Archive | April 2014

Israeli Christian Arabs pushing to join the IDF

Hat tip to Weasel Zippers

Now how cool is this? After checking out the Arab Spring in our neighbouring countries and the the full-on persecution of Christians there that has followed, Arab Christians in Israel have been pushing for the past two years to have their youth drafted into the IDF. Moreover, the major organization they formed is called Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF) –they chose it specifically because the Christian community here, for the first time, is identifying as ISRAELI and not as Arab. They are getting their wish, partially. The IDF is sending out recruitment materials to all the youth to let them easily volunteer for service. The ICRF wants them drafted just as the Jews and Druze are (e.g., it isn’t voluntary but required). Baby steps. Check it out:

For the first time in its history, Israel’s army is getting ready to send voluntary military enlistment notices to Christian Arab citizens when they turn eighteen.

The unlikely impetus behind the move is none other than the Arab Spring, the popular rebellion revolutionizing the Arab world and in the process recalibrating the relationship between Christian citizens and the State of Israel. Shocked by a new climate featuring violence against Christians in Egypt and Libya, among other countries, and displacement in Syria, some of Israel’s Christian Arabs are pushing for greater participation in their home state.

Father Gabriel Naddaf, a compelling figure in a full black beard, royal blue robes and a kalimavkion — the traditional tubular hat worn by Greek Orthodox priests that renders his already imposing height Shaquillesque — is chairman of a group called the Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF) that has been lobbying the government for the draft of Christian youth for the past two years.

The name alone — “Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum,” rather than “Arab Christians Recruitment Forum” — is a strong statement in this region. Naddaf has lost patience, he says, “with the Arab world telling us what we can do and what we should feel.”

“In light of the persecution of Christians in Arab countries just because they are Christians,” Naddaf said in a meeting with journalists this week following the army’s announcement, “our youth feels they must make a sacrifice for the country that is protecting them.” He believes that these notices, which still aren’t equivalent to the obligatory draft others face, will “open the door … to full participation in society for Christians.” But apart from an explicit welcome, the notices will include details on a possible preliminary meeting at the individual’s nearest IDF enlistment office, and reduce the amount of energy Christian youths need to expend volunteering for a service other citizens are brought into automatically.

Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the country made certain exceptions to its universal, compulsory military service policy.

Although the Druze and the Circassians are subject to the same draft as the Jews, Druze and Circassian women are exempt, unlike Jewish women.

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Yom HaShoah

There really is something special about a nation that mourns, remembers and celebrates (our Independence Day) collectively –and as far as I’ve experienced in my many travels, our country is the only one to do so. Today, on Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day, the air raid sirens sounded at 10. I was out watering the roses and I and my watering can came to a standing stop. It still moves me every year on this day and on Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for our fallen soldiers and victims of terror) to see everything come to a complete standstill. All the cars pulling to a stop in the middle of the road, the drivers getting out to stand still and silent, people walking stopping in their tracks, conversations stopping mid-sentence, and to know that in classrooms and offices across the country everyone is rising to their feet to mark this solemn day, to remember the victims, is extremely powerful and moving. I remember the first Yom HaShoah I experienced here and how I was just amazed to see life suddenly resembles a movie with the frame frozen and then, as the last wail of the sirens die down, coming to life and just continuing on, the driver’s getting back in their cars and driving on, the people continuing their walks and conversations. It is also deeply comforting to know that here, at least, the horrors of what happened will never be forgotten, will never be minimized and that never again is a vow that will never be broken.

my dental sleuth and seriously bad genes

Yesterday after teaching I needed to head to Tel Aviv for my dental appointment. I had time to stop and get my hair cut and then grab a quick lunch. Then I proceeded to the dentist to watch an amazing amount of moolah (money) start to flow down the spit bowl. There was good news (I got two fillings done on the right side of my mouth, one one the top and one on the bottom) and bad news. The first bad news came before I’d had any procedures done. The dentist had been looking at the x-rays he’d taken the visit before of the tooth that had the root canal done about 5 years ago and that is in the process of having a new permanent crown put on (he put the temporary on last visit). He wanted to take more x-rays. Yep, seems that, despite my not feeling any sort of pain or anything with that tooth, one of the three roots of the tooth is infected. This can happen when those medicated rods they shove up into the root cavity don’t quite do the trick in preventing infection after the initial procedure. Dr. Eisenberg is sending me to see a root canal specialist to figure out what to do to fix the problem. I’ve got to call him to set up an appointment ASAP on Sunday and my x-rays have already been emailed to the specialist by the good doc.

The second bit of bad news came with the discussion of the upper tooth and it is much worse news. It has a filling in the back already and, of course, the one in the front that has been disintegrating –except it hasn’t been. There is nothing wrong with the filling itself as far as filling integrity, nor with the other fillings that are having problems.

Last visit he had sent a sample of my teeth from the healthy areas that had to be drilled on to the lab for an analysis. He’d noted that my front teeth (all the non-molars) are extremely thin (in terms of the width front to back)–much thinner than most people’s teeth. On all of those teeth where I have fillings, around the fillings there is discoloration and what makes it look like the filling itself has been disintegrating. That isn’t what is happening. What is happening is that after a filling is put in on a front-facing surface, the tooth area around the filling starts to slowly (well slowly in a rapid way) disintegrate.* Last visit he’d asked me extensive questions about my diet from childhood on up. It turns out that the fact that I drink copious amounts of diet soda (I mean, I remember doing an experiment when I was elementary school age where my brother and I put a penny in a glass of cola and watched the penny start to disintegrate over a period of months) is not what causes this and doesn’t have any effect. Nor does the coffee, tea, or anything else I regularly consume. I eat way less sugar and sweets than the average person. Nope, my diet nor my brushing habits (3-4 times a day), nor how frequently I have my teeth cleaned (4 times a year), nor the previous dentist are to blame and in a few years –I’ll be replacing all these new fillings when they start looking like I’m the bride of Frankenstein again.

It is the fricking make up of my teeth (can I sue my genetic donors?) probably exacerbated by a calcium deficiency in baby and toddler-hood due to my allergy to milk products. He pulled out my records from when I first visited him way back when my braces were coming off –oh yeah, all the fillings I had then (all of them much less than 10 years old) looked exactly like the replaced ones I have now that look like shit. He and I had put it down to the fact that the teeth had been held captive in those bands for so many years — it is not uncommon for fillings to do this when you have braces on for a number of years. Then he’d pulled out the records I’d brought with me from my NY dentist.

Damn, I started thinking about my teeth history. When I first moved to New York I had a huge number of my fillings replaced by Madonna’s dentist (I didn’t know he was Madonna’s dentist when I first went to him on a recommendation) because so many seemed to be starting to fall apart –he blamed the dentist who had done them. THAT dentist had been a guy who took me in on an emergency basis and did a whole bunch in one visit because I’d come home on break after my first year in grad school and my Ema had been horrified to see a couple of my front fillings looking like crud from a cosmetic point of view, had lectured me that I wasn’t taking care of myself and getting good dental treatment (nu, I had been seeing the university dentists for students people), and called for that ASAP appointment.

Back when I was a kid, my baby teeth didn’t fall out like normal baby teeth — they fractured. The first getting-loose baby molar fractured into four jagged, painful and bleeding chunks (that didn’t fall out) after I bit into a potato chip on the one and only time we went to see the parades on Mardi Gras day — meaning we didn’t see them as my Ema had to rush me to the Children’s Hospital emergency room (the only thing open). It was the first but not the last of fractured baby teeth.

It seems that my teeth are not only eggshell thin with an eggshell thin protective layer and are lacking in several things that there just ain’t no cure for baby, but he also suspects (and I’m going to be tested for) that I have a chemical imbalance in the calcium to phosphorus ratio in my bloodstream, meaning that not only does my body not convert calcium in a normal way but that it causes plaque to bond to my teeth like a fricking magnet. The plaque buildup on my teeth yesterday was enough that he would normally suggest I go in for a teeth cleaning –except that I had my teeth cleaned like less than 6 weeks ago.

Oh yeah, that upper tooth he did the filling on is going to need to be crowned (hopefully without a root canal but we don’t know yet) eventually. The one bad the previous dentist did was to put a filling into the back along with a filling in the front and not doing a crown at the time — the tooth is too thin to sustain both and leaves it vulnerable to needing a root canal in the future if not already. He replaced the filling in the front for cosmetic reasons because crowning it can wait until the more serious issues are dealt with. In two weeks, I go back and have the three fillings on the left side of my mouth replaced.

*Here’s why the area around a filling goes rogue on my teeth. Think about when you drill a hole in the ground or a piece of wood etc. You drill the hole, yes, but not just the hole– little tiny fractures extend out from the drilled area during the process into the surrounding area of dirt/wood etc and it is the same for teeth — all teeth. Most people, though, have a protective enamel layer that is deep enough that those tiny fractures do not compromise the integrity of the tooth. Mine, unfortunately, do not.

argh the darn critters

While Mousie continues to do well, the other three are all sick. I took Nesicha Stubby Tail in yesterday to get her vaccine but she is coming down with an upper respiratory and was running a fever. She got a shot of antibiotics but not the vaccine. Now, I’m trying to get the pills into her via hiding them in her food but without much success. Now Batya appears to have an abscessing tooth. For the last couple of days she’s not been trying to frantically and deviously get at Mischa’s wet food. Then today she started growling and pawing at her face when she bit into one of the hard kibbles. She ran around the apartment and went into major drool mode. It has happened every time she’s tried to eat today. On Sunday I’m going to have to try to get her in to the vet.

beans and collard greens

I put a bag of white kidney beans to soak last night. This morning early I went out to the garden to start some oregano (so far, none of the seeds out of that packet have grown at all –we are talking last year –so we’ll see) and parsley. I was happy to see some of the radishes were sprouting. Then I cut some celery stalks and a huge bunch of collard green leaves. I’ve got them soaking in salt water now.

In a few minutes I’m going to chop up and saute a couple of the store bought onions plus the garden celery and then get the beans to boiling with them. I’ll do another rinse of the greens and then chop and add them in and allow it all to simmer, with spices and fake chicken soup powder, for eight hours. Tonight I should have some nice bean soup!

Little Mouse update: Gaining weight

Following getting his rabies vaccine just before his 16 real and adopted siblings were taken on the great cat transport to Texas, the Mousie’s immune system was really slammed and the steroid shots were giving him less than two weeks of relief with his severe stomatitis (inflamed gums and throat lining). He got so skinny that every vertebrae on his back was visible and his hip bones jutted up in a very scary way. I was really thinking that it might be time…BUT in the last few weeks he has been rallying.

Running my hand over his soft fur just a bit ago, I could not feel any of his vertebrae jutting up. His sides have lost that concave look. He is much plumper (still skinny but way better) and much perkier. He was running about playing this morning, attacking the shoe he stumbled over (my bad having kicked them off in the middle of the floor instead of just inside the door).

Now if I can just get poor old Mischa more on the mend.

Pesach sameach!

I want to wish everyone a happy Passover who celebrates it. I know folks in the U.S. will be sitting down to their first seder table soon. I’ve just had a really nice seder (we only do one here because there is no next year in Jerusalem but every year here and so we can be sure we are celebrating the holiday on the right day).

It was the shortest seder I’ve ever had but also one of the most fun: with four little ones (and the nearly two year old twins did not go down for a nap today) under the age of 6, it was high hilarity. We managed to get in the four questions with the oldest, a couple of songs, scarfed the matzah and maror and charoset but the adults had to skip the egg this year as the little ones discovered the bowl of boiled eggs and scarfed every one well before we got to the four questions. We did a rapid dipping in the wine and huzzah ok kids, let’s eat! Find the affikomen! And then we played with the kids until we were ready for bed even if the kids were still on high active mode, heh.

I’m having dinner with them again tomorrow and going to the beach with the kids on Wednesday. Gotta love holidays.