Monday, December 27, 2010

This Thing With Orange...

"This thing with Orange is killing me" These are the words spoken by a husband in the early morning hours to his wife as they lay in bed sleepless and upset.

"How can I call you?" These are the words spoken by a young child to her mother in the first moments after she awakens. She calls me every day when she comes home from school. It is the price we pay for my being a working mother - those first minutes when a child runs in the house and tells her mother about her day usually take place in a telephone call.

"This is impossible," says Shmulik. "I have to have a phone to call S. and other officers and commanders." He was stranded today without notice when Orange suddenly closed our phone lines after months of ignoring our requests by email and phone for a meeting to explain how, how in God's name they were sending us monthly bills almost three times what it should be.

Nowadays, soldiers need their phones as a necessary part of their service. It is expected, if not required. When a soldier goes home from basic training, he needs to call his commanding officer or send him an SMS to confirm he arrived safely. If he is going to be late or has any problem - he has to call his commanding officer. Even during the Gaza War, communication that wasn't on encrypted phones was shortened enough to confuse but get the message across.

"I need you here," Elie once told his commanding officer. It was enough. It looked like something was happening on the Lebanese side of the border but Elie didn't have an encrypted phone to explain that he could see enemy forces moving nearby. It was enough - done on an unencrypted phone - our phone (no, not Orange, but Cellcom before we had the great misfortune to believe Orange could offer better service).

And when not in war, the army runs excercises - imagine, at this moment, you have just been called to war, that your unit has been mobilized. How fast can you reach your men? How fast can they be notified and ready to move? The army needs to know. And so more than once, Elie "mobilized." In the distant past before cellphones - the operatrion was not completed until the soldiers reached the base. Now, with cellphones, it is easier - pretend you've been mobilized. Call me back "as if" you'd gotten that call.

Every morning, I am the family alarm clocik. For some reason that is beyond my understanding, most of our family cannot wake up without my calling them. They go back to sleep - it can't be serious if Ima didn't call. With a family plan (at least we had one with Cellcom and arranged one even if Orange wasn't honoring it in the actual numbers and bills), it means I can gather clothes and begin dressing even as I call and wake them. 

The only exception to this "Ima wakes us" rule is the soldier who must leave hours before. He will rise and leave on his own - but the rest wait for their mother. I could force the issue, but I don't. In the length of a life lived, what harm is there in these few years where I speak the first words to them each morning? "Good morning, my lovie," I say to my daughter. Why shouldn't she awaken to those words?

This morning, after Orange shut our phones without warning, I got out of bed and did it the old fashioned way. My feet are cold, for not having put on slippers and I want so much to crawl back into bed and desperately try for those last few minutes of sleep before my day begins and yet I come here to my computer.

I am angry at an insensitive phone company that forces my family, workers and friends, to face this day without the convenience of a phone. Writers are heading out to meetings - without phones. Mothers will not be able to reach their children. The alarm company cannot reach me to confirm that all is fine when the earliest to arrive in the office disarms the alarm. They may well send someone down to check the place.

An elderly couple will head up to Haifa in two hours - without phones. My mother teaches at the university there; my father enjoys the campus and wanders around until my mother calls him and tells him she is finished. Except today, she can't call him. He sometimes gets distracted with the views, or sits and ignores the time as he drinks coffee and reads a newspaper. My mother broke her hip many years ago and her leg a few years ago. She has weak bones - and today, she won't have a phone with her. |I am angry - and rightly so - you don't cut off the phone of two elderly people who don't speak Hebrew nearly well enough.

My son heads back to the army. He wants to call Pelephone today and take that deal they offered him. It is a special discount for soldiers - it includes hundreds of minutes of free time between army numbers. He is fed up and angry - and rightly so. You don't cut off a soldier's phone without warning.

My daughter will come home today - a young girl wanting to call her mother. That at least, I can solve. She was afraid yesterday when it was getting dark and she didn't have my office phone number - why should she when she has her own phone and she knows my number. But it didn't work yesterday - suddenly, without warning and so she was smart. She went to the neighbors and the neighbor sent me a note on Facebook. Today, at least, I have taken care of her. She has my office number - thanks to landlines and Bezek. She, at least, I can help.

And then there are those words my husband spoke to me a few hours ago; a whisper of a man who is sick and tired of trying to get a massive, insensitive, greedy corporation to listen. "This thing with Orange is killing me." Never more than now have I regretted signing the contract with Orange a year ago.

I opened a special blog to keep this issue away from this one. But who wants to read about how yet another large corporation is cheating yet another person? A Soldier's Mother has been going now for more than 3 years and I wanted to keep this blog about that and not about this...until yesterday when that and this collided.

We have been suffering with Orange for more than a year since we signed that contract and have been fighting ever since. The issues are complex - broken promises, over-billing, equipment not received, lines not opened. The simplest solution would have been a meeting with Orange to explain the bills. We tried that once with the head of the Jerusalem Business office - he came for a few hours - sat talking to his office on the phone making adjustments to the bill and decided, on his own, without explanations, what we were entitled to.

He canceled 17 lines and offered a compromise amount of 10,000 NIS credit if we'd forget the whole mess and just move on. Move on to what? How did you get to 10,000 NIS? Why can't you go phone by phone and discuss it? We asked him. He was in a rush to leave to his next appointment. 

"After you pay," he said.

"Pay what?" we asked him.

He could not or would not answer. How do you pay a bill when you don't know what you are paying for? When even the company can't unravel the lies. The most honest truth was the one that one Orange representative gave us, "If we gave you what Gal promised, the company would lose money." But Gal was their representative, set on making the deal, giving us the SIM cards and getting his commission. Gal has long since been removed from the picture - if only we were so lucky.

This thing with Orange is killing my husband, leaves my daughter without a convenient way to contact her mother, leaves a soldier without a phone and a way to contact his family, his fiancĂ©e, his commanding officer. This thing with Orange leave two elderly people without communication for the next few hours. This thing with Orange is an outrage.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Jews and the Jaws

I have long believed that what you can't cry have to laugh about. This is a perfect example. Thanks to the Colbert Report for this one!

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Last Look at the Carmel Fire

Few words could be added to the pictures here...and so all I will add is a prayer that their memories be blessed and their sacrifice be forever remembered.

This is Terrorism

Elie said those words in anger last night as we watched the flames consuming our land, our precious and beautiful land. Many decades ago, a representative of Burma came to Israel. Burma is, apparently, a land covered in trees. To find place for the growing population, they have an aggressive deforestation plan, to rid the land of the trees so that people can live.

The representative of Burma came and was so impressed by our wide open spaces with no trees, that he commented on how amazingly successful our deforestation plan was. In reality, according to history, our "deforestation" plan is thousands of years old, and never really ours. When the Romans came to our land more than 2,000 years ago, destroyed the Holy Temple and took many of our people into slavery, they salted the earth, to curse it and make it barren.

There are many statistics. If I were trying to be thorough, I would do research and point to sites to prove the numbers I say here - perhaps later I will add them. For now, I'll tell you that I remember hearing that only Israel, of all the nations in the world, has MORE trees today than 50 years ago. We have no deforestation plan. It is our love of the land that drives us, year after year, to plant new forests and trees, to care for them, to cherish them.

We have lost over 5 million trees. The tragedy of this knocks us to the ground. If you are not Israeli, I do not know if you can comprehend the incredible agony of the heart that we Israelis are feeling today. We take such pride in our forests, our trees. They are an expression of our love. It causes such pain to watch them burn, hour after hour, day after day, as the flames are fanned by the winds. I could say the same and more at the thought of the 41 people who have been killed in this fire, the wounded, the homeless. More than trees, these are people and yet both the people and the land break our hearts.

Two stupid, careless boys from a Druze village have been arrested for setting the fire. What they were doing was definitely illegal - burning garbage in a forest. Was it deliberate? We don't yet know. In all honesty, few think it was deliberate, few want to believe it possible. Elie calls it terrorism - it is his love of the land that brings this harsh verdict, but there is more.

In the last 48 hours, there have been more than 20 arson attempts by Arabs to set fire to our land - the latest this morning near Jerusalem. They know that from all over the country, firefighting equipment has been sent north. Little remains to protect other areas. It is all we have to give. Countries around the world, even those that still call themselves enemies - Turkey, Egypt, Jordan...have joined the Greece, Cyprus, Italy, France, Russia, the United States - forgive me if I have forgotten someone, we are so grateful.

The thought of so many coming brings tears to my eyes. A part of me says it is only right - we have flown the world to help others, to Kenya, to Turkey, to Haiti, to Indonesia, and beyond. Again and again, it is only right that they come and help us. But this isn't about right or wrong. It is about the beauty of it all.

They come to our land to help us. We are so grateful. Tomorrow will be time enough for politics and an accusing finger. Perhaps our government, this one and previous ones, should have done more. Perhaps this minister or that one. I don't focus on that now.

For now, I listen only to reports from the north. I need to know all the details - are they safe, these firefighters of ours and theirs? Do they have enough water to fight this? Is the wind endangering them? How soon can the planes take to the air and help?

Again and again, I check the news. Again and again, I hear of more arson attacks. I am left with one burning thought - if someone intentionally sets fire to the land, it is obscene for him to then claim that he loves it.

You do not intentionally burn trees and acres and acres, dunams after dunams, of a land you love. Those who love this land, are those who have spent days fighting these fires. I see it in their eyes, as they tell the story to reporters. The overwhelming heartache, the sadness, the damage.

And there is one more thing in their eyes - something the Arabs forget to easily, something they are blinded from seeing now...and for the last 60 years. We love this land. We will replant. We will rebuild. This was terrorism and for all of our lives, we have answered terrorism with the one thing that can stop it - determination. We will plant. We will build.