Support from the inside.

Since motzei Shabbat, I, like everyone else, have been watching as Gaza, the news and – at least my – inbox have exploded.

And by inbox, I really mean all forms of electric communication. I’m getting messaged, emailed, SMS’d, tweeted: Help organize food and supplies to Israeli border towns! Host a family from the south! Support the soldiers being sent to Gaza!

Then there’s another kind of message I’m receiving as well: It’s the outside-of-Israel perspective on help and support. It’s rallies outside of the UN or protests at pro-Palestinian events. It’s the kind of action only an (American-minded) campus/non profit/lobbyist organization can provide. It’s political. It’s edgy. It’s intense in its own way.

I used to be a part of that world, about four years ago now. I helped organize. I attended. I prepared materials, talking points. Summoned students to rallies. 

And now I’m here. Watching it from afar; watching from inside. Some things are the same, some are different. I can see how right wing and left wing people are on the outside. How political. How partisan. 

It’s not as clear cut here I think; not to the average person, anyway… Sure we have our opinions on what should be done – some of us are right wing, some of us are left wing. Many of us are in the center, trying to think of what’s best for everyone.

But we also live in border towns or we watch our coworkers’ sons and husbands get ‘shipped’ out. We call up family members from the south and offer refuge in our homes. We drive to work a different way, to avoid passing through machsomim and Arab towns. We think twice when joking about the food and blankets we keep in the ma’amad. 

We wonder how far it’ll reach and if it’ll reach us, all the way out here. 

We know that whether we believe one thing or another, we’re here. We’re in it. So support has to be more tangible. We have to feel it in ourselves. We support our fellow citizens, our family down south, our friends in the army. But we also support ourselves.

Otherwise, how would we still live here?

Israeli Consulate hosting a Twitter Q&A session.

And now, for something new and different.

So… here in Israel, we are more computers than people. And I know I was a bit snobbish when I wrote about the Israeli elections campaigns using internet tech and themes from their American counterparts. But this actually tops all that for real:

The Israeli Consulate has its own Twitter account and will be fielding Q&A today from 1pm-3pm Eastern Standard Time. The consulate also has two blogs, Israel Politik and IsRealli, as well as a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and MySpace profile.

I suppose it’s logical; Israel is a country that needs more PR than most others. But it might also be nice to have seen the American government hold Q&A sessions on Twitter or sending down-to-earth updates on blog posts or YouTube videos.

Anyway, if you want to know more about the Twitter event, here’s the consulate’s blog post about it:

Tomorrow, 30 December, from 1-3PM EST,  David Saranga, Consul of Media and Public Affairs in New York, will answer your questions about the situation in Israel and Gaza in a “Citizens’ Press Conference.”

You can submit your question by directing it to our Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/IsraelConsulate . We will do our best to answer through Twitter.  If an answer requires more than the 140 character limit, we will respond on Twitter with a link to an answer posted in this blog.

We hope you will be able to join us–tell your friends!!

I hope it turns out worthwhile.

We are more computers than people.

Fun stat: Israel has more computers per person than any other country, according to The Economist. Yes, I am surprised, despite knowing that Israelis are very into technology and hi tech is a major industry here. It may be a country of technology, but at times it feels five years behind. That said, they never asked what kinds of computers we own…

Good old fashion chutzpah.

Looks like Israeli Santa brought me a present this Chanukah, in the form of some tradional and terrible Israeli marketing tactics – one minor and one major. Allow me to share them with you: 

Learn how to communicate with your potential customers

This morning, I wake up to the buzzing of my phone, a call at 8:50 am from an 02 number I don’t recognize. I let it go, cursing out whoever calls me before 9 am on a Friday. Ten minutes later, the phone rings again, and my husband picks up. He tells me, ”It’s Batya.” I mouth back, “Who’s Batya?”

I pick up and the woman named Batya starts speaking and I realize this is a telemarketing call. My first thought is, poor thing has to do this work on a Friday morning, and my second thought is, are you freaking serious?

She gave me her shpiel and mentioned somewhere in there that a friend of mine had offered my number because she signed up for a membership and thought I’d be interested. Before I answered anything else, I asked, “Which friend?” She didn’t seem to understand the question, so I repeated: “Which friend gave you my number?” Of course, she said she didn’t have the name on her. She started giving me another shpiel and I blurted out, “Not a good time. I’m pregnant.” I could sense her brain freezing at what kind of comment to offer in return so I said goodbye and hung up.

Now I wish I had asked: What possesses a company’s marketing department to make these kinds of calls at this very time? Do you not realize, as a gym, that people who are not already at the gym early on a Friday morning are probably not gym-going types of people who don’t want to be woken up… by gyms?

The funniest thing about the whole story is that I  never heard the name of the gym, so I can’t even do a little ‘viral marketing’ for them and repeat it here.

UPDATE: Turns out, it was a woman from a gym I had actually given my number to a few days earlier. I take back the angst, but I think calling after 9 still would have been nice since I’m not a member (yet?). 

Learn how to communicate with your outgoing customers

Our stone, third-floor apartment in Tzur Hadassah is consistently colder than it is outside. Last night we went to turn on the gas heating and found that the thing would just shut off after three seconds. My husband thought it might have been broken, but I had just used it the night before. We realized maybe the gas had been shut off… but why? Downstairs, we checked that the gas stove top wasn’t working either and then we knew for sure.

After checking with the neighbors, we understood it wasn’t just us or them – it was our entire block. Here’s some background: To switch to a new gas company, you have to get a whole block to petition for it and then you can disconnect from one and join a new one, collectively. My block had decided to switch from פזגז ירושלים (PazGaz), one of the leading Israeli gas companies, to גז יגל (Gaz Yegel), a smaller company, because we were paying about double what others pay. The switch was set for Sunday: PazGas would come and disconnect, and then Gaz Yegel would come and connect on the same day. 

Last night, PazGas decided to end their terms just a little bit earlier – on a Thursday, in fact, so the weekend had started and there would be nothing we can do until Sunday anyway. They came and shut off the gas, silently leaving letters scattered by our doors addressed from the Manager of Customer Service, עליזה אוחיון. The letter fascinated me, with it’s overly sweet apologies for the ending of our relationship, with the law being kept in mind by the company the whole way. And somewhere that translates into screwing us by shutting off the gas early.

However – a Chanukah miracle! We woke up this morning to find that our gas had been returned to us. Turns out Gaz Yegel had actually come by late last night and connected us when they were contacted by neighbors about what PazGaz did. For what it’s worth, they said this is not the first time this company has been screwed by PazGaz into rescuing switched-over companies because they shut off the gas early.

Yesterday and the day before have been (or at least felt like) the coldest days so far. This is a residential area with babies and kids everywhere. How could a gas company do that? What kind of message does that send? That you’re a sore loser when participating in a free, open market? That you can’t take undercutting by the competition in a mature and business-smart way? 

Gaz Yegel advised us it wasn’t worth a lawsuit. I wasn’t really even thinking lawsuit, I was thinking bad publicity. I think the customer service in this country is so terrible because consumers don’t complain after the fact; there’s no feedback. Lawsuits are becoming more popular, but that’s not the best way – or only way – to make a point. Sure, Israelis will complain during the bad times, and they’ll work at finding a solution as quickly as possible… But once it’s gone down, where’s the feedback? I could sit back and be happy the new company came to the rescue, but how will everyone else find out about why this all started in the first place?

Well, all I can really ask is that all  my friends out there doing Israeli MBAs this year keep these kinds of stories in mind, and go off and become Marketing Directors or consultants, and help these companies work on strategies and tactics that are not based on the wonderful Jewish tradition of chutzpah.

Falling in love.

How do you fall in love with a picture?

Back in week 15-16 we had the first of two major ultrasounds done. Going into it, we had already seen the ‘kid’ twice: once as a chulent bean in the beginning and once a few weeks back as something that might have come from a veterinary text book for all we knew. 

But this major ultrasound – we had no idea what we were going in for, just that we’d ‘see’ (hear?) the size and shape of the fetus and make sure it has some of its vital parts. 

Well, I got on the bed and jellied up (gross) and then we saw this creature: sleeping inside my body. Upside down. I stared mostly while the doctor remarked over and over how it was in a bad position for the check up. He couldn’t access all parts. He needed it to flip over, which apparently translated into literally pushing around my belly to try to get it to flip. 

After about fifteen  minutes of my child-to-be displaying incredibly stubborn tendencies (who does s/he get that from?) or just enjoying a really deep sleep (we know where it gets that from), the doctor ordered that I go take a 30 minute walk around the block and eat some sweets – in very non-medical terms, jump-start the flipping. 

I ate some candy and we walked up and down the block and came back. Baby-creature was still on its stomach, curled up and looking more comfortable than I’ve felt in months (thanks a lot). We all kind of chuckled as the doctor worked to flip it over again but to no avail. After twenty minutes of nudging, he sent us off again to eat sweets, take walks, and drink coffee. Not my idea of nine o’clock on a week night, but hey, that’s the budding of maternal sacrifice. 

After 40 minutes we returned to his office and I again laid down, waiting to see it, face up or face down. It was… face down. Still. Kid, I hope you sleep that well in 5 months is all I can say. 

Worried that we’d never get the check up done (what exactly was s/he trying to hide, anyway?) the doctor again nudged and pleaded with the ultrasound feeler thing jabbing my stomach. After five minutes of that (and my own radiating brainwaves of Jewish maternal guilt sent towards the little one, which is what I think did it) the fetus flipped and settled – seemingly comfortabley – on its back.

I don’t know if it was this back-and-forth experience – the sort of silent communication with my unborn child – or it was watching as the doctor measured legs and arms, counted ten fingers, ten toes (remember when you had to wait to find that out?), highlighted the heart beat, blood flow, stomach, brain… Or maybe it was just a combination, but watching all that – not a fetus, but my little tiny unborn child – on this screen in front of me, knowing it was all there, inside my body…

Well, I fell in love right then. It was unlike anything, ever. Falling in love for real, knowing it at that moment it happened, love at first sonogram. All at once, I understand what love can be, more than I ever thought – bizarrely unconditional, completely overtaking… I guess in the past that first happened at the actual birth, but modern technology is what it is, and now I can pinpoint the moment I fell in love with my child, in picture form. 

So the answer I have to my original question is: you fall in love with a picture by it being your unborn child, up there portrayed in front of you, simultaneously in your body and in front of your eyes, breathing, beating, living off/with/inside you.

And as soon as I was ‘disconnected’ from the machine, I missed it terribley.

Israeli election coverage from YouTube and Channel 2.

Here’s something new and different: Israeli television channel ערוץ 2 and YouTube seem to have teamed up to bring us (Hebrew) coverage of the 2009 Knesset elections campaigns.

The campaigns have begun, although they’re obviously not as exciting or inspiring as the American ones this past year. Fair enough. But it is interesting that the major parties and news outlets are trying to take pages right out of the elections handbooks of the American elections culture:

  • Shas is using Twitter (and from what I’ve heard, annoyingly so) and has adopted Barack Obama’s “Yes we can” slogan.
  • Ehud Barak of the (dying) Labor party accepted an invitation to participate in an Eretz Nehederet skit last night.
  • Bibi of Likud apparently carbon copied Obama’s website style for his own website.
  • I’ve repeatedly seen plays on the phrase “Yes we can,” in headlines, blog posts and websites.
  • Eretz Nehederet is, of course, having fun with all the jokes.

Not sure where Kadima is in all this. Maybe they’re feeling the heat and thinking of a controversial right-hand (wo)man pick.

Back to the new YouTube-Channel 2 page: It’s kinda cool to see all the comments and users involved this way, via the internet. Of course, everything comes to Israel after it goes through the States first, but maybe we can hope that some of the more stupid elections aspects will not follow.

However, poor candidate choice apparently always will.

New age doughnuts.

Happy Chanukah! The kid-oriented yet historically-fascinating holiday has officially begun tonight, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit I totally didn’t get the memo and thought it started tomorrow. Even with the Hebrew dated agenda book I keep. 

I did have some clues that Chanukah was quickly approaching though: sales on candles, this year’s edition of cheap chanukiyah sold in the supermarket, party invitations, and of course – doughnuts. 

Sufganiyot – the Chanukah edition of doughnuts – are everywhere, as they always are. This year, I actually found them in a new spot: my supermarket freezer.

Oh, man, really? Frozen doughnuts? Shufersal, you know I love and cherish your homebrand, but this is a first as a product you’ve done that I wouldn’t buy.

I will note that they came with their own packet of white sugar to put on top after you’ve ‘baked’ them.  

I will also note the sadness I feel that as I am writing this, a Christmas song was on the Israeli radio, followed by a commercial that used Chanukah music to advertise a product. Oh, diaspora, you follow me everywhere.

An *enlightening* discovery.

They say lightening never strikes twice, but that is simply untrue when it comes to the palms of Oren Zarif’s hands.

A while back I brought him up when I discovered the Mizrachi healer’s website.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I was walking through Talpiot when from the corner of my eye I spotted the signature lightening bolt and constipated look in the eye…

Oh no! He’s not posing for an advertisement for… a lighting store! And that’s not just a flash of lightening in his palms – it’s a flourescent lightbulb. What an electrifying way to make an extra buck on the side when the healing thing is not what it used to be.

But starting at nine shekel for a flourescent bulb. That’s not bad.