Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Meeting Marsha Michael, Who Solved My Problems in Israel (part 4)

Meeting Marsha Michael, Who Solved My Problems in Israel (Part 4)

by Robert M. Katzman © October 31, 2017


My landlady, (land-person?), Orly, suggested I meet her friend Marsha Michael whom she felt would be somebody I’d like to talk to. She was right, but for assorted reasons. But with meeting her for dinner, came the Katzman Food Curse. More on that later.

Marsha, a lovely woman who is my contemporary, which is much safer to say than listing a person’s age, like that matters, except to say that we both know who Harry Truman was and why he’d be a better President of the United States today—even though dead—than the insanity we have in there now.

Marsha, besides being a very smart, politically active citizen of Israel by way of New Jersey, meaning any opponents of hers better watch themselves, was very easy to talk to and educated me about a growing protest movement in Israel to end the endless war between Palestine and Israel and create an actual two-state reality.

She is involved in a group called: http://womenwagepeace.org.il/en/

Better for me to provide the link than to awkwardly try to paraphrase precisely what her group does. I wasn’t taking notes. I do agree with her objectives. What I will venture, is Marsha told me that ethnically diverse women from both sides of the border have joined together to attempt to peacefully persuade politicians on both sides, overwhelmingly men, to stop the never-ending killing, settle the land-swaps determinations and after decades of failure, create a real, viable Palestinian state.

WomenWagePeace, besides involving mainly Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Moslems, also include Israeli citizen Moslems, Kurds, Druze, Samaritans, Christians and other minorities. Also Circassians. Today, roughly 4,000 Circassians live in Israel, where they constitute the country’s only Sunni Muslim community that sends each of its sons to the military. Read more: http://forward.com/culture/161187/circassians-are-israel-s-other-muslims/

I found that information on the Jewish Forward website and mention it because Marsha brought their name up, which fascinated me, after I asked about whether other better known minorities were involved with her organization’s efforts to change the mindless status quo.

She emphasized that even though her WWP’s actions were political, they were completely non-partisan and the Women Wage Peace movement didn’t want to alienate any particular faction on either side for that reason. She told me they encourage people from all parties to support their goals.

I ventured, in a rare for me expressed political perspective, that nothing would ever happen in Israel as long as the present Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, remains in power because his only objective, as far as I could determine it, was to stay in office and never attempt to solve an issue which might remove him from power.

After half a century in business where discussing religion or politics were a great way to kill a business, I developed a Teflon manner of deflecting discussing anything like that in my career. But since Marsha and I happened to be two American Jews having dinner in Kiryat Tiv’on, Israel, east of Haifa, and talking about what she did, those reservation just shattered instantly.

I also was offended that during President Barack Obama’s term in office, Netanyahu outrageously bypassed him by not first asking permission to do so, and he addressed both Houses in a Joint session of Congress in an intensely political plea for continued support of his country. It’s not that topic I resent. It is his presumption that he could ignore Obama and treat America’s first elected black president with distain.

Or more plainly, a person representing the world’s only Jewish State choosing to ignore longstanding political protocol which happens to involve in this instance a black person, is incredibly ignorant, rude and vastly overestimating the American public’s positive reaction to such unacceptable behavior, let alone the essential to Israel’s continued viability American Jew’s revulsion of his boorish assumption of importance. And the implicit attitude that he spoke for them, too. Plus, he may be accused of financial improprieties like his wife just was.

Marsha made it clear that her group stays away from anything like that and is focused on two main objectives:

1) To pressure the Israeli government to reach an honorable and bilaterally acceptable political agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and

2) To increase the number of women in all aspects of negotiation as mandated by UN Security Council resolution 1325 to which Israel was the first signatory in 2005

My earlier first posting of our meeting and conversation was incorrect about the above, so I am posting Marsha’s message to me because it matters that what she cares about is described accurately by me.


I replied that I come from the bleeding heart liberal center of America, Hyde Park, Chicago and also home of the famously politically left-of-center University of Chicago, where I was born. We called it like we saw it, despite my own public muteness, and never let anyone get away with anything, be it Democrat or Republican.

I said one more thing, liberated as I was from muteness this first time, that Israel and the surrounding Moslem States ought to form a Middle East Economic Union, especially because the OPEC states will soon be sitting on a zillion gallons of oil nobody wants, and that their international leverage to influence anything whatsoever will end with their economic impotence.

And that Israel should do everything in its power to help create an infrastructure within Palestine: Bridges, roads, railroads, a power grid, a desalination system, besides offering to work with local construction companies to build homes, schools and hospitals. Why do I feel this way?

One, because it’s the right thing to do.

And two, a newly created and internationally recognized nation with all of these positive facts on the ground would be far less likely to attack its neighbor, knowing many of those assets could be destroyed in a war.

Later on in this series, I post Part 9, which is my idealistic solution to the anger and frustration in al these countries:

An American Jew’s Bold New Plan for a Sane, Peaceful and Prosperous State of Palestine (part 9) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3887

Whether Marsha agreed with any of this slips my mind. Because my opinions had nothing to do with her.

Then Marsha excused herself and went to the ladies room. I called the waitress for the bill, even though earlier I was discussing my intention to find work as a speaker and writer because surviving on a single social security check in America was pretty near impossible. The implication was that my finances were not flush. But I had a point to make.

When Marsha discovered the bill was paid, when she was intending to split it, which I guess I assumed because we didn’t discuss it, she was surprised, which was my mischievous intent. Then I told her no matter that she agreed with my thoughts about Israeli politics or not, I admired what she was doing and that whatever she was going to pay toward her dinner’s cost she should donate to her group, instead, as a gesture from me. She smiled. A nice smile from a smart woman is worth a lot to me.

The following day, after I mentioned my frustration with getting lost every other minute because I couldn’t find a map of Israel in English, and some other things I wanted to buy, like food to cook so I could avoid the costly restaurants, she offered to help me.

The next morning, we found the maps to Jerusalem and Israel in minutes. I have used the Israel road map side then incessantly. It is already in tatters, but no problem. I brought some strong tape with me from America, in case Israel was out of it. Don’t smile. There’s a lot of small ordinary things people tend to need because they didn’t bother to think about what might be worth taking with them. Like a small roll of white surgical tape that when wrapped around sensitive swollen big toe bunions after walking endless miles can be the difference in being able to walk, or not. Cheap, lightweight and I never travel without it.

Then a razor sharp box cutter-type knife I carry everywhere with me in America in a small sheath on the left side of my leather belt, because it’s faster to access and use than a heavier pocket knife to open and cut whatever needs cutting, can be used with one hand and is also a last-ditch source of protection when I am on dark streets, somewhere.

Except that bringing one on a plane nowadays is frowned upon.

So, leaving mine at home, with Marsha’s persistence I found one of those, too. What Marsha is unaware of at this writing is, that handy sharp tool was all I had with me on the top of Masada mountain where I discovered my second and last bag of Joy’s ashes were sealed with a thick, tight plastic band from the funeral home. It would have been impossible to open the bag and release Joy’s ashes without the new box cutter. After climbing up 450 meters in the night with Joy’s ashes in a black bag slung on my back, that unexpected discovery would have been pretty crushing for me. Little things, like small tools and small gestures of kindness, too, can mean a lot in unexpected ways.

Then Marsha found me a New York Times and an English Ha’Aretz (The State), a major Israeli newspaper. That made three out of three. Pretty impressive. So I asked her if she had the time and if she knew where a large grocery store was so I could buy cooking provisions. She did.

That raises the Katzman Food Curse issue, which actually first presented itself in the restaurant the night before.  A primarily veggie-type place. I hunted for something to order with dread, because it was taking me a loooong time to pick something on the menu to eat. My own person KFC has nothing to do with that other one, which at a very bad time in my life in 1982, was a very good thing. But, as they say, that’s another story.

In brief, which isn’t actually possible, and is endlessly embarrassing for me to explain to a new person when we go out to eat, this is what happened and what resulted:

Besides my fragile genes, which are mostly responsible for a incredibly limited choice of what I can eat, a massive over-exposure to x-rays at the age of one, at the infamous Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago most likely exacerbated the problem. I am allergic to almost every fruit or vegetable, with some convoluted exceptions. Plus, innumerable environmental situations.

Also many spices.

What happens if I make a mistake and don’t pay close attention to what’s hiding on my plate under something else? My esophagus swells up and I can’t breathe. My lips swell, my ears itch and ring, my eyes tear uncontrollably, my chest hurts terribly and my head feels like steel bands are tightening and loosening around my skull, over and over, for about an hour.

So, kind and understanding reader, perhaps you might understand why my eating in any restaurant I don’t already about know, or trying to buy food in a foreign country where all the labels are in Hebrew with no English translations, might make selecting something to eat from a menu or trying to find allowable things to buy in a grocery store, might take an embarrassingly long time.

I usually had to get to know someone pretty well growing up before going out to eat anywhere with them, or to their house for a meal, either. I didn’t want to seem picky or eccentric or difficult, and it took too long to explain my restrictions. Plus, growing up I hadn’t discovered all the things I couldn’t have, yet.

Think about that.

There was always the chance for a very bad surprise in life’s medical Jack-in-the-Box for me.

Here’s a list I never typed before, not complete, of the things not allowed. Imagine trying to remember all of them every single day of your life?

Berries, all melons, watermelon, bananas, fresh carrots (but ok cooked), fresh pears (but ok canned), dill, curry, hot peppers, oregano, sunflower seeds, most nuts, trail mix-type foods because they have a coating on them, raisons, cherries, pickles, eggplant, milk (sometimes), lima beans (most dangerous food), Hostess Cupcake white filling, Oreo Cookies white filling, peanut butter (but not when I was a child), too much olive oil on a salad, peaches, raspberries, sunflower seeds and beans.

East Indian restaurants (also Pakistani, Nepal, etc), Korean restaurants and Mexican restaurants, radishes, raw onions (but ok cooked), pollen of all kinds, cats (worst of all), rabbits, camels, wool, fresh cut grass, hay, mushrooms, hot dogs with too much fat, gyros (tastes great and is indigestible and burning, later), and any kind of sausage anywhere on the planet, including is real and Wisconsin. God knows what’s really in them and so far, He hasn’t been talking to me. if this is a Celestial Test, when does the reward arrive?

Anyway, sure, there’s more which I can’t think of at this moment, but what would that matter, anyway?

I guess you can pretty much get the idea that I would be the worst possible choice to be a real life Robinson Crusoe trapped on some tropical island living off whatever grew there unless Friday, the other guy in the book, was a pharmacist at a 24-hour Walgreens Drug Store, which would have to be there.

The thirty-seven surgeries following the x-ray overdose in 1951 also caused some uncomfortable problems when eating, or even thinking about eating, but I don’t want to explain those on top of all of the above.

Add to all of this misery and restrictions the foods I just don’t like and you might imagine that being a carefree, anything goes spontaneous person when it came to experimenting with exotic foods was never part of my appeal as a person to invite to a party. Plus, of course, I don’t drink any kind of alcohol. Might accidentally slip up and woozily eat the wrong thing, thereby ending up both drunk and dead. Not the same as “dead drunk,” just for clarity. That would kill an evening’s frivolity pretty quickly.

But my food complications aside, I think I’m good company. Just, very, very careful, that’s all.

On the other hand, living the way I do with this virtually impossible for anyone to imagine who reads about my situation, has made me far more tolerant of other people’s frustrating limitations, sensitivities, and their embarrassment about having them than, I might have ever been otherwise. With the notable exception of Benjamin Netanyahu, of course. No pass for him.

Meeting Marsha Michaels was a very nice experience, I think she’s cool, she helped a stranger in Israel find things he wanted and needed, including translating labels on lots of cans in that grocery store, and, oh yes!

I finally found the Caraway seeds I had been hunting for in Part 2 of this ongoing series of stories about my time in Israel. Great on eggs, salads and soups.

Lastly, she helped me find a blue plastic bottle of local sunscreen, which two weeks later went to Jordan with me for three days where I slept in the desert in a tent after sundown–bone-chilling cold–and then I walked through mountainous deserts with soft red sand under a seemingly much bigger, yellower and closer sun, where the idea of heat was redefined for me, and where that sunscreen proved to be not a very casual purchase, at all.

That sunscreen will travel home with me to Wisconsin, along with all the unused spices. When I see the blue plastic bottle with the sunny orange cap atop it, I will remember Jordan, but I’ll remember Marsha, too.

(To be continued…)

Driving in the Dark: Lost in Israel (part 1) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3736

Bob in Israel: Crusader Citadel and Caraway Seeds (part 2) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3748

 Joy’s Ashes in Israel: An Independent Woman (part 3) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3761

Marsha Michael, Who Solved My Problems in Israel (part 4) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3771

Tel Aviv, israeli radio and Unexpected Art (part 5) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3796

Vad Yashem: Killing Millions of Children (part 6) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3811

Chicago man Watches Death of Samurais in Israel (part 7)//www.differentslants.com/?p=3846

Traveling Alone, Traveling Together (part 8) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3865

An American Jew’s Bold New Plan for a Sane, Peaceful and Prosperous State of Palestine (part 9) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3887

David’s Star in Israel (part 10) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3907

Sleeping With the Bedouins (part 11-a) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3962

Pleading with Fate in Jerusalem (part 12) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3980



Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $24.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle: bob_katzman


Comment by Charlie Newman

October 31, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

Props, Bob!

Comment by brad dechter

November 1, 2017 @ 7:56 am

Bob, Given your issues with food, my post throat/neck surgery swallowing issues get put in perspective- thanks for that!
Hope you are now on the fun side of your trip with no more missions or responsibilities!
Safe travels!

Comment by Jim Payne

November 1, 2017 @ 1:10 pm

When we go out to eat, you sure get to pick the restaurant. You have more allergies than I ever imagined. Sorry. You made a story out of them. You are an entertaining writer.

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