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?

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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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?

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.

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?”

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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…

Oh.

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.

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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?

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למה?

Why indeed…

Since למה means why.

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

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