The Friday Paper (8/26/07)

Jerusalem Travel Blog

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French Hill, Jerusalem – One of the nice things about Israel is that the Sunday paper comes on Friday.

Lionel Richie's “Easy like Sunday morning,” doesn’t apply here. The Israeli workweek is Sunday through Friday afternoon. For Israelis, Sunday is Monday, Monday is Tuesday, and Tuesday is rough. A six-day workweek, even with a half-day included, is brutal.

If you were wondering, the Palestinian workweek in the West Bank is Sunday through Thursday. Since the Gaza coup, Hamas has changed the workweek in Gaza to Saturday through Wednesday. So, if you are a civil servant in Gaza, you have to decide whether you are going to go to work on Saturday. If you work Saturday, the government in Ramallah won’t pay you your salary. If you don’t work, then the Hamas government fires you.

Since Sunday is Monday in Israel, there is no point in a juicy, thick Sunday paper. By the time Sunday rolls around, the weekend is over. Instead, the Sunday paper, replete with entertainment and opinions, is the Friday paper in Israel.

For someone like me who works an American workweek, this means that even if I skip the news on Friday morning, I still have two full days to spend with the newspaper. This past weekend, I devoted myself to the Friday paper, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex. All were satisfying.

Digression: I drove about 50 miles (roundtrip) on Saturday afternoon to see The Bourne Ultimatum because the Jerusalem theater that was showing it doesn’t screen films on Shabbat. The film was edge of your seat good and blended perfectly with the others. Middlesex was good too. I fear that this is a famously well-regarded book (it is on Oprah’s list) that I’ve only just discovered, so let me just say how much I enjoyed the way that the narrator’s tone shifted gender back and forth throughout the story. End Digression.

Haaretz, my English language newspaper of choice, is full of articles and opinions on headlining issues – the peace process, negotiations, political violence, etc. – as well as feature stories on the human aspects of the absence of peace. This past Friday, there were stories of interest from Sederot and Gaza. In Sederot, they are trying to figure out how to start the new school year amid mortar attacks from Gaza. In Gaza, the clothes manufacturing industry is collapsing, strangled by the full closure.

These stories involve human suffering that the public should be aware of, but they are “conflict” stories. You could substitute different proper names for the people or cities, and it could be another part of the world. What I find fascinating are the stories that couldn’t happen anywhere, like the Palestinian workweek conundrum and these gems:

Pardes Hanna Mayor angered by Indian Jews’ Conversion Course in Town” According to the article, the Bnei Menashe who were lost 2700 years ago and who have returned to Israel from northeast India (where they maintained 40 synagogues) angered the mayor of this smaller town because they arrived in the town “secretly,” and did not coordinate with his office!

Shas (a religious political party) Seeks To Punish Cremation with Jail Time” This one isn’t about prison terms for the ashes of cremated individuals. Rather, the Minister of Religious Affairs wants a bill that will punish anyone who cremates a body with a year in prison and a fine of $7500. The minister accused those who cremate of “suckl[ing] their heritage from the annihilators of the Jewish people . . . [and] implement[ing] a renewed final solution here.” Outrageous comparisons to the Holocaust combined with grandstanding legislative power, what a combination!

One of my favorite sections of the Friday paper is the “Anglo File.” This week there was an article about the Israel Land Development Corporation, an American company selling pieces of the Holy Land at $118 a square foot. Last’s week’s section contained profiles and pictures of new immigrants from America. I was touched and amused by the smiling picture of seven-year-old Elisha Z. He is looking forward to not having to go to school during Hanukkah, but is also going to miss the treehouse he left behind in New York.

A story that I’ve been following, but that didn’t appear this Friday, is about the African refugees (some from Darfur) trickling into Israel through the Sinai. These refugees walk here, and Israel doesn’t know what to do with them from either a practical or policy perspective. There are almost daily reports and stories ranging from Africans wandering in the Negev desert looking for help, to Israeli students demonstrating for asylum for Darfur refugees. The issue is intriguing given the importance the Holocaust played in the creation of the state and the moral obligation that many here feel to offer shelter to victims of genocide. At the same time, there is the competing pressure of maintaining Israel’s character as a Jewish state.

This could be a good point of discussion – I’d welcome your thoughts.
SoloSister says:
I hope you have a lighter read the rest of the time!
Posted on: Dec 30, 2007
benjaminorbach says:
Yeah, terrible choice among a lot of bad choices there right now.
Posted on: Dec 29, 2007
SoloSister says:
What an incredibly in depth (and politically slanted) paper (as a Sunday paper should be).
I feel for the civil servants in Gaza, what a conundrum...Sheesh!
Posted on: Dec 29, 2007
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Jerusalem - If you’ve traveled overseas, then at some point you’ve overpaid at the local market, found yourself inside a dungeonesque bathroom (damp and dirty) at a time of need, and confronted the unfortunate choice of wearing a frontal backpack, neck pouch, or fanny pack. There are experiences that every tourist overseas shares, no matter whether the destination is Delhi or Paris.

Similarly, if you live overseas, there is another range of experiences common to your life, whether it is learning to drive offensively or becoming a regular at Karaoke bars. Somewhere between getting passport photos (a task undertaken at least every other week in third world countries) and complaining about how deodorant is cheaper in America (a current pastime of mine), there is the bad overseas haircut.

The bad overseas haircut is a tradition for American ex-pats akin to Thanksgiving, apple pie, and football. Following the Barry Bonds debacle, I’ve unilaterally decided that baseball is no longer our national pastime.

“Mushroom head,” “the mullet,” “Kojak,” “a tail,” and “the helmet” (aka the “bad fade” or “ill fade”) and the circumstances surrounding such fates come in all shapes and sizes, from the Asian Parlor to the Arab Salon. I’ve suffered all of these except for the tail – a regrettable destiny for its first few hours, but one that is easily remedied.

Americans usually fall within one of two bad overseas haircuts categories, Language Barrier Casualties (LBC) and Fashion Police Victims (FPV). An LBC cannot communicate his needs to the haircutter in question. He uses hand gestures or shouts words like “just a trim,” or “fade,” slowly and clearly. He may even try to actually show the haircutter how to cut his hair. Sadly, the outcome remains socially disastrous for the LBC.

For an FPV, communication is not a problem. He speaks the local language or has found a haircutter who speaks English. After the FPV engages with the barber, he is confident that he is going to get the haircut requested – making his plight more tragic. FPVs have no way of accounting for the local stylist’s Fashion Police sense.

You see, the local stylist knows best. Even though the FPV has clearly stated what he wants (usually a haircut uncommon to local trends), the haircutter cannot risk the potential disgrace of having the local Fashion Police pull over the badly groomed American and pepper him with questions like, “Who did this to you?” or “Why are you out in public looking like this?”

So, the haircutter gives the FPV elements of what he requested, but he localizes it, assured that his client will be happy in the end. If you asked for a fade, you get a helmet. If you have long hair, you get a mullet.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m not happy with my “baby Jagr” mullet.

Jaromir Jagr was an 18-year old Czech prodigy supreme who came to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990. A goal-scoring dynamo who learned English watching Married with Children, he was a child of the 80s, a small town (Kladno) boy taking that midnight train (flight) to anywhere (Pittsburgh). A puffy afro in the front, flowing curly hair in the back, and closely cropped sides, Jagr set the standard for a generation of hockey mullets. He dominated opponents with his speed and stick handling in the 90s and left a wake of fluttering mall chicks’ hearts in his wake.

Seventeen years later, I have the "baby Jagr," and I’m walking around Jerusalem, trying to stay out of people’s pictures.

Pre-haircut, my Big Hair situation was desperate; the Partridge Family was calling to ask questions about my hair product. So, I went to a barber a few blocks from Damascus Gate. Given my familiarity with Arabic haircut vocab, I thought I had a better chance for a good cut with an Arabic-speaking barber.

I found a guy with long hair himself. He understood English . . . I thought I was so smart. I told him what I wanted, we chatted amiably, and I sat in his chair, confident. When I left the shop, I really thought it looked okay. I’m not sure if it was the lighting or that I hadn’t gotten a haircut in almost two and a half months and forgot what it was supposed to look like. But I thanked the barber and continued on to a work event feeling well-groomed. When I got home, though, I looked in the mirror and saw a baby mullet.

Oh, the humanity.

The next day, several people commented that I had gotten a “nice” haircut. Haircut compliments are a fine thing, for women. Not noticing a woman’s haircut means that the changes are within a range of subtlety undetectable to your average guy, or that the haircut is so bad that a compliment is impossible; the charade of the lie is just too painful for all. When other men notice a man’s haircut, it just isn’t good. Several asked me where I got it. 100 percent they wanted to make sure that they never end up at the same place.

Fortunately, I have impressive hair regeneration powers. Once my sides grow in, I’ll be able to leave the house again. In the meantime, feel free to send in your bad overseas haircut stories. Misery loves company.
TYoungTX says:
I really wish you would have posted before and after pictures! Great writing.
Posted on: Aug 10, 2008
jteddyb says:
Yet another reason I shave my head.
Posted on: Jan 13, 2008
SoloSister says:
You HAVE to show us a picture...
C'mon, it can't be that bad - can it?
Posted on: Jan 13, 2008
photo by: daynnightraveller