Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
I heard about it a little after midnight, Sunday Night. I was catching up on the daily online news, when one of the Israeli sites I normally visit, reported the tragedy: Britney Murphy had passed away a few hours ago from cardiac arrest, in Los Angeles.
My first thought is, this is Israel, what do we know? And immediately I set out to get the “real” news, from news sites across the globe. To my surprise, almost every online newspaper was reporting the same; the young actress died this morning after apparently going into cardiac arrest in the shower. She was 32.
I still can’t wrap my mind around it. How does someone so young go into cardiac arrest out of the blue? While I’m still trying to get over the shock, I’m even more surprised when I start scrolling down the “comments” random readers have posted, in response to the articles.
The news of the Murphy’s death is still “hot off the press” and already the rumors have begun. Although many do express their sorrow, most readers seem busy lambasting the mysterious circumstances of the young actresses’ death.
“Well what do you expect, eating a cucumber for breakfast lunch and dinner will do that to you,” one ‘fan” comments. Another adds, “so do drugs.”
In fact, hundreds of people seemed to have the time to post their thoughts on the speculated drug addiction, to the rumored Bulimia Murphy may have had.
Why is everyone awake now? I wonder, and doesn’t anyone have anything better to do than badmouth a young actress who has barely crossed over to the other side yet??
But I suppose that when bad things happen in America, we still feel it strongly in Israel. And when bad things happen to famous people, it strikes a cord with any average Joe.
A few days ago a friend of mine was trying to discourage me from continuing my acting career.
“Tiferet,” he had said. “Don’t you see how it always ends? The higher you climb, the bigger the fall. Don’t you see how all the big stars end up?”
I tried to argue that “making it big” did not necessarily mean “making it bad”. But it was a hard point to argue after he brought in the examples of Tiger Woods’ infidelity, Heath Ledgers mysterious death, Lindsay Lohans’ eating disorders as well as the many actors who continue to fight a drug addiction, if they haven’t already Over-Dosed. Even in Israel, many of my actor friend grapple with the challenges of “making it to the top”, and others simple can’t handle the pressure at the summit, and crack.
Is the price of Success worth it? Does it always have to end with Divorce, or Rehab or mysterious deaths? Are the Rich and Famous doomed?
I don’t’ know how Britney Murphy died. But I know she was much too young. By any standard.
I’d like to think her death has nothing to do with all these rumors. That her early stardom was not the obstacle of her mortality. That no one is untouchable, including celebrities. Simple tragedies happen to them too, and that’s all there is to it. I’d like to think that all the vicious rumors revolving around Murphys death have no basis and are nothing more than a tabloid stunt to sell more papers.
I’d like to think we lost a wonderful actress, but there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it. Who could predict cardiac arrest? She could never have seen it coming.
Or so I’d like to think…. So I think tomorrow, I just won’t buy the morning paper….
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December 17, 2009 | 4:44 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
I’ll never forget my first Hanukkah in Los Angeles. It was beautiful. All the colorful lights, the festive atmosphere, people rushing to buy last-minute gifts, the backed-up, gridlock traffic – it all reminded me of Hanukkah in Israel.
True, instead of eating Jelly-filled doughnuts, people were stocking up on fruit cake, and the eight lights of the Menorah took a back-seat to the dozens of brightly lit globes that were strewn all over the Christmas trees, not to mention the metamorphosis of brave Judah and his mighty Maccabees into an elderly, deep-voiced, white-bearded guy in a red suit and his funny looking elves. But still, there was no denying this was a season of miracles, a time to rejoice and celebrate.
And though I knew that the Holiday being celebrated was not my own, I was caught up in the electric, festive atmosphere. I even remember buying Hershey Kisses with wrappers specially decorated for Christmas and getting a feeling I was living out an old childhood fantasy.
Like many Anglo-Israelis, growing up in Israel I always had the sense I was missing out on something. After all, there were all these great Christmas cartoons we always heard of, but never saw. And although I always loved my 8 nights of dreidle fun, chocolate gelt, and special Hanukkah presents, I couldn’t help but feel that waking up at 5:00 AM to HUNDREDS of presents piled high under a decorated tree was really the way to go. What wouldn’t I give to have my very own giant stocking stuffed with Candy.
America knows how to PR a Holiday. Most Israeli TV stations give a passing nod to the Hanukkah Spirit. But American TV shows inundate their audiences with “Holiday Specials”. The episode will normally begin with people scrambling for the last gift on the shelf, and then something exciting happens, and it’s a whole adventure. And finally, the episode ends with a peaceful image of a family snuggling together around the fireplace, eating “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” (which I thought was very brave considering the fire regulations in most countries), and watching the snowflakes fall.
So I don’t know how to explain what happened when, during my first Hanukkah in LA, after my chestnuts had burnt in the toaster setting off my fire alarm, and after I finished wrapping gifts in the traditional green and red gift wrapper, I found I wasn’t as ecstatic as I thought I’d be. Something was missing. Lighting an 8-branch Menorah without my siblings—the horde of eight— and my parents noisily celebrating with me, didn’t have the holiday feel to it.
Christmas or Hanukkah, all around me the world was shouting “Family!” and mine was MIA.
So you can imagine my excitement to be in Israel this year and join the familiar, ecstatic and chaotic setting awaiting me at the traditional family HANUKKAH PARTY.
“I want to use the blue colored oil! Give it to me!”
“No, I’m saving it. I want to light blue oil every night!”
“Fine, if you don’t give me the blue oil, I’m gonna’ blow your candles out as soon as you light them!”
“Rainbow! I want rainbow oil!”
”I WANT RED CANDLES AND YELLOW OIL!”
I’m doing my best to suppress my urge to start a bonfire on the living room floor and throw all the candles and oils in it, as what seemed like hundreds of siblings and their thousands of kids try to get their act together. It’s not enough that the boxes of multi-colored candles the youngest kids are using cause constant friction, some bright guy got the idea to create different colored oil so that the older kids can fight too. And, of course, if it’s new, Mom buys it.
Someone shouts: “Kids! Don’t run around the table you’re gonna’ knock down the Hanukkah Menorahs!” I often think that the fact there are rarely any Hanukkah fires in Israel is just another one of those unspoken miracles of the Holiday.
I sneak off to the corner to hide. The table that holds all the Hannukiyot is placed in front of our double-glass doors, facing the bustling street, and I don’t want any passersby to recognize me. We deliberately place the table there so we could do “Pirsumay Denisah”, publicize the miracle of one drop of oil lasting eight days. But right now, I feel the only thing we’re publicizing are logical reasons for “safe sex” or THIS is what you get…
“Tiferet!” My 3 year old niece shouts out to me from somewhere in the house. “Can you come wipe me?”
Three flushes later, I’m trying to make my way back to the living room, but the path is lined with Rug-Rat obstacles.
I stub my toe on a toy, manage to remove a thorn from my nephews tongue (don’t ask how it got there), and scoop up a straying baby, only to find myself face to face to face with two nieces who are busily picking each other’s nose.
“Do I have to remind you of what Saba always says?” I say sternly, yanking on both their fingers while the baby is trying to pull them into his mouth. “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friends’ nose!”
“But we’re cousins!” the older one retorts, now trying to place an available finger in the baby’s nose.
“Fine, do what you want. I just don’t want you to end up like the kid I babysit for, who only has four fingers on one hand.”
My nieces look at me, a bit perplexed.
“It’s true,” I say solemnly. “The last time we saw his index finger it was up his sister’s nose. She warned him she was going to sneeze…. And, remember, you really need that finger to spin a dreidle with.”
After what seems like hours the entire family gathers in front of a formidable display of hand-made and machine-made Hanukiyot. The smell of Latkes and Sufganiyot envelop us, the nostalgic song of Maoz Tzur melodically strums my ear, and I’m basking in the warm glow of 16 Hanukkah menorahs burning bright.
Now this feels right, I say to myself.
I should really stop talking to myself. I think I give myself an “ayin harah” (the Evil Eye).
Suddenly, Moishie yells, “Hey! Look at that,” pointing. “The blue oil is almost reaching the ceiling!”
“My red one is up there too! It’s a Hanukkah miracle!” chimes in Chana.
Sure enough, the traditional bobbing point of light on the wicks of most of the Chanukiyot has somehow mushroomed into torches spreading their white hot fingers high up in the air. Two Chanukiyot are ablaze as fire flares from their wicks.
“What do we do?” I ask, alarmed. “The house will catch on fire!”
“But can you blow out the Hanukkah candles within a half hour of lighting them?” ponders Yitzi, our resident twelve year old scholar. He knows all the important laws of Hanukkah and even some that no one’s ever heard of.
My parents aren’t interested in a scholarly discussion. They’re frantically blowing on the two menorahs until they’re faces match the blue of the oil. They no sooner blow out one candle when it immediately explodes in a ball of light again, relit by the fireball of its neighbor.
“What’s going on here?” my father asks, amazed.
“It’s like those trick candles we had for my birthday!” shouts Tali.
“It’s the special colorful oil Bubby bought!!” exclaims Sauly.
My father picks up a bottle and reads Caution: Paraffin- Highly Flammable. Not to be used indoors. “Paraffin! Who bought paraffin for our menorahs?!”
“NOT ME!” fifty voices shout. Actually, only forty-nine. My mother is mum.
As all eyes shift to her.
“But everyone was buying it for Hanukkah,” Mom says sheepishly.
“Yes, but it can only be lit with special glass containers,” my father notes, a sudden realization dawning on him.
“Right,” my mother says. “That’s why I bought that small round glass menorah that no one’s using. So, where did YOU pour the oil into?” she asks accusingly.
Like the oil of the other menorah, my father turns a bright red.
“Step aside,” my brother, #7, declares. “I’ve been in the army, I’m trained for such situations.”
But he doesn’t succeed in blowing them out either. In fact, the flames are just growing bigger, and the room is filling up with smoke. Me and some other siblings join him, certain that our younger, stronger lungs can do the trick. But to no avail, and we aren’t even smokers.
In the background my nephew is crying, insisting we don’t blow out his Menorah, and that next time he promises he WILL share the oil.
“Let’s just pour water over it!” Shirley suggests.
“No, that’ the last thing we should do!” brother #3 argues. “Don’t you remember the French-Fry-Fire of 99?”
We all nod knowingly. Who could forget? We were frying French fries when somehow, for some reason, the pan went up in flames. We quickly poured water on the oil fire and BAROOM! the flames shot up into the air. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that my father was holding the deep-frying pan. Terrified, he let go and miraculously when the pan hit the ground the fire went out. He still has scars on his hand to remind him of that fateful day.
“Let’s just call the fire-department!” shouts #8, as the flames start to consume the menorah itself.
“By the time they come we’ll all be French fries,” someone shouts, causing some of the younger children to start crying.
Suddenly my Father picks up a burning Chanukiya and my older brother (the other one) picks up the second menorah and they race to the patio.
Our very own Maccabees.
Once outside, the immediate danger subsides, but the question still remains as to how to blow out these Hanukkah torches. The same brother tries stepping on the flames, and loses a shoe to the cause, although he manages to shatter most of the glass holders. My sister tries throwing sand on them, but that plan literally backfires as the Jerusalem winds cause the sand to fly in the opposite direction, and she spends the next ten minutes washing her eyes out.
It’s a group effort, but thanks to the resourcefulness of 12 yiddishe kops, and a series of wet towels, we finally manage to put out the fire.
Looking around, illuminated by the remaining 14 Menorahs burning, I’m grateful the story has ended so well, and every one’s safe and sound. I realize our Hanukkah is nowhere near ruined. After all, this was terrific entertainment for those who weren’t terrified, and I finally found my Holiday adventure, not to mention working up an appetite.
“Hey, don’t finish the sour-cream!”
“So don’t finish the Apple-sauce!”
“I need it for my art-project. Look! I melted a whole pack of Hanukkah candles onto a plate! Isn’t that creative?”
Christmas? Who needs Christmas? I’ve got lots of family, a Holiday filled with miracles, and—
“And you,” I turn to my boisterous niece, “Get your finger out of my nose!”
Yep. It’s good to be home. Safe and Secure.
Although I still have to wonder—Did anyone burn down a Christmas tree this year?
December 10, 2009 | 9:07 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
In acting school, you learn all sorts of techniques. But nothing really prepared me for the phone call I was about to make. Determined to get an audition that was supposedly “closed to the public”, I saw no choice but to call the producer and convince him it was worth his while to invite me to audition. I had to make this call before the Hanukkah vacation rush when he might go on vacation.
In business, this is called “Cold Calling”. In acting, this is called “potential suicide”, because many “big shots” of the industry don’t appreciate actors using unconventional methods to get their foot in the door. But I felt the casting directors would WANT to see me, so it was my responsibility to break down those doors.
I read somewhere that phone solicitors go through dozens (hundreds?) of “cold calls” to just get one successful sale. Unfortunately, I didn’t have hundreds of numbers to practice on. Just one. And I heard he wasn’t very nice guy.
So, after spending the past two days mentally preparing myself for the conversation (You’d be surprised at how many ways you can say “Hi, my name is Tiferet…), I was disappointed to learn that—when it came to actually calling – my fingers had a mind of their own and “did the walking” away from the phone. I was totally procrastinating. I volunteered to babysit my niece for an hour (any hour), agreed to go shopping with each of my eight siblings (only two took me up on it), and tried to stay out of my apartment as much as possible (which accounts for this blistering cold). Anything to buy me a little extra time to get my thoughts together.
“How about we play “Connect the Dots”? Or maybe we can do a puzzle together?” I plead with my niece, determined to avoid a replay of her headlong smash into the piano leg which left a red mark on her adorable cheek. I figured I could tell my sister I had kissed her there.
“Wheeee! I’m a dreidle!” she shouts in delight, as she spins herself around the living room. Round and round she goes and where she lands….“Nes Gadol Haya…“ she shrieks excitedly just twirling headlong towards the far wall. I chase after her trying to guard her with a sofa pillow to cushion her next collision. Seeing the pillow in front of her she turns and slams herself against my knee.
“Ouch!” I cry, empathizing with the sound of her collision with my knee. She cries for a second, then thinks better of it, and careens around the room looking for new dreidle adventures.
Who on earth made up the ridiculous tradition of spinning dreidles on Hanukkah in the first place? I don’t remember any mention of it in the Hanukkah story.
I watch as my niece abruptly stops and turns a pale shade of green. “Tiferet, I’m dizzy,” she says, and she sways towards me like a drunken midget sailor.
Great! I mumble under my breath, as she throws-up the ice cream, cookies, sufganiyot (Israeli doughnuts), and assorted M&Ms that seemed not to have melted in her mouth. She starts to shriek as I scoop her up in my arms and run to the bathroom. And we still have 8 more fundays of this.
For my niece, Hanukkah is all about fun. It’s a chance to trade in the celery sticks and high protein dinners for oil soaked latkes, and all sorts of goodies. And let’s not forget about the Hanukkah gelt (she won’t accept anything under 10 shekels), and of course, presents (she’s already asked me for a pet elephant—apparently hamsters are out of style).
But for those of us who need to maintain our day jobs and never experienced Hanukkah vacation as adults; for those of us who are spending the gelt instead of getting it; for those of us who gain 15 pounds over the holiday just smelling the sufganiyot—WHAT’S THE BIG ATTRACTION?
That’s it! I say to myself. Life’s too short (and Hanukkah’s too long!)! So, after equipping my energetic 3-year-old niece with a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and tying a small garbage bag around her waist just in case of up-chug emergencies, I pick up my cell phone and prepare to dial The Producer. But once again, I’m too scared to make the phone call. I’m afraid he’ll hang up on me, or get upset with me for calling him directly.
It’ll take nothing short of a miracle for me to finally make this phone call, I think to myself.
That’s when I realize what Hanukkah has going for it. Miracles. 8 days worth.
After the Greeks defiled the Holy Sanctuary, God made a miracle and saved the Jews at the last minute, and he gave them the miracle of finding pure oil when everything was profaned, and allowing the oil to burn for 8 days when there was only enough oil for one day, and….
But that was then. I get the feeling that back then God was in a much more miraculous mood.
How can modern men and women recognize miracles today? We all hope and pray for miracles, but when do we actually get to see them?
CRASH!!! My niece has twirled herself into the bookcase.
Here we go again, I think to myself, prepared to wedge her out from under the display of books that have toppled over her. But surprisingly, she shoves my helpful hand away, and digs herself out independently.
“I can do it by myself,” she says adamantly. “I’m a big girl!” and goes spinning away (I check to see that the garbage bag is still securely tied to her).
I’m reminded of something interesting I recently read. Although I know it’s a custom for Jews not to work during the first half hour of candle-lighting, I was surprised to learn that a specific emphasis is placed on the women being idle, and that there’s even a custom that women don’t work on the first and last day of Hanukkah.
Here’s an excerpt from THE BOOK OF OUR HERITAGE, by Eliyahu Kitov:
“The reason for particular emphasis of Chanukah observance on the part of women, is that a harsh decree had then been issued against the daughters of Israel: The Greeks ordained that every girl who was to be married was to be brought first to the Greek ruler.
Additionally, the miracle itself came about through the heroism of a woman. The daughter of Yochanan the Kohen Gadol was especially beautiful, and the Greek tyrant king desired her. She pretended to acquiesce, came to him, and fed him cheese dishes until he became thirsty. Then she gave him wine to quench his thirst, and he became intoxicated and fell asleep, whereupon she beheaded him. She brought his head to Jerusalem, and when the enemy commanders saw what had happened, they fled.”
So, I discovered the root of “wine and cheese” parties, as well as the fact that a major heroine of the Hanukkah story was a girl.
She must have been terrified. How did she have the courage to go through with such a dangerous plan? Had she failed, no doubt she would have been killed. Where did she find the inner strength and resources to kill the most powerful man in the country?
“Nes Gadol Haya PPPOOOHHH!!” my niece shouts gaily, the Hebrew words for A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED HERE, just as she crashes through the sliding door, her helmet shattering the glass to pieces. Oblivious to both the damage and danger, she quickly brushes herself off and resumes running around while I, mouth agap, keep looking for the blood that should be spurting from her, or at least a slight hint of exhaustion.
Had I been such a stubborn daredevil at 3? Were all children so care-free, nonchalantly smashing through glass without giving it a second thought?
At what point in life do we lose the courage to hit an obstacle, get up, and keep going? When did we stop having faith that everything will turn out all right, and let the red-eyed worry monster take over to fill us with dread and worry about the things to come?
I’d like to say I figured it all out. But I still have no idea what spinning dreidles have to do with anything, or how to recognize a miracle when I see one. But what I DO realize is that if oil once burned hot for 8 days, making a cold call is small Latkes in comparison.
So instead of trying to imagine successfully calling the producer, I close my eyes and imagine being Yochanan’s daughter in that terrifying predicament. Here I am, forced into marrying a powerful, horrible man, and realizing that my only way out is to kill him. I feel my heart racing and my hands tremble with fear as I picture my fingers grip the knife and—-
I open my eyes and smile.
My phone call doesn’t seem quite so scary, or even all that life-altering anymore.
Here we go, I tell myself, taking a deep breath and finally dialing His number.
December 8, 2009 | 1:39 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
“When an estimated 16,500 delegates, activists and reporters descend upon Copenhagen Monday for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, a lot of hot air will follow.
The U.N. estimates that the 12-day conference will create 40,584 tons of carbon dioxide roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions of Morocco in 2006.” (By Michelle Malkin, www.michellemalkin.com)
It all started at about midnight, when I found myself “sleepless in Tel-Aviv”. I’d had a rough day, but it didn’t help much when I tried to wind down reading the news on the Internet.
“SAVE THE PLANET” was this morning’s newspaper headlines in Israel, and 55 other newspapers spread over 45 different countries. I think this is one of the few times I can remember Israel and the rest of the world coming together to agree on anything. I skim through articles covering the 12-day “United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen”. It seems amazing to me, that despite all their differences, leaders from around the globe have united on one front—to save our planet. But realizing Armageddon may be on the horizon doesn’t help my mood much, and I’m forced to take drastic measures.
Misery does indeed love company, which is why I decide to call my sister in Jerusalem. I dare her to be spontaneous and join me for a 1:00 am movie at my local theater. “Cocktails”, I promise, “are on me.”
My sister (#6), never one to pass up a “reasonable” dare (once I double- dared her to lick a street kitten for a free movie and popcorn. That cost me 50 shekel, but it was totally worth it!), picks me up 45 minutes later and we speed along the Freeway towards “Cinema City”.
“I’d offer you a sip, but it’s irresponsible for you to drink and drive,” I tell my sister, helping myself to a shlug of the home-made cocktail-in-a-thermos I brought with me.
“This is irresponsible,” my sister replies. “We have work and school tomorrow, and here we are in the middle of the night going to watch a movie.”
“Absolutely. We should be ashamed of ourselves!” I agree, taking another swig. “But I’ve had a rough week and could use something to cheer me up.”
“Believe me sister,” she teases, “whatever’s eating you, I can top it.”
This is our favorite game. When we’re both feeling a little down, we like to throw a little pity party, and see who wins the worst scenario award.
“Oh really?” I challenge. “Name 5 reasons why you think your week has been worse than mine.”
#6 doesn’t even need a moment to think.
“I failed that big test that will change the course of my life, forever. I found out my best friend’s dating my ex. I’ve been everything in a mucky shade of pink the last three weeks which means I probably have the swine flu, I lost my favorite purse with my lucky two dollar bill and I broke up with my boyfriend (see above).. You think you can top that?”
I crack my knuckles and wait for the tension to build.
“That’s barely a typical work-week for me!” I assure her. “Where to begin? I’ve got so many choices. I didn’t get that role I auditioned for, my best friend mysteriously changed her number, the kid I babysit actually has the swine flu and threw-up all over me today, I’m not making enough money to buy a purse—you’re treating tonight—and the closest thing I have to a boyfriend right now is this weird stalker who waits outside my house every evening. “
#6 smiles. “I love being miserable together! So what comedy are we going to see?”
“Comedy? No way. Then we walk out saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if our lives were like that?’ and getting back to reality takes forever.”
“Okay, what about My Sisters’ Keeper?”
“Are you insane? You want to watch a movie about a dying sister? THAT would make you feel better?”
“It depends which sister….” She winks at me.
“How about Law Abiding Citizen? It’s about this woman who gets murdered, so then her husband murders the murderer and when they try to stop—”
“Tiferet, in the mood we’re in, I don’t think we should encourage murder.”
“Well, we have to think of a movie that’s totally fictional. That will help us disconnect, have a good time, and still come back down to earth.”
By the time we get to the movie theater # 6 has a brainstorm. “What movie better to help disconnect from reality than something with a big tsunami smeared all over the poster?!”
I think of telling her about this morning’s headlines. I think of reminding her that science fiction writers often predict the future. But the only thing I say is: “Two tickets to 2012,“ as the bored ticket seller take #6’s money.
Loaded with plenty of popcorn and coke, we seat ourselves in the theater. There is a strange moment when all the lights shut off and we simply wait in the dark.
I hope my stalker hasn’t followed us, I silently pray.
When the lights turn on again I see that #6 has just finished attaching a pyramid of straws from my drink so I “won’t have to bend down to drink”.
“Here, drink!” she orders. I’m sucking as hard as I can, trying to get the liquid to come through. The high pitched hissing sound attracts everyone’s attention – and everyone has something spontaneous to say.
“Isn’t that fun? You don’t have to bend down at all!” my sister says, pleased with herself, and oblivious to everyone’s icy glares. She, of course, is drinking from only one straw.
When the movie finally begins, I am riveted. The larger than life action, the explosions and catastrophic natural events that take place have my full attention, and certainly help me get my mind off things. There’s nothing like an “apocalyptic end-of-the-world” movie to disconnect you from reality.
In the movie, leaders of different countries hold a conference, and are brought up-to-date on the magnitude of the disaster about to strike. Together, they plan for the future.
That’s when clippings from the daily news reports flash through my mind, and a strange chill rushes over me.
“The largest and most important U.N. climate change conference in history opened Monday, with organizers warning diplomats from 192 nations that this could be the best, last chance for a deal to protect the world from calamitous global warming.” (www.chron.com, article by Arthur Max.)
I grip the sides of my seat, as the suspense rises while nations from different countries attempt to “buy” their way to safety from the apocalyptic predicaments.
“The poorest nations in the world – such as Pacific Island states, low-lying Asian countries and African nations – say they are the least responsible for the legacy of greenhouse gas emissions but will be the hardest hit. Rising sea-levels, temperature increases, and more droughts and floods are among their concerns. (www.news.com, article by Graham Readfearn.)
We’re at the point in the film where delegates from each country need to express their moral opinion, and a vote is being taken to reach a final decision.
“You know they’re gonna’ make Israel immoral or something” my sister predicts.
Ironically my sister is wrong. Because Israel is excluded from the vote altogether.
“Two months ago, this reporter asked the Israel Prime Minister’s headquarters if Netanyahu would be joining the Copenhagen summit. The answer was:
“At the moment, there is no such plan in the Prime Ministers schedule.”
“Yesterday, Netanyahu’s headquarters already announced that the Prime minister was considering canceling his flight due to costly hotel expenses.”
(Ma’ariv newspaper, article by Aviv Lavi.)
In fact, throughout the movie many countries and religions are given their “15 minutes of fame”, including a whole scene dominated by the head of an Arab nation. Yet, aside from a two second image of Chareidi Jews praying, Israel is not even mentioned. But I wonder if that is just the usual “Israel exclusion”, or whether our prime-minister simply decided there were no cheap hotels in the area.
There’s a strange feeling of finality when you see a movie in which the world is about to be wiped out, civilization obliterated, and no apparent solution on the horizon. Watching the tidal waves drown everyone, seeing people falling between the cracks in an earthquake, you realize how hopeless life could be.
Finding a way out of my own real-life predicaments no longer seems like the “end of the world” anymore.
Of course, #6 had a different take on this.
“John Cusack is soooo cute!!! But why did all those people have to die? And why was that other guy so mean?” She’s rubbing her red, swollen fingertips where her nails used to be.
“You know,” I tell her as we walk back to the car. “When people feel threatened, or in danger, they sometimes make wrong decisions or behave in a way that really seems immoral. But I think the big question we’re supposed to ask is, when it comes down to it, do you first save yourself? Or do you try to save others? I mean, how much are people willing to sacrifice in order to save the world? ”
“The parade of planes is led by the Progressive-in-Chief, Barack Obama…. Then there’s the fleet of other government jets….
“But the most fun is always had by the great and good, the most highly esteemed and wisest members of our society: the Hollywood movie stars!.... First there’s Oprah and her Gulfstream IV (it holds 13 people!). And Al Gore. And Paris Hilton. And Bob Geldorf. And Jennifer Aniston. There are hundreds more… there is something a bit bizarre in these people having permission to preach to others what they don’t do themselves.” (www.humanevents.com, article by Terry Easton)
On que, the skies open and a downpour soaks us. We give each other knowing glances –
“It’s the end of the world!” my sister shouts above the thunder, as we both run for cover. “You know,” she adds as soon as we reach our car, “I’d save you first.”
“You always do,” I smile, as she holds open the car door for me to get in.
“Well, I have to say that all that end of the world stuff really made me feel better. I think I’m ready to start a new day,” #6 says excitedly.
“It already IS a new day, it’s 5am!” I yawn.
“Hey, we never decided who won the contest of worst scenario?”
“How about we call it a tie,” I say, as the memory of this morning’s headline—SAVE THE PLANET—collides with the Tsunami image from the movie we just exited. “I get the feeling it could always be worse….”
“So, what should we do next?” #6 turns to me excitedly, obviously getting her second wind. “How about Jog in the rain? Go for a dip at the beach? Or we can even catch a 6:00 AM showing of – “
“How about, we get some sleep!” I reply.
#6 starts the engine and smiles mischievously. “You know – you’re a lot more fun when you’re miserable!”
When you have one of these miserable days, my advice is to call someone you’re close to (like my sister, although I’m not sure she’ll answer YOU), do something crazy (like see a movie in the middle of the night), and take your mind off life.
“CoP-15, the official term for the Copenhagen meeting, The 15th Conference of Parties, to negotiate a new global climate treaty to replace or extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.” (www.livemint.com, article by Samar Halarnkar)
December 3, 2009 | 3:45 pm
Posted by Tiferet Peterseil
There I was, the leading lady in a top quality Israeli film, dressed in a pink leotard and Tutu, radiant and glamorous in my lipstick and glitter-daubed face, and to top it off, I was wearing a diamond studded crown.
This would have been the appropriate attire for a Purim party, or even for “Trick Or Treating”. But standing in the middle of an old- age home in Tel Aviv, I was bound to attract attention. Let’s see you explain to a bunch of addled Octogenarians that what you’re wearing are not the garments of choice but rather a wardrobe designed for your character.
“Are you a ballerina?” asks an old man. “Can you put on a show for us?”
“No, she’s a princess,” says a silver-haired woman, rushing to clasp my hands. “Your Highness!”
“My, you’re pretty,” chimes in a sweet, toothless, elderly lady staring at me in awe. I’m flattered, until she adds, “Are those all your real teeth?”
“She’s a Fairy!” exclaims another woman.
“Really?” an old man approaches to take a closer look. “Funny, I would never have guessed you’re a man.”
“Not that kind of fairy, George.”
“She’s the Tooth Fairy!” The toothless woman beams.
“Actually, we’re filming a movie here,” I try to explain. “And I’m dressed in this costume because I’m an actress.”
I knew it was a lost cause. Most of the residents suffered from Dementia or Alzheimer’s, or a combination of both. So the same conversation with the residents replayed a number of times. To make matters worse, I was speaking in Hebrew and the word for “actress” is Sachkaneet, coming from the root “ to play”.
“What do you want to play?” asks one of the women.
“I think her favorite game is obviously dress-up.”
“Let’s play “Duck, Duck, Goose!”—You’re it!”
“Ow. Who keeps hitting me on the head?”
“There are plenty of ducks at the zoo!”
“I can’t go to the zoo, I’m allergic to fur.”
“I still can’t believe she’s a man.”
“I’ll just get my camera and we can go. Senior Citizens get a discount.”
“Citizens of where?”
I love acting. I love getting into character and immersing myself in another world. I appreciate every opportunity to disconnect from reality, and live, even briefly, in a different realm. But the real live “set” we were filming on seemed too surreal to actually exist.
“I don’t understand, who’s granddaughter are you?”
“No one’s, I’m here to—“ I begin.
“No ones? But everyone has a grandmother!”
“You can be my granddaughter,” another woman comes over and hugs me, lovingly. “Would you like a cookie?”
“I have a Grandmother; she’s just not here,” I explain.
“Oh my God, they lost your Grandmother?” another woman shouts. A worried buzz sweeps over the crowd. Suddenly, a woman who clearly must have been the model for Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, asks, “Has anyone seen an old woman?”
“Let me tell you, young man,” George says, shaking my hand, “your surgeon has done an excellent job.”
In the time it took the director and crew to set up our next shot, I had committed to a game of imaginary shuffle-board, promised to perform The Nutcracker (after lunch), and had “arranged” marriages with at least three separate grandsons, plus George’s granddaughter.
Finally, the director announces we’re ready for the next scene. Our “set” is located in the rec-room of the ward, much to the chagrin of the patients.
“Move to that side!” an elderly man commands as I walk past his chair. I hesitate, and walk back in the direction I came from.
“Go to that side!” he repeats, this time pointing to the opposite side.
A woman in her nineties shouts, “Don’t you listen to him!” while racing from one end of the room to the other, according to where he’s pointing. “He doesn’t get whatever he wants. You hear that, Oscar?” she adds, out of breath, and spouting some very creative curses. “You don’t get to order people around! I’m not going to dance to your fiddle!” she announces, still shuffling from one side to the other.
In the meantime, the nurses are desperately trying to herd the patients into the next room. However, since the residents are accustomed to sitting in the rec-room every day at these hours, they’re confused and continue to wander back in.
Despite the discombobulating surroundings, I know I have to refocus and concentrate. So I take a deep breath, and wait for the director to call “Action!”.
The next scene calls for me to run through the hallways, nervously looking around. Too bad the other patients can’t remember what’s going on from one take to the next.
“Why do you keep running?” one patient shouts, interrupting the scene for the fourth time.
“Who are you looking for?” another chimes in anxiously, forgetting our repeated explanations to the same question.
“Are you Greta’s granddaughter?” another asks me for the umpteenth time. “She died, you know. Oh, weeks ago. You’ll never find her now.”
Exasperated, the director pleads with the nursing staff to do a better job of containing their patients. By this time, an elderly man has placed himself in front of the camera, telling his life story to the audience he’s sure has come to learn about his life. Another woman is trying to persuade the cameraman to come to her room and film her antique collection.
Just then, a woman approaches me and whispers nervously, “Where am I? Am I dead?” She looks around, and studies the illuminating glow surrounding my body. “Are you an angel?”
“Kill the spotlight!” I say quickly to the lighting crew, who immediately exterminate my halo. The woman slowly reaches out her hand to touch me.
“No, I’m not an angel,” I say gently, allowing her to stroke my hair.
“Then I’m in Hell?” she screams, suddenly, and begins to whimper. “Who are all of you? Where am I? What’s going on?”
I’m not sure how to calm her, so I rush down the hallways and urge the first nurse I meet to come help.
By the time we arrive back at the set, the woman is in an utter state of panic and yelling in a trembling voice: “Oh Hell! Where am I?”
Seeing this, the nurse stops in her tracks.
“Sonya!” She scolds the lady, “What are you doing?”
And just like that, Sonya looks from me to the rest of the startled crew—and bursts out laughing.
“You called the nurse?!” Sonya chuckles. “Wow, I really got you good! What did you think, that I was senile? Did you really believe I thought I was dead?” she’s laughing so hard her face is turning red.
Me and the rest of the crew just stand there, speechless.
The nurse looks at us sympathetically. “She does this sometimes,” then she turns to Sonya. “Get back to the group before you give someone a heart attack.”
“You should have seen their faces!” Sonya brags proudly. “They thought I was one of those nutty old ladies!”
“Well, if we didn’t then, we sure do now,” the grip man mumbles, shaking his head incredulously.
“I haven’t been dead in weeks,” Sonya tells the nurse. “God, it’s good to be alive again,” she shouts, prancing down the hall.
In the background an old lady is shouting: “Get me out of here! I want to get up!” I realize she’s strapped down to her chair, apparently for her own protection.
That’s when I take in the full picture: Nurses holding syringes, orderlies spoon-feeding the elderly, catatonic figures wandering aimlessly, and bored, old people finding comic relief by playing practical jokes on innocent visitors. I’m suddenly overcome with a wave of emotion. It occurs to me, that in a few hours, the director will yell “That’s a wrap!”, and we’ll all go home. But these people will continue living in Never-Never Land, unaware of the world around them. My heart goes out to them.
As an actress, I use my surroundings to my advantage and channel my whirlwind of feelings to play out in my character. Normally, I need to delve into deep-seeded memories, or surmise the power of imagination to reach the necessary emotional state of my character. But today I just have to look around.
But as a person, I want to be anywhere but here.
After twelve grueling hours in this nightmarish reality we are ready to call it a day. Time to pack-up and stop disrupting the resident’s routine and schedule.
We don’t belong here, I think to myself, surveying my pink puffy outfit.
But glancing at the wrinkled, smiling, senseless faces around me dressed in repulsive hospital gowns, I wonder— Do they?
“So long, suckers!” Sonya yells joyously as we wave goodbye.
“We should play again sometime!” yells the toothless lady.
“Hope your reproductive organs still work!” George yells and whispers to his friend, “Would you believe she’s a man?”
I grin and exit the twilight zone.
What can I say? I’m just a Tel-Aviv actress enjoying – almost – every day.