my atonement

The other night, on our way into meeting with the couple in the house that we want to buy, my skirt got caught on the thorns of a rose bush and ripped a bit. It’s the same skirt that got ripped a few years ago on the way back from Israel. I don’t remember exactly how it happened then, but I do know that I put the skirt away for a few years until I decided to try my best to darn it. And darn it, I did.

(See what I did there?)

And now it sits waiting to be darned again, but in the meantime, I had to wonder if it was a sign of some sort. Not that I believe in signs, but when something so big is happening, and something goes off-kilter, it is bound to make some people pause. And there’s nobody that’s somebody other than me.

I wanted to take a photo of the rose on the bush, one gosh beautiful rose in winter, but I didn’t dawdle anymore than the time it took to take my skirt off of the thorn. Priorities. So here’s a photo from last winter in Israel, because beauty should never be taken for granted.

img_20151130_102208198_hdr

I did wonder why it had to happen just then, so I did continue the question with ISHI maybe even the next day, of why did it happen. He said,

“Take it as a kapparah.”

Hmmm.

“What should that mean? How should I take it?”

I know what kapparah means. כפּרה; It’s what we seek on Yom Kippur, to be cleansed/atoned/forgiven for any and all sins/mistakes that we have accrued over the previous year. But how to take it here?

Like this?

  • [the relatively minor mishap should be] an Atonement [for my/our/your sins, rather than something more serious]

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

  • We “were set upon by a swarm of angry bees on the last afternoon of the hike. We were each stung multiple times… his first reaction after we outran them was ‘kapparah.’ It was a few weeks before Rosh Ashanah and I told him his words were doubly appropriate.”…

  • NOTES

    Different usage from the Yiddish kapore ‘scapegoat’. The most common scenario when this is used is at a family meal or communal affair when dishes or trays fall with a loud crash. Everyone says Kapparah! And it is usually followed by a laugh as people are reminded that this is something Sephardic Jews say.

So do I take it as a minor payment towards something I may have done, or more accurately, may not be aware of having done? Is that enough to say let’s move on? Or let’s move?

Or this, which we have heard often enough now:

But the word is also used as a term of endearment by and for men and women alike, usually by Israelis of Middle Eastern or North African (Mizrahi) descent, in much the same way as words like “motek” (“sweetie”) and ”neshama” (“soul”). When that happens, the emphasis switches (as it does for “neshama”) from the last syllable to the middle one. Thus, you can ask God for ka-pa-RA, but if your taxi driver uses the word when he addresses you, with an affected affection rendered meaningless by indiscriminate use and repetition, he’ll be pronouncing it ka-PA-ra.
Use of the word in this context, or an extended version that literally means “atonement be upon you” (“kapara alekha,” for a man,or “alayikh,” for a woman), comes from a phrase in the Jewish dialect of Moroccan Arabic that means “I’ll be a kapara for you,” according to Hebrew language maven Rubik Rosenthal.
In other words, like the chicken to which one’s sins are symbolically transferred during kaparot, the traditional pre-Yom Kippur ceremony that involves a fowl being waved in circles around the head, those who use the term “kapara” or “kapara alekha” are, in theory at least, saying they are essentially ready to die for the other person. In the case of humans, though, the scapegoat (scapechicken?) is presumed to be acting out of love, not because he or she is being gripped forcefully around the neck, blissfully unaware that a certain soup that goes well with matzah balls is on the menu.

And since I work in symbols, does the thorn of a rose mean more than a rose?

And now, should I laugh?

Status qvo

Or, if you prefer,

סְטָטוּס קְווֹ

Boy, that Wikipedia is wicked smaht:

Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to social or political issues.[1] In the sociological sense, it generally applies to maintain or change existing social structure and values.[2] With regards to policy debate, the status quo refers to how conditions are at the time and how the affirmative team can solve these conditions.

It is the nominal form of the prepositional Latin phrase “in statu quo” – literally “in the state in which”, which itself is a shortening of the original phrase in statu quo res erant ante bellum, meaning “in the state in which things were before the war”. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are. The related phrase status quo ante, literally “the state in which before”,[3] means “the state of affairs that existed previously”.[3]

Someone who I don’t see that often saw me last Friday evening. “You’ve lost weight, haven’t you?”

Um, “no.”

“But your face, it looks much thinner.”

How to answer this? Sorry I didn’t know how fat I looked/or/Did you really think I looked that bad that now I look better, even though, for sure, I haven’t lost an ounce, nor do I even bother; just keep on truckin’?/or/Thank you and leave it at that.

I said thank you and left it at that.

I realize that she does it to get the upper hand in a conversation, to disarm someone, so to speak. I didn’t want to play along, so I tried not to engage there. I had tried to wish her a mazal tov on her new granddaughter, putting us on the same level. She would have none of that. But it begs the question of what level do I want to be on?

We have entered into the second half of our first year in Israel full steam ahead, working hard on checking off the things on the to-do list.

  • learning Hebrew–our Ulpan actually ends at the end of February, so now we have to use the street studio method of learning (although yesterday, in class, we learned that parasite is basically the same in English, Hebrew, and Russian!)
  • converting our drivers’ licenses (it sounds weird, but it actually is weirdly accurate, going through the paces and getting rejected, as one is supposed to have done when trying to convert to Judaism)
  • and looking for a place to live, longer-term

Each step is necessary in making things work here. The way we have scheduled our lives, we do have to do a bit of driving around the country, pretty much as itinerant preachers/teachers, so we require flexibility in that respect. And flexibility is perhaps the overriding theme here. Once again, we are learning about ourselves to know what is important, what is essential, and what would just be nice.

Speaking to people and understanding people (maybe even more than speaking!) is essential. So, when we were at a meeting yesterday with someone with American parents, we stuck to Hebrew. He needs to practice his English, but he can do it with someone else. And when we don’t know something, we ask.

That is a good quality to keep.

Now, in terms of the housing, we are asking ourselves many questions.

  • Do we value quiet over busyness?
  • Do we want light, space, room, views, over convenience?
  • How important is it to stay with the community we have started to get to know?
  • Will we feel comfortable in the synagogue that will pretty much be just a place to pray and not a community? Will I be able to say kaddish for my mother there, for example?
  • Should we be smart and cautious, thinking of when our knees won’t want to do steps, or should we take the chance to have breathtaking views every day?
  • And of course, how much money should we sink into a house, or should we be smart and save?

Now, we can’t go back to how it was before the war. What is our new normal and how do we embrace it, with our broken Hebrew and all?

what did they say about not going home?

what did they say about not going home?

Don’t burn bridges. Maybe that’s what they should say. I haven’t, I think. I remember someone who thought he was moving away opening his mouth in public about what everyone was doing wrong and how he knew what they should be doing, losing any respect I had for him, which was none by that point, but losing any credibility to boot for anyone else. And yet…

You can’t go home again, wrote Thomas Wolfe. I never read it; have downloaded it onto my kindle for a read.

But we didn’t go home, since that isn’t our home anymore. We were asked if we were going to go by our old house. Why, we asked? It’s not ours and it holds no interest to us. I took ISHI to my old house in Baltimore when we were there back in May? June? So long ago. It was curiously small, but I was smaller then, too. A good lesson when thinking about space requirements for children, perhaps?

I found that I wanted to buy very little; what did I bring with me on return? Sunscreen. Brita water filters (only because we were in Target, buying some other things with my father for his house, for the great-grandchildren). And pillowcases to match a set at home (yes, Target). Oh, but I must mention; a new camera and a new phone. Fixing things that are broken can be a good thing.

I bought a necklace only because a favorite one of mine that I always were for traveling broke. It had broken when I came to Israel in the summer; I had just gotten it fixed here, but clearly it wasn’t a good job, and then it got lost.

Things break; what remains?

I went back to the states and saw family and met our new granddaughter and caught up with old friends. I can’t tell you how much the hugs were worth; priceless, as the ad says.

I didn’t just not go home; I went back in time. I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen since the beginning of college, back in 1970. We are not young, and that was just fine, since we don’t have to pretend to be anything else but what we are.

Otherwise, it’s a false screen separating us from our own reality.

dsc_0065
See how I did that? A chance to show off my new camera! Taken at LACMA by the ticket booth on a rainy LA day
dsc_0106
And let’s say this is symbolic of my trip back to the states

So really that was what I learned the most about going back; it’s what I take forward that matters. What we can take with us is the care, the love, the connection.

Perhaps it can never be the same because, after all, we are not the same.

And as I write this, I hear the tour guide outside our window, giving his nightly tour of Tzfat, even in the aftermath of enormous rains. He is not having them sit down in the amphitheatre next to us, per usual; he is standing outside our window instead!

Oh, home sweet home!

the power of invisibility

for good and for bad.

I realize now that the same way I needed to have a physical barrier protecting me from the world to keep up a literal facade of privacy in our old American home is why I can be so comfortable being on a main thoroughfare of Tzfat today.

Yes, the physical was a row of trees, and nothing is so main in Tzfat, but the point is that I was supposed to be somebody there as the rabbi’s wife, and now I am comfortable being nobody. Privacy is over-rated, especially since it’s impossible.

But invisibility?

I recently finished reading what I thought would be a lite book that would be a pleasant interlude from this awfully brusk world. I am pleased to say that it was lovely and important enough for me to look for more of the author, Jeanne Ray, for further reading.

The book is called Calling Invisible Women. I won’t give away the plot, but you can figure out that it has something (or a lot) to do with more than one woman feeling/being invisible. It’s quite a delightful exploration of a category of women who may feel put aside, as they get older, not really visible to their families, disappearing into their roles as mothers/wives/caretakers. But she develops the story well to be one of empowerment, so bully for her.

I was happy to have it turn out that way, since I have been feeling very invisible, as a woman of a certain age, and having done this move across the world, out of my comfort zone, re-establishing myself, and yet…

My SIL was concerned for me, after this election mess in the states, that I was going to be as depressed as all these other people, mourning and a’cryin’; I had let him know in no uncertain terms how this new president-elect is a bully of the worst kind, and that the US and the world deserve someone who is a better person. I still feel that way, but I’m also glad I am here in Israel and not living in the states anymore. I was not going to let it bother me, because that would mean he won. And so I will not let his way take over my consciousness.

I thought it was more than unnerving, however, that the glass ceiling remained intact on the commemoration of Kristallnacht

and Lam Woon-kwong from the South China Morning Post writes:

Seventy-eight years on, right on US soil, the candidate who openly exploited racial and religious conflicts has just been elected president. It does beg the question: have we learned from Kristallnacht?

Perhaps more than invisibility is the danger of not being heard. And the combination of both is overwhelming. The they say that people voted for this guy because they felt they weren’t being heard by the establishment. Pity those who think it’s going to be any different now. And people justifying the rioting because they are different from the other side, who promised to riot? Really, this is the only way they think they will be heard?

I, too, recognize my need to be heard. I have used blogging as a way to get responses. When I was posting as an angry woman with my first blog, people responded. When I tried my hand as a wise woman, some still did. Now, as someone who has tried to move into another country, change perspectives by literally changing my life, not so much. People sometimes like my photos; my Instagram account gets likes from people all over the world; but here, again, radio silence. I guess it shouldn’t matter, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t.

Today, someone who knows us here expressed awe of us getting things done on the outside,whereas she sits inside an office, feeling powerless. Of course, this is when I get lumped in with my husband, who is the do-er. I am the power in the booth, perhaps. But it’s not my voice that gets projected. So is this true power or not? This remains open-ended.

Sort of like why did this bird not cross the road?

dsc_0093
why doesn’t he join his friends and family?

sometimes, backwards

I wrote about the need to recalibrate a while back here. We got a real-life example of that the other day in Jerusalem while trying to park. We were meeting a friend for lunch before heading back home. She suggested going to Café Greg in the Mamilla Mall, which was just fine with us. Since it is never clear how much traffic there would be, even in the relatively short trip from our daughter’s house in Efrat, we left a bit of time for the just-in-case. And, if we didn’t need that, we  could use the time to walk around, since that’s always a nice idea on a nice day.

Of course, or why would I be writing this intro, we needed the extra time.

We went up to the largest parking lot at the mall, which has little lights next to the spaces indicating whether they are open or taken. So we drove around and around and around to the various levels, looking for those little green lights. At one point, probably on the third floor, we saw lots of green coming at us from the opposite side of the floor, so we continued on to get to the other side.

Like the proverbial chicken.

Except that you couldn’t get there from here.

[Which way to Millinocket]

Ayup.

The way to the other side was blocked off. At the end of that way was a carwash. That would have been great, since our car had not lost its three-month collection of dirt from the downpour of the day before, but the guy said it would be an hour wait. With nowhere to park. And a dead end.

So…the only way to move was backwards.

But by this time, there were at least a dozen cars behind us. It was time to take things into our own hands. I got out of the car and waved at them to back up, go up the ramp and not make the same mistake we made. Those cars that were past the ramp had to back up. Some people, like the woman behind us, probably not confident in her ability to back up that far, turned her little car around and went backwards forwards.

And no one blinked. That was what you do, if you have to. We, meaning ISHI, backed up forwards. I directed traffic.

As if…

כאילו

We ended up leaving that parking lot (first hour is free! That should have been our warning sign), going to the one next door, and then being directed to the first one, the oldest one with no green lights and plenty of places to park.

And we even had time to shop for gifts for our new granddaughter before going to lunch.

So what did I learn from this, since everything must be a learning opp?

What would you think?

 

sitting on the balcony this year. now.

One of the things that I bought before we came to Israel was outdoor furniture. We had been negotiating for a place that had magnificent views with an extensive patio. Even though the place didn’t work out, it became clear to me that this was important for me/us to have a place with that kind of feature; to be outdoors and be home.

What I didn’t know was that we were going to have this experience of being in front of this plaza, with all the comings and goings that come and go in Tzfat. We rented here as a placeholder, literally, and we are taking advantage, even as we look for the next place to go. But while we are here…

My cousin came to visit us for the end of the holidays. I took her up to the top patio on Monday afternoon, and we sat. Of course, we talked, but moreso, we sat and enjoyed. Watching the passersby, watching the children playing below on the plaza, not having to pay attention to anyone or thing but to enjoy it all. Watching the colors gather in the sky, as sunset approached. Taking it all in. Now.

I started singing

עוד תראה,עוד תראה, כמה טוב יהיה בשנה בשנה הבאה

Just you see, just you see, how good it will be, next year, in the next year.

but in my head only. And really, the song started singing to me; I didn’t purposely bring it to mind.

This is one of the old Israeli classics I feel I’ve known forever, and that’s pretty much because it’s pretty old, from 1968.  Here’s a video from somewhere back then, sung by the duo Ilan veIlanit, who popularized it.

And while I was looking for the best video, I also found a bit about why and how it was written:

Early in his career, Manor often wrote about peace and tranquility and, in 1968, he penned “Next Year” to express the joy of expectation following Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War. Joy turned to sorrow, however, when he lost a brother in the War of Attrition, prompting Manor to write“My Younger Brother Yehuda” in his memory.

One of Manor’s most famous songs was“I Have No Other Country” (Ein Li Eretz Aheret), which expressed the bitter divisions that emerged in Israel during the Lebanon War. “I have no other country/ if even my land is ablaze,” he wrote. “Only a Hebrew word penetrates my soul/ in an aching body/ in a hungry heart – here is my home.” Manor wrote in liner notes to a greatest hits anthology that the song “was adopted by everyone as a song of pain.”

This is Israel; holding joy and pain simultaneously. But here I am, holding the joy now. I have certainly felt the pain; it’s time for the joy.

img_20161027_163239135

Next year

We’ll sit on the porch

And count migrating birds

Children on vacation

Will play tag

Between the house and the fields.

You will yet see, you will yet see

How good it will be

Next year.

so that’s how he knew who we were

Last Friday evening before Shabbat, running late as usual (that’s ISHI, not me), we walked out of our house in order to go to a different synagogue than what has become, in this short time here, our usual, we were stopped by a man.

“Are you ISHI?”, he asked. Um, why yes!

“We received mail for you, but we couldn’t figure out where you lived, so I took the letters back to the Post Office.”

Are you following? He knew who we were, but not where we lived.

He was French, by the way, but spoke to us in English. Not Hebrew. Also a weird thing.

We thanked him and we all went our separate ways.

Today, we went to the Post Office to retrieve our mail. In particular, our temporary passports.

From the Nefesh B’Nefesh website:

For the first 120 days from your Aliyah date you can enter and exit Israel with your foreign passport. After this time you are required to travel abroad with an Israeli travel document (Teudat Maavar). You can start applying for your Teudat Maavar 90 days after your Aliyah date.

Okay, so that’s what we did. And that went extraordinarily fast! We went to the office, thinking we’d have to spend hours waiting, and we were the next ones called! All exclamation points earned that day. Okay, so yes, after that, we lost a bit of time when we went to do another errand and our car died. But okay, it was not far from our house, so I could take the perishable groceries back, while ISHI waited for the mechanic to come and tell us it was the battery.

And it took us a few days to figure out (okay, so ISHI did this one) that it was a hidden blessing that this happened this way; near to our house, with meetings that could be changed and no one was hurt (except, of course, our pocketbook, but hey, not a good idea to anthropomorphize that, anyway). So as I told a friend later on, even if it is a wonderful thing to accomplish one goal per day, we were fortunate to do four things that day; get our Teudot, go food shopping, get rid of the genizah that had been piling up on our roof (that was the stop that stopped us), and get our priorities straight.

So of course, we had to have something else happen with those temporary passports, since they are only temporary.

Oh, this is what they say about getting a permanent Israeli passport, again from the NBN website:

After One Year of Aliyah

You are entitled to apply for an Israeli passport one year after your Aliyah, provided that you have resided at least 75% of the first year in Israel. If you have not completed this requirement you may return to Misrad Hapnim to apply for the passport once you have completed 75% of the first 3 years or 3 years of the first 5 years. All passports issued to Olim are valid for 5 years. After 5 years you must visit Misrad Hapnim to extend the passport for an additional 5 years. Please note: a passport extension is done on the existing passport and does not require issuing a new passport. After the second 5 years have passed, you will need to issue a new passport at Misrad Hapnim. The new passport will be valid for 10 years.

And now do you understand the Israeli mind better? I certainly don’t.

So back to this morning at the post office. No, they don’t have them. They don’t store mail there; they are only a passageway for the mail. Call the postman and find out what he thinks.

Guess what? Our postman answered his phone, was in fact at the  post office, and agreed to come upstairs where they do store the mail (!!!) and give us our mail.

It was registered. We had to present our identification papers (sort of like the American Social Security number) and voila! We were handed our new temporary passports.

I thought it would be a good idea to thank the man who had stopped us in the street. He had told us he lives at #18; we at #17. Our houses are not even on the same street, but yet they are. It’s sort of the houses that are attached in the back of the facing houses also are considered to be the same street.

No, it does not make sense. But it makes sense here in Tzfat.

We knocked on the door. Shortly, a woman called in a hesitant manner from her upstairs porch.

“Yes?”

Yes, in English, but with a French accent.

We told her we wanted to thank her and her husband for helping get our documents. She then told us the rest of the story.

She had been painting when the postman rang the bell and she told him to come upstairs. He told her she had to sign for the documents, so she did, not bothering to look at the address, for he must know it was for them, right?  She was so happy that their documents had arrived, which is what she told her husband when he came home. He mentioned that you have to go get your documents, so this couldn’t be theirs. They, too, are new immigrants to Israel, and they, too need these documents to travel. But whose were these? So they opened one up to check, saw my photo, and  figured they’d get them to us. They, like the postman, couldn’t figure out where we lived, and so he took them back to the post office.

But, then, on Friday night, when we passed by their house on the way to synagogue, and she saw me from her balcony, recognizing me immediately (she had said she was painting, so yes, perhaps she has a better visual sense than most), and telling her husband to run and catch us and let us know what was the story!

So that is why he knew to speak to us in English! And that’s why he knew who were were, but didn’t know where we lived!

Okay, that part is still not clear.

But you have to be open to  the miracles of connection.

Because connection.