Sunday, November 7, 2010
1.I didn't have a refrigerator at least 20 people, even strangers, offered me help, and one of them found me one, bought and delivered it.
2. Some neighbors have a megaphone party in the middle of the night and no one complains.... since i wake up a lot during the night anyway, it's nice to hear the music.
3. We are having a butter shortage because of complications of the overly HOT summer and neither i nor the store workers knew about it when i inquired about the butter.
4. The waiter at the cafe i seldom visit, remembers me, where i sat and what i ordered a few weeks ago (just coffee and some cookies)
5. The same waiter absent-mindly takes the cos mayim (glass of water) i asked for to the table next to me, and then smiles sweetly as if i was his life long friend and he knows of course it is ok and he will bring me another one
6. The arab chef who is now my friend waves to me from the kitchen and sends out special treats for me when i go to that cafe.
7. The flower garden owner tells me i can take whatever flowers i need, he will deliver them and i can pay him whenever i have the money...
8. I recognize the autobus passengers as belonging to my neighborhood even though i don't know any of them and I feel comforted and at home
9. My neighbor, when i tell him i forgot to get my shabbat flowers and am running to get them, tells me that I am the flower.
10. I look around me and am surrounded by Israeli faces and sounds and smells and i know then that everything is ok
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Every Jerusalemite has been given an address, only to arrive at the building and find no trace of the supposed business or office...UNTIL, after circling the building several times, one spies an unused looking unmarked door in the back corner, behind some bushes, and gingerly pushes it open. Inside he will probably be met with a nondescript stairwell, seemingly leading to nowhere. No signs or names anywhere in sight. If he is uninitiated to the ways of Yerushalayim he might just give up and leave, but for the rest, well, they know the adventure of discovery is only beginning. Some unmarked door off this stairwell will produce the treasures sought: enormous state of the art business offices, sports centers, government offices , art studios, all bustling hubs of people and enterprise.
Lama, lama you ask (why, why?) ... but then you smile and realize that you wouldn't want it any other way. This is Israel, this is Yerushalayim.
I suppose to the person born in Jerusalem, what I am about to say will sound really silly, but I found what I felt was the greatest treasure of all a few weeks ago...and it's one that every kid and his parent knows about - like you know where to find the corner grocery store in your neighborhood. Except I didn't know about it.
Directions here are given not by street addresses but by landmarks. Many times over the last few years, in trying to describe a location in the moshava hagermanit, (German Colony) people would say to me, you know, it's by the swimming pool...or say matter-of-factly "you know where the swimming pool is, right?"
See more pool pictures here
Friday, October 1, 2010
....if you live in my neighborhood anyway.
I returned home from work last night around 10:30 - 11pm...and the street was bursting with sounds of music, laughter, dancing....coming from all different directions and emphasized by techno-music equipment at its best. It was a block party of sorts, not limited to my block only - except that the dancing takes place, not on the street, but in the various synagogues or beit knesset throughout the neighborhood..or in their parking lots!
After a brief moment of resting and recuping from work, and resisting giving in to the back injury i sustained that day on my job, i grabbed my camera and headed for the source of the loudest sound system ! (what amazed me was that you might expect competing music from so many sources, but it seemed to all blend together!). I found the action I was looking for...t was at the very far end of Rh. Rashbag at the Edmond Safra Beit Knesset...in their parking lot and side yard.
As I walked down Rh. Rashbag I could hear the music coming down the terrace from the shuls on Rh. ben Yoetzer...and I was tempted to divert from Rashbag to take a peek there. But.....truthfully, Rashbag is my street, and we are still courting. Any side glance or trip, no matter how innocent or curious, might be misunderstood, and i didn't want to take that chance.... so.... in the end, my loyalty to Rashbag won over any desire to go up the terrace :)
Actually, the walk down Rashbag gave me opportunity to reflect and remember my own deep thoughts of late...and to ponder the personality of the neighborhood.
Just a few days ago, the sukkot (succas) were being frantically constructed - hammering and the sounds of building were filling the air... neighbors were sneaking off with the fronds of my favorite palm trees for the tops of their sukkot, and fall was being delayed with more heat waves.
After a week of the nighttime street being lit up with the colors of the succa and the smells and sounds of the meals and parties going on in them, there was now the sound of the succot coming down..for the most part a quiet and relaxed disassembling. Children could be seen dragging the now dried out fronds to the trash bins while parents packed away the tents and the poles of the succa.
For all practical purposes the chag was over, except for that wildly happy music blaring from the synagogues, and all people dotting the mirpasot (balconies) up and down the block as families stepped out in the night air to listen and enjoy. (Technically in Israel the Chag was over, but in an effort to identify with Jews in the Diaspora for whom Simchat Torah is an extra day, this second night of hakafot or Hakafot Shniyot is always observed. (Hakafot basically means "dancing in circles with the Torah"). Because it is not an official chag, it is relaxed from all or most of the regulations of the Yom Tov.
The yard itself was filled with men and boys dancing with the Torah, with each other, clapping and singing and reciting blessings in between. Women and children, old men and women, looked on, also clapping and singing. Candy and treats were thrown over the crowd several times, sending children scampering to find the treasures now scattering across the floor. Refreshments were available for those who wanted and neighbors, like myself, were totally and happily welcomed.
It was enough to ease the pain from my day's back injury at my job, and lift my spirits...
..As i returned home the melodies of one of my favorites, Anachnu ma'aminim, filled the nighttime skies and the holiday of Sukkot / Simchat Torah 5771 was now history......tonight when i walked down Rashbag..it seemed too quiet and rather dark and dull.
View more pictures of Simcha on Rashbag
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Yom Kippur is really nice in a lot of ways...it's sooo quiet...no traffic, kids on bikes and scooters. Erev Yom Kippur, after the meal before the Fast, the City becomes still. Really still. It's quite amazing the difference. Many people go to the synagogue where the Kol Nidre and other traditional liturgy is sung. The tradition for those who observe is to dress in white (symbolizing purity and forgiveness (cleansed white as snow). With no autos or buses, the streets fill with people, many whom are dressed in white.
Last night I walked through my neighborhood and over to Rh.Yochanan ben Zakai where the street was filled with people, strolling in the quiet evening - children on bikes and scooters zipping between individuals, just missing the baby carriages. It was almost midnight and the atmosphere was peaceful and happy and full of community. And that what Yom Kippur should be - a happy day...after all, we are forgiven and given another chance, nachon? !!
I don't attend the services, but walking through the neighborhood, which is filled with many many beit knesset, one can hear the liturgy...and everyone in the neighborhood, whether you have gone to the services or not, drops by the beit knesset at the end of the day - to hear the blowing of the shofar. The shofar mystically signifies that the Divine Presence, which has been near during the 10 days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, is now leaving. Practically speaking, the shofar signifies the end of the Fast, the end of the 10 days and Yom Kippur, and the Book of Life is now sealed for another year.
Kind of nice..... and now we could go eat!!
Before the evening finished, the sounds and sights of succah building (for upcoming Sukkot) were echoing through the streets...even, to my great dismay, someone cutting all the fronds of a beautiful palm tree near my terrace steps...for their succa of course.
Ah, yes, Yom Kippur barely closed it's door and we are back to this, huh? ....taking liberty with the law...
Back to reality.....and traffic.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Return to Standard Time Causes Uproar
by Maayana Miskin
While Israel switches to Daylight Savings Time at the same time as much of the Western world, the return to Standard Time in winter is timed to occur before the holiday of Yom Kippur, no matter when the holiday falls on the secular calendar. This year, the holidays are earlier than usual, meaning Israelis are planning to “fall back” to Standard Time in early September – several weeks before most of the world.
......By Sunday evening, nearly 115,000 people had signed an online petition created by high-tech professional Shimon Eckhaus calling to simply ignore the switch back to Standard Time. “Schools, businesses, public institutions, families, everyone – please just keep acting as if the clock didn't move,” the petition read.
Read more at http://www.israelnationalnews.
Really, if this isn't hilarious, well, i don't know what is then....
Let's see, in addition to being asked if I keep kosher, or am shomer shabas, i will be asked if i observe standard time or daylight time. 115,000 people said they would just ignore the law of falling back to standard time...leaving part of the country on one time schedule and others on another...except these aren't time zones, and you don't know who's on what!!..
Ammm, that doctor's appointment I made for late September - will my doctor's office be on my time or their time? I'm in a coffee shop and I look up at the clock...is it my time or their time? Will Bezek lower the evening calling rates on my time schedule or theirs? Will the autobus stop running now? or an hour from now?
Look, you wanna live in a country where everyone like a bunch of lemmings, just follows the same clocks within each time zone? Come on... boorrring.....:)
Sunday, August 15, 2010
A friend wrote and asked..."...it isn't even legal to pound and hammer at 5:45, is it?"
My first thought was she was trying to be funny (we have a joke about missing each other's jokes)...and i laughed, cause it was indeed funny...but then i realized......omg...i've come a long way, baby, because legal never entered my mind. i vaguely remember asking that question about something once in the early years of living here, but ..... to be honest, it never occurred to me to ask that question now...nor does it to most Israelis.
It's not that we are lawless!! Far from it...and yes, one could make a lot of jokes about Israeli culture and society but the truth is that our neck of the woods is in the Middle East... nuuu?...... so, we have different ways of looking at things...and our own rules..which by the way, are very strictly followed... sort of.
...let me explain.
You see, there is a huge difference between "legal" and practical reality...or between "legal" and cultural expectation. For example, it is probably not legal to make a u-turn in the middle of a busy street in the middle of busy traffic, but the cultural expectation is that if you have to turn around and go the other direction, you just do it. Lama lo? (why not?). It is simply expected and the cultural expectation becomes the practical reality (at least for the u-turner). If you SEE the driver turning around it almost never elicits honking...other drivers simply wait. HOWEVER, if you are down the line and can't SEE why traffic is held up, well, that's a different story.
And the pounding and hammering at 5:45 am.? Ya, i suppose it is illegal, but the practical reality is: 1) it was erev Shabbat morning, and my neighbors had to finish as much as possible before Shabbat came in and 2) it is so @#$%^ hot here right now, that 5:45 am was possibly the only time to do the work without heat stroke. so...that was it!...a bit annoying, but...totally understandable. Practical Reality.
It goes deeper than that. These examples might be unpleasant or irritating..and for two different reasons, but let me give you some other examples...of a happy sort.
It's probably illegal for a taxi driver to grab a passenger from the street, race through traffic at high speed and purposely cut off or block the bus that is a few blocks down the road so that the passenger in the taxi could board the bus. But the sweet Israeli reality is that the taxi driver probably couldn't handle one more rude bus driver leaving a passenger in the dust at the curb, so he took matters into his own hands, and assisted a frustrated bus rider to get to his destination.
Or...it must be illegal for the Breslov boys to stop their van in the middle of traffic and with music blaring, jump out of the van dancing with hasidic joy...But the practical reality is that whenever and wherever the Breslov boys dance with their music, the energy of the street where they are dancing becomes positively charged and hearts become lighter (and more holy they would probably say)....and there's no way to define this in legal vs. illegal terms.
On the other side of the coin, it is perfectly LEGAL to drive on Yom Kipper, the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar...but almost no one does. Jewish expectations!
Sometimes this practical reality is difficult...especially at the national level. For instance, it is perfectly LEGAL for us to defend ourselves against hostile aggression, (e.g. Cast Lead war in Gaza, or more recently the flotilla attempt to break our LEGAL defensive blockade) but the reality is that for some reason our leaders think they must bow to (mistaken) world opinion, and do all kinds of things which actually endanger us, and certainly endanger our soldiers.
Or even more tragically, was it legal or illegal or simply immoral to encourage our People to settle the areas of Gaza (Gush Katif) and make the desert bloom, and then destroy all the homes, farms and communities they built, along with their livelihoods and lives, and then give the Land to terrorists who want to destroy us? [which btw, caused the necessity for the Cast Lead war, and allowed the flotilla aggression!] While they may have passed a "law" saying it could be done, the not-so-practical reality (in this case) was that our government wasn't strong enough to stand for morality and wisdom, let alone compassion. But that's the government and that's another story.
At the personal level, life on the street, this adherence to Rules of Reality, and Cultural Expectation as opposed to legal or illegal can be frustrating or rewarding...annoying or charming...funny or maddening...or all of the above.
One thing is certain. Once you've lived this way.....it's mamash difficult to think of living any other way. It just wouldn't make sense.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
This was his response to the Question. "In Hebrew, whats the difference between savlanut & rega?"
"One of the first Hebrew words to enter the traveller's vocabulary was savlanut.
It means "patience", but it reflects a lifestyle. Its message was: 'You do things your way in your country, but here, we have our own way of doing things, at our own tempo, in our own time. You are here now, respect what you see before you.
This is a good one explaining REGA !!
WAIT, DID YOU JUST REGA ME?
You ordered coffee twenty minutes ago.
There is a break in your conversation, and you realize that it just doesn't take that long to make a cup of coffee, and you begin to wonder if perhaps your waiter has forgotten your order.
"I'll go check on things," you tell the other people at the table.
You walk over towards the counter, and see that your waiter is speaking on his cell phone. Normally, this disrespectful lack of customer service would irritate you. But today you are in a good mood, and in no rush, and so you give a friendly smile, to make sure that it is clear you need attention, and begin to wait patiently for your waiter to get off the phone.
You expected that this would happen quickly, imagining that your waiter, feeling embarrassed, would tell the person on the other end of the line, "I have to go, I am at work", and then promptly apologise, and see what he could do to be of service.
Instead he turns his back, and continues his conversation, about something that really doesn't sound urgent. Now you start to get annoyed. This is rude.
"Excuse me!" you say loudly.
And then it happens. Time slows down.
The waiter curls his right hand, so that the tips of each finger are brought together with the tip of his thumb, raises his hand into the air, and with an out stretched arm, shakes the gesture a couple of times, clearly bothered that you have disturbed him.
You my friend have been given the REGA.
What does it mean? Literally, the word "rega" translates into "moment", but a more accurate translation, in this context, is "wait", as in "wait a moment".
Israelis use this hand gesture quite a bit. It isn't always rude, although it is never quite polite. And it can be done with a full range of nuanced meaning and individual style.
The Angry Rega- Thrown up quickly in the face of another, and shook violently.
The Feminine Rega- Done using only the index finger, middle finger, and thumb.
The Apologetic Rega- In which the hand is shaken quickly, as if to say, "Hold on, I will be ready for you in one second."
The F-You Rega- The arm is out right and stiff, and the hand is raised quickly in the air, and then abruptly halted, while the person giving it looks away, in the classic, "talk to the hand" pose.
An Israeli space shuttle is getting ready to launch. A booming deep voice, amplified loudly through the speakers, prepares the large crowd, who are waiting silently filled with anticipation.
COUNT DOWN IN.... TEN MINUS... NINE...EIGHT...SEVEN...SIX...FIVE...FOUR… REGA, REGA...."
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Every day occurrences in Israel can be either frustrating or endearing - or both - depending on your mood or how many such "occurrences" you have endured in any given day. On a sweet day, one smiles, shakes his head and mutters "...only in Israel".
However much communication in Israel is done without words - a look, a shrug, a gesture, (yes that one too), so when things are over the top maddening and totally inexplicable, we say nothing, but with a half amused, half resigned look on our faces, we simply shrug that characteristically Israeli shrug accompanied by a palm up wave of the hand. The message ? "Hey, i can't explain it either, but this is Israel...get used to it!!" Even then, the prickliest sabra (a tenacious cactus that is tough on the outside but soft on the inside and a commonly used word for those born here) will still have a "but I love it anyway" look on his face.
Thousands of books and blogs have been written about "only in - or hey, this is - Israel", mine numbered among them. But today, to lighten your heart a bit, here are a couple of recent endearing stories that I experienced ...of the "only in Israel" variety.
STORY #1 JERUSALEM AUTOBUS #22
Israeli bus stories are some of the most hilarious of Israeli stories. I wrote about one awhile back where some woman in the seat across from me kept screaming that I looked like a comedienne (Nov 25, 2008).
My favorite, though, of my own personal autobus experiences remains the one where a young mother handed her baby to an old man on the sidewalk while she loaded the stroller onto the bus. This is common practice here, we are all mishpacha (family) and both men and women often give their babies to someone to hold while they pay the fare, position the stroller, seat the older children.
In this case it was to someone on the sidewalk BEFORE boarding the bus. Unfortunately, once the woman was on the bus with the stroller, the bus driver slammed the back door shut, and took off - leaving the old man on the sidewalk with the baby. Needless to say the entire busload of people became hysterical, screaming, REGA NAHAG, REGA NAHAG !!! (WAIT DRIVER!!!) It was a couple of blocks before mother and baby were reunited, amidst the cheering and laughing of a very nervous group of passengers. In fact, we all broke into applause at the happy ending, much like we do when the airplane sets down in Israel.
But I digress. My recent "this is Israel" experience happened as I was coming home from work the other night. I was waiting for my 2nd bus in the midst of freezing cold and dumps of rain and hail in downtown Jerusalem. As it pulled up and I boarded, I encountered a group of 10-12 yeshiva boys gathered in the front of the bus, engaged in animated conversation with each other and the bus driver. It was a bit of a push (literally) to get to a seat (applying the body techniques I learned in "Jerusalem Bus Riding 101"), but I made it to one half way down the aisle.
The animated conversation up front began to take on a different tone, when one of the boys turned to the passengers and nervously pleaded (in English).."does anyone know the rooot?" (Now I'm originally from the American midwest, and anyone knows you pronounce that "rowt!", nachon?) I waited for someone to respond and when no one did (perhaps the English???) I spoke up and said yes I did, we were on King George and the bus would soon turn right at the Prima Kings Hotel. Gratefully he relayed the information to the group, and I noticed that one or two of the boys continued to talk with the bus driver.
Seemingly a bit panicked the boys continued to ask me every few seconds, now what? what next? Finally I said to them, "Look I can continue to give you the route of the bus, but if you want me to help you find what you are looking for, you will need to tell me where you are going." "Oh, no," they replied. "WE know where to get off, it's the BUS DRIVER - HE doesn't know the route or where to turn next!!"
OMG! I laughed and moved to join the yeshiva boys at the front. Turn by turn we directed the driver - my English to the boys, translated to Hebrew by one or two of them to the driver. My stop was just before their intended destination, somewhere on Shay Agnon, and something about a game they had to win that night!! I have no idea whether or not the bus arrived at the Talpiot garage.
Just before I got off, one of the boys turned to me, with a big grin on his face and said "I guess it's only in Israel that this could happen, right?" I smiled back and said, yes, for sure...only in Israel!"
STORY #2 - SNOW IN JERUSALEM
I was to meet my friend Yarden for coffee one morning last week...he has omg offered to help me with my hebrew. (and boy do i need help with my hebrew!!) But the weather wasn't so good, I had a cold and so when we spoke that morning we agreed to postpone it til the following week. The reason Yarden gave me however, was that he had had no sleep and was really exhausted.
So when I happened to see him later in the day I inquired about his sleepless night, was it something bad, or something fun, like a loong party? He looked at me and said, "You know it was supposed to snow last night, right?" Yes, of course, everyone was kind of looking for that snow (which didn't happen by the way). "Well, he continued "When I thought it might snow, I was up and down all night...I was too excited to sleep."
I mean, how utterly charming! My only in Israel heart melted.
His sentence reminded me of one of my favorite commercials when I lived in America. The "I'm too excited to sleep" little boy and his daddy before going to the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland. It was so popular it ran for a few years.
But what Yarden's statement really said to me was to remind me once again, that underneath the chutzpa and toughness, there is a sweet simplicity and almost innocence here that is uniquely Israeli. It is hard to describe. It's sort of the mush of the sabra...the soft inner part.
When I say innocence I don't mean naivete. It is an unpretentiousness and the ability to still to be a bit in awe of the simple things of life - snow in Jerusalem, a string bridge that seems to float in the air, your mom's kubbe.
There is more "magic", if you will, in Jerusalem than in Disneyland, with all due respect to Mr. Disney's legacy. And the magic we have here is of a different kind and our presence here is for a different purpose.
Things happen here that we can't explain, both good and bad and we are always in survival mode. Sometimes we are too on edge to sleep, too cold to sleep, in too much pain to sleep. Perhaps because of that, and because we know only too well how fragile life is, when the simple things of life do occur, we embrace them and marvel at them....and are"too excited to sleep".
As the sounds of war grow increasingly louder once more, this is a good thing to remember.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I came out of my rabbit hole just in time to see the beautiful blooming of the shkedia (almond tree). The shkedia amazingly awakens just before Tu b'shvat, (Jewish New Year of the Trees) regardless of the timing on the calendar.......and brings hope in our darkest hours.......first glance... from the darkness of winter into spring...second glance, symbolically deeper for Israel...always facing our darkest hours, that we will survive...
V’shemesh paz zorachat .....
The Shkedia is blooming
The golden sun is shining....
Words from a song sung by Israeli children when tu b'shvat approaches and the tree reminds us.......of promises made .....
Now that i've seen it though, i guess i will go back into my rabbit hole......and hope from down there......... besides, as trees they look a little bedraggled this year...but one by one the blossoms are still fresh and beautiful.
So I guess, if a tiny cloud in the distance was enough for Eliyahu, even a single shaked blossom should be enough for me, nachon?
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Anachnu ma'aminim bnei ma'aminim
ve'ein lanu al mi lehisha'en
ela ela al avinu
ezram umeginam hu
We are believers, children of believers
and we have none (else) to rely on
but but on our father
our father in heaven
believed in The Lord
for He is your aid and your protection