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

instead of that, i’m doing this this year

This year in Israel, if not in a rebuilt Jerusalem…

Instead of cooking (and cleaning and planning and shopping, in no particular order ever), I got to play with kids and enjoy the beautiful weather, even if it wasn’t necessarily beautiful. Yes, we were surprised that it did rain last Wednesday, even if just briefly!

Instead of doing a second seder, we got to travel and see friends. And water my plant at home, if just for a short visit before returning to be at our kids’.

Instead of savoring the taste of matzah, we went to a Gymboree in Efrat to attend a mini-Mimouna, a North African Jewish celebration of returning to eating bread.

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Blessings and props for the children to make their muffleta pancakes
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Blessing the children of all ages; like the new wheat grows, so we should also grow

Instead of worrying about everyone getting along, I knew they wouldn’t, and then they would for when it mattered. And then we could go home when we had enough.

Instead of sitting around the eighth day of Pesach, overeating, we went into Jerusalem to the Old City. We met different people we hadn’t seen in eight months; two years, and forty years. Instead of synagogue, we had synchronicity.

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Capturing people enjoying their Hametz after Pesach in the Old City

Instead of worrying about the community and who needs what, we got to think about ourselves and what we need. And worry about the whole world.

Instead of going to hear a speaker for Yom HaShoah, we’re meeting with the couple from whom we are buying our home and seeing what we want to buy from them. He is from Libya; she is also from a Mizrachi family; they have their own families’ experiences of hate and expulsion, which we will hear about.

Instead of looking at videos of the moment of silence on Monday morning in memory of the six million Jews who were killed, we will stand silent ourselves.

Here.

In Israel.

Our Homeland.

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.

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.

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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?