Historic Philly: I venture out to see the sites. The weather is gorgeous—sunny and not too hot. Old Town, the historic area of about one square mile, is a short walk from the hotel. I see quite a few things, including Betsy Ross’s house, Christ Church, and Mikveh Israel. The old buildings are great, and I love the actors in period costumes who wander around and tell stories. Some of them have mastered the knack of using present tense, as if they are still in their own era. I learn the following interesting bits of trivia:
- Betsy Ross was an upholsterer.
- George Washington wanted six-pointed stars, as those in his family crest. Betsy held out for five-pointed stars, as they are “easier to cut and sew.” Would the nation’s history have been different had the flag been adorned with a bunch of magen david?
- Mikveh Israel, one of the nation’s oldest b’tei knesset, is Sephardi.
- Philadelphia was considered the most free and liberal city, with an unusual tolerance for different religions. Compare that to what was going on at the time in the Puritanical New England area, where people could be jailed for not attending church!
- Despite being a Quaker, Betsy made ammo in her cellar to help the Revolutionaries.
- I knew about the bifoculs, but I didn’t know that ol’ Ben invented swim flippers!
The oddest part of the day defitely has to be going into a discount store run by Rastafarians, and hearing the sales clerk speak Hebrew on the phone. She freaked a bit when I talked to her, then grinned.
Shakespearean style: Need something creative to hurl at the next annoying cretin who blights your day? Try this.
Well, that was fun: I arrive safe and relatively sound (if not totally sane). My TLF to CDG let was horrible. I was jammed in between two large people, one of whom feel asleep and practically leaned on me. The Paris to Philly leg was better; the plane wasn’t full and I had an aisle seat, so I could get up and move around from time to time. My back, while not great, was not as horrible as I feared. The few nights before I left were just awful, and I was really worried about getting here.
Unfortunately several large flights arrived together in Philly, so the lines at imigration and customs were horrible. It took an hour to get out of the airport!
Feh! Russia wins Eurovision. I stay up way too late to watch. Boaz at least does not embarrass us, as he ends up in the top ten, garnishing points from many countries. (Personally, I think he did a great job with a really great song.) A few surprises: some of the other plastic entries that I expected to do well (Poland and Sweden, for example) ended up near the bottom. UK finished in a very undeserved last place, while Germany was also at the bottom (and rightly so). Check out some interesting links here and some very strange statistics here. What never ceases to amaze me is that for some people in Europe, joke entries like those of Spain and Latvia were clearly the favorites, as they received top points a few times (though still not coming close to being real contenders).
Cool cats and other animals: Northern LS sends us this story about animals getting along, while Central LS has another cool cat story.
Always a surprise: The second semi-final for Eurovision #53 was last night. As usual, we end up witha mixed bag. A few of my favorites made it (Turkey, Croatia, and Albania), but Switzerland is out (too bad—we were overdue for some Italian in the finals) and Malta’s attempt to woo the Slavic bloc with their song “Vodka” failed. No surprise that the totally plastic glam of Sweden made it, but why Latvia? Oh, God, why? I have to be greatful that Lithuania didn’t make it (what was that guy thinking?), as well as Belarus and Bulgaria, both exquisitely awful in their own way. The true joy of Eurovision is that some of the “serious” entries are much funnier than that those that attempt to be humorous. The finals are this motzei shabbat, so break out the booze and get ready to party. Here’s the final lineup in the order that they’ll be performing:
- Bosnia and Hrzegovina
- TBA (wildcard draw to be announced on the night; based on highest losing vote in semi-finals)
So that’s it. If you weed out the jokes (Latvia and Spain), the gimmicks (Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina), sappy ballads (Poland, Georgia, Russia) and the annoying pop fluff (Germany, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, and Norway), there are still a few fun ones out there. As usual, I’ll probably be surprised at how the voting goes, but that’s half the fun.
See y’all on the other side!
Boaz does us proud: Amidst the ludicrous, the embarrassing, and the gimick-laden acts, Boaz Mauda stood on the stage and sang. And it was good… good enough to earn us a spot in the finals this coming motzei shabbat. See who else got in here.
I’m still alive: My back, which has been bothering me for about a month, got so bad that I showed up at a client site yesterday wearing a brace. I may have looked like a dork, but the brace got me through a longish day (left the house at 5:30 and got home at 20:30) that included a full day seminar. The group was fun and energetic, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Looks like I might be wearing this bizarre corset on my transatlantic flights, too… Wish me luck.
What size are you? Only in Israel would I wear a size LARGE in some things, yet be too small for the smallest size in other stores. Go figure. I have never managed to get a handle on women’s clothing here. Here are a few choice moments from a recent shopping expedition:
- On asking a clueless sales-dude what “size 1” means (as in 36, 38, etc.), he said, “Small. I think.” Yes, but what is it in sizes?
- A sales clerk asks me what size I am. I tell her. “Oh, no,” she says, sadly shaking her head, “you’re at least <two sizes larger>.” I am confused, but agree to try on the skirt in the size she says. It is enormous. I ask for a smaller size. “That is the smallest we carry,” she says. Aha. The coin drops. I now understand why she attempted to supersize me.
- “Are you shopping for your mother?” asks a very snooty sales clerk when I accidentally wander into a plus-size shop.
- “Oh, all you have to do is take it in here a bit,” enthuses a sweet young thing. I explain that I would rather not pay their outrageous prices and then pay my seamstress to alter it. Oi.
- “Try this,” suggest another helpful and equally clueless ditz, handing me a skirt that would be age-appropriate for a girl in junior high.
- “How about purple?” in response to my request for a grey skirt. Of course! They are so similar.
- “Why do you want that?” is the quintessential Israeli response whenever you ask for something that they don’t have. (Close second: ein devar k’zeh—as in, “there’s no such thing.”)
I suppose that I should be used to it by now, but sometimes it still annoys the crap out of me.
The top 60: Here’s 60 top-visited sites in Israel (in alphabetical order) in honor of our 60th year. Hat tip to Central LS.
A good read: Here’s a nice editorial about our little country turning 60. Hat tip to Central LS.
A good dance: More jiggly bits from the Fat Girl herself, in honor of our celebration.
From sorrow to celebration: Karmiel always puts on a very moving memorial service on erev Yom Hazikaron. Our mayor, Adi Aldar, has the knack for keeping his speeches short, and the other participants were all spot-on. Only in Israel do you get high-ranking army officers reading poetry. The memorial flame at our site is amazing—a play of fire and water together to stir the senses. It is always so poignant to hear the names and see the faces of the almost 100 men and women from Karmielwho have lost their lives defending this country. And standing side by side with hundreds of city residents, in silent contemplation during the siren, or responding during kadish, or singing Hatikvah together… it is quite a feeling.
The next day had me running frantic errands, including what should have been a ten minute stop at the bank. Unfortunately, there were many people waiting, and I had to deal with a clerk who is not my usual point of contact (and who, sadly, is a bit slow on doing overseas bank transfers). I was counting on being outside when the siren went off (on Yom Hazikaron there is a one-minute siren at 20:00 on the evening, and a two-minute siren at 11:00 on the day). I like being outside and watching traffic halt, watching people get out of their cars and stand at attention. But sure enough, we were smack dab in the middle of the wire transfer when the siren went off. Suddenly, the noise and chatter inside the bank is cut off as if someone flipped a switch. Everyone, customers and bank employees are on their feet, silent. The world stops. Nothing moves but the flickering yartzeit candles. As the sirens wind down, people come back to life and go on with their business. It is beautifully surreal and one of those intangible joys of living in Israel.
As Yom Hazikaron winds down, we go straight into Yom HaAtzma’ut (our independence day). Fireworks, festivals, speeches, dance performances, singers, you name it. Unfortunately, I end up being too tired to attend any shows. The big shows in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are broadcast; I see Tony Blair sitting next to Ehud Barak, and watch a dazzling lineup of Israeli stars perform on the big stage at Har Hertzl. But I can’t stay awake long enough for our local fireworks. Oh, well.
So in celebration of Israel’s 60th year, Nadine performs this special dance. (She dedicates it not only to Israel, but to Freddie, the orange fluff-bomb of her dreams.)