Stefanella's Drive Thru

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

Jerusalem on the Milky Way November 30, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:15 pm

I traveled to Jerusalem today to pick up my government issued press card. I haven’t needed it since I returned to Holy Land Central last Fall but then again, I haven’t been to Gaza or the West Bank nor have I attended official press conferences, interviewed key government figures and I wasn’t here for last summer’s war in Lebanon. But the card looks kinda nice dangling off my living room light fixture.

A word about Jerusalem: Who needs a European vacation? I can head on out of Tel Aviv and mosey on up to J-Town when I’m feeling a bit antsy and Voila! I’ve tarried galaxies afar. The two cities differ radically in style of dress, mannerisms, lay of the land and religious inclinations.

First: It’s probably reasonably safe to assert that NO fashion statements will be surging out of the Holy City anytime soon. While the ultra-orthodox have some semblance of coolness with black and white color motifs, what can you expect from a city whose key historical figures ran around in hooded gunny sacks and beige flats?

Second: Hills, views, Jerusalem stone, olive trees…We have the beach but they’ve got architectural & historical candy.

Third: People speak Yiddish. Young people. Who are ultra-orthodox. Because they consider Hebrew to be a holy language not to be soiled by the mere trifle of common, everyday conversation. It was a shocker hearing someone behind me speak it today. I thought it was German for a few seconds.

Finally: Meeting up with religion is surprising in itself because Tel Aviv is soooo secular. Yeah I know, it sounds crazy coming from Holy Land Central and all. But trust me on this one: When in Jerusalem the sudden exposure to religious majority can be overwhelming and eye-opening.

Good to know I don’t have to go far to keep things fresh


STRIKE! November 29, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 5:26 pm

Nothing like a good, old fashioned general strike to grind industry to a halt.

That’s the current state of affairs here in Holy Land Central (HLC).

No flights, boats, trains, mail, post offices, customs or tax authority, no passports, driver’s licenses, courts or city hall.

Talks are underway to solve what purportedly cost the country NIS 350 million ($82 mill. U.S.) on day one of what may be a several day strike.

I know that as an enterprising, cash-fat aspiring person I should be holding this sort of mass action in disdain. But there’s something about shutting down airports…it’s very powerful.

The ONLY time I recall that happening in the U.S. was on 9/11. That or if snow or wind got too dicey for incoming and outgoing aircraft.

I would like to get my mail and I do have some business to tend to within a government office or two..but what to do?

A visiting friend from Azerbaijan was a bit put off by it all saying that in her country this sort of thing would never happen. In fact, she exclaimed, she has never experienced this sort of thing before. She has clearly never been to France.

“In Azerbaijan the government would either fire the strikers or throw half of them in jail to teach them a lesson,” she exclaimed this afternoon. I’d like to see THAT go down in Israel or France.


Wish List November 28, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 1:36 pm

Here we go into Christmas Season friends and neighbors. Hold onto your hats! Ho ho ho.

Except over here in Holy Land Central (HLC) there’s none of that Americana style build-up, commercialization and shop-till-you drop spirit. We Jewish tribal types, in fact, are only marginally – if at all – aware of Yule; It isn’t celebrated, for the most part, this side of the green line. In Bethlehem, parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank, yes. Not Tel Aviv.

Nonetheless, I am taking this opportunity to present Stefanella’s 2006 Holiday Season Wish List. Why not? As my Buddhist friends say: You have to put it out there for the karma to find you. More simply phrased: If you don’t let Santa know, how’s he gonna drop it off at your house?

1. Expendable Income – I don’t want to stand in the supermarket aisle comparing nutritional value versus cost versus how far a food item can be stretched. In fact, I don’t want to think about budgeting at all. I want extra cash. I want to find 100 shekel notes in my jean pockets and casually remark: “Oh that’s nice” rather than fretting that such a find might induce a coronary.

2. Day Spa – Sue me for my trespasses. I’m allowed the occasional shee-shee girlish whim. I want to wallow in a jacuzzi and sauna, doze off to the tones of New Age chimes while melting under the nimble kneading of a deep tissue masseur, get a peel and facial and drink freshly churned carrot juice while lounging in a white robe and scanning the latest copy of Vanity Fair.

3. Subscription to Vanity Fair -….come to think of it.

4. Indulge my Offspring – I want to take my son on an elephant ride in India and on African Safari. I want to encourage his artistic slant with visits to the Louvre and the finest oils, ceramics and private lessons money can purchase. I want to be able to say “yes” more often to his requests for toys. I want him to have a carefree life.

5. Teach my Offspring – I want my son to learn that giving back through volunteerism and donation is a responsibility and an honor. That each person can make a difference. That we’re all here for a purpose and once you figure yours out, you’re in.

6. More Fun – Less thinking, more action. More visiting with friends, less worrying about time constraints and work. More outings, less work. More cultural exposure, less worry over finances.
7. A Thigh-High Pair of Spike-Heeled Boots – to wear around the house with my pretend mini-skirt while singing “..that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over…”

8. Chocolate Truffles and Creme Brulee for the Masses – Well I had to end on a positive note, no?


Rape & Women November 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 8:56 pm

A few days ago I blogged about waking up to the sound of search helicopters on the hunt for an escaped serial rapist.

He’s still on the loose; I’ve noticed that my women brethren (sic) are feeling discomfort, to put it mildly.

Funny (ha ha) what this type incident brings out in us.

I’ve never been raped. I’ve had a flasher or two or three show off personal jewels but no incident was shocking enough to push me towards the psycho-analytical couch. All of a sudden I’m thinking about a violent, angry man on the loose and what could potentially happen to myself, my son, myself in the presence of my son or another woman with children.

I’m cautious, studying faces for signs of the escaped rapist’s features, questioning neighbors about the “strange guy” loitering suspiciously outside the apartment building, nervous, wanting this menace to either split the country for a remote planet or be re-captured.

And I’m not alone. Women are talking about him, blogging about him, dropping his name casually in conversation. We’re double checking locked doors, looking over shoulders, asking drop-offs to wait until we get inside the house. My 14-year-old babysitter had her father pick her up instead of hailing the usual taxi home. We’re all frightened regardless of rationale or reason that tells us this psychopath is probably long gone.

The craziest part? When you break it down to the basic components it’s about body parts. This man uses a body part to violate others. Violently, in a frightening manner. It’s taboo. And I can’t help but wonder what in the hell happened to him.

The burn of it? Although we may have arrived and fancy ourselves living in the modernity of 21st century reality, this is a dividing point where we women remain vulnerable regardless. And people like this rapist know it.

SHIT I hope they catch him soon. For all of us.


Bomber for Breakfast? November 24, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 11:44 am

Woke up this a.m. to the sound of overhead helicopters. Many and for a long time. So I get online to see if a suicide bombing has happened. Nada.

Eat a leisurely breakfast and with kindergarten-skipping Raphael in tow – He’s allowed; it’s his fifth birthday today, OMG! – stroll downstairs to find half a dozen police officers combing the neighborhood accompanied by aforementioned buzzing helicopters.

I hesitate. My first thought: A suicide bomber is loose in Tel Aviv; They have word and they’re searching.

“Is someone loose in the area?” (duh) I ask an officer outside our building. He shakes his head no. Liar. As if the foot patrol is simply getting out and about as part of the new “Get Fit Forces!” physical regime aimed at getting Tel Aviv’s police corps in shape. Our neighborhood happens to be THE perfect alternative to hiking trails and the helicopters help maintain that tough guy cover while they sweat it out.

That was 9:30.

Six hours later the copters are still circling. NOW I’ve found the story online and discover that lo and behold, it’s neither fitness or a bomber they’re after. Rather a mere serial rapist who escaped police escort while being transported between courthouse hearings. Our apartment is awfully close to the courthouse. Separated by a park, in fact. The same one I suspect Monsieur Rapist cut across to dodge his chaperones.

Let me see…Bomber versus Rapist…How comforting.


Top Image of the Year November 23, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 2:07 pm

Check this out…Courtesy of my friend Treesia. Click to enlarge and read the print to understand why it’s considered one of the year’s best photos

Skateboarding in Gaza November 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:13 am

Yair Lapid, an Israeli celebrity type who has a regular column on YNet and hosts a prime time television talk show, features a Gaza child-blogger in today’s Internet column. Well worth a read.

The child blogger, a skateboard enthusiast, muses over his board fashioned of scrap metal left over from Quassam rockets. He also comments on the quick getaway it provides when fleeing “long ones” although, he says, everyone knows there’s nowhere to hide.

The writing is a disturbing mix of child norms – attempting skateboarder tricks, idolizing and obsessing over heroes – and the realities of war – classmates’ deaths caused by “long one” hits -that no child should endure.

When writing about attempting to get onto university computers for updates vis a vis the skateboarding world at large, he notes:

I have learned that during times like this when there is nothing to eat and people are dying all the time, it is preferable not even to try because there will always be someone who will get angry at me.

Before Suleiman died, he would say that this is one of the crazy things about living in Gaza: The angrier they get about children that are killed, the worse they behave towards children who are alive.

Go read. It’s a reality check.


Cafe Security November 21, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 9:44 am

When suicide bombings became de rigeur inside Israel at the turn of the century, most publicly accessed venues – restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, banks, etc. – began posting security people at entrances. Nowadays, nearly any place you go has someone standing or sitting at the front door wanting to take a peek through your bag or backpack or run a scanner over your body.

Don’t worry, U.S. and Western countries you’ll get there. It’s a matter of time.

But what you won’t get at your checkpoints is a certain, oh let’s just call it Flair, commonly encountered oer’ here yonder in Holy Land Central (HLC). Maybe you’d encounter it in Latin America or Italy or anywhere else I can think to stereotype.

Scene: Entrance to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Dialogue: Moi-Self and Security Guard

Mr. Security: Are you married?
Moi-Self: Why are you asking?
Mr. Security: Because I think you’re beautiful.
Moi-Self: Thanks. But yes, I am spoken for**
Mr. Security: Can I check your bag anyway?
Moi-Self: Gee, I’m not sure how to answer

**little white lies sometimes serve the moment

Flattering? Yes. Appropriate? Not really. Do I care? No.

Welcome. Have a Nice Day


Diving for Japanese November 20, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 6:23 am
Studying Japanese sort of reminds me of Scuba diving.

Years ago I took a course right here in the Med. And nearly dropped out because before getting anywhere near the sexy James Bond stage of tanks, weight belts and clinging wetsuits, the seemingly simple task of removing one’s dive mask while underwater must be performed.

Sounds simple but for moi-self it presented a tremendous stumbling block because we humans instinctively draw in a breath through the nose when our masks are removed while down below.

My instructor at the time told me to cut the sh*t out when I said I was quitting. All my diving mates seemed to effortlessly pull off the mask removal bit but I was the loser and I wanted to cut my losses and get out. Mr. Instructor said “no way” and sent me home to practice in the bathtub with a borrowed mask and snorkel.

So I practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And inhaled liters of water and felt an idiot in the bathtub or in the sea when I tried it out in public.

HOWEVER, I triumphed and continued with the course and got over the fear of mask removal AND was one of three classmates – out of ten – to successfully complete the entire course.

Japanese classes at the moment suck: I’m lost and absolutely THE straggler lagging behind.

So much for family/friends’ compliments throughout the years: “You have an ear for languages.” No. The young and slick uniformed military guy who shows up each week without having done homework and effortlessly spills forth perfectly formed Kanji sentences has an ear. The girl earning her PhD in computerized education methods and studying Japanese because she had a good time in Tokyo is talented.

I’m sitting there hoping that if I practice in the bathtub enough, I’ll be able to form a sentence without wearing a mask.



Sherwood Forest, Tel Aviv November 19, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — stefanella @ 9:08 am

I generally enjoy complaining about Israel’s service industry (sic) and pretty much anything else I can find to complain about. It passes the time and since that’s what we’re all doing on this great planet, anyhow – passing time until we end up at the same subway stop – why not?

Today I will be forthcoming for a change. It’s the beginning of a new week.

On Friday Tel Aviv’s municipality decided to put together a cultural event I describe as: “Sherwood Forest meets the Middle East”. Lining Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Boulevard were fairy-tale themed stations such as Robin Hood’s tree cutting post, the wicked witch cave, Friar Tuck’s wooden bridge, Maid Marian’s magic dust den, etc.

Actor types dressed in Sherwood Forest regalia roamed while static gnomes, fairies, and princesses decked out in flowing robes with faces a-glitter, perched frozen atop skillfully concealed stilts.

There was avante garde street theater on a par with New York – I kid not – and where the forest ended, a display of locally created functional design works began. Some of that was pretty slick including hanging lamps crafted from plastic soda containers, a coat rack made of bicycle training wheels and a one-man pup tent created for the world’s growing numbers of homeless. How they might afford to purchase the tent is another question.

Unfortunately I left my camera at home so I’m unable to share visuals. But put on your Robin Hood feathered caps and play the imaginary game for a moment and I’ll bet you can conjure some images. Way to go, municipal powers that be. An afternoon well spent.