Friday, December 28, 2012

Driving - I Figured it Out

After driving here every day for nearly a year, I have figured something out.   I'm sure that traffic specialists all over the world will be calling me to offer congratulations.

It's the army training.

They all think they are driving tanks.

That has to be it, it makes so much sense!

In a tank:
1. You need to take up many parking spaces, because one is certainly not enough.

2. You need to drive on both sides of the street, because one lane is certainly not enough.

3. You don't need to yield to ANYONE, because that would mean your ultimate defeat in battle.

4. Re #3 above you are ALWAYS in a battle.

5. If the person in front of you is not moving fast enough, it might mean your ultimate demise, so you need to hurry them on by honking at them.  I don't know if tanks have horns, but I will find out.

6. You can park at any angle you want, because after all this is war and you are in a hurry to defeat the enemy.

7. Re #6 above, the enemy is everyone else on the road.

Glad I figured that out.  Now all I have to do is go get some tank training. 

Please send my research prize in cash.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Almost a Year

In another few weeks we reach our first aliyahversary.  For those of you out there thinking of aliyah, I can now tell you that after the first year was the question?

We have a lovely apartment, new friends, work, a car, and of course two of our children living nearby.  We still can't believe we are here.

I mean that in the butterflies and violin music way.

I also mean that in the oh my goodness what have we done way.

We are definitely still in shock. 

Things we never thought we'd be doing at this point in our lives:
  • Secretarial work (me)
  • Working at home and doing everything together. every. single. day
  • Sweeping my house every day like the Israeli version of Cinderella
  • Checking the bank account every day to make sure we have enough money
  • Turning the heat and a/c off to save money
  • Getting rid of cable!  To save money!  Horrors!
  • Spending 1/2 hour before a doctor visit to make sure I have the vocabulary right
  • Listening to little children and wishing I could speak as well as they do
  • Going to the Post Office to pick up any piece of mail over 6 inches in size
  • Avoiding buying anything in the supermarket that requires that I speak to someone behind the counter
  • Not being able to express myself how and when I want to, in any situation, when Hebrew is required

But then there are other things that we never imagined we'd be able to do:
  • See the walls of the Old City every few weeks
  • See five of my grandkids whenever I want to
  • See two of my kids whenever I want to
  • See a huge mix of Jews that are completely and utterly different from anything I've ever known
  • See archaeological sites pop up on roadsides where construction crews have found remnants of ancient Jewish buildings
  • Experience an entire country getting into Jewish holidays a month beforehand
  • Look out every day onto the Judean hills and views of the towns outside Jerusalem
  • Hold a conversation in Hebrew - a short, simple one, but still
So all in all we feel very fortunate to be home, and b"H things have gone very well. We would not want to be anywhere else, when all is said and done, and while we miss our friends and family, we do not miss living outside of Israel. 

This is where we want to be.  Nothing has ever felt so right. 

OK, gotta go sweep. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ben Yehuda

First of all, kudos and kappayim and kol hakavod to Eliezer Ben Yehuda the man.  We learned about him in Ulpan and of course everyone (?) knows that he is the father of modern Hebrew.  He was determined that people living in this country speak Hebrew as a daily language, and fought against the natural inclination of the new immigrants to revert to Yiddish, Polish, Russian, or whatever the language was of their native homeland. There are all kinds of stories and songs about him (yes, we actually song the Eliezer Ben Yehuda song in Ulpan).

Now, let's move on to Ben Yehuda the street mall in Jerusalem. 

When you are here as a visitor, one of the things on your MUST list is a stroll up and down Ben Yehuda.  You buy a couple of tchotchkes, you shop for a kippah, eat a falafel, but mainly you people watch.  You soak in the atmosphere of Israel - the seminary / yeshiva students enjoying their year here, the families, the soldiers, the variety of religious garb, the people begging for money, the musicians, and it is a critical part of what you remember when you go home.  When you walk into the stores, your wallet just magically opens and your shekels and credit cards jump out - very few people walk away from a stroll down Ben Yehuda without buying something.

Last Motzei Shabbat my husband and I, for the first time in our almost one year here, went to Ben Yehuda.  A couple of thoughts occurred to me:

1. When you live here your wallet stays closed.  Tightly. 
We walked into an art gallery where we once, during a visit, purchased a painting that we fell in love with.  Sure enough, the artist had even more pieces there.  We fell in love with them too. 

And then, guess what happened?  Like magic, we jumped into tourist mode, and our wallets were throwing themselves against our pockets trying to get out and give the gallery owner all of our money.  "No, wallets," we said, "stay where you are."  Reluctantly, our wallets quieted down. But it was amazing how quickly we had turned back into that mode - oh!  we are here in Israel, we must buy something to remember our trip!  I looked my husband straight in the eye and said, "We can't do this anymore.  Not for a while, anyway."  When his vision cleared, he agreed with me.

2. When you are not a visitor, you kind of feel sorry for them.
Walking on Ben Yehuda, watching the tourists, I remembered all of our trips and how sad I'd feel when we knew we were about to go back.  You know the feeling?  Wow, it is so special and holy here, it feels so right, and now we have to go back home and leave all of this.  I know how that feels. At the same time as it made me feel awesome knowing that we didn't have to leave, I empathized with visitors because I know how it feels when that plane takes off from Ben Gurion and you leave Israel behind.

3.  I don't like walking on wet, uneven stones.
Just saying.  I always feel like I'm about to keel over walking on those pavements.

4. Israel needs more visitors.
When all is said and done, there are not nearly enough people visiting Israel. When tourists come, everyone wins, especially the tourists.

5. People can and will eat outside in the cold.
It was really chilly (OK, not the 30 degrees of Baltimore, but pretty cold for here - 50!) and people were sitting OUTSIDE eating ICE CREAM!  Seriously?

6.  And the most important item - I am no longer completely and utterly terrified of driving to and in Jerusalem!
Thank goodness for Waze, which is not foolproof but pretty good ("In 400 meters, at the roundabout, stay straight, and then, at the roundabout, take the second exit"). 


Monday, December 10, 2012

Boys and Tanks

Funny how programmed we are.  When you drive around in Israel before Chanukah, the streets are decorated with bright shiny decorations.  My first gut reaction is to assume they are trees and wreaths.  Only after that millisecond do I remember that there are no such decorations here.  The streets are lit up with menorahs and Jewish stars.  It's thrilling when that happens.

So, boys and tanks.  Yesterday I took grandsons Tani (age "5 almost 6")  and Amichai (age "almost 4") Klein to the Tank Corps Museum near Latrun.  It's just about the coolest place ever.  There are probably 50 tanks there (yes, real ones) and kids can climb on them, sit on the huge guns, and basically have the best game of soldier ever.  The boys were thrilled when they found out:

Tani: Wait....REAL tanks?
Me:  Yes, real ones.
Tani: Wait...we can go on them?
Me:  Yes, you can climb on them.
Tani:  And they are working?
Me:, they are not working.
Tani (disappointed): So, they are not real.
Me:  They ARE real, just not working right now.
Tani (a big skeptical): Oh, OK.

Anyway, the minute they got there and saw the REAL tanks, they were beyond excited.  There is a tank in the parking lot, just sitting there behind some bushes (maybe it was a bad tank and it was punished), and when they saw that, they thought THAT was the tank they had come to see, and rushed over to look.  I had to convince them that there were more tanks than that.

Their eyes practically bugged out of their heads when they saw how many tanks there were to visit.  They immediately ran up the steps of the first one and got into "milchama" (war) mode.  For some reason only known to brothers, Amichai immediately started calling Tani "Captain" and did that for the entire visit.

Best conversation of the day:
Tani: Chayal (soldier!) we need more bombs!
Amicha: Yes, Captain!
Amichai: Oh, Captain! I forgot! Eema said we can't have bombs!

There were tables set up for kids' craft activities.  Tani, who loves art, was excited and ended up making an origami tank - very cool.  Amichai was shy and wouldn't even color, but eventually the soldier who was manning the craft table made him (sort of) smile by giving him a picture she signed, "To Amichai, Chanukah Sameach!" and signed her name.

They were playing Chanukah music and the boys happily chimed in (loudly, completely oblivious to everything else going on, making a lot of people smile at them) with all of the Israeli Chanukah songs which I do not know yet.  I was very proud. 

After the craft activity, the soldiers told us that the movie was starting in the indoor part of the museum.  The boys were excited to see a movie about shooting.  Unfortunately for them, it was a movie about the history of the area, and of the soldiers who died there.  It was very moving and interesting, but please if you are almost 6 and almost 4 you do NOT want to hear people talking, you want shooting.  So we left.  But first we saw a group of soldiers sitting on the floor of the museum, clearly getting a history lesson.  You see that a lot here - at almost every museum or historical place you go - groups of soldiers receiving a lecture. The soldiers apparently receive a lot of education about the country during their training.

OK, back to the tanks.

Back outside, we saw two older men walking around, and one had a book in his hand, opened to a certain page.  He came up to me with tears in his eyes and showed me the page.  "Zeh ani," (This is me) he said and pointed to a picture of a young soldier on a tank.  He explained that he and his friend had been in the Tank Corps during the Yom Kippur War. Both looked so proud. I didn't know what to say.  I put my hand on his arm and said, "Kol Hakavod" because what I wanted to say wouldn't come out in English, much less in Hebrew.

After more tank climbing it was time to go, but first there was the required visit to the Gift Shop! After the purchase of several poorly made plastic tanks, we were outta there.

On the way back, they were chattering about the visit and had but one criticism of Bubby's tour guide skills, "Bubby, next time we will come with Abba because he knows how to climb on things and you just stand there."

Last thought - and how can one help this, living here - my thoughts went from the sight of the veterans to the faces of the beautiful young chayalim who were working and learning there, to my little grandsons.  Three generations of chayalim. 

My heart was at once wrenched with worry and bursting with love and pride.  And that, in a nutshell, is what it is like to live here.