Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hasbara Beth and Ira Style

From Wikipedia: Hasbara, Hasbara (Hebrew: הסברה‎, also spelt Hasbarah) is a Hebrew noun that literally means "explanation". [1][2] The term has been used by the State of Israel and by independent groups to describe their efforts to explain Israeli government policies, and to promote Israel to the world at large.

In other words, Hasbara, is the local spin. There are many who feel that Israel is terrible at Hasbara. Our own Elisheva, Sarah's daughter, currently serving in the IDF in 'Doveyr Tzahal' (Spokesperson's Dept), feels that the army works hard to help journalists understand what's going on but could do better at certain times yet with security concerns being what they are it's often an unwinnable game.

We've realized over the last year and a half of living here that we have our own Hasbara methodology which perhaps if employed more would make for a happier world. We get a phone call or email from a friend, close or long lost. 'We're coming into town' they tell us. We respond with happiness and pleasure - sometimes tinged with exhaustion as certain times of the year are marked by continuous guests (holidays, Xmas/New Years, summertime). 'Want to go out to eat?' they often ask. 'Sure' we respond, 'but maybe you want to come over and have dinner by us...' 'Really?' they say, 'Ok, how about Shabbat?' And we host - dinner on a weeknight means soup and stir-fry or something not to fancy (ask Rena S, we've fed her nicely - then again, she shleps from Costco for us and deserves dessert and a good bottle of wine as well), or evening coffee and cake and we try not to yawn too much (we're not vacationing and wake up for Akiva's bus is 6:15 every day Sun-Fri). Shabbat really is best as even if we're tired on Friday night, we're happy, relaxed and glad to sit and hang out. And if we can get you to come to shul, even better and we'll always shlep the visitor to Shira Hadasha for their lengthy but spirited davening. We make it up to you with a good scotch and a good meal. Shabbat day means shul, lunch and even a game of grab scrabble or if Alan shows up, some bridge. Sometimes we can play during the week too - trips to Tel Aviv to shop are always fun, as well as the shuk in Jerusalem for our favorite coffee and 'croissanterie' and the occasional hike in the countryside if a day can be found. All in good fun and all to show you how we like to enjoy ourselves here.

We're happy to talk politics if you'd like, answer questions about our life here and generally field inquiries about whatever as best as possible. We ask that you not grill Natan too much about the army which he hates talking about but will try to be pleasant if he can.

Then, there's The Honey. Our Tel Aviv partner, Hadass Tesher, said in a conference call the other day that The Honey is her form of Hasbara and I thought, 'what a brilliant statement.' Indeed, people have said to me that what they like about The Honey is that it is completely non-political, although we do list occasional community happenings that may not be liked by all, our emphasis is on living a good life here, enjoying all that Israel has to offer, from the North to the South, from the mix of cultures and the mash of people from all over the world who arrive here to live and work here. If we could only sell our particular brand of Hasbara to the Ministry of Tourism or some big company that would like to sponsor us. ..we're working on it.

But the upshot is that if you come and visit us, like the 35 or so before you - no, make that 45 as we hosted a party of 10 this past Shabbat, we'll make you coffee, serve you cake and if you play your cards right, Shabbat dinner and a tiyul (trip out and about) could happen as well. We want to see you here in Israel, and want to show you our house, introduce you to some of our new friends, let Akiva get excited that you came on a plane to visit him - in short, give you a bit of a taste of how the locals (I guess that's what we are) live.

Give us a call. We're waiting to hear from you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Spinning in Hebrew

Taking a spinning class in Hebrew is an interesting experience. Each instructor has their own teaching style, read delivery style. So, Gustavo, (Tues and Wed evenings) originally from S. America, focuses on rapid cycling - he values the level of pressure in time, like double time/fast or triple time/really, really fast, really only Gustavo can turn his legs that fast, and then, there's high pressure (meaning turning the dial up high) and we're all huffing but Gustavo's doing nicely. During the class, he talks a bit, tells us it shouldn't be easy and given that it's nighttime and the disco ball is turning and the lights are off, we all just mind our own business.

Then, there's Mindy, here from Montreal for the last 13 years or so. Her Hebrew is good but mercifully, she throws in a good bunch of English. From her we've learned the terminology for standing up straight, watching that our chest and heads don't sink down and adjusting the pressure to her notions of hard and easy, all delivered with her breezy smile, swinging ponytail and nary a droplet of sweat.

Aryeh is the most amusing from my perspective and the most Israeli - then again, he is Israeli. A retired army man, can't remember what he did but clearly it was not something that allowed him to get fat eating humus and yelling at recruits, he's in impressively good shape for a guy who I'm told has 2 grandchildren - you do the potential math, even if he married and had kids when he was young. His delivery style is 'early military', punctuated by the sounds he likes to make to keep time, 'tock tock' along with his head ticking right and left in time with the music. He takes no prisoners, gives you little idea of what to expect but as you get to know him, you begin to recognize when he's about to up the ante, pick up the pace, start peddling wildly fast and generally, leave the rest of us in the dust. Ira and I never understand much of what he yells out to us during class - he just doesn't say anything that I really recognize but we manage just fine and are always proud of ourselves for making it through.

Today, Aryeh asked me if I bike outside of class - not that much these days to be honest. A combination of a healthy fear of J'lem roads which are barely big enough for traffic, let alone bikes and an unfortunate lack of public awareness about sharing the road with bikes in the first place. I told Aryeh that I need a new bike - which is true. I have a lovely but ancient peugeot that's great for straightaways but not for the constant up and down of J'lem hills. Aryeh told me that I'm a great spinner. Pretty cool. Begins to make me think about doing that Hazon ride sponsored by the Arava Institute next May --- all about the environment and the Arava...hmm.