June 30, 2008

Tel Aviv: learning from elders

German-born Ute and Romanian-born Leah sharing girl-talk

At the corner of Tel Aviv's Allenby and Yavne Streets, in the public Beit Avot (Home for the Aged), the stories flow and I discover worlds. So when my globe-trotting friend Ute came from Frankfurt on her first trip to Israel, visiting the Beit Avot was a first stop.

Speaking pidgin German
Sitting on a bench in front of the Beit Avot, Leah was the first to greet us. They quickly established rapport, and howled in delight as Romanian-born Leah recounted, in pidgin German cobbled from her scant Yiddish, how she overcame bridal shyness on her wedding night.

Inside, we headed to Moshe's room for answers to Susanne's questions. She visits him weekly, and recently sent me this e-mail from the USA  —

... Is Moshe OK?... He had that eye surgery before I left and I am wondering if it left him impaired... I just hope he is doing all right. Also, he asked me to find a book and I need more information.

How did the eye surgery go?
Perfect, Moshe's reply.

Were you scared? Ute and I asked, in unison.

I've fought in four wars, killed many people on command, and was a captain in the paratrooper's brigade. Children are starving all over the world. What's a five-minute zapping with a laser beam? Moshe's bad-news-good-news answer.

Tell Susanne, thank you for asking, and to forget about the book, he added.

And so ended the Q&A and began Moshe's freestyle discourse on history, Jesus, opera, Greenwich Village, angst, and Israeli documentary film.

Ben-Gurion Remembers (the movie)
Among Moshe's myriad accomplishments and adventures, he was the chief cameraman for Ben-Gurion Remembers (1972), a tribute to Israel's first Prime Minister that scans this nation's history. Moshe told us about his first conversation with the elder statesman when the film's producer introduced them before the filming that lasted more than forty days. 

Our interest in the film having been piqued, the next day Ute and I sat in a carrel at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque Library and watched it, weeping, horrified, and ashamed as newsreel footage showed killing, maiming, and destruction. And, we cheered listening to Ben Gurion, world leaders, pre-State pioneers, and other courageous ingenious actors who helped trump the mad men and mad women and their death machines.

When we returned to the Beit Avot to thank Moshe for his camera work, his joyous shouts and gasps — that we sought, found, and watched the film thrilled us. Suddenly, he rose from his chair and went to the closet where he rummaged among his few possessions in the small room he calls home. And he retrieved a small photograph (shown in the photo on the left) of himself when he worked on that film project (in the photo, his assistant is on the left).

The twinkling eyes, the hair-framed smiling face in the photo still his, intact and unchanged since those glorious forty days' filming more than three decades ago.

My related posts on the Beit Avot

June 19, 2008

On the Face: Lisa's very cool interview with Stephanie

My photo with Stephanie — treasured friend and colleague since 1994 when we met, in Atlanta, at A.D.A.M. Software, Inc. (now, A.D.A.M., Inc.) interactive anatomy and multimedia products. And, since 2006, when her persistence trumped my excuses, my blog mother.

"Your blog's name is well chosen," Jeff commented on an earlier post. "Connecting with people, reaching out to them... that's a good thing. You're one of the people who lowers the degrees of separation."

Which partially explains how Stephanie, who blogs at Cool People I Know, "met" and interviewed uber blogger Lisa last week on my MacBook, with a little coordination and much magic.

My photo with Lisa — whose depictions of life in Tel Aviv and in neighboring areas (Palestinian territories and Lebanon, among others) induced me to email her last year ("Can we meet?"), turning a virtual friendship into the real kind.

Lisa's authentic approach to reporting on life that no mere visitor (whether reporter, politico, or tourist) could possibly know, and her friendships with Lebanese bloggers and on-the-ground coverage during the Second Lebanon War, drew attentions of CNN, BBC, and The Washington Post, among others — and a burgeoning global audience.

Lisa (in my Tel Aviv flat) told Stephanie (on a cattle farm in Georgia) why she started her On the Face blog (and how she chose the name). Responding to astute questions, Lisa shared some of the art of crafting blog posts while maintaining a collegial community with up to hundreds of daily visitors and commenters from diverse, often opposing perspectives and bitter feuds across political, faith, and geographical boundaries.

Stephanie captured the fast paced, upbeat, low-touch, high-tech interview in this 30-minute podcast: Uncovering Tel Aviv: An Interview with Journalist/Blogger Lisa Goldman.

Locally. Globally. Only connect.

June 09, 2008

(Israeli) boy and his (friend's) dog on Shavuot

Or (in Hebrew, "visible light, source of illumination")
cuddles Sheer-li (in Hebrew, "my song")

To celebrate the revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah, my lovely friend Eilat invited several friends, including lucky me, to her home in Tel Aviv last night.

We dined on elegant dairy-infused culinary creations (none mine — the sole health-conscious, low-salt-and-fat, taste-free contribution).

In following the customary exception to the talmudic rule, that "holiday joy requires meat and wine," the table was a riot of cheese blintzes, yogurt with honey, cheesecake, lasagna — even a box of honey-laced, milky-white Toblerone chocolates!

Why eat dairy products on Shavuot?
Delicious reasons and sacred texts inform. Among them, Song of Songs (4:11) hints that the Torah nourishes "... like honey and milk under your tongue."

Children as guarantors
Before God gave the Torah to the Jewish people, the tradition teaches that God required agents who would assure the Torah’s continuity and transmission over the ages.

So the people suggested the patriarchs and the prophets, among others; to no avail. Only when they offered children as the guarantors, did the Jewish people receive the Torah.

Every Shavuot, I feel especially nourished by children's sweet optimism and earnest dedication — ideal qualities to guarantee the Torah's eternal life.

While native Israeli Or's attentions to his host's dog (shown in the photos) touched me deeply, I began to imagine him pleading (unsuccessfully) with his Moroccan-born mother and Russian-born father for such a pet. I projected, "Seems you want your own dog, yes?"

Relieved by Or's quick, "I have one!" I reflected on the blessings that beloved pets bring. Among them, loving (at least treating respectfully) others' pets, ultimately protecting all creation.

Shavout: celebrating revelation at Sinai and giving the Torah.

Children: guarantying the Torah — "tree of life" (Proverbs 3:18).

Chag sameach. Happy holiday.