Sunday, February 19, 2017

Whatever it Takes

I haven't written a blog in a looooooong time, since September.  Truthfully, you get used to the wacky life you live here, and how many times can you write about the lunacy of driving in Israel?

Well, today I had to make the dreaded Phone Call to an Israeli Company And Figure Out Their Phone Menu.

This is beyond human endurance.

Here's how it went:

First, let us say that my husband is in America, so I had to handle this by myself.

Now, let's continue.  A friendly neighbor discovered a drip on the water filter that is attached to the main water pipe bringing water into the house.

It is Friday afternoon.  No one has been at any office in the entire country since Thursday at noon.

So I wedged a bucket under the drip and looked at the offending piece of machinery.  Guess what, it had a phone number on it!  That must be for emergencies!

So I ran upstairs and made a phone call.

I get a voice message.  It tells me to call another number, but the number is said so fast I can't get it.
I call again to listen again.  Maybe it's not telling me to do that at all?  Maybe it's telling me to do something else?

So I go on their website, which is entirely in Hebrew.  I see the famous צור קשר which I know means their contact info.

Yay!  They have whatsapp!  and Email!!!!  So I send both a whtsapp and an email.  AND they offer a special number - special means emergencies, right?  I call that too.

I get an email - telling me that they got my email.

I get a whatsapp - telling me that they got my whatsapp.

I can't even understand what the phone menu tells me to do.

Time runs out, it's Shabbat so I keep checking the bucket and it it seems to be a very slow drip.

OK, here it is Sunday.  I get a whatsapp asking me questions!  In Hebrew!  I use Google translate and hopefully say "The water filter is dripping" and not "I have the sniffles in my water closet" - the word for a drip is נזילה and the word for the sniffles is נוזלת - see how hard it is??

All day Sunday I wait to hear from them.  Nuttin.  Of course as all olim know, the phrase "we will get back to you" means "we will NEVER get back to you and you will have to bug us incessantly and then we will get mad at you but that's the only way to get service."

Finally I give up and pull out the contract information.  There is yet another phone number and I get a person!

Uh oh.

Guess what language he does not speak.

OK, here goes - I tell him that there is a drip in the appliance (had to look that one up and practice it) that is on the main water pipe (same) coming into the house.

Then he goes into some conversation with me about things.  He mentions numbers, he says things, he has the word "shekel" in there a couple of times.

Finally he says something about "which day, Wednesday or Thursday"?  I think, ooh now we're getting somewhere.  I pick Wednesday.  After other words he mentions hours.  I pick between 9-12.

I write this down.  I say, "OK, then the technician is coming on Wednesday between 9 and 12."

But, God help me, he keeps talking, and I hear shekel and I hear other words I don't know.

I figure at some point I have to say yes to something.  So I say yes, because I'm so relieved he is coming to fix the drip I don't care.  He mentions 55 shekel.  That doesn't sound like a lot, does it? Hmm, I think, is that per week.....per month.....?  Whatever, remember he is coming to fix the drip.

Then he asks me how I like the water bar they sold us.  I say I love it but we can't use it on Shabbat.  He says, "You didn't ask for a Shabbat feature."  But this is a re-hash of an earlier argument with them and I am in no mood to get on the wrong side of this guy.  I'll give him whatever he wants, just come here.

He then takes my address, and other information, and asks me for a credit card number.

Uh oh.

Why would he need that unless I just bought something?

I'll find out on Wednesday.  Between 9 and 12.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Uh Oh

OK, so usually when you put your car in reverse, it goes in reverse.  

But sometimes you THINK it's in reverse and it's not.

Uh oh.

TG I was in a parking lot and no one was walking near me.  My car drove forward into a parked car. Dented my car, dented their car, pushed their car into another car, scratched car #3.

Sounds like fun, right?

Try it in Hebrew.

I was at the local pool, which is actually a sports complex where people take yoga, exercise, etc. classes.  A class was ending and a lady walked out - my luck it was her car that I'd hit (car #2 - mine being car #1).  I asked if it was her car, she said it was and I apologized profusely.

She said "What happened?"

Uh oh.  How do I say this in Hebrew????

So, in my usual sophisticated toddler-level Hebrew I explained that I wanted the car to go in reverse but instead it went forward and plowed into her car.  What I probably said was something like this, because she gave me a strange look:

"I want go back but go front. I hit your car. I sorry."

She seemed to get it and asked if I was ok. Whew, nice person.  Then a couple of guys from the sports center came out.  They also asked if I was ok and proceeded to tell me what I had done - "You see, you THOUGHT you were in reverse but you weren't."  There may be a reason that they work in a sports center and not in army intelligence.  Well, from that I at least found out the correct words to use.

Then (cue ominous music) owner of car #3 came out.  Let's call her "Brunhilde."  I believe her look could actually kill, and I don't believe she had a neck.

Her car had a tiny scratch.  The sport center guys were amused at how angry she was.  I was terrified. Lady #2, whose car was really dented, waited patiently while Brunhilde photographed all of my documents, me, the car, my next of kin, and everyone else's next of kin.  

Sports center guy #1 put his arm around me and advised me to say the bracha of gomel for surviving the accident (I love this country, as you might imagine he was not religious, but that was his advice). Sport center guy #2 became philosophical, "Hey, it's only a car, you are OK, that is all that matters!"

Brunhilde continued to deliver the death glare.

OK, drama over, now I had to deal with the insurance company.  I call my English-speaking agent, who tells me that the women who deals with accidents speaks ONLY HEBREW.  Great.  We talk, we email, all in Hebrew, mind you, yay me.

The next day she writes to me to tell me that the appraiser will be at the garage "in the morning" and I should meet him there.

OK, everyone, what is your first question.  "What does 'in the morning' mean?"  I call her but of course she is already gone for the day (Israelis tend to be gone for the day after 2:00 pm).  So I call the garage! Hahahahahahaha!!  I ask the guy who answers, "When does the appraiser get in?"  He says "In the morning."  

I say, "What does that mean?  7? 8?"  He says "Something like that."

Well, now I"m not nervous at all, knowing that I might get there and either have to wait 3 hours or miss him.

Next morning I compromise and get there at 7:30.  He is not there. Here is how that goes:

"When does he get in," I ask.
"Why," asks the woman behind the counter.
"Because I have to meet with him."
"To look at my car."

At this point I'm pretty sure I'm on Candid Camera and Allen Funt is about to walk out from behind a curtain.

"Because your garage is going to fix it."
"You don't need to be here for that."
"But the insurance lady said to meet him."
"No, not you just your car. Here, fill out these forms and you can leave."

So I"m hoping that my car and the appraiser had a nice cup of tea and talked about how to make the repairs.  

As for me, I went home, having no idea whether or not my car is actually going to get fixed.  I was just so relieved to have it in a garage where it was SUPPOSED to get fixed and not have to figure out how to say things in Hebrew anymore, that I practically wept.

Two days later I was on a plane to America for two weeks.  My car is supposed to be fixed and ready for me when I return.

Please pray for my little green Suzuki.  It's all alone at the garage and speaks only English. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Not Being "Other"

I was just reading Facebook posts about people putting in for leave from their jobs for the upcoming chagim - this year practically all of October is holiday as we all know, which probably requires the most possible vacation days one would need to request for the chagim.

I vividly recall putting in for vacation around holiday time - "Well, I'll need three Thursdays and Fridays....." or, in more difficult years, "I'll need three Mondays and Tuesdays and one Wednesday.....all within 3-4 weeks...."  And after time off for Pesach, etc., practically nothing was left.

And then, when those holidays were over, how relieved I was!  The absences were done with, I could get back to my regular work schedule.  No more weird questions - what holiday is THIS one?  You do WHAT?

My life of course revolved around some other society's calendar, schedules and holidays.  I was always happy for everyone as they looked forward to their respective holidays, and always had a blank stare on my face after Yom Kippur when they asked, "So, how was your holiday??"

Since I was a teenager, I had a sense of being "other."  In someone else's universe, where we danced to someone else's songs and spoke someone else's language.  No one really understood Jewish Orthodoxy - I mean I explained things and they listened politely but I always felt very much outside of their world.  My focus was on Torah, on keeping mitzvos, and I grew up learning about our people being persecuted time after time after time, with no end.  I just could not explain this state of mind, this frame of reference, and so I didn't. They would not have understood anyway, not really.

Then we moved to Israel.  I'm not going to go into the blah blah about how this is our country, our holidays, you have heard all of that from me. But everyone here has pretty much the same frame of reference - coming out of and still enduring persecution for being Jews, our life revolving around the holidays, our streets named for Jewish heroes, Biblical and otherwise. This is mine.  This is me, it is who I am, and who my people are. Every person around me totally gets it.

The longer I am here, the greater my sense of belonging.  It is so deep, so visceral, that I don't think I have the words to define it.

But for those of you shuddering thinking of how many vacation days you're losing during the holidays, maybe just take a second to think about belonging, and what that means.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Four Years...

This week we celebrated our fourth year as Israelis.

These are things that I've gotten used to saying over the past four years:


  • I do not understand a word of what you just said
  • Oh, please pull in front of me without signalling, and while you're at it, honk at me. Several times. For no reason.
  • I love how you parked on the sidewalk, it's so cool.
  • Hi - the grocery has no eggs.  Or potatoes.
  • Oh, it is going to be yellow outside today.
  • Keep the trisim down, it is April.  We will open them again in November.
  • It is colder inside this apartment than it is outside.
  • No, I do not want the bargain you are offering at the checkout.
  • No, really I don't need after-shave.  Even two bottles.
  • All clothing here is at least twice as expensive as in the US. Whatever.
  • No, I don't know why more Americans don't move to Israel, yes it is their home too
  • Yes, I do understand why you cannot make aliyah at this time in your life
  • I still don't understand a word of what you just said
  • So I have to take this strep stick, go to the lab, wait in line, give it to them, then wait for the results to show up.  Huh. OK. 

But also this:

  • Wherever I go, my entire health portfolio is available on my phone
  • I can make appointments, change them, see test results and get perscriptions online
  • This country is strikingly, dramatically, beautiful beyond words.
And this:

  • I cannot believe we actually live here
  • It's so cool to be living here
  • We live here!
  • We are home!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"If You Go, You'll Never Come Back..."

When I was in high school, considering which college to apply to, my first choice was to go to Bar Ilan.  The thought of studying in Israel was beyond thrilling to me.  I promised my parents I'd only go for one year, then come back to a US college to complete my education.

"No, if you go, you'll never come back."

These were my mother's exact words. My father didn't say a word because I think he really wanted me to go but knew it would break my mother's heart. Because he knew, as well, that if I went I would not return to live in America. And I think he would have been okay with that, and incredibly proud.

So I didn't go.  I went to Barnard, then went to graduate school for my library degree, and in the meantime got married, yadda yadda yadda.

I ended up coming to Israel for the very first time in 1978, just after our fourth anniversary.  The country stole my heart from day one.

Well, a mere 44 years later here I am living in Israel.  MUCH better late than never, I say.

More importantly and more significantly, today is my mother's 25th yahrzeit.  She died on 15
Cheshvan/ November 3 1990.

How do you explain what it feels like to lose a mother?  Someone who is really the essence of your life, your teacher, your moral compass, your soul, your heart?  To know you'll never hear that voice or feel that hug, never be able to call and say, "Guess what the kids did today" or "What is a good recipe for..." or "Can you believe what she said???"

It hurts in a visceral way that can be understood only by those who have experienced it.

My husband lost his father one year after we married.  For 25 years I could not understand his pain, not really. When I lost my own mother, I was in awe at his having been able to function after losing his father at such a young age, just when our life was beginning, and knowing he'd never know our children.

I have to treasure the "at least's":

  • At least she saw my three children born
  • At least she had a relationship with them
  • At least she saw us be able to buy a nice home close to her (ironically one week before she was diagnosed with leukemia and one year to the date before she died)
  • At least I remember the "ketzeleh" song, as well as "Little Brown Jug" (totally inappropriate but funny) and sing it to my grandchildren.
  • At least I remember her most important lessons - "Whatever happens, keep going" and "Make the best of it"  - those two have literally gotten me through hellish times
So I guess now "if you go, you will never come back" has a sad double meaning in my heart.

To my mother, Mary Weintraub, z"l, a brilliant, funny, kind, loving woman who touched many lives. I know you'll never come back but you are inside me and I think of you every single day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How Do I Get To....?

See, now that is a question I am always asking other people, or actually I am always asking Waze.

Before I go anywhere new, I not only put the location in Waze, but I look at it on Google Maps, just to see the route beforehand, look at the "street view" so I know what to look for when I get there, and consider alternate routes.  I mean, I investigate thoroughly.

That is because I am MORTALLY TERRIFIED of being in the wrong location - um, with good reason.

Israel is not a country in which you have "fun" being lost.  It's not an adventure, it's just plain scary.

So here I was, driving along minding my own business and there's a young woman who is stopped in the middle of the street in my neighborhood.  While everyone else was honking and gesticulating around her for delaying their arrival at their destination for all of 20 seconds, I looked at her and she waved at me desperately.

So I pulled over and she asked me where a certain street was. In Hebrew.  She was Israeli.

Hahahaha!  SHE asked ME!  And she expected me to explain!  In Hebrew!  Hahahaha!

So I knew exactly where she wanted to go, but when I started explaining, after the [Hebrew] expression, "First, turn around," my words did that same funny trick they always do - they start doing acrobatics as they are about to come out of my mouth.

I literally could not speak.  So I decided, well that's not HER fault, and said, in English, "Follow me." She looked at me in shock, "Yesh lach zman?" [You have time?].  And instead of answering that taking ten minutes to show her is less embarrassing than trying to explain it with my acrobatic Hebrew, I nodded.

At one point, after about 5 minutes of driving, I gesticulated for her to pull up next to me and I asked her which direction on this road she was looking for.  Then I explained IN HEBREW what she should do.  She was very grateful and drove on.

On my way home, I repeated what I'd said to her about 100 times - was it correct?  Did I tell her to turn left when I should have told her to turn right?

What if she ends up in Ramallah???  What did I do???

I will never know if she found the place.

My only consolation is that, if you try to enter Ramallah, the army stops you and maybe a soldier will tell her how to get where she was going.

I should have just told her how to install Waze on her phone.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I Can't Just Keep Quiet

So much is going on in Israel these days - so much violence, so many human beings injured in so many ways.

So much is going on around the world these days, so much that is so bad for the Jewish people.

I am not a Jewish leader, just a person who, for family reasons, found it a good time to make aliyah. But having made aliyah, I can't just sit back and enjoy my new life - I feel this deep desire to find a way to convince other Jews to do the same.

No, this is not "aliyah snobbery," a term I find extremely distasteful, and which to me reeks of "I don't want to hear what you have to say because you make me feel guilty."

This is coming from my deep, abiding love for my fellow Jews, something my parents taught me by example. I now know what this life is like. If you haven't lived here (as opposed to a year or two in seminary/yeshiva), you don't get it.  And I WANT you to get it.

Living here is authentic, and I can't find a better word.  For religious and non-religious alike, it is the place we are supposed to be. I can't tell you how many non-religious Jews, upon hearing that we made aliyah, have said, "Of course, you came home!  Why don't other Jews do that?  What's wrong with them?  How can they live as Jews anywhere else?"

So here is my plea - just think about it.  Yes, you will have to give up some things which you've gotten used to.  But this is what you get in return - the fullness of heart every time you look at the landscape, the deep satisfaction that you, yes little old you, are actually contributing to the future of our land, and that you have done what God told us to do - live in the land He gave us.

To parents of adult children who want to make aliyah, I ask you to encourage your children. Yes, it will be hard, and yes it's far away, but how can you deny them the chance to be part of this miracle?  I know that many people make their children feel guilty for wanting to make aliyah.  But what better sign is there that you've raised your children well than that they want to contribute to the future of the Jewish people in the Jewish land?

My husband and I recently entered into a long-standing debate about whether or not the State of Israel is the "beginning sign of the Redemption."  My husband has one opinion, I have another, and of course it is an ongoing discussion among religious and non-religious thinkers.

Personally, I have no doubt in my heart of hearts that the establishment of Medinat Yisrael is some kind of milestone for us as a people. This successful, living, growing country may have its problems, but the amount of knowledge that is generated in this tiny land mass, both secular and religious, is staggering.  The amount of medical research alone has probably saved thousands if not tens of thousands of lives worldwide.

As I sit in my modern apartment in my modern city, surrounded by Jews from all over the world who have come home, as I walk in the mall and hear about 15 different languages, as I see the Facebook posts from hundreds of new olim asking for advice, I feel so sure that the act of coming home to our land is deeply, innately rooted in each of us.

That's why I can't keep quiet.  I can't just live my new life and not let you know that it is a life like no other, in a place like no other, and with a people like no other.