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.

so that’s how he knew who we were

Last Friday evening before Shabbat, running late as usual (that’s ISHI, not me), we walked out of our house in order to go to a different synagogue than what has become, in this short time here, our usual, we were stopped by a man.

“Are you ISHI?”, he asked. Um, why yes!

“We received mail for you, but we couldn’t figure out where you lived, so I took the letters back to the Post Office.”

Are you following? He knew who we were, but not where we lived.

He was French, by the way, but spoke to us in English. Not Hebrew. Also a weird thing.

We thanked him and we all went our separate ways.

Today, we went to the Post Office to retrieve our mail. In particular, our temporary passports.

From the Nefesh B’Nefesh website:

For the first 120 days from your Aliyah date you can enter and exit Israel with your foreign passport. After this time you are required to travel abroad with an Israeli travel document (Teudat Maavar). You can start applying for your Teudat Maavar 90 days after your Aliyah date.

Okay, so that’s what we did. And that went extraordinarily fast! We went to the office, thinking we’d have to spend hours waiting, and we were the next ones called! All exclamation points earned that day. Okay, so yes, after that, we lost a bit of time when we went to do another errand and our car died. But okay, it was not far from our house, so I could take the perishable groceries back, while ISHI waited for the mechanic to come and tell us it was the battery.

And it took us a few days to figure out (okay, so ISHI did this one) that it was a hidden blessing that this happened this way; near to our house, with meetings that could be changed and no one was hurt (except, of course, our pocketbook, but hey, not a good idea to anthropomorphize that, anyway). So as I told a friend later on, even if it is a wonderful thing to accomplish one goal per day, we were fortunate to do four things that day; get our Teudot, go food shopping, get rid of the genizah that had been piling up on our roof (that was the stop that stopped us), and get our priorities straight.

So of course, we had to have something else happen with those temporary passports, since they are only temporary.

Oh, this is what they say about getting a permanent Israeli passport, again from the NBN website:

After One Year of Aliyah

You are entitled to apply for an Israeli passport one year after your Aliyah, provided that you have resided at least 75% of the first year in Israel. If you have not completed this requirement you may return to Misrad Hapnim to apply for the passport once you have completed 75% of the first 3 years or 3 years of the first 5 years. All passports issued to Olim are valid for 5 years. After 5 years you must visit Misrad Hapnim to extend the passport for an additional 5 years. Please note: a passport extension is done on the existing passport and does not require issuing a new passport. After the second 5 years have passed, you will need to issue a new passport at Misrad Hapnim. The new passport will be valid for 10 years.

And now do you understand the Israeli mind better? I certainly don’t.

So back to this morning at the post office. No, they don’t have them. They don’t store mail there; they are only a passageway for the mail. Call the postman and find out what he thinks.

Guess what? Our postman answered his phone, was in fact at the  post office, and agreed to come upstairs where they do store the mail (!!!) and give us our mail.

It was registered. We had to present our identification papers (sort of like the American Social Security number) and voila! We were handed our new temporary passports.

I thought it would be a good idea to thank the man who had stopped us in the street. He had told us he lives at #18; we at #17. Our houses are not even on the same street, but yet they are. It’s sort of the houses that are attached in the back of the facing houses also are considered to be the same street.

No, it does not make sense. But it makes sense here in Tzfat.

We knocked on the door. Shortly, a woman called in a hesitant manner from her upstairs porch.

“Yes?”

Yes, in English, but with a French accent.

We told her we wanted to thank her and her husband for helping get our documents. She then told us the rest of the story.

She had been painting when the postman rang the bell and she told him to come upstairs. He told her she had to sign for the documents, so she did, not bothering to look at the address, for he must know it was for them, right?  She was so happy that their documents had arrived, which is what she told her husband when he came home. He mentioned that you have to go get your documents, so this couldn’t be theirs. They, too, are new immigrants to Israel, and they, too need these documents to travel. But whose were these? So they opened one up to check, saw my photo, and  figured they’d get them to us. They, like the postman, couldn’t figure out where we lived, and so he took them back to the post office.

But, then, on Friday night, when we passed by their house on the way to synagogue, and she saw me from her balcony, recognizing me immediately (she had said she was painting, so yes, perhaps she has a better visual sense than most), and telling her husband to run and catch us and let us know what was the story!

So that is why he knew to speak to us in English! And that’s why he knew who were were, but didn’t know where we lived!

Okay, that part is still not clear.

But you have to be open to  the miracles of connection.

Because connection.

another myth bites the dust

We are getting our sukkah space ready to put up our sukkah this year, our first in Israel. My self-appointed job was to cut back the growth from the tree which hangs over our porch as much as possible, even if the tree can’t possibly be cut back as much as needed. Part of the laws of building a sukkah requires it not to be under shade of any other kind. You have to make your own shade, independent of your environment, in order to see the stars through the makeshift roof. The rabbis never talked about nightlight pollution, but back to our story:

I cut back quite a bit, trying hard to keep it on our rooftop, but of course, one large branch and a number of other smaller ones, fell over into our neighbors’ yard.

“Oh, shoot”, I heard myself say.

I heard my neighbor shuffling below.

“I’ll come and clean it up right away. Sorry about the mess. I really tried to keep it up here.”

So I went downstairs, went outside, over to their house, and rang the bell.

No one. Rien, absolument rien. (She’s French Moroccan and they usually speak French together. Or English.)

After a while, she comes down her stairs and opens the front gate for me. I explain what we were doing and apologize for the mess. Of course, she has already cleaned up the branches that I dropped, but she clearly appreciates my efforts. She then proceeds to give me the full story about the tree.

It’s a carob tree that grew with kids of the neighborhood eating carobs and spitting out the seeds on the ground. They never planted it at all.

When did this happen? She said fifteen years ago. Even if she had said 50, I was still surprised. After all, I thought that carobs took 70 years to grow!

Yes, I know how most fruits take a while to grow, even after the tree has established firm roots and all, but the reality is that I have no idea how long that really is. That’s how far removed I am from living on the land.

Or at least having fruit trees.

But why I was dumbfounded was because of the story of Honi HaMe’agel, Honi the Circle-Maker. It’s a fascinating story that is found in the Talmud (Ta’anit 19 and 23) about a man who was asked to call for rain (why would he not have done it without being asked, I wonder), which he does in a pretty chutzpahdik way. And then he goes off on his merry way, coming upon someone planting a carob tree. When asked why he is bothering, since it won’t bear fruit for 70 years, he is told that his grandparents did it for him, so he is doing it for his grandchildren.

So it must be a fact that it takes 70 years for the carob tree to bear fruit, right?

It turns out that the idea of 70 years is symbolic of the years of the exile after  I the destruction of the First Holy Temple. (Read more here, if you wish.)

It is tied into a question that Honi asks before our story begins;

Said Rabbi Yochanan, “All the days of that righteous one, he was troubled about this verse (Psalm 126:1), ‘A Song of Ascents: With the Lord’s return of the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. ‘He said, ‘Is there someone who can fall asleep for seventy years in a dream?’ One day, he was walking on the road and saw a certain man that was planting a carob tree…

The commentator Rashi says right there, “‘like a dream’ the 70 years of Babylonian exile will seem.”

Here’s the whole Psalm, again for context:

Psalms Chapter 126 תְּהִלִּים

א  שִׁיר, הַמַּעֲלוֹת:
בְּשׁוּב יְהוָה, אֶת-שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן–    הָיִינוּ, כְּחֹלְמִים.
1 A Song of Ascents. {N}
When the LORD brought back those that returned to Zion, we were like unto them that dream.
ב  אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק, פִּינוּ–    וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה:
אָז, יֹאמְרוּ בַגּוֹיִם–    הִגְדִּיל יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת עִם-אֵלֶּה.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing; {N}
then said they among the nations: ‘The LORD hath done great things with these.’
ג  הִגְדִּיל יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמָּנוּ–    הָיִינוּ שְׂמֵחִים. 3 The LORD hath done great things with us; we are rejoiced.
ד  שׁוּבָה יְהוָה, אֶת-שבותנו (שְׁבִיתֵנוּ)–    כַּאֲפִיקִים בַּנֶּגֶב. 4 Turn our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the dry land.
ה  הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה–    בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ. 5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
ו  הָלוֹךְ יֵלֵךְ, וּבָכֹה–    נֹשֵׂא מֶשֶׁךְ-הַזָּרַע:
בֹּא-יָבֹא בְרִנָּה–    נֹשֵׂא, אֲלֻמֹּתָיו.
6 Though he goeth on his way weeping that beareth the measure of seed, {N}
he shall come home with joy, bearing his sheaves. {P}

It’s all about context.

The carob tree of our neighbors is a symbol of the strength of our people in our Land.

True joy of belonging.

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what i hear

I had wanted to put something in the last post about a man who caught my ear while I was hanging up laundry last week; I noticed him visually off the balcony, but paid no attention to him for that. What was curious was the clip-clop of his shoes on the cobblestones here in front of our house.

I looked more carefully; he was wearing white high heels. Clip-clop indeed.

Oh so sorry I didn’t have my camera with me!

A little while ago, I heard a similar clip-clop, but it was from a woman who passes by here multiple times a day. She also has, unfortunately, a particularly recognizable voice, as she often is speaking to her young son as they travel back and forth and back and forth. In fact, I recognized her voice today at the supermarket, and sure enough, there she was.

Being right on the path to a main plaza here in Tzfat gives us the opportunity, also, to hear the same people everyday. They are coming back and forth from work; from taking the kids to school; to the employment office nearby (which is really the unemployment office, where people go to get allotments if not work); and of course, the paths for the bar/bat mitzvah parades. We hear/see the same musicians hanging out waiting for their people/clients to gather, but sometimes there are different players, in all senses of the word.

As a matter of fact, there were two musicians who were performing a few moments ago this evening for a group outside in the amphitheater three steps away from us. I don’t know if it’s a private group or not, but they were there last week, too. I recognize their voices; their pauses for storytime.

And their musical style.

This is the season for paying attention to sounds, after all. We will be hearing the shofar as a set thing on Rosh Hashanah, other than the use of it as an instrument around here any day, any time.

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Do you see the young man in the middle of the photo? What he has over his left shoulder is a long shofar. He was running off to join the group to accompany the latest bar mitzvah parade.

You have to be very quick around here, even if it seems that things move slowly or with simple patterns.

Things change before you know it.

I have heard that today is the first day of Autumn; that does not show here so much in the change of weather as much as the preparation for the holiday season. In the stores are featured all the holiday foods, including deals for wine (thank you very much) and sweets along with fresh fruits. We also hear lots of banging and drilling; people getting their sukkot built, or perhaps using the time to do some renovations.

Renovations; renewing. That is a pattern that we will keep, if we’re very very lucky.

what we think we leave behind

Oh not things; but experiences. And really, not experiences, but the images of the experiences. The representation of the flower. (I wrote about that here 4 1/2 years ago, if you wish to read about what I mean. No pressure.) Me, the shy one (‘way more than introvert), who won’t stick a camera in someone’s face because I don’t want to be that person. Today, while I was hanging laundry upstairs, third level up, I noticed two people who had gathered around two musicians who were practicing right below us. One of them had a camera and he swung around to take a photo of me looking down at them! I swerved quickly out of his line of fire and hopefully ruined the photo op. So why do I think I have the right to do it to others?

A few weeks ago, while walking around Tzfat, we saw a man and a kid and a baby stroller and I don’t even remember what it was about them that caught my interest. I tried ever so cleverly to take a photo of them, but felt shy and embarrassed enough that by the time I snapped one, even only with my cellphone, this is what I got:

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I did have my camera at ready today watching this woman enter the house below us. I heard her calling for someone for a while before pulling the key out of a no longer secret hiding place. I won’t reveal her secret to you here, though.

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See the woman below? She doesn’t see us.

But I wish I had my camera to take a photo of the two young girls with their older sister? Babysitter? who helped them climb over a fence of the closed-off spring below our place. But I can only describe their faces, as they looked around to see that no one was watching. But someone was.

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See the arch in the photo? That’s what they climbed down to see, or actually across from there out of your sight. Ma’ayan HaRadum, the Sleeping Spring, here in Tzfat.

This is also the spot where I was hanging laundry this morning; the guy who tried to take my photo was standing down by the blue fence on the opposite side.

Maybe all he wanted was a photo of our fish. Our neighbor told me that she likes our fish very much, but so does the cat they take care of. He thinks it’s his dinner.

Here he is, after I chased him away.

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The cat doesn’t have to try to hide away; he gets to be himself. That’s what cats do.

We can learn a lot from cats, of course.


חָתוּל אוֹמֵר. אֶרְדּוֹף אוֹיְבַי וְאַשִֹּיגֵם וְלֹא אָשׁוּב עַד כַּלּוֹתָם׃ (תהלים יח לח)
The Cat is saying, “If you rise up like a vulture, and place your nest among the stars, from there I shall bring you down, says God.”88

lucky 13

I was going to lead with “baker’s dozen”, until I looked up what that expression comes from.

Firstly, the practice appears to have originated several centuries before the phrase. England has a long history of regulation of trade; bakers were regulated by a trade guild called The Worshipful Company of Bakers, which dates back to at least the reign of Henry II (1154-89). The law that caused bakers to be so wary was the Assize of Bread and Ale. In 1266, Henry III revived an ancient statute that regulated the price of bread according to the price of wheat. Bakers or brewers who gave short measure could be fined, pilloried or flogged, as in 1477 when the Chronicle of London reported that a baker called John Mund[e]w was ‘schryved [forced to admit his guilt] upon the pyllory’ for selling bread that was underweight.

Secondly, it’s not quite so neat an explanation that whenever bakers sold twelve loaves they then added another identical loaf to make thirteen. They would have had just as much concern when selling eleven loaves, but there’s no baker’s eleven. Remember that the Assize regulated weight not number. What the bakers were doing whenever they sold bread in any quantity was adding something extra to make sure the total weight wasn’t short. The addition was called the ‘in-bread’ or ‘vantage loaf’. When selling in quantity to middlemen or wholesalers they would add an extra loaf or two. When selling single loaves to individuals they would offer a small extra piece of bread. The Worshipful Company still exists and reports that this carried on within living memory and that a small ‘in-bread’ was often given with each loaf.

So, let’s go with lucky 13!

And though she be but little, she is fierce!

Or is it blessed?

Postscript: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/thirteen-is-the-new-one/