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.

DSC_0829 (2)

 

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.

img_20170327_104057488.jpg
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.
en.calameo.com-read-002627047f1a63909e3eb
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.

DSC_0759

DSC_0729

DSC_0795
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.

dsc_0563

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.

dsc_0585

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.

dsc_0659

dsc_0660

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.

img_20151130_102208198_hdr

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.

dsc_0404
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.

dsc_0394