On Life in a War Zone, Hating on my Facebook Feed and Leadership

It is day 4-ish of this awful war and I can’t sleep. It is 11:28pm. There have been a few barrages of rockets today in Beer Sheva, including a bad one just after dinner this evening.  I am sleeping on the couch next to the bomb shelter in a friends’ house. We have barely left the house in days. The kids, ages 3 and 5, are starting to ask questions- about good people and bad people, and who is safe and who is not safe.  We do our best to keep all of our spirits high- playing games, playing music, cooking nice meals and staying as active as possible without straying more than several steps from the bomb shelter in case we hear the air raid siren. We shower with a buddy standing outside, try to keep two adults around the children at a time in case we need to scoop them up to run, and we do this all with the best humor we can muster.

I wonder why I can’t fucking sleep.

Our friends and family are all under the same rocket fire and as the Hamas’ rocket technology and access has improved, the entire country is under attack so there is no place to escape to. Direct hits on and around homes happen every few hours. We check in with each other, see what the others need and then realize that we couldn’t provide it for them anyway. We can’t get to them, too scared to travel by car in this area.  I don’t want to be a scaredy-cat but I don’t want to take risks with my life easier. Ask yourself what you would do.

All the while, my Facebook feed fills up constantly with Op-Eds and blogs about these anomalies that everyone seems to know so much about – “Israelis” and “Palestinians”. The experts writing about us have managed to take us, all we know and all we experience and feel, and boil it down into adorable 800 word articles with a beginning, middle and end. It must be nice for things to be so simple in your mind, Mr. and Mrs. Opinions writer.

“What Israelis Don’t Know About Gaza” What do you know about what I don’t know? Do you think that I am blind or simply so insensitive that I can’t care about more than one type of person as a time? Saying that we are being misled or uninformed implies that if we knew better (and we do know the difficult truth) we would change how we act. We are civilians, we aren’t shooting, we aren’t calling the shots and we aren’t to blame just because we are Israeli. Do you think that all Israelis are so ignorant that when we read Israeli news we think that we are getting the entire story and there is nothing more going on beyond what the IDF reports? No. We know the death toll and the pain and suffering in Gaza, and I don’t condone it. But neither am I not responsible for it, I refuse to take that on.

“ALL the TRUTH about what happening in ISRAEL” Do you really think there is one truth? Please tell me you shared that as a joke, with full knowledge that in a life full of diversity there is no one real truth.  If I want to be safe does it automatically mean to you that I want other innocent people to die?  If I support my troops- young people in mandatory national service- and the Iron Dome that saves my life and millions others’ multiple times a day- does that mean that I can’t also pray for peace? Palestinians feel like sitting targets and they are devastated and terrified, surrounded by destruction. The truth of this statement does not delegitimize my fear or the State of Israel.  Israelis do not need to be insensitive or ignorant and Palestinians to not need to be liars who are not really hurting- we are many things- we are all of the feelings- and our truths are real.

Likewise none of us need the bloody, horrifying , vivid pictures of this war splashed on our Facebook feeds. I am living it. I am fucked up enough without it, thanks. Vivid imagery, just like shifting blame, and comparing truths and death tolls won’t change this reality.  It implies yet again that if I saw the horrific things people are suffering from this war I would know and therefor act to stop it. But I am not causing it and have no control over it.

I don’t blame Gazans for the Rockets being aimed and shot at me and mine, I blame Hammas. So I suggest you send your higher than though information, your blame and your vivid, traumatizing images to bnetanyahu@knesset.gov.il.

Which brings me to leadership. All of us innocents- citizens, activists and writers- we are barking up the wrong fucking tree if we think that Netanyahu and Bennet and their coalition or Abbas and Hammas are going to stop this war if we ask nicely. Both of these leadership marriages made in hell will burn the whole fucking country down around us if we let them. No amount of opeds, shares, Facebook shaming or petition signing is going to change these guys.

What we need is new leadership- and not just any old regime change. We need Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela sized leadership balls. We need a Gazan Ghandi (Mahatma and Indira, both will do) or an Israeli Alice Paul  and her iron-jawed angels to stand up, strategize, talk to each other and end the extremism ruling this region. I’m not even talking about making a final agreement yet, I’m talking about ending this pointless cycle of war where NO ONE wins.

I don’t think that this is some wild fantasy. Slavery, the KKK and Jim Crow in American history showed us some of most horrific forms of extremism and violence. However in time and with great leadership, we rose above it. There is still much to improve ipon but the constant, violent race wars, the institutionalized discrimination, violence and murder are behind us and America has its first black president. This is admittedly a loose and flawed comparison but it is enough to let me believe. Frederick Douglass learned to read and MLK had a dream- leaders like these rose up to change their country.

I believe that we- the very diverse people that the world calls Israelis and Palestinians- don’t have to live this way.  I hope that today, at this very moment, the future leaders that will be brave and charismatic enough to lead us out of this cycle of violence, are being kept safe… because we need them.



Just wanna go home

As the shell shock effect wears off, now more than 24 hours after leaving my Beer Sheva home, I guess its time to write the compulsory “this is my life in a war zone” blog post. I can usually be trusted to write one of these thoughtful, liberal pieces that people forward around between friends to show what is really going on in Israel. But today, the only voice I can conjure up is the five-year old girl inside: I just wanna go home.

A day and a half ago I unwillingly left my house in Beer Sheva which was and continues to be under heavy rocket fire from Hamas militants in Gaza. For nearly a full day we stayed and at least once every hour we would hear the soul-piercing whine of the air raid siren, announcing incoming rockets. We grab the dog, run down the stairs and enter our neighbors’ back door- to the bomb shelter we share. With tired half-smiles we warmly greet them, and we pack into the small room, with our dog and their dog, and we wait. The siren goes on for 15 more seconds, sometimes in the case of multiple rockets the siren will be run two or three more times in a row. Then we get quiet, waiting to hear the release of the Iron Dome, our anti-missile messiah, and the “booms”, trying to decipher what their tone means. There is one sound when the Iron Dome explodes the rockets in mid-air (yes!), another sound when the rocket hits far off in open space. There is yet a third sound, and it usually comes with a little bit of ground shaking, when the rocket hits a building or the earth nearby. The third sound is rare, but there is no mistaking it. Continuing to wait a few more minutes, refreshing the news on our phones and answering worried text messages, we eventually leave the safe-room. “See you soon”, we tell our lovely neighbors.

In between sirens we try to rest, with no success since we have our shoes on and I have been wearing this damn bra for 12 hours straight. Peeing is a risk we take only right after we return from the safe room, stealing time, but we don’t dare shower.

So there is your “day in the life” of a citizen of the south of Israel right now. What you can’t read into that is howmuch I love my home. I have been living in Beer Sheva for two years and I feel like I have met my match. Beer Sheva has just enough city: food, drink, culture and shopping, and just enough edge: a grungy Old City and the people who have lived and worked there for 50 years. It is a budding metropolis with real character and charm. It is just enough Israel, with a lot of immigrant flare and somehow a spirit that reminds me of my other home- New Jersey. I love it there, and do  not yearn for weekends in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, so leaving my home may have been as traumatic as the 24 hours spent under rocket fire. I know I had to go and my partner, who grew up in a kibbutz in the area surrounding Gaza in a time when there were no bomb shelters and no air raid sirens, suffers from post-trauma, so leaving was no question. But we were in no shape to pack, having had no sleep for 24 hours and we were probably too tired to drive. This explains why I am in Jerusalem in November with 4 tank tops, one pair of jeans and one thin fleece. My only pair of shoes: boots (and I NEVER travel with only one pair of shoes). No toothpaste, no soap or shampoo.

We arrived in Jerusalem, with only one air raid siren catching us in the car. No, we didn’t stop and get out and lay on the ground as we are told to do, I put the pedal to the metal and speed-racer-ed my ass north bound. By the grace of great friends, we have an amazing place to stay, warm clothes, toiletries and meals. Slowly, we start to remember what normal is. Our dog, after a good night’s sleep, stops looking so nervous and skittish, and we can identify with that. The hardest part is the refugee feeling, and seeing that life and work go on outside of the south of Israel. In Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, they know we are at war, yet it is a distant news story to them, even with one or two air raid sirens of their own.

As my work is outside of the south, I could physically be expected to work on Sunday, while I expect the war will rage on well into the week. But just the thought of focusing on work induces anxiety- not to mention the follow-up thought of what the hell do I have to wear? But this feeling is nearly impossible to explain to someone who has not been where you have been and simultaneously depends on you and pays you to further their cause. My work ethic says yes but emotional capacity says no.

And all of this happens before I start to think of the lack of regard for human life on both sides. The trauma of the children; the soldiers I know and the Gazans I don’t know. It is not for ignorance or lack of empathy, I just can’t find the strength to hold all the pain.

I miss my friends from Beer Sheva and I worry about them and their children. I miss the feeling of home and my routine. I miss laughing without feeling guilty and the ability to dive into work without another thought elsewhere.

Wishing and praying for a rapid and safe end to this senseless conflict but mostly, I just wanna go home.


Detox Day 8: the surrender

Today, after 8 full days of detoxing and cleansing my body of processed foods, added sugars, dairy, gluten and caffeine (minus one coffee), I surrender.

But it isn’t what you think. Really, it wasn’t so hard. Especially once I added fish and beans back, I can live pretty happily on fruits, veggies, oil, fish and beans. You know who couldn’t take days 6+7? My stomach. I expected the headaches, but they subsided after day 3. I expected an upset stomach… and it continued on for 8 days straight. That was what did me in.

*** warning, I am about to talk about bowel movements, with as much metaphor as possible, but you have been warned***

I am usually a very “regular” girl. If you are an avid reader of this blog you know I am far from normal and therefor I surely mean the other “regular”. I pride myself on having an iron stomach. I drink tap water all over the world, I eat street food- meat, even! I love seafood. Hell, I even mix beer and liquor and almost never get ‘sicker’. But this cleanse cleansed me through and through… 5 times a day.

I could go on, but I fear I shouldn’t and besides, you get the point.

I leave you with just this simple, pitiful detox fact: I have used more public bathrooms in Israel this past week than I have in all of the last nearly 7 years combined.

*** those who despise poop-talk may rejoin the rest of us sickos here***

After 8 long days of delicious natural food, 3 lbs lost, and a lot more learned, I end my detox. I didn’t hate it. I hate what it did to my stomach but it gave me so much perspective on what I eat and where it comes from. It won’t change everything about the way I eat, but it might change some things. I definitely feel even more confident in my earlier assumption that everyone has different dietary needs;  there is not one dietary equation for all women on earth. Some people can NOT eat gluten and dairy, and are much healthier without it. I personally felt healthier with my whole wheat bread and low-fat cheese than when I sustained. Some people claim to lose a lb a day on a detox- I didn’t. In order to lose a lb a day, I would have to eat only two carrots and run 6 miles a day. I did not miss alcohol at all, which I expected. I missed coffee most of all. I did not miss the processed foods I had been eating (diet ice creams, granola bars) and I will continue to do without most of them. I have begun to look at ingredients, now that I know what to look for. Added sugar is the best example of this. When I bought my soy milk for tomorrow morning’s well-deserved coffee, I noticed that some soy milk has added sugar! I never would have thought to look for that before.

So I leave this experience more educated and really proud of making it 8 whole days. I encourage anyone who wants to have a really interesting experience in food and body wellness to do a well-balanced, healthy cleanse for as long as you can.

What I love about the yoga I do is the constant reminder and affirmation that ‘your best is best’. Meaning, if you can reach your toes when you bend, that’s great but if not, it’s no big deal. If you can do the more advanced pose, cool but no worries because some days you can and some days you can’t. There is a constant voice of self-acceptance that I don’t always have in my own head. I tend to push myself to be the most advanced and the most flexible- even when I am alone with a video podcast. So I need that reassurance from my yoga. It was nice to see that in my solo detox experience, I was able to carry that sentiment and  really live it. I would not win the Detox Olympics gold medal for 21 perfect days of cleansing. But I did win a self-best, positive and fun learning experience. No guilt. No shame. No “bad”. No worries :)

May we all navigate our digestive tracks in peace. Namaste.


Detox Day 5

(alternative title: oopsie I had a coffee)

I am on day 5 of my detox and it’s getting a little boring. I decided to add in beans and fish early, mostly because of the bore-factor. If I didn’t I was going to fold on the whole thing. So that happened and I’m not looking back. I feel happy with the variety and pleased to have made it thus far. I’ve had salads, cold soups, smoothies, veggie stews, eggplants, beets, sweet potatoes and much, much more.

Now, about the coffee incident. I was after a particularly good meeting (of which I haven’t had many in the past few months) and with a great friend. We both really needed a win, and this was it. So we celebrated. Not with ice cream, not with a croissant or a piece of cake. Not a slice of pizza or a beer. Just a little coffee. SO SUE ME!!!

But now I’m back on track, eating like week two, a few days early. So here is some solace to all of us who read wellness articles: no one is perfect. Life isn’t perfect. So the idea that someone will flawlessly pursue anything, whether it be a yoga practice or a detox, a job or a relationship, is clearly false. So the best advice anyone should give or get is, “Do your best.” Because its better than doing nothing and sometimes expectations of perfection can kill a thing from the start. So that’s my wisdom spittin’ for the day.

Do I feel any different? I have had some great morning and evening walks lately and some good focused yoga this week. I do feel light and more energized. OR maybe more specifically for me, I feel less lethargic and lazy than I did a few weeks ago. I can definitely feel how abstaining from dairy, sugar, and gluten gives me a more steady mood and lighter feel. I don’t feel as heavy and bogged down as I did when I started.

I have also lost a few lbs! I am not sure if I am losing the type of weight that stays off, but assuming this detox does what it was meant to, I’m not my way to a bit of a healthier weight. Also, seeing some results, both in how I feel and on the g*d damned f**ing sh** of a scale, might mean that this detox might also change the way I eat a bit when it’s all over (please lord, let those days move quickly).  I might try to limit the sheer amount of cheese that I melt on everything. I have definitely learned to season and cook vegetables in a more interesting way and eat entire meals with no carbs, a feat I had never attempted before now.

So perhaps my mindset is changing. Perhaps my double chins are, too.

I MUST add a special shout out to my most awesome Mom! She is on day 2 of this very same detox. We video-chatted this morning over a smoothie and shared recipes! I’m very proud! Go Mom!


Detox: Day 1 and 2

So far so good. I must say, I am not as miserable as I thought I would be.

Day 1 offered me a 12 hour head ache. That was not great. But I did enjoy 2 self-juiced fruit shakes (melon, pear and frozen raspberries, with some mint leaves!) and a large stir fry with red cabbage, mangold (is that how its called in English?), mushrooms, onions, garlic, celery and red peppers! I have been snacking on pumpkin seeds and carrots. A main staple for me has been sweet potato, which tastes more like a filling plate of real food than anything else I can eat. And I have been drinking a TON of water,  as much water as humanly possible.

Day 2 I was not home all day, a novelty for me. I traveled with a cooler lunch box (I already have all the friends I need, right?!) full of peeled carrots, dried fruit (no sugar added), and seeds. I also cut up a salad but didn’t find time to sit and eat it. So this was a challenge but I did well. I actually sat at a coffee shop and ordered a fruit shake with just fruit in it. My brain was screaming for coffee, but I fought the urge.

I miss coffee. I miss coffee so much. Like a love who is away on business, I can only day dream about the perfect, warm, refreshing taste of coffee on my lips. I actually want to cry when I think of it. My head hurts when I think of it. This is a true addiction that I am detoxing from. Several times I have found myself negotiating in my head, how I can still detox with just the one cup of coffee a day. Or at least tea with caffeine. But I hold off, for at least another day.

I am quite enjoying the fruit juices. It takes me a while to drink them. There is something about the natural sweetness and freshness that is somehow shocking to my senses.

I do not feel hungry, which I feared. The nuts, dried fruit and seeds are actually pretty filling when I do get a small hunger pang. The key to this thing is being prepared: I do not want to get caught without a carrot stick nearby if I am hungry because most of my meals take 30 minutes to prepare. Also, my compost is over flowing just from the two days. So if you don’t do it already, composting is a good thing to do along with this detox plan since you generate so much veggie waste.

sweet potato. also this looks like baby food.

As I read this back, I wonder, “How the hell am I alive?” Should a person be able to live on such little food? I guess that the little amounts of sustenance that I am eating are filled with everything I need to give me energy and strength, because I am doing fine. I am much less miserable and weak and pathetic than I thought I would be without bread and cheese. Oooooooh how I miss cheese. Cheese, my mistress. My part-time lover behind coffee’s back, I miss how delicious you are and how you melt perfectly on everything, making the world that much better…

But I digress. With the exception of coffee, which still feels like a proper addiction, a primal urge I struggle through, I feel OK without dairy, added sugar and gluten. I haven’t missed alcohol yet in any real way. Its as if I can take them or leave them, but if I have the option to eat or drink them, I know I always will. So why do I tend to over-indulge in these things in my life? Is it a question of pure will power? Boundaries? A system of reward my subconscious has devised that I need to break? Maybe I will get answers as the week goes on.

For now, namaste. Clink your wine glasses, have a sip of coffee and melt cheese on something for me!


Detox T-1 Day

Tomorrow I start my cleanse. Some people have asked about it or asked why. I also read that being clear on your goals can help you commit and succeed so, here goes.

I have researched and read a lot about detoxes and cleanses for the past few weeks. Most interesting to me was the rich history of fasts and detoxes in eastern philosophy and eastern cultures. Fasting is not good for me, as I get hangry (hungry+angry) if I don’t eat something small every 5 hours. So that was out. But I can really see the value in allowing my body a grace period in which i seriously attempt to limit the chemicals and heavy doses of badness that I have had a tendency to ingest over the past 30 years. If I have done my worst for 30 years on this body, the least I can do is my best for 7… or 21… or 2… we’ll see.

I am basing my detox plan on the 2012 Challenge I found online here on the Whole Living website. It is not a lemon water and ginger only detox. That would end in hangry tears 6 hours in. I have no doubt. It is based on completely non-processed foods, fruits and vegetables. I have also gotten a lot out of the articles on Mind, Body, Green. I read a lot. I saw a lot of bullshit out there. I decided that for this to work for me, whether for 2 days or 21, it to be  relatively balanced and varied. I have to be able to have some decent amount of choice between flavors and consistencies of foods that I enjoy. I had to plan ahead. I waited until my fridge was empty and then did a huge food shopping. As for the issue of access. we spent less money in the food shop preparing for the detox than we usually do. So, this is relatively affordable. You do not need to buy a into a plan or become a member. I prepared my dear life partner for this mentally. I decided to start on a Sunday (our “Monday”), so as not to ruin our weekend with the first few days- which I do not doubt will be difficult.

Here are my goals:

  • I am doing this detox to cleanse and refresh my body from the inside out.
  • I hope to cut cravings and addictions to sugar, high fat foods
  • I want to jump start my metabolism and digestion
  • I want to rest my liver and organs

To do this, I will need to eliminate processed foods, added sugars, dairy, gluten, caffeine and alcohol. Not easy for me. At all. I usually do not smoke, but of course all cigarettes and even the occasional joint will be out. It is important to note that a cleanse is not meant to be permanent. It is not a fad diet. I eat very healthily on a permanent basis. It is meant to jump start and purify the body and draw my attention to the processed foods that I might still be able to eliminate from my body. In my opinion eggs, dairy, whole wheat and even meat all have important responsibilities in my nourishment. But it is also good for the body to take a break once in a while. Or so they say. I’ll let you know.

So what will I eat? According to the Whole Living plan:

What You’re Eating During Week 1: fruits, vegetables, and plant-based fats, including nuts, seeds, and oils
What You’re Adding Back in Week 2: seafood, beans and lentils, and organic soy
What You’re Adding Back in Week 3: gluten-free grains and eggs

I will have to start and see. My plan is to be kind and listen to myself. Personally, I will be fine if I make one week on a combination of Whole Livings Week 1 + beans and lentils. I do not want to know life without chickpeas. But I have committed to soaking and cooking my own dried beans, and not using cans for whatever I do not have to. I have time to do that, so I might as well. I do not eat a lot of fruits usually, so I am looking forward to that. My fridge is stocked. I will improve my cold soups and smoothie making skills this week.

Of course I will be doing yoga. I have just been falling in love with Chaz from Yogamazing. Chaz leads great 25 minute yoga video podcasts. They are free and refreshing. His yoga is kind and his jokes are corny. Thats how I like my men and my yoga. More on free yoga online soon but for now check out Yoga for Cleaning with Chaz on You Tube!

IF I can make it through a week of detox, and that is a big IF, then I will be proud of myself. If I enjoy the way I feel, I will keep it up so week 2 and so on to 21 days. If anyone wants to join me, or share their experiences with me, I would love that!

Namaste (and no, this blog has not been taken over by an alien. I am still me, just finding my inner peace)


Wellness for all

I am a hot mess right now. I mean it. I really need to get my physical shit together. But in all of my reading on wellness, cleanses, detoxes, feng shui, etc., I have begun to realize that I have some trust issues.

First, I have a hard time trusting skinny people. I do not believe a person who has not had a life-long struggle with an extra 30 lbs and a belly, yet writes about how I should eat and workout in order to lose weight and feel better. How the hell does someone who has always weighed 110 lbs know how I feel? I have seen numbers on my scale these past few months that I wouldn’t wish on a body builder at my height. So this is one of the things that makes me tentative to try these new measures- how does someone with the metabolism of a 13 year old boy know how their detox will effect me, a 30 year old woman with the body of an 85 year old man?

Next, there is a ton of information out there and the different bits of knowledge tend to contradict each other. Fish is great for you but it has chemicals, so take Omega 3 supplements instead, but not all vitamin supplements are organic, most have chemicals in them. Your shampoo and face-wash might be killing you, but the pollutants in the air clog your pores with smog, so how are you supposed to clean your face? Oh, that’s right, rub it clean with a lemon… but wait, the lemon is covered in pesticides and you can’t clean it because your soap is full of chemicals. I have low iron, so I need to eat more red meat, but don’t get yogis started on red meat. Oh and by the way, weight loss can be stunted by negative thinking and internal aggression about working out. So, if I don’t work out if I’m agree, don’t use soap or shampoo, don’t take vitamins or eat red meat of chemical-fish, I will look like this :

The only way I have ever lost weight is to extremely limit my caloric intake and overwhelm my system with hardcore cardio, like running. But running is bad for your back, depending on who you ask and then you need to decide who to believe. So do yoga because yoga is good for your back. But in order to lose weight through yoga, I would actually have to do it all day long without stopping to sleep or eat. And its important to sleep 8 hours, starting promptly at 10:30 because your liver regenerates at 11pm. And it is important to 8 meals a day… no wait, 6… no I think its 3… but only non-processed foods (I dare you to try to understand where the boundaries of “processed” lay)… nope the best is definitely a juice only fast for 21 days, because that sounds healthy. Is your head spinning, yet? Good.  So you get how I feel like this:The other factor here is access. I have been recently unemployed and I am simultaneously working on another important goal: financial stability. So there will be no gym membership or 2-hour hot yoga classes in a studio for me. I cannot buy organic only foods right now. I won’t and never have let money get in the way of my eating fresh, health foods, but many changes would ideally require even a minimal financial investment: buying an elliptical trainer for my home so that I could get cardio without the back strain, or buying a juicer, or going to see either my psychologist or my shiatsu therapist, both of whom have a great  hand in my breaking down the walls between me and loving my body. So which investment do I make when all of them, though minimal, exceed my current budget? What is the more important commitment? My body? My mind? My financial stability? Should they be at odds with each other or are these all really symptoms of the same issues? I do not feel that I have unlimited access to wellness as some of these articles want me to feel like I have. And if I do not have access, then it makes me wonder about people much less fortunate that I am and how much they need access to “wellness”.

I have never been thin and though I have had times where I have been in good shape and felt well, I have never come close to looking fit. But then I also never believed that I would be as happy and emotionally healthy as I currently am. 5 years ago I could never imagine having the such healthy emotional life choices and going to bed with little-to-no anxiety on most nights. Crying and fighting was once such a regular daily occurrence in my life. I actually thought that that was how life was meant to be and would always be. I know that change is possible. I admit that I cannot imagine what it would feel like to gain real, calm, consistent, healthy control over my body but I want to try.

At this point in time, at this moment, I honestly do not even know where to begin.

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