A Seedling worth a Dollar

Life can just flow around you in the most natural way, until some casual mistake exposes the underlying rocks under the water…

Everything seemed so nice and easy this Saturday, the first day of Ramadan, with the prisoners’ hunger strike over, that we couldn’t find anything more important to do than to buy some seedlings to plant in the small garden around our house for the summer.

We went to a big nursery out of the town and started looking for our preferred plants. Iris asked one of the shop attendants where we can find seedlings of garden vegetables. He pointed to a big greenhouse where there were tables full of seedlings of flowers, and said that we can find some vegetables under the tables. “Would you come and help us pick some?”  She asked. “No,” was the answer, “just pull them out of their packages.”

We picked some seedlings of green chard and pepper from well packed trays that were apparently flown in from some remote industrial nursery. Looking farther under the tables we found some watermelon and cauliflower seedlings thrown in disorder on a big tray and picked some of them. With our modest bounty we went to the cashier.A seedling worth a dollar

The man there was clearly disturbed by what he has seen. He pointed at one watermelon seedling and told us with admonition: “This seedling is worth a dollar!”

“Ok,” I replied, “we are going to pay for it.”

“No,” he said, “this seedling costs ME a dollar.”

It didn’t impress me as a very shocking price, but I noticed that there was a small plastic tied to the seedling. Then the man went on to explain.

“These watermelon seedlings are not for sale. We brought them as we want to grow watermelons in our field. They are especially grafted. They cost me a dollar each.” He lamented again, not knowing what to do.

We apologized, said that we were sent by the shop attendant to pick our own seedlings from under the tables, and couldn’t know that those are not for sale. The person at the cashier, probably the owner of the nursery, admitted his negligence and continued to explain the severity of the situation.

“You will not find such seedlings for sale in any nursery. If you plant them you could grow really good watermelons. Not like the watermelons that don’t really grow from the seedlings that you can buy in the nurseries. They cost a dollar each.”

Then he asked: “Do you know how to grow watermelons?”

“Well, I was born on a farm.” I told him, reassuring. He was a bit relieved.

In the end we paid for our fifteen or so seedlings, including the three holy watermelon seedlings that cost a dollar each, the sum of 30 shekel, less than 10 dollars.

We planted two of them in our garden and gave one to the neighbour, just because we don’t have space in our small garden for three really good watermelon plants. Would the owner of the nursery known it his shock might have been even deeper.

 

How technological progress made me like everybody else?

Travelling along the streets of the occupied West Bank in the seventies and the eighties, there was a pastoral view that caught my imagination. Many kids of all ages were walking to school along the narrow roads. Apparently they had to walk like this for many kilometers. The view was even more surrealistic due to the eye-catching unified school dress that painted each section of the road with different colors and unnatural designs. But what really impressed me at the time was that many of the kids, boys and girls, used the opportunity to read, probably rehearsing their studies.Read_Walking

Like so many other things, I tried to learn this virtue from the West Bank kids. It worked for me very well. Mostly I was reading “The Economist” to keep myself updated with world affairs.

Over the last decade I’m using my dinner break at work to go to the sea shore, walking and reading. Sometimes with long white hair blowing with the wind – I made a strange figure.

Once a police patrol stopped near me and I heard one of them saying: I know this man, he ran away from Tira. Tira, originally Tirat Al-Louz a Palestinian town to the south of Haifa, ethnically cleansed and renamed to Tirat Ha-Carmel, a poor Jewish suburb, is the location of the main local hospital for the mentally ill. I succeeded to make myself calm and normal enough to pass this encounter and go on walking my way.

Read walking became such a central feature of my life that I even wrote a short story about it.

The problems started as the economist’s distribution network in the area stopped functioning. I would make the extra tour from the road to the beach to the books’ shop only to find that the last issue didn’t arrive yet. Try tomorrow, they would say, day after day. Finally I made a subscription to get the magazine by mail. But it didn’t really work either. After an initial grace period the issues were arriving four at a time, three weeks late by average.

Being deprived of my drug, I started reading the paper from my smartphone. It worked wonders. For the first time I could read the paper before readers in London…

Walking and reading my phone completely transformed my public image. As I was walk-reading along the beach, some guy looked at me, saying: Well, these new phones are really indulging… He smiled at me, sharing understandable human weakness.

Finally I became like everybody else.

 

Man vs. Machine – matchup in 4 rounds

With all my feminist pretensions, in some aspects I’m still that old-fashioned “Man”. One of these aspects is my deep relations with the car. Controlling the car is one way to prove your manhood.

When we went to visit our son in North Carolina last autumn, I ordered a rented car to pick up at the airport. I asked for a cheap car, only to have 4 wheels and a motor. Apparently there were not really cheap cars to offer, so I order the cheapest available.

When we arrived at the agency to take the car, the model that we ordered was not available, as the yard was full of luxury cars and jeeps. The agent went to the neighbors to borrow something that will not be too much above what we were paying for. Still it was an automatic car more modern than anything I’ve seen before.

“You can go; it is all yours!”car_tamer

But I didn’t find the ignition to put the keys in and rotate. I was looking around, confused, and had to leave the car where it was, blocking the lane, and went to call him back from the office to the cold night.

“How do I start it?”

Well, there was a simple “Power On” button just in front of me, as if the car was a damned dumb toy.

I drove out and started to get used to the automatic gear that lets lazy drivers just press the gas pedal…

* * *

The real challenge came as we were driving in a narrow park road in the Appalachian Mountains. We took a wrong lane and wanted to make a U-turn. I entered in reverse an even narrower road that joined the park road. It was steeper than what I imagined. I stopped the car with its tail down and prepared for the driver’s ultimate test of leaping up a steep slope.

But where are my hand brake and my clutch pedal that I should release gradually and carefully? All I had is this lousy automatic gear and one gas pedal. I didn’t believe we will make it and had a strong feeling the car is going to roll down back into the valley.

As I pressed the gas pedal, the car moved quietly up the steep lane and into the park road. It didn’t show any tendency to roll back, not even by one inch. (Yes, it was an American car – so it was thinking in inches, not centimeters).

I was shocked. The car simply knew that while it is on “drive” and not “reverse”, it shouldn’t go back. It didn’t need any of my manly superior capabilities to tell her how to do the right thing.

* * *

As I started to doubt the future of mankind and ask existential questions, I didn’t notice that something went wrong with the car. I tried to speed up but it hardly responded – or rather responded by loud vocal roar of the motor but little motion.

I tried to slow down and accelerate again, but it was still the same thunder without lighting.

Finally I understood.

While taking the leap up on the steep slope, the car entered the power gear mode.

I had to stop and power off the motor in order to get it back to normal driving mode.

I was reassured of my manly superiority over the foolish car.

* * *

As we drove to the airport and turned the car back to the agency, they asked me whether it was all OK.

Well, pretty much so. I said. There’s only one problem. When I lock the car with the remote control, sometimes it locks, sometimes it doesn’t.

The man laughed at my provincial ignorance and showed me the trick.

If you lock the car but stretch your hand back to the door with the keys in your hand, the door senses the proximity of the keys and unlocks…

Well, maybe I’m still smarter than the automatic gear, but I’m surely no match to this damned thought-reading creepy door.

A positive story for these cold days

A positive story for these cold days

One of the classic stories that I was brought upon is Maxim Gorky’s short story about the commemoration of Lenin. It speaks about the decision of the Communist Party to commemorate Lenin’s birthday by erecting his sculpture in every city and village. The heroes of the story are the workers in some remote village that took the money allocated for Lenin’s sculpture and used it to eradicate mosquitoes which were spreading disease in their region.

My story here is much more trivial – it is about the fate of a medium size red “polygal” plastic board.

After many a demonstration, as my car would be parked nearby, I would collect the placards with the slogans and take them with me. They might be needed for some other demo. I have a room full of them at home.

After some demonstration, long before the Arab Spring, I found in my newly acquired stock this red polygal with the writing “The Revolution is Inevitable!” I placed it on some high shelf and forgot about it. Probably it was written by some Trotskyites… We were demonstrating in support of the prisoners, against house demolition, for family unification, against the wall and the war… The revolution didn’t seem relevant.

Then came the Arab Spring, toppling within a few week the formidable tyrants of Tunisia and Egypt and shaking half a dozen other oppressive regimes. While collecting slogans for one demonstration, my eye exposed the red banner at the top of the shelf. Suddenly it seemed to be the most relevant of all, conveying the spirit of the period. It became my favorite banner.

Later Assad’s regime succeeded to stop the inevitable march of the revolution and convert the Syrian conflict into a prolonged and bloody civil war. This summer the betrayal of many liberals and leftists in Egypt enable General A-Sisi to stage the coup and return the reins of government to the old DeepState, stain the streets with the blood of demonstrators and fill the prisons with political prisoners.

This week we witness the coldest, longest Arab Winter in living memory. Cairo was covered with snow. The people that warmed their hears with the hopes of the Arab Spring feel a cold fever now thinking about the millions of Syrian and Palestinian refugees from the civil war, spread all over Syria and the neighboring countries in inhuman conditions, prey to the cold and floods. Gaza is devoid of electricity and flooded with sewage water as A-Sisi tightens the siege around it, preventing the entrance of basic equipments, in collusion with the Israelis.

We also experienced our small winter suffering as we waked up in the first rainy morning to find half the house flooded. We have an attic above the bathroom that we never use. It has an open eastern window. Every year more water enters the attic and leak through the bathroom’s ceiling. Just before the winter came I requested a friend that works in house repairs to close this window – but, like in previous years, nothing was done. So, after I finished cleaning the water from the floor, and as the rain seemed never to stop, I took this red polygal and stuck it in the open attic window.

The revolution, for the time being, is not inevitable, but the house is almost all dry.

7% at the Wedding…

7% at the Wedding…

I heard the following story from several independent sources that swore they personally witnessed it, so it must be true… (*)

In one of the numerous weddings that are filling our summer nights with music and excessive eating, a couple of guests came with their kid. According to different sources he was seven years old, or twelve, or even sixteen.

The couple was apparently very much enthusiastic about participation, getting off the table every now and then to dance or clap or greet and chat with different guests. They were also enthusiastic about the food, trying every dish presented.

The kid was holding his smart phone in both his hands, totally indulged in some other world. He even hardly touched the food. The observers were trying to guess whether he was chatting or gaming or both…

Suddenly, as his parents were standing at the edge of the dancing floor, the kid raised his eyes from the device and threw a lost glance around the big hall. Slowly, he stood on his legs, walked between the tables and turned to his parents.

–         “We must go!”

–         “Why, Dear?”

–         “It’s 7%”

The coupled packed quickly and the whole family went away.

(*) Each of my reliable sources claims to have has seen the scene in another wedding…