Stefanella's Drive Thru

Israel, U.S., conflict, war, peace, humor, travel, romance, fashion, fun

Body Politick February 28, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 9:08 am

Bibi the model shows up smelling of aftershave and asking for our votes. After elections? He won’t let us smell his socks… #13, Shas party list
Elections in 28 days. The rhetoric and ruthless backstabbing has begun.

But I wouldn’t know because I’m on hiatus from things political. The fun of that is allowing others to vocalize (rant) on my behalf. What a passive-aggressive way to share views, eh? Thinly veiled and entertaining at the same time.

Tamar, my Tuesday coffee pal attended a political forum last week; Here are her impressions (printed with permission, of course):

Roommate and I went to a candidate’s/parties’ forum recently to hear the raps. Very disturbing and fascinating. A lot of hatred. Why?

Speakers obsessed about security and Mr. Likud Uzi Landau and the handsome Herut man had subtexts that felt racist as hell. Mafdal with kipot srugot (knitted skullcaps whose wearers are generally associated with nationalism) with the United Torah unmentionables were equally scare-oriented.

A Kadima Russian “large-boned” woman constantly interrupted all speakers and a wig-wearing Meretz woman and Shinui pretty boy delivered shallow, uninspired rote.

The Labor man was intelligent and detailed yet he, too, was swept up in the Hamas-threat talk theme of the evening. I didn’t feel part of a country in the global economy of the 21st century. Rather, I felt in a tiny room with small-timers running for class president.

The one sane person was speaking for Tafnit (Democracy in Zion) addressing the short-term and longer-term platform. This I liked. Vision coupled w/bread and butter talk.

Most upsetting was a lack of understanding for or acknowledgment of the Hamas victory as at least partial commentary by Palestinians who had stuff on their minds besides blowing us up.

The evening was hateful because it offered no hope, no imagination, no compassion and it was filled with rhetoric of war, kill, defend, arm, enclose. Even Shinui, who has little military ring is saying the same thing in terms of platform. “We care not about who is in your bed or what you eat or who marries you.” To me this is pap because it is, again, without context or a concrete program.

Audience of raptly attentive Anglos; Beautiful moderation by David Horovitz.

I long for a government accountable to local constituencies. In the U.S. I enjoy phoning my congressional reps and demanding attention and deeds.
Did I tell you that Hebrew lacks the word for accountability?

Does this make me an American brat lacking proper understanding of the pap, er, I mean wisdom imparted?

..thanks Tamar


Weekend at the Sportek, Tel Aviv February 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 8:59 am


folk dance

fun, fun, fun
climbing wall


La Petite Refugee Camp February 25, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:43 am

I might as well finish out the week on the same happy note as it began: Raphael’s brief hospitalization. I’ll start fresh tomorrow in Tara, Scarlett willing (not Johansen).

Allow me to preface this entry by noting that although I don’t blog about the Palestinian-Israeli situation, the Hamas victory, Putin’s invitation, Israel’s upcoming elections, the pitiful French response to gut-wrenching blatant anti-Semitism and other matters political, I’m not living in clueless realm. I simply choose not to write about this stuff because for years I was in the thick of it while working as a journalist for various international news organizations and for the time being I am in the backseat. Thanks for your support.

The above noted, ONE thing I learned while working in the hard news realm is how very grey life is. For instance, when at one point I was in Ramallah covering something or other, it boggled me to witness Israeli soldiers hangin’ with the cousins (Palestinians) – lighting cigarettes for each other, trading jokes – you know, hangin’. ..until some silent code was emitted and everyone fell into his respective role. Cut. Friendship over. One side now throws rocks, chants slogans and burns tires and the other fires rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammo to quell the upsurge. I was like: What in the hell just happened?

So how does that relate to a 4-year-old’s hospital stay? The room Rapha shared was with Mohammed and Noora. Mohammed is a 15-year-old from Gaza’s Jebalya Refugee Camp suffering from Crohn’s Disease and arthritis. Noora, 12 and also from Jebalya, was in the hospital for ongoing treatment of an ailment I didn’t quite catch. Both were accompanied by moms in modest Moslem garb and as it turned out, Noora’s mom heads the camp’s Red Crescent Society’s Womens Health Center and speaks fluent English.

On the opposite side of the room was Gal – a 12-year-old Israeli girl suffering from severe headaches in hospital to undergo brain scans. Her father took me aside to confide that he had been one of the original undercover agents used in crack units during the 1st intifada. He infiltrated Arab society to aid in the arrest of insurgents.

“I speak fluent Arabic and I know what they’re talking about,” he confided while sending a glance to the other side of the room. What were they saying? “Something about getting through the checkpoint to come up here from Gaza.” State secrets.

With perpetual conflict and enmity in abundance how do Gazans end up sharing a Tel Aviv hospital room with a part American/part Danish kid (he doesn’t draw cartoons. Yet) and a former undercover agent?

Grey grey grey. The closer you get the blurrier the view


Hotel Hospital February 24, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 7:17 am

After being away from HLC (Holy Land Central) for a decade, spending time in a local hospital this week was a very different experience from what I’d grown accustomed to in San Fran – hardwood floors, sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, meal menus to choose from and jacuzzi bath in the UCSF room where I gave birth to Senior Raphael…hmmm… The differences between here and there in the healthcare approach are rather significant, no doubt. The bottom line – the medical care – however, is the same. Here’s what I mean:

  • Emergency room attending nurses didn’t wear gloves nor did the doc. Even while taking a rather spraying urine sample from a shaking child. I could care less but noticed it all the same
  • The examination table lining paper doesn’t seem to change all too often. I’d like to think the brown stain was antiseptic
  • Patient room windows open to the outside wide enough to crawl through onto the ledge and jump. No bars. Obviously not too many people are thinking: Hmmm. I think I’ll go up to floor 3 of the children’s ward and end my life
  • Improvisation is king. Need a cold compress to bring down your child’s fever? Grab a pair of infant leggings, soak and apply
  • Televisions in rooms are a commodity; They can be brought in and hooked up but it’ll cost ya
  • Self service is the name of the game. Because at least one parent is with a child at all times (not a rule but it’s just the way people here behave), that parent is expected to go out in the hallway and fix a tray from the meal cart for his/her child at each mealtime
  • Empowerment is also the name of the game. The same parent is expected to find and use the “buffet” cart next to the nurses’ station stocked with glass thermometers in alcohol filled beakers marked “rectum” and “mouth”, vaseline tubes and wipes. Kid running a fever? Then grab some supplies and take his temperature. Tell the nurse how high it was and she (there were no male nurses during our stay) will mark it on the chart and administer meds
  • Kid feeling bored and listless? Go take a walk outside. Noone will say anything or probably even notice. Or hang out in the children’s room where computer games, art supplies, books and boardgames are manned by helpful “teachers” who play and guide
  • When the black cloaked 4-man Chabad brigade shows up on the ward it does not signal last rites. They’re on deck to hand out sweets and Bamba and bid a refuah shleimah (full recovery) to the kids
  • Time to go home? Bye bye. No wheelchair or coddling. Take care. Now go

The bottom line: Lawsuits are not dangled threateningly overhead so self empowerment and independence fostering takes precedence.

And let’s face it: Who cares about seeing the bridge during a contraction? I certainly didn’t but paid dearly for that missed view. Here? Go home, thanks. No bill. Yes, I’ll pay in other ways but let’s not talk about it right now, eh?


Thanks February 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:37 pm

… the outpouring of support over the past days since Rapha’s episode has been heartwarming, tear evoking and simply wonderful. Thanks, thanks, thanks to:

Tonny for being Rapha’s dad and loving him so much, Mom & Dad for listening, advising and being there, Tonny’s mom Linda for worrying and calling, Rachelle for care and concern, Josh for reaching out, Aunt Babe for calling, re-calling and calling again, Peggy & Doron for visiting, a coloring book & crayons, a thermos of coffee and much needed sandwiches, Tamar for dropping in, high grade chocolate, higher grade humor and Mentos, Jeff for love & concern, Steve for being there, Lauren for concern and offers of help, Laura for offering to dog-walk, Lisa for kindness, concern and offers of help, Allison for medical info, references and offers of coffee & alcohol, Orli the kindergarten teacher for calling and for rallying her classroom of artists, the kids in Rapha’s kindergarten for drawings and sweetness, Nathan and his mom for caring, checking in and offering love and kisses, Ariel and her mom for calling and drawing a special picture, Gideon for well wishes, Swollen for concern and caring, Susie in Florida for thoughtfulness and a good heart, Natasha for advice and Noorster for kind thoughts and words (& impressive aerial shots)


The Longest Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 2:47 pm

When Raphael (4-year-old son) was born, my sister Rachelle bought me The American Academy of Pediatrics Caring for your Baby and Young Child – Birth to Age 5. An invaluable resource, the Fever chapter is particularly well worn because kids tend to have fevers in multiples and in the early years it’s a worry.

When first reading over the section on febrile seizures I was like: Excuse me? He could what if the fever spikes? No way. I wouldn’t be able to deal with that. But it won’t happen.

As my previous entry shows, it did happen and I did deal without freaking too severely. However, the most terrifying moments of my life used to be those sandwiched between first hearing the air raid sirens start up and feeling missiles thud into Tel Aviv in 1991. Rapha’s seizure night has been added to the list.

After a day of up and down fever and incessant vomiting, mother’s instinct awakened me at 03:00 to find a sweating and shivering Rapha beside me in bed. With an armpit temp of 103.5 F/39.72 C, I administered a fever reducer and applied cold wet compresses to cool him off. We spoke softly and even chuckled over the kitty’s attempts at sneaking beneath the blanket. Then, without warning, his eyes rolled back and he began convulsing and gurgling as his tongue blocked his airway.

I screamed for Tonny to call an ambulance, grabbed a phone to call myself and watched in horror and desperation as the most precious person in my life flailed and struggled to breathe. As I took instructions from the ambulance dispatch, I dressed, threw underwear and clothing for Rapha into a bag and then whispered “I love you” into his ear when he lapsed into unconsciousness a few moments later.

Rapha came to in the emergency room of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center and was admitted to the children’s ward after blood and urine samples were drawn and vitals and a chest x-ray taken. His temperature was registered at 41.2C/106 Fahrenheit.

As a parent this was the hardest thing I’ve endured thus far. I get weepy when the images flash through my mind and I experience anew the comprehension of my son’s (and my own) mortality. Rapha is home now and a virus has been deemed the culprit. His threshold for fever treatment has been lowered meaning in common-speak that he needs swift treatment when the fever starts. Medically it isn’t as horrible as it sounds; personally, it is.

A few bits of information, factoids and things learned to pass along:

  1. 2% of children under age 5 experience febrile seizures. The general rule is one seizure per bout of illness; More frequent seizures may signal a more serious condition. Normal range seizures last for several minutes max
  2. If a child is seizing, ensure his/her head and body are safe from hard or sharp objects but don’t attempt to hold the child down or stop the convulsions – a fracture may result.
  3. NEVER put anythingespecially a finger – into a seizing child’s mouth. You WILL lose it as the biting down instinct is particularly strong during episodes. DO, however, move the child’s head to the side so that the tongue falls sideways away from the throat and saliva doesn’t block the airways
  4. Underarm temperature taking is inaccurate. For a good reading purchase a high end digital ear instrument or use the standard under-the-tongue or rectal modes
  5. When sponge bathing a child to bring down a fever make sure the water is warm. Overly cold temps will cause chills in turn signaling the body to raise temps even higher
  6. If a feverish child has a vacant, “zombie” look in his/her eyes or begins talking or behaving in bizarre fashion seek medical help right away
  7. Try not to panic. Your child needs you to be calm and be there for him or her.
  8. Note the time so you’re aware of how long the seizure lasted

Good health to us all


Bad News February 21, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 12:48 pm

Rapha had a fever induced siezure last night and is in the hospital. I’m home to shower, collect some things and go back to sleep. He’s okay – stabilizing – but being watched.

Horrible, horrible, horrible. There is nothing more valuable or more important.


2-Second Warning February 20, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 10:11 am

When I was about ten, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling ill. Scrambling out of bed and ambling down the endless hallway to my parents’ room, I was sick mid-way on the carpet. My mother’s irritation over being roused for a middle-of-the-night clean up has remained with me to this day. She didn’t say anything but I knew. And sometimes I’ve thought: “How very unloving of her. I’m her offspring, for god’s sake!”

Now I have offspring of my own and I no longer think those thoughts about my ma. For those without kids this is a warning. For those with, you can stop smirking now, thanks.


1) It doesn’t matter if the child is your life’s love, the warm soft bundle bestowed upon you from above or nature’s blessing to behold: When he or she is sick in the queasy sense IT IS GROSS! No amount of love quells your nausea sorry to say.

2) You can be listening to the crescendo of the 1812 Overture at top volume on your AKG K 1000’s, watching the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan in your home IMAX screening room or relaxing in the sauna in the mansion’s outer outer wing but you will ALWAYS hear that sound a kid makes 2 seconds before he or she is going to be sick. You will bolt, sprint and dash to no avail. By the time you’ve heard it? Too late.

3) Regardless of rehearsels, subliminal messages arranged in alphabet soup and tape recordings played in sleep, a young’un can’t be taught to sprint to the toilet in 5 seconds or less. When the moment of truth arrives he or she WILL NOT MAKE IT NO MATTER WHAT. And that is truly truly unfortunate because for the uninitiated … well let’s cushion it: Remember The Exorcist? Yup. Heck, after one particularly active night there wasn’t an untouched bedsheet to be found at chez nous.

Sorry for the graphics. But for those who’ve been there you know that frustrating blend of ECH! mixed with Oh sweetie..

For those who haven’t, it’s really not THAT awful (wink wink, let’s rope another one in). But seriously: You reconcile yourself to the situation at hand and later feel remorse over begging a 4-year-old to please, please RUN! (who responded with: Get away from me!)

Oh well so much for fun and games. Gotta run. The sofa cushions should be dry by now.


The Cat Lady, Tel Aviv

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:11 am


Political Crisis February 18, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 7:24 am

.. Here’s the dilemma of the week:

You’re a head of state traveling on a shuttle diplomacy mission in the Middle East aimed at rousing or at the very least determining support for intended Iraq sanctions.

After a successful visit with Bahrain’s Emir you arrive at the airport to find two shopping bags sent personally by the chieftan himself.

Inside are Rolex watches for your staff and accompanying crew and a special diamond encrusted one for you. Problem is that your government’s protocol doesn’t allow accepting the gifts. Returning them, however, would be a serious faux pas.

What to do?

a) swear everyone to secrecy and keep the goods anyway. who’ll find out?
b) pretend to return them but instead hawk them at the local souk and use the $$ to get going on that South Beach vacation getaway you’ve been dreaming of
c) auction them off for taxpayer benefit upon return home

Guess which option former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had no choice but to opt for? Geez, the hardships of working in upper management.