The sky is falling, said many

It all comes together now, slowly, slowly.

Why wait until after the winter to look at real estate?

Why paint before Pesach?

Why worry about allergies outside when you have mold in the house?

What work that the city did?

Oh, yeah, there is a spring under the house. And the city closed it off last year, so it has to go somewhere.

img_20170327_104057488.jpg
See the wet below? The engineers didn’t do the best job of closing things off.

And so that’s why things went bump in the night,  which turned into pieces of plaster falling off the outside wall, taking down the tsotchkes that they had hanging on the walls.

And that’s why the floor in the study (which we don’t really use because the overhead light is broken, and it’s really really dark in there) was wet. Not the whole thing; just one square.

So, putting it all together, yes, we knew there was a mold problem in Israel in old houses, especially the old stone ones. It turns out that the house we are renting is over 200 years old, with some later additions. The owner who grew up in the house told us how all his family members would take turns bathing in the kitchen in some kind of tub, heating up water and then pouring it over themselves. Apparently, there were no doors, either.

But that was then; this is now. We knew to keep spraying the mold that appeared, but didn’t think that there would be a piece of the ceiling that could fall on our heads.

Now, in terms of the painting, I had heard from our Hebrew instructor back in the states that her mother used to paint their house every year before Pesach, along with making everything else by herself (and raise a large family!), but it wasn’t until I saw this photo that it made sense.
en.calameo.com-read-002627047f1a63909e3eb
This was in last week’s copy of Shabbaton, a very nice compendium of Torah articles from a Zionist Religious perspective. But here it is; paint your house before Pesach!
Rough translation: using the four cups of the Seder and the textual inspiration for each as a model, they list four words describing the painting process.
  1. והגנתי I protected (against mold and fungi)

    And if this weren’t enough (dayenu, anyone?), they do continue with three more

  2. והידרתי and I decorated
  3. וניקיתי and I cleaned (fascinating it didn’t start there)
  4. וחסחתי and I saved (brilliant!)

So, there you go. As we move into the OMG it’s almost Pesach mode, we can enjoy the renewal of our people in our Land in all ways possible.

And look forward to our new home outside of the land of mold!

לְשָׁנָה הַבָאָה בִּירוּשָלַיִם הַבְּנוּיָה

 

kilometerstones

Or is it meterstones? Passing what I would have called “milestones” with tongue in cheek here in Israel,or I guess it could also be called rites of passage.

I just had a haircut. That was not a difficult thing in and of itself,  of course, but finding someone who could and would cut my hair, plus did a good job, for a reasonable price to boot was a large marker. It has been a long time since I had a good haircut; since before we left the states. (Yes, I had one when we went back for a visit, but it was not a good one.) I wasn’t sure of who to ask for suggestions here, so this was a big thing to find someone good.

A woman we know here who has not had the easiest time let’s say in Life In General had said she was happy to have people now after years of not having anyone; people who would slip her extra slices of cheese or meat in her order after it was weighed; people who would nod to her and motion to her to come closer; people who took care of her. We know people, but I’m not sure we have people yet. So finding someone who can cut my hair is a big step. Rite of passage.

It is the first day of spring today. On my phone, the following question came up from my daily language reminder from Morfix:

מילת היום באנגלית
The answer is:
vernal
אֲבִיבִי
דוגמאות שימוש עבור vernal adjective; trees and flowers in vernal bloom
I never knew what vernal actually meant! I thought spring was also an adjective; spring flowers; spring weather. Of course it is. But it is good to learn new things.
I am working hard to pay attention to the signs of awakening around me.
We had to get a post office box.  It’s hard enough for the postman to find our house now, but since we hope to be moving by the end of the summer (I hope before the end; we’ll see what ensues), we needed to print up business receipts with an address that will last longer than a few months; thus the PO box. So I took a walk just now to go see if there was any mail. But in truth, it was to look for signs of spring; vernal awakening.
img_20170320_155957.jpgimg_20170320_155850.jpgimg_20170320_155610.jpg Maybe I don’t have people yet, but I have flowers. And that, for now, is enough.

are we there yet?

We finished our Ulpan last night. Well, we took the final exam. We thought the final session would be a party this Thursday night after the Fast of Esther is over. But the teacher said it would be next week when we have a wedding to go to.

I’m learning to leave my house to get to a meeting when it’s actually supposed to start. I’m still too early.

We bought a milk pitcher this week. It’s made to hold bags of milk. I’ve heard that they also have milk bags in Canada, but I never saw it there. Until now, we’ve been using cartons, but the bags are cheaper. We’re here for the long run.

I’m finding myself extraordinarily moved by the two wins as of today of Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, and certainly hoping for more wins in the future.

We went to see the anemones in bloom. We wanted to find the place we had gone to years before on a tour, when the bus driver took an unplanned detour off the road somewhere to go see the anemones. This is a sport that I can follow with all seriousness. Seeing the various flowerings seems to be a sport here for everybody. And I mean everybody.

DSC_0759

DSC_0729

DSC_0795
See the big stick the little one is holding? The father asked him to stop wielding it so wildly as we passed by.

This is in Megiddo, a small turnoff from the road from Afula towards the coast. Since we weren’t driving, and since this was in the time before smartphones and Waze, we weren’t sure exactly if this was the place, but it clearly was the same, except not. We didn’t remember an army base there, nor an airport behind it. But we definitely remember there were no strings keeping people off the flowers. This is not surprising that Israelis have to be cordoned off. They have a hard time with limits.

Are we Israeli yet?

I still let a woman with only two items go in front of me in line in the supermarket the other day, and then I had to let the soldier with only a few things go as well. I wasn’t in any particular hurry, so why not?

Am I irrational to think that maybe some of the things that we do are not necessarily bad, and that Israel could benefit from a little more of what we have done?

Oh, silly me. Of course, it’s almost Purim, so it’s all good. The learning curve certainly continues to be steep, both ways.

being an introvert in an extremely extroverted world

And that world is Tzfat.

Maybe there are plenty of quiet homebodies here. We haven’t met them yet. Everybody here, well, certainly in the Old City and Artists’ Quarter are happy to mix in with everyone, with few if any boundaries. There is quiet right now in the afternoon, surprisingly, perhaps in some mode of respect to the old siesta hours. But of course, as soon as I typed that, I started hearing voices of kids coming home from school or such. Certainly today, Rosh Hodesh Adar, is bringing all kinds of voices out of hibernation. I guess if you don’t have any expectation of quiet, you won’t miss it?

That’s like the time a friend who had become super-Haredi had told me she would have her young daughter start wearing tights all the time once she became (memory fails me now since it’s almost 40 years ago) 2? 1 1/2? because she wouldn’t know the difference…

Isn’t hot always hot? Isn’t noisy always noisy?

Maybe this is why Israelis do love to go out to nature. Maybe it is in search of the quiet they don’t know they are missing.

On the other hand, this lack of quiet is what they often bring with them into nature.

For example:

dsc_0559This is from last week. ‘Way before Lag B’Omer, so why the fire? Or even more, why two? It was actually a pretty nice day. We could not figure out what was going on.

Here’s another view. It makes it even more confusing, I promise you.

dsc_0563

Do we think the man in the right corner (using the tree to the left as his coat tree, duh) is the father? the teacher/rebbe? Does it matter who he is because he’s obviously okay with the kid flying off the side of the mountain?

I go on to find other corners to breathe in nature.

dsc_0585

I’m learning to overcome my extreme nervousness and s’est la vie, or at least here in Israel.

And by Israel, I really do mean Tzfat.

I’m learning to put a mask on and pretend I’m a chutzpanit. I am taking pictures of people who are interesting to me, and smile at them when they realize it.

dsc_0659

dsc_0660

I call people I don’t really know well and ask if we can come to their home for Shabbat. And then when they say yes, I give them the list of foods ISHI can and cannot eat, and hope that they don’t regret agreeing to having us come. And I swallow my pride a lot. That’s the difference between us faux extroverts and real ones. We  wear our chutzpah as a mask.

I’m learning to do a lot of things that are not comfortable. And I am waiting somewhat patiently (since that was never my strong suit) to move to a quieter corner of the world.

And yes, still in Tzfat.

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!