Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Package

Earlier i wrote about the adventures and challenges of finding addresses, people and places in Jerusalem (Hidden in Jerusalem).  One might think it is simply a frustration we could do without. 

The truth of the matter lies deeper.

Jerusalem -  Israel itself - is a place where one comes, not necessarily to enjoy the finer things of life - though they do exist here - but rather to be challenged to deal with the complexities of it.

I would go even further.  If you are a Jew who has made aliyah like myself, you are here for one reason... and that is to come face to face with the issues for which you were brought to earth. Ha! You thought it was simply that one loves and longs for Israel, and that Israel is the only place on earth where you feel at home.

The reality is that the complexity of finding addresses and people and places is a tiny reflection of the REAL life here in Yerushalayim, and the REAL life here in Yerushalayim (and all of Israel) is a TEST. It is frustrating, challenging, confusing, maddening, difficult, mishugana...  and deep, sweet, meaningful, warm, rewarding, comforting and brings shalom.

When "the search" occurs it is only about this question: ..will you persevere until you overcome and find the treasure, or will you give up halfway through?  This is why one must have the proper attitude towards speeds the goal of learning to overcome. in light of the above, i share the following story.

The Package

It doesn't matter that there was a 5 month balygan in the US before the package ever hit the tarmac at Ben Gurion, or that during those 5 months I kept bugging Avi, the postmaster at my neighborhood doar (post office) to look in the back and under the table for my missing package.  Here, if the personnel is in a good mood, they will let you come into the package area behind the locked doors, and look for yourself.  For 5 months I looked - no package, until I finally wore out my welcome...and so i waited and waited for the "slip" at my mailbox inviting me to pick up my package.

When the slip finally came, it wasn't a slip at all, but a letter, in Hebrew, addressed to me in Hebrew, even though the package was written entirely in English.  It was delivered "next door" not to my mailbox and I discovered it by accident...and that's another story. Hmmm......immediately i knew this would not be routine..

The letter told me to come to a "special" Post Office in another neighborhood, 2 buses away....because i owed customs on the package.  Now, I knew that i didn't owe customs on the package, or more correctly should NOT owe customs on the package, so I called the telephone number listed and they explained to me I had to come there to pay the customs, to come to the G'vat Shaul Post Office and gave me directions...  Ha - I wish!!

Luckily a friend gave me a lift to the Post Office, I saw a door marked "customs" but as I approached the door I found it locked. Nevertheless, I spotted a guard and another entrance nearby and went over there. As I entered I asked the guard how to get to the "customs" and was greeted with a sweet Israeli shrug. It only took asking two people "eifo customs?" before i found my way down a hallway and through a door where i could see a counter clearly dealing with such matters.

Finally, I thought, as I waited my turn. When at last I approached the counter with my letter, the woman took it, looked up and  began screaming at me - in Hebrew of course. Not knowing exactly what she was saying, I was taken by surprise, and asked Ma? Lama? (what? why?)??? Waving the letter and motioning first out the door and then the opposite direction, out the window, I gathered that the package wasn't here, in this office.  Eventually another worker who knew English came over and read the letter and told me no, the package wasn't here but he could tell me sort of how to get there, and proceeded with very long complicated some other building not on this block.  (#$%^#)  When I questioned the customs (after all I was STANDING IN THE CUSTOMS OFFICE), he also shrugged, and laughed and must understand that everything in Israel costs money... (..and does)

So...i toddled off out the door, down the sidewalk, through the parking lot, and...w**...there was nothing at all looking anything like a post office building ANYWHERE IN SIGHT.

Spotting a restaurant in the bottom of the Post Office and just off the parking lot, I decided to inquire within.  I'm telling you if it hadn't been for these guys, I would still be looking. I entered, asking, with my letter if they could tell me where this Post Office address was.  The first 2 men took me back to one of the chefs, who pointed with equally long directions the left. I know i looked frustrated, so one of them took me outside, pointed to a building quite a ways away, asked me if i saw this tiny barred window towards the back.. "Yes", I said "I see the window."  "Well", he said "if you go around some stairs that are nearby, up into the building from the back...down a hallway, and down some steps, you will be close."  OMG, you've got to be kidding.

But I did. I followed his directions to the T.  When i finally got INTO the building, there was only one unlit, very dark stairwell leading to a basement.  Hmmm...not sure i wanted to go down there....and I heard workers at the bottom...was it safe?  A little nervously i descended the stairs, stepping over the torn up concrete, and almost tripping over some pipes..and found myself in another hallway, with some open docks.  

Stopping at the first door on the right, again with my letter in hand, I was waved further down the now open series of docks.  Finally I found a large receiving area, and a desk of sorts with a man behind it, looking very bored.  Handing him my letter, he nodded, and began the search for my package.  Except he couldn't find it.  After several long minutes he remembered there were some in a pile on the floor ..and ahhh, there it was! 

After 5-1/2 months, omg, there was my package.....I could finally have it. ...but...not yet.  My customs he said was 200 nis.  MAAAAAAAA? (WHAAAAT?)  More than - or about equal to - the worth of the package itself.  I didn't have 200 could that be when i  was quite sure i didn't really owe anything?

What he said next caused me to lose it entirely.... moving the package away from me he declared you will have to go to Tel Aviv to pay the customs and you can't have the package until the customs are paid.  In my mind i grabbed him by the collar, shoved my face into his face, and screamed I am not leaving here without this package, and I am NOT GOING TO TEL AVIV TO PAY THE CUSTOMS. reality i didn't grab him by the collar, only screaming that i am NOT going to Tel Aviv to the pay the customs... and i burst into tears.

I guess he had never seen anyone do that he did the only thing a certain type of Israeli would do....he looked totally disinterested and...shrugged, turning to the next customer in line. 

I tried to explain my frustration to him and finally decided I would take my never-to-be- used, for emergencies only, credit card....(it turned out the Tel Aviv trip was only if I wanted to CONTEST THE CUSTOMS), except....he would only take cash.  I had no cash. Sitting in front of me was this package I waited for so long, I could touch it, but I couldn't have it.  He was going to save it only 2 days before returning it, but after I pleaded with him, he agreed to hold it a week so I could return with the cash, and then he tossed it on the heap on the floor again...turning finally to the next in line. 

Defeated, I left the dock and returned to the street above, tears of frustration rolling down my face.  It was then that I decided I could NOT leave G'vat Shaul (the neighborhood) WITHOUT THAT PACKAGE.  If I had to rob a bank, I was going home with that I did just that...I robbed my own bank account, where my rent money was gathering, and withdrew the 200 shekels, marched back to the surprised dock worker, shoved the 200 nis in his face, told him someone came and loaned it to me, and left with my package...when he finally found it again......

It's not that I cry that often....but maybe it was good for me...tears are sometimes necessary when it gets too frustrating, challenging, confusing, maddening, difficult, mishugana..........

....and yes, the package was worth was something my daughter sent me.  :)

oh..btw...Avi told me later I should never had had to pay anything...that the whole thing was wrong.   I knew that.   Guess maybe I failed that part of the test.  :)  Still a friar after all these years. !

Friday, March 18, 2011


For those who didn't know..the Fogel Family, so brutally murdered last Shabat, were expelled from Netzarim Gush Katif in 2005.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Shkedia Gives Way to Spring

It's been one of those weeks from hell and i thought i might share a story or two..but they are too numerous and too sad/ instead will try to cheer us all up (me included) with a few pictures of the shkedia in my back yards...and the lovely branch my neighbor (you know the one who says I am the flower) cut for me so i could have the fragrant blossom and beauty in my dira..