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.

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.

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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
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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?

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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.

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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.