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.

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
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!

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.


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.

things that might be going bump in the night

Or in the day

Two strange occurrences.

The first:

ISHI and I were sitting on our porch/Sukkah one morning last week, and one of us (I already don’t remember which one was paying attention first. I could make a good case for either of us.) noticed an odd thing on the little roof above the stairwell. Yes, I took photos, but let me explain it first.

Backing up just a wee bit for those not familiar with my title:

From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!

There was this odd cone-shaped item, with some kind of pictures and writing on it. Not English; not Hebrew. Bottom line–very suspicious. The kind of thing that if you saw it on the street, you would call over some security people.

חפץ חשוד Suspicious item

That’s one of the first terms you learn in Ulpan, Hebrew lessons, what you need to get along for living in Israel, real reality check.

We thought seriously about what to do. Was it something sent over to our porch that could blow up? Was it a drone? Could it be a spy camera? We were quite uncomfortable and didn’t know what to do.

I went downstairs to my kitchen, I think. ISHI started looking at Google. He found one word in English that he could look up. It was some kind of tea.

I was not sure that it made me more comfortable, because, after all, what was it doing there? Where did it come from? And don’t judge a bomb by its cover!

Until ISHI got a call from a friend…

“I have a strange question: did you see an odd paper package in your Sukkah?”


He had been given this package by mutual friends who had been in India, brought back this package of tea that is smoked as cigarettes to remind him of the smells of India…


Mystery solved. Gratitude!

Our friend just picked it up and we all enjoyed a cup of tea while telling our stories. He also told us a story about finding a drone in the Sea of Galilee while looking for branches for a friend’s sukkah.

My second story: while I was making challah the next day, there was a knock on the door. It was our next-door neighbor. He was holding a balloon.

“Is this yours?” I thought it looked like the statue outside our house; the ugliest statue in Tzfat and probably the whole world, the frightened lama. One “l”, you will note.

“It was caught between the trees in our yard. My wife thought it was a spirit; she saw it move back and forth and we couldn’t sleep.”

I did not tell him at that point that I had been told his wife had put a curse on the house across from us and she clearly knew from spirits.

But no; it was not ours.

He left it tied up in the courtyard for anyone to claim.

This remained a mystery that probably fizzled out on its own.


An additional mystery: why  does the balloon look like this Marimekko print that I bought in Cambridge when I was a too young student that we hang in our Sukkah from forever?



Why indeed…

Since למה means why.

Why does the Marimekko print look like the odd lama outside our house, which looks like the balloon?


This, in a nutshell, is Tzfat. We are learning to enjoy the mysteries as they come.

the need to remember the need to remember

Some things don’t get forgotten, as much as you wish you could. No false memories; maybe a few blanks in the timeframe, but no loss of emotions.

Tonight in our Ulpan class, our teacher took the last 15 minutes of our class to do a history lesson. Most of the people in our class are Russian. Our teacher, who had told us that he was 30 years old, was a kid in high school. Yet, he deemed it important enough to teach us some key vocabulary words to mark the occasion.

We learned how to say twin towers in Hebrew; בנייני התאומים (our teacher used the word for “buildings”, rather than “towers”, so that was what was new to me.)

how to say collapsed; קרסו or התמוטטו (You need two words, apparently; I didn’t know either one.)

(Someone from the class mentioned that this is what happened in Tel Aviv last week, with the collapse of the parking lot. Yes, tragedies keep occurring.)

terrorist attack; killed; wounded; missing. I knew these…

I remember my first Ulpan class, back in 1972 (!) at Hebrew University. The first words we learned were: suspicious object; bomb; explosion. I remember them very very well. That was life on a daily basis back then here.

We here in Israel learn to be sensitive to pain of others, despite world opinion. Not only are we not immune to the pain of others here in Israel, but we are taught the words to help us be sensitive.

A new Never Forget.

This article at the Week states that there are multiple ghosts from September 11 that keep haunting us.

On a more somber level, people are still dying from cancer and other ailments tied to the heroic search for survivors and human remains at Ground Zero. There were 2,996 people killed in the attack itself, including 411 firefighters and police officers, but at least 653 rescue workers have also died since, Newsweek reports, many or most of them sickened by the “massive plume of carcinogens” released with the dust and smoke from the crumbling towers that transformed lower Manhattan into “a cesspool of cancer and deadly disease.”

In all, as many as 400,000 people have been directly adversely affected by 9/11, including disease and mental illness, Newsweek estimates, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The psychological afflictions include post-traumatic stress, addiction, behavioral issues, and anxiety. The number of people still hurting surely exceeds that half-million estimate.

I wrote about my personal experiences on this date here. And the question that I asked, “What are we going to do about it?”

Still remains a hole, except now it’s worldwide.

Today, the most insidious residue from 9/11 is probably fear.

New Jersey Memorial 9/11

the dolls have come home

Opening all the boxes is a process I understand will take much longer than packing them. And I have learned and I really really get that we need much less than what we have to get along just fine. As I have said before, there are just a few things that I want to locate to make me feel at home.

Oh, maybe I didn’t say that exactly, but I’m saying it now. This is the process; finding out what is essential and what is valuable and what is delightful.

One of the things that I wanted to locate was a basket of dolls and stuffed animals that my mother bought as gifts to my kids while she was traveling around the world. She had decided to become a travel agent at one point later in her life to give her the opportunity and the wherewithal to do this kind of grand travel. My father never has forgiven himself that he did not go with her more often; she chose not to wait for him, which was one of the ways she showed her wisdom.

My kids were not really appreciative of the dolls at the time. Or they were as much as they could, since they weren’t really the kind that you could play with. They were from China, Japan, South America (Peru, probably), Germany, Russia, Spain, India,

not even sure where some of these are, truly.

I did try to hand them off to the grandkids. And the Aussiettes really did connect to them, until they broke some of them and I realized that, no, these are just dust collectors and should just sit on the shelf somewhere.

And that’s when I realized they should sit on my shelf somewhere.

In Israel.

My mother was very proud of being Jewish; she would not have thought to move to Israel because she knew that the language barrier would be too much for her, but she was supportive of my sister when she and her family went, and she was supportive of the grandchildren (well, the 2 that she was aware of) going to learn there, and she was the one who insisted on visiting our daughter when she was there when ISHI was undergoing chemo and we couldn’t travel. The supreme irony was that she had already had some kind of stroke earlier that year that the doctors didn’t detect; they called it a Parkinson’s onset; and that she would suffer a larger debilitating stroke the week after ISHI finished radiation. And that when we were going to go visit the kids in Israel a few years after that, she said, in her broken way, she wanted to go with us.

So, Mom, this is the way that you get to go with us.

The dolls have been located and the dolls are here at home.

work in progress

In my mother’s honor and in her memory and in honor and memory of all those who would have come home if they had the chance. And that this be the last Tisha B’Av, where we mourn the destruction, and we build something awesomely new.

:תְּקַע בְּשׁופָר גָּדול לְחֵרוּתֵנוּ. וְשא נֵס לְקַבֵּץ גָּלֻיּותֵינוּ. וְקַבְּצֵנוּ יַחַד מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפות הָאָרֶץ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי עַמּו יִשרָאֵל

Blow the great shofar for our freedom, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, G-d, who gathers the remnants of His people Israel.

Passing by a Melitta factory

On the way up and down from New Jersey to visit the family, dead and alive, in Baltimore, we pass many more points of memory. I do drag ISHI by my old house where I grew up (or started the process, at least). That was self-limiting and affirming at the same time. These are my simple roots; that’s who I am, and that’s just fine.

But the reality is that even as I have come from a background of simplicity, I know that my tastes have become more rarefied with time. This was reinforced as we passed by that Melitta coffee factory. I clearly remember feeling grown-up, for a placeholder word, when we started using Melitta coffee instead of whatever the cheaper brand was. When we got married, we started using a glass percolator, which I thought must be better than the stainless version that my in-laws used. And then, we moved to a drip coffee maker, probably Mr. Coffee. And then the search for perfection continued to move on a slow pace, or that’s my recollection now. And so, at some point, what would have been perfectly acceptable for us once was no longer. More so, it would have been something to turn our noses from, or is it from which we would turn our noses?

And as with coffee was wine. And other things. What would have sufficed before was not any longer good enough. In terms of how I pretend to want to simplify my life, this is an significant reality lesson. Champagne tastes, beer budget? And what are the lessons we’ve given to our kids?

Here’s the lesson my mother taught me back in the 60’s. At the time, there were a few popular clothing styles for kids like me, preppy, pre-Ralph Lauren. This was Villager, John Meyer, along with Pappagallo shoes. I’m not imagining the RL link. Max Raab, the designer, created this on purpose, according to this New Yorker article:

“I know women better than they know themselves ” Raab said in a New York Times interview. “The Waspy girls all want that country look, and the Jewish girls want to look like the Wasps. I knew I had a winner.”

There were little boutiques where you could buy them. One strong memory I have was going with my mother to one of these in Baltimore, with the clear instructions that we would look for things on sale only; it would not be worthwhile to pay full price, and those items on sale would be good enough for now. Did I give you this value, kids? I’m afraid I forgot to apply that lesson. Or at least if some of you did get it, some are already accustomed to the champagne. Is good taste wasted on the young?

Here’s another memory. When we first were married, there certainly were no online registries. If there were store registries at all, we did not participate. So most of our wedding gifts were checks, and then our mothers helping us figure out what it meant to have a household. My MIL did enjoy her champagne taste, for sure, and she probably did her best at imposing that on us. So, we had sterling silver for 12, but had no glasses. We drank out of our earthenware coffee cups.

What were we drinking? That I don’t remember. What were we aiming to drink? Well, at least To Life!