Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Savlanut’ Category

So in Israel there are really two calendars. There is the Jewish calendar, which has 12 months (sometimes 13, in a leap year), and the secular calendar, which also has 12 months. They don’t run exactly parallel. But it doesn’t matter, so much, because unlike other parts of the world that have four seasons, you don’t have to bother with that. September is never “fall,” because the weather is usually as warm as July, just the sun sets a little bit earlier.

So the practical Israeli calendar is sort of a…melange, if you will — a mix of the calendars and seasons and holidays.

old watch

Your former ways of keeping time have little relevance here.

Ready? Here’s my version:

  • Chagim — this starts with Rosh Hashana and ends with Shimini Atzeret / Simchat Torah (in Israel this is one day…one very, very, very long day)
  • Acharei haChagim — this is as much a time period as a state of being, because everything of importance gets pushed to this, from dentist appointments to job interviews
  • Choref — winter, extending from acharei hachagim to when it stops raining
  • Chanukah — self-explanatory, but can start from when the donuts start appearing in the bakeries
  • Adloyada — technically the costume parades for Purim, but people start planning costumes from way before
  • Pesach — from the day after Purim, when you realize how much chametz junk is in your house
  • The “Yom Ha”s — Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Haatzmaut – if you have kids, you’re constantly laundering white shirts
  • Kayitz — from when it stops raining
  • Yuli — July
  • August — August
  • Elul — the month before “Chagim,” when you’re supposed to be spiritually preparing for them, but instead, because of overlap with “August,” you spend a lot of time at the pool/beach, watching TV, and eating ice cream with your bored kids

Do you live in Israel? How did I do?

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

February Flowers

Moving to Israel has changed my perspective on a lot of things. Many of them are too hard or too sweeping to explain in the time I have to blog (not much, due to Real Life Responsibilities), but there is something I can explain easily.

February. I used to hate it. It was always drab or cold or cold and drab, and even a sunny day was like a tease, because there was always a lurking chance of snow or rain or a “wintry mix.”

As a child I hated February because it was the month before my birthday; so even though February was the shortest month it was really the longest month, if you know what I mean.

But February in Israel is a whole other world. Literally. It might be a little rainy, or a little cool, but the payoff is really big. The flowers are simply spectacular. Flower season really begins in December, with tiny hints, daffodils, maybe. In January you get more, and the almond trees start blooming. But in February things start running amok. In the best way.

I’m going to show you a lot of flowers this month. They make me happy.

Image

Almond blossom, Modiin

Read Full Post »

So the 10th anniversary flight of Nefesh b’Nefesh landed yesterday. It was a charter flight, meaning the entire plane was taken up with people making aliyah and their escorts: members of parliament, news personalities, representatives from the Interior Ministry to process paperwork on the plane. The arrival was Twittered, Facebooked, and Instagrammed, attended by family, friends and two very famous immigrants to Israel (Natan Sharansky and Rami Kleinstein).

I watched the photos roll in on social media and got teary-eyed. It is a big thing these people are doing.

And then the crowd dispersed, leaving 231 people (106 children) dazed and exhausted. Trying to figure out the following conundrums:

  • “Am I really happy or is that the adrenaline talking?”
  • “The signs said ‘Welcome Home!” but I just left my home.”
  • “My stuff is in the middle of the ocean, and I am spending the next year sleeping in a place where I have no idea how to work the circuit breaker.”
  • “Will my 2/3/5/12 year old ever stop crying?”
  • “When will I stop bleeding money? Before or after I understand how to open a bank account? Should I just put money under the mattress?”

Now, I am not 100% sure that the above happened to anyone on that plane. It could be that I am projecting back to my own greenhorn experience, four years ago.

But it is only natural for adults to feel nervous about uprooting their entire lives. No matter how much you want it or for how long. Real change, especially as it affects not only you but also small people who rely on you for everything, is outrageously frightening, even if it’s wrapped in blue and white and singing Vshavu Banim L’Gvulam.

So when we came, I was full of questions and doubts and fears. I’ve mostly gotten over them. I’ve learned to roll with things. I don’t want to imply that I’ve become lazy — I mostly started that way — but I’ve become more laissez-faire. We’ll call it adapting to my new environment. 

I underestimated how important it would be to understand how things work. You can get around with not-very-good Hebrew, especially if you’re willing to show up places in person instead of using the phone, but you need to understand how things work.

For example: Wanting to sign your kid up for camp in March will get you nowhere because camps don’t really exist until May. But if you wait until June 1 you’ll miss the 5% discounts, and if you wait until June 15 your kid may not have a place.

There are a million examples like this: at the grocery store, at the bank, at the library, at school, buying appliances. It takes time to get over the learning curve. It could be a lifetime’s worth of learning because we are still years from the army/sherut leumi, in-laws, grandkids, and who knows what else.

But ultimately, it will be ok.

So, new olim: You will be ok. I mean, I learned this from Benji Lovitt, but “Yiyeh b’seder” in Israel is a smart, face-saving, and sanity-saving lifestyle choice.

Don’t know what you’re eating for Shabbat until noon on Friday? You still might be invited, or there’s takeout, or pop by the grocery store (but before it closes!) – you’re not working today! It will be ok.

Don’t like the fees at the bank? They’re the same (almost) everywhere! We’re all suffering together! It will be ok.

Babysitter cancelled last minute? There’s bound to be a teenager somewhere on your block. Or just bring your kid(s); Israel is a kid-friendly place. It will be ok.

And so forth.

Now, learning to be zen about things takes practice. And coffee. And friends who are living the experience in tandem (ProTip: 1-2 years ahead of you is especially helpful), who can help you parse the “b’seder” from the “your hair is on fire – you should take care of that.”

So, four years in, we’ve jumped the tracks to Israeli life so long ago I wouldn’t even know how to live in America anymore. Would my kids screech the entirety of “Im Eshkachaich Yerushayalim” (dance performance thrown in FOR FREE) with a one-note prompt? Would I ever eat really good falafel? Would I know the difference between a cafe kar and an icekafe? Would we be able to distinguish Israel’s three common red springtime flowers – kalanit, nurit, and pereg? No.

I am the last person to tell reluctant Jews to leave their lives and “come home.” Home is where your heart is, and if your heart isn’t here you shouldn’t be either.

But if you’re thinking about it, I can tell you with a fair amount of confidence that it will be ok. It will be both hard and easy; both surprising and surprisingly normal; you’ll run hot and cold; there will be rain and rainbows. Yiyeh b’seder.

Image

Read Full Post »

I am getting back in the groove of things in one particular area of life.

I used to run. Sort of. I never ran very far or very fast, but I reached a level where I didn’t feel like a fool for saying, “I have to go out for a run,”(versus a jog) or taking up precious suitcase space with my running shoes and clothes.

It is something that I stopping doing upon our aliyah. In addition to the emotional and mental shocks to the system, arriving in the summer had a deleterious effect on my physical being too.

(Read: It was HOT. Hot hot hot. All day. Into the night. Fry your kishkes kind of hot.)

I tried to deal with the heat by getting up progressively earlier to run, until it crossed the line of ridiculousness. I am a morning person, to be sure, but once I was waking up at 4:50 (to leave the house at 5 to be finished at 5:45) was “too late,” I sort of gave up. Because of course then I had to go to ulpan and parent my people all afternoon and learn how to do things like buy yogurt and not cry when other people spoke to me.

A year later we joined a health club. Despite the expense, I had a hard time getting motivated to go run on the treadmill. Frankly, treadmill running is boring. The gym was often crowded. I never felt comfortable.

The health club membership lapsed. The weather remained hot for six months a year. I tried other exercise programs in fits and starts, like jumping rope while watching TV or being tortured by Jillian Michaels. Nothing stuck like running had.

Finally, in the middle of this past winter (that’s “winter” to you North Americans), when the weather was cooler, someone posted on a local facebook group that she wanted to run in a pack on a weekday morning. So I went. Even though she was training for a half marathon (!), she was willing to run at my pace. I didn’t fare too badly. We met once a week for a few weeks, before her race training took her away. But in the meantime I felt like I was gaining strength. Stronger, going for longer distances. I missed running with a person (I am more social than I thought), but just those few weeks had kickstarted me back to the elusive feelings of accomplishment. I reactivated my iTunes account. I signed up for RunKeeper.

Now the weather is turning warmer again. But I am less concerned. I can run in the evening now. Putting a 7 and 9 year old in front of the TV for 30 minutes in the evening, alone at home, is a possibility that I couldn’t have contemplated four summers ago. I can deal with the heat better. I seek the shady side of the street.

But mostly I am more forgiving of myself. If I don’t run 5 kilometers, I run 4. If I don’t run 4 kilometers, I run 3. If I run with the dog, we run two and a half, and then I am grateful that I don’t usually run with her; she’s a terrible pacer. If I don’t run in the morning, all is not lost – I can run in the evening. Or later in the morning. Or 2 kilometers instead of none. It all counts.

I haven’t signed up for any races, so far, but I might. Perhaps in the fall. In the meantime, the Boston Marathon bombings cast a pall over the worldwide running community. Community in the largest sense, because everyone who has put on a pair of running shoes and run even one mile can appreciate the challenge of running 26 IN A ROW ALL AT ONCE. Running is a sport that, if you take away the fancy shoes and high-tech clothes and energy gels and corporate sponsorships, really can reach a wide swath of people. So reading the stories of people who had run in the Boston Marathon that day – and those who had come to watch – was inspiring and touching. I decided late in the day on April 15th, watching Twitter bury network news once and for all, to run a marathon’s worth of distance in two weeks.

It took me an extra day; I finished my 42.2 km on May 1 instead of April 30. It was hot towards the end; I forgave myself. I had a lot of support. There were thousands of us around the world running for Boston. There was a Twitter hashtag and a Facebook group. When solidarity runs cropped up in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I wanted to go, but they were at inconvenient times. So I made my own run locally; about 25 people came. I ran my own 5K in 33:30, which I haven’t come close to matching in the two weeks since. I’m back to slow and steady, apparently.

I’m going to get through this summer. Running. (I hope.)

Read Full Post »

Voting

I’m seriously considering not voting in the 2012 Presidential election.

For people who have known me a long time, this might be construed as a Really Big Deal. I voted three times in the fall of 2001 (an “off” year)–the first election day was September 11, so it was cancelled, but I had dragged Taxman to the polls at 7:00 that morning.

I was never heavily “into” politics, but I take my rights as an American, and as a woman, extremely seriously. I was born only 55 years after women got the right to vote. I am fully cognizant that in swaths of the world, free and fair elections aren’t happening for women or for anyone else.

It seems like a common trajectory is that your parents get more conservative as they age. But my parents (all four of them) have rebelled against the influence of the religious right and the polarization of American politics. I am sure they voted Democrat in 1980 but could live with Reagan. The Tea Party, however, is something else–it is not Reaganomics and libertarian leanings. It seems to me that it’s mostly Bible-thumping, hate-mongering, tale-bearing garbage.

So my parents, all of them, volunteered for the Obama campaign.

I voted for Obama, mostly buying what he was selling regarding social responsibility and preservation/progress on the front of rights for all Americans: women, gay people, poor people, immigrants. You could also regard my vote as one against what the Republicans were presenting. Sarah Palin…not the best idea. From my perspective, anyway.

A lot of my peers (the ones I discussed it with–not many) were horrified that I had voted for Obama, calling his election a disaster for Israel.

“I don’t live in Israel. I live in America,” I said. “I voted based on what I thought was good for Americans.”

But that was 2008.

Now I live in Israel. I don’t know what The Answers are for peace and stability in this region, but I am pretty sure that any American politician, no matter what party, is not going to make any inroads in four years or eight years or an entire 50-year career. Sorry. It’s way over their heads.

I am not impressed that the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, refused to identify Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. You know, it probably would make some governments unhappy. But guess what? Israel’s mere existence makes a lot of governments unhappy. It’s difficult to believe that Obama administration views Israel as a partner or friend or whatever the right word is when they’re so busy trying to tamp down on the squabbles over hurt feelings.

Trust me, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. There’s this huge government complex there, including the Knesset (parliament) building and the High Court of Justice. It’s where the prime minister and president live. (When they’re the prime minister and president. They probably live in Caesaria otherwise because they’re pretty loaded.) This isn’t about spirituality or emotion or pissing rights. This has to do with where we direct our sighs when the raise the VAT (Israel Tax Authority –> located in Jerusalem). Not sexy.

But do I think Mitt Romney, a one-term governor and long-term moneymaker, is an appropriate replacement? Um. No. Just being “on Israel’s side” is naive and unhelpful. Coming to Israel and only appealing to Israeli hawks looks naive and unhelpful. Lots of ideas in play here–and that’s just in Israel, never mind what’s going with the neighbors.

And of course there’s the American side of me. The one that’s horrified by the seemingly systematic attempt to strip women’s rights away (state governments in the South…and Midwest…I’m looking at you). Moderate Republicans, who would keep human rights in place while being fiscally more conservative and more hawkish in terms of foreign policy, are being branded as RINOs and sent packing at the polls. There’s no middle anymore.

And the Israeli-American mix of me, which cannot understand what the hell is so wrong with health insurance for all citizens. Isn’t it bad juju to turn your back on your most vulnerable people? Not everything is about profit. Oh. Unless it is. In which case…<shrugs>

Anyway, I feel like I have no candidate to vote for. There is an organization here encouraging people to vote and making it easy to register, like the college voter drives of old, but all their speakers and events have featured Republicans. And it doesn’t erase my unease with the two choices.

So I think I am going to sit this one out. It’s difficult to say that, but really, America, this was the best you could do?

(How about Will MacAvoy? I’d vote for him.)

Read Full Post »

My lovely husband, Taxman, has a certain style I’ve come to know over the years.

He will never:

  • Get contact lenses
  • Wear jewelry besides a watch and a wedding ring (the ring was a whole discussion, back in ’99)
  • Like to wear vests (he feels claustrophobic)
  • Give up wearing a black suede kipa, despite the fact that he might be “miscategorized” here in Israel.

Certain stylistic elements have evolved over the years, like glasses frames and preferring solid-color shirts. I’ll admit to having some sway in these areas, but it was all for the good.

When we moved to Israel, he retired 2/3 (i.e., 2-of-3) of his suits. We were operating under the principle that Israel is a far more casual place…at least for the circles that we were going to be running in. His business casual wardrobe (dockers and polos, with Oxford shirts thrown in for variety) would be perfect for work, with white shirts and dressier pants for Shabbat.

Then came the new job. Which we are all happy about, to be sure, but it comes with new responsibilities, more client contact, and different office ethos.

“I have to wear a suit every day,” he explained to me. “Or at least slacks and a blazer. They were really specific about that.”

Of course, we had no idea where to BUY these things. I just figured out where to buy the kids’ clothes, and they grow every four to six months. Very few guys we know have to sport that kind of wardrobe. Furthermore, many of the guys we know travel back to the United States often enough (1-2 times a year) that they buy most of their clothes there. But clearly a trip to Macy’s was not going to come to pass in the three days that he had between his old job and his new job.

The single chain store that was recommended to us was not in the local mall, so we literally stumbled into a place that looked promising. Taxman examined a pair of pants, and wished aloud for pleats. (Because he likes pleats in his pants.) He asked the sales guy for pleated pants, using some sort of pantomime, because–shockingly–these words do not come up in the world of tax (Israeli or otherwise).

The store’s proprietor smiled broadly and said, “!רק באמריקה” (Only in America!) That’s right, not a single pair of pleated pants to be found in the entire store or, potentially, the country or even continent. Apparently the desire for pleats is a quaint American quirk that he doesn’t understand, because it breaks up the line of the pants. Uh, ok. Anyway, here is my desperately important Aliyah ProTip: Bring pleated pants. Especially if you’re going to be in United States infrequently.

Thankfully, it only took Taxman 15 seconds to get over this setback and fall into line with European/Middle Eastern fashion trends. He stocked up on suits, dress pants, dress shirts, and ties. The shirts and ties were a whole other kettle of fish because WOW WERE THEY VERY VERY LOUD. Many of them. We managed to winnow out the terrible ones and find solid color shirts and reasonable ties. We can face any challenge!

And…he’s doing it. Shmancy clothes every day. He likes it–says it makes him feel more professional. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t change into play clothes about 45 seconds after walking in the door. Now on to the next challenge…finding a cheaper dry cleaner. Because the only thing funnier than Taxman ironing shirts is me ironing shirts.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »