Thursday, September 3, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #27 - The little things.

My gardener looks like Noach. What we imagine Noach would look like, anyway. He’s got a long white beard and he wears a faded khaki Gilligan hat. He wears a white button-down oxford and faded khaki pants. He’s soft spoken and measured. He seems to commune with the garden when he comes. Which is why we hired him. That and a little bit the Noach thing. He works every day on the garden. We expected him to have a crew of foreign labor as his helpers. He does not. He has a Persian yeshivah boy as his sole helper. Bob loves to hang out and talk with them while he drinks his morning coffee and they tend to the garden.

The drive home from OT is magnificent – the kids go to a center in the Kfar Etzion kibbutz, about 4 minutes south of Efrat, between Alon Shvut and Bat Ayin. The Judean Hills provide a powerful contrast to the drive home from Omni on Coney Island Avenue…

A lady was holding her one year old and trying to take out her wallet to pay for her groceries at the same time. The baby started to cry and she quickly pulled a bite sized halva bar out of her purse and gave him a piece. He ate it and stopped crying. Israeli babies cry for halva.

Today the pharmacist saw me looking at a weekly organizer calendar on the counter while he was ringing me up. He asked if I wanted one, free. I said no, a little too quickly and a lot too forcefully. It took him by surprise. I had to explain myself. I have been trying to wrap my brain around the Israeli calendar since the kids started school and signed up for OT, taekwando, English lessons and tutoring. There are the Hebrew days of the week to begin with. Yom Rishon, Yom Sheni, Yom Shelishi, Yom Reviyee, Yom Hamishee, Yom Sheeshee and Yom Shabbat. We all know this. We learn it in yeshivah, in Hebrew School, when we visit Israel as teenagers, whenever. Fine. Did you know the Hebrew days also have numbers? Which in Hebrew are actually letters? Alef is the first day. Yom Rishon. Sounds simple, right. Except that my kids have taekwondo on Bet and Hey. So first I have to translate Bet and Hey to 2 and 5. Then I have to think what the 2nd and 5th days are and what they correspond to in English. All good, right. Then I open the calendar to pencil them in for taekwondo on Mondays and Thursdays (I hope!) and what do you know. Hebrew is written right to left. Why should the Israeli calendar be any different. It took me an hour to get my kids’ schedule into my new (backwards) calendar and I am just waiting to miss an appointment because I thought it was on Tuesday but really it was on Friday.

It’s funny – Bob uses this algorithm whereby he sets the independence date of the modern state of Israel to the independence date of the United States and thus concludes Israel is up to about 1776 plus 61 years – 1837. Conclusion – we’re living in the wild wild west.

Guns, guns everywhere.
Just like political correctness is not a sensitive issue here, neither is gun control. In fact, I doubt there is even a Hebrew word for gun control. Until I was 17 and traveled to Israel I’d never seen a gun. Now I am pressed against them in grocery lines! Just to be clear, Israeli’s carrying guns do so with permits acquired under strict scrutiny. There is no celebratory gunfire at an Israeli wedding.

I love seeing who is carrying a gun. It’s usually someone I’d be scared to see with a gun if I saw them in New York. When we were at the beach in Tel Aviv I saw these guys who looked like real beach bums – no shirts, hairy chests, baggy swim shorts – laying down on a picnic table – one on each bench and one over the top. Then I saw their IDF issued M-16’s and realized those beach bums were soldiers on break and my whole perception of them changed. Then there was the guy from Latrun bending over to help his daughter with something, his undershorts showing because his jeans were so low. And around the belt loop of those low jeans – a holster. With a gun. There’s the lifeguard at the pool in Jerusalem. He walks around, helping ladies who need baby wipes and little girls who lose their bracelets in the pool. And he carries a gun. Some more unexpected armed citizens: our local weather man, my landlord, several of my neighbors including a yeshivah boy from Brooklyn (all grown up), and my painter. Motorcyclists seem to carry guns disproportionately but then, it’s probably just that I can see their waistline while they are driving as opposed to all those Citroen, Peugeot, and Mazda drivers. The kids’ crossing guards are armed (the grown up ones, not the kids wearing safety vests, carrying long sticks with stop signs). In the toy store today I noticed water guns of the variety that would have Wal-Mart executives scrambling to call their in-house counsel – one looked exactly like the gun our security station attendant carries. Another looked pretty much exactly like a rifle. The only giveaway on either – a little orange cap on the tip, presumably where the water comes out.

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