Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Amsterdam, City of Bicycles

Amsterdam is a city of picturesque canals, of coffeeshops that legally serve cannabis products, of flower markets and Van Gogh sunflowers, of Rembrandt masterpieces and Gouda cheese, of red light sex tourism and Anne Frank heroism. Amsterdam is all this and more, but the first impression one gets when one takes to the streets of the Dutch capital is that Amsterdam is a city of bicycles.

While Tel Aviv is doing its best to be bike-friendly, it has a lot to learn from Amsterdam, where just about everyone cycles. Talk about special bike lanes - it’s almost as an afterthought that there are lanes for cars in Amsterdam. The bicycle traffic is thick and furious.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Interview with Erica Manfred, Jewish Vampire Author

Earlier this week I posted a review of Interview with a Jewish Vampire by Erica Manfred, a humor-filled tale of a Jewish divorcee who finds the love of her life when she dates a man who has been dead for a few centuries. Television shows and films have made vampires very popular these days, but not many of these undead creatures are Jewish. Or are they? I interviewed Erica Manfred to learn more of the story behind this book.

ES: Okay, what’s up with your obsession with vampires?

EM: I've been a vampire fan ever since I read Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire in the 80s. Her writing was mesmerizing and the whole concept of a vampire society with its own rules, cast of characters and passions fascinated me. Of course it was all in the writing.  Anne Rice was a wizard in that book. She's never written anything so brilliant again, but I still read her anyway. From there on I became a fan, watching all the movies and reading vampire books that intrigued me. I lost interest for a while but then Twilight came along and I fell in love all over again, and True Blood captured me completely.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Oy Vey, Jewish Vampires!

Jewish singles around the world are quite familiar with JDate, the website where they anxiously post their profiles in hopes of meeting their beshert (Yiddish for ‘predetermined soul mate’). When Rhoda Ginsburg, a 41-year-old overweight Jewish divorcee signs up at the site, she never expects that her shidduch (Yiddush for ‘match’) will be with a Jewish rabbi who has been dead for hundreds of years.

“I would like to tell the story of my life,” says Rhoda’s date when they meet up at a bar. “What’s so special about your story?” Rhoda asks, unwilling to make their meeting a professional gig for her writing career. “I’m a vampire,” her date replies matter-of-factly.

A Jewish vampire? Oy, vey izt mir! (‘Oh, woe is me!’).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Breakfast in Ein Kerem

The sun is shining brightly on the golden onion domes of the Russian Orthodox church on the hills overlooking the picturesque village of Ein Kerem. Down in the valley, tourists from all over the world flock behind their guides to Mary’s Spring or up the hill to the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist. While walking through the colorful and serene alleyways one can easily forget that the village is actually a neighborhood of the city of Jerusalem.

It’s Friday morning, and Jodie and I have a coupon for a free breakfast for two. Our chosen destination is Karma, a restaurant located in the very center of the village. Parking is a challenge, though, as the two levels of free underground parking lot across from the restaurant are completely full, a fact that is unknown to the guard who keeps signaling visitors to drive right in. Above the lot, tour buses are circling around and discharging their visitors. We’re lucky to find a tight spot under a tree not far away.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Did Anyone Ask for Elections?

Only a week or so ago, nobody was talking about having elections this year in Israel. The government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, whether we supported it or not, was firmly entrenched until sometime in distant 2013. And then, as if we almost missed their initial inception, early elections are all that we can talk about and will take place on September 4th. The only thing we’re lacking is an answer to the question - why?

Let’s not get our hopes up. If anyone expects Israel’s post-election government to be more stable, more capable of achieving social justice and/or restarting the peace process, he is probably unfamiliar with the fractious state of Israeli politics.