that my position as a Jewish man is this. I have not forgotten 2000 years 0f persecution and antisemitic acts. I am well aware of the roll that the church has played and I had thought that I had made this clear in my prior posts.
For those few of you who know me in person you are aware that I am not a diplomat. I have little to no compunction to telling you what I think in terms that are designed to make your toes curl and your skin turn black. So it goes a little against the grain to be more politic in my comments.
However, I consider myself to be a realist and here is what I know to be fact. You attract more flies with honey and to begin a relationship with an attack is not a good way to open a dialogue. This is why I want to give Benny some time to speak his mind and to see what and where he intends to lead.
On the topic of poor manners and things that piss me off I want to give a little nod to Dov Bear who pointed the following story out to me.
Here are a couple of excerpts:
"AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) -- Less than two years after it was plunged into a rape scandal, the Air Force Academy is scrambling to address complaints that evangelical Christians wield so much influence at the school that anti-Semitism and other forms of religious harassment have become pervasive.
There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.
The 4,300-student school recently started requiring staff members and cadets to take a 50-minute religious-tolerance class.
''There are things that have happened that have been inappropriate. And they have been addressed and resolved,'' said Col. Michael Whittington, the academy's chief chaplain.
More than 90 percent of the cadets identify themselves as Christian. A cadet survey in 2003 found that half had heard religious slurs and jokes, and that many non-Christians believed Christians get special treatment.
''There were people walking up to someone and basically they would get in a conversation and it would end with, `If you don't believe what I believe you are going to hell,''' Vice Commandant Col. Debra Gray said."
This is what I would call an example of Tyranny of the Majority.
One of the key lines in that story is "may not realize that evangelism is unwelcome among their fellow students." It just blows my mind that it wouldn't occur to people that telling others that if they do not share the same religious beliefs they are going to go to hell is unwelcome and or offensive.
"The superintendent, Lt. Gen. John Rosa, conceded there was a problem during a recent meeting of the Board of Visitors, the civilian group that oversees the academy.
''The problem is people have been across the line for so many years when you try and come back in bounds, people get offended,'' he said.
The board chairman, former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore, warned Rosa that changing things could prove complicated. He said evangelical Christians ''do not check their religion at the door.''
Other critics point to a series of incidents, including:
--The Air Force is investigating a complaint from an atheist cadet who says the school is ''systematically biased against any cadet that does not overtly espouse Christianity.''
--The official academy newspaper runs a Christmas ad every year praising Jesus and declaring him the only savior. Some 200 academy staff members, including some department heads, signed it. Whittington noted the ad was not published last December.
--The academy commandant, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a born-again Christian, said in a statement to cadets in June 2003 that their first responsibility is to their God. He also strongly endorsed National Prayer Day that year. School spokesman Johnny Whitaker said Weida now runs his messages by several other commanders.
--Some officer commission ceremonies were held at off-campus churches. In a letter dated April 6, Weida said the ceremonies would be held on campus from now on.
Rosa and other academy leaders say some among the large number of Christian cadets -- nearly 2,600 are Protestant, some 1,300 are Roman Catholic, and about 120 are Mormon -- may not realize that evangelism is unwelcome among their fellow students. The corps of cadets also includes 44 Jews, 19 Buddhists and a few Muslims, Hindus and others. There are 15 chaplains and one rabbi."
That is a load of crap, but it is an example of how the majority can run roughshod over others with little to no thought or consideration about how the behavior impacts others.
I keep coming back to a few places.
- One, it is reasonable to be vigilant about the world around us and how people are treated.
- Look, but do not leap until you have a plan of action.
- Dialogue is preferable to action, but do not be afraid to take action when necessary.
This is more of a placeholder, a note to myself to review the posts here and update if needed.
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