Stefanella's Drive Thru

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

Christmas in Holy Land Central December 23, 2008

Each year around this time, I’m blown away by the lack of Christmas in Holy Land Central (HLC).

It’s an outdated subject but this is where it all went down.  The manger. The star.  Bethlehem.  J.C.

And yet, for the most part, nothing here.  Nada.  No blinking lights or ornately decorated trees glimpsed through filmy curtains, no adverts, shopping rush, craze, plastic Santas ho-ho-ho’ing from rooftops, no carolers, egg nogg or office parties.

Growing up in the U.S., I was taught to hold Christmas in disdain.  It wasn’t “our religion“; it wasn’t fair that our holiday and our customs were so blatantly overlooked as Christmas hoopla gained the glory.  Sure, we got a few symbolic Hannuka songs at the annual Holiday Choir Concert but let’s face it:  Put Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl in a side-by-side taste test next to Handel’s Messiah and….well there you have it.

It’s quiet here in Tel Aviv.  And sparse.  Except for menorahs in storefronts glowing with candlelight after sundown.  Or the seasonal appearance of donuts in bakeries, supermarkets and corner kiosks.

I miss the glowy warmth, energy and decor that comes with Christmas season in the U.S.  I don’t, however, miss the commercialism or the pressure of gift buying  – You have to buy things for others even if you don’t keep “The Other Faith”.

But on an up note, there are always surprises to be found here in HLC around holiday time.  Like the rabbi who lit candles, recited blessings and sang Hannuka songs into a microphone at my local supermarket the other night for the benefit of after-work shoppers.  Or the “Chabad Hannuka Police”, as I affectionately refer to them, who stop into Tel Aviv restaurants and business venues to offer up candelabras and candles to anyone without.

It’s okay being here.  No trees is a good thing.  It’s not cool to cut down forests.  Eating donuts, on the other hand..

Happy Holidays to Everyone Everywhere.  May we all Feel the Warmth And Zest in the New Year.


A Day with the Dead December 17, 2008

A few weeks ago I went up to Jerusalem for some work.

I’ll be honest here – I don’t generally enjoy going up to Jerusalem.  Lots of reasons.  It seems busy – frenetic almost – and I find the overall energy to be heavy.  Much heavier than in Tel Aviv. Which isn’t surprising considering the city’s thousands of years of history and religious pull for Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

So when I go to Jerusalem, I have a tendency to tend to my business at hand and then get the hell out.  Quickly.  No offense my J-Town dwelling friends and neighbors. It simply is what it is.

When I went up this last time, however, my mindset was different.  I dunno why.  It just was.  I decided to make a day of my trip & combine pleasure with business.

So I rang up a curator friend a day prior and arranged for her to meet me at The Israel Museum and show me around.  Strike me down with curses as I walk the street of shame:  Fifteen years in Israel and I hadn’t yet been to the Israel Museum.

My friend first took me to the model city – a replica of Jerusalem as it was during the 2nd Temple i.e. a hair before Jesus‘ time.  My friend has been with the museum for two decades so she was able to provide history, point out different city sections and give tidbits about who was where back around 80 BCE.  It was a beautiful day, lots of sun and warm temps and loads of tourists checking out the model.  The sun bouncing off the gleaming white & gold model city was beautiful.

My friend then took me to the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.  For the uninitiated, the Scrolls are 2000-year-old writings discovered half a century ago in caves east of Jerusalem.  The scrolls, scribed on parchment paper in Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew, are biblical, sectarian and apocryphal in nature and represent “the earliest evidence for the biblical text in the world.”

Effin’ wow.  I mean I’m not an over-the-top type when it comes to religion or religious history.  But seeing the parchment writings unfurled behind the glass casing in the very dimly lit shrine room was awesome.  But truly.  “They routinely have to switch the actual scrolls out with representations to let the scrolls rest,” my friend informed.  Effin’ wow.

We then moved on to the sculpture garden – I particularly liked the Botero Man on Horse and visited a wing showcasing Israel’s historical tidbits that included the bloodstained sheet of paper Yithak Rabin had in his pocket when he was fatally shot in 1985 and the first ever Israeli flag to be hoisted outside UN headquarters when statehood was declared in 1948.

Most of the museum is currently under construction so the visit wasn’t extensive.  I didn’t have time anyway.

But I DID have fun.  Who knew?  So with great pleasure I hereby formally announce:  I have a new attitude.  Thank you.  Amen.


In the Doghouse December 15, 2008

Follow this link – it’s non-embed-able.  G’head. You won’t be sorry.



Gay, Seattle, Jewish December 4, 2008

Hannukah is right around the corner; what better way to start celebratin’ than with a rousing round of Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel performed country style by the Seattle Men’s Chorus, wink wink.



When School Is a Scary Place to Be December 2, 2008

“Mom, I have something for you from school,” my 7-year-old announced last night.  He gravely handed me a letter in a sealed envelope.

Ever the encouraging & positive mom, I asked:  “Did something happen?  Are you in trouble?”

“No,” he replied.

I opened the envelope to find a letter typed on school stationery.  It’s the type of letter no parent ever wants to read.

“Yesterday afternoon, an incident occurred on school grounds and it is now under police investigation.”

The letter was written in vague terms/  A strange man who tried to enter school grounds.   Assurances that he was unable to gain access to the inner courtyard.  An investigation into the matter is underway. “Police and administration are working jointly to find the man.”

Great. I congratulated the guard this morning at the gate.  Thank goodness nothing major happened.

Except I was wrong.

The letter didn’t detail the fact that the strange man, a pedophile, lured my son’s 7-year-old classmate to the gate and somehow violated the child.  The letter didn’t use the words the press did when they ran with the story today:  SodomyRape.

The letter didn’t answer all the questions the bewildered parents are now asking each other, shoulders shrugged and foreheads creased in concern.

How on earth did this happen?  How did noone notice?  How is the child faring?  How do we feel safe again?


Mankind & a Cellphone

This was shot entirely on cellphone;  It won the Tropfest NY 2008 top prize – $20 grand.

All it takes is a cellphone.. and a conscience.