GA: Like a kid in a candy shop

I’m a very wealthy woman. I have a husband who adores me, 12 beautiful Israeli children, and nine grandchildren. I have all that.

But in order to get all that, I gave up other stuff. For instance, season tickets to the Pittsburgh Symphony. My mom and I went every Sunday religiously for years. I gave that up.

Other stuff, too. Art festivals, theater, ballet, fine restaurants. A whole bunch of STUFF.

So I have to confess: I LIKE stuff.

I had some stuff tonight. At the GA.

The Batsheva Dance Company did two amazing dances for the audience, just after the Prime Minister spoke.

They Left!?!

The pity of it was that most of the audience emptied out before the dancing began. The planning of the event was that disorganized. People simply didn’t know there was going to be dance. They thought it was over and they left.

That’s because it was practically impossible to parse the schedule (unlike the President’s Conference I attended earlier this year that was so meticulously and elegantly organized by Finn  Partners—shout-out to my colleague, Elie Klein). In fact, for the past couple of days, the bloggers have been trying to figure out: what’s good to go to, when should we get there, and etc. Finally, Saturday night, I sat down with pen and paper and roughed out when I had to get there, what buses I would take, and what looked worthwhile at the conference itself.

So back to the ballet. I knew there was to be a ballet performance after the Prime Minister spoke and I was revved up about that. Stuff. Back in my life. At least for one night. And since I was a blogger, it was FREE. (There are perks to being a blogger and this is one of them).

There wasn’t anything that was going to take me out of that hall. Let them all leave (apparently, those GA people couldn’t read that schedule any better than the press). I would have those dancers all to myself.

Couldn’t Sit Still

They were OUTSTANDING. The dancers that is. I was so thrilled I couldn’t sit in my seat.

Now I’m not supposed to like that stuff being that I’m Haredi and all. Especially since the second dance seemed to be a satire that poked some fun at my community. The dancers, dressed in black suits, black hats, and open-necked white dress shirts, went into the audience and chose random female audience members to be their partners and then brought them back onstage where they engaged in playful yet dramatic samba.

But it was all done so well I just grinned from ear to ear and told my inner curmudgeon to just stow it.

I’m writing this backwards. I really should have started from the beginning. But what can I say? I was blown away by the Batsheva Dance Company.

Ask Us Guy

Okay, so now I’ll rewind. I wanted to see the press room they’d set up for us bloggers and journalists (not necessarily in that order, wink wink) so I asked the people with the “Ask Us” shirts. This one guy took his job seriously. Apparently, security had closed off the stairway to the press room because they were readying the hall for the Prime Minister’s arrival, but my erstwhile Ask Us guy was undeterred and insisted on taking me a new, cool way into the bowels of the Binyanei Hauma conference hall all the way to the press room.

Nice Ask Us people, I’ll say that for the organizers. Along the way he, Ask Us Guy, showed me all the places I could get free fruit, falafel, juice or wine, and hummus with meat, a yummy Middle Eastern specialty.

I introduced myself to the people in the press room and they told me I could always leave my stuff in the room if I wanted and in general, made me feel at home. Then I went back downstairs to network and see what was what. I ran into lots of my fellow bloggers, including Brian of London, Sharon Marks Altshul, Benji Lovitt, and Sarah Tuttle-Singer.

The exhibition hall was set up as a shuk, the theme of this year’s GA. I

scan0166went from stall to stall and schmoozed with people at random. At the Diaspora Museum stall I felt right at home and the museum director with whom I’d corresponded in the past helped me do some family research. He sent me on my way with free genealogy software. I got a free newspaper from the Jerusalem Post and had a nice talk with Jeff Barak about the death of newspapers (after he tried to talk me into purchasing a subscription).

The Yvel Jewelry stand was LUSCIOUS. Every piece was absolutely stunning. I felt proud we had something of this caliber to show these out-of-towners.

Yvel Jewelry (photo scan)
Yvel Jewelry (photo scan)

I met a bunch of people in the education field, which is great, because that is what I’m supposed to be blogging about in my capacity as communications writer at Kars4Kids, a car donation program that supports educational initiatives for children. So it was definitely a worthwhile evening for me. I also gave a piece of my mind to the nice lady sitting at the Hillel stall for this. But quite frankly, she didn’t know what I was talking about and just shrugged blankly. *sigh*

We had to go through a crazy long and involved security process in order to get to the auditorium for the main event. They actually checked my hands to see if I had residue from explosives on them. I tried to act all cool with the security dude and asked him, “Hey, are you actually looking for GSR on my hands?” He giggled.

So now for the speechifying: at last came the point that I knew was bound to come, the point where someone would say something that would make me grind my teeth. It was the Gelmans, she in Hebrew, he in English, when they said: “We look to the day when Israel will be a democratic and pluralistic state.”

ExCUSE ME??? You mean we’re NOT? That bus I took to this very conference filled with an amalgam of Haredi, National Religious, whites, blacks, and Peruvian Jews was not a pluralistic environment? That election in which I voted earlier this year in which I had the privacy to choose whatever ballot I wished was not a democratic vote???

THAT made me MAD. How dare they? HOW DARE THEY?? They read stuff in the newspaper about Women of the Wall and Palestinian rhetoric and they just swallow it whole? Maybe they should have come home with me, on the 167, and tested their preconceptions with some cold hard truth.

Bright And Early

And now with that off my chest, to bed I go, to get up bright and early to hear the President speak. President Peres, that is.

Oops! I almost forgot. Bibi was thrilling. He had them eating out of the palm of his hand. That is his great métier, after all: speaking. It was all about Iran, except for the little bit about the Kotel being for everyone.

Predictable, but um, rousing with lots of standing ovations and applause, though he went on slightly too long and lost me for about the last ten minutes.

But then again, I have ADD (can you tell?).

To be continued.


About the Author
Varda Epstein is a blogger and Communications Writer for
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