Today I let Arlan and David take me to the Zoo in Haifa. I'd never gotten around to Haifa before, and I was duly impressed with how pretty some areas of the city are. The gardens of the Bahai temple are the centerpiece of this beauty, and I look forward to taking a tour there with Dad in a couple weeks. I also noticed a museum of Japanese art that I hope will tempt Mom. The zoo itself a pretty standard animals-in-cages sort of affair, but well-executed in a lovely valley full of shady trees. As people who raise snakes, David and Arlan were most interested in the snakes and, to a lesser extent, other reptiles. The reptile house didn't disappoint, and especially featured snakes that are native to Israel, as well as turtles, tortoises, crocodiles, iguanas, lizards, a monitor, a skink, and so on. The grounds had peacocks roaming free and various farm animals in wooden pens, including a friendly billy goat with his two nannies. The tiger was magnificent, but she seemed a little thin and paced quite restlessly around her pen, which seemed a couple sizes too small for her. The leopards seemed a little more serene. I especially enjoyed the nocturnal animal exhibits. There was a pair of barn owls that sat up on a ledge almost as still as statues, peering down at us like gargoyles. The eagle owls were of grand proportions and had gorgeous eyes and ferocious talons. The bat display gave me the most effective show of the little beasties that I'd ever seen. It was illuminated with a red light that seems to be invisible to bats, so they were active and happily showed off their aerial acrobatics. Speaking of acrobatics, the striped lemurs danced so expertly among the trees that they seemed to be giving a performance. There was a monkey cage directly adjacent to a cage full of colorful roosters, and that struck me as an odd juxtaposition. It was a fun afternoon, and we topped it off with a trip to a fancy bead store to fuel David's latest cottage industry of producing necklaces and earrings.
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I was a little worried about going into a three-day holiday weekend for this year's Rosh Hashanna. We don't get too many of those in Israel. There are a lot of meals to plan and keep track of. But it worked out quite nicely. I spent a couple meals at other families' houses, hosted a meal at my house, had a couple meals alone to relax and decompress, and rounded it all out by attending a community pot-luck for residents in the Artists' Quarter. All this added up to letting me touch base with a whole lot of friends and acquaintances, some of whom I hadn't seen in a while. Elana Schachter lent me a sci-fi anthology and a couple comic-strip compilations of "Barnaby", about a little boy and his cigar-smoking fairy godfather. I promptly consumed the science fiction stories well before Shabbos ended, and now I'm ready to return them all. May y'all have a sweet and happy coming year.
Today I joined with Seth and Rachel and Jackie to greet Paul and Carol Siegel and Paul's mother Muriel at the airport as they arrived to make aliyah. Nefesh B'Nefesh put on a whole ceremony for the new olim. Rachel and Jackie held up signs for them to see as they got off the plane. It was the first time I had been to one of these things. It must be nice to come into the country with so much cheering and enthusiasm. Right now, the Siegels should be settling into their lovely new apartment in Rechavia and are lucky enough to be starting their new life here with a friend's wedding tonight. I wish them all the best.
At 4am this past Wednesday, Rebecca gave birth to a healthy little boy! Woo!
It looks like this apartment comes with a flatmate. I've got a lovely little yellow-striped jumping spider crawling the walls here, and I've been seeing it quite frequently over the past few days. It's only thumbnail sized, so all of you that were terrified of the palm-sized hairy brown beast that made cameo appearances in my last place can relax. It appears to be unable to spin webs and rather roams around to proactively hunt its food. I wish it great success because I don't have any screens on the windows to keep out unwanted insects. I'll be taking suggestions for a name for this new buddy. Gender-neutral names are preferred since I've practically no way of sexing the creature.
So I finally got fed up with the flawed plumbing in my old apartment. The landlord told me that if I didn't like having the shower drain bubble up and flood the floor of the front room then I could leave. So I did. And, after more hauling trips than I care to imagine in truly punishing heat, here I am. The new place is not so far away, closer to the center of town and closer to Becca and Avraham. I was quite happy that I got the phone line hooked in yesterday instead of on the predicted date of tomorrow, since it means that I didn't have to interrupt my network services for more than the few minutes it took to carry the computer and sundry between apartments. Now the task at hand is to unpack and organize everything.
I'm pretty ticked off at both sides of this issue. I cannot swallow the claims of those who oppose the event on the grounds that it will "defile the Holy city". The three religions that dominate the city all consider each other anything ranging from run-of-the-mill heresy to vilest idolatry. And yet they somehow manage to tolerate each other's public demonstrations. Why is walking down the street holding a placard saying "It's OK to be gay" so much more despicable to Jewish sensibilities than monks marching through the Old City on Xmas carrying effigies of their messiah on life-sized crosses? I flatly disbelieve the complaint that the parade is a gross immodesty. If modesty was the real basis for opposing a parade, then the opponents would lobby for enforcement of public lewdness laws and for reasonable controls on the behaviors sanctioned among the parade's participants. They would not be trying to nullify any and every public expression of queer identity. I cannot respect a party that refuses to tolerate the respectful expression of opposing viewpoints.
A couple weeks ago, I went to the birthday party of Eliyahu Alpern and spun a little fire. It turns out that one of the perks of providing a little entertainment at a photographer's birthday party is that you get some nice photographs of yourself published. Enjoy!
I took a vacation on the two days preceding the holiday to catch a ride with Becca, Avraham, and Ashira to Jon's farm. We got the full tour of the farm on Monday afternoon. Ashira was with the animals, especially a tiny baby black goat. An old goat named Yogi who was born with lame hind legs impressed us all with his trick of walking solely on his front legs. Words don't quite describe how surprising this sight is. Becca's interest was piqued by some of the building techniques used for the structures on the farm, such as the use of mud as a primary material and the use of inorganic garbage as wall filler.
In a semi-desperate attempt to use up a kilo of whole wheat flour that's been in my freezer for a long time, I did something I don't know if I've ever done before. I made my own challah from scratch. I think it turned out very nicely, although I had been worried that it wasn't rising enough. I stuck it in the oven anyway because I had no more time to wait if it was going to get enough time in the oven before Shabbos. I kneaded sunflower seeds into the dough. You'll also notice that I had no time to braid it, so the loaves were simply lump-shaped. It came out thick and hearty and a little on the crumbly side. It actually sort of reminds me of Rebecca's challah.
In the celebration of Pesach cleaning season, here's a very short video. This little clip is not new, since it's been floating around the Internet for long enough for me to remember it from a previous year. But it's still worth a few chuckles.
Tim sent me a link to an article of interest to all of us who chafe against the custom of not eating kitniot on Pesach. The article does a good job of expressing the reasons why I personally think the custom is a bad idea. Namely, the prohibition is so awfully ill-defined, which not only offends my aesthetic affinity for categorical neatness, but also has caused the custom to bloat like the Blob, forbidding a series of foodstuffs that are progressively less like actual chametz, with no end in sight. The article also nicely summarizes Becca's pet peeve about the prohibition, citing how it creates an arbitrary and useless division among people. It's all the more annoying in that it often keeps people from eating at their friends' houses over the holiday.
(Warning: Extreme nerdiness follows. You are not expected to understand this if you are a family member whose last name is not "Sambol". Feel free to move along.)
This Shabbos was Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish holiday to celebrate the renewal of tree life, especially fruit trees. I celebrated appropriately by spending Shabbos with a couple of other fruits. I slept over at the home of David and Arlan, the gay couple I met last week. I got there a couple hours before Shabbos, so they got to show me their snakes (shut up, jeff) in the basement. Only the newly hatched babies were terribly active; all the adults were sleeping the winter months away.
Thanks to an extremely helpful pointer from Mike, I was able to find and install a highly promising comment spam filter much sooner than I had hoped. So feel free to add comments again. Let's hope this is the last time I ever have to mention this nasty topic.
Sorry, but the spammers have struck back with fierce force. Spamassassin isn't strong enough to fend off the filthy hordes of robots hell-bent on inserting randomized obscenities into this space, so I'm closing the hole completely until I have time to put a more effective filter into place.
A while ago, I heard from Wiley that he had learned of the existence of a gay couple living in Tzfat, as they had recently been hired as coaches for his company. He didn't pass on their contact information to me because he didn't want to compromise their privacy. But when Moshe visited for Shabbos a few weeks ago, he mentioned that there was an article on glbtjews.org that mentioned a gay couple living in Tzfat, named David Fyffe and Arlan Wareham. I figured that it had to be the same couple that Wiley had mentioned, and some quick googling turned up Arlan's web site. I read a large chunk of their chronicle of their immigration to Israel, and thus discovered Arlan's Skype user-name, with which I sent him a quick message to say, "Hi, I thought you might be interested to know of another queer person in town." Just a few emails later, we'd set up last night as a date for Arlan and David to come over to my apartment for dinner.
As mentioned last time, I spent Shabbos dinner in Nachlaot, lunch in the German Colony, and the afternoon through the end of Shabbos back in Nachlaot. Jon and Dan (Siegel) made an appearance for third-meal, and spent most of the time gabbing about old Seinfeld episodes. I also got to gross out Seth and Rachel's friends with a gory detail or two regarding SRS. Hey, it's not my fault the conversation wandered onto that topic. But on that note, I did have a fun time after Shabbos watching Trans America back at Moshe's apartment.
The highlight of this week is a weekend trip to Jerusalem. I'm conveniently managing to pack plenty of social events into one weekend. The first was a wedding I attended last night in which the sister of one my yeshiva classmates got married. There were so many people from Tzfat who came to this wedding that approximately half of the passengers on my bus ride to Jerusalem were going to the same wedding.
Moshe, the guy I went out with a few times last spring, finally got a chance to visit Tzfat this weekend with his lovely and lovable fag hag, Mihal (the "h" is pronounced strongly aspirated like the letter chet). I had the pleasure of hosting them for Shabbos dinner along with Yehudit and Reuven Goldfarb. I also got some good hang-out time with Moshe and Mihal on Friday afternoon and Saturday evening. Moshe's got the crazy idea in his head of maybe moving to Tzfat for a few months to study at some yeshiva. Who knows? It might even happen. Goodness knows I appreciate all the queer company that I can get.