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Graffiti and flowers

One of the nicest things about Israel is its size. It’s pretty tiny. Which means that Taxman and I were able to slip away for two days last week while leaving the kids in Savta’s charge. (She came to us so the kids could go to school; we are mean like that).

It was a bit of a working holiday, as we did answer our phones and spent a little time on the computer, but being untethered from the regular grind was really lovely.

angels tel aviv

We had temperate winter weather with light breezes and high clouds, perfect for being outdoors. Our first day, we took a self-guided tour of Neve Tzedek, a neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Although we did it non-competitively, we approximated the route of Israel ScaVentures‘ Neve Tzedek tour. (I had previously done the Jerusalem – Old City Scavenger Hunt, with many other bloggers, and the Gush Etzion ScaVenture with my kids and Lisa – and kids – from Handmade in Israel.) It was, predictably, fun and informative – they do experiential education right!

History footnote: Neve Tzedek was the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Previously it was some sand and a few orange trees that bordered both the Mediterranean and the overcrowded, dank, and expensive port city of Jaffa (Yafo). Some pioneers were tempted out of Jaffa with the promise of privies and better infrastructure. They came. Years later, the neighborhood fell into disrepair. Now it’s heavily gentrified and pricey as hell. A story repeated the world over.

What I got the biggest kick out of in Neve Tzedek was the graffiti. Hebrew, English, deep, nonsensical, funny. It was all covered.

artik zizi top

We also hit up the Rokach Museum, which is a ton of Tel Aviv history packed into a few rooms and very charming.

Our second day we hit the highway and headed south, where we got to catch the western Negev in full bloom. The kalanit (crown anemone) was in peak season. It was awesome. Lots of gawkers, even though it was midday on a weekday. Maybe other lucky vacationers like us?

kalanit 1kalanit 2

We also meandered over a hilltop in G’vaot Gad (the Gad hills), east of the city of Kiryat Gat, where we were treated to more flowers, a herd of cattle (who didn’t seem to like being disturbed), and a sighting of three mountain gazelles.

iris baby orchids purple flowers

So, a mini-tour of Israel in just 30 hours – big city, pastoral, history, nature. Topped off by a rainbow.

rainbow

When can we go again?

 

 

Regrets – What’s Next?

This is a post about growing into marriage.

Don’t let the title put you off. The regrets are not about my marriage or my choice of a husband (I really got the brass ring, people), but that it took me so long to figure things out.

What things?

That with the RIGHT person in support of you, you are stronger. It’s more than simply your self-confidence is “doubled.” It’s a calculus that goes beyond plain math, where 1 + 1 adds up to more than 2. It’s a strong 2, a solid 2, an emboldened 2.

It’s TWO.

This took too long to occur to me, and I missed opportunities.

For example:

I didn’t apply to a graduate program in a different city because I couldn’t imagine my fresh marriage surviving with weekend visits for two years. (To be fair, Taxman’s refusal to consider a temporary relocation out of the tri-state area now looks to me like the kind of tantrum 8-year-old AM throws when you tell him he has to fold and put away a load of his laundry before he gets to use the computer. But at the time it was scary to me.)

So we were both adorable idiots.

It’s fine – life has twists and turns that I couldn’t have anticipated – nobody can. But it took a long time for us to have confidence in us. It sounds terrible to say, right? Of course you support your person from the very beginning! But support is more than words or actions. It has to go to the bedrock, it changes you. Marrying or formally committing to someone who you’ve known for only “x” amount of time is not enough – because the commitment sort of restarts the clock. Major changes can reshock the system – moving, kids, all of that.

It took me way too long to figure out that what I spoke about at our wedding was true – two dreams, two paths, are in fact a single one.

Emboldened together

So my regrets, really, are that I haven’t taken enough risks. I haven’t used my emboldened self to do enough. I need to figure out how I am going to apply my wings to something worthwhile and take it places. Because I have the strength to do it. I have my person.

Classic!

Here I am, ignoring actual news, to bring you the Funny Things My Kids Do.

So. AM is a fan of pop music. We listen to the radio in the car constantly, and the stations we hear play a combination of the latest hits with songs from every decade I’ve been alive. Not all of them got a ton of radio play in their time, actually, because they were not necessarily top 40 hits. So I get to hear Erasure and Depeche Mode and the Cure and Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd on the radio (since I no longer have the capacity to play cassette tapes), and proclaim that they are “classics.”

But then yesterday I messed up. I heard “Bulletproof,” by La Roux. It somehow took me back to an 8th grade dance party. “Listen to this,” I told my son. “You’ll like it. It’s a classic.” Except that it was released in 2009.

Today I admitted my mistake. “That’s not a classic!” he said, scornfully.

“I know,” I said. “I thought it was from the ’80s.”

“Can you find a song that’s really from the ’80s?”

So I searched on my phone and played him this. “It’s from 1985,” I told him.

“Are there songs from 1965?”

“Yes.”

“What about from 1,000 years ago?”

“I am sure there are, but you can’t find them on YouTube.”

And that was the end of that.

photo credit: cassettes via photopin cc

photo credit: cassettes via photopin cc

Parenting: Am I on Punk’d?

School days! We’ve finally settled into a routine, after the classic start-and-stop of the first two months, the exhausting back-and-forth of the chagim, schedule changes, and extra-curricular dalliances.

Unfortunately, with the predictability of our days comes more predictability: bitching about all the things.

Homework, music practice, chores, grooming requirements.

And the answer from me is always yes. Yes, you have to do these things. Yes, you have to do your homework; yes, you have to practice violin; yes, you have to unload the dishwasher; yes, you have to take a shower.

And I have to ask: Why is there such insane pushback, if I am so incredibly predictable?

(No, you cannot — watch tv, play on the computer, go to a friend’s, ride your bike — before you do your homework.)

I wish I could say that I want to instill excellent, lifelong study habits, or that I think homework is important or something, but it’s simply good sense. As the light outside falters, we all get tired and cranky. I don’t want to supervise homework in the inky dusk any more than they want to do it at that hour.

Not what is being demanded. photo credit: Caramdir via photopin cc

Not what is being demanded.
photo credit: Caramdir via photopin cc

So can’t we manage to do it without the complaining? Can’t I get through an afternoon without 300 repetitions of “homework, violin” in my robot voice? It should go without saying that the homework isn’t terribly onerous – 5 or 10 or 15 minutes most nights, but only when they don’t speed through it in class. A batch of spelling sentences once a week. Big tests always come with review sheets and a week’s worth of review time. An occasional brief research project with a 2-3 paragraph write-up.* But really, you’d think they were being forced to channel their inner Einsteins and then hand-chisel their answers on marble – then haul them to school, natch.

Come on kids, can’t we just do the damn work already? Before Groundhog Day comes around again tomorrow?

* The hardest part about this is not plagiarizing from the internet. I could regale them with tales of research projects in the old days, where you had to GO TO THE LIBRARY and USE CARD CATALOGS and there was no Wikipedia, but rather Britannica.

Faux fall

Welcome to fall!

Except not really, because this is Israel.

We have faux fall. (Remember? No foliage, no weather changes, just birds.)

Nachlieli (White Wagtail). Photo by SuperJew.

Nachlieli (White Wagtail). Photo by SuperJew.

The desire to wear long sleeves and eat hot soup overtakes us, but we immediately regret it because it is still hot. Very hot, actually.

But: It’s getting dark a little earlier. There is a breeze in the evening. So we are lulled fooled.

I admit to falling prey to this myself. The Stockholm Syndrome of it all. On Friday evening, I realized I hadn’t been overly sweaty the entire day. Not once! So, sure, I had been to both the pool (in the morning) and the beach (in the afternoon) and had probably lowered my core body temperature, but still!

Next week, we’ll be eating apples & honey, popping pomegranate seeds like they’re going out of style, and toasting the new year. Maybe the kids will don long sleeves (at night) for the occasion, to feel like something is new, like leaves are being turned over physically as well as psychologically.

If not — there’s always November.

Shana tova!

We are coming up on our 5th anniversary of aliyah. August 5th.

There have been a few downs, but many more ups. We love our house, our community, our children’s school, our friends.

And we love our country. Israel is a place with history, both ancient and modern. It is a country of great natural beauty; nothing too flashy, usually modestly stunning with occasional great panache.

A peek at the sea from deep inside Tel Aviv.

A peek at the sea from deep inside Tel Aviv.

But as much as I have come to love Israel, living here and feeling at home, it was not until this month that I came to view it as an absolute necessity. For many years, people have told me that Israel is vital as a safe haven for Jews. I thought this was post-Holocaust “PTSD” or paranoia talking.

I was wrong.

First of all, my impulse ignored the fate of mizrachi Jews in Israel, whose original communities no longer exist: Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others. Or the Jews who came from the USSR, who faced danger at “home” for their religion.

My attitude was very Western-centric. It was a mistake.

Secondly, the rise of anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge are very scary to me personally. I have family in Europe and America. I have vacationed in Europe; it is the “civilized” continent next door. America, for all its craziness, is the culture and country that raised me.

The Israel-Gaza protests are couched as “pro-Palestinian,” or “against Israeli violence,” but let’s face it: barricading Jews in synagogues (France), barring them from entrance to a cafe (Belgium), leaving anti-Semitic flyers on cars (Chicago), shouting “Death to the Jews” (Germany), or engaging in horrific hate-speech on social media is not the same as holding a sign outside the Israeli embassy. Flag-burning isn’t flag-waving. There have been riots and violence in London, Paris, Calgary. This isn’t about politics; it seems to be a massive tide of anti-Jewish sentiment, roiling and boiling and threatening the free world.

Perhaps I am exaggerating.

But I feel secure.

I live in Israel. The army and security forces are doing their very best to protect me. There are safe rooms in my house, in the shops, at the pool. The Iron Dome is plucking rockets out of the sky with good success rates. It feels normal, almost, except:

  • every siren, countrywide, is noted in real time
  • fun summer events and camp field trips are cancelled, even where it is “safe”
  • advertising for attractions is rejiggered to publicize bomb shelter proximity
  • every casualty is a blow

Let’s not forget that the enemy isn’t hypothetical – it is Hamas, and they want my head. They stole hundreds of millions of dollars and invested it in terror tunnels, currently IN USE, INFILTRATING INTO ISRAEL INTENDING TO KILL CIVILIANS. Lest you think this was just in the “planning” stages. (Even if it were….but it is NOT.)

My children, my friends, and my friends’ children are also targets. And the Jews outside of Israel. This isn’t alarmist. It is the truth. It’s in the Hamas charter. Israel is the immediate focus, but what then? Just like Hitler, who had grander plans then just to conquer Europe, Hamas would like to see us all dead. They are not fooling around, clearly, because they have threatened international journalists and sacrificed their own constituents.

More than ever, Jews need Israel.

Israel is facing an existential threat.

And Israelis know it; the public support for the IDF is through the roof. A grateful nation is buying clean socks (soldiers have not been back to base or back home for several weeks) and baking cookies; making sandwiches and sending toiletries; drawing thank you cards — which are, in turn, papering tanks and barracks along the Gaza border. Reading the list of injured soldiers out loud at synagogue on Shabbat, dozens and dozens of names, took several minutes – and there was not a whisper of protest.

We are searching for more ways to help. It’s becoming a civic responsibility to take care of people who live in the south of Israel, whose lives are under constant barrage from the rockets – buying whatever we can to support their businesses.

A friend arranged for flowers to be delivered from a small community near the Gaza border. The flower growing business has suffered as events in the south of Israel have been cancelled, but last week over 250 bouquets were sold in Modiin.

A friend arranged for flowers to be delivered from a small community near the Gaza border. The flower growing business has suffered as events in the south of Israel have been cancelled, but last week over 250 bouquets were sold in Modiin.

So all this, the groundswell of emotion and action from inside and outside of Israel, have turned me into a protective Zionist. Israel must be here, as flawed and raw and nation-young as it is, for safety’s sake.

I hope that Protective Edge is resolved soon, before more lives are lost. I hope that Hamas is dismantled. I hope that aid to the Palestinians of Gaza is used to house and feed them, not stolen from them to create terror tunnels. I hope that we can all find a way to live together. Hope, not hate.

But not like this. Not at the expense of Israel’s existence.

Shattered

Confession: I was not an intuitive pregnant woman. You know, the kind of woman who knows the “second” she conceives. These women have an instant connection, a lovely internal secret that is then confirmed by pee sticks, blood tests and ultrasounds. I had none of that. “Surprise! You’re growing a person; your due date is [many days before my children were actually born].”

It doesn’t matter. However you find out you are pregnant, or how you will become a mother, through adoption, fostering, anything – you eventually figure out the connection. You build and are built by it. Sometimes there is some tearing down, some forging and reforging through fiery flames. Good times. Great times. Hard times. Shared times.

Today, in my city’s cemetery, three mothers and three fathers, more than a dozen siblings, and an entire nation will bury three children. Three boys — students; kind, helpful, giving people. Their deaths have put an end to a massive national effort to find them. It is not the conclusion we wanted. The politics will long outlive them. There is so much anger. So much sadness. So much frustration. So much helplessness.

I question the decision to send these mothers into the lion’s den, also known as the United Nations in Geneva, to beg the international community for help. In retrospect, the boys were already dead. They were dead by the time their parents knew they were missing. Is this better or worse? This is the kind of question that has no acceptable answer. There should be a parallel universe where they have finished their exams and taking their younger siblings on summer adventures.

The waves of sadness keep coming.

This morning, as Miss M wept in our bed, AM burrowed under the covers; he emerged 10 minutes later to say: “I want to go back to America.” He doesn’t know it’s not safer there.

At the grocery store, a teenager pushed a cart with his younger brother in tow, the two of them taking care of the family shopping. This is how it is. Kids are treasured, but internalize that part of this state of being is responsibility to the source of love.

Almost weepy at the grocery store leads to a lot of ice cream on the tab. FYI.

I am frustrated by the short reach of the news. I feel like all of us, Israelis and Jews, are simply talking among ourselves. We cannot engage the wider world. Does nobody else care? I am sure that can’t be it. Is Israel too far away, too war-torn, too political, too foreign?  I don’t know.

I feel like I, personally, cannot catch the attention of my friends who are parents, smart and savvy and politically engaged — in America. What can I say to them, to you, to make you understand the raw grief and crushing moral equivalency that we are subjected to?

I’ll just be here. And when the passionate speeches die away, Eyal, Gil-ad, and Naftali will remain as my close neighbors and in my thoughts.

May their families and those who stand with Israel be comforted. Can this impossible task be achieved? I just don’t know.

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