jewin' the fat

The Amazing Race
January 8, 2010, 8:34 AM
Filed under: Comment, Identity, media | Tags: , , , , , ,

There is nothing more palatable or popular around a hipster wine bar, WASPish dinner party, Labor luncheon, Liberal cocktail party or Green Left Weekly freegan dumpster than the topic of race in Australia. Race Riots, Race Relations or racial profiling or vilification – it seems in a country built on immigration, we are obsessed with what Edward Said termed “the other” – the notion that we define ourselves, not by who we are actively, but reactively as what we are not – not them, not her, not that.

So imagine my surprise to find, while on a tour with a group of Asians from the Asia-Pacific, that I was, in fact with … a group … of people … from … Asia (!) who were more like me than most white, Jewish, Australian women from Sydney – my supposed racial group. We were interested in the same hobbies, argued about the same political topics, enjoyed the same music, ate the same food, watched the same movies, studied the same topics, worked in the same industry, for the same purpose. Same. Same. Same.

It probably would have been very easy to find differences between us – geography, ethnicity, religion, hair, eye and skin colour – but none of those things mattered – because when it comes to positive human interaction, it is our commonalities that bind us together. Each of us empowered by the same things, each of us made vulnerable by the same fears and threats. United we stand, divided we fall.

Several days ago, a young student was walking to work on night in Melbourne. He was attacked, stabbed several times by a gang of young people, and managed to stumble into his workplace, where he died. Does it matter that he happened to be Indian?

Well, apparently in Australia it does.

I’m not pretending that Australians are the perfect picture of tolerance and respect when it comes to the rainbow spectrum of nationalities represented in Australian society. In fact, Australians, through years of controlled immigration, refusal of refugee absorption and the horrors of the Stolen Generation – well, let’s just say we have our fair share of skeletons in the closet.

The attacks on Indian students, which have dominated the front pages of national and most regional/metropolitan papers, ranged from subtle to overtly violent assault, and largely have included some form of racial taunt or slur. But if the name-calling (curry-muncher, kike, fag, bitch) is just a spur of the moment verbal assault, based on visual or audio clues (an accent, skin colour, dress) – does that necessarily mean the motivation to harm is racial?

Don’t be fooled.  Australia is not an island of anti-Indian sentiment, festering away in the Asia-Pacific, waiting to set themselves upon innocent students. As well as this, Australia may not have the best track record when it comes to personal safety on our streets, and indeed there are neighbourhoods and areas when it is blatantly unsafe and stupid to walk around at night. Wearing jewellery, iPods, walking alone on unlit streets, even on main roads alone – all these things draw attention to the individual, and heighten the risk of attack.

But when it comes to this kind of randomised violence, every person who puts themselves in a dangerous situation is fair game.  To assume that every person who is a minority, or of a lower class, who gets killed/attacked is being hurt because of their ethnic background or upbringing or social status is a little simplistic, and inversely bigoted: “They are Indian, therefore it must have been about their race.”

The sad reality of life is that random, ugly violence is ugly and random, but it does not need a motive, nor a media beat-up to create one.


Older and/or Wiser

First things first – Happy New Year y’all. Here’s hoping that resolutions were made and broken, champagne glasses emptied and dignity lost in the fun and fury. It’s 2010, and we are officially living in a sci-fi novel – Brave New World indeed.

Secondly, an apology – I have let life, love and living get in the way of blogging. Especially because, if you weren’t aware, I’ve been Mid-East side for the past month or so. And in among all the crazy, I have let slide this little venture. … Mostly because I didn’t want to spill Jameson on my lap top. And despite being in the thick of it, with a million and one things to write reams and reams about, to put it simply, I’m on holiday, and cbf. So Sorry.

But then again, it has been a fairly decent while in cyber-terms, so here’s my resolution. I will make a concerted effort to not be a lazy ass, and get back on the blogging-bandwagon. Starting now.

2009 was a memorable year. It taught us the value of money, once we lost it, and the stupidity of trusting financial institutions. It also taught us that hiding $1 million in a mattress can backfire. It began with a bang that shook Gaza, and is still shaking the world, and ended with a silence on Darfur that is deafening.

 2009 was brought to you by the colour Green, and Twitter became (and still is) the protest medium of choice for thousands of young Iranians. 2009 was the year Australian politics got (mildly) interesting – and the first year an Abbott and a Bishop ruled the Liberal Party. It was also the year that his Honour, the Honorable Honorary Jew himself, Malcolm Turnbull, found himself out on his ass (but still with that amazing BRW Richest 200 fortune to fall back on), Nathan Rees locked us out of parliament, and the year Kristina Keneally found the spare set of keys.

Melbourne trains got an overhaul, Brendan Fevola got pissed and lost his shit at the Brownlows, and Nate Myles got pissed and actually took a shit in a hotel corridor. The British Supreme Court ruling against the Jewish Free School told us how to be Jewish, and John Safran’s Race Relations showed us how to be crude – ish.

Settlements, Satire, Sexting and Sagging – we remember 2009. Another year older, but not necessarily wiser. Except for Ron Weiser. That guy is a champion.

I’m dreaming of a Crunk Christmas
December 27, 2009, 10:21 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel | Tags: , , , , ,

There is nothing like experiencing religious fervour in Jerusalem. Home of the Jerusalem Sydnrome (wiki Wiki wiki), and the world’s greatest neighbourhood scrapfight, it is the place to be for the spiritually inclined and religiously observant.

And so what better place to ring in the birth of Jesus Christ than the City of Peace itself? As an Australian Jew, Christmas was long understood as a means to drag one more public holiday outta the government under the guise of religion, while spending the eve of said holiday getting tanked at the Greengate Hotel, then eating a fully kosher Christmas lunch, and lying on a secluded beach, with the rest of the Jewish population of Northern Sydney.


It was obvious that this was not going to be one of those festive holidays. For starters, it was cold, and rather than sprawled on their couch with the fan turned up to ‘Max’ sleeping off the food-coma, people were rugged up and streaming through the streets, with one destination in mind. The Old City.

So after finishing up Sheva Brachot at my girl D, we got our ‘jacket’ on, and made a beeline for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the heart of the Old city, which was closed. FAIL. Next best was Christ Church (originality abounded), a messianic Church, filled to bursting with earnest pilgrims seeking spiritual enlightenment, and some festive cheer. Then there was our rag-tag group of 11 – seeking spiritual SLR shots and festive cheers (in liquid form). So after a bit of Psalm-singin’ and Photo-flashin’, we made a sharp about-turn, and headed back into the city to seek a more … traditional christmas fare. After the first couple of bars, and several shots later, I met a frum friend of mine, and we made our way to Gan Sacher , a huge park near the entrance to the city. A friend of mine was DJing a local rave, known for its propensity to incite local police with breaks, beats and debauchery. Did I mention it was in a tunnel?

Needless to say, the night was a rollicking success, and after several hours of pounding musical ecstasy, it came time to retire to the comfort of a friend’s place for an ecstasy of an entirely different variety. what a way to celebrate a birthday.

This is me, signing off, so have a Merry Christmas Bitches, and a Happy Freakin’ New Year!

Thought for the Day
December 4, 2009, 12:34 AM
Filed under: Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , ,

When flying El Al into Israel, it seems an obligation to not only stare apprehensively out of the windows upon descent into Israeli airspace (no matter what seat you happen to be in, that is), but to engage in two thoroughly unsafe behaviours, most unusual for those well versed in proper travel etiquette.

1) Disregarding flight attendants’ (repeated) instructions to remain seated until the seatbelt sign is turned off. Manifests in passengers being forcefully sat back down by frustrated attendants, only for the passenger to get back up and continue to stretch/remove bags from overhead locker/kibbitz to their husband friend or significant other.

2) Rapturous clapping upon touchdown. It reminds me of what a potential So You Think You Can Fly style reality TV show. In the event of such behaviour, common courtesy dictates joining in is not only encouraged, but demanded by the psyche of the masses. Sure, you don’t know if they are clapping the ability of the pilot to land the plane (superfluous much?) or his ability to land it in the right spot (er, even the ticket said Tel Aviv … it shouldn’t be so hard), but do not underestimate the vivacity of cabin-fevered Israelis.

I have travelled El Al a total of three times into Israel, and if they didn’t say that the third time was the charm, I would be seriously concerned by the oddity of it all. But it seems this is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and until such time as passengers get over the excitement of  the simple act of landing a plane, and that plane landing in Israel, it won’t be dying down any time soon.

I’m leaving on a jet plane
November 30, 2009, 8:49 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Travelling to Israel is a pretty heady thing, from the longer-than-long-haul flight, to the change in hemisphere, time-zone, season, language, civility, politics, religion, lifestyle – Just touching down and finding one’s way to a bed to sleep off the jet lag is no small feat.

After a few trips, spanning almost two years in total, I am going back for more – previous posts on Israel and travel have no doubt provided a snapshot of things to do, see and experience over there, but while packing for this particular trip, I found something that jogged my memories. A little slip of paper that took me back to a Jerusalem bank queue, where I scribbled down all the things that had made my year so unforgettable.

And now, a year older, but not so much wiser, I find myself looking back, wondering how much will have changed, and how much will have remained the same. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a little reminder of why I keep coming back.

So here they are: Things I will miss

Thongs in bars – My Thongs – Mike’s Place – Gilli – Alex – Alex 2 – Hebrew – The US Consulate guys – Jager bombs – Walking everywhere – Daniel’s sense of humour – Shmee’s Breakfasts – Sitting with a beer and salad with Shachar – My Jenny – Blues Music – Being a Whore with Jenny – eating Iraqi food with Daniel in the Shuq – Selichot at midnight at the Kotel – Sleeping on Shachar’s couch – The view out over Jerusalem – Pesach at Dan – Shabbat Sirens – Deserted Streets on a Saturday – The Muezzin’s call on the way home from work – Telling Eefke about my latest conquest – Shuq shopping – Shabbat at the Shorer family – Shabbat at the Dov family – Ori making fun of my shoes – Learning the bus routes – Lusting over clothes in Mamila – Breakfast at the Rupin – Complaining about work with Jill – Tel Aviv Summer Days – Jerusalem Summer Nights – The Bolinat on a Friday – Arguing with Zak about money/politics/religion etc. – More Blues music – My Tan – Kareoke at Eefke – 20 NIS Jerusalem <-> Tel Aviv Shirut – Watching the sun rise 4 days a week – living in Rehavia – The Beach – Tiyulim – After work drinks – 24 hour breakfast with the boys – Hanging with Whitney eating hot wings – The Crazy Landlord – Ben in uniform – Purim – Playing hostess – Picnics in Gan Haatzmaut with my girls – Playing tour guide – Housewarmings

Israel: A Retrospective
August 13, 2009, 10:18 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you recognize a mistake when you make it again. — F. P. Jones

Going through the list of things-to-do when you are overseas, the top of the list for this traveler is always experiencing the local produce. The food, the music, and of course, the men that make your travel experiences memorable. My girlfriends were always open when talking about their sexual exploits. From giving and receiving advice on how to give or receive, whenever, where ever; we could always rely on each other for a little pillow talk. So when I sent a message home detailing my own exploits, it was met with a mixture of applause, horror, and genuine ignorance.

See, when your mates are engaged/married/otherwise, the general assumption is that all talk of sex, sexual habits and experiences becomes a dull slice of 10-minute missionary.

That is, of course, unless you are half a world away, single and getting some

As I was packing up my house in Jerusalem, I stumbled upon an old bank statement envelope, bulging inappropriately with scores of names. Ehud, Yaniv, Ori, Mike, Tal, even Constantine (and one Ronit). I’m actually too nervous to count them up exactly and see just how many shy, obnoxious or deluded men slipped me torn up tissues, old receipts, or demanded a piece of paper from me, just to hand it back awkwardly a few minutes later. But, in the interests of disclosure, and remembering the good, the bad and the unexpected, here’s a little run down.

There was the Security Consultant who taught me martial arts … The Ex-Marine who was 6″2 and had a knack for dancing … The Bartender, who’s girlfriend knew the whole time and said nothing … The Two month relationship, which fizzled out, ending, to my horror, quite amicably … The Secret Service agent with a body like a rock, who asked for my number, and surprised me by calling … The (Oh yes.) Bartender-Turned-Yeshiva-Student, who turned up at work and wound up at my place … The Broken Guy, who’s life story broke my heart wide open, and the Jewish Swahili Prince whose religious philosophy inspired me, and whose drunken behaviour terrified me … French guy, who offered to take me home and share me with his two French mates … The Lone Soldier, whose religious lifestyle threatened to put a swift end to any potential, until, well, he did … The 21-year-old who couldn’t take no for an answer, forcing my workmates to take turns escorting me home, and of course, the arrogant Suit who did the unthinkable and got hitched two weeks after we hooked up, to his pregnant ex-fiance …
It was a veritable smorgasbord of blonds, brunettes, dark skins and light, blue, green, but mostly brown eyes. In their late-teens, twenties and thirties, orthdox, reform and born-again Jews, Irish Catholics and Russian Atheists. Hard bodied, and often hard-headed, troubled and trouble-making, the best days and nights I had was being entertained by the local, and international wildlife.

For this traveler, they are the most vivid memory, the biggest, hottest and least regrettable mistakes I made, and the finest tour guides of a country’s highlights I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

And of course, the novelty of my return home did even result in a couple of Australians offering to take me on their own personal tour of my home town. And who was I to deny them?

These are a few of my favourite things …
August 11, 2009, 3:18 PM
Filed under: Israel, Top Ten | Tags: , , , ,

Jerusalem: It evokes picturesque sunsets and co-existence paradise, but sometimes, the reality is a touch different than what the tourguide said it would be. Too often, I meet people who are fresh off a Taglit-birthright Israel program, and in their last days in the country, they are desperate to make the most of what limited time they still have.
And for people who have travelled to all the historic sites, to all (and I mean ALL) the museums, eaten all the hotel food and spent countless hours asleep in buses, their last days implore them to seek the ‘real Israel experience’, that 10 days could not satisfy.
So here are 10 things to do, in Jerusalem, for those who need to get amongst it.

Jerusalem has some beautiful parks for such a condensed city. In and amongst the Jerusalem stone walls, lie parks large and small for your picnicing, lazing and gazing pleasure. Check out Gan Ha-Pa’amon, Gan Ha’atzmaut and Gan Saccer to see the ‘real’ Jerusalemite: kids with guitars practising their Stairway to Heaven, large families of Charadim and Muslims alike park their Mangal (a small portable BBQ) and spread out over the expanses of grass, starting football games and lavish lunches. On Friday afternoons, five piece bands play to the delight of Arak fuelled university students, and after midnight, they are replaced by deliquent teenagers, too young to buy alcohol in bars, but not too young to get high and stomp around the shrubbery and sandstone. During the week though, the parks are fantastic; if you like Georgian Barmitzvahs, Chinese tour groups and flashers that ask in a few different languages if you want to take a peek. This park-plonker says ‘hell no’.

Getting into the rent market is hard work for any young person, but try renting an apartment in Jerusalem. Scouring the anglo websites for rooms to rent, viewing hole-in-the-wall apartments above the shuq, paying outrageous real estate agent fees, dealing unsuccessfully with noisy neighbours, woken at 4am by the cries of stray cats, calling the cops on your landlady’s mentally disabled son, and being asked by your landlord if you can spot them a few hundred dollars for the weekend, a few days after you paid him three thousand dollars rent. 

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

All this and more awaits you in your search for a home in the holy city of Jerusalem. Happy hunting!

A short balding man in glasses and a suit ‘n tie walks into bars every Thursday night, trawling for young Jewish tourists. Before you jump to an ovious conclusion, let me introduce you to a Jerusalem Legend. Jeff Seidel. Every week, without fail, he hosts young kids at his home for Shabbat, some good food and a little inspiration to boot. He also runs tours to Poland and heads a centre for Jewish outreach. If you bump into him at the Kotel, or in the bars and pub area of Nachalat Shiva in town, make it a point to spend a weekend. Guaranteed good times your grandma will approve of.

If you don’t like drunk screaming Americans with attitude looking to score, just don’t do it. That’s all.

This is only for English and Australians. Just when you thought sitting in a bus as a passenger was death-defying, try getting behind the wheel of a left-hand driver car, on the right hand side of the road. Get past the five minute mark, wait til the terror-shakes subside, and you might just survive the harrowing experience of going around a round-about, struggling to remember if you give way left or right, and then realising that there are no road rules in this crazy city, and the best you can hope for while driving around is that there are no other cars on the road. Throw in peak hour traffic that starts at 11am and doesn’t stop, signs in a language you can’t read, and angry Service taxi drivers who drive like they are being chased by the cops, and you’ve got an Israel experience like no other. You’ll be thanking the gods you managed to get out of the car and onto the plane.

The Birthright Mega Event is a spectacle to behold, with thousands of young Jews from all over the world drinking on buses before converging on the convention centre in the centre of the city to hear speeches from philanthropists and hear ‘Yachad’ sung live by a troop of gorgeous looking Israelis. Did I mention it’s the highlight of the ten day experience? Bah. If you really want to know how to party, be at the Bolinat Bar on Friday afternoons to dance your ass off to some serious hardcore house, drum ‘n bass and dub step in the middle of the street with 2000 young Jerusalemite uni students, all in aid of getting a political party representing students into council.

Summer Street Parties at the Bolinat in Jerusalem are an essential

Summer Street Parties at the Bolinat in Jerusalem are an essential

Tip: Don’t wear white, because the apartments lining the streets are filled with drunk Israelis with water guns, ready to target the girls who are stupid enough to wear something see through. and get to know Arak with Lemon Squash (see ‘Arak is for the fearless’ for more details) and Goldstar. As they say “I dont believe in the Labour Party or the Liberal Party. I just believe in Parties.”

(NB: I realise this is for Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, but get over it. Rules were made to be broken)
You know those gorgeous, buff, oiled guys that pose and strut the beaches? OK, now picture them in forty years, and the fat old men in speedos playing shesh besh are their future. But they still think they are well able to crack onto teenagers in bikinis. And who are you to deny them? Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the attention as they lavish Champagne, cocktails and massages on you, all for the cheap cheap price of a bit of an oggle and some small talk. Pimpin’ was never made so easy. Tip: Ask what they did in the IDF for an hour of respite from the come-ons, and a chance to grab some shut-eye behind your sunglasses.

Like Sambucca with a rocket up its ass, Arak, an Israeli made liquer will stick a rocket up your ass, before sending you into an alcohol fuelled daze that will end with tears, lost clothing and vomit. Often not your own. It is the drink of choice for young Israelis and is cheap. Dirt cheap. Disregard the warning, and give it a go. Satisfaction guaranteed. Tip: Try it with Lemon and mint in a slushie, or take it in a shot for a quick ‘n nasty intoxication.

If there is one thing completely forbidden on an organised trip, it’s venturing into the Old City alone, and its definitely being alone in the Arab Quarter. Which sucks while you are on tour, because some of the most interesting food, bazaars, people and architecture is all in the AQ. Whatever, you are free now, so go crazy! Make sure to eat humous at the tiny cafe next to the water fountain, and enjoy the complementary strong black coffee and baklawah. 200 metres down the road, is some of the best antique shopping in the city, and make sure you ask for Barakat for some great deals. Hot Tip: Stay away from the main strip shuq that leads down to the kotel; it’s full of scammers and is a tourist trap – “Lady, you want shopping? Lady, Ullo Lady!” Just make sure you have a knife slipped in your boot, and get out before dark.

Meeting friends in Jerusalem happens in large open plazas, but make sure you know which is which, because it can get confusing. There is Kikar Tzion or Zion Square, at the foot of Ben Yehuda Street, and it is filled with beat-boxing buskers, bus loads of tourists wearing shorts and sneakers, snapping photos of everything, and seminary kids, taking advantage of a public place to surrepticiously flirt with the opposite sex. Language: American. Next up is Crack Square. Yep, there’s no need to translate that one. It is at the top of Rivlin Street (see ‘Stay well clear of Zollis. or Rivlin Street’ for more details) and is filled with some of the harder drug users in the city. It also has a great vegetarian restaurant right next door. Yum yum. Language: Street cred. Finally, we have Kikar Chatulot or Cats Square. Ok, this is my favourite place, because you can get really cheap cabs here to my place, but mostly, drunk Israelis converge with families out for dinner and heaps of stray cats at the bottom of yet another tourist hot spot, not least because of the great pottery and jewellery stores. Language: Dollars Only.