Posted By Yaacov Peterseil
I’ve always loved the description of Israel as “Start-Up Nation”. I like it for two reasons: 1) To “start up” with someone means to aggressively confront, and both Israelis and Israel are not afraid to start up with someone or some nation if they feel they’re being wronged (read: attacked), and 2) To “start up” also means to ignite, initiate (as in a new project or company). Both these meanings aptly describe major facets of the State of Israel and the people who make up the State of Israel. Actually, both these meanings define all the Jews in whatever land we find ourselves. We’re always a “Start-up Nation.”
Why is that?
I think it’s because for us Jewish Family Matters? Not just Jewish family mind you, but Jewish Family, the world wide Family of Jews. And not just matter, as in take up space, but Matter as in something of importance.
During my sixty plus years I’ve held many jobs. One of them was as a ghost writer for some major non-profit Jewish leaders. When I asked any of these leaders for the theme of their talk, I was amazed at the fact that many of these assimilated individuals invariably wanted me to focus on the importance of training our children to love and understand their Jewish heritage. Sometimes they would even ask me to put in a little dvar Torah, something that relates to the idea of inter-connectiveness between all Jews, something people in Israel call, Areyvut.
Areyvut is hard to define in English. It’s more than holding hands, more than “It’s a small world”, more even than, “Do unto others”. It’s really like a gene that lays dormant, waiting for the right time to click on, to “Start-Up” and energize a person to do something meaningful.
When someone says “Jewish family matters to me”, he usually means his Jewish family. He’s concerned that his children get a good education, that they have all those things parents want for their children, and that they grow up to be menschen (good people).
But Jewish Family Matters as part of areyvut also has a wider application. It means caring about another’s child, another’s well-being, another’s kavod (self-respect). It’s one of the most difficult traits to trigger because it requires the right timing, the right catalyst to ignite it.
I tried to raise my children to understand that Jewish Family Matters in the greater sense. But it’s nearly impossible to teach someone how to affect those outside your immediate family. We all like “our” stuff: our family, our toys, our food, our, our, our. The empathy required to reach “them” is massive. If harnessed correctly I have no doubt it could light up the world.
Which brings me to my story (Sorry for the long introduction). It happened about 30 years ago in Lawrence, Long Island. I came home one Sunday, after a hard day’s work (yes, I worked on Sundays) to find a disheveled, bearded Jew sitting in my kitchen eating the piece of cake I had reserved for myself for Monday’s breakfast, drinking my special brand of brewed tea, humming to himself, and smiling.
Sitting across from him was my number three child, Shlomo, ten years old, in animated conversation, explaining how he couldn’t understand why some of the kids in his class felt the need to curse. “Some say the S word and some say the D word and some even say the F word, although I’m not sure why such a strange sounding word means anything bad,” he told his willing listener.
“Ich fashteh ist nicht oched,” said our guest, in Yiddish. Seems he didn’t understand either, although I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the word or to anything my son was saying.
I decided not to ask Shlomo anything right then and instead started to speak to our guest in Yiddish. He complimented me on my fine son, and made sure to tell me he only ate the (last) piece of cake after checking on its “hechsher” (kashrut) which he was glad to see had the right “hashkacha” (certification). “Speaking of hashkacha,” he quickly added, “the boys in our yeshiva only come from the best homes in Israel and dedicate themselves to learning….”
Bottom line: Could I please make a (substantial) donation?
“By the looks of things,” I was tempted to respond, “I think I’ve already made a donation, unless you want to try on a pair of my pants as well,” but instead simply gave him a (substantial) check.
I couldn’t help but notice that Shlomo was a little surprised at my actions.
After swallowing what was left of my cake, the fellow brushed the crumbs out of his beard onto the plate, thanked us both profusely, and left.
“Why did you give him money?” Shlomo asked as I closed the door.
“Why did you let him in?” I countered.
“I just offered him some food. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?”
“When you don’t know him?”
“Of course. What difference does it make if I know him? Aren’t we supposed to offer every Jew something to eat and drink? Isn’t that a mitzvah? Areyvut. Wouldn’t you offer him the same?”
I thought to myself: Would I offer a shaliach (shnorrer) to come into my house and have some food and drink? Probably not. After all, I’d have to open a Sunday brunch business to feed all the representatives of yeshivas that find their way to my house on Sunday. So? So I’ve been programmed not to invite people as guests in my house unless I know them.
Looking at my son’s expectant face, I suddenly realized that all he was asking is if I do what his teachers (and sometimes his parents) preach. Areyvut. Shlomo was asking, in his innocence, “Have you become so jaded you don’t recognize a mitzvah when you see it?"
I remember someone called to offer my daughter a “fine young man” for a possible shidduch (marriage match). Not being used to dealing with a shadchan (marriage broker) I said, “Why doesn’t he just call her?” Her answer was one I’ll never forget. “His parents need to know you’re one of unserer (our kind).” I’d rather not quote my response.
Sometimes it takes the innocent actions of a child to activate the dormant areyvut gene in a parent. Of course, we all learn as kids how important it is to help others, to try and listen to what others are saying, to empathize with others. But by the time we grow up and go out into the world, we lose that innocence and purity of spirit. We hear how Abraham, after undergoing a circumcision, ran out of his tent in the heat of the day to greet (idol worshipping) strangers who would probably have passed by his tent without a second glance. And yet we don’t greet an old Jew walking in the street for fear he’ll ask us for money. We would never think to stop and say a kind word to a stranger who looks down and out.
They say that the Vilna Gaon, a non-hasidic Rabbi, once saw a hasidic Jew downtrodden and clearly unhappy with his lot in life.
“What’s the problem, Reb yid?” he asked.
“I’m stuck in my life. I don’t feel any warmth in my soul,” answered the hasid.
“What Hasidic sect do you belong to?” the Gaon asked.
“I’m a Bobover hasid,” the hasid answered.
The Vilna Gaon started to sing one of the tunes that the hasid knew.
After a while, the hasid joined in.
“We can’t just sing. We need to dance as well,” offered the Gaon.
And so they danced and sang until the hasid reconnected with his soul.
That’s what areyvut is all about. Connecting. Helping others connect.
What makes us a Start-Up nation is that we’re a Start-Up people. We try to teach our children and each other that we’re all important, that we’re all connected. We’re successful as a people because we’ve found out how to activate our areyvut gene by telling and doing. I think we all have areyvut stories we could tell, stories that ignite the areyvut gene in the helix of our heart.
Jewish Family Matters. It does. Not just our family. But the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all the way down to you.
Yaacov Peterseil is the Founder of JewishStoryWriting.com and has been working for areyvut most of his adult life.
8.5.13 at 8:18 am | Hollywood East returns with a special Guest. . .
3.6.12 at 3:44 pm | Is the Purim Megillah a tale of feminism? And. . .
3.23.10 at 2:32 pm | Is it time for Israelis to be in the nude?
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1.28.10 at 12:27 pm | A fun night out in Tel Aviv takes a disturbing. . . (5)
11.2.09 at 2:18 am | How many "takes" does it take to find Mr. Right? (4)
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March 6, 2012 | 3:44 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
VENAHAFOCHU. Upside down, inside out, wrong side up. A picture perfect description of my last year and a half. And a perfect excuse to write again, after a resounding silence from Hollywood East.
My last blog ended with an article about Israeli’s getting naked for the camera. A perfect build up to the Purim Megillah story, where Ahashverosh, clearly looking to demean Vashti, commands her to dance in the nude, and she, refusing, is beheaded. I wouldn’t call that exactly being a doting husband, but here’s the nahafoch in the Megillah: The Megillah starts by showing how a chauvinistic King drunkenly kills his Queen and ends with the same King respecting and obeying his Queen (Esther) and during a party, at which he’s no doubt drunk again, the King kills his (male) advisor, the very same advisor who, according to the rabbis first suggested to the King that Vashti had to go.
My question is: What caused this change in the story?
Maybe my story can help explain it.
When I first started dating, my parents prepared me for what they were sure was an average courting scenario. They dressed me up like a bridesmaid, reminded me not to be surprised if my date brought me flowers, and had me practice walking through a door already opened by my future date.
But when my first Israeli date showed up in jeans and a T-shirt, honking at the curb, my parents were forced to realize that not only were they stuck in the wrong dating country, but they were also about 40 years behind the times. And me, being an independent liberated woman, was only too happy to prove that indeed, we’re all created equal, and I can hold open my own car door, thank you very much.
So when I approached my date, now leaning on the hood of the car, I wasn’t at all upset that he didn’t open my door and gesture me in the way my parents assured me he would. I didn’t want a dandy. I wanted a modern man. So, with my bare-hands, I let myself into the passenger seat, and waited for him to get back inside the drivers seat. But he just stood there, in the cold, outside the car. Finally, after about a minute, he opened the door, plopped himself into the drivers seat and sighed. “You failed,” he shook his head sadly at me.
“I failed?” I echoed. “I failed what?”
“You failed Mivchan Hadelet - The door test,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Every guy knows, if the girl doesn’t open the door for you from the inside she won’t be a thoughtful girlfriend, and a true balabusta.”
The question, Was I behind the times? suddenly loomed in front of me. But this was only the beginning. The next guy, I dated for 3 months, and for my birthday, suggested he do something romantic like bring me flowers. Come my Birthday, and Hulio (yes there are Jewish Hulios in Israel) knocks at the door, lets himself in, sinks into the couch and turns on the TV, but not before shouting: “By the way, happy birthday! Don’t worry, I got you flowers, they’re on the counter. Put them in some water or they’ll die.”
What more could a girl ask for?
The more I dated, the more I began to yearn for the “gentleman” my parents had always told me fairytales about. As much as I enjoyed my adventures, I was starting to yearn for my “happily ever after”. After all, if Snow White, Cinderella and Esther could get it, what’s to stop me?
And indeed, with my current boyfriend, whom I shall refer to only as ‘superhero’, it’s a whole new story.
Superhero and I happened to have been friends as children. He was one of the neighborhood children my father used to scare on Purim when he dressed up to the “child catcher” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It so happens, we reconnected, 20 years later, and when I visited my parents for the weekend, he insisted on coming in to say Hello. The guy even brought flowers.
“For me?” my youngest sister, Blooper, gushed in delight.
“What a gentleman!” my mother kvelled.
“Certainly brightens up the room,” my father added.
The following Friday, I was visiting my parents again, and Superhero came to pick me up for a cup of coffee. Blooper was waiting eagerly with an empty vase at the doorway when he came knocking.
“Where’re the flowers?” She asks, holding out her vase to him. Prepared for any scenario, my guy smiles and pulls out a beautiful pink flower, one he had clearly picked from the neighbor’s yard.
“What?” she says sternly “That can’t fill up a vase!”
“Isn’t it the thought that counts?” he smiles at her.
“The thought counts, but not as much as the flowers.”
Just then my father walks in with his usual Shabbat bouquet for my Mother.
“Aw, that’s so nice,” Superhero says as my Mothers does a little tap dance, “so romantic of him. Is it her birthday?”
“No!” #8 chimes in before I can respond. “He does that EVERY Friday” and she grabs the single pink flower and plops it into one of those super thin vases we keep around for fake flowers. The bar has just been raised.
On Sunday, sister #6, closer to my age, invites us both to a party. During the ride she grills Superhero without letting up. “What do you do? What do you WANT to do? Where do you live? Show me the Facebook profile of your ex-girlfriend”. Unflustered, he takes it in stride. Even offers to put her picture on his Facebook page.
Yes, my boyfriend is one in a million. Exactly the kind I was supposed to bring home to start with. So is it because I started choosing different kind of guys? Or is perhaps “Divine Intervention”? Or maybe it’s simply the right man at the right time?
Actually, I’m not sure if I really have much to do with the fact that my boyfriend always picks me up at the door, or if it’s more the menacing glare of my sister edging him up the stairs. I don’t know if he actually enjoys sitting around with me and my family listening to us talk for hours, or if it’s more my Father’s strong arm pinning him to the chair. And although I like to think he’s showing me how much he cares by bringing a bouquet of flowers every Friday, he does hand them directly to #9 eagerly awaiting them with her vase, whether I’m there that weekend or not.
All’s fair in love and war, but I’m thankful my family sometimes goes to battle for me. When I think about it, Esther had Mordechai there. Guiding her, watching over her, reminding her where she came from and what she should be looking for.
So was it Esther who changed Ahashverosh? Or did he evolve with time?
The Megillah, to me, represents the battle of women for their independence and rights over the last 60 years. From Vashti, somewhere in the back room, expected to obey her husbands command, to Esther trying to balance her many tasks of saving a nation, pleasing her cousin, ruling a castle, and all the while providing a warm nurturing home for her husband.
And Ahashverosh? He changed too. A lot. For starters, he finally learns to stop taking advice from triangle-eared idiots. And comes a long road from beheading Vashti, to treating Esther as the queen she should be.
Venahafochu. We’ve all come a long way. Although if you ask me, somewhere is the sequel to this “happily ever after” Megillah, and Esther’s yelling at the king to put down that toilet seat already!
March 23, 2010 | 2:32 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
“You should have worn a dress,” my friend, Jim, chastises me, as we walk briskly towards the oblique-shaped structure overlooking the Yarkon river, in Tel Aviv.
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” I object. We’re on our way to a cocktail party promoting the artist, Spencer Tunick, whom the promoters are hoping would take notice and possibly put Israel on his itinerary for a clothes-less photo shoot.
“Nothing’s wrong with what you’re wearing, but a dress is much easier to slip in and out of,” Jim replies, with a mischievous grin.
“Jim!” I shout menacingly, warning bells ringing in my ears. Jim’s a good friend but he’s put me into situations – on more than one occasion – that I had to battle to get out of. “Where EXACTLY are we going?” I confront him, accusingly. Jim just smiles like the proverbial Cheshire Cat.
“What do you mean,’slip in and out of’?” I demand to know. He just licks his lips.
Why didn’t they cast him in the new Alice In Wonderland flick? I wonder.
If you’re not familiar with Spencer’s work or haven’t read a newspaper lately, he’s become a major celebrity, raising a lot of…eyebrows. I’ll bet that plastic surgeons pay him a commission on the breast enlargements, tummy tucks, and gallons of botox they use on their patients. After all, he’s single-handedly created a daring new art form – Oy Naturalle. Spencer travels from country to country offering the local yokels an opportunity to appear butt-naked, in order to capture that perfect Kodak moment. We’re not talking about hundreds of people but sometimes, even thousands of willing nudists who stand around or in line, lie prone or just hang loose so he can create “Art in the Flesh”.
“Well, the guy takes pictures of naked people… and this is a ‘Bring Spencer Tunick to Israel’ party, so, you know…” Jim winks at me. “We need to persuade him to come…”
“No, I don’t know. What does that mean?”
“Well, let’s just say I’m sure we’ll be checking our clothes in at the front door.”
“Don’t worry if you don’t have on your best lingerie. All undergarments are included in the mandatory stripping.”
“Mandatory stripping?” I echo nervously.
“Don’t you just love it when the dress code isn’t formal?” Jim smiles, as we reach the entrance of the club. The guard asks to see his invitation and Jim begins to unbutton his shirt. The guard reaches his arms out towards me and I grab his wrist firmly, “These are staying on!” I warn, pointing to my outfit.
He gives me a puzzled look. “Hey, what you do is none of my business, but I’m just checking for weapons!” He moves his scanner across me before letting me in, and then scanning me with his eyes, whispers, “But I’ll gladly help you with your clothes later.”
Exasperated, I zoom past Jim (who’s removed his pants and is about to remove his Homer Simpson boxer shorts when a guard threatens to use his stun gun if he doesn’t get dressed) and enter a large, elegant looking bar, which, to my relief, features fully dressed guests sitting on stools and at tables. Everyone’s waiting for the premiere showing of Spencer’s movie “A Naked World” to begin. I grab a cocktail and set out to find the organizers of this party.
It turns out that the organizers are actually a group of third year communications students at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzaliya (IDC), who for their end-of the- year project, chose to use Spencer Tunick and his work to “rebrand” Israel and show the country in a whole new light. Using Twitter, Facebook, and launching their own website—undressingisrael.com—the daring group of students are determined to show Israel as artistic, young, exciting and hip. They want the country to go down in history for something other than politics, bombings and wars.
I wonder if suggesting that thousands of naked Jews follow the path of Jesus on the Via Dolorosa or pose clothe-less at David’s Citadel won’t incite the Keepers of the Faith in the Knesset and on the streets to simply create more political turmoil and conflict?
“Why Spencer Tunick?” I ask one of the organizers.
She explains that posing in the nude is actually sending a message that everyone should feel comfortable with there bodies. “We need to strip off all our outer masks, and just be ourselves,” she tells me.
“Why?” I naively ask.
It’s obviously the questions she’s been waiting for. “So we see that under it all, we’re not that much different from other people. We’ve all got the same body parts,” she adds brightly. This is less of a revelation to me than she would like. I explain that as the daughter of a sexologist, I’ve heard that line before. I, for one, am all for loving one’s body and feeling comfortable with it. But does that necessarily mean flaunting it?
“That’s just it,” someone chimes in. “It’s a graphic depiction of the primal state of Man as he/she was meant to be. We’re not flaunting, we’re recreating the spirit of Adam and Eve! The pre-fig innocence of God’s creation.”
“Does that mean that if Spencer comes to Israel you’d all strip for the cameras?”
“Absolutely!” comes the resounding answer from those around me. It seems our little talk had attracted quite as following.
“That’s the whole idea. For everyone to get naked,” Jim intones in the background.
“So you’d all take off your clothes along side your parents? Ex-boyfriends? The girl you have a crush on? Your teacher?” I ask in all innocence.
This time no one answers.
“Sure,” one man, with long dreadlocks and handlebars finally pipes up. “In front of anyone. I’m part of a nudist colony, and since the very first day I took my clothes off, I found it so liberating, so rejuvenating and sincere, that I just wish we’d all be naked all the time.”
I try to imagine a world without clothes. It’s not a pretty sight. Clothes are often designed to hide the ravages of time and double-chocolate desserts. And what about that famous saying, “Clothes make the man!” If that’s true, then what does it mean when a man doesn’t wear clothes? Is he more of a man? Less of a man?
A young, female, potential stripper leans into me. “Imagine a gorgeous hunk that won’t give you the time of day, except to ask you if his hair’s in place, stripping for one of Spencer’s projects. Now you seem him naked, his muscles gleaming in the sun, and all he’s got is a teeny, weenie, weenie. Stripping is the great equalizer. You can’t hide anything, no matter what kind of façade you want to create.”
“I’m really disappointed in the turn-out,” Jim whispers from behind me. I turn to him.
“You mean because so few people showed up?”
“No, I mean that they all showed up dressed. I don’t get what we’re all here for.”
I roll my eyes. “Don’t worry Jim, the night is young,” I say, encouragingly.
I turn back to the crowd of students and ask: “Does the small turnout mean people don’t support what you’re doing? Or do they just not know about it?”
“I don’t think Israelis are actually familiar with Spencer Tunick” one student points out. “Part of our mission is to introduce the work of Spencer to Israelis. True, things take a while to catch on here, but when they do….”
Just then, the film starts. Most frames conclude with a bunch of people stripping for the camera. I wonder if Spencer actually does this for a form of art, voyeurism, or just a base attempt at getting famous. And would he himself strip down for the camera, for the sake of “art”?
As much as the men at the party insist that watching naked women parade around has no sexual meaning for them, I notice that throughout the movie whenever a good-looking naked woman is shown, men stop in mid-conversation, snap their heads up at the screen, and intently “concentrate”. I wonder if these are the same guys who claim they only buy Playboy for the articles.
For me, it’s a little hard to find the “art” in all this nudity. A bunch of naked people turning every which way on command, actually gives me an uneasy sense of déjà vu, reminding me of some very troubling images from the Holocaust. I wonder how Spencer, rumored to be Jewish himself, sees his subjects?
After speaking to about a dozen people who seemed to intellectualize the whole nudity scene, I finally met someone who seemed to have an honest take on why to get naked in front of a camera.
“For the thrill of it!” she says, passionately. “For the experience of being part of something big and exciting and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Like bungee jumping.”
Hmmm. As simple as her answer is I can relate to her passion for doing something different, daring, and perhaps a little rebellious.
On the one hand, I like the idea of freeing yourself from society’s norms and your own inhibitions—of baring all.
But on the other hand, aren’t there other, possibly better ways to express our freedom? And isn’t wearing clothes actually a very personal way to define yourself? By removing our outer garb, are we necessarily revealing our true inner selves, or are we actually just becoming one of the masses – stripping free from all sense of modesty and humility? By doing something global, are we representing Israel in the best light, or just telling the world “Look! Jews in a Jewish State can get naked too!”
Or is that actually the point?
Glancing at Jim from the corner of my eye, watching him try to persuade two women to demonstrate how they would pose for Spencer, I realize I’m not so sure bringing this genre to Israel is such a great idea. But raising the issue is.
So, what do you think? If you were offered a chance to give Israel it’s 15 minutes of cultural fame, would you be willing to strip down, bare all and shout “Halleluyah?”
January 28, 2010 | 12:27 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
“Come again?” I blurt out, choking on my wine as it splashes out of my mouth and all over the place. I turn to my date, propped up on the bar stool next to me. “I probably didn’t hear you correctly. Because I thought you said the story starts with you and TWO women.”
It’s only our second date, and here I thought we’re still at the harmless anecdotes stage. Silly me. After two cups of whiskey, my over confident date obviously feels the need to impress me on a whole new level…
“Now I’m afraid to tell you the story,” says my date, nervously handing me some napkins while I try to find an elegant way to wipe the wine off my face. “I mean, the story is about TWO girls…but I don’t want you to get upset or anything.”
“Not at all!” I lie through smiling teeth, trying to calculate the precise route my fist would take to his face.
“Oh, okay,” the idiot breathes a sigh of relief. “I was beginning to think you’re some sort of prude.”
“Me? No way! I’m not shocked or horrified at all!” I ramble. “Why settle for one when you can get two?! In fact, why would you settle for two when you could probably get a whole handful of women…” at this point my date is beaming proudly, and I think even flexing his muscles, convinced I believe him to be nothing short of a Greek God. I quickly raise my glass in the air, “to hell with monogamy!” and gulp down the remainder of my wine.
That’s when the laughing starts. No, I’m not the one laughing, and neither is Mr. Porn Star here. Rather, a very tipsy woman sitting two seats away from him is laughing so hard, tears are beginning to well up in her eyes.
Is she laughing at us? Sure, she’s looking at us, and true, she’s even pointing at us while snickering something in Russian… but—what could she possibly find funny about our conversation?
“You guys are so cute!” she says in a thick, Russian accent, and raises her glass to cling against ours. She winces at the sound, which is clearly too loud for her inebriated state of mind. I’m guessing she’s somewhere in her thirties, although it’s hard to tell with all the make-up she’s wearing. I note the thick layer of mascara weighing down her eyelids, as she squints, attempting to focus her gaze on us. Then she places her available hand on my date’s shoulder to steady herself. “You’re like two angels… in love… bless you!” she hiccups, and awkwardly leans over to kiss his cheek. That I could deal with, but then she reaches out an arm, grabs me by the sleeve and pulls me in for a big wet one. The alcohol fumes mixed with her cheap perfume are more than my nostrils can bare, and I bashfully try to pry her lips away from my cheeks. Plus, I wouldn’t want Hulio here to get any ideas.
“Thanks…. I guess. Bless you too!” I reply, pretending it isn’t weird at all that she’s now holding my hand and caressing it endearingly in her perfectly manicured hands. My date can’t stop grinning.
“Such angels!” she reaches over to pinch both our cheeks and shouts out, “Merry Christmas and a Happy Purim!” and breaks out into a laughing fit once again.
I notice a half empty vodka bottle along with a bunch of shot glasses placed in front of her on the bar.
“How long are you in Israel for?” I ask, figuring she’s a lonely tourist in need of some company.
“11 years,” she burps out, and downs another two shots then proceeds to blow kisses, accompanied by a gust of alcohol fumes, in our direction. I fidget uneasily, unsure which of us were intended to be the recipient of her kisses, and debating which alternative makes me more uncomfortable.
“Oh,” I reply, holding my breath. “I didn’t realize you actually live here. What do you do for a living?”
“I am nice Jewish Girl,” she answers, seeming like she might fall off the stool any moment. Then she winks. “I am prostitute.”
We both laugh. Mainly because we figure that’s some sort of Russian joke we didn’t get due to her broken English. But realizing we aren’t taking her seriously, she immediately sobers up, and stops swaying long enough to say: “No, really. See?” and just like, she rips open her shirt, revealing a very provocative push-up bra underneath. And just to prove how comfortable she is, she chuckles, and reaches for another shot.
Horrified, I look from the half naked woman to my date, who I could swear is actually drooling. He tries to call for the bartender, but his panting tongue is getting in the way of his speech, and he reverts to clumsily snapping his fingers. The bartender races over, whiskey bottle in hand, and stops short at the sight of our topless companion.
“Whoa!” he says delightedly, “I see you guys have really opened up to each other!” and without lifting his gaze from her chest holds out the bottle towards us, nearly hitting my escort in the face with it, and asks, “top you off?” My date nods vigorously and finally I lean over and angrily force his jaw closed.
“Aren’t you cold?” I ask her gently, trying to figure out the best strategic approach to closing her shirt for her, as she ripped off most of the buttons. But the woman is simply sitting there, erect and proud, seeming very pleased with herself. Then she bursts into giggles again and gulps down another shot.
I’m already planning on giving her my jacket, I’m imagining pulling out my sofa bed for her, adopting her to my family and friends, and helping her find a more dignified job, where she can utilize and fulfill her hidden talents. Of the other kind…
But my one-woman rescue mission is abruptly cut-short when a sleazy-looking man she seems to recognize approaches the bar, and tells her it’s time to go. Before I can react, she and her breasts hop off the stool, and waves merrily to me, zigzagging towards the entrance with the man’s arm wrapped around her waist.
“Some gal, huh?” the bartender turns to us, smiling from ear to ear. My date smiles back, and if I didn’t think he was classy enough, tops it off with a whistle.
I’m not sure what’s more disturbing, the scenario I have just witnessed, or the nonchalant reactions from the members of the opposite sex, who clearly feel they have gained dinner AND a show. Either way, I’m so shocked, I can barely blink.
“What’s the matter?” my Apollo asks me, un-phased by the fact that the woman didn’t wander off with me, her future foster home, but rather with her future client.
“She’s going to work now,” I whisper miserably.
“Aw, stop worrying about it. She chose her work. Didn’t she seem happy enough to you?”
Could he be right? I mean, otherwise, why was she laughing? Had she simply had too much to drink? Or maybe she was laughing at my innocence? At my naïve outlook which led me to be shocked by a ménage-a-trois story.
I look at the empty shot glasses on the bar, I sniff at the remainder of her perfume fragrance still looming in the air, and notice a shirt button on the stool where she was sitting. I bite my lip as a daunting realization crosses over me.
“What is it?” my date asks, and when I don’t respond, folds his arms in frustration. “Are you still upset about the story with the two women?”
I shake my head and flash him my most reassuring, yet completely fake, smile. I giggle nervously, trying to swallow back my tears.
I finally understand why the woman seemed so chipper. It wasn’t the alcohol, or because we were funny. She wasn’t happy at all. The only reason she was laughing, was simply so she wouldn’t cry.
January 5, 2010 | 3:18 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
An actress has many faces, but they’re not just for getting into character. They’re for living life.
Last Thursday, I put on my party face and set out to celebrate the New Year in Tel Aviv’s most happening scene, the Namal (harbor). But I hadn’t prepared myself for the zoo-like atmosphere, and even the incessant pushing of my 8 siblings didn’t prepare me for the likes of the mob trying to squish it’s way through the over-crowded night club doors. I was debating if any New Year’s party is worth losing 3 toes for, when out of the mass of humanity a strong hand offers me support. I grab the lifeline and find a tall, handsome man attached to it, and the crowd becomes background noise.
“You look like you could use another pair of elbows!” Prince Charming yells, and before I can react, he grabs me by the waist. Then he turns to the bouncer and tells him, confidently, “She’s with me. Right, doll?”
“Oh,” I say, discretely returning my pepper spray into my pocket. “Sure.”
2010, here I come! I think to myself as the bouncer parts the sea in front of us, allowing my Gallant Knight and I to enter the club. This is my lucky night! If only I’d known that I wasn’t the only one getting through the barricade. Good ol’ Murphy entered right behind me, determined to follow me into the new decade.
It isn’t long after we all shout “Happy New Year!” that I realize I have little to smile about—My wallet is missing. At first, determined not to give up my cool façade, I continue to dance nonchalantly, as my eyes frantically scan the crowded floor for my wallet. A woman in a state of panic is not a pretty sight. Which might explain why I had no trouble enlisting the help of hundreds of party-goers who went on all-fours, searching for my wallet. A few guys even offered to lift me above the crowd so I could get a better look at the dance floor, but I wasn’t sure about their “helpful hands”.
Okay, no big deal, I think logically. I’ll just make a couple of phone calls to cancel the credit cards. But of course, as I step out of the club to make the call, Murphy’s hot on my heels, and true to his style, my phone battery dies before I can dial. I almost forget to say good-bye to my disappointed date, who apologizes for not bringing along his white horse and chariot to give me a ride in, but quickly stuffs a 200 shekel bill into my pocket for the cab-fare home.
During the next twenty minutes I learn there’s no such thing as a vacant taxi on Sylvester, so I prepare for the mile and a half walk home – in heels.
“Listen,” I say out loud, turning to my invisible partner (for life?), “As much as I love companionship, don’t you ever take the night off?!”
HIS answer comes fast and furious.
The first morning of 2010 begins with a practical joke. My alarm clock decides to ring every half hour starting 4 AM. By 7, I rush out of bed, realizing that I’d better run to the bank so I have some cash until the new credit cards arrive. My philosophy is anything can be fixed with a good cup of coffee and cake, but of course the ants have gotten to the cake, and I forgot to buy milk yesterday. Never mind, I try to convince myself, It’s just a chance to start off the new Year with a new habit. I’ll go all out and make French toast. Too bad that only after attempting to crack the egg into the batter for the third time, do I remember the brilliant idea I had last week – to hard-boil all my eggs. It works out for the best, since a minute later my alarm clock rings again, causing me to jump up in surprise and spill the batter all over the place. I’ll just go buy a falafel!
“I’m afraid to go to the pool,” I confess to my sister over the phone, walking back from the bank whose brand-new policy is to be closed Fridays – starting today. “With the luck I’m having, I’d probably drown in the Dead Sea, never mind the swimming pool.” I’m frantically licking Tahini off my fingers, as the bottom of my pita rips open and the falafel balls race down the street. “And don’t get me started on all the things that can go wrong in the shower. Ever see Psycho?”
“Tiferet, you let one little event drag along an unnecessary chain reaction,” my sister points out in her usual logical fashion. “If fate was out to get you, a tree would fall on you in the middle of the street. What you have to do is think positive and the universe will reward you with good things. Who knows? Your wallet may even turn up.”
“Easy for you to say,” I retort. “Now that you’ve put the notion of a tree falling on me, how do I know the universe hasn’t heard you and is working on it as we speak?”
“Look at the up-side. With the money your shining knight gave you you’ll get through the weekend until the bank opens. And you’ll have your new credit card before you know it. So slap on a happy face and—“
“That’s just it,” I reply. “It’s bad enough dealing with the money loss, but all my membership cards were in my wallet. I dread to think what someone may be doing with my face!”
I’m normally a pretty optimistic person, I always try to roll with the punches, constantly adapting myself and switching my “masks” to fit the scene. But at this point, preparing for the worst seemed like the right tactic.
Only it wasn’t. I made an instant switch from my glum mask to my happy one when I received the call that my wallet had been found. Happiness leads to happiness and my White Knight called, asking me out on a date.
I grin, and turn to my imaginary side-kick. “Wearing you down, am I?”
After picking up my wallet, I’m so caught up in the euphoria of how everything has turned out for the best, how my sister may be right, and thinking positive makes the energy of the universe work in your favor, that I forget to worry about what can go wrong. As soon as I skip gleefully out of the building and onto the pavement, my right foot makes solid contact with a pile of not-so-solid dog-shit.
Crap! If I weren’t so busy “thinking positive”, I would’ve remembered to look a step ahead and prepare myself for the universe’s sense of humor.
Undaunted, I try to cheer myself up by going to a grocery store to buy a nice cool drink. I reach into my wallet to find I only have a few coins left.
“How much?” I ask the cashier, holding my breath and the bottle, hopefully.
“8 shekel,” she replies.
I spill the coins onto the counter and quickly add them up. To my utter disbelief, I have exactly the right amount. It seems the laws of universe and the laws of Murphy are fighting over me. Whether I’m in for the “worst of times” or the “best of times” I realize I should prepare to be surprised in 2010.
The teller, noticing I have exactly 8 shekels in small change, gasps excitedly and says: “Wow! This must be your lucky day!” She leans over and smiles knowingly: “You’d better go fill out a lottery form this instant!”
“I would,” I answer. “Except that I just gave you my last shekels.”
I grab my drink as Murphy and I make our way back home to scrub some shit out of my shoes. We’ve got a date to prepare for, with a guy who makes me want to throw away my pepper spray.
Not that I will. I don’t trust Murphy. Or the universe.
As far as I’m concerned, I wear my poker face from here on in!
December 31, 2009 | 3:26 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
There I was, walking by the famous Rabin Square, in Tel Aviv Israel, and what do I see? You guessed it. A man trapped in a huge ice cube waving to his father.
Really, I’m not kidding. Hezi Dean is one of the few magicians in Israel practicing “extreme magic”, and he’s out to break the Guinness book of world records, hoping to remain in his frozen cube for 65 hours, well into the beginning of 2010. If he succeeds, he’ll have broken David Blaine’s record, in 2000. He stayed in the frozen cube in Times Square, New York for “only” a little more than 63 hours – and had to be rushed to the hospital with extreme frost bite, among other things.
Standing in front of this humongous piece of ice I can’t help but think. Now THAT’S a New Years resolution. I look into Hezi’s puppy-brown eyes and I realize what it must take to really put your resolution to practice. He looks miserable and lonely, and I can only imagine how tired he is, how hungry he is (plenty to drink though as long as he can wait out the Israeli sun) in the cubicle. That’s one determined guy, bringing in 2010 with an extreme accomplishment.
I too, have big plans for 2010. Actually, after reviewing last years New Years Resolution, I’m disappointed to learn how little I have to change off my list.
1. Catapult acting Career – still going strong…
2. Improve personal life – I’m not complaining, but can I meet at least one guy with most of his marbles?
3. Learn to love Sushi – the closest I’ve got to it is loving Sake (Japanese wine).
Although I feel closer than ever to most of my goals, I wonder, how many of us start off the New Year with the re-resolutions of last year?
Just then my phone rings. It’s my parents, on speaker.
“Are you going to a party for New Years?” “Will you be out very late?” “I hope you don’t intend to kiss a stranger!”
I take a deep breath and grin. “Hi guys, yes, since I’m not 90 I probably will be partying tonight, and I probably will be out late, and kissing strangers only happens in the movies.”
“Well,” my Mother begins, “we just wanted to make sure you don’t let anyone walk you home. And if they ask to come in for a glass of water, bring them the water to the door.”
“To the door!” my father echoes, sternly. “We don’t mean to be over-bearing,” my father apologizes. “It’s just, since you’ve started writing your blog we just don’t know what to expect from you anymore.”
“My goodness,” adds my mother, “It’s hard to believe all those things actually happen to you. Aren’t you a little young to be gallivanting around like that?”
I know, I’m a little old for this stuff, but they do it anyway. The fact that I’ve been independent and out of the house since I’m 18, or the fact that I live in a different city, doesn’t seem to matter, or keep them from waiting up for me. As far as they’re concerned, I should always bring a coat, be home by curfew and cover up that cleavage!
Some things never change.
And as I prepare for the new calendar date, I wonder what I have to do to make sure the goals on my list next year will be different. My way of achieving goals has always been to push forward, think ahead and work hard. Yet here, Hezi is about to conquer a new year’s resolution AND break a record by literally—freezing in place.
We may both have the same focused mind-set, but we have totally different ideas on how to achieve them. I can’t imagine getting ahead in life unless I’m constantly on the go. But maybe Hezi’s got the right idea, because while I’m still working on my “old year’s resolution” he’ll (hopefully) bring in 2010 with a world record.
Everyone has there own way of doing things, and those mindsets are hard to change. My parents will always worry if I’m eating enough, well rested, and wearing a chastity ring. But somewhere along the line they made a resolution to stop calling to “check on me” when I’m on a date.
So maybe what I need is a little more patience, a little more faith if you will. Maybe what I need to learn is that sometimes standing still is better than rushing headlong forward. It gives your dream time to catch up to you.
I’ll let you think about that while I go try some sushi. 33’rd time’s the charm.
So happy New Year. Sylvester Sameach! Or “Have it your way!” May you resolve all your resolutions.
Or maybe, just wait and they’ll resolve themselves.
December 30, 2009 | 4:51 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
The room is small, dimly lit by lavender scented candles whose glow adds to the warm cozy feeling engulfing me as the gentle harmony of nature’s sounds wafts through the—
“Okay, now please take off your clothes,” the woman gently, but firmly, commands. Uh oh, I’ve done it again, I tell myself. When they advertised, “Treat yourself to a new you. You’ll feel born again,” I didn’t know they meant it literally.
“What?” I turn to her, simultaneously looking around for the hidden camera.
“If you like, I’ll leave the room while you undress,” she says soothingly, a little grin spreading across her face. I suddenly imagine her as the co-star of a girl-on-girl x-rated film. But here’s one time I’m not looking to be a leading lady.
“Does everyone have to get naked for a facial?” I ask, reluctantly stripping.
“No. We give young actresses preferential treatment, so that later we can sell their pictures to the Paparazzi.”
I freeze, unsure if she’s kidding or not, and just in case make a dash for the paper-thin covers atop the treatment bed.
“Is this your first time?” she asks, amused. I’m nervously hoping we’re both referring to the same thing.
I feel there are many milestones I’ve missed out on as a woman. “Getting Ready” is one of them. When my sisters and I are getting dressed for an event, I’m always embarrassed to say “ready” when only five minutes have passed. I can never quite figure out what I’m supposed to do for so long. Many are the times I’ve simply locked myself in the bathroom and read a good book while telling my family, “Don’t rush me, I’m putting on my face.” Yes, I know, a whole new dimension to “two-faced.” And nails – pedicure, manicure – if only people knew that my technique for applying nail polish is simply paint the whole toe, then wipe off the excess polish around the nail.
That’s why I came to this “Sima’s Super Spa!”. I wanted desperately to fulfill another right of passage into womanhood—The Facial.
“Yeah, this is my first facial,” I point out, making sure she knows what I’m here for. “How’d you know?” I ask curiously.
She pulls up a chair and starts talking to my feet. “A lucky guess,” she says dryly, “and you’re lying down in the wrong direction. Head goes in here,” she points to where I have my toes safely curled in a little pillow hole, and I clumsily, switch directions (under the covers).
“Oops. I’m not so good at this,” I apologize. “I was traumatized when I was twelve. My Mom made me go to a nail torturer. My virgin cuticles were never the same. I couldn’t play piano for days, and my psychologist says I’m the first person he’s met with cuticle phobia – I see a manicurist and I sit on my hands.”
“So what made you decide to be so brave now?” she asks, reaching for what I’m sure are restraints.
“Well, I’ll be flying to the USA soon for a few auditions, and I figured I’ll indulge myself.”
Then she lights up. “Since we’re preparing you for close-ups of you face, I’d like to recommend a very unique treatment, geared especially for public figures in front of the camera. Even Angelina Jolie does it!” and she takes out a photograph of Angie walking out of a beauty salon with the caption “FACE OFF”, and a one liner explaining the exquisite facial treatment Angelina regularly goes through to look her best.
Staring at the clipping, I begin to worry that maybe she wasn’t kidding about selling pictures to the paparazzi.
The beautician winks at me, “See, there’s a reason Angie looks so young. But we can have you looking like that in no time.”
“But I am young. I even got carded last night.”
“That’s the worst. People who feel young. Don’t you know that the skin begins aging at 12 or 13? If you don’t take care of yourself you’ll be all wrinkles before your first facelift.”
Wrinkles? Facelift? I wince, touching my face self-consciously. People have been telling me lately how much I look like my Grandmother. I look at the tabloid clipping again. Well. If it’s good enough for Angie…
“Okay,” I comply, “what do we do?”
“First we take this little brush with these metal bristles,” she demonstrates excitedly, caressing my arm with the steel fingers. “We move it along your face, which tightens it, and fills in the wrinkles. It’s called undulating the epidermis.”
“Umm, so is that at all related to Botox?”
She winks at me. “And for only 2000 shekels you can look like Angie’s younger sister. Ah, but what’s the price for beauty?”
That’s just what I was thinking. Whatever happened to that natural look?
“On second thought, my wrinkles give me character. Let’s just go with the regular facial.”
She sighs, only slightly disappointed. I’m glad because I wouldn’t want to get the person who’s changing my face angry.
She begins with a “face scrub”, which seems to be a special foam mixed with gravel so that it scratches up your face nice and evenly. Then “peeling”, which believe it or not, really is designed to peel your face off. I think it would’ve been more humane to use a vegetable peeler. She then spends the next ten minutes rubbing in ‘special creams’—which all smell suspiciously like hair mousse.
Just when I’m sure I can relax again, because all this pain must be a sign that it’s almost over, out comes the magnifying glass. I let out a little yelp, remembering what my mother said about the dermatologists in her day who used a magnifying glass to squeeze out blackheads and pimples. Ugh! How primitive can you get?
And she promptly proceeds to pinch, squeeze, nip and pick my face. Black heads. Gone. Pimples (Not that I have any). Gone. Eyebrows. Gone. Face. Gone
“Is it supposed to burn so much?” I ask, trying to blow on my cheek.
“Shh…. It means it’s working. Now just lean back and enjoy the pampering,” she forces my eyelids shut. Maybe it is working, since I notice I can no longer blink voluntarily.
That’s when she puts a net around my face, and has me hold a strange metal rod.
“Just hold that, and don’t worry about a thing. It’s just to complete the electrical circuit.”
I force open my eyes and look at her. “Electrical –???“
Zap! I swear she giggled as my whole body convulsed in response to the “magnet” electrifying my face. Between the humming sound and the zapping sound, I begin empathizing with those mosquitoes we treat so unjustly.
“Okay, now we’re just about done, and it’s time for your face massage,” she says, smoothing down my long hair, which is so loaded with static it’s no longer touching the ground, but actually pointing towards the near wall.
True to form, she rubs a burning cream into what’s left of my original face, holding me down with her elbows. I get the disturbing sensation that someone’s just smeared a whole tube of mint toothpaste onto my face.
“How do you feel?” she asks, as she helps me sit up.
“Did you catch the license of the truck that hit me?” I say miserably. “Is the plastic surgeon still on this floor?” The witch laughs.
“Wow! You’re positively glowing!” she lies. “You look like a million dollars, if I dare to toot my own horn.” And she hands me a mirror.
I look at my reflection: Red, blotchy, with net marks scorched into my skin. Not to mention my hair is higher than Marge’s (of the Simpson’s).
“Will I ever be able to wink again?” I ask hopefully.
“I guess you are a little red,” she admits, lowering her voice. “But you know, our face is just the mirror of our soul. So you must be a very special person if your face is so sensitive.”
My soul isn’t sensitive, it’s just blushing, looking at my new face. However, I’m about to give her a piece of my “sensitive” mind, when she pre-empts me, saying, “Or maybe, you should’ve splurged for the Angelina Jolie treatment.”
I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to take the rich and famous treatment. When I think of it, I have to hand it to Angie—she’s got a hell-of-a-threshold for pain.
December 29, 2009 | 6:40 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
Several readers have recently written to me, complaining that my posts of late have been a little too “serious” for them, and can I go back to telling about the “humorous” aspects of my life?
My apologies. I guess I really shouldn’t let a celebrity death, the Holocaust, or the “loaded” topic of guns get to me….
What’s interesting is that when I write about world news – everyone complains that there’s nothing funny about what’s happening “out there”. Yet, apparently, the more calamities I encounter, the more I spill my guts about all the scary, overwhelming, outrageous things that happen to me in my life—well, that seems to make for good (funny) entertainment.
Talk about Schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others)!!
Here’s a case in point: I needed to come up with some material for a standup comedy audition, and realizing that the casting directors (there were three) might share some of my readers’ outlook on Schadenfreude, I opted against the topic of world news or even Israel news, and instead decided to focus on the multifarious mishaps of my life. You know, like how my 8 siblings (almost) look up to me, how my religious Mom became a certified (certifiable?) sexologist (and why), and the many types of strange (as in nuts) people I meet (my last date introduced me to BOTH his personalities).
Anyway, they loved me. “You’re hilarious,” says the tall, lanky director. “Most women performers are bitter, angry singles, dreaming of castrating all men.”
“I’m not like other women,” I quickly retort. Then, thinking I might have made a mistake I just as quickly add, “Although I once dreamt that all my brothers were walking around the house in drag. But just give me a few more months in the big city and I promise I’ll try my best to become a man-hater too.”
After no more than a moment’s deliberation, the panel returned with their decision. I could see by their smiles that they were ready to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
“You were great out there,” the short, bald director began, “and you’ve got impeccable timing. Actually, you’re one of the best novices we’ve ever had here. Sooooo, we’d-like-to-offer-you-an-opportunity-to-enroll-in-our-stand-up-comedy-course. With a little more tweaking….”
There’s a sucker born every minute. Here I thought I was auditioning for a TV show showcasing comic talent and all along it was just a front for another of those comic(al) courses.
Reminds me of the time I went shopping and the well-dressed saleslady enthusiastically told me “You’ve just got to buy that outfit! You look terrific in it!” She ought to know, right? I felt on top of the world as I walked out with $500 worth of maternity clothes, which she guaranteed would shrink in the wash.
Or take that health food teller who talked me into buying “body booster” vitamins, guaranteed to guard me from all illnesses except bacterial ones, the flu, and the common cold.
Okay, maybe not every person selling something really has my best interest at heart. But I swear you’ll never find cheaper tires than the four I bought at yesterday’s tire sale. I’m storing them until I buy a car.
So after telling all three casting directors what they could do with their comedy course, on the way back from the phony audition, I stopped at the sportswear store to get a new pair of jogging shoes. I figured I’d treat myself. Guess what! It turned out to be my lucky day! No, I didn’t get the shoes (I wasn’t buying anything that wasn’t on sale) but they had the most unbelievable One-Day Only Crazy Moishie Sale on skis. And, wait ‘til you hear this: They threw in a toboggan for 70% off the retail price!
I can hardly wait until the next snow in Tel Aviv.