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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

still thinking in cups

Paying attention to my absorbtion here in Israel; what have I let go of? What still remains? I have used up most of the food that I brought on our lift, excluding boxes and boxes of tea. But I have already joined the fan club for this new style of tea that has taken over the market here, with fruit and herbs that you simmer and then imbibe. Lovely smells, lovely tastes.

But now that my flour supply has dwindled (I only took what I still had in the house; I tended to be a hoarder for food since I lived not close to a store), I am fine purchasing Israeli flour, having spent a while figuring out the differences between all the different kinds. It’s not automatic. It’s good for the brain to stretch and adapt. But as I set out to make challah today and I opened the new bag of whole wheat flour (80%, that is), I realized that I’m not adapting my recipe. Well, I am, but not because of living here. ISHI has found that he cannot eat honey. So, ironically, I do have 3 large Costco-size containers of kosher-for-Passover honey left over. I guess I’ll save at least one of them for Passover. I do have quinoa left over from last Passover, that ISHI has decided he really doesn’t care for. Well, same goes for that, I guess. I can adapt; I can work around things, if I have to.

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Buying coffee in Machaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem

It takes a lot of bandwidth to convert all of these things. When we are on the road, we have to think in kilometers unless you want to invite a ticket. When you are looking at the inside temperature to set the heater/air conditioner, you have to do it according to what makes you not freeze, so it might as well be metric.

But in the kitchen, I still think in cups. Nine cups of flour for my challah recipe; 1 1/2 cups of oats and the same for flour, plus one of sugar and one of brown sugar (although I always use less) for my oatmeal cake; and that’s all I remember by heart for now. If I make rice or beans, I use a cup or two. In the age of the internet, I suppose if I found a recipe that called for grams, I could easily enough convert it to cups. In the age of the internet, I don’t seek out recipes in other systems.

Flexible, to a point, is my point.

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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 the hashtag is it all about

what the hashtag is it all about

I started an Instagram account because I wanted to follow some photographers who had been mentioned in a few places. Or maybe it was a contest for travel that I wanted to enter. Or some combination. And I started also because it was a distraction from my lost and broken camera. For whatever reason, you can only post via smartphone, so I would take my photos and post them along.

Only a few people saw them at first, which made sense, slow learning curve and all. Part of which consisted of me applying hashtags to my photos. I don’t know what draws people to different sites. Me? It’s when a general site features a photographer who I admire, so then I follow that photographer as well. But the hashtags turn out to be fun, especially doing them in English and Hebrew. After all, I found this photo of the outside of my house by searching for #tzfat, or was it #צפת?

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Looking back at my work, I think I have improved. But, as here, what is appreciated by the public is not what I value the most. That’s okay, since I do know that the game on Instagram is to “follow” someone in order to draw them to follow in return.

I am following the advice given freely by who knows who to do something artistic every day.

Wait a sec–

Oooh, I like this one:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep
Scott Adams

The next step is that I sometimes have chosen to showcase some of the Instagram photos on Facebook. And that’s where the title of this post comes in.

This is the response to a photo of us with our Israel kiddies that I sent my father:

Very good photo and a very good print.
I forgot to ask.  In your last letter, Why did you need so many #   #   #  ?  Take care . Love, Dad
I will mention here that my father is (poo-poo, kanna hara) 91 years young.
He gets overwhelmed with computers and technology on a regular basis. He also has more confidence that I will know how to fix things than I do, especially since he is working on a 9 year-old Mac, and I do PC. I wouldn’t even start to tell him how I downloaded it from a WhatsApp group photo. I guess I’m somewhat amazed that I can figure these things out, to a point.
My father also claims that every single ad in the LA Times is about hearing aids, which frustrates him to no end because his doesn’t work effectively, and his doctor says there’s nothing to be done about it. I cannot effectively prove to him that the reason he is noticing the various ads is due to his frustration, not the reality. So I understand that what is salient to him is what he cannot control. So we look for things he can control; being with people, enjoying people.
We ran into our neighbor Ima Esther yesterday on our way to a meeting. You don’t tell Ima Esther that you are late; you stand patiently while she tells you about her daughter who finally got permission to move away (not really sure what was the delay and where she went, but I didn’t want to start asking questions that would make us later than we already were), and a few other things. Her often-repeated phrase is ?מה לעשות; What can you do? in the most existential Camus (North African, after all) manner.
Que peut-on faire?
But here, of course, is the point:

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Because the 84 year-olds and the assorted under-the-attachment to technology kiddies will show you in a heartbeat what really matters. But you need them both.

On my way back home today, I was stopped by an older man who was whistling. He asked me,

“Is it okay for me to ask you a question?”

“Of course,” I answered, just a bit skeptically.

“What happened to your smile? Did you lose it?”

Of course, I smiled in return. It was a lovely way to get me to react, as opposed to how others have tried to impose a smile on my face in the past…

I told him I would be very happy to let my father know what he said.

He added, “After all, it says

Serve G-d in happiness; come before Him in singing.

 “עִבְדוּ אֶת-ה בְּשִׂמְחָה;    בֹּאוּ לְפָנָיו, בִּרְנָנָה

And he went whistling along the path.