Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Disengagement Summer

In addition to reading many articles and blog posts from Jewish perspectives this week about the disengagement from Gaza and the northern Shomron, I have also been watching ABCNews and Nightline. I was fully prepared to be disgusted by the coverage, expecting them to paint the "settlers" and protestors as extremists and showing them little or no sympathy.

I have been very relieved and impressed (and deeply touched) that they are showing all the Israeli sides --settlers, protestors and soldiers -- in a sympathetic way. They profiled a young woman who left one of the settlements willingly, but reluctantly and with great pain, and also showed the anguish of the soldiers who are being forced to evict their brothers from land where they have lived for 30 years or more. They are even hinting at the sincerity and conviction of the protestors. It is a big comfort to see the "liberal" U.S. media showing some sympathy for Israel and the sacrifices being made now by Israelis.

It is also incredibly inspiring to see the patience, empathy and restraint of the soldiers involved in the disengagement. Last night on Nightline, they showed some footage of a soldier patiently taking a tongue lashing from an impassioned protestor. In the midst of calmly absorbing the verbal onslaught, the soldier handed the protester a large bottle of water, and the protestor paused from his tirade long enough to take a long drink. Where else but in Israel would so-called opponents show such concern for one another?

It is hard to guess how the American public absorbs such images, but I think that anyone who sees these reports understands that the Israeli people and its army are impassioned, but non-violent, and have respect for one another. I hope they see how painful this disengagement is, and understand that the settlers who are leaving peacefully are doing so out of great love and respect for the state of Israel, even though the move is personally devastating. I can't imagine landowners anywhere in the United States giving up their homes and communities so peacefully (though the final outcome remains to be seen), and the stakes in Israel are not at all comparable to any potential scenario in the U.S.

In all fairness, the ABC coverage hasn't all been what we Jews would like to see. The second half of Nightline tonight focused on the Palestinian reaction to the withdrawal (which some claim as a victory for Hamas), and I felt Ted Koppel was much too "soft" on Hanan Ashrawi (whose appearance infuriates me) and I think the new correspondent covering the Palestinians is acting more as a representative of their opinions than as an objective journalist. Perhaps I've just been jaded by many years of exposure to the media, or perhaps my expectations are too low, but even in spite of these obvious flaws, I felt that all-told, Israel is doing okay this week in the press.

As a journalist, I do sympathize with the difficulty in presenting "two sides" to every story while not sending the message that the two sides are equal. It is not an easy task.But watching tonight as images of Israeli soldiers showing compassion for their fellow Jews were juxtaposed with images of masked Islamic militants marching in Gaza with rocket launchers on their shoulders, I felt that intelligent viewers will draw their own conclusions about who wants peace and who doesn't.

In other health news

A couple of months ago, I got in the habit of having yogurt once a day. It's a nice cool snack in the summer, is packed with calcium and active yogurt cultures, and is quite tasty, especially YoCrunch, a brand that comes with little packets of granola or candy to mix with the yogurt.

A few weeks into my yogurt regimen (read: latest addiction), a couple of friends were talking about all the health benefits of yogurt -- how the good bacteria in the yogurt kills all sorts of bad bacteria that can cause various maladies.

It was after that that I realized that my sometimes disastrous complexion had been much improved of late. I recalled being told that certain bacteria can cause acne, which is why antibiotics are sometimes prescribed as treatments. So I started thinking…. After eating a yogurt a day for a few weeks, my acne was much more in control than usual, even though my stress level was the same, or worse. Could it be the yogurt, I thought?

I searched online and found a few sites that claim that acidophilus, the bacteria in yogurt, can help alleviate adult acne. To be fair, I found other sites that claim that any dairy products, including yogurt, can contribute to acne problems. So, I think it's a remedy that works for some people, but is not a cure-all.

Even so, I post this as a public service announcement to others of you who may still be plagued by acne. Try the yogurt, it just might work.

Afflicted by PR

About a week and a half ago, I made a short trip to New Hampshire and Vermont for a reunion of my dad's side of the family. The trip followed a period of great stress at work, and was itself the source of a certain amount of stress because, well, family can be that way. In the end, the weekend wound up being very enjoyable, and the landscape of Vermont and New Hampshire was beautiful and helped me forget the stress I had left behind.

When I got back, I noticed a couple of red bumps on my neck and assumed they must be bug bites, even though they didn’t itch. However, when, within the week, my chest and parts of my abdomen were also covered with red splotchy spots that didn't itch like bug bites, I knew it was something else. It was PR.

That is, Pityriasis rosea, a non-contagious outbreak of red spots that can last for several weeks, but causes no damage and can't be treated -- it just eventually clears up on its own. I knew what it was because I have been stricken with it before. The first time was during my senior year of high school -- also a period of great stress. When I broke out in red spots, my mom took me to the doctor, who examined me and smiled with recognition. As a medical student, she had experienced PR herself, and assured me it would clear up on its own and probably never recur.

But it came back three years ago as I was leaving one job and going through a period of uncertainty before being hired at a second job. After two years as an associate at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was about to leave the world of journalism for a job doing public relations (a.k.a. PR). When the red spots reappeared, I went to the dermatologist, who confirmed my suspicions that it was PR, the dermatological condition, but the irony didn't escape me. PR indeed.

Because I had been told that more than one outbreak of PR was rare, let alone a third occurrence, I went to see my doctor today to make sure there's nothing else wrong with me. After ruling out a fungal infection, she agreed that PR has stricken again and said that I shouldn't be concerned that it has come back. It turns out that it's not so odd after all to have a reoccurrence, especially since it's linked to stress, although the exact causes are not known (could be viral).

So, I know now that as I go through life, and stress descends, that I shouldn't be surprised if I break out in spots shortly thereafter. Not to worry, it's just a case of PR. What journalist wouldn't consider it an otherwise harmless, but persistent annoyance?