444 DAYS of Lies

Remembering why we do not trust Iran

It was 1979 and I was a little girl. I remember sitting with my parents watching the news. There was a man, bound in a chair with a blindfold. Suddenly it was removed and I saw his face. He was speaking slowly and appeared sad and exhausted. I felt concerned and asked my parents what was wrong with him. They told me he was being held as a hostage by Iranians because he was American. My little heart began to break and I was mesmerized, for the next 444 days to be exact.

I began watching coverage of this event each night and couldn’t get the image of the sad man out of my head. I went to school the next day and asked my teacher if we can help this sad man. She told me I could make him a card- I didn’t know schools around the country would eventually be doing this too.

The correlation of the U.S. allowing the deposed Shah of Iran to come and receive medical treatment was controversial. The Shah was overthrown by the new Islamic regime. He was a friend of the West and had the support of the U.S. and the U.K.

Not only did he have to flee as a result of political asylum, but also so did academics, scientists, philosophers, doctors, artists, and the best and brightest of Persian society was on the run for their lives.

They were Shia Muslims too.

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The regime, which ended a remarkable era, was also Shia Muslim.

President Carter knew that most countries didn’t want the Shah, but he found safety in Egypt, thanks to President Sadat (whom I have undying respect for, but that’s a different blog post.) Carter was afraid that our American Embassy in Tehran would be stormed if he permitted the Shah entrance. Carter did it anyway, at the urging of political advisor, Henry Kissinger.

Indeed, on November 4, 1979 a group of students, yes students, not military- stormed our embassy and took our American’s as their prisoners because the American government supported the Shah.

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The Shah supported women’s rights and gave them the opportunity to vote and hold professional positions in society. He wanted to see a booming economy and have a working relationship with the West. He was a Shia Muslim.

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The Iranian Hostage Crisis is the longest documented hostage event history.

444 days. That’s 1 year, 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days of lying to their own people and of course, the world.

Carter attempted a woefully failed rescue that lead to the captors removing the hostages from the embassy and scattering them in Iran in order to avoid another rescue mission. They eventually were taken to a prison and ultimately a final location.

The Iranian regime was underway espousing its propaganda with a state run television and controlled media. The students told the people of Iran that the hostages were being treated well. They claimed the Americans were their “guests” and treated with respect and dignity.

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The hostages endured beatings

Theft

Execution threats

They were paraded blindfolded in front of an angry mob

They were bound for weeks at a time

They were subjected to solitary confinement

They were not allowed to speak for months at a time

They were not permitted to stand or walk for months at a time

Actual games of Russian roulette occurred

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I have read actual accounts from several hostages and the details are far worse.

As a result, Americans began to feel their Americaness. We became unified. Someone violated us, lied to us, harmed us and we watched every single one of those 444 days.

Make no mistake about it; this was the beginning of animosity towards the U.S. by Iran. Never think for a moment the deep hatred from the Islamic State has burned into their memory our allegiance to the Shah, to democracy, to religious and political freedom. We are everything they undid, we are everything they despise.

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As I sit today in my apartment in Musrara, Jerusalem I watch the homecoming video on Youtube. The Americans embarking from the plane at the air force base are walking into the crowd of cheering Americans and their faces say it all. They are not sad and tormented, they are not angry. They are smiling; they are laughing and have tears of joy. Peaceful people are strong, not weak. Peaceful nations are happy nations.

For those who forgot about this epic event in history and for those who were not alive during this painful 444 days, I ask you as a sign of respect for all that is democratic and for all who believe in freedom; you owe it to yourself and the future generations of the world to not trust Iran.

I contemplated uploading only these photos because they say it all.

I wonder if European countries would be so quick to jump in bed with Iran economically, if they had lived through these 444 days.

I wonder how many around the world will grasp why the U.S. doesn’t play ball with this regime.

I give you a reason to grasp our stance on Iran.

I have 444 reasons.

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You can’t just say something…

Does anyone besides me miss the good old days when we used to just be able to say something and not be required to explain it or defend it ?

Does anybody besides me miss the simplicity of being able to express a thought or opinion without it requiring you to extrapolate and then tell people your intent behind your words ?

I’ve witnessed the trajectory of this stupidity and can trace its origins to both Facebook and millennials.  The combination of these two ingredients have created a culture where you cannot speak off-the-cuff or informally.

Everything is a debate, everything is a fight.  The most simple phrase can spark a full-blown argument where people are analyzing your words, taking one phrase in a paragraph completely out of context and then you’re being grilled about it like the fucking inquisition.

I really do miss just being able to express a basic idea and leaving it at that.  It’s exhausting -the way I’ve trained myself to communicate on social media.  I have to preface everything I want to say first by thinking through all the possibilities of what could go wrong, which aspects will be misunderstood  and be preemptive.

It has literally ruined speech and dialogue.  I just want to be able to give the unedited version.  It’s all become a waste of time and a total drain. Can we please bring back fun?

I’m trying to envision people reading poetry or a classroom being asked to read a poem and discuss it in class.  I don’t think this would be possible today.

 

 

 

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…because the nun made a decision. She has a choice, which she made carefully through soul searching. She must take a vow of poverty, never get married or have children. The Muslim girl has no choice. She doesn’t get to make a decision. If she lives at home, her father makes her cover herself if she’s married, her husband makes her cover herself. Are we clear now kids?

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Going Bald for G-d

…But I don’t even believe in God, I do believe in HaShem. Huh? Yeah, it’s not the same thing to me, but that’s a different blog post altogether.

I have been quietly fighting depression. I have never actually been depressed before. I was on a dark path that was leading me to a bad place. I knew I had to get out of it or something awful would happen. My sister was the only one who knew the magnitude of this. I hid it- quite well.

I am a deeply private person. I have never used social media to discuss my family, my marriage, my divorce or my sex life- nothing personal. I do not plan to do so today either, but acknowledging that I have had a rough past few months seems fairly benign. The details are superfluous and belong only to me. However, I am writing this because someone asked me to do it. This individual told me that some women might find it empowering.

I am a big believer in performing action items. Words, conversations and texts are not pro-active. I feel strongly that doing is evidence of our beliefs and feelings. Without acting on our notions, we are like zombies, walking around dead inside. In order to truly live, we must understand that living is a verb. I have made a life choice to live my life as a verb- an action item, not to talk it to death or write about it.

My Aliyah was the epitome of an action item. We have enough social media bullshit, Op-Eds and articles to quench all the thirsty mental masturbation of our species.

I looked in the mirror two weeks ago and said- enough is enough. You must do something today to make this suffering stop. Then it came to me, quite suddenly. I walked out the door and bought electric clippers at the Superpharm on Yaffo. I went home and shaved my head, completely bald.

Hair.

It is the norm for women in society to have hair.

A bald woman represents illness, chemotherapy, dying and it just looks so Holocosty.

It once represented a means to get rid of lice.

Some women in the military have opted to shave their heads.

Yet very few do it- just because.

It looks butch.

People judge and think you are a lesbian.

I didn’t care, not one bit.

Yet I do live in Jerusalem, where it is not socially acceptable to see a bald woman in public.

I did it anyway.

It was an act of defiance.

It was an act of deliverance to save myself.

I would purge myself of societal female trappings.

I would abandon the shell I had been living in.

The last conversation I had with my sister on the phone struck me. She said-

“You need to remember who you are and why you are there.” I held onto this statement and realized that indeed, I had forgotten my identity in a sense- it had been swallowed up, almost entirely, but I was about to salvage it.

I NEEDED TO RECONNECT and performing a physical task would connect me to what was going on internally. I needed renewal. I needed to refocus, to snap myself out of this darkness and hit the reset button of my soul.

The moment I did it, I was free. The blackness began to fade and I realized that I do not need to become anyone or anything. I do not need to be someone or something.

I am me. I will just be.

I have always known this- particularly as a Jewbu, but sometimes we are derailed and need a gentle reminder. This was not so gentle a reminder and that is okay.

There was one more thing I needed to do. I used to wear a necklace with charms on it. One is an amulet with the Shema in it, one is a Hamsa and the other is a Solomon stone bead. After I made Aliyah, I quit wearing it because I realized I didn’t need to wear my identity like I had in the diaspora. I didn’t need a reminder of who I am. I am Israeli now and I live in the Jewish state. So, I hung it on the wall next to my bed.

After shaving my head, I got out the necklace and put it on. I needed the reminder. I needed to feel it on my skin and I said the Shema.

I didn’t go out in public for a couple of days and when I did, I put on a beanie or a skullcap. I didn’t want to be judged and Israelis are so forward; strangers ask you personal questions like it’s nothing. Then I realized something- if I am going to cover my head, then this was all for nothing. I must own this.

The next week my yogi saw me and was very supportive. At the end of our session during savasana, I opened my eyes and said “mikvah.” I knew that I needed to go to the mikvah for a deeply symbolic reason. However, I am in Israel, not the U.S.- this means a single woman is not halachically permitted to enter the mikvah. I did some research and found one in the Galilee, but that was quite a commute for me. I realized I could immerse in any natural body of water and that would qualify as a mikvah under Jewish law. So, I went to the sea, in Tel Aviv.

It was nice to be there in any case. I didn’t cover my head and no one asked me any questions. When I returned to Jerusalem my head was uncovered. No one asked me any questions here either.

I have seen two people since I did this, my yogi and a friend. I sent selfies to my sister, my daughter and my mom. They were all so supportive, especially my daughter. My hair grows fast, but I didn’t realize how fast. It is growing ¼ inch a week. That means in a month I will have an inch of hair. Right now I have salt and pepper stubble. It is such an ego destroyer, which I like. I’ve been playing with makeup, wearing dramatic chandelier earrings and experimenting with my new look. There are days I feel ugly and days I feel beautiful- it can even change by the hour. Will I go platinum when I have enough to color? Will I go back to dark brown or light brown? I don’t know.

My mom told me when I was a baby I had a birthmark on the back of my head near the nape of my neck, I can see it now. I’ve always had short hair, but this is like being naked. Everyday it is scary to walk out the door. I haven’t even been to the shuk yet! It’s amazing what happens when you do something that scares you. It takes away the taboo, the fear and the power.

I do not feel darkness anymore, I feel light. I have returned to my blog and to capturing Jerusalem, where I share what I see- beauty, always beauty.

The matter that had caused this period of darkness in my life requires me to re-read this piece often. I am far from well and whole. It has become an affirmation. I knew no one was coming to rescue me, I knew I had to save myself. If need be, I will shave it again, but who knows?

As far as the title of this piece goes, I do feel that I have reconnected myself with HaShem. It is that unpronounceable, unspeakable, unfathomable quality… It is the energy that runs through every living creature, every tree, every rock, every insect. It is that energy that runs through the universe, connecting all of us. It is the Oneness. It is that I am standing in the center of the universe and I don’t have to do anything, but just be. HaShem is the ultimate be-er. Being bald is about just being.

 

 

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TOO HOLY FOR ME?

I chose Jerusalem as the city I would reside in when I made Aliyah. I wanted to be in the center of the universe. I needed to connect to the most Jewish place on earth.

Jerusalem is known for two things: Religion and the Conflict, with a capital R and C. Living here, you can feel it 24/7. The air is thick and it is not just intense; it is downright tense, period.

Yet it has an energy, a life source and you can feel the pulse of everything that lives and breathes. I love the diversity of Jerusalem, the quirkiness, and the charm of old architecture and the grit of this city. I have reappropriated my blog, 1jewess, to focus on the softer side of Jerusalem, the interesting side! After I moved here, I abandoned Hasbara and became the anti-Hasbara of Hasbara. I have aimed to feature the personality of this place, which is rarely ever shown. I love discovering the art scene here and the creative people who share their talent and beauty. There is fashion, great cafes and restaurants. I have been in awe of the films, theater, dance and music here. Jerusalem is so culturally rich and it has a secular nuance that runs through every facet. I wanted to to remain a voice that could show the world my Jerusalem.

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Yet I cannot seem to get enough air. There is a lack of oxygen in this place that is inescapable. The secular Jews of Jerusalem are such an integral part of the fabric of the city, but it is often stifling, censored and awkward at times. The religious presence is so thick, so strong, that a secular Jew has to be very tough and give not one care to the objection that silently plays on repeat everyday. There is a quiet judging eye always upon me. I am a single woman in her 40’s and I do not dress halachically compliant. The Haredim assume I am not Jewish, hell they think Tel- Avivians are not Jewish either.

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We are more than the costume, more than the trappings. We are more than a transplanted Polish ghetto. We are more than rules, legalism and commentary. We are more than religion. These notions come from my observation; I only speak for myself, not Jerusalemites… how could I?

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Jerusalem is the preservation of the past of Israel.

Tel Aviv is the installment of the future of Israel.

The Haredim are trying to preserve Judaism.

In order to preserve something, you must put it in a jar of formaldehyde.

Nothing, of course can live in there.

They are trying to preserve a cult.

Tel Aviv is trying to preserve a country.

Jerusalem is Talmud Judaism.

Tel Aviv is Jewish culture.

I suppose Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are no different than New York and South Dakota or Los Angeles and Oklahoma.

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Sometimes I fantasize about a musical on the Sinai event, like Alexander Hamilton. It would have gays at Sinai, chicks in halters, Haredim, trans people, non-binary- all singing their guts out to some bad ass hip-hop rendition of the Shema or even Hatikva.

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Jerusalemites dance at the Kotel.

Tel Avivians dance in the club.

Yet we both dance in the streets.

David danced naked before the ark.

We dance in bikinis.

They dance in kippahs.

We both love life and we never stop dancing.

Never.

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THE KOTEL SUCKED TODAY

I picked the worst day of the year to go to the Kotel. How was I supposed to know this is some kind of Greek Orthodox Easter? I had to go through FIVE checkpoints before actually walking through any gate to the Old City.

While I was inside, I felt like a mouse caught in a maze with thousands of mice and hundreds of cats. The mice were the Christians and the cats were the police. So many little walkways were blocked. I literally was stuck in the Old City for an hour and a half- trapped. This would’ve been the perfect storm to set off a terrorist attack- like arson, a bomb, a massive knife-stabbing spree… it was madness.

Yet, I chose to go today- this very day. You see, 48 hours ago I shaved my head bald. I am going through a bought of depression. I have never been depressed before and the past few months have been very dark. I allowed someone to re-enter my life and distract me from my purpose. I forgot myself, my identity and why I moved to Israel. I decided to force a massive change by doing something drastic- and so I shaved my head. This powerful metaphor began to reset my way of thinking.

Jerusalem is not the kind of place a woman walks around bald. I have been hiding under various head coverings in order to not be questioned every five minutes by Israelis as to whether or not I am sick. Yet if I do not own this choice, then what was it all for? If I conceal my baldhead, then I am hiding from the change that I am embarking on.

Oddly enough, of all the head coverings I could have selected today- I chose white gauze. This is what a couple of sects of Christianity wear here in the Middle East. Thus, police all assumed I was Greek Orthodox. I had to explain FIVE times that I am an American Jewish Israeli. Of course, the one and only time I leave my house without my teudat zehut (Israeli identity card) I was asked for it FIVE times. I went through numerous questions and smiled the whole time. The most memorable moment was the security at the Kotel. I was asked to remove my tiny sling pocket book from across my shoulder. In order to do this, I had to carefully remove my white gauze loop from my shoulders, while keeping the top of my head covered.

Once the item was returned to me and I was putting it back on- the woman who sits at the Kotel security to ensure all women have proper shoulder covering- told me I had to cover my shoulders. I looked her in the eye and said – “this white fabric I am wearing is precisely for that purpose.” DUH!!!!

Upon realizing I was trapped in the Old City, I tried to leave through two different areas. First I ended up on the Mount of Olives exit. Sorry, just no. Then I ended up just plain lost. I was told to go one way and it it landed me as far away from home as I could to be. By this time my feet were bleeding. I was wearing sandals that I cannot walk a far distance in. They were perfectly fine for me literally walking across the street to the Old City, but not walking two miles in a circle.

I ended up taking a cab for merely 5 minutes; I just needed to get out of the cluster fuck. The cab driver asked me about the white gauze and 100 more questions, which after living here 18 months, I’ve learned that a single American female must lie.

He tells me I owe him 50 shekels. I told him I had exactly 20 shekels and he was welcome to it. Asks me out on a date, then wants to triple charge me… Bah.

Sadly all of this distracts from my Kotel experience and why I needed to go there today. I needed to reconnect with myself, my Jewish self, me, Yael, not Kara. I needed the universe to see evidence that I am ready for drastic change. I went there to present myself to HaShem at our holy site. However, the Kotel did not behave the way I assumed it would. It was not somber and holy. There were children playing, eating snacks, and women shooting the breeze- just having total benign bullshit conversation at the Kotel. People were on their smartphones taking pictures and there I was- bald, wrapped in white gauze needing a sacred moment and it was ruined.

Can we talk about Kotel etiquette? Seriously Jews- WTF? It’s bad enough you litter on the ground at our holy site, it’s bad enough you hindered me today from my personal spiritual objective. If the Jewish people cannot respect their own holy sites, why should we expect the world to take our claim to them seriously?

I am home now, sipping Judean wine, my feet are tapped up and my twelve floor to ceiling windows are open. I wonder how long it will take me to stop covering my baldhead and just be? Sure, I will have an inch of hair in five weeks, which is all I require to feel like I am no longer bald. I could’ve done a buzz cut, but that would’ve fallen short of the purge, the goal, and the test. If I were living in the US this wouldn’t have had any meaning. It is the fact that being a bald woman in Israel- particularly Jerusalem is not socially accepted. I will be kind to myself, stop judging myself and see how I feel tomorrow.

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