August 30, 2007

atlanta craigslist > housing wanted (part 2)

staying with relative since i got back from iraq but she lives middle of nowhere snellville...

i had more fun in iraq. this place sucks... need a break

Less than three weeks ago, I posted atlanta craigslist > housing wanted to share — no, really more to cry out — my horror and sorrow on reading the ad of a fellow's exquisite pain on being rejected as a candidate for housing on account of the color of his skin. (Craigslist, the mother of all online urban communities, is among many ways and places I advertise to sublet my home . . . and comb ads of housing seekers while I live the next months in Tel Aviv.)

Visitors who read that post and left comments resonated with what the housing seeker spoke to — injustice, unfairness, violence, and cruelty we witness (and, sometimes even perpetrate) in our society.

Yet I don't know what to make of the advertiser who identifies himself as military male, the human being who wrote: i had more fun in iraq.
  • What kind of a military or civilian person, male or female imagines this perversion?
  • What kind of life has he lived that shaped the sentence: i had more fun in iraq?
  • What was he doing in Iraq? Where is he going?
  • What is the USA doing in Iraq? Where are we going?
  • What can I do to help stop this obscene war, expose the vulgarity of the enterprise, push back the dogged ignorance, greed, hell-bent arrogance, and mean spirit of its champions, decision-makers, and cannon fodder — destroying a country, and calling it fun?

August 20, 2007

Zichron Menachem in "Green" Holland refreshes Ohad

You haven't already met my cousin Ohad in person or via these three previous blog entries?
No problem. This update can inspire you to claim as your shining light the bright, sensitive, and loving 13-year-old from the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem, Israel.

With his Zichron Menachem pals, counselors, and a bevy of Zamzamiot (B’not Sherut Leumi [National Service Girls] volunteers), our hero spent a week in Holland this summer!

Zichron Menachem, an internationally recognized prize-winning organization that has been supporting kids with cancer and their families in Israel since 1990, led the odyssey for scores of participants — free to this special population, without discrimination to religion, ethnic origin, or socioeconomic status. (I culled these photos of Ohad from the many hundreds on the trip that the organization posted to its web site.)

Q&A via Skype

"The experience was brimming with attractions, and there were solutions for all [to participate] — crippled and wheelchair-bound kids, among them," Ohad related in our conversation on Skype the other day. "The counselors were so devoted. Nothing was lacking."
  • Me: About Holland — how did you find the country?
    Ohad: It's amazing. Everywhere it's green — trees, plants, bushes, everything is green!
  • Did you get homesick?
    Not at all. It was nice taking a break from everything.
  • How was the Dutch food?
    We brought everything from Israel because many participants keep kosher, and we needed easy access [to food that fulfills requirements of Jewish dietary law].
  • What was the best part?
    The go-carts!
  • Uriel [eldest brother] told me you were recently featured on Jerusalem radio. What was that about?
    Zichron Menachem asked me to talk about the organization.
  • No surprise they picked you!
    [never one to boast] Because I am the oldest in the group now.
  • Your dad told me you played guitar and sang at a recent commencement ceremony.
    That was for a big graduation for the Zamzamiot, and I played the popular Israeli song, Achshav Tov [Now, it's good].

Achshav Tov [Now, it's good]

Oh, is it ever good when this young man chooses to sing this song.

And in just a few weeks, Ohad will resume his school studies with his class after an amazing summer that concluded an amazing twelve months.

During this year, close to when he became a Bar Mitzva, Ohad shared with me some meanings and messages he formulated since he has been fighting leukemia.

Life experiences shape us. When I meet children as young as age four in the hospital, I have great compassion for them because they don't understand why they must get treatments and take medicines they don't like. OK, I am young, too, though I understand, and it helps.

As is his name — in Hebrew, "will sympathize," so is Ohad. In the photo shown below, a sympathetic young man, in the red sweater, shares his feelings openly, understands those of another easily, and expresses compassion freely.

NOTE I dedicate this post to a dear friend, Rabbi Dr. Michael Berger who, on learning of Ohad's health crisis, immediately included Ohad in his personal prayers during the daily prayer services. He also added Ohad ben Ditza to the list for the MiSheberach blessing for healing at the Young Israel, Atlanta. Michael, who has not yet met Ohad, is among the righteous souls who walk this earth.

August 13, 2007

atlanta craigslist > housing wanted

At the top of my late-summer to-do’s list is finding someone(s) to sublet my home while I spend the next months in Tel Aviv. To accomplish this task, I put out the word to friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellows at synagogues, and others. And, in this wired world, I place ads and comb those placed by seekers on Emory University’s off-campus housing site and on the mother of all online urban communities, Craigslist.

It was on Craigslist that I spotted what seemed like a standard ad seeking housing. Yet when I clicked the link and scanned the text, two sentences shouted out, reverberating deep inside me. These sentences are hardly standard in such ads. What surprises me is that more ads don’t include them.

While the person who placed the ad was seeking housing in a different part of town and at a different price point, ignoring the shout was not an option. Within nanoseconds, I equivocated not whether to "do something," but how.

And I sent the person an email. He replied three minutes later. And between my sobs, I recalled Incident, a poem whose title I borrowed for a post I mounted last year. That post includes the photo that belongs right here, too.

Reply to:
Date: 2007-08-12, 3:41PM EDT

My Aug 1st deadline has pass me by and I am still in search of some where to stay. I am a professional BLACK male, some people were shocked to see I was black when I came to view the property, so I decided to let you know before hand. So if you don't want to rent to black people, keep it moving. 27 yrs old, and graduate of Morehouse College. I need a Studio or One bedroom small apartment. I can only afford about 700. I don't have money for a deposit but it can be made in payments. I work at the Home Depot Corporate Office and I tend to work long hours. Drug free and I do not have any pets. Please provide me with pics, and just not pics of the bathroom and the living room.

Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2007 13:38:31 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Tamar Orvell"

Subject: your ad

just to let you know i read what you said about people being shocked by your color. i am so sorry that the bigots still impose their ignorance on others. you have lived with this reality so i am not saying what you don't know. i just want you to know that someone, me, was saddened by the experience you describe. keep telling the truth. some day, people will become better than they are now.

Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2007 16:41:26 -0400
Subject: Re: your ad

Thank u, u really lifted my spirits.
--He's Able

August 03, 2007

Bookmarked: Israeli English-language blogs

So where in the blogosphere do I turn for news on life in Israel?
  • Independent Israeli journalist Lisa Goldman recently made a couple of trips (passport in full view of government airport authorities) to Lebanon, causing no small amount of buzz, horror, gratitude, and awe on both sides of the border and beyond. Lisa lays out her tourist goals and itinerary in recent On the Face posts and in her replies to scores of comments on those posts and in some traditional media. For a random sample of what became a cause celebre, and the attendant conversation, watch Lisa dialog with a Lebanese professor on CNN's "International Correspondents" on his (and some others') criticism about the journalistic ethics of her coverage of life in Beirut, one year after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. Then browse her blog.

Uploaded by zenith87
  • At Not a Fish (profile: The meaningless chatter of your regular split personality Israeli mother no longer trying to make sense of current insanity) Imshin shouts, pouts, mourns, laughs, opines, doubts, and questions goings-on where she lives (with her husband and daughters Eldest and Youngest). To bring home her points, she shares personal stories and family history along with Israel's stories and history. Her captivating writing and images (verbal, visual, and sound) that cover what's on TV, in the market, on the streets (for example, bicycle helmets . . . she disses them), and in the fields make Imshin an incredible credible voice of a political view more conservative, or closer to the "right," than where my instincts usually lead me. Why does this difference draw me here when so many other different voices repel? Perhaps clues can be found in these labels, among several by which she organizes her posts: pretending to know something and politics - yuck.

    Or in this example post: Monday, May 10, 2004
    Israel is not all about abusing Palestinian rights, you know

    . . . Anti-Zionists don’t seem to realize, or care, that abolishing the State of Israel, would create terrible suffering and misery, and it would probably not even alleviate all the suffering of the Palestinian people (at least part of which is self-inflicted, and will continue to be so, until they learn to take responsibility for their fate, regardless of Israel). . . .

  • Poet, performance artist, Tel Aviv University professor, traveler, restaurant goer, recreational shopper, and tireless advocate for survivors' rights, Karen Alkalay-Gut's Tel Aviv Journal reads in staccato-like scream [yes!]-of-consciousness on exactly how she sees, understands, and responds to teeny and huge issues as they impact Israelis and their neighbors one person, neighborhood, balcony, and bunker at a time.

    Example: August 5, 3007. My friend calls up to invite me to join her in the march in Jerusalem in protest of the lack of government support for Holocaust survivors. They've been waiting for the money that was supposed to be given them years ago, and are dying out. Since they are always with me, the survivors, it seemed natural that I should join. And I've never been a friend of this government. . . . I want to know what happened to that money. I want to know what has taken so long and now that the government has finally made the first offer ever, why it is so low (84 shekel per month). And I continue to believe that the survivors were never compensated properly by this society which rejected the whole image of the victim, even while we based our national identity on the fact of these very victims. We don't like victims.

  • Immediately below the header, Occupied, Yudit writes, The word "home" carries many associations. Mine is located in Jaffa (Yafo), once (meaning before 1948) "The Bride of the Sea," now a slummy southern Tel Aviv suburb. Yudit, a photographer who illustrates her work with text, covers Middle East politics, human rights, community involvement, and things right smack in front of you: street names, explosions, demolitions, nature's course. Yudit's exquisite sensibilities sometimes veer to the "left" of my responses, and I welcome the resulting tension. She makes me think or rethink, especially so-called moral or ethical issues. At the companion blog, Occupied Image, Yudit explains her mission: שלוש מאות ששים וחמשה צילומים בשנה כל יום תמונה חדשה . . . [my translation] 365 photographs in a year, every day a new photograph. What grabbed me on a random first visit to this blog pair? The photograph shown below, titled: Monday, May 2, 2007, In the neighborhood.
So where else in the blogosphere can you turn for English-language news on life in Israel? English-writing Israeli-bloggers lists pages of blogs of every stripe, persuasion, style, message, focus, and look and feel.

And when you find a voice that, as in my four bookmarked blogs, is free from nonsense, self-absorption, stridency, and dogma, let me know. Oh, and I would also be grateful for recommendations of male voices.

August 02, 2007

Fire of the Holy Spirit: interfaith dialog in cyberspace

"You must be Stephanie's friend," Angela introduced herself to me after the Easter Sunday church service. "It's great to meet you. Welcome. Do you have questions about the church or anything else?"

"As a matter of fact," I replied, "I was wondering what meanings and messages the stained-glass window images convey." Not missing a beat, Angela answered, image by image. And so ended our encounter . . . we thought.

The next day, she sent me a thoughtful note and clarification about the stained-glass window via e-mail to Stephanie (shown here in her Easter Sunday finery at church).

And so began Angela's and my two-person, two faiths online interfaith dialog! We have been learning about both faith traditions in a stream-of-consciousness-like Q&A format as we check facts, histories, meanings, rituals, and more of our traditions to ensure accurate answers. Often, it can be weeks before we send an answer.

I always like when people ask me questions about our faith. Angela

From: Angela
Date: 2007/04/08
Subject: Fire of the Holy Spirit

Stephanie! It was so nice to meet your friend Tamar at Mass today. I know from your blog that she has a real interest in understanding her Christian brothers and sisters, so I want to give good info.

I always like when people ask me questions about our faith because it causes me to think more deeply and do a little studying. I had never actually pondered the symbolism of the window — it has been a "given" for me for quite some time (I think the window was installed when I was a child).

Symbols of the Holy Spirit
As we were coming home and I thought more about it, I realized that I misinterpreted part of my answer about the symbols of the Holy Spirit, and in realizing this, the meaning of the whole window (the Blessed Trinity) became clear to me for the first time. I hope you will share this clarification with Tamar and thank her for inspiring me to think about it.

All Christians, and we as Catholics, believe in a triune God — one holy, almighty and ever-living God who is experienced in a Trinity of three divine beings or persons, God the Father, Jesus Christ (God the Son) and the Holy Spirit (God the Spirit).

Alpha and Omega
Of course God the Father, Yahweh, the I AM, is represented in the window as the Alpha and the Omega (shown on the right), Greek letters for the beginning and the end. I'm sure you both know that belief in God the Father is common to Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths - we all believe in the same GOD.

Cross and Holy Eucharist
Jesus Christ (God the Son) is represented naturally by the cross and by the Holy Eucharist . . .

Dogwood blossom

. . . and the resurrection is depicted in the dogwood blossoms.

The dove represents the Holy Spirit as described in Matthew 3:16, where the dove descends on Jesus after His baptism and God speaks from heaven, marking the beginning of Christ's public ministry.

TAMAR REPLIES: I love that the dove is a symbol with multiple meanings in the Hebrew Scriptures, starting in Genesis 8:8, where Noah released the dove to find land. Yet the dove returned to the ark, lacking dry land to alight on. Twice again, Noah released the dove; first, it returned with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak (Genesis 8:11): the water had receded. The third time Noah released the dove; it did not return (Genesis 8:12). The flood's ending was a sign that God's war with humankind was over. And so, the dove — alone or with an olive branch, represents peace.

Yet the dove is also a symbol of war. From Jeremiah 50:16 (Hebrew follows English): ". . . for fear of the [oppressing] sword of the dove everyone will return to his people, and . . . flee to his land."
מִפְּנֵי, חֶרֶב הַיּוֹנָה, אִישׁ אֶל-עַמּוֹ יִפְנוּ, וְאִישׁ לְאַרְצוֹ יָנֻסוּ And, when my Hebrew literature class in Tel Aviv studied Meir Shalev's "A Pigeon and a Boy" (not yet in English translation), in which carrier pigeons in wartime are central "characters," clearly the dove is not exclusively the symbol of peace — or of war.

So here is where I got mixed up: the fire is a representation of the Holy Spirit as it descended in the form of tongues of fire on our Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Simon Peter and all of the Apostles at the Pentecost, following Jesus' ascension into heaven in Acts 2:3. This is when the Apostles were commissioned in their ministries. Our Catholic priests and bishops are direct successors of this commission in a two-thousand-year-old unbroken chain of succession. (And the Pope is a direct successor of Peter - the Rock, Matthew 16:18.) They are the only ones with a true commission directly from Christ to consecrate the Eucharist, and perform the other sacraments.

My mistake was in referring to the Burning Bush, which was, of course, a manifestation of God the Father, when he spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:2 many, many moons before the Holy Spirit came to guide us. They are the same in that they are all ONE GOD, but the reference was to the wrong DIVINE PERSON. The Burning Bush is God the Father, not the Holy Spirit.

TAMAR REPLIES: When you visit the Negev desert region of southern Israel, you might see burning bushes (common in a scorching dry environment). A wonderful teaching I heard: The real miracle of the burning bush was Moses' exquisite attention and focus on humble vegetation (the bush) and an ordinary phenomenon (burning), which proved him trustworthy of shepherding a people. He noticed the bush ("insignificant" to others who seek "sparkles") as a devoted shepherd who notices every sheep — none of which is too small or unimportant.

Sorry for the mix-up. It is good to have a reference Bible. ;)

TAMAR REPLIES: Yes! And good to read in the original because every translation is an editorial;-) I have been a student of the Hebrew Bible since I started to read, and to this day pore over source text and the multiple commentaries on its meanings, relevance, and more. I will never know enough Hebrew or related disciplines (archeology, history, geography, Biblical era religions, laws, and languages, among others) to understand the text properly. Though I keep trying and with help such as yours, I can inch along . . .

And the conversation continues . . .

Angela with her family
Hubby is Greg, Big Bro is Christopher
and the little one is Daniel.
My sweet boys – not quite three years apart.