כרטיס לידה נעמה

We all installed WhatsApp to assure we stayed connected in case Facebook, Skype, G-mail and phone services failed. We were waiting for the baby dispersed in pairs hundreds and thousands miles apart. Tal called to let me know that Yeela was in labor, asking if we should let Imma know. Yeela was two weeks early, and Imma would be leaving for the airport in a few hours. I thought it would better to wait, who knew how long it would take, but Imma smelled a rat when Yeela didn’t answer her phone. They spoke a lot those days. Imma worked around the radio silence by contacting Elad – the only honest man in the chain – who spilled the beans. I have never met a person so honest. Imma multi-tasked her way through the check-in and security, switching between her iPad and her iPhone, the checking attendants and TSA personal. Imma checked on the cervical dilation.

“How many centimeters?”

“Eight.”

“Boarding rows fifty and higher.”

Imma shuffled by a couple to her window seat, letting everyone around her know that her daughter was having a baby.

“The cabin door is now closed, please make sure your…”

“Ten centimeters”

Imma switched off only her iPad as the stewardess moved along. The Israeli couple sitting next to her wanted in on the scoop and promised to sound the alarm when a flight attendant was coming up or down the aisle. The plane turned on to the taxiway and stopped.

“We are cleared for takeoff after the plane ahead of us; please make sure all electronic devices are turned off.”

Imma crouched lower in her seat; the couple next to her was perched like worried owls looking at the surrounding passengers, concerned about a passenger across the aisle that kept shaking his head angrily. Imma looked through the window. She could see the plane on the runway beginning its take off. “The head is out” Imma informed her bodyguards. “Keep listening,” they replied, determined to see the delivery through. The plane moved forward and turned on to the runway. The FAA required two minutes between planes. Sixty seconds between contractions.

“Push!”

The plane’s engines roared, the baby cried, “Maxal-Tov’s” sounded from all around, quite a few people were following. Imma turned off her phone, bribed the would-be snitch across the aisle with a chocolate bar to keep his mouth shut, asked her minutemen to stand down, and fell asleep, dreaming how we would have our newly extended family over for Passover.

Creative Writing Graduation

Dear Class of 2011,

I must say that I was quite surprised when the instructor called to ask if I would be willing to write the graduations speech this year.

‘To what do I owe the honor’, I asked.

I could sense the instructor hesitating. ‘Considering your writing, Yiftah, this is an opportunity of a lifetime.’

I held on to the phone while I pulled up a chair.

‘Can we make it look as if I volunteered?’ I asked.

‘Your shame is safe with me.’

Knowing that the bar was set low was somewhat comforting, still I had my concerns.

‘What would you like me to talk about?’ I asked in a weary voice, hoping that denial would win over despair.

‘Try to leave the audience with a memorable message.’

The instructor hung up, leaving me to weigh in on my prospects. The fact that the guidelines were meager was only part of the problem. This is not a common graduation. Most of you have jobs, some of you do not descend from Stanford Alumni and every naive youth has an astute elder looking over their shoulder. The wealth of life experience embodied in this group – as I have come to know it through your writing – is so vast. As writers you have the privilege to choose your audience and annoy the rest of humanity, but by accepting to address you tonight I have forfeited that privilege. How could I possibly conjure a single succinct message, fine-tuned to appeal to such diversity?

To make matters worse, I am a private and reclusive man, who since elementary school has systematically avoided attending my graduations except for driving school which concluded with little fanfare. I had no idea what needs to be said on an occasion such as this. Yet I was touched by the fact that driving school focused on the journey rather than the destination. The messages were memorable, and at the same time untainted by false hope, practical but not condescending, free of antagonism and bonding.

In the same spirit, rather than impose my opinions on you, I have chosen to share a few ideas and let the dice fall as they may.

 

What better a dice than a George Washington quarter? What better opposites than ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ incongruently juxtaposed against each other, so near and yet so far. Must a coin always fall on one of two sides, one which wishes well and the other bodes ill omens? Why do we pit young against old, poor against rich, vegans vs. meat eaters? Where is the middle class? Can there be three way coins?

Of course there can.

A quarter is 24.26 millimeter in diameter, and 1.75 millimeter wide, if we stacked 14 of them we would have a cylinder which fell on one of three sides with even probability. We would have middle ground. All of a sudden we could have turtle people between cat and dog people and midlife would no longer be a crisis. Perhaps, if you allow me, I would like to hypothesize what could have been had Joshua used a Dodecahedron to allocate homesteads in the Holy Land. Perhaps there is a story there. Think of how much richer writing could be if the term ‘flip of a coin’ meant more than binary choices? How much more colorful the world you write about could be.

Always look for the bright side – now that you can have as many as you want. If you have children you no longer have to ground them. Thanks to Facebook they have grounded themselves. Do not spend your time sorting through their socks. You can prove by induction that all socks have the same color. I would give you the proof, but my time is running short. I have no idea whether this can help with writing, but perhaps some of you would like to investigate further.

Tonight, when the speeches die down, and the food has been eaten, when we have concluded the handshakes that forge lasting relationships and the forceful hugs which immediately break them, please take a few more moments to celebrate the beauty around you, as it expresses itself in architecture and art. When you leave the building turn to your left and walk to the entrance of the quad. Enjoy the beauty of the masonry, the soft colors of the stones in the moonlight. Walk up the path towards the church. Notice the monument honoring the Burghers of Calais on your left. What a wonderful saga of selfless devotion and sacrifice, honored forever by their bronze sculptures. Turn and walk back and to your left, following the path to the museum and the garden of sculptures on its south side. Walk from the gates of hell, to the Thinker. Stop to appreciate the unlimited depth of human imagination. Enjoy the moment, contemplate the beauty, listen to your feet treading on the gravel paths, listen to the growing silence of the night, smell the autumn leaves, taste the air, good scenes engage all senses, think of the creative powers vested in you, free your emotions, embrace your freedom to think and do your best to remember where it is that you left your car.

Maui Channel Swim

The real deal

It had been a long wet winter in California. In Sunnyvale it rained for six months. There was not a square inch of dry land to be found anywhere. Citizens secured themselves to drain pipes while they slept in their goulashes, malls were drenched, their roofs leaking, and the local newspaper was delivered wet; at Safeway they turned off the sprinklers in the vegetable department[1]. Every Saturday morning I kissed Imma lightly on the cheek, not wanting to appear too emotional, and went to the swimming pool. We swam in spite of the elements; lap after lap after lap; sleet or snow, rain or rain, the cold wind searing our backs.  When the hail letup, we flipped over, to soak our cold and weary trapezes in the chilly water which was forty one degrees warmer than the air. Swimming on our backs, we watched the clouds rush by, driven by the screaming wind. The lighting towers swayed back and forth. The pigeons who usually watched us from the tops of the light fixtures were gone. The fact that even birds did not trust the anchor screws at the base of one of those towers was a sobering thought.  But on we swam, welcoming the sound of thunder, knowing that it meant that lightning had struck elsewhere. Continue reading

Surviving at UCLA

Imma’s maternal instinct left her ridden with guilt over the idea that her offspring were left to fend for themselves with nothing more than a few magnetic cards in the all-inclusive resort where we left them two months earlier. So we packed the car full of goods and drove down to check on them. They were happily settled in and even invited us to meals in the cafeterias so we could see for ourselves that they had not degraded as far from what they had been used to at home as Imma imagined.

Just for giggles

Dear Mr. Martin

Dear Mr. Martin

I cannot begin to express how relieved I was to read your public denouncement of your memory. Such honesty speaks wonders of your social skills, attesting to self awareness, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, critical thinking, courage, adaptability, confidence, integrity, self control, influence, risk-taking, leadership, problem solving, and then some. Allow me to show my support. Continue reading

Happy New Year 2011 שנה טובה

Dear Friends and Family       משפתחתנו וחברינו היקרים

Shana Tova ! שנה טובה

May this year be (even) better than the last!!

With more energy…

…and more enthusiasm

May it be less confusing…

…and less awkward

Maybe this year your kids will finally support you

And lose that attitude

Most of all, we hope that your year will be warm and bright!

And full of love.

The Porats

Into the Heart of Homestead

It was a simple summer day. It was dry outside, yet I was sweating profusely. I was wearing my brand new, bright green, one hundred percent polyester HOP shirt, and I was utterly uncomfortable. In order to to provide a barrier between the horrible sunlight and myself, I wore my green ninja turtles hat. Maybe that would make them think I’m cool. My under arms were musty, and I realized I had forgotten deodorant. “It’s OK, they’re just freshman” I justified myself. It was orientation day. Continue reading

Delegates of Friendship

Israel is being demonized and a pariah state and Jewish students are experiencing a rise in acts of intimidation and bullying. The cause is the Palestinian issue, the means are based on ignorance, intolerance and stirring of emotions with little regard to the facts. Israeli supporters are being prevented from speaking, while Israel is being portrayed as a racist radical nation. I will be transferring to UCLA in the fall, and would like to do the best I can to bring a different perspective to the campus. Why do I qualify? Why do I think I can bring a credible message? Why would people listen to me?

I was born and raised in the US by Israeli parents. I have deep roots in the US, and strong ties to Israel. My older sisters live there, I have childhood friends who grew up with me in CA and have moved back. I have visited many times; I even spent half my freshman high school year in Israel. I want to share the experiences of my last visit with you, to show you the side of Israel that I think more people need to see and hear about from people who have been there.

I just got back from a month in Israel, where I visited my sisters. One of them asked me to join her for a weekend where she and a group of college students run a house for handicapped children and teenagers. It is called Beit Hagalgalim (the house of wheels). The house is located in Kibutz Urim, between Beer-Sheva and the Gaza Strip. From hearing the news you would think it’s the war zone, but life is completely normal. I have to admit that at first I was surprised to see that the shelter is open to Jewish and Arab children. To them being together is no different than the melting pot that my high school in Sunnyvale California was. Why do our campuses have to be different? We played soccer carrying the children on our backs. Muhamad or Nurit – it did not matter. It did not matter when I helped them feed themselves or when we huddled around the circle, the kids cuddling close to us. Just children, teenagers, Jewish Israelis, Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, so close, so similar, was there any difference worth speaking of? They all needed help getting into their beds at night and getting out of bed in the morning. Their parents expressed the same gratitude, and we felt just as gratified – a child doesn’t seem to have a race – is that so hard to accept? The counselors I worked with are students in Israeli universities. They have served in the military and could be called up to serve at any moment. Does that make them war mongers? They hardly talk about their military service, but its part them, part of serving their country, part of defending themselves, assuring that we have a place we can call home without the risk of prosecution. It is ironical how this wave of blind rage and hatred, which is seething in the campuses could be used to illustrate this point.

During the week I spent my time in my sister’s apartment in Jerusalem. Looking from her porch I could see the southern neighborhoods of Jerusalem which border with the city of Bethlehem, where the church of the Nativity is located. In the evening we would walk down to the pubs along the old railway. The night life is lively, loud and peaceful. There is no sense of danger, except maybe losing your parking space if you are not quick enough to claim it. The restaurants are busy, the food is wonderful, the waiters mind your own business, telling you what you should avoid – not a word about conflict, or war, just life, making the best it can of hot summer night. If anything it’s the calm that unnerving in a way. Doesn’t anyone care about what Israelis call the ‘matzav’ (situation)? This is how Israelis refer to everything that is happening in the Middle East. ‘Sure we care, but how many times can you say that two states are the solution, when you have people like the leader of Iran whose agenda is to annihilate Israel?’ Makes you wonder, how far should a nation go, to put its own citizen at risk for the well being of another people? How far can Israel move back from the Jordan valley before the international airport is within range the simplest mortars and short range missiles? Is there anyway that Israel can allow the West Bank not to be demilitarized? Will Californians living in the Silicon Valley allow a hostile nation put artillery batteries in the Santa Cruz hills? Why should Israel give back the Golan Heights, back to a ruthless dictator who is now slaughtering his own people because they want to be free?

Jerusalem is old, more than three thousand years. You can see its age in the tunnels beneath the Wailing Wall. All the world sees are the Mosques which were built on top of where the Jewish temples stood, when history that preceded them by more than one thousand years is hidden from site. Yes, Jerusalem is old, very old, so it needs to go to sleep at night. Tel Aviv is another story, known world wide for being a twenty four hour city that never sleeps. Yet somehow people are back to work in the morning building some of the world’s most sophisticated high tech inventions, at Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Google, SAP and many more. Is this the face of a warring nation? People talk about work, curse each other on the road, use only two cell phones simultaneously because the second hand is holding the ice coffee. They take their children to school in the morning, rush home from work to spend some time with them in the evening and somehow find the time to enjoy pubs and nightclubs and museums and theaters and concerts and movies and restaurants or just a midnight stroll on the beach front.

Yes, there are bigger issues. The question of two states for two people – but how many people know that there are peace plans which have worked out the streets and the side of the border where each will reside. Why isn’t the discussion about these plans? There are questions of international law – but most people have no idea that Israel did not conquer the West Bank because it never belonged to Jordan. Few people know that the West Bank is no different from other disputed territories in the world, and should be discussed as such. The dispute does not make Israel a rogue state; it does not nullify its right to exist. Israelis are not a nation of war mongers and Israelis do not hate Arabs. People just want to live and let live. Ignorance is acid eating away at public opinion. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and I would like to help. I have first hand experiences; I can bring credibility to the table. I want to hold my head up high on campus, and make sure that no Jew or Israeli has to hide because they believe that Israel has a right to exist, and the only genocidal states in the region are the ones calling for Israel’s annihilation.