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Leaving Eretz Yisrael

It’s painful to say it but I am glad to be home.

The human mind is weird that way.

When I was in Israel I definitely saw myself retiring there. Maybe I still will, who knows. Because it’s holy there.

But in the airport, and on the plane, sexist encounters with Israeli men had me thinking twice.

In the airport I stopped to get a cappuccino (that’s what they call a regular coffee — there’s no half and half, you have to get foamed milk to get close).

A guy lined up behind me, too close.

I turned around and waved my hand between my body and his. “Social space?” I asked, really saying, “Step your body back the hell away from me!”

He responded, in a British accent, “Oh, social distance. It’s different in Israel than in the USA.”

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I said, pretending not to be really, really miffed. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when anyone, male or female, crowds me in a line.

A few minutes later I went back for another one. And again, the same thing happened, just in a slightly different way.

A man lined up to the left of me, not even waiting in line, and REACHED OVER MY FACE to get some cookies from the counter.

“Excuse me!” I exclaimed, shocked at this rude behavior. I averted my face and walked away quickly.

I’m getting shorter with age and I had the distinct feeling that these men did not even see me with a man not there.

Now don’t get me wrong; there is a kind of gallantry as well that comes with traditional gender roles.

But pretty much every time I was alone, I could feel the sexism present.

Here’s a third example: On the plane, an Israeli man sat one row behind us, and my daughter opposite me.

At least three or four times during the flight, he opened the overhead bin, standing again much too close to her, not even seeming to see her, and was rustling his things.

When the plane landed, one of his bags fell out, and hit my daughter on the head.

Again I confronted the offender, and again I was rebuffed as though my presence was insignificant.

“Hey, man!” I said, sharply. “Your bag just hit my daughter’s head!”

He looked at me as though I were the problem, me and my big mouth.

I said, “At least take my bag down from the overhead then.”

To which he said, “If you would ask me nicely.”

This stranger actually said that.

I had to show him respect, even though he clearly had none for me or my daughter.

Before I left for Israel, people expressed a lot of fear for me. “Get there safely,” they said. “Hope you have a very safe trip.”

But I felt safe there. I truly did.

The mindset of Israelis is security-conscious, and they check your bag at all times, in all places.

It’s not insane, but it’s present, and they watch you.

At my daughter’s wedding, there were female guests who looked Arab, and it turns out that there is a sect of Sephardic Jews which dresses this way.

I just thought they were Arab, and I went out of my way to dance with one of them, because that’s how bad I want to have peace.

“You should write a blog about this,” said my dad.

The point, I guess, is that the things we think are problems sometimes really aren’t.

For example, from the propaganda you get in the West, you would think Arabs are running around Israel rioting against Jews. In Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem, I saw Arabs and Jews simply doing their thing.

I saw a woman whose entire body was covered in black, including her eyes. Nobody got in her way and frankly I couldn’t tell if she was extremist Arab or Jew.

But the things we think are not problems actually sometimes are. And that’s how I felt about sexism in Israel.

It’s not something overt, but it is palpably present.

The problem I think has to do with how women are conceived of.

Over there, a man is just a person. He might be fat, or short, or smart, or dumb, but all the pieces and the parts are viewed as part of a complex human being.

A woman, in contrast, is an assemblage of dualities: religious or secular, married or single, physically tough or weak, beautiful and young or old and washed out and ordinary.

I loved a lot of things about Israel. But I didn’t love the sexism.


Posted December 28, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. Photo by the author. This post is hereby released into the public domain.

When We Avert Our Eyes From The Data

Yesterday I had an exchange with someone about the strategic use of social media.

Do they measure engagement? Yes, of course.

Do they focus on content that serves a higher-level communication goal? Yes, again, for sure.

Do they attempt to find out, among their target audience, whether their higher-level communication goals have been achieved? And as part of that, whether social media had any impact whatsoever?

The person did not answer.

I felt bad afterward; maybe my questions were untoward. After all, someone was taking the time to indulge my curiosity in the first place.

But if we cannot have the data, with all its limitations and awkwardness, we cannot trust the results of any investigation.

Having a good understanding of data is fundamental to success. This is true whether you're running a business, investing in a stock, working as a staffer, or even doing something as mundane as going on a diet.

Feelings are not facts, you must remind yourself. Facts stand on their own.

And many facts are inconvenient.

The other day I told my daughter about her great-grandfather, and his role in uncovering some facts that others wanted buried.

It was a week before Rosh HaShanah 1944. A bunch of Hungarian paramilitary Nazi-sympathizing murderers entered Sarmas, Hungary.

They spent a week gang-raping, among others, a beautiful, educated, and relatively well-to-do young woman, Vera Haas.

In the town square - in front of all the people who knew her.

They also tortured the elderly people in town, with all sorts of "dancing" and "gymnastics."

When they were finished having their "fun," they marched the people out, to a remote area.

Vera's father could have escaped to the forest, but his soul was bound up in the brutal torment that had been visited upon his daughter.

He stayed, and stripped as they ordered, and was tortured to death with the rest.

What matters about this story is not only that it happened. But that the murderers warned the villagers who lived around the area to keep their mouths shut.

My Zayde came back to town shortly thereafter. When he heard, he decided he would do the following three things, no matter how long it took: bury the victims properly, put the murderers in jail, and make sure the Sarmas massacre was memorialized forever.

With God's help, all three were accomplished.

I tell you this story because I believe that history repeats itself, unless we decide to act in ways that reflect our evolution as beings.

One of the things that is happening, right now, as we speak, is the flooding of the world with data. This, in turn, is fueling dramatic advances in every field of knowledge.

Unfortunately, though, the moral and ethical dimensions of data are often absent from the conversation.

And sometimes, data itself goes ignored, because some people don't like where its conclusions might lead.

Right now, on social media, there are two people claiming to be victims of sex trafficking, mind control, and ritual abuse as part of a larger network. Their names are Sarah Ruth Ashcraft (nearly 10,000 followers on Twitter) and Christopher Cronsell (about 3,000 followers).

Perhaps their allegations are nothing more than a bizarre scam. The FBI did a study of occult ritual abuse in 1992 and concluded that essentially there was no there, there.

But as a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, knowing how active the denial community is, knowing much work the Jewish community put into preserving the data, I cannot turn away from their very compelling words, and the implications of them.

I hope that the law enforcement community will review what these two individuals are saying, and take all appropriate action.
Originally posted December 29, 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. This post is hereby released into the public domain. All opinions are the author's own. Photo credit: Dariusz Sankowski/Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)

A Conversation Between Roseanne and Sarah Ruth Ashcraft

Like many people I've been reading Tweets by Sarah Ruth Ashcraft (@SaRaAshcraft) lately. Sarah makes some extremely strong claims, among them that she is a survivor of ritual abuse, saw Hillary Clinton at an occult ritual at the age of eight and was molested by Tom Hanks.

The point of this post is not to recap all of Sarah's latest comments, of which there are many, but to point out the fact that she is now conversing with Roseanne Barr online. Roseanne, it should be noted, is the only Hollywood star I know of to openly come out and say that the industry is infested with not only pedophiles, but pedophiles who engage in mind control and ritual abuse. For example:

You might say that we don't know who Sarah is, but we do know Roseanne. 

And I, personally, find Roseanne highly credible.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain.

December 25, Jerusalem

At the Western Wall, on the way out, everybody wanted a picture with the graduating soldiers.

We’d visited, and prayed, and cried a lot. With God’s help, these young people protected us, and all the other visitors, too.

The approach to the Wall is dramatic and powerful.

But when you leave in the dark, things start to get a little bit scary.

Israel is a free country; freedom is not the issue.

In the Arab shuk (market), the shopkeepers sold both non-Jewish and Jewish religious collectibles. It was scary and unfamiliar but they treated us fine, even though we dress Jewishly.

I got the distinct feeling that the conflict here is principle-based, not personal.

Here is the thing: I fear the Jews have bigger fish to fry.

Believe it or not, I worry that we are a greater danger to ourselves than our avowed enemies are.

The #1 problem is materialism, scraping away at our souls.

Here is a shop that stands in a newish lavish shopping mall, playing Western pop hits, that stands just outside the Wailing Wall area.

Problem #2 is slavishly copying American brands and culture. Israelis in Jerusalem have their very own kosher McDonald’s.

In Tel Aviv as in the holiest city in the world, there is an overwhelming plethora of imported Americana.

What is the future character of the Jewish state?

Problem #3 is sexual immorality, of which there were odd hints.

I saw drawings of male genitalia scrawled on the parking garage wall, and in the Old City, near the Wall. There was sophisticated gay art in the shopping mall as well.

In a surplus Army clothing store, there were playing cards depicting nude women.

In America I would say that none of this is out of the norm, and it’s life and it’s commerce and who cares?

In Jerusalem the sight of these things left me feeling perturbed.

Problem #4 is fading consciousness of the Holocaust, despite educational efforts integrated with the fabric of ordinary life.

The mall just outside the Western Wall, for example: Its walls are made of brick. There are letters and numbers like this written on the outside.

The detail brings to my mind (and others in the family) the numbers branded onto Jewish prisoners’ wrists at the concentration camps during the Holocaust.

In reality, the numbers have nothing to do with that; rather they are an architectural flourish with a completely different meaning.

Nevertheless, it is the image that matters to me. As Hitler’s terrifyingly unopposed and nearly totally effective attempt to wipe out my people has a lot to do with my foundational belief that Israel, as a state, must exist.

But then again, not for all — not necessarily. I don’t know to what extent the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community here is moved to nationalism by the Holocaust.

I don’t know how much the younger generation thinks about it.

Here is something I seriously like about Israel: plentiful kosher food. Meat.

Here is something else: You can openly be a Jew. You can have fun with being a Jew. You can embrace the symbols of your Jewiness, like yarmulkes.

All without hate and shame.

And there are so many kinds of yarmulkes a man can choose from.

Symbolizing that you can be a lot of different kinds of Jew, and it’s fine.

We all, or almost all, have a special reverence for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory.

But I am a visitor, so here is problem #5: Are the Jews who live here, the holiest place on earth, maybe a little bit jaded?

I don’t know. I can’t answer that question, but I think that it would happen to me.

I think that ordinary people, working hard and struggling to make ends meet, struggle always with faith in God.

Israel is a place of unbelievable meaning. People flock here. They do. It’s like drinking water for the soul.

But for Jews to keep Israel, we need to keep our values and morals alive.

Holiness, the sacred — not just vague pangs of conscience — living in some sort of agreed-upon national Jewish way — needs to seriously matter.

A good example is the Sabbath. For the Sabbath, Israel visibly shuts itself down.

But aside from the ritual, how do people feel inside their hearts?

Again, I really don’t know. But it is the not knowing that worries me.

One lady in Tel Aviv tried to give me directions to Jerusalem, but admitted she only drove when she made the trip.

So she asked the other guy in the store. And he sort of made a gesture, as if to say, “Nah I don’t go there — and why would I?”

That, right there, is the existential threat to the State.

That is what we need to fight for.

That, and not only to vanquish omnipresent Arab military threats and the accompanying propaganda.

All opinions my own. Photos by me. Updated 12/26 to note that the numbers on the walls of Mamilla, the shopping mall, are not related to the Holocaust. Thanks to my friend Melissa Danto Rayman for pointing that out.

On Zionism

The central tenets of Zionism are these:
  • Jews have a right to statehood in the historical land of the Jews.
  • Jews have a special need for self defense because we are targets.
  • Especially since we are targets, Jews have an affirmative duty to preserve the human rights of others.
The Israeli flag is a symbol of Zionism.

It is a symbol of sacrifice.

How many have died for all three beliefs.

Israel has a “mini-Israel” museum and it honors Jewish religion.

Muslims and Christians too.

The central question of Zionism is how far is too far?

What do we do about corruption, extremism, abuse?

These are questions that have to be answered not with words but action.

With a true commitment to the three ideals of the dream.

All opinions my own. Photos by me.

I Want To Remember Tel Aviv

I am here, and I am happy.

With God’s help, forty-six years of tumult over what kind of Jew to be is over. “Chayim Sheli,” it says on the balloon.

My life, my choices.

I love that in Tel Aviv, a photo of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (z”l) is plastered everywhere I go.

I love that there are thick, sumptuous chocolate rugelach here.

In Tel Aviv, they still have payphones.

They make jokes.

They sell pink pajamas for grownups to wear on the street.

They have pride in the Mossad, the Jewish version of the CIA.

Edgy street culture.

Love for America.

Love for its culture.

A special love for McDonald’s.

There is so much to love as a thinking, feeling, creative Jew in in Tel Aviv that it makes my soul scream with pleasure.

I feel that God is close.

There are 613 commandments in the Torah, and all of us can keep some of them, even if none of us can keep all.

He reminds me of this constantly.

I am okay just like the other Jews here are okay. Even if our way of exhibiting Jewish identity does not conform to any known category.

Religion is a little like getting a schwarma on the beach. It’s traditional to offer a salad bar.

Meat and bread: the same basic ingredients. And then everybody chooses whatever toppings they like.

Religion is social but it’s also very personal. Nobody has the right to tell us exactly how to be.

But we still haven’t solved it. And no matter how beautiful it is here, sitting by the beach, reflection makes all of us pensive.

The key is to never, ever lose your joy.

And don’t let anybody steal it from you, either.

Israel, and Tel Aviv in particular, celebrates all kinds of Jewish heroes.

Not just rabbis.

Paratroopers, doctors, academics, archaeologists and artists of all kinds.

It gives me so much pleasure to be here.

And I am grateful for the chance to share this joy with you.

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. Cover photo by Andy Blumenthal. Other photos by the author.

Some Unfiltered Observations From A Trip To Israel

We’re here to celebrate the wedding of our daughter, to an Israeli young man of Moroccan descent.

But along the way we observe things.

And, each in our own way, we feel a duty to capture them.

Why we do this is unclear. Nobody reads anything anymore.

Trying to make a difference through blogging is very much like trying to roll a boulder uphill.

Maybe it’s out of duty. We know that we are hated, and the hatred feels so unfair. So we try to “prove,” over and over, that the Jews are just like you and me, just ordinary people.

For example, even in Israel, we drink Coca-Cola just like you.

No matter what I write, say or do, though, people will still believe bad things about Jews, about Israel, and about Zionism.

Even if the signs here are trilingual, representing not just diversity but the inclusion of many different pasts into the life lived here in the present.

Maybe it’s for the sake of posterity.

I want to remember that Israelis have a great sense of humor. They are honest and direct. And so an ad about babysitting shows the babysitter totally repulsed by a dirty diaper.

I want to remember the coffee here, too. How they don’t even know what half-and-half is. But they foam up the milk for you, they lean out of street bakery windows to give you your coffee, and they make it fancy whether you’re at a gas station or the equivalent of a 7-Eleven.

Here’s what the coffee looked like at Breadly, in Tel Aviv.

I want to know what it means.

This is a painting by Chagall, that shows a man with a Torah. But he’s sitting next to a creature that looks vaguely devilish. (The horns.) An angel is flying overhead. A violin sits next to him on the ground.

And clearly the man looks very, very depressed.
What is the significance of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, in Israel? And why doesn’t he get the same airplay in the United States?

This sign says “Na Na Nachman” and it refers to a song, that is a Jewish mystical “formula” having to do with a belief in the era of Redemption. It is a very big deal over here.

So are images of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, for much the same reason: waiting for Redemption, for the positive End of Days.

But maybe it isn’t for posterity. Maybe it’s just for my brain, which turns over and over again the riddle of what it means to be a Jew after all.

I am trying to figure out how high religion coexists with high-tech skyscrapers.

I am tired of trying to figure it out.

What does it mean that global brands are housed on old-fashioned brick buildings so newly built they’re spotless?

No matter how many times I ask these types of questions, looking for a single coherent answer, I wind up feeling frustrated.

Israel is the most sophisticated nation on earth. So much so that I thought to check the hotel room for bugs, but unfortunately my cheap iTunes app registered even my cellphone as a match.

I didn’t like all the things I saw here. Some of the art at the museum frankly disturbed me. Some of the things I heard bothered me too, and the manner of some of the people…maybe in my mind I expected such a holy place to contain only the holiest of people.

In my mind I have an image, but the image is not the reality on the ground.

The only truth is that we invent ourselves, and reinvent ourselves, every minute we’re alive.

Just like branding: best represented not a constant in time, but as a story best understood in motion.

A mosaic best seen both up close and from a distance.

A dance, and we’re dancing it. Evolving.
Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. Photos by Dr. Blumenthal; museum photos taken at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.This post is hereby released into the public domain.