Monday, January 19, 2009

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Israeli houses, like Israelis themselves, have a whole set of idiosyncrasies. Designed to combat the heat that is present for most of the year, they can be a tough experience during the winter months.

Heating houses which a) don’t have a heating system pre-installed, b) don’t have carpet, c) are open plan, d) have stone floors and e) have draughty windows, is both difficult and expensive.

Having been shocked at our electricity bill last year (which, I might add, was despite our efforts to be as economical as possible,) we decided that this year we would try to avoid an excessive bill. We bought a few heaters and these go on early morning and sporadically throughout the day but, alas, are not constantly pumping out the heat.

We have taken to old fashioned remedies. We use hot water bottles, we layer on our clothes, we shut the curtains at night and we eat lots of porridge. I would love to report back that all of these things have made a great difference but in truth, we are all still cold.

We are still cold inside the house that is. Many days, we venture outside and are shocked to find that it is 21°! We look around us at all the Israelis in their T-Shirts and jeans and feel a little foolish in our coats and scarves!

However much I get caught out, I still forget next time around. It just feels so cold that I automatically pile on layer after layer of clothing only to peel many of them off when I leave the house. My kids too are fed up with me making sure they wear their coats before they leave for school (zipped up too!) Israel just seems to be one of those places where you actually wear more clothes inside of the house than outside.

Maybe next year I will finally find a way to deal with winter in an Israeli house. Still, the phrase, 'cold hands, warm heart' springs to mind. In Israel we certainly have cold hands at the moment. The phrase also rings true for Israelis themselves, whose sometimes cold, tough exterior more often than not conceals the warmest of hearts.

Sharona B

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Media Battle in Israel

I haven't blogged for a while. I think I kind of lost my words with all that has been happening around me. It all started after Mumbai. I was laden down with sadness; the loss of the Chabad Rabbi and his wife seemed to engulf me; it was as though I had had some kind of previous connection to them, yet I had none. I guess I have enjoyed so much hospitality from Chabad families, both in the UK and Israel, that I understood that two very special people had been taken from us.

And then the continuing rockets and the well overdue response. It is hard, with all this going on to keep my blog politics free, as was my intention. I guess, out here, politics is not so much a separate topic, an interest to be engaged with as and when one might want, but more, it is entwined within our everyday lives. Where does day to day life start and politics end when it is your own citizens who are living in bomb shelters, whose children are unable to go to school, whose daily lives over the past eight years have become so mundane, so risky, so sad?

I watch the news from Israel, from the US, from the UK. It saddens me that the UK news is so skewed towards our enemies. It shocks me that emotive images are used without a commentary that explains the civilian losses are due to their own cynical leaders using them for their own political gain. When their civilians die, Israelis feel sad and understand the grief of parents, friends and community members. But their own leaders just rub their hands in glee, waiting for the inevitable points scored in the media battle against Israel. And the media, predictably, bites the bait every time.

Theirs is a society which breaks every rule; should not any civilized society put the needs of the vulnerable first and foremost? I guess we are not fighting a civilized society. The frustrating thing is that the world looks at the pictures and very few report the facts in a way that reflects reality.

So I will leave you with the contents of two emails I recently received, which I felt summarised the battle itself and the media coverage of this war.

Two Different Mentalities:

Two ways of looking at something:

New York Times Headline: "Israeli Shells Kill 40 At Gaza U.N. School"

New York Post Headline: "Hamas In Human Shield Atrocity: Uses School As
Mortar Lair Where Children Die"

Sharona B