La-di-da-di-da-di-da*


A long time ago I was living in the US and one, and then two of my children were living in Israel. As time went on, the third and fourth joined them. By January of each year, knowing that I wanted to visit the children, I would make my airline reservations for the following summer. Months of anticipation and and planning culminated in a wonderful visit.

When several years ago we traveled to the US and gave an audio-visual presentation and spoke to people about travel to China, they responded by saying they would have to think about it and maybe in a year or two, they would want to travel. They would perhaps be saving money in the interim, but often it was the case that they had other long term plans that superseded these trips.

Now everyone knows that Israeli culture is different from US culture, but there is no greater difference, at least in my mind, than that of the attitude toward travel.

It is rare to find an Israeli who has not traveled outside of the country. A weekend in Turkey or Cyprus or Greece is no more exotic here than a weekend in Eilat. In many instances, it is cheaper. Years ago when the dot-coms were booming, it was not unusual for companies to take their workers away to Turkey for a weekend as an extra bonus. Israelis love to travel!

We have any number of travel agencies that offer package deals to European locations for prices that are practically unbelievable. And people may decide on a Thursday that they would like to go away the next week and by Sunday they are on a plane and by Sunday night they are strolling the alleys of Rhodes or perusing the English book shops in Malta.

But try planning a trip to an exotic location like the far east. We will be leaving on August 15 for Vietnam and Cambodia. Our American participants started planning the tour in the winter. Our Israelis (yes, I’m talking about English speaking Israelis too) have all pretty much started registering in the last 2 weeks with several calling today!

OK, I’ll admit it: this isn’t even last minute by Israeli standards. I once had a call from a woman on a Thursday to ask me about a tour to China leaving on that Sunday. Of course that one was impossible. It takes several days to get a Chinese visa.

I have to admit, I am more like the Israelis than the Americans. I get a real adrenaline rush from these last minute arrangements. I enjoy the spontaneity of making decisions and then acting on them immediately. So, if you know anyone who wants to come along, there’s still time!

*just nonchalantly hanging around… hmmm… maybe I’ll visit Singapore next week….

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!

Waiting…

I have a firm belief that you never know how something will be until you experience it. I can give you quite a few examples– from decisions that abstractly seemed simple and when in the situation, the decision was also clear, but in the other direction– or my preconception of what a new place would be like when we were given an assignment by the Army to an area across the ocean or across the country.

Now usually, I try to keep my family out of my posts. I prize their privacy and therefore they do not appear prominently in my postings, but this time, I am making an exception.

I moved to Israel in 1995. My only close family member aside from my husband and my children and their families is my sister. She lives in the US. Wherever we were on our far-flung adventures in living in 18 different homes since we got married, she managed to visit us. Although we are different in many ways, we always stayed close. Since I have been living in Israel, my sister has managed to visit us about once a year. We handled the distance well. I enjoyed her visits and tolerated the time in between. It’s been a long time that we’ve lived far away from each other, and it seemed OK.

Several months ago she told me that she has decided to make aliya, to come to live in Israel. Surprisingly enough, although I had been tolerating her absence well, from that moment, it has been hard for me to wait until her expected date of arrival. Recently she visited. Discussing the nuts and bolts of her aliya was amazing. It became more and more real to me that she really is coming. I must have said to her about a hundred times, “when you are living here, we can…”

When I said goodbye to her this time, it felt good to know that this was the last time that we would be living separated by an ocean.

And I think back to that first glimpse of her when I was 4.5 years old, those big beautiful eyes looking out at me from a bundle of blankets, my long awaited sister, coming home at last. And now I look forward once again to greeting my long awaited sister, coming home at last.
Whn

Have I mentioned…

that I love living in Israel? That I find the people here to be kind and friendly and open and helpful? When we were in Malta, meeting other Israelis on the street was like meeting old high school classmates. (OK, that’s especially true for me because as I’ve mentioned before, I somehow was invisible during high school and none of my classmates remember me, so that this is exactly the same– we have a lot in common although we don’t know each other at all!)

Here, in the gym, there is a woman who frequently swims when I swim. Because we swim at about the same pace, it is very comfortable for us to swim in the same lane. We only know each other by sight, and only recently have we begun talking with each other as we get ready to leave the changing rooms. Last week she asked about my Pesach preparations. She talked about what she was doing, how this year would be different since a new son-in-law had a custom in his family that for the bitter herb, they eat tart apples. While we were talking a third younger woman was listening and she said that in her family they also eat tart apples for the bitter herbs, but put chopped liver in top of it. As we talked others offered their traditions. These women were not women who by their dress or manner most people would identify as “religious.” They were typical Israeli women. The discussion ended with someone who was leaving saying שיהיה שקט “Sheh yihyeh shaket” — it should just be a quiet* holiday. We all nodded in agreement.

Tonight on the news, the feature was afikomen gifts for the children– what children wanted and how much parents would be spending on them… What a country!

Outside this evening, the streets were filled with busy people and the restaurants were hopping with people taking a break from the Pesach cleaning and preparations.

In our house tonight, we searched for chametz by candlelight. With the gefilte fish made, the roasts and the potato and apple kugels made, about 50 giant matza balls were born.

Have a wonderful Pesach and שיהיה שקט

*Here, by quiet, we mean with no terror.

How it feels

Here’s what it felt like:

I was sitting at my computer and suddenly on Facebook, I saw that there was an attack in Jerusalem. First I felt disbelief. How could that be? Things have been calm for a long time. I went to the four Israel news web sites I use: Jerusalem Post, Ynet, Haaretz, Arutz Sheva. None of them any news about it. But meanwhile, my husband turned on the radio and told me that yes, it was true.

I went to the TV and watched, in the same way that I watched on 9/11, helpless. The energy drained from me. I heard the people on TV talking about how quickly they got to the scene, how quickly they rendered assistance, and how quickly all of the injured were taken from the scene. Within 15 minutes, all of the victims were on their way to the hospital.

We had planned to go to Jerusalem tonight. We went.

On the way, traffic coming from Jerusalem on the road that passes by our house was backed up from the checkpoint near us for several miles. Police were at the entrance to Modi’in as we left and we saw police cars and policemen in profusion. We know that our neighbors often enjoy carrying out multiple attacks.

I wondered– is another round of violence in the offing?

We got to Jerusalem and things were normal. It was cool outside. There weren’t a lot of people on the streets, but it was not unlike other weekday evenings.

We had dinner at a quiet restaurant.

We returned home. Our route took us past the scene of the attack. It was cleaned up and people were standing there, waiting for buses.

By the time we got home, we were able to read the statements of world leaders. Some, like the UN Secretary, understood that this was terror, targeting innocent people, and that there was no excuse for it. Others equated the attack on our people with the accidental injuries of people used by terrorists as human shields. But the most cynical accounts were those that cited a bus stop as the target of the attack. I suppose to them, Israelis are not worth mentioning.

This comes in the same week that rockets and mortars targeted our cities causing damage and injuries.

And there still are those who single out Israel as the cause of trouble in the world– who demonstrate against us. boycott us, hate us.

Outrageous!

I am so very very tired of it.

Yichiam to Klil

On Friday, on our way to a lovely weekend at a field school on the coast of Israel near Achziv, we took a hike along with friends of ours on a trail that started at the Crusader Fortress at Yichiam and ended in the ecological village of Klil. We passed lots of other hikers- old and young, Jews and Arabs, all out on a magnificent day.

Because it is already spring in Israel, which one determines by seeing the blooming of the almond trees

we were treated to a very lush experience. Climbing down the mountain we saw this vista

We walked along a dry creek bed, filled with stones.

and we saw beautiful cyclamens,

brilliant anemones,


and even dazzling wild roses.

It was the perfect prelude to a lovely shabbat stay by the sea where we enjoyed the brilliant sun and the clear blue water of the Mediterranean.

Lesson Learned

This morning, just as the very first shades of orange began to light the dawn, my husband and I set off in the direction of Jerusalem. What a show we witnessed– the clouds were spread out like a comforter with small tufts in a pattern and room between for the light to light each individual tuft. The sky around the clouds was an electric blue and the clouds were lit flaming orange, finally fading into pink and as the sun came up higher, the sky was filled with pinks and blues and lavendars.

We were on our way to Hadassah Hospital where my husband was to have cataract surgery.

As we drove along the highway several times cars came up close behind me and flashed their lights even though I was driving at the legal speed limit. Apoplectically flashing their lights, they could barely wait to pass me quickly on the right, often getting themselves stuck behind slow trucks that were barely making it up the hills to Jerusalem. Had I made eye contact with them as they passed me, I am certain that they would have displayed their disgust with me.

For years I have not understood this behavior. In the case of driving to Jerusalem, how much time could one save by speeding? The whole trip takes a short time (from Modi’in, for example, it is about 30 minutes; from Tel Aviv, maybe 45 minutes). How much time could one save by speeding? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Is it worth having high blood pressure? Feeling hostility? Is it worth risking one’s life???

It occurred to me that I made a decision many years ago that really changed my behavior.

I was about 18 years old. I was driving my mother’s car. I was coming out of a parking lot and making a right turn. To the right of my car there was a telephone pole and I was too close to it. As I felt my car touch the pole, I thought about backing up and turning my wheel toward the left as I proceeded forward. But I was too lazy. I made a conscious decision to continue. So I did. And when I reached home a few minutes later, I saw that the thin metal strip at the side of the car on the right side was now sticking out at a point about 1/2 way back at a 90 degree angle. My mother was not pleased.

How I wished I could go back and make a different decision!

I couldn’t get the stupidity of my decision out of my mind, but worse, I realized for the first time how irreversible time is. Once an accident happens, it can’t be prevented. Once someone is scarred or maimed, it can’t be undone. So, perhaps it makes sense to be careful and not take dangerous risks.

Often I take my time when others would hurry, am more cautious when others would rush, but a burnt finger or a twisted ankle can cause a lot of pain and take a long time to heal. We are fragile beings. We are limited by our human capabilities, and so far, we cannot reverse time.

Oh, and according to the doctor, the surgery this morning went very well. We are home and the recovery is underway.

Fame in the era of plagiarism

This morning I received an email from my son. He had received an email from his brother-in-law in Los Angeles with this question:

“Isn’t that your father?”

accompanied by this photo:
Bar Mitzvah

Well, yes. It seems as if my husband is moonlighting in LA teaching Bar Mitzvah boys… and I never even noticed.

Or maybe it’s because someone saw this photo
Matan's Bar Mitzvah

in my blog in this posting about our grandson Matan’s Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem.

And yes, my husband did teach him.

So, thanks, sir, for making my husband famous, but I can guarantee that you can’t hold a candle to him when it comes to teaching boys for their Bar Mitzvah.

Oh, and one more thing, a request for permission to use the image would have been polite. There is no such thing as a secret in the modern world.

Overheard

The other day I was at Holmes Place, the health club that is located not far from my house where my husband and I go to swim three times a week. As I made my way from the pool to the dressing room, I saw a recent English-speaking immigrant looking at this poster on the wall.

Health club poster

She was staring at it and I stopped. She said out loud, “Look at this! What a wonderful country we live in! This lady in the picture was thin, underfed, and with some felafel and some latkes, look at her afterward- she is beautiful. She looks healthy and well nourished. None of that skinny, unhealthy look that Americans crave so much. In Israel they know that people have to eat and look at her! She’s lovely. She’s healthy and content. She doesn’t have that blank look that so many people who watch their diets do. What a country!

Someone looked over at her and said, “You realize of course that the sign is written in Hebrew. The picture on the right is the ‘before’ picture and the one on the left is the ‘after’.”

“Oh!” she said, blinking and looking a bit shaken. Then she continued, “Never mind.”*

*A fictional story, with homage to Emily Litella and Gilda Radner who created her and was taken from us much too soon.

Miracle

For years it’s been building, the idea of Israel being a pariah state. We’ve been accused of pretty much everything, almost all of it without any basis. The foreign media allege that it’s Israel that’s been endangering the Middle East, in fact, the whole world. The wikileaks documents seem to show something different, and although their collection and publication constitute crimes, what they reveal seems to shed light on the true content of international diplomacy.

It is seldom that I read the news and weep. But today is one of those days. You see, yesterday a horrible inferno was unleashed in the Haifa area. At least 40 people have been killed by the fire and a huge area of Israel is in flames. The fire is not yet under control.

And what did I read? The assistance from foreign sources is streaming in– from Greece, Cyprus, UK, US, Bulgaria, Egypt, Jordan, Spain, Russia, and even from Turkey! Also, as of Sunday morning, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy and Norway. We are not alone. When we needed help, the rest of the world was there to help us– even those who criticize us and boycott us and condemn us. They came running to help us. The first planes landed very early this morning from Greece. The Bulgarian firefighters were on the ground at around the same time, fighting side by side with the Israelis. Underneath, there is human decency. I am grateful. We are grateful.

This may be more miraculous than the long-lasting oil.