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Brownsteins in the Land of Israel
(TEXT ONLY VERSION)
September 26, 2003
installment was supposed to be “The Big Yellow Taxi – Meter/No Meter?”.
But it has been preempted by Rosh Hashanah!
Instead, I have
written a quick story before rushing off for Rosh Hashanah festivities, but
first some of your comments. In
response to The Brownsteins in the Land of Israel: Chapter 6 "LA
Trip:Stranger than Fiction", Rabbi Shraga Simmons suggests that "pellephone"
does not mean "portable telephone" as I had written.
"Pellephone means 'wonder phone!'" wrote Rabbi Simmons.
Well, actually, according to my Ulpan teachers, "pellephone"
actually means "Magic phone". I'm
sure this is not the last of that.
Among the many
beautiful and supportive comments from the "The Cafe Hillel Bombing"
story was this one from Mrs. Klita a.k.a. Marlene Herskowitz, my next door
this really our life? I can tell you that when the bomb went off, and
Shani and Avi [two of her kids], awaken by the blast, spent two hours shaking in
fear, I felt like booking the first flight out of here. To protect them. 24
hours later, as I heard those children sing Hatikvah, I never felt so proud to
be an Israeli. As you said, this is our country. A Haven for our
people. After thousands of years in exile, we are home. As a former
New Yorker who worked across from the WTC, the horrors of September 11th
illustrated too clearly that no one is safe from the evil of terrorism. There is
nowhere to run. We must move forward, here in Israel, using our talents and our
voices to safeguard democracy. We must fight for the triumph of good over
evil, democracy over anarchy."
One of my Ulpan
classmates wrote another beautiful, long letter.
Hillel bombing," she wrote, "I've come to realize that the arguments I
give about my risk of dying here being less than in the U.S. is my way of coping
with the reality of being a walking target and the object of so much hate ...
I'm here because I want my life to have meaning even in the every day things I
do and I want to continue the legacy our ancestors left us and to protect
everything they worked so hard to build. I don't want their hard work to turn
out to be for nothing either. And I'm here because someone has to do the
fighting. American Jews can send all the money they like, but it's not the same
as protecting this country with your life"
We want to thank you
all for your letters. Even if we
haven't responded to each, every word from our friends is a comfort for us.
So, we brought a lot
of stuff here to Jerusalem from L.A. and Burbank.
A lot. And mixed in with all
that stuff was a lot of 110-volt electronics, like computers and kitchen stuff
and 20 man-sized boxes of Portland Trailblazer memorabilia.
You know, all the things that everyone brings.
I was prepared,
however, to use my American electrical stuff.
I knew that I would need to change the voltage here from European/Israeli
220-volt to North American 110 volt. I
must have had at least fifteen different transformers ranging from 50 watts to
500 watts -- about a dozen too many.
Anyway, once we
settled in, I spent a good amount of time setting up my home-office, complete
with computers, printers, speakers, bug zappers, etc.
It was about a three week process. There
was only one little problem: whenever I touched any of the electronics, I would
To be really, really
frank, the feeling of electricity pouring through my body was not what I had in
mind last summer when I suggested to Sara that we didn't need to re-register the
kids at their day school because we were making Aliyah (moving here).
I was thinking more of falafel, "Am Yisrael Chai", and
schnitzel, not barbequed Brownstein.
At the beginning, I
thought this shocking experience was a fluke.
After all, of course, I reasoned that electricity in Israel must have
completely different properties than in America.
The Diet Coke tastes different, why shouldn't the electrons?
Then, remembering the
it occurred to me that I would only be jolted when I was in bare feet or thin
socks ... when my feet were on the ground.
Ground! That's it.
This is what all the fuss is about with grounding, with that third part
that most of us disregard! I am one
So I looked at the
plug of the transformer that was powering the computer and saw that it, in fact,
did not have a third prong. That
was a real headscratcher, though, because these were pretty expensive,
heavy-duty transformers. Looking a
little closer, I saw a little flat metal, ah, thingy, out of which I expected to
find the grounding part sticking out. (Look in Yehuda's cute little hand.)
headscratching continued for a few days, during which I grasped that I would be
a little more comfortable around electrical equipment when wearing rubber shoes.
Again, I am one smart dude.
Sara, too, wondered
why she could dry a towel in one hand when she was touching the
toaster oven with
I decided to go down to my neighborhood hardware store on Emek Refaim and to ask
the owner if he had any ideas.
When I first moved
here, I would go down to this store several times a day to buy their stuff to
help me with my stuff. I finally
got sort of friendly with the owner, in that Rich Brownstein sort of "we've
been friends for life, even though we just met", kind of way.
hardware store's owner's name, which I finally pried out of him after my tenth
power strip and hundredth concrete screw, is
Baruch, which in Hebrew means "bless" or "blessed".
And because I need to create silly little nicknames to help me remember
people, I decided to call him "Baruch HaGever", or "Blessed is
the Man", which is part of the prayer we say after eating.
In the prayer the passage is, "Blessed is the man who trusts
God." But the really fun part
is that "gever" in Modern Hebrew also means a macho man.
So I thought it was a fun name for him, and he didn't seem to mind (too
much)... after the first twenty times I called him that.
particular morning when I had forgotten my shoes while working on the computer,
I decided that I needed to find a solution because I supposed that daily
defibrillation can be harmful to your health.
consciousness, I crawled down to Baruch HaGever to tell him all about my
stimulating dilemma. I described in
great detail the plug on the transformer to Baruch HaGever.
He was not terribly responsive. I
described it again. Hmmm, nothing
yet. Then I said to him, "Look, Baruch HaGever, every time I
touch something, I get shocked! I'm
tired of getting shocked. My hair
may turn gray! Please help
But Baruch HaGever was
totally unimpressed. With the
dismissive tone of Mario Andretti
being told of a guy doing a 100 mph on the Autobon, Baruch HaGever lived up to
his nickname by replying, "What's the problem?
Your transformer it is only 110-volts, right?
If it were 220, then you would have a problem.
Don't worry. Go home!"
Right, my little
Israeli friend! You have fought in three wars, and I
a pansy. Nonetheless, 110 volts is
about 109 more than I need, even if it isn't lethal.
Please tell me, Baruch HaGever, what do I need to buy to solve my
problem? Finally Baruch HaGever got
my drift and pointed me to an adapter that has a little piece of metal to attach
as a ground. (Look in Batya's cute little hand.)
So, home I went, and I
plugged in the adapter, and now I can work in my socks again!
Anyway, thanks again
for reading this far.
I appreciate and look forward to your comments and greetings.
The part of two
adorable kids and a wonderful wife were played brilliantly by two adorable kids
and a wonderful wife.
As you know, we are in
the middle of a membership drive, so please get me the e-mail addresses of
people who you want to add. (Let them know ahead of time, so I don't get in
trouble with the Spam-police).
Please stay tuned for
Chapter 9: “The Big Yellow Taxi – Meter/No Meter?”
All the best,
PO Box 8130
No electric animals
were harmed in the photography of this reenactment.
All characters are
If you want to add
someone to this list, or remove yourself, just e-mail email@example.com and
let him know.
distribute to those with too much time on their hands.
Copyright (c) - Rich Brownstein 2003
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PS: My doting, loving, attentive (and only blood) sister Jois, who lives in Portland, sent the following bit of humor:
YORK, July 28 - The New York City school board has officially declared Jewish
English - now dubbed Hebonics - as a second language. Backers of the move say
the city's School District is the first in the state to recognize Hebonics as a
valid language and significant attribute of New York culture.
According to Howard Schollman, linguistics professor at New York
University and renowned Hebonics scholar, the sentence structure of Hebonics
derives from middle and eastern European language patterns, as well as Yiddish.
Prof. Schollman explains, "In Hebonics, the response to any question
is usually another question - plus a complaint that is implied or stated. Thus
"How are you?" may be answered, "How should I be, with my
Schollman says that Hebonics is a superb linguistic vehicle for
expressing sarcasm or skepticism. An example is the repetition of a word with
"sh" or "shm" at the beginning: "Mountains, shmountains.
Stay away. You want a nosebleed?"
Another Hebonics pattern is moving the subject of a sentence to the end,
with its pronoun at the beginning: "It's beautiful, that dress."
Schollman says one also sees the Hebonics verb moved to the end of the
sentence. Thus the response to a remark such as "He's slow as a
turtle," could be: "Turtle, shmurtle! Like a fly in Vaseline he
Schollman provided the following examples from his textbook, Switched-On
Question: "What time is it?" English answer: "Sorry, I
don't know." Hebonic answer: "What am I, a clock?"
Remark: "I hope things turn out okay." English response:
"Thanks." Hebonic response: "I should BE so lucky!"
Remark: "Hurry up. Dinner's ready." English response: "Be
right there." Hebonic response: "All right already, I'm coming. What's
with the 'hurry' business? Is there a fire?"
Remark: "I like the tie you gave me; I wear it all the time."
English response: "Glad you like it." Hebonic response: "So
what's the matter, you don't like the other ties I gave you?"
Remark: "Sarah and I are engaged." English response:
"Congratulations!" Hebonic response: "She could stand to gain a
Question: "Would you like to go riding with us?" English
answer: "Just say when." Hebonic answer: "Riding, shmiding! Do I
look like a cowboy?"
To guest of honor at his birthday party: English remark: "Happy
birthday." Hebonic remark: "A year smarter you should become."
Remark: "A beautiful day." English response: "Sure
is." Hebonic response: "So the sun is out; what else is new?"
Answering a phone call from child: English remark: "It's been a long
time since you called." Hebonic remark: "You didn't wonder if I'm dead
Paige L. Schaffer San Francisco, CA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org"
Copyright (c) 2003 --