visit to israel

Aya died (30th of March 2009). From the stories of her diabetes, the infection in her leg, her hospitalization, it seemed to me that her days were numbered. Maybe it was easy for me to feel that way because I am away, in Canada, while they are back in Israel. When Aya died there was wonder as to what had killed her. 65 is not considered old age these days. A day or two before her death she was diagnosed with cancer.
Death is a straightforward reminder of the insignificance of our existence. 'How we die' by Sherwin Nuland describes the six most common processes that bring our bodies to the moment of death. A fascinating book that shows how boring and predictable death is. The author's intention in writing this book came from the realization that lack of information is at the base of the emotions surrounding death. My grandfather, who I have never met, died at 56. Before my father turned 56 he seemed to have been counting the days.
When I was riding my motorcycle a few years earlier, at 29, I was hit by a car. This near death experience was more frightening to everyone around than to me. For the first week, although regarded conscious, I was completely disoriented. I have virtually no memory of that time. If anything stays with me from that time it's the fear of injury and not the fear of death. So what makes so many of us cling to life so badly?
Before we die we want to leave a mark, to create meaning. In death our value can be calculated. Initially that value is described in terms of loss. Eventually memory is gathered to become a legacy. Aya's legacy is hard to describe in elaborate words. It's one that is less of her own life yet belongs to her life.
She really liked us, her nephews. We made her happy and she wanted us to be happy.
In her death, I remember her fondly.


silicone valley

Yaron David, a friend who lives in Amsterdam, is now working on putting up a line of pastries for sale through restaurants and other venues.
I wish him luck. There are many occasions where my own pastries got rave reviews. One of the best recipes comes from my grandmother who remembered it from her childhood in Czechoslovakia and passed it on to us, her grandchildren. Somehow I turned out to be the master in our family for this one. Some other recipes, I've picked through the years and turned them into signature masterpieces of my household. This hobby-on-the-verge-of-obsession is as far as I'm willing to go with cooking for others.
Food is such a treacherous field. We all need it. "Anyone can cook" as Chef Gusteau testifies. Not everyone wants to bother making the effort. (for those of you who haven't seen the movie, please do yourselves a favour: Ratatouille). So when you want to turn food making into a business, you deal with satisfying no other than the human mouth. When I make a good cake and serve it to friends, they usually feel obliged to compliment. When you make a good cake and sell it to people, they expect to be entertained. My brother, Erez, seems to have struck the right balance between fine cooking and amiable entertaining. His home based dining service has been steadily gaining more clients since opening his business a few years back.
My own cooking stays non business oriented with an appetite for fun and playfulness. A while ago I came across a bunch of silicone muffin pans with various simple shapes. They reminded me that our pan at home was becoming a little rusty and needed to be phased out. The thought of using a muffin pan is not a compelling one to say the least. Therefore, when I saw the silicone pans, they looked like the perfect toy to inject some fun into the muffin making chore. Since then it seems like the market for silicone baking products has expanded considerably. On my recent visit to Israel I came across a shop (4 chef) that holds a nice variety of Silikomarts. Initially it was hard to choose between them but I could't take them all. I still haven't used the two new pans I had bought but they already make me smile whenever I see them waiting patiently on the shelf.
This is probably the right time to get into the kitchen and work.
Bon apetit!


Jet lag could be considered a side effect of disorientation. Of course your body tells you it's tired. But what about the place you've just left, the people you've just met, the language(s) you've been speaking.
In 1987 I got back from India to Israel. On the bus from the airport near Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it felt like everyone was speaking to me. After a year and a half of staying around mostly English speaking people, Hebrew became like a secret language. I could walk along the streets of Melbourne, Delhi or Singapore with an Israeli acquaintance and talk about things, knowing hardly anyone around would understand. It was and still is the feeling of privacy in the public domain. Since then computers got into almost anyone's lives, the internet exploded from there shortly after and cellphones followed the same path. With technology comes the need to acquire new literacies. Eventually we keep on using language almost in the same way and for the same purpose. We communicate. We exchange information, insights, emotions.
Getting back from Israel to Vancouver recently, brought up the notion of disorientation. After a week's visit to family and friends, I am back home with my Hebrew speaking wife and daughter in a mostly English speaking society. It feels home. It feels detached. Did I say everything I had to say to the people I have just left behind? Am I talking to Anat, my wife, about what I experienced in Israel or about my plans for the future? Did I leave anything behind? Am I worried about the future?
These days I am working on re-establishing my design business after two years in a landscape architecture office. In those two years the idea of becoming a professional landscape architect was a tangible prospect. I am interested in urban design. My training is industrial design. Whatever I did in my life can be seen as designing stuff. But my attitude, it seems, has also been managing stuff. Mostly what I've done was manage myself. This time around I am about to find myself managing others as well.
Would that be a result of my jet lag or my disorientation?