Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hebron Hills goes artsy אמנות בדרום הר חברון?

The article on the Hebron Hills art exhibit at Tel Aviv University was garbled, to say the least. This is precisely because our society is confused about its terms. Two terms, specifically: “apolitical”, and “neutral”. We Israelis are terrified of being political. Artists, institutions, and non-profits rush to proclaim themselves “apolitical”. What they mean, of course, is that they are non-partisan, i.e., not affiliated with a political party. But what everyone is missing is that very few things are truly apolitical, nor should they be. As we’ve learned – or not – from the feminist movement, “The personal is political”. This is particularly true of the settlers, which is why Nurit Gazit, organizer of Hebron Hills Faces Tel Aviv, is being disingenuous about the benignness of her exhibit: If you’re a settler, everything you do, every breath you take – every brush stroke, in Gazit’s case – is political. If you’re not willing to admit this, you shouldn’t be there.

But Gazit isn’t the only one missing the point here: Tel Aviv University told Haaretz: “The application to mount the exhibition contained only the artistic and location aspect without including or mentioning politics. The library lobby serves as a platform for a variety of exhibitions,” prompting me to ask: Why is a university, of all places, and an artist, of all people, hiding from politics? Historically universities and artists have acted as platforms for causes — ordinarily progressive causes, but in this specific case, a right-wing cause. And that’s OK. What’s not OK is to deny it and claim to be apolitical, which in our case is a euphemism, code for “neutral when it comes to the territories”.

It is probably a good idea for certain entities to remain neutral, examples being Magen David Adom and organizations that advocate for the disabled. Those are the only examples I can think of offhand. Everyone else should have an opinion and stand behind it, whether or not I agree with it. In the case at hand, if the university were truly neutral, it would have turned Gazit’s application down unless the exhibit included works by non-Jewish Hebron Hills artists, rendering it balanced and worthy of discourse. As it stands, a university that gives a platform to the right only and calls its choice neutral (“apolitical”, as we like to say) fools no one, not even the artists themselves.

Nurit Gazit, I throw down the gauntlet: I challenge you to mount a genuine Hebron Hills artists’ exhibit that contains artistic works by settlers alongside works by Palestinian Hebron Hills residents. When you do so, and when the university hosts such an exhibit, then I’ll believe in claims of balance and neutrality. Until then, this is as political as it gets.

Cork bathmat instructional הוראות ליצירת שטיחון אמבט מפקקי שעם

Departing from my usual fare here in an unexpected direction. I recently got hooked on, well, like it says in the title to this post: making cork bathmats. As is my wont, I researched all the instructionals I could find online and proceeded. What differs in my instructional is that I’m going to tell you all the stuff that no others do. I will put these tips in purple.

Note: I live in an area where the water supply is the Earth’s hardest (1,300 ppm calcium), so instead of tap water, I collect air conditioner condensate in 1.5-liter bottles all summer and my supply lasts me ‘til spring. Air conditioner condensate is mineral free and therefore the softest water available; it’s essentially distilled water at zero cost. So whenever I mention water, I’m talking soft. Worth keeping in mind depending upon your water supply.

I’m too lazy to insert photos, but I’ll explain it all in detail:

Collecting enough corks

You’ll need 150 for a mat measuring 60 x 40 cm, but collect some more, as not every cork makes the cut, literally. Save those that don’t, however, and keep them on hand when gluing, as they can be used to fill in irregularly-shaped spaces.

I’ve been able to keep up a steady cork supply by 1) telling everyone I know to save their corks for me and 2) scavenging in glass recycling receptacles. If you’re in proxmity to a bar(s), restaurant(s), or hotel(s), you can ask them to save them for you and pick them up reliably.


None of the other instructionals tell you this: Soak your corks first* overnight. Then dry them thoroughly. I live in the desert, so this means spreading them onto a cookie sheet and setting them outside the southern side of my house, where they dry quickly. But they must be thoroughly dry, or else you’ll rust your knife.


The other instructionals say to use a pen knife (?!) or don’t specify. Use a heavy-duty utility knife / box cutter, not just any old knife or Xacto knife. I bought a Workforce on the recommendation of the Home Depot sales associate, and it’s much better than the snap-off blade box cutter I started with, but I suspect there’s still something better out there. Reader recommendations are welcome!

Cover your work surface with a piece of cardboard or some other protection, unless you like knife scratches and glue residue on your table. Your knife will slip. Wear work gloves for protection.
Have a sheet of rough (I use grade 4) sandpaper handy. With few exceptions, the cut won’t be clean, and you’ll need to sand.

UPDATE: I've found that simply rubbing the two flat half-cork surfaces together is usually enough to smooth things out. If not, then I sand.

The other instructionals say to stand the cork on end and slice it in half. Like that’s going to happen – not. Here’s how to slice: Lay the cork on its side lengthwise. Hold one end between your thumb and forefinger. With your knife extended fully, make a cut a centimeter from the other end. Press your knife downward as far as you can. Now turn the cork on its end (the end you were holding) and continue slicing, turning, slicing, and turning ‘til you’ve split the cork in two.

I’ve found that I have to do this standing up. A lot of pressing is involved, and even wearing gloves, blisters formed. Forget regular Band-Aids; slap on the larger adhesive bandages used in burn clinics. You’re in the major leagues now.

For the sanding, I rub the cork halves back and forth and in a circular motion on the sandpaper, which is lying on my work surface adjacent to where I’m cutting. There will be crumbs. Even sanding doesn’t render a smooth, flat surface. That’s OK; sand regardless. Now you’re ready to glue.


I began with an old rubber / vinyl bathmat I wanted to recycle. I sliced all the suction cups off the bottom, put it in the bathtub, poured a few cups of bleach on it, covered it with water, and soaked it for a few hours. Then I rinsed it and dried it thoroughly. It’s not ideal, as it doesn’t lie flat, so I’m conducting an ongoing experiment:

I glued two thirds of its area using hot glue; then a line of corks using Gorilla glue; and the remaining third using e6000. Each cork in the Gorilla line got a big ‘ol black dot applied with a Sharpie laundry marker, so it’s easy to keep track of which corks were glued with which glue.

I let it dry overnight, then used it. Every few days, one or more corks comes loose, and I reglue it / them using Gorilla and mark those corks with a dot. The mat is slowly becoming populated with black dots / Gorilla. With one exception, every cork that has come loose was glued with hot glue; one e6000 has come loose. Draw your own conclusions. Here are my impressions of the various glues:

Hot glue

I thought using hot glue was hard core, i.e., it’s the ultimate adhesive. Yet my data proves otherwise. It appears that its advantage over e6000 is its lower cost. I’m lousy at arithmetic and haven’t performed a cost analysis, but roughly, a large stick of hot glue is enough to glue three or four mats; I estimate that a bottle of original Gorilla will go about as far, and a small tube of e6000 won’t go as far. My empirical data, for what it’s worth.

I began using hot glue wearing latex gloves, but it became annoying, so I took my chances gloveless. Being very careful, I’ve burned myself on the gun’s tip a few times, immediately applied ice, and there was no injury. There is something fun about hot gluing, so there is that.

Gorilla glue

Many Gorilla users complain that it dries out soon after opening. I live in the desert and have opened and closed my bottle multiple times with no drying, so I don’t know what their problem is. You only need to apply a small amount, as it spreads as it dries. Seems well worth its cost (not high) to me.


Everyone I talked to or read about warns of the odor and cautions to ventilate. I couldn’t detect any odor, used it indoors, and lived to tell the tale. Again, it grips like no other; it just costs more.

Back to backings

After starting with my old bathmat (see above), I moved on to some old vinyl placemats my dad had lying around. These were far easier to work with, as they lie flat. Gave the first one to friends; have not gotten any reports of how well / poorly it’s holding up.

Mesh shelf liner

Bought some at a dollar store. The glue seems to grip this material superbly. The only downside is the glue leaking through the mesh. I solved this by working on top of a sheet of contact paper peel-off (i.e., not the (sticky) contact paper itself, rather the layer you peel off). Every two rows, I gently lift the mesh off the sheet so it doesn’t dry onto the sheet. Works like a charm. We’ll call the sheet the inter-layer.

Another inter-layer idea I haven’t tried yet: the poop-catchers that come with your annual occult blood stool test kit, which I don’t use, as I have my own method. Stay tuned on these. If your HMO doesn’t send a home kit, next time you visit your clinic, ask for a few poop catchers (don’t know the clinical name).

I also found some foam shelf liner and plan to use it next. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Gave friends a mat glued with hot glue onto a plastic placemat backing. They said the corks started popping off after a week of use. Made a test mat the same way for my household. It's still intact weeks later, so I suspect her huge, active setter puppy of terror activity.


So there you are. You now have exhaustive instructions for making your cork bathmat. Please comment and tell me your experiences. I’m dying to correspond with other recyclers!

* Shout-out to my master crafter SIL, Lana Reiz, for this invaluable tip and for informing me of e6000’s existence!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Boys will be boys"...NOT "ככה זה בנים": ממש לא!

Boys will be boys. It sets my teeth on edge even to write, let alone hear, those words. Up ‘til now, whenever I’ve taken issue with the utterance of this despicable expression, I’ve been shut down with, “What do you know? You don’t have sons.” Well, no more. I call BS on that. Because I’ve thought about it and deconstructed it, and we all know what happens when I start thinking and deconstructing: I’m about to blast your myth wide open and send it packing. Ready to unpack it?

What behavior prompts us to remark, with mock resignation, “Boys will be boys”? It’s always undesirable behavior. Think about it: Have you ever witnessed a boy exhibiting admirable behavior and someone remarking, “Boys will be boys”? No. Because "Boys will be boys" is always used to excuse undesirable behavior.

It begins in early childhood with boys being rambunctious. We more or less tolerate rambunctiousness; after all, it’s just a stage, right? Well, it depends. We claim to approve of it, but do we really? We “approve” of it the same way we “approve” of babies defecating into a diaper instead of a toilet: because we can’t expect any more of them, and we know that they must reach a certain developmental stage before we can begin teaching them the socially acceptable way and place to defecate. But we do agree it must be taught; ceasing to defecate “wherever” with no show of control is not likely to just happen by itself; in other words, it’s not just a stage that’s going to pass, like teething; it requires our active intervention.

As does rambunctiousness, which if not contained or properly channeled in early childhood, emerges later in the form of frat boy behavior (which among others, occasionally involves defecating…wherever). So at what point do we stop excusing undesirable behavior with "Boys will be boys"? I say it should never begin; those words – as well as “boys and girls: different” – should never be uttered, because both are used for the same purpose: to excuse antisocial behavior on the parts of boys.

By antisocial behavior I mean behavior that is unacceptable for an adult. This is why I draw a distinction between rambunctiousness and rowdiness. Frat boy behavior = rambunctious. It’s 12yo and even toddler (see above) behavior being exhibited by individuals who are biologically men but whose upbringing undoubtedly contained utterances of "Boys will be boys". Do we adults tolerate rambunctiousness in each other? No. If and when it’s exhibited, we reflexively recoil and distance ourselves therefrom. Not so with rowdiness.

Rowdiness differs in its connotation from rambunctiousness. Rowdiness 1) has its time and place; and 2) is engaged in by both genders and all ages, even octogenarians. Unlike “getting rowdy”, we rarely if ever hear of girls being rambunctious, and that’s not a coincidence: It’s because the latter is a behavior of which we disapprove, if not in little boys, then ultimately in all socialized adults.

After rambunctiousness, boys who hear "Boys will be boys" move on to undesirable behavior that involves only boys: fistfights, lack of impulse control, destructiveness, viewing pornography*. Subsequently, "Boys will be boys"-eliciting behavior starts to involve young women: snapping girls’ bra straps in elementary school; peeking into girls’ bathrooms or locker rooms in junior high. Then it progresses to relating to and treating young women as prizes or objects; and after that it’s not respecting “No”; overpowering women, assault, abuse — all behaviors that we simultaneously condemn explicitly and condone implicitly every time we say "Boys will be boys". And notice: All behaviors that elicit "Boys will be boys" have a perpetrator and a victim.

Like Soraya Chemaly, I’m not saying that the son of every parent who has ever uttered "Boys will be boys" is destined to become an abuser; I’m saying that these words serve no one: It’s time we excised them from our vocabularies. I for one will no longer be silent when I’m told I have no standing to oppose them because I have “only daughters”. On the contrary: I precisely have standing to oppose them on behalf of my daughters, and all daughters, everywhere.

* I know this last is viewed by many as proof of healthy sexual development; whether or not that is true, it can’t be argued that it involves objectification of women, of which we (hopefully) disapprove.
"ככה זה בנים": ממש לא!

"ככה זה בנים". רק לקרוא את המלים הללו, שלא לדבר על לשמוע אותן, מעלה לי את הסעיף. עד כה, בכל פעם שהבעתי התנגדות לשימוש בביטוי המתועב הנ"ל, תמיד הושתקתי בטענה, "מה את יודעת? לך אין בנים." אז זהו, עד כאן. קשקוש אני קוראת לזה, כי חשבתי על הנושא ופירקתי אותו לגורמים, ואתם יודעים מה קורה כשאני חושבת על משהו ומפרקת אותו לגורמים: אני עומדת לנתץ את המיתוס שלכם, לארוז אותו ולשלוח לכם בחבילה. מוכנים לפתוח?

איזו התנהגות גורמת לנו להפטיר, במעין קבלת-גורל מעושה, "ככה זה בנים"? מדובר תמיד בהתנהגות פסולה. חשבו על כך: האם ראיתם פעם בן המתנהג באופן ראוי לשבח ומישהו מעיר, "ככה זה בנים"? לא. כי "ככה זה בנים" תמיד משמש כתירוץ להתנהגות פסולה.

זה מתחיל בשלבי הילדות המוקדמים כאשר בנים משתוללים. אנחנו פחות-או-יותר מתירים השתוללות; אחרי ככלות הכל זהו בסך הכל שלב התפתחותי, נכון? אנחנו טוענים שזה מקובל עלינו, אך האמנם? זה "מקובל" עלינו באותה מידה שבה "מקובל" עלינו שתינוקות עושים את צרכיהם בחיתול במקום באסלה, משום שאי אפשר לצפות מהם ליותר מכך, ואנחנו יודעים שעליהם להגיע לשלב התפתחותי מסויים לפני שנוכל ללמד אותם איך והיכן לעשות את צרכיהם באופן המקובל בחברה. אולם כולנו מסכימים שצריך ללמד את זה; הגמילה מעשיית הצרכים "איפה שלא יהיה" מבלי לגלות שום שליטה בכך לא תתחולל מעצמה. במילים אחרות, לא רק השלב צריך לחלוף, כמו  בקיעת השיניים; הדבר מחייב מעורבות פעילה.

כך גם ההשתוללות, שאם אינה מוכלת או מתועלת בשלב מוקדם של הילדות, היא תופיע מאוחר יותר בצורת התנהגות גברברית מתהוללת (שבין היתר מתבטאת לפעמים בעשיית הצרכים... איפה שלא יהיה). אם כך, באיזה שלב צריך להפסיק לתרץ התנהגות פסולה בטיעון, "ככה זה בנים"? לדעתי אסור בכלל להתחיל; מלים אלו – כמו גם "בנים שונים מבנות" – מוטב שלא ייאמרו בכלל בשום שלב, כי אלו גם אלו נועדו לאותה מטרה: לתרץ התנהגות אנטי חברתית של בנים.

התנהגות אנטי חברתית היא, לשיטתי, התנהגות שאינה הולמת אדם בוגר. לכן אני מבחינה בין השתוללות לבין השתובבות. התנהגות גברברית מתהוללת = השתוללות. זו התנהגות של ילד בן 12 או אפילו פעוט (ראו לעיל) המתגלה אצל מי שמבחינה ביולוגית הם גברים, אך החינוך שקיבלו ללא ספק כלל את האמירה "ככה זה בנים". האם אנו הבוגרים מסכימים לסבול השתוללות מצד בוגרים אחרים? לא. כשהיא מתרחשת, אנחנו נרתעים מוכנית ומתרחקים ממנה. לא כך כשמדובר בהשתובבות.

השתובבות שונה תפיסתית מהשתוללות. ראשית, השתובבות היא התנהגות סבירה במקום ובזמן המתאימים; ושנית, בני שני המגדרים בכל גיל, כולל אפילו קשישים, משתובבים לפעמים. לעומת ההשתובבות, כמעט ולא נשמע תיאור של בת כ"משתוללת", ויד המקריות אינה בכך: הסיבה היא שהשתוללות היא התנהגות שלמעט בקרב זאטוטים ממין זכר אינה מקובלת עלינו,  כמובן לא בקרב אף אחד מבוגרים בחברה.

 לאחר שלב ההשתוללות עוברים הבנים השומעים מסביבתם ש"ככה זה בנים" להתנהגות פסולה הייחודית לבנים בלבד: הרבצות, איבוד שליטה בדחפים, הרסנות וצפיה בפורנוגרפיה*. עד מהרה מתחילה האמירה "ככה זה בנים" לעודד התנהגות שבה מעורבות גם נשים: משיכת רצועות החזיה בבי"ס היסודי והצצה בשירותי הבנות או בחדרי ההלבשה שלהן בחטיבת הביניים.  משם זה מתפתח להתייחסות לנשים כאל פרסים שזכו בהם או חפצים; ומשם הדרך קצרה לאי-כיבוד ה"לא" של הנשים, להשתלטות כוחנית עליהן, לתקיפות, להתעללות – כל סוגי ההתנהגות שאותם אנו מגנים במפורש אך למעשה מעודדים במשתמע כל פעם שאנו אומרים "ככה זה בנים". ושימו לב: בכל סוגי ההתנהגות הנובעים מ"ככה זה בנים" יש מבצע ויש קורבן של הביצוע.

כמו סוראיה צ'מאלי, אינני אומרת שכל בן של כל הורה שאי פעם יצאו מפיו המילים "ככה זה בנים" יהפוך בהכרח לגבר מתעלל; אני אומרת שהמילים הללו אינן מביאות שום תועלת לאף אחד, ושהגיע הזמן לסלק אותן מאוצר הביטויים שלנו. אני, למשל, לא אשתוק אם יאמרו לי שלא מתאים לי להתנגד להן בגלל ש"יש לי רק בנות". להיפך: דווקא לי מתאים להתנגד להן בשם בנותיי, ובשם כל הבנות באשר הן.

*אני יודעת שרבים מחשיבים את הצפיה בפורנוגרפיה כעדות להתפתחות מינית בריאה; בין אם זה נכון ובין אם לאו, אי אפשר להתווכח עם העובדה שגלומה בכך החפצה של נשים, אשר (יש לקוות) אינה מקובלת עלינו.

תרגם באדיבות: עמי ארגמן

Thursday, August 14, 2014

City inspectors don't need a day of rest מפקחי העירייה אינם צריכים יום שבת

It’s reached the absurd: Interior Minister Gideon Saar declares: “The principle of a weekly day of rest is a fundamental one in our country.” What happened, Mr. Saar? City inspectors don’t get to rest on Saturday?  Ah. I see. The day of rest only applies if you’re trying to sell goods. So it’s OK for city employees to work on Saturday, and I’m sure the citizens of Tel Aviv, who pay the inspectors’ salaries, think this situation makes total sense. Especially the 20,000 (if not more) who aren’t even Jewish.

More absurdity: The Forum of Minimarket Owners petitioned the court to prohibit the supermarkets’ opening on Saturday because “it hurts their [small guys’] business.” Well guess what, small guys: I feel for ya, but hitchhiking on religious coercion is nothing less than disingenuous. If your business is hurting because you choose not to open on Saturday, or late at night, or any other time, because you value your private life more, it’s not cricket to turn to the courts to solve your problem.

You want to be with your family on Saturdays? I applaud that, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too at the expense of the rest of us. Many of us give up comfort or convenience in favor of values. I respect modest dress as well, but does that mean I should subsidize air conditioning in all buildings where modestly dressed people live and work? It’s called owning your choices.

Minister Saar claims that businesses opening on Saturday “encourages crime”. Well, yeah, but only if you make Saturday retail a crime. I’m wondering if the measly fines collected on Saturdays even cover the inspectors’ salaries. If they don’t then Tel Aviv-Jaffa residents are being ripped off by City Hall, pure and simple. And if ripping off your constituency isn't a crime, what is?

Koby Bremer, a minimarket owner who represented the Forum’s court petition, warned that the customers pay for stores opening on Saturday in the form of higher prices. Well welcome to the world of retail, Koby. Nice of you to look out for my pocketbook, but as a customer, it’s my prerogative to pay for convenience. That’s why they’re called “convenience stores”.

An Orthodox minimarket owner lamented, “Next thing you know, we’ll be working on Yom Kippur.” Well, no. You won’t be, but what’s the problem with, say, cashier Suheila Kchile working on Yom Kippur? It’s just another day to her, as it is to the 25% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish, and the 20% of Israeli Jews who don’t observe Yom Kippur.

When will we learn? If observing Judaism has any inherent value, it shouldn’t need to be legislated. Certainly not on my dime.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bigotry > Racism > Nazism...Just because we can שנאה > גזענות > נציזם...סתם כי ביכולתנו

עברית לאחר האנגלית
A neighbor, Micha Eshchar, wrote the following in our Friday bulletin:

A few decades ago (how time flies!), the Speaker of the Knesset visited a group of reservists at a distant locale. They were chomping at the bit to go home on leave, but were forced to stay two extra hours in order to meet with him. Looking back, I suppose that he simply wanted to look good to the reservists. Perhaps that was the motivation behind his words: “You all know what the Arabs’ll do here if they win. Any blondes [women soldiers] here?” At which the deputy commander stood up and told him, “My father’s a Holocaust survivor, and he says you talk like a Nazi.” You could hear a pin drop.

Suffice it to say that if that deputy commander was planning on an army career (he wasn’t), that was probably a good time to come up with some other line of work. The Holocaust serves many politicians as a blank check to do and say outrageous things, then wipe their soiled hands and mouth with my own family’s history – and that’s a problem for me. In any case, the Holocaust happened, with all its tragic consequences, this we can’t deny. 

Many have hypothesized – and continue to hypothesize – on the reasons it happened, and we can find many worthy explanations therefor. But there’s one explanation that precisely due to its simplicity, we overlook: It happened because it could.

The Jews weren’t first in line at the crematoria; the Gypsies got there ahead of us. Neither people had an army, or its own territory. For millennia, any wretch who felt like it could take out his frustrations on them. Knowing what we know now, it was only a matter of time before anti-Semites with industry and order and standards like that of the Germans could do to the Jews and the Gypsies whatever they pleased.

Teaching the Holocaust must be done from a universal standpoint of educating against racism and violence. But what do we do when violence won’t play by the rules of civil society? How can a pluralistic society respond to those who don’t recognize pluralism as legitimate? That’s our dilemma. I personally would be happy to replace the study trips to Poland with trips to Um Al Fahm or Ein Mahl[1]. In terms of educational results, it would certainly be more cost effective. It would, of course, also be much more challenging, as it would be genuinely educational. Not to mention the fact that numbers-wise, they’d have no trouble hosting us.

But what do we do in other locales, locales wherein dialog is absent? I’m referring, of course, to the Israelis who beat up, tore placards, and cursed an anti-war protest last week – and bragged about it on social networks. Should we just suck it up? Dialog with them? Vacate the town square and go home?

Oh, right: The police were there. Except that as always, they “didn’t see anything.” Rapper haTzèl [The Shadow] Yoav Eliasi later wrote on Facebook, “Good going, my lions. It’s about time we fed you the flesh of some worthless leftist in need of reprogramming…and thanks to our heroic police.” Any volunteers to sit with Eliasi over a cup of coffee and chat? Raise those hands high. Or perhaps we should just try to “understand where he’s coming from”.

This past week, civilian pilots reported laser beams aimed at their cockpits from Jaljulya while landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. Scary stuff. Is it really all about “a differing viewpoint”? Or are there acts that must be halted by force? It’s no longer hypothetical.

[1] Town in the Galilee with whom our kids’ school has an exchange program.

שכננו מיכה אשחר כתב להלן בעלון שלנו, כל אלה בני קטורה:

לפני כמה עשרות שנים (אך שהזמן עובר), בא יושב ראש הכנסת לבקר קבוצה של חיילי מילואים במקום די רחוק מכאן. החיילים רצו ליסוע הביתה, אבל השאירו אותם עוד שעתיים כדי להיפגש עם יושב ראש הכנסת.
היום אני חושב, שהוא בסך הכל רצה למצוא חן בעיני החיילים. אולי בגלל זה הוא אמר את המשפט הבא, בערך: אתם יודעים מה הערבים יעשו פה אם הם ינצחו. יש כאן חיילות בלונדיניות?... ואז קם איזה סמך-מם-פא ואמר לו ככה: אבא שלי ניצול שואה. והוא חושב שאתה מדבר כמו נאצי. (פאוזה. ואחר כך היה עוד רגע של שקט). ואחר כך, טוב, אם הקצין ההוא בנה על קריירה צבאית (הוא לא), זה היה כנראה רגע טוב לתכנן קריירה חדשה.
זיכרון השואה משמש להרבה פוליטיקאים קלף של "צא מהכלא", כמו במונופול. הם יכולים לומר ולעשות דברים מאוד גרועים, ואחר כך לנגב את הפה והידיים המלוכלכים שלהם בהיסטוריה של המשפחה שלי. אני רואה בזה בעיה.

אבל בכל זאת, פעם היתה שואה – עם כל הצער שבדבר, ניאלץ להודות בכך. מדברים הרבה על הסיבות למה שקרה אז, ויש הרבה הסברים טובים ומעניין לקרוא על מה שקרה לאנשים ואיך חשבו אז. אבל יש הסבר שמרוב שהוא פשוט, אנחנו לא מספיק חושבים עליו. הדברים קרו כי זה היה אפשרי.

היהודים לא היו יחידים בתור למשרפות באושוויץ, לפניהם היו צוענים. לשני העמים לא היה צבא, ולא היתה טריטוריה, ובמשך כל הדורות כל מנייאק היה מוציא עליהם את העצבים. במבט לאחור זה היה רק עניין של זמן עד שאנטישמים עם תעשייה וסדר וסטנדרטים כמו של גרמניה, יעשו ליהודים ולצוענים מה שהיטלר עשה.
ללימוד השואה צריך להיות גם היבט אוניברסאלי: חינוך נגד גזענות ונגד אלימות. מה לעשות כאשר האלימות לא מוכנה לשחק לפי כללי המשחק כמו שאנחנו מבינים אותם? איך מערכת פלוראליסטית יכולה להגיב מול אנשים שאינם מכירים בפלוראליזם? דילמה. אישית, הייתי שמח אם המסעות לפולין היו מוחלפים במסע לאום אל פאחם או לעין מאהל. אם רוצים חינוך – זה הרבה יותר קוסט אפקטיב. זה גם הרבה יותר מאתגר וקשה (כי זה חינוך באמת). בנוסף, יש מצב שאחוז האנשים שם שרוצים לארח אותנו, גדול מאחוז התלמידים בבית ספר מעלה שחרות, שמוכנים לארח אותם.

אבל מה עושים במקום אחר, במקום שבו החינוך והדיבורים לא עוזרים?
אני מתכוון כמובן, לפעילי הימין שהרביצו, קרעו שלטים, קיללו בהפגנה של מתנגדי המבצע – ואחר כך גם התגאו במעשים אלה ברשתות חברתיות. האם להכיל מעשים כאלה, לדבר איתם יפה, לסגת באופן חד צדדי מהכיכר, לנהל איתם משא ומתן? אה, אני יודע, היתה שם משטרה. הם כמובן לא ראו כלום. יואב אליאס ("הצל".. איזה שם) כתב בפייסבוק: "טוב עכשיו אריות שלי הגיע הזמן לזרוק לכם עוד בשר של שמאלן אפס שצריך לקבל חינוך מחדש" וגם תודה לשוטרים שיצאו גברים... מישהו מתנדב לשבת איתו על כוס קפה ולדבר? אולי ננסה להבין את המקום שהוא בא ממנו?

בשבוע האחרון, טייסים אזרחיים מתלוננים על קרני לייזר שמכוונות לתא הטייס מכיוון ג'לג'וליה בזמן הנמכה לקראת נחיתה בנתב"ג. זה מצב לא סימפטי. יש סיבה שבגללה אין טייסים עיוורים – הם צריכים לראות את לוח הבקרה ואת השטח, בייחוד לפני נחיתה.

האם כל השאלה היא "השקפה אחרת על הדברים" או שיש מעשים שצריך למנוע גם בכוח? זו לא שאלה רטורית ולא היפותטית.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Our girls' ears: To pierce, or not to pierce? ניקוב אזני בנות

I’ve recently witnessed parents (ordinarily mothers\) struggling with the decision of if and when to pierce their daughters’ ears. Having three daughters myself, and over their growing-up years having heard numerous parents’ points of view on the matter, I have a few observations to share.

Firstly, as regular readers can guess, I’m not wild about piercing in infancy for the purpose of marking girls’ gender. That aside, there are several good arguments in the site linked to above for doing so, and the same arguments apply to piercing boys’ ears, although with one exception, I don’t know any boys whose parents initiated piercing (the boy in question was three when I met him).

First of all, it appears that among a certain demographic, parents are loathe to pierce because they associate it with females adorning themselves in order to make themselves sexually appealing to males. While earrings were originally indisputably part of this adornment, what I’ve come to realize is that in our times, and especially among the five-to-ten set (the ages when girls start asking to pierce), earrings have largely lost this connotation. So while I fully understand parents’ discomfort with it, if this is your problem, own it, i.e., don’t hide behind “I’m making her wait until she’s X years old because then she’ll be able to care for them herself.”

Story: My mom and I got our ears pierced together in 1973. I was 13, she was 50. And guess what? We both needed assistance from others! My dad had to remove Mom’s piercers with pliers; meanwhile I went off to sleepaway camp where the counselor sent me to the camp nurse to get the piercers removed, that’s how impossible it was. I also came home a bloody mess because in 1973 no one was aware of nickel allergy and there were no nickel-free earrings, so you wore any garbage you bought at Kmart or at the mall. This is all to say that being “of age” to care for them didn’t help me; even being 100 years old wouldn’t’ve helped me.

So telling your kid you’ll let her pierce when she’s old enough to care for them is akin to telling your toddler that you won’t take her swimming until s/he’s able to apply sun protection herself. Swimming = non-essential recreation; earrings = non-essential Fun Thing. While it’s true that swimming is also an activity that has intrinsic value in that it is exercise and quality time, parents and kids can bond over earrings, yes, we can.

So, my two zuzim: Just do it as soon as they start asking, with the proviso that they can only wear hypoallergenic / nickel-free until their teens / bat mitzva. * You’re free to hold out, of course, if you like listening to kvetching and begging for months / years on end, until you deem your kid (really you yourself) “ready”. Have fun with that: You have been warned!

PS Anyone know why dads have such a visceral opposition to piercing? I’ve heard several men decry it as “mutiliation”, but never hear women doing so. Is this what they mean by inborn gender differences?

*Unfortunately, these are barely available in Israel. That’s where online shopping comes in. More and more stores ship to Israel, especially from the UK. If anyone knows differently, please let me know!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who's speaking at which commencement? Who cares?

Ordinarily, I am dismissive of those who lament technology’s effects on our previously “untainted” lives. My response to those who wax nostalgic about pen-and-ink letters and how e-mail doesn’t reflect tone and nuance (and ink on paper does?) is “Get over it”. However, there’s one phenomenon to which I have a visceral opposition: the media circus surrounding college graduations. Well, not all college graduations, as none but the local press are covering 90% thereof. I’m talking about the top colleges, i.e., the Ivy League and the second tier.

We see here, in fact, that through the 1990s, U. of Michigan’s commencement speakers were either past or present officeholders, educators, or esteemed journalists. But scroll up to 2009 and 2013, and who do we see? The CEOs of Google and Twitter, respectively. We see here that in the 41 years 1972-2013, 19 of Northfield Mount Hermon’s speakers, i.e., nearly half, were alums. Totally appropriate. In this list from Syracuse University, we see that the first TV personality showed up in 1980, and it was the host of a PBS news program. But from 1994 onward, and especially from 2000, we see the glitz becoming more and more prominent. These are just a few lists reflecting the trend.

Pre-Internet, there was college bookstore merch. Sure, you wore your crimson / blue hoodie and your car sported your Harvard / Yale bumper sticker. You were signaling, or perhaps you just liked the hoodie, but it was an individual, unmediated affair. Sure the New York Times reported on commencement keynote speakers, but it wasn’t splashed across the front page and trumpeted for weeks on end.

Now, however, from March through May, you can hardly open your browser without seeing “who’s speaking at which commencement”. It’s signaling on steroids, and it gets more frenzied every year. I propose a mass “mental boycott” of the hoopla. You attend a selective school? Good for you. Wear your hoodie with pride. Your school has glitzy alums? Great. Invite ‘em back for commencement and award ‘em an honorary degree. But please, leave the rest of us out of it. We Officially Don’t Care.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

ברוכים הבאים למאה ה21 Welcome to the 21st century

True story: I ate breakfast with someone I don’t ordinarily see, and she was waxing on about an amazing lecture she’d heard on interpersonal relationships by therapist Hedy Schleifer. Intrigued, when I got to work I looked up Shleifer and found her on TED. Because I enjoy follow-through, i.e., telling the rest of you with whom I share this planet that I’m listening to you; and assuming that most of us are flattered and feel validated when what we say is followed up on, I shot my breakfast companion a mail with the Subject line “Hedy Schleifer”. The body: “Found this. Will view later!” Telegraphic, you say? Perhaps. Apparently, the recipient found it curt, even offensive.

Smiling, I asked her at lunch if she’d seen my mail. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went [recall that ironically, Schleifer is now her interpersonal relations guru]:

She: Yeah. What was that?

Me: What do you mean?

She: What was I supposed to do with that?

Me: Uh, click on the link.

She: What was the link?

Me: Her lecture.

She: I don’t need to hear her lecture [walks off, leaving me feeling like I’d committed an unforgivable faux pas].

OK, Schleifer Chasid and all you other Earth-dwellers who haven’t get gotten the memo: You know those words in e-mails (often “this” or “here”) that are in blue and underlined, as above? Those are this 20th-century invention called hyperlinks. What are you supposed to do with them? You left-click them with your mouse and they lead you to a website, in which you presumably have some passing interest. It saves us from having to write mails like the following:

Dear Breakfast Companion,
I was so intrigued by your description of Hedy Schliefer that as soon as I got to a computer, I performed an online search for her. Lo and behold, I found a lecture by her. You can see the lecture by clicking on the following link: Have a nice day!

In the 21st century, that translates to: “Found this. Will view later!” It’s meant to be neither curt nor offensive; it’s meant to save us both time. Got it?

And while we’re on the subject, Here’s a short quiz: I write you a mail containing the text, “…not to go all Hedy Schleifer on you, but…” You have no idea what I’m referring to. You:
                 a) Write me back asking, “Who’s Hedy Schleifer?"
                 b) Look up “Hedy Schleifer” online

The correct answer is (b). You necessarily have Internet access if you’re downloading and reading mail, no? Therefore, you open your browser and search for “Hedy Schleifer”. If you do (a), I’ll reply with “Look here.” Ah, that pesky blue underlined word again. What’s that? All together now: A hyperlink! And what do we do when we see a hyperlink? If you don’t know by now, sign up for remedial reading comprehension.

In case you haven't figured it out, I have less and less patience for anyone under the age of 60 who’s still sheepishly referring to hizzerself as a “technophobe” or who can’t perform a basic online search. And I don’t accept the claim that my work is computer based, so I have a leg up. This is now basic stuff, folks. The wheel is not going to turn back: Master these skills and get on board with the digital world. You can only benefit.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stupidity on Holocaust Day על הטמטום ביום השואה

להלן כתבה שכתב יורם הופמן, עורך כל אלה בני קטורה לרגל יום השואה 2014: English translation follows Hebrew

דבר העורך: "על הטמטום"
בחלומי ראיתי איך קם מנהיג ערבי, ובפומבי מצהיר: "השואה היא הפשע הנורא ביותר שבוצע כנגד האנושות"
התעוררתי ומצאתי שזה לא היה חלום. זה קרה במציאות, בשנת 2014, והמנהיג הערבי שהעז לקום ולצאת בפומבי כנגד מחוללי השואה היה לא אחר מאשר אבו מאזן – יושב ראש הראשות הפלשתינאית, אויבנו המר.
  יו"ר הרשות הפלסטינית, שבעבר נטען כי הוא מכחיש שואה, פרסם היום הצהרה תקדימית על השואה. "העם הפלסטיני הוא הראשון לדרוש להסיר את העוול והגזענות שעמים אחרים סובלים מהם"
ומה עשו "מנהיגינו"? במקום לברך אותו על אומץ ליבו, במקום ליפול על צווארו ולהכריז "אחינו אתה", במקום להכריז כי על מחווה כזו יש להשיב במחווה, מה הם עשו לדעתכם? הם כמובן דחו אותו בזלזול. "הוא לא התכוון ברצינות" נאמר בתגובתם, "הוא מנסה לעשות שואה שנייה"
איזה טמטום. הרי זו הזדמנות להסכים על משהו, קו התחלה שממנו אפשר להתקדם. ברור לכולם שהפלשתינאים, ובראשם אבו מאזן, לא נהפכו לאוהבי ישראל. ברור שהסכנות רבות וצריך למדוד את הפלשתינאים גם לפי מעשיהם – הטובים והרעים – אבל אנחנו חייבים להקשיב לדבריו של אבו מאזן. אולי זאת מלכודת, אבל אם זה אמיתי – יש לנו בסיס, ובכל מקרה, למה לסרב ולדחות את המסר שהביא?
הממשלה הזו, באטימותה ובעיוורונה הולכת ומזכירה את ממשלת גולדה, והתוצאות של מעשיה ומחדליה עלולות להיות לא פחות קשות, לנו ולכול המזרח התיכון.

On Stupidity
Translated from an article by Yoram Hoffman on Holocaust Remembrance Day

In my dreams, I see an Arab leader rise up and declare publicly, “The Holocaust is the most terrible crime committed against humanity.” I awoke and discovered that it wasn’t a dream; it actually took place, in 2014, and the Arab leader who dared to rise up and come out publicly against the perpetrators of the Holocaust was none other than Abu Mazen, head of the Palestinian Authority, our archenemy.

The chair of the Palestinian Authority, about whom in the past it was claimed that he denies the Holocaust, today declared unprecedentedly in reference to the Holocaust: “The Palestinian people is the first to demand eradicating the grief and bigotry from which other nations suffer.”

And what did our “leaders” do? Instead of congratulating him on his courage, instead of embracing him and declaring, “Thou art our brother”*, instead of announcing that such a gesture deserves a gesture in kind, what do you think our “leaders” did? Naturally, they dismissed his statement outright: “He didn’t mean it,” was their response. “He’s trying to carry out a second Holocaust.”

What stupidity. Here we had the opportunity to agree on something, a starting point from which we could progress. We all know that the Palestinians, led by Abu Mazen, aren’t our biggest fans. We know that the dangers are many and that we need to judge the Palestinians by their actions as well as by their words, both good and bad. But we also have to heed Abu Mazen’s words. Perhaps it’s a trap; but if he’s for real, then we have a foundation. In any case, why reject his message?

Our government, in its blindness and obtuseness, is more and more reminiscent of that of Golda Meir, and the results of our intransigence are liable to be no less grave than were her deeds and omissions — for us and for the entire Middle East.
reference to Genesis 45:14-15

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hooting at the Huppa תרועות ליד החופה: וֶטוֹ

Overall, I prefer Israeli (Jewish) weddings to American Jewish ones, mainly because of the relaxed informality. However, there’s one practice that crosses the line from casual to inappropriate: the widespread practice of whooping as the groom -- and increasing in volume with the bride -- walk to the chuppa.

In discussing it with my kids, one of them brought up its origins in Middle Eastern cultures where the women ululate, thus according to said daughter, labeling me “racist”. Truthfully, I hadn’t even made this connection; although I believe she’s correct about the origins of the practice, I humbly disagree with her conclusion. She blames my bias on my having grown up in the US, where brides (and grooms, and endless maids and groomsmen) proceed down the aisle in silence except for any music being played; and where to cheer or applaud would be considered wildly out of place.

In that sense I agree. However, while in the wider sense, it’s indeed a cultural bias, disliking it doesn’t make me racist, or even bigoted; it simply means I’m biased in favor of my own cultural (non)practices, which I believe is OK. In my perception, ululating, like strapless bridal gowns, hints at the act that will supposedly be taking place post-nuptials, which to me places it in the realm of prepubescent bathroom humor, or frat boy humor, neither of which has any place surrounding the solemn ritual of kiddushin [holy matrimony].

To me the whooping says: Here we are, dressed in our best, gathered to witness this couple’s union -- and suddenly, voila! It’s a sports bar! Or a soccer stadium! Or a construction site! Woot! No, just no. Call me uptight -- even pearl-clutching -- but I find it objectionable.

But besides my personal bias, which is admittedly subjective, what about the objective fact that at many a wedding, the couple has asked one of the guests to play and / or sing a particular song as they’re led to the chuppa? Your friend(s) or family member(s) have graciously obliged, presumably rehearsing so it sounds lovely, right? They begin their piece, everyone’s in the moment…here comes the groom…and suddenly we’re at a rock concert or a World Cup game.

Certainly not every foreign practice is worth importing. For instance, I dearly hope we never import the arrangement wherein the couple stands with their backs to the guests, so -- yea! -- I got all dressed up to see…the rabbi’s face! Immigrants, feel free to check that practice at the door. But whooping as the bride and groom walk to the chuppa is a practice to wish I’d dearly love to say שלום ולא להתראות good riddance!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

That's right: Harness those minorities to your cause יש לרתום את בני המיעוטים למסע הצלב

עברית לאחר האנגלית

I was actually kept awake at night after reading Bristol Palin’s shamelessly cynical blog post claiming that black and Hispanic fetuses are targeted for abortion by none other than Planned Parenthood, then asks “How liberals justify their support for this?”

Bristol, there is such convoluted fallacy in your claims that it’s hard to untangle it all, but I feel compelled to try. I’m not even going to go into the critiques of the research and the numbers, as there is extensive discussion in the 350+ comments. Instead, I’m just going to tackle your underlying message.

Let’s even say for the sake of argument that PP is part of some white supremacist eugenics conspiracy being carried out by deliberately locating its clinics in areas populated by non-whites and “marketing” their services thereto. Can we wrap our liberal brains around this just for a moment? If so, the assumptions in Palin’s rhetorical query are that:

1) Liberals necessarily support this alleged eugenics program, as support of abortion rights and abortion availability necessarily means supporting any uses or purpose to which abortion is put. Uh, no.
2) Liberals have historically championed the rights of racial minorities, therefore it is our job exclusively to correct or rectify any perceived violation of those rights.
3) These downtrodden minority members have no voice of their own; they depend upon us liberals to represent them.
4) Implicitly, conservatives neither have nor feel any responsibility toward minorities, and have never recruited them to their ranks nor made any attempt to advance their parity in society. Palin, are you sure you want to put your name to such a claim? Are you sure you want to suddenly cry crocodile tears for all the unborn minority babies after never having shown any interest in the welfare of already-born minority members?
Bristol Palin’s anti-abortion arguments are nearly as ludicrous as her mother’s claim that we should all be OK with nativity scenes in public spaces because after all, the infant depicted therein is “a Jewish baby!”

I’m picturing all the Jews (and others) who oppose the mixing of church and state reading that statement and saying “[slap forehead] Of course! That doll in that plastic manger depicts a Jewish baby! How did I not see that? She’s so right: Remind me: What was the problem with that nativity scene being in the public school entrance? [scratches head]”

It’s one thing to take a stand; but it’s quite another to try to bolster it by playing on our emotions…and insulting our intelligence.

שנתי נדדה בלילה אחרי שקראתי את הפוסט הציני וחסר-הבושה של בריסטול פיילין בבלוג שלה, בו היא טוענת שאגודת "פּלנד פּארנטהוּד" ("הורות מתוכננת") מסמנת עוּבּרים שחורים והיספניים כמטרה להפלות, ומעלה את השאלה: "כיצד יכולים הליברלים להצדיק את תמיכתם בכך?"


בריסטול, סברת השווא שעליה מבוססת טענתך היא כל-כך מפותלת שקשה להתיר את הפלונטר כולו, אך אני מחוייבת לפחות לנסות. אני לא הולכת לעסוק בביקורת על המחקר והמספרים, שנידונו כבר בהרחבה בלמעלה מ-350 התגוביות לפוסט שלך. במקום זאת, אתעמת עם המסר שבבסיס טענותייך.

בואו נאמר אפילו לשם הויכוח ש"פלנד פארנטהוד" היא אמנם חלק מקשר להשבחת הגזע מטעם התנועה לעליונות לבנה, המבוצע באמצעות איתור מכוון של מרפאות באזורים עם אוכלוסיה לא-לבנה ו"שיווק" השירותים שלה למרפאות הנ"ל. בואו נמקד את המוחות הליברליים שלנו לרגע סביב ההנחה הזו. אם כך, ההנחות שעליהן מתבססת השאילתא הרטורית של פיילין הן כדילקמן:

1)   הליברלים בהכרח תומכים בתוכנית זו להשבחת הגזע לכאורה, היות ותמיכה בזכות לבצע הפלות ולזמינותן פירושה בהכרח תמיכה בכל סיבה ומטרה שלמענה מתבצעת הפלה. ממש לא.

2)   הליברלים מאז ומתמיד הניפו את דגל הזכויות של המיעוטים האתניים והגזעיים, ולכן זה התפקיד שלנו בלבד לתקן את המעוות כאשר מתקיימת הפרה לכאורה של הזכויות הנ"ל.

3)   לבני המיעוטים הנרדפים אין שום קול משלהם. הם תלויים לחלוטין בנו, הליברלים, שנייצג אותם.

4)   במשתמע, לשמרנים אין שום רגשות או אחריות כלפי המיעוטים, והם מעולם לא גייסו אותם לשורותיהם או ניסו לקדם את שיוויונם בחברה. פיילין, את בטוחה שאת רוצה לצרף את שמך לטענה כזו? את בטוחה שאת רוצה להזיל לפתע דמעות תנין על גורלם של כל תינוקות בני-המיעוטים שלא נולדו, אחרי שמעולם לא גילית שום עניין ברווחתם של אותם בני מיעוטים שכבר נולדו?

      הטיעונים של בריסטול פיילין כנגד הפלות מגוחכים כמעט כמו טענתה של אמה שרה, לפיה כולנו צריכים לחוש בנוח עם הצגתן של סצנות המולד של ישו במקומות ציבוריים כי, אחרי ככלות הכל, הרך הנולד המוצג שם הוא "תינוק יהודי"!

אני מתארת בדמיוני את היהודים (ואחרים) המתנגדים לערבוב דת ומדינה קוראים את הטענה הנ"ל ואומרים: "[טפיחה על המצח] כמובן! הבובה הזו באבוס המלאכותי מפלסטיק מייצגת תינוק יהודי! כיצד לא ראיתי זאת? היא צודקת לחלוטין: מה בכלל הבעיה בהצבתה של סצנת המולד בפתח בית הספר הציבורי? [גירוד בראש]"

דבר אחד הוא לאמץ עמדה; אולם דבר אחר לגמרי הוא לנסות לחזק אותה באמצעות משחק ברגשותינו... ועלבון לבינתנו.

תורגם בנדיבות ע"י עמי ארגמן

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where the girlz are

This fall’s cyber-hubbub over GoldieBlox got me thinking. One of the better evaluations of the new toy that aims to interest girls in STEM (sciences, technologies, engineering, math) was that of Deborah Siegel. I tend to agree that princess-coated though it be, GoldieBlox weighs in on the plus side in terms of its objective, which leads me to dig further down to the matter of teaching our daughters (and sons) about feminism.

Before anyone can counter, “But why are you indoctrinating them ‘one way or another’?” let me say that I firmly believe there is a place for indoctrinating them, if that’s what you want to call it. Humans have inhabited the earth for – what? – 10,000 years, and for about 9,800 of those years, patriarchy dominated. And it still dominates. So our daughters are getting plenty of it, packaged quite slickly and going down oh-so-smoothly. So, yeah, I’m gonna indoctrinate, and I’m not apologizing.

So, once we’ve decided to introduce our daughters to feminism, how do we go about it? It’s indeed a daunting task, so I’m here to de-dauntify it. Just as Caitlin Moran distilled feminism thusly [paraphrasing; I couldn’t find the exact quote]: “If I have to worry about it and men don’t, it’s sexism.” Ready examples are removing body hair and walking unaccompanied after dark. While Moran’s formula works beautifully, it’s a bit out of reach for our little ones. Therefore, along the same lines, I suggest introducing this query into your household lexicon: “Where are the girls?”

The beauty of this query is that as soon as you start asking it, it fits in in every circumstance. For instance, as soon as my kids were old enough to be read to (that starts with picture books before age one, right?) I edited the text in real time. And you know what? They never questioned it, even after they themselves could read. Once you start doing this regularly, you’re surprised to find that nearly every character in children’s books — and invariably the animal characters — can easily be referred to as “she”. There’s no reason on earth that any of the three little pigs, nor the wolf, can’t be females, is there? Once you start asking, “Where are the girls?” there’s no limit to incorporating the answer everywhere, including using “she” and “her” as your default pronoun.

I knew I’d gotten through when my eldest, at the age of seven, was playing with a deck of cards, and she asked me, “Ima, if there’s a násich [Hebrew for “jack”], how come there’s no nisichá? [would-be “jill”, if she existed]. Yay! I thought. She gets it! She’s begun asking ‘Where are the girls?’” Because when you get down to it, where girls and women are absent, there’s an imbalance, and the odds are it’s due to sexism. Yet it’s within our power to correct that imbalance early, at least linguistically and theoretically, which is where all education begins.

Which brings me back to GoldieBlox: If we use the yardstick “Where are the girls?” then GoldieBlox has answered correctly: They’re right there, front and center — constructing, making, thinking, strategizing, producing. And isn’t that, after all, where we want them?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mystery Photo צילום תעלומה

Taking a break from our regular programming to post this photo

2 things that I'm sure would make Shulamit Aloni mad

I was listening to a 2009 radio interview with Shulamìt Aloni yesterday. The host asked her to talk about the many articles she wrote. She chuckled and said, “I did write lots of articles, and the best ones are those I wrote when I was mad!” YES, I thought. That’s me! So, two things that’ve made me mad lately:

This article concerning the Eilat Orthodox school rejecting an Arabic language teacher due to her wearing of the hijab; and this followup on the Education Ministry’s commensurate policy. I’m so mad I can’t even see straight. Where do we get off? There’re so many things wrong here, I don’t know where to start. So I’ll just ask: What could be more appropriate in an Orthodox school than a woman covering her head? Ah, but it’s the wrong kind of head covering. Chelm, here we come!

My no. 2 thing that’s got me mad is admittedly a classic First World Problem: My new keyboard. The Ctrl key on my old one got a hole in it (I know - weird, huh? I don’t ordinarily use plastic-eating acid in my line of work), so off I went keyboard shopping. How ‘bout I just list my complaints chronologically:

  1. The store, Petcom, one of only a few (two?) in my locale, had a selection of exactly three keyboards; two were for gamers. That left me with the Microsoft 3000 wireless. Sold for 210.00.
  2. Took it home to my office, opened package, which contained the product plus a warranty and safety warnings. No user guide, no other literature.
  3. Hooked it up and began using it. Works fine except the function keys don’t work. Searched online and discovered that it has a Function Lock key. OK, now why do I need this key? Presumably, I want all the product’s features to function, do I not? OK, unlocked the functions. Yay. [eyeroll]
  4. I notice a row of keys above the function keys labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and “star”. They do precisely nothing. I also notice to my chagrin that there is no Stop key, which on my previous keyboard would stop a webpage from loading. It was quite convenient. Now I am inconvenienced. Consulted a colleague.
  5. Colleague says those keys are wild card keys, i.e., you can program them to perform whatever task you want (walk the dog? Wash the dishes?), but he doesn’t know how.
  6. Back to the Internet. Can find nothing. Sigh. Write Daughter’s boyfriend, who sends me links to two clips about my product. I view clips.
  7. Clip 1 says the software comes with the keyboard, right there in the box [frown of consternation]. Clip 2 mentions downloadable software. I search.
  8. I find and download software. I program a key to do what I want it to do.

The above succession of events took place over the course of eight days from purchase. In between I went back to Petcom, where no one could help me. Neither they nor the manufacturers at any point indicated that software must be downloaded. The word “software” was neither uttered nor written anywhere. And not only am I an adept computer user, but I’m compulsive about reading and following instructions. No tearing open the box and plugging it in for me, not I: I actually RTFM. As none came with the product, I actually downloaded .pdf versions of the “product guide” and “quickstart guide”. The former doesn’t mention software except for something called a Healthy Computing Guide [condom use?]. The latter mentions it, but does not tell you where to get it. No link. No link! Isn’t that one of the features of online help??? As First World Problems go, this is outrageous. And the maddening part is that it would be so simple to fix. Just tell me I need software! Right there! Inside the package! Where it makes sense!

OK, done. I hereby declare this post written in memory of Shulamit Aloni, z”l, who tolerated neither intolerance nor stupidity. May she rest in peace.