Posted by: deborahhirsch | March 30, 2011

From Tel Aviv to Be’er Sheva

Saturday, March 25 and Sunday, March 26, 2011

After arriving Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, I met up with half the other reporters on the media mission and we headed off to a hotel near the beach.  We walked around the neighborhood until the rest of the group arrived. Altogether there are eight of us from a mix of Jewish and environmental publications, plus our contact from a private public relations firm and a Friends of Ben Gurion representative.

We introduced ourselves at a cafe overlooking the water. While everyone else went off to catch up on jet lag, I went out with another old friend from North Carolina – Sarah Fisher – who made aliyah three years ago. I’ll spend more time with her after the mission, but she stopped by early on to lend me an extra local cell phone. We chatted for a while at a nearby Irish pub. I was very impressed to see that you can, indeed, get shepard’s pie in the Mediterranean.

Sunday morning we were off to Be’er Sheva for an anthropological take on the local market and a jeep tour of research on the Negev’s disappearing sand dunes.

First, we met up with Faye Bittker, director of media relations and publications at BGU, who made a point of complimenting our group for not backing out of the trip in the wake of the recent missile attacks on the city. It was the first time the city had been targeted in more than two years. During those attacks in January 2009, the university actually shut down for two weeks as the city suffered repeated air raids.

By comparison, the university held classes as normal Wednesday after the early morning attack (only two days before our flights) and at least based on my rusty Hebrew, there didn’t seem to be much buzz about it on campus. As Bittker put it, “yes, it’s stressful, but we make jokes.” You have to have a sense of humor about it, she continued, or it’s impossible to live there.

Students are used to it, added 25-year-old Barak Herscowitz, a political science major who’ll graduate this spring. If they weren’t in the Negev in 2009, he said, they got practice diving for cover in the army or living in Tel Aviv at times when “buses exploded every other day.”

I don’t have those experiences, so it’s hard for me to wrap my head around that nonchalance. But it was certainly easy to put aside safety concerns as we went on with our business, surrounded by everyone else going on with their business.

“There is no fear here,” said BGU cultural anthropologist Nir Avieli as he took us through the city market.

The rows of produce, dried goods and clothing stalls reminded me of the mercados I used to frequent while living in Mexico, only much smaller. Several peddlers were eager to show off their wares – including one butcher who held out a long string of entrails for a photo opp.  Others looked at us with suspicion or asked not to be photographed. Nirieli pointed out the separation between Arab, Jewish and Bedouin vendors; as well as the card game area where ethnic boundaries seemed to fade away.

Later that day, we headed out to explore the desert surrounding the university with ecology professor Yaron Ziv and two of his students as our guides. Dry, brown sand stretched out for miles. Close to the Egyptian border, we charged off-road for an up-close look at their current experiments. According to Ziv, with fewer large mammals roaming the area now (many of them killed by Bedouins), what used to be shifting sand dunes is now covered by a hardened soil crust. Aside from missing out on the beauty of that landscape, Ziv said, the biodiversity of the area has also suffered. His students set out traps to study what wildlife still exists, and whether tilling the crust in one area will attract more animals.

Posted by: deborahhirsch | September 3, 2010

Daily Social Media Deals

I find the group advertising concept fascinating, and have been doing some reading up on it as I’m thinking about using such a site for Philly Dance Fitness. I don’t understand why newspapers haven’t jumped on this. Here’s a viable way to generate revenue from readers who trust them as a local authoritative entity.

Anyway, here’s an article with more info about why and how businesses should use these sites. It seems like there are so many of these sites already. I’ll be curious to see which competitors succeed and which fold.

Posted by: deborahhirsch | April 10, 2010


Just booked a flight to Rikud 2010 in LA this Memorial Day weekend. I didn’t think I was going to be able to find a decent fare but the prices dropped this week. Hope to see some of my fellow IFD dance junkies from all around the country!

Posted by: deborahhirsch | April 8, 2010


I’m practicing dance routines in my sleep now to get ready for a Zumba series in Graduate Hospital. It starts on April 21 at 7 p.m. at the Marian Anderson Rec Center. Please pass along to anyone you think might be interested. All the details are here. (And yes, that’s another Word press site.)

Posted by: deborahhirsch | March 5, 2010

Philly Dance Fitness

I’ve decided to apply my fitness training to a business venture. This is all in progress, but the gist of it is that I’m going to market my services as a dance and fitness instructor to the public, specifically to people who are interested in group classes, private lessons or “girls night out” dance parties.

The company is called Philly Dance Fitness, The site is still under construction, but please check it out and pass the link on to anyone you think would be interested. I’m hoping that enough traffic will get search engines to pick up on it. Any suggestions are also welcome!

Posted by: deborahhirsch | March 2, 2010

Joys of homeownership continued

As our basement continues to leak, we head to NC to shop for furniture for our house. Because what else would we do with my forced week of unpaid vacation? Sadly, furniture is not as exciting as say, wedding stuff or clothes or almost anything else you could shop for.

However, this time off has given me a chance to consider starting my own fitness business. We’ll see how that goes.

Posted by: deborahhirsch | January 14, 2010

The Joys of Homeownership (Not)

PGW workers outside our house

After smelling natural gas last night, PGW confirmed that there was, indeed, a leak somewhere. They proceeded to drill holes in the street from 1 a.m. until dawn. Around 3:30 a.m., I tried to bribe them with mint oreos to take a break and come back in the morning, but no luck.

Crews were still outside working when I left for the office this morning. Apparently, they found a crack in the gas main, which is now sealed.

I’m trying to be grateful that we didn’t asphyxiate or that our house didn’t explode, but right now I’m just grumpy from the lack of sleep. I wonder if there will still be a four-foot hole in front of our house when I get home…

Posted by: deborahhirsch | January 10, 2010

I’m so cute, feed me more


Tigger has officially recovered from a week of illness.

Posted by: deborahhirsch | October 12, 2009

Thumbs down for United Airlines

I just want to publicly say that United Airlines is officially on my boycott list. I have suffered through many, many delayed flights and even voluntarily bumped myself from a flight to get a free ticket. But I have never, ever had to miss a flight because of the airline’s idiotic scheduling. I should be landing in Philadelphia right now. Instead, I’m sitting in a hotel room outside Denver, biding time until a 7 a.m. flight tomorrow.

We were scheduled to fly from Sacramento to Philadelphia on the same plane, with one stopover in Denver. About an hour before the flight, we saw online that it was delayed by 40 minutes. We figured, no problem, it’s the same plane so we won’t have to worry about running to catch a connection. At the gate, the sign also noted the flight’s continuing service to Philly. Seth checked with the gate agent to be sure and was told that because the plane was delayed, they were going to substitute a different one that would leave just before we landed. We were livid, of course, because there were no other flights that would get us home that night. Worse, we arrived literally five minutes after the Philadelphia flight had taken off.

I want to know why United couldn’t hold the plane 15 minutes if they knew that several connecting flights were arriving late? Based on the customer service line in Denver (which took an hour to get through btw) it seemed like the same thing had happened to several other passengers. I remember gate agents holding planes all the time in the past when they knew that passengers were coming in from flights that had been delayed. Isn’t it more cost-effective to do this than to pay for hotel rooms for dozens of people? It would certainly make those passengers happier. I, for one, will not be flying United again anytime soon unless there’s an extremely compelling price difference.

Posted by: deborahhirsch | October 12, 2009

Race time

I’ve always wanted to be on Amazing Race, but I don’t think that’s in the cards for me, since I probably wouldn’t even be able to get the time off work.

But I just read about the Great Urban Race (thanks Kat). It’s only five hours max and a similar mix of clues and running around. I’m so sad I missed it this year but I’m keeping it on the radar for next year. Check out the link – there are races all over the country, even in my lovely hometown of Madison, WI.

Older Posts »