the year of living wackily

In Tzfat. Where you can always expect the unexpected. And we are so normal it’s not normal.

זה לא נורמלי!

It’s not normal! Is the normal thing to say.

I am thinking of our year here as Act I in the play about our move to Israel, our aliyah to the Land. I don’t know what Act II will be like yet. It hasn’t yet been written. But this year has been something [via Google Translate]

בֶּאֱמֶת
really, truly, in sooth, straight up
מַמָשׁ
really, very

not normal.

What has been normal for me, of course, is not normal for most people in the world. I have to go with my experiences. I also realize that one part of moving to Israel was my desire to be normal; to live in a place where you are not the exception; you don’t have to explain yourself to people about why you dress a certain way, why you eat certain foods, why you don’t travel on these days, why you wouldn’t go out to certain places, why so many things that seem normal are not my normal. It is a great deal to belong, to fit in, to not have to think about what other people are thinking.

לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ          To be a free people in our Land

is what it says in the national anthem Hatikvah.

So, do I feel free yet? Do I feel free to walk about?

As I write this, tons of people are passing by my window. Well, busloads.

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Tours of Birthright kids coming to find out what their birthright is to this land. It’s curious, if not outright humorous to hear what they are told about Tzfat. We can hear them from the comfort of our dining room when they give their pitch about art, or Tzfat, or what is Kabbalah, or what does holy even mean? Everyone has their story, and it’s not necessarily what I would say. But let them come and hear! When I get a chance, I tell them mine.

We are grateful to live here in the middle of the chaos so we can show our visitors around; so we can give them our version of the truth. We can show them our amazement at the stones, the places with so much history that they can hardly stand up, but most of all, the people.

But when it comes down to it, we will be quite happy to do this from a little bit of distance. We hope to move to a suburb of Tzfat in August. I can know that I belong and yet be happy to be on the other side of the hill, looking to figure out what Act II is all about.

I’m looking forward to smelling the roses there.

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knowing your place

They say that in Jerusalem, those who think they are the Messiah suffer from the Jerusalem syndrome. Here in Tzfat, there is a similar syndrome named for the city. But here, those who suffer from it believe that their rebbe is Mashiach.

So true! We have met many sweetly deluded people, who among the many things that delude them is a willingness to suspend all thought, and therefore, simply believe. There is a simplicity to this, but also a deep humility. And, of course, it is easy to take advantage of. But somehow they manage, and they are happy.

We have also heard recently from the man who wanted to sell us some appliances that Tzfat is a city that has learned to be humble. That was the lesson I heard from him, at least. He said that the earthquake of 1837 led people to realize that one should not embarrass Jerusalem; Tzfat could not be thriving while Jerusalem laid desolate. The survivors of the earthquake fled to an early version of Rosh Pina, to Hebron, and to one other city that perhaps I will remember. We in Tzfat know to keep things in perspective, to honor the greatness of Jerusalem, he was indicating. All of the other cities know, even as they grow, to remember their place.

I honor the city that I have chosen to live in. There is a quieter, more gentle vibe. Yes, apparently we have our crazies, and now who act out against the establishment. We are not happy that this attitude is coming here. We were happier when we could see people mixing broadly without passing judgment, and we hope to be happier when they realize they would be happier being miserable elsewhere. One only hopes.

We chose a different store to buy from, though. We’re not total freiers.

This past week, we paid a shiva call to a family in Jerusalem. We had spent the night in Netanya, on our way back from a wedding further south, so we had thought to be wise and not do so much traveling back and forth in one day. Instead, on Monday, we ended up going from sea to sea to sea.

Here is a view of the Mediterranean from one of the promenades in Netanya.

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We continued to Jerusalem, where we were focussed on people and not photos. I snapped a few on my cellphone, but they look pretty snapped, so I will use my words instead.

As we were finally leaving the city, it was rush hour, but instead of staying put another hour or two, we braved the roads to get out of town. Waze directed us to use Route 1 East and then north along Route 90 all the way up the easternmost part of Israel, past the Sea of Galilee and Tiveria, to Tzfat. ISHI wasn’t thrilled about this road, since the last time we had traveled along this road, we were in a rental car with headlights pointing too far down, and this road at night requires as MUCH light as possible. But should we be afraid to travel on our land? Okay, it was Nakba Day, but I was sure everyone was tired by then. And what was the choice, at that point? So we proceeded.

And we found ourselves back in time. We were retracing the words of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.

We passed by Ammunition Hill, where fierce battles were fought 50 years ago to free Jerusalem. We continued on the Dead Sea road, past Jericho.

Within the caverns in the mountains
A thousand suns will glow,
We’ll take the Dead Sea road together,
That runs through Jericho.

And with great thanks to G-d and to headlights that work, we arrived home.

But as I sing to you, my city,
And you with crowns adorn,
I am the least of all your children,
Of all the poets born.

Your name will scorch my lips for ever,
Like a seraph’s kiss, I’m told,
If I forget thee, golden city,
Jerusalem of gold.

Oh, Jerusalem of gold,
and of light and of bronze,
I am the lute for all your songs.

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when independence is more than a day off

Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israeli Independence Day, is celebrated on the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year, that should fall out tonight. But in order to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day, the day before, but not to desecrate Shabbat, it’s all pushed off one day. In a way, it’s similar to celebrating the American holidays on Monday, whether the historical day meets it or not, but here’s all the difference in the world. In the states, it’s for convenience. Here in Israel, it’s for holiness.

So that brings me to my list of things that I love here in Israel and vive la différence! Although many are making lists of 69 things that they love about living in Israel, I am happy to present my top ten.

Here in Israel:

  1. stores offer sales for items at ₪69 (to match the age of the country), or even renting a car for the day for ₪69
  2. everyone starts displaying Israeli flags, blooming like the beautiful wildflowers in all areas of the country

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    Yes, our car is Tzfat blue
  3. people post ideas of what they are doing to celebrate the holiday, not just ask for suggestions from others
  4. multiple Whatsapp groups display poignant poems, photos, and videos about the country
  5. such as this https://youtu.be/RzbDIH_lp7I 
  6. and in that regard, you don’t mind tearing up constantly, going back and forth between tears of sadness about the sacrifice of so many to pride of our country
  7. and you remember to buy lots of tissues to tide you over,and you are willing to cry in public
  8. like for this one https://youtu.be/h6N6hLIfiac  
  9. or this one https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F1054481034666933%2Fvideos%2F1299000880214946%2F&show_text=0&width=400
  10. that Rabbanit Henkin of Nishmat has been invited to light a torch for the official Yom HaAtzma’ut ceremony as a trailblazer in teaching women Torah, but also as a bereaved mother
  11. and you think back to the last time you were in Israel for Yom HaAtzma’ut in 1976, a different century, and realize that even though that was such a different world, as much as things change, they are the same
  12. that even though I don’t know any soldiers or families of soldiers who have died, there is a family around the corner from us who is related to a girl who was killed in a terrorist act,
  13. and I do know one of the mothers of the boys who were kidnapped and killed in the summer of 2014
  14. and I do have my student who is included in the remembrance DSC_0089
  15. And even as I said I would write ten, the need to include more is essential, I am looking for more to move from the sadness to celebration, so I will include my gratitude that we can go walking into town Tuesday morning to watch some hometown hokie-ish celebration,
  16. and then go picnic with friends in the afternoon
  17. and look for many more things to post about in reflection for years and years to come
  18. in peace that should come speedily in our days

of mice and me

This is a combination of things, as most things truly are. We are just a few days before the holiday of Pesach, when the typical Jewish woman has a hard time distinguishing between dirt and the forbidden leavened chametz. I, of course, am not that. I know very well that I am doing spring cleaning. I removed the heavy quilt from our bed and washed the heavy linens. We opened our windows today, removing the bubble wrap that we had as insulation. And that was where we enter this post:

If you remove the wrap from your bedroom window, you might see the glass shelf above it leaning precariously.

If you see it leaning, you might realize that the window shifting probably was the unexplained noise you both heard the other night, but were too tired to investigate.

If you try to fix the glass shelf, you might have to find some wood to prop up the shelf, since it won’t come down, either, but you can’t take a chance of leaving it there.

If you start cutting some wood, you might as well make a platform for the computer that is on the floor of the study that has mysterious wet tiles there.

If you start looking more closely at the floor, you might think about taking the box of printing paper off the floor.

If you open that box once it’s off the floor, you might notice that it’s oddly packed and already opened.

If you remove the top of that box, you will discover that it’s not paper at all, but many many many more CD’s that you of course did not know were missing.

And if you think about things that you can’t possibly track, you think about learning the laws of getting ready for Pesach in a class 42 years ago, discussing the physical limits of searching for chametz, considering the limits of where one should search for chametz, whether a small rat or mouse might bring the forbidden food into some hidden area of the  house.

And when you think about what you learned, you remember your teacher saying, “I have two little mice who bring things everywhere”, referring, with love, to her children.

And when you think about mice and children, you might think about how mice are a convenient symbol for so many things, like well, yes, me, the country mouse (see? I wrote about it here and here and in detail here).

And when you realize that it’s all connected, you remember this post you wrote  also about giving a virtual mouse a cookie, of sorts, and you can write another tale about your adventures here in Israel, today, that all of this is not old but new for me, and perhaps I should be reciting a blessing of newness for all of this renewal, for the ability to experience limits and setbacks here in this Land, so I can be a country mouse in my country.

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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.