Aliya: a feline perspective

This is a guest post by my sister’s animal companion, Roxy who made aliya yesterday (as told to her publicist Ben Michelson).
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It took some doing but I finally convinced my person, Vicki, to make Aliya.

Even though the dog next to me, H.G. Clipper, stank a bit, my flight really wasn’t so bad. I don’t think I’ll fly ELAL any more though. They offered me neither a window nor an aisle seat. The entertainment system did not work the entire flight and there was a dearth of reading material. Fortunately Clipper didn’t snore too loudly, and I spent most of the flight cat-napping.

I was pleased that my fans came to greet me at the airport. Fortunately, I had a box to protect me from the mobs.

When I arrived at my new domicile, all I wanted to do was rest. Unfortunately, Vicki had different plans and invited my fans for a party. I let them have their fun downstairs. I am after all a creature of the night. Vicki did come upstairs during the party, eager to play hide-and-seek. I’m not sure why she still enjoys playing this game. In any case, I let her win the first round, but when I saw that she wanted to continue playing, I did not let her win the second round. I was able to avoid detection sufficiently long to send people hunting me not only in the apartment, but up and down the stairwell, and out on the street as well as calling the local veterinary service and alerting them to my disappearance. Only the tempting aroma of an aliya treat sent over by the man at the pet store lured me out of my hiding place behind the bed.

Some of the locals from outside paid me a call yesterday. I am not a racist, but some of these cats are absolutely feral. I greeted them politely nonetheless, though I’m still working on my voiced uvular fricative.

Ten reasons why it’s better to make Aliya in 2011 than in 1984

This is a guest post, written by my son Ben in honor of my sister’s aliya tomorrow!!!!!

Ben arrived in Israel in 1984, a day before his 17th birthday.

 

Telephones

 

  • Cellphone networks did not exists in 1984
  • In 1984, getting a landline phone installed in your house took months, and in some cases took up to 10 years.
  • In 1984, payphones were often out of order. They worked only on telephone tokens.
  • In 1984, if you wanted to make an international call, and didn’t have a phone in your home you had to either call collect or go the telephone room in the central post office. There you paid about $2/minute and the post office took an extra 8% cut. They explained it this way, “Every minute is five seconds less.” This meant that you paid for a minute, but only got 55 seconds.

 

Inflation

 

Aug 1984 – 14%

Sep 1984 – 18%

Oct 1984 – 19%

Nov 1984 – 16%

Dec 1984 – 4%

 

 

2011 – 2.5%

 

Email

 

In 1984, Email was available only to university staff and people who took university courses requiring use of a computer. Businesses used Telex’s. (Faxes were not in widespread use until the 90s.)

 

Public busses

 

In 1984, only express bus lines were air-conditioned.

 

Television

 

In 1984, there was one Israeli channel. In many parts of Jerusalem, you could watch Jordan TV. At high altitudes you could also receive Middle-east TV from Lebanon. Cable and satellite television service was not available. Importing a satellite dish large enough to receive American television was illegal.

 

Israeli Currency

 

Towards the end of 1984, the largest denomination bill was worth only $3.50. My friend’s father bought a Volvo in 1984 with a duffle-bag full of bills.

 

Foreign Currency

 

In 1984, it was illegal to change Shekels outside of banks. It was illegal for Israelis to own foreign currency except for traveling outside the country. (Yitzchak Rabin was ousted from his position as Prime Minister for breaking this law.) Everyone I knew bought shekels only on the black market.

 

Hi-Tech business sector

 

Did not exist in 1984

 

Modiin

 

Did not exist in 1984.

 

Travel Tax

 

In 1984, Israeli citizens had to pay $100 tax in order to leave the country

 

Food

 

In 1984, ketchup was watery with red food coloring

In 1984, the only mustard available was actually mustard flavored mayonnaise

In 1984, the only chocolate available was Elite (whose factory was inRamat Gan)

In 1984, low fat cottage cheese was unavailable

In 1984, fresh baguettes were unavailable

In 1984, supermarkets did not bake bread and pastries

In 1984, bagels were unavailable

 

 

Ben             .

19 Dec 2011

Parting

June 1967

I am 7.5 months pregnant with my first child. My husband of just a year is serving as a chaplain in the US Army. We are planning to leave the Army after our baby is born and to go to a civilian congregation. He has been hired as the new rabbi at the House of Peace synagogue in Columbia, South Carolina. We have just visited there a second time to talk with them about where we will be living and what changes we would like to see in the house the congregation owns. We are in the Atlanta airport. He is flying in uniform back to Fort Knox. I am flying to Philadelphia where I must take final exams at Gratz College so that they can see that I really did study on my own that year so that I can receive my BHL (Bachelor of Hebrew Literature) degree.

I am young, 21 years old, and very pregnant.

We wait for my plane. When we are called to board, we embrace. I cry. I will miss him.

I take my seat on the plane. The man next to me starts to speak. “He’ll be all right. Lots of men return healthy and whole from Vietnam. He’ll get to see that baby of yours.”

December 2011

I am a bit older. That baby is now a man with 6 children of his own. Soon I will be saying goodbye to my husband once again. This time he really is going to Vietnam.

But I am not worried.

He is going to supervise the kosher cooking for a tour. We have been to Vietnam together several times. We lead tours there. It is a lovely place to visit. It is beautiful and has rich traditions and friendly, welcoming people. The war years are barely a memory by now except for in places they have designated as war museums or in Cu Chi where the Vietcong built an elaborate tunnel system. A tour there is a treat and I look forward to returning.

This morning I bought him some instant coffee to take along because Vietnamese coffee is “different.”

We’ll keep in touch over his iPad and my computer.

But there still may be tears when he leaves.

Thanksgiving 2011

I will spare you the usual blah-blah of how wonderful my family is and how amazingly great it is when we adults all get together and tell you instead about the good things that have happened recently and wonderful things to look forward to that make me really thankful.

We recently returned from a trip to the US. In a few weeks time my sister, the last member of my immediate family not yet living in Israel, will be coming to Israel to live. All of us are very very excited. I will finally have my sister nearby after 45 years of living varying long distances from each other (all my fault… she stayed in the same place while I roamed planet Earth.) I wanted to go and be with her to visit some of the places we shared, to reminisce, and for me to say goodbye to Philadelphia, the city where I was born, where I grew up, and where I got my education. It is unlikely I will visit there again.

When we drove up to the house we used to live in, we were surprised to find the woman who had bought it from my mother out on the lawn. She was friendly and chatty and we enjoyed speaking with her. My sister pointed out that the “new” owners had lived in the house about as long as we had.

We enjoyed walking in the downtown area. I loved seeing my cousins and hearing about their lives.

I even enjoyed the antics of a future Israeli immigrant

There’s more to tell about the trip, but that’s a small taste of some things that made me happy with the promise of more to come!

Fairy godmothers

OK, I’m not really talking about fairy godmothers, but I thought it might be a topic that people were curious about.

Well, actually, yes, I am talking about fairy godmothers, but not in the fictional sense.

There is a concept without a name (at least one that I am familiar with) that I would like to explore. If it’s been written about before, I would love to hear about it, so please let me know.

Having grown up in a home that wasn’t the most nurturing, I had to find validation other places. Here’s where I found it: there were teachers who smiled at me, there were my aunts who made me feel loved, and there were my grandmothers. All of these people were, to some extent, fairy godmothers. They were around sometimes and it was often merely their presence in my mind that formed for me a safety net in the world. As long as they were around, even if only in recent memory, I felt loved and supported. As a group, it felt as if I was encircled by them and protected.

As the years went by and I learned how to appreciate my own value and accomplishments, I didn’t need fairy godmothers so much. But still there were my parents there in the background, out of sight, but still potential supports. After the death of my father, I substituted my uncles in his role of standing behind me, supporting me.

Somewhere in my 30s or 40s, I began to realize that I took the place of fairy godmother for some Lamaze students I taught and some clients I worked with as a therapist. They carried me in their pocket or their mind or their heart, to take out when they needed reinforcement and stability and, I guess, love. I only knew, because they told me.

As time goes on, I realize the world is full of fairy godmothers. They are the people who are in our lives who just by their being there, even when they are far away, give us affirmation and strength. As we get older, often they are mentors, peers, and nowadays, facebook friends– people whose presence enriches our lives.

Often, our fairy godmothers don’t know the function they have in our lives. Often, we don’t realize it until they are no longer around.

So today, look around at your fairy godmothers. Figure out who they are. And appreciate how they have made your life better, just by being there.

And then, think about whose fairy godmother you are, because whether you know it or not, someone who is not in your family– who you may see only occasionally, someone’s life is better just because you are in it.

Boom!

Yesterday, I was taking my daughter and her children home to their home in Modiin. She lives on a street that is more like a boulevard that has the traffic in either direction separated by parks, a school, and a shopping center– in between the two directions so that each direction of traffic is on the equivalent of a one way street. Each side has two lanes for traffic and a third lane where there is parking.

I had parked in a parking space. I looked out of my side view mirror and saw there was no traffic, so I got out of the car. I then went to the back door of the car to unlatch and get my 2 year old grandson out of his car seat (his sister was in a car seat on the other side). I once again looked to see there was no traffic and opened the passenger door and leaned in to unhook him.

Suddenly I heard a large bang. I saw debris on the street and then I realized that it was not from my car, but from a car that had hit my car. I noted that there was no other traffic on the street, including the left lane, the entire time from when I initially got out of my car until after the other driver had gotten out of his car after he hit my car.

My first reaction was disbelief.

I gathered up the debris which turned out to be pieces of his car mirror that had flown off after the impact.

The man stopped some distance in front of my car and got out of his car. He seemed dazed. I believe he was carrying a cell phone. I handed him the parts of his mirror that I had gathered up and noticed that his car had scratches in a line from about the front of the front door back.

We exchanged information and he told me that I should not have been in the street. He said he was in a hurry and would call me later.

When he left, I got my grandson out and gave him to my daughter who took him and her daughter to her house.

I tried to close my left-hand passenger door, but it would not close. I saw that in addition to the curved area at the edge of the door, it had another dent toward the front and it was jammed under the driver’s door.

I decided to drive home which was about 6 blocks away. Then we called the insurance office for further instructions.

My husband took the car to the Toyota dealer and after he had returned, the man who hit me called me to ask for insurance information which I gave him. He tried to tell me that I should not have been in the street. I did not argue with him.

About an hour later, we received a call from a “private number” from a man who said he was calling on behalf of the driver. I believe it was a different voice. He was talking very fast and sounded very angry and I was scared so I put my husband on the phone. He asked my husband repeatedly for our address. My husband told him that the vehicle was not here. He still badgered him for the address. My husband did not give it to him. He told my husband he was going to report me to the police. He continued talking and finally my husband hung up. He has not called back, but we both found the call very upsetting.

I have a few responses to the whole incident:

1. I am grateful that I was not killed. I imagine the space between me and death was only a single number of inches.

2. I am even more grateful that my grandson was still safely belted into his seat and that he wasn’t hurt (or even traumatized!)

3. I think that people should look where they are driving. I believe that the person behind the wheel has a responsibility to look in front of his/her car to avoid hitting other cars or people.

4. I resent that I, the victim, have to be defensive. The man at the car dealer told my husband that people are not supposed to get out on the street side of the car. Virtually every car in this country has bucket seats. I don’t recall ever seeing a driver enter or exit an accessible vehicle from the passenger seat.

5. If the car door police do come and get me, I hope they put me into a Norwegian jail.

Ooof!

One of the things that people learn when they move to a new country with a new language is that exclamations differ from those they were raised with. In English, pain evokes an “ouch!” In Hebrew, it’s “Ay-ah!” Frustration in Hebrew evokes an “Ooof!” I’ll admit it; I forgot the English.

So why am I frustrated? It actually has to do with the fact that there is so much right with my life these days. I am feeling healthy, have kept off the weight I lost, and have no problem maintaining a healthy diet. We recently witnessed the graduation from high school of our oldest granddaughter and the awarding of a PhD to our son-in-law. My husband and I had a great honeymoon getaway for our 45th anniversary, and our children invited us to a wonderful dinner celebration in its honor, bringing along a nice sampling of well-behaved gorgeous grandchildren. We are in a state of high preparation for the tour we are leading to Vietnam and Cambodia and are looking forward to a week of fun in Thailand on our way back. In the fall, after the holidays, we’ll be taking a trip to the US and when we get back, I’ll be teaching marriage and family therapy once again. And then, best of all, we prepare for my sister’s aliya!

The blessing of a beautiful garden in Israel, filled with gorgeous plants and fruit trees brings with it the worry of the health of our gorgeous plum tree that has been attacked by some type of a worm. The blessing of a great apartment that we are renting out brings with it the work of cleaning it thoroughly between occupants. The blessing of being close to our children brings day to day discussions and concerns about the types of issues that remote grandparents never hear of.

So why am I frustrated?

I guess it’s because I wish I could split myself in two or three or four in order to give adequate time and attention to all of the wonderful people and things in my life.

I worry about letting people down.

Ooof!

Click on pictures for full images!

I don’t like to talk about what I don’t like to talk about

When we lived in Germany, we watched the AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and TV Services) network which broadcast US TV shows and had no commercial content. They did, however, screen all sorts of public service announcements, and among them was a series of ads about prejudice. In them they asked children questions about prejudice. In one, they asked a little girl what she thinks of prejudice and she answered, “I don’t like to talk about what I don’t like to talk about.”

That line has stuck with me all this time and seems particularly apt for this blog post.

I was talking to one of my daughters about thoughts I have been having lately about getting older and what that means to me, how it changes how I view the world. I told her that no one ever writes about this because it’s too depressing. She said to me that she noticed that no one ever writes about menopause because that too remains a subject that women don’t want to talk about.

So here it is.

Menopause seems like a walk in the park compared to issues of growing older, so I will tackle that one first.

The information I had when I was in my late 30s was limited and frankly frightening. There was a long list of symptoms that one may have including heavy bleeding, night sweats, depression, rage– all sorts of mood issues and possible vulnerability to psychosis. From my point of view, it seemed a lot like a mini-death. After all, it seemed as if everything was going to go haywire.

Now I have never done a survey and since most women don’t talk about their experience, I cannot tell you what other people report, but for me, aside from a couple of years of heavy and unpredictable periods (which by the way, could have been made much less unpleasant had there been yoatzot at that time who could have told me that much of what I was concerned about was not relevant) and hot flashes, I had no symptoms.

The heavy bleeding was not fun. Once when I was giving a workshop on “The Uses of Humor and Metaphor in Therapy” in San Antonio, I was forced to sit behind a desk rather than stand while speaking as a veritable tidal wave hit. Experiences at work when I bled through onto my chair were less than pleasant. Finally, the doctor insisted on an endometrial biopsy which was a real experience. I was lying in that most unflattering position on his examination table as he stuck what felt like a hot poker into my uterus. It was so hot and shocking that I all of a sudden started to panic. I was blind!! I couldn’t see anything. And then I realized that my eyes were closed. When I opened them my vision returned. It turned out the pain was only momentary. When later he gave me pills to induce what he called “a chemical D&C” he told me to be prepared for a flood. In fact, that was not an understatement. The one good thing that came out of it (yes, indeed, something good resulted) was that at the time I was working full time and also trying to rewrite my dissertation, adding charts and case material that didn’t appear in what had been my final draft. I had to remain 5 steps from the bathroom for 3 days and I was able to stay home and finish my dissertation. After that there was still heavy bleeding from time to time, but I wasn’t worried about it enough to go through all of that again. And then, finally, the bleeding stopped and never returned. I don’t miss it.

Oh, the hot flashes. Well, they bothered me a lot less once I thought of them as power surges and I began to find them mildly amusing. All of a sudden I was like one of those space heaters who sit there innocently quiet and sedate until suddenly the coils turn bright orange and everyone nearby begins to feel flushed. Except, this time, it was only I who was feeling flushed. And just as there is no control over when that coil becomes orange, there is no control over when the surges come. Sometimes it was several times an hour, sometimes, only a few times a day. Over the years, they are farther and farther apart.

Of course it did make for some interesting experiences like when I would be teaching and would say to the room full of Orthodox women studying family therapy, “Is it hot in the room, or is it me?” Most of the time, it was me.

But even more interesting was when I taught a group of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox men, most of whom were rabbis, family therapy. Since they take only single gender classes, they usually have male instructors, but because of my qualifications, a special exception was made for me to teach them. Now informality between men and women is not something one is likely to find when you have a group of dark-suited, bearded, Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, so there were situations that were unusual. As we would sit behind the two way mirror and watch one of the men work with clients, we were sitting in the dark, a bunch of men and I, most likely making them far more uncomfortable than it was making me. When issues related to counseling women came up, I was able to teach them a lot about women that they had never known. Unfortunately, strict gender separation leaves men pretty clueless about women.

So, when I asked them one day, “Is it warm in here or am I having a hot flash?” I was pleased to note that none of them fainted and happy that I had added to their store of knowledge about women. I guess I got a bit of a kick out of the looks of shock on their faces.

In short, my experience with menopause was not nearly as bad as I had feared. I lived through it and life on the other side is pretty terrific. I would love to hear other women’s experiences.

…but do they know we love them?

Sometimes when I write, it’s only when I see people’s reactions that I realize what I’ve said. The responses to my last post were all different and reflected what they meant to the people who read the piece.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder how it is that we convey what we feel to those we love. Of course kind words, gentle touch, and thoughtful deeds, help, support, and caring all are important, but why is it that sometimes it doesn’t seem as if the message gets through.

“If he really loved me, he’d say he loves me,” the young wife said to me in my office one day.
“Do you love her?” I asked him.
“Of course I do,” he answered.
“Can you tell her?” I asked.
“I love you,” he said.
“He only said that because you told him to,” she said.

Is there anything he can do to get the message across? If she says that his washing the dishes would show he loves her and he washes the dishes, will she say, “but he’s only doing that because you told him to.”

So I leave the question open. How do we let those we love know that we love them in a way that they will understand? How can we do what they want us to do to prove it without their devaluing the effort?

Is knowing that you are loved something that only happens when you have been loved and cherished as an infant? Is that necessary? Is it sufficient? For others does it take lots of years and shared experiences?

Examining our tortoise pictures in the Galapagos

What are your thoughts?

…but do they know?

Yesterday I was talking to someone who is visiting Israel on one of those programs that exist for young people. When I asked if she would be coming back to stay, she said to me, “My parents miss me.”

Ah, how tender! Her parents miss her. I am sure they do. She is a delightful person. But more important than the fact that they miss her is the fact that she knows it.

I was immediately struck by the realization that I never could have made that statement. Did my parents miss me when I was gone? Sometimes I think the happiest moments of their lives were when they were dropping me off at camp or at some weekend experience. When I returned, there was never the feeling that I had been missed. In fact, it seemed like my re-entry constituted a sort of intrusion.

Did my parents love me? I’m betting they did. My mother in her own hung-up way probably did love me. My father in his very quiet, very gentle way, I am sure loved me. But did I know it? Did I feel it?

I think about my own children. I wonder if they felt that kind of love. I wonder if they knew that I missed them when they were gone. I wonder if my oldest son knows that I cried half the night when we left him in Atlanta to attend school there. I wonder if he knew the joy I felt when he came home for weekends. I wonder if my daughter realized that the day I went to pick her up in Oklahoma City 100 miles away, when I brought her back for a surprise visit to the States, I sobbed most of the way to the airport and practically jumped out of my skin when the plane was late. I wonder about my other children too, whether they know how many times I have spent days and nights worrying about their safety as they traveled to strange places, as they served in the Army and reserves, as they traveled on dark roads past Arab villages. I wonder if they know how much I love them.

Parents’ love is strong and fierce, but sometimes our gentle, laid-back manner belies the passion we feel for the safety, well-being, and happiness of our children. How can we let them know?

It seems that some parents know how to do it. I’d like the recipe, please.