Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This Just In...!!!

Sometimes, it just pays to put up a fight. For proof of this, you need not look any further than the following e-mail I received this evening at 11:46 PM...

Dear Hal,

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to the December 27- January 7th Israel Experience – “Hands-On” Israel/Koach Taglit-birthright israel trip (the official group name is IE-17-407. The gift of the Taglit-birthright israel trip includes roundtrip airfare from Logan Airport in Boston to Israel. You are responsible for the cost of transportation to and from that gateway. The Taglit-birthright israel gift also covers hotel, transportation, most meals and other associated land costs in Israel. Gratuities, personal purchases and supplementary travel medical insurance are not included. You are covered by an HMO-type medical insurance in Isra! el but it will not cover pre-existing conditions. We will request that you bring $60 in cash to cover gratuities to the guide and driver (we can’t mandate that you do so but it is highly suggested).


    1. Arkia flight # IZ636
    2. Departs December 27th from Logan Airport in Boston (this is a charter flight)
    3. Departure time is 11:00 AM

i. You are required to be at Logan Airport at 7:00 AM (If you are flying in from another city, please read the note below)


1. scheduled arrival time for your connecting flight can be no later than 4:00 AM

iii. Because this is a morning flight, you may need to arrange to be in Boston overnight to avoid missing the international flight.

  1. INBOUND TO Boston
    1. Arkia flight # IZ635
    2. Arrives January 7th to Logan Airport in Boston
    3. Arrival time is 9:00 AM


1. Allow yourself sufficient time to go through customs and immigration for your connecting flight

**PLEASE NOTE: THIS TRIP IS TRAVELLING ON A CHARTERED FLIGHT. Therefore, you do not have the option to extend your return ticket home.

Please check the My Trip page on a regular basis for updates of important information (suggested packing list, etc.). In the meantime, please let me know if any of you are on Facebook so we can set up a Facebook group to create the ‘group’ before you go!


If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact me!



I'll write more about this later, but I want to give a shout-out to those of you who told me not to back down and fight for this trip. Without your support, I most certainly would have just caved.

Anyway, so I guess that's that.

Long story short....


Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Reply to a Reply

I've decided to not go down without a fight with the Israel Idiots.

This was my response to my rejection letter. I honestly don't know if it will do any good, but the way I figure, at least I didn't just slink off into the shadows with my tail between my legs like an impotent dog. So, without further ado....


Thanks for your response. However, I would really like to know what criteria you based your decision on. After all, I did apply within the first week of registration opening.

I'm usually one to pick my battles, but I have to admit that I was troubled with Rabbi Cantor's line of questioning regarding the prescription drugs I take and the reasoning behind why I take them. I suffer from a minor case of OCD and as far as physical “disabilities” go, I walk slightly slower due to an illness I had as a child.

At one point, he asked me "so, are you going to see a psychologist for that?" A few moments later, he asked "how are you when it comes to hiking?” Despite my uneasiness answering such personal questions, I answered both of them honestly and politely. I do not see a psychologist for my OCD as it is a non-issue and I would be fine on hikes.

Not to mention the fact that he called me an hour earlier than when our appointment was scheduled, which left me feeling very uncomfortable as I had to walk away from my job to answer his questions. Apparently, there was a miscommunication regarding the time in that he was calling at 1:15 his time rather than my time; the latter time being one in which I had a half-hour break where I could talk.

Now, this is the last time I can participate in one of these trips as I turn 27 in March and I would hate to be excluded based on the fact that Rabbi Cantor thinks that I'm some sort of liability. I've worked very hard in overcoming the obstacles that have been placed in front of me over the course of my life.

Please get back to me regarding the reasons for this decision.

Thank you.





We shall see....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Oy Vey

I guess I should be surprised, but these days, nothing really surprises me.

I am 26 years old and as many of you readers already know, I was afflicted with French Polio when I was seven, rendering me paralyzed from the head down. I also
suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive disorder.

Over the course of nearly 20 years, I have undergone overwhelming pain, emotional and physical, numerous surgeries and have won many battles, including the one for my mobility and strength. With that illness, came my fear of germs, getting sick as well as anxiety issues--my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

The latter, too, I have been fighting--and always will be fighting, I suppose--in order to function normally in my daily life; most recently, in the form of a medication called Effexor,

I strive, every day, to live a Normal Life and be healthy and happy and while I haven't exactly gotten that down to a science, I think I'm making leaps and bounds. In the course of 20 years, I am happy to say that I have never been discriminated against for my physical disability or my mental health.

That is, until today, when I was rejected by the geniuses behind the Taglit Israel Birthright program. Yes, that's right. I will not be going to Israel after all.

A recap: I applied for one of the Winter trips and, as I have mentioned, I did it about a week after registration opened. Like clockwork and as requested, I filled out the forms and surveys completely and efficiently. I was determined to go on my free trip to Israel. After all, it's the last time I'm eligible to participate in the program since I turn 27 in March and the age restriction is 18-26. I was ready to rock.

Which takes me to the interview with Rabbi Shalom Cantor (for all those Jews out there, there is definitely an inside joke with that last name, is there not?). He called me on Friday, October 26, when I was at work and could not answer the phone. He left a message, advising me that we needed to talk about "getting ready for the trip" and to call him back when I could. I called him back that afternoon and reached his voicemail. As expected, with it being the Sabbath and all, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, he was unable to call me back. He didn't call me back until Monday evening at around 7:15 p.m. Again, I was at work. In his voicemail, this time, he said he had to get a hold of me by the next day around five. Again, I tried calling him on my 15-minute break but to no avail--I got his voicemail and told him I had a break at 1pm and got off work at 5pm.

The next morning, he texted me, telling me that he would call me at 1:15. And true to his word, he did. He called me at 1:15 to the P to the M. Except there was just one problem: He called me at 1:15 p.m. his time. Pacific time. Nice.

I had to get off the phones at work and haul my ass down to the breakroom, screwing my time up for the day, which really wasn't a problem, mind you, but it was just kind of inconvenient, but I wasn't about to bitch about it.

Turns out the Rabbi was a bit of an insincere, shady prick. Can I say that? Well, I guess I just did. A person--what some might like to call a "useful idiot"--once made the comment to me that even G-d makes mistakes. And while I would tend to think otherwise, this schmuck was really giving that statement some credence.

For starters, the man asked me if I took any prescription drugs. Not that it was really any of his business, I answered "yes." He went on to ask me what I took. Again, I answered honestly: Effexor and nasal spray for allergies. He then asked me why I took Effexor!!!!! I was taken aback by this line of questioning but I answered honestly. I told him that I suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive disorder and that I'm a bit of a germaphobe but its not really a huge deal and it would have no bearing on how I fair on the trip should I be accepted. There was a looooooonnnnnnng, tense, 30-second pause. He returned with, "so, uh, are you going to see a psychologist for that?" I told him that I had in the past but I don't see one any longer. I could hear him inhale sharply on his end.

WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?! I thought to myself, what would you like to know next?!?! My sign (for the curious, I'm a proud Aries)?! My underwear size?!?! You prying asshole!!!

No, the questions he asked next were about my physical limitations. I told him that I move a little slower than the average person but I get around just fine. He then asked me how I was when it came to hikes ("Well, gosh...it's been a while since I climbed that tricky Mount Everest, but..."). I told him that I did a little hiking in Colorado several years ago and with the help of a walking stick, I had no problem. In fact, I really didn't even need a walking stick (truth be known, and I obviously would never admit this to the good Rabbi, but I just thought the stick looked fucking cool--like Splinter in the Ninja Turtles series. Ha ha ha!!! I made funny!!!). Again, there was another tense pause.

Look, I know that there are liabilities that these people have to think about, but I find those types of questions despicable. First off, the doctor prescribed pharmaceuticals I take are none of your fucking business, alright?! And according to Federal ADA guidelines, you really can't ask me questions about my disability and you certainly can't reject me from a trip such as this one because of said disability. So, why ask them at all, you ass!! Look, if I didn't think I could make it on this trip--physically and/or mentally--I wouldn't have applied. Needless to say, he had me verbally sign a waiver by telling him that yes, all of the questions I had answered were true and if I was dishonest about any of them, I would be sent home on my own dime.

He told me that he would take all the information I'd provided him with to the Rabbis and I would be contacted within the next three business days--Monday, at the very latest--with "everything I needed to know about the trip." I asked him if I was accepted already. He said very tersely, "Like I said, you will be contacted with everything you need to know." I thanked him and got off the phone with him.

Shalom, my ass.

Wednesday passes by...Thursday...nothing. It wasn't until until Friday night that I got an e-mail from the trip coordinator, Rachel, advising me that they had not made a decision regarding my trip status and that she would contact me no later than Monday regarding my status.

Curiouser and curiouser, I thought. What was the hold-up?

Monday comes and still, no word. I e-mail the gal and tell her that I never received an e-mail from her and asked her to get back to me regarding my status. I waited all day today (or, at this point, yesterday) at work, constantly checking my e-mail, until finally, I decided to jot down her cell number and call her after work. She was at a concert when I reached her. I told her that I never heard back from her and she claimed she sent me a reply that same night (*cough!* bullshit! *cough*). I told her that I never received it. She then proceeds to tell me that I'm--wait for it!!--really high up on the wait list.

The motherfucking WAIT LIST?!?!

I told her to re-send the e-mail because I wanted a hard copy and not just phone call. This is the e-mail I received later in the evening.

Dear Hal,

I'm sorry to tell you that due to high demand for our Taglit-birthright israel trips, you've been put on the waitlist for our winter trips. I have no way to know if any spaces will open up but based on historical data, there is a significant chance that spaces MAY open up.

You have 3 options at this point:

  1. If you wish to remain on the waitlist, please let me know. I will retain your deposit and keep you as an active candidate. At this time, I have spaces available on our trips that leave on January 9th, January 13th and February 11th.
  2. If you wish to try to find another organizer that may have room for you, you can contact--

Blah, blah, fuckin' blah. What complete and utter bullshit. I am going to pull myself off the wait list for two reasons. For one, I need to know if I can get the time off from work. I can't just drop everything and get whisked away to Israel.

The second reason, however, is a little more complex. Look, I'm not stupid.
They were covering their asses. Like I said, I registered a week--maybe less--after registration opened. There is no way that I should have been rejected for the cock-and-bull reason I was given.

And the thing is, I'm not sad. I mean, I'm disappointed. I really wanted to go on this trip. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hurt. These people don't even know me and they just slapped some CRAZY CRIPPLE label on my forehead. And there's not a damn thing I can do about it because these people can make up any damn story they want as to why they're rejecting me.

If it had been four or five weeks ago, I might have been crying in my Life cereal about it, but I think the meds are helping. I'm not as emotionally unhinged as I previously had been. I mean, yeah, the whole situation sucks, but I'm not going to cry about it. If anything, I'm pissed. I'm pissed as hell.

But this is how I see it:

I will never apologize for who I am or the way I am. As I said, G-d has a plan and He made me the way I am for a reason. If these people already have a problem with me without even taking the opportunity to get to know me--aside from the shallowest of 15-minute interviews--as a person, if all they see is a big, fat walking (or, I guess, in their eyes, a hobbling), talking Liability and not a young Jewish individual who wants to explore his roots and spirituality, than they can keep their free trip, because, as I have learned time and time again, this year, I am worth so much more than that.

And they can
kush mir in tuchus

Look it up.