Monday, August 30, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #164 – Reasons to make aliya? More like added bonuses once you’ve decided to make the move. I mean the little things.

You can recapture your youth listening to your high school favorites proudly broadcast as the best of today’s music on Galgalatz (Talking Heads, U2, Eric Clapton).

Not only will your short list of dream cars include the Citroen Jumpy but you will also know the difference between the Jumpy and the Peugeot Partner.

You will own (and USE) clothespins.

You will consider corn a normal topping for pizza

If you are a mumbler, you’ll do great. For example, say Mizgar Ladav like I do when referring to Mizgav Ledak and you will end up at the correct hospital.

If you don’t like the meaning of certain words in English, you will relish the opportunity to use them in Israel to mean something completely different.
Why why why means Oy Oy Oy.
A Hebrew corruption of both English and Yiddish. Why? Oy!

Alternately, you can use nonsensical English words to mean something very real in Hebrew.
The tutor told me the kids will need a disk on key for school.
Disk on key?
You don’t know what is disk on key?
(Astonished): But it is English!
So it is.
Disk on key means flash drive. In Israel.

If you’re tired of speaking English altogether, there are plenty of Hebrew words that just roll off the tongue. I don’t think we’ve ever referred to Misrad HaRishui as ‘the licensing bureau’. It’s just good old Misrad HaRishui!

If you’re terrible with street names but have a knack for directions based on right turns, left turns, traffic circles and going straight, you will be able to give an Israeli directions in a way he is accustomed to receiving them. This is great for your self confidence.

There’s an old boys club culture here too…
We spent the day at the pool at Ramat Rachel, one of our favorite Jerusalem hangouts. We called a cousin to come visit us there. He said he’d be right over. I asked if he had a membership. He answered matter-of-factly,
No. But I have many friends.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #163 – inverse proportionality is the naming convention for Israeli roadways. In case you seek out patterns, like me.

Eureka! Bigger number = smaller road
It’s really quite simple – less is simply more. The “One”, the “Two”, the “Four”, the legendary toll road, the “Six” – these are all relatively large highways. Expect minimal curves, sufficient lanes for passing and clearly marked signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Increase a digit, lose a lane
As you navigate throughout the land you start to understand that whether it’s the 38 or the 60, the 90 or the 87, or even the 92, a road with two digits is a road with two lanes. And sometimes a shoulder. But look out for donkeys and goat herders before you use that shoulder as a passing lane.

The three digit road
How can it get smaller than two lanes? Well for starters they take away the divider line. Or the shoulder. (You may get one but don’t expect both). But don’t worry. There’s room for everyone. Also, somebody forgot to add English to some of the signs. But they added lots of white-knuckle hairpin turns to slow you down just enough so that you can work through the Hebrew signs phonetically.

Maps can be deceiving – resist the urge to take a shortcut via a 4-digit road
But if you end up on a road with 4 numbers – like the 9778 or the 9779, for example – expect a narrow (read: prepare to scoot to the side for oncoming traffic unless you, yourself, are riding a donkey) road, with more curves and less people.

No matter what road you take, have your camera close at hand. From the car I’ve photographed everything from the landscape to the sunset to the moon to the guy on the donkey to the lady with the wheely crib full of children to the herd of galloping camels to the truck with chickens to the truck with goats to the remarkably understated “Danger! Land mines” sign to the mysterious “!” sign which pretty much sums it all up.

It took me a while to find an explanation for this sign. I found one on the website for the Ministry of Transportation. I ran it through Google Translator. You get the gist:
Death trap
Whom is not set
Special milestone.
Title danger
Notably, the sign No.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #162 - a quick trip to the makolet. saw it here first.

As we left the Golan Heights yesterday I begged Bob to turn around the car. I needed to photograph the billboard advertising my long lost housekeeping friend...the Swiffer. We were, of course, on a major highway, hence - no photograph.

Imagine my surprise today when I almost tripped over the newest display case in our local makolet...

Surprise is a common sentiment elicited at the makolet. For example, when I found baby cereal infused with chocolate.

Or when my mother in law discovered lamb chops. Surprise! Made of turkey.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #161 - ish sheleg wearing mittens? how about water meter fluttering?

We have sandstorms, not snowstorms!
When we lived in Brooklyn, my kids spent maybe half a school year each learning about an ish sheleg (snow man). They learned about his mittens, his hat, his scarf. Really relevant stuff if you want to speak Hebrew in Brooklyn. Not so relevant if you speak Hebrew in Israel. I asked Rosie the other day how to say snow in Hebrew. She had no idea.

The ultimate Hebrew tutor
It’s summer. The kids don’t want to do work with their tutor – they want to play games with Saba. He’s happy to comply on one condition. He’ll play Uno, Sheshbesh and cards. But they must speak only Hebrew.

The tutor approves!
Since school ended, the tutor has been bringing less work and more games. Last week they played cards in Hebrew. It was going along beautifully until Barbara clutched her face in a fit of astonished giggles and I was forced to translate. It seems ace in Hebrew is pronounced ahss.

Mystery of the disappearing summertime water - the tale of the tape
1pm – I open my PO box and take out my mail. It’s surprisingly stuffed for only having sat for a week (as opposed to the usual 3-4 weeks).
1:05 – quick scan of junk vs. stuff that needs attention
1:06 – I ask the pizza guy if this letter from city hall talking about mayim (water) is something important
1:07 – pizza guy gives a quick scan
You have a leak. See here – it says ‘n’zeelah’ – that means leak. See this (he points to the bolded words on the bottom). It says ‘EVERY DROP IS A SHAME’.
1:08 – I feel instantly ashamed.
1:09 – I call the gardener to be sure our irrigation system (which waters the garden for 15 minutes each day) is permitted. He tells me it is and that I should check the water meter.
Nothing should be moving if everything is off.
1:16 – I check the meter. I don’t know what I’m looking at. There is also a second meter. I don’t even know which meter I’m looking at. I photograph both meters.
1:23 – I visit the moetza (city hall).
1:27 – I receive the shocking news that while people normally use 60 ‘cubes’ of water in two months, we have used 60 cubes in the last 13 days. THREE DAYS OF WHICH WE WERE CAMPING. Hmmm…
1:40 – I call the plumber. He is not home but his wife tells me to check the water meter.
But I did!
Is something moving?
I don’t think so.
Hmm…doesn’t sound like a leak. Are the kids home using lots of water?
We’ve half filled the baby pool 3 times…
(more shame)
I’ll tell him you called.
1:45 – wheels turning in my brain…If there’s no leak…and if our water usage is relatively steady…could it be someone is stealing our water?
1:49 – I arrive home and notice the house under construction next door has its back patio filled with water to test for leaks. My water theft theory grows.
1:50 – I call back the moetza
The lady who helped me is gone. I am speaking to a gentleman who saw me there but speaks no English.
Yesh baya im ha mayim sheli (there’s a problem with my water)
Ken, ani yodeah. Tzareech livdok ha sha’on mayim. Livdok im hu m’parpar.
I need to check the rose water for butterflies?
Perhaps, do you have a child in the house who speaks Hebrew?

I look at 4 year old Rose.
I'll call back tomorrow.
2:30 – finally it’s morning in America. I speak to Bob about the situation – I tell him about the possible leak/overuse/theft of water. He tells me a water thief would have to literally fill up buckets in front of the house and carry them up the stairs and away. A doubtful occurrence. Then he tells me,
It’s strange – we had this same problem last August!
And how did it resolve?
It didn’t. We never found an explanation.

Today I read about the Israeli water authority installing “Chas-Cham” water conserving devices in homes for free. It might be time to sign up.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Swirling thoughts #160 - my ears are still popping (part three)

Every pit stop involves a cost-benefit analysis.
The benefit of a refreshing water hike at the midpoint of our journey certainly outweighed its cost (setting up camp after dark).
Quick! Get the bug spray!

Little known camping fact:
Bug spray in Israel is actually Skin-So-Soft in a glass roll-on bottle.

If you plan to camp during a heat wave, I recommend the campground at Kibbutz El Rom, elevation 1050 meters above sea level. Nestled between the Syrian border and an Israeli army base, this is a particularly good destination in the north if you will be camping during a scuffle at the Lebanese border.

If you are camping with a bunch of kids there’s nothing better than camping with a bunch of families with a bunch of kids. And if those families happen to be veteran camping families your camping experience may include fresh pita making in addition to the usual campfire fare (s’mores, potatoes, smoked tuna…)

A word about smoked tuna
It could be the whole world knows about smoked tuna but this is the first I’ve ever heard of it. And I am certain I’ve now learned it from the masters. A group of 13 year old boys on our trip would make a small campfire, open a can of tuna packed in oil, stuff a tissue into the can and light the tissue on fire. Once the tissue burns completely you are left with smoked tuna. These boys were preparing smoked tuna at every opportunity. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Campfire gourmet!

Syria, not Lebanon
At some point during my trip I got an email from my mom asking if we were near the shooting at the border. I reassured her we were at least 20km from that border.

Have (full) Chimigag, will travel
By the second day of the trip I decided the empty Chimigag lacks the aerodynamic prowess of the overstuffed Chimigag. After a morning drive with the Chimigag flap-thumping in the wind like a herd of runaway camels on the roof, I advised Bob against 24/7 Chimigag-ing.

There were 4 kids sleeping with me in that tent
Anyone who’s traveled with lots of small children knows that once the vacation starts at least one of the children will get sick and probably throw up. I’m here to tell you that throw-up in a tent can be cleaned in the middle of the night and order restored with enough wipes, friends and spousal support.

You may experience a slight change in cabin pressure
The trip from my home in Gush Etzion to El Rom in Ramat HaGolan took me from 900 meters above sea level to 300 meters below sea level and then back up to 1050 meters above sea level. There’s a reason school children bring gum on tiyulim in Israel.

The perfect ending
As we were paying our lodging fee and getting ready to set out on our ear-popping return home, the campground supervisor from El Rom presented each family with a gift. A beautiful book on tiyulim in the Golan. Complete with maps, pictures, descriptions and symbols indicating the terrain and time required. Off the beaten path tiyulim. In Hebrew. For real Israelis!

Swirling Thoughts #159 – camping. part two of three. yes it just got longer.

Road trip
The car ride up north was the same as any car ride with kids.

There was fighting.
Look at those goats traveling double-decker in that truck!
I saw it first!
No! I saw it first!

There were cows out the window.
Look, kids, cows.
Hey what’s that behind the cows?
No, Syria.

We planned to leave at 9 but really left at 11.
Which worked out amazing. Our first stop was a water hike at Nahal Hakibbutzim. The thing about this place is that it’s nobody’s ultimate destination. Everyone pretty much stops here to cool off on their way up north. Which is strange since it’s probably the hottest spot of the country this time of year (excluding Eilat). But the water is cool and refreshing. And free. Which makes it even more attractive. And crowded. Ridiculously crowded. So leaving late worked to our advantage. As we were pulling in, the rest of the crowd was pulling out. We had a prime parking spot, a choice picnic table and gazebo, and plenty of room to splash around.

There were wheely cribs.
Okay, maybe this isn’t part of a typical road trip but you have to hear about it! The first time I saw the wheely crib – a small crib on wheels with a handle bar for pushing – was on Kibbutz Kfar Ruppin. The moms would show up in the dining hall dazed before their morning coffee with their kids in the wheely crib. I thought it was a kibbutz thing until I saw a lady pushing the wheely crib around Jerusalem with children from her daycare. I started thinking of how a wheely crib could benefit me. As we unloaded our day bags for our water experience in Nahal Hakibbutzim I noticed a clever lady wheeling her whole family’s needs – floaties, towels, food, etc. in a wheely crib. Nice.

Jewish families gone wild.
Fully clothed moms, dads, kids, and babies in backpacks frolicking in the water pretty much sums it up.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #158 – camping. part one of two. getting there.

In preparation for our camping trip I sat down with a map, a Fodor’s book on Israel and a list of destinations for tiyulim in the Golan.
This Fodor’s book is for tourists! I called out to Bob. Nothing we want is in here! We need a book of tiyulim for Israelis. In Hebrew, it should be!
Where are we camping again?
All the way north.
No. Syria.
With the help of our friends (veteran campers) I put together our non-tourist itinerary. While Bob put together our Chimigag.

About a week ago when Bob was in the camping store buying gear, he emailed me.
Chimygag. Please Google.
I obliged but alas nothing came up. Later that evening someone called speaking fast Hebrew. Something something chimygag. Mmmm… familiar.
Bob – someone on the phone about chimygag?
Oh! Dad! It’s the chimygag guy! Mommy – it’s important. Asher was very excited.

Then next morning Bob and Saba were off – going to meet someone about chimygag. About which, at this point, I still knew as much as when I Googled it.

They returned triumphantly a couple hours later.
We have a Chimigag.
What IS a Chimigag?
A canvas roof bag.
What will you put in it?
Sleeping bags, tents, whatever you want.
Maybe we can fit the jogger stroller in the Chimigag?
You want to bring two strollers camping?
Maybe not. How much did the Chimigag set you back?
We looked at something like this in New York.
How much was it there?
Something like $40.
And here?
750 shekel.

Are you coveting my Chimigag???
Everyone was interested in the Chimigag. If you understand how Israeli's travel you would understand why.

How Israeli’s travel:
They bring mattresses. They load the mattresses along with sleeping bags, pillows and duffle bags onto the roofs of their cars. They tie it all on with rope and they’re ready to go.

First the security guard at the gate of Efrat stopped Bob. He wanted to know what Bob had on top of the car. Did he think it was a bomb? Bob explained it was for camping gear.
Oohwah! Eyzeh mashu! (wow – now that’s something!)
As we pulled into the crowded parking lot at Nachal Hakibbutzim a chassid walked over to our car. As he opened his mouth to speak I figured he wanted to tell us something about the way we parked. But no. Not even close!
With great curiosity, Ech ha Chimigag hazeh? (how is this Chimigag?)
Yofi! (good)
Eyzeh mashu! (now that’s something!)
A soldier asked us.
Mah zeh Chimigag?
For camping.

As we made our way up north we noticed everyone’s roof packed with mattresses, luggage, plastic chairs and water floaties.
He needs Chimigag!
Look over there – he needs Chimigag!
Woah – this one totally needs Chimigag.
I think I’m going to leave our Chimigag on all the time.
Even when it’s empty and we’re just driving into Jerusalem?
Chimigag baby!

Swirling Thoughts #156 – oops! so happy i forgot to post this one...

What’s all this talk about Israelis being happier than most everyone else?
Are we happy? Hmmm.

Well… without carpool, my mornings are happy. And my afternoons. School ends early. That means my kids are happy. There’s hardly any homework. And so our evenings are happy. My husband doing sponga – there are no words to describe the happiness this elicits. CafĂ© afook makes for happy coffee. Israeli breakfast makes for happy tummy. No snow – happy winter. No rain from Pesah to Sukkot – happy summer. My kids run my last minute errands for me – happy Shabbat cooking. I live 10 minutes from Jerusalem and 20 minutes from Hebron – happy inspiration. I go to Mahane Yehuda – happy shopping. I figure out more Hebrew every day – happy discovering. My kids speak Hebrew almost fluently and with an Israeli accent – happy nachas. I live in a spot people like to visit – happy hosting.

I have time to do the things I love and then there’s time left over to sit and write about them.
Happy? Relatively speaking, yes. Absolutely, also. :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #157 – Sunday morning in the aretz

A dream…
I may have forgotten about my father-in-law’s dream. He mentioned it in passing Shabbat morning. Something about a fig tree in my yard.
No, Saba, I told him. We have a shesek tree.
I know, mami. But in my dream you had a fig tree.

Sunday morning I ran out early. Me, my mother-in-law and a good friend of mine. We were heading to Meah Sharim to the legendary bookstore Manny’s. In case this ever comes up in Trivial Pursuit, I’m pretty sure Meah Sharim holds the record for most Jewish Bookstores per city block. After purchasing a lottery-style scratch-off parking ticket from a tiny shop to stick in my car window (!!!) we made our way past all the other tiny shops until we reached our destination. In the midst of all the tiny shops of Meah Sharim sits Manny’s – a behemoth gigantic air-conditioned Jewish bookstore in the spirit of Eichler’s that truly looks as if it were dropped down from the sky. And everyone inside speaks English. As Israeli as I strive to be, I love shopping for Jewish books in a relaxed air-conditioned English speaking environment. What can I tell you? And then a phone call came in.
Bob. With some urgency.
I need the gardener’s number.
A gardening emergency?

We left Manny’s for iced coffee in a tiny little bagel shop. We were the only people there. In fact, it felt like we were the only people in Meah Sharim that day.
Where is everyone, I asked?
It’s summer. They are in the north!
Soon I will be in the north.
We sat and discussed all the essentials for my upcoming camping trip – mostly food strategies (bring enough for the first 36 hours) and scorpion bite prevention measures (pajama pants tucked into socks, closed shoes, don’t put the baby down ever).
As the conversation shifted to gun license renewals, we laughed over the differences in Israeli vs. American small talk. My friend is in the market for a smaller gun. Her 9mm Glock is just too bulky. Which led us to our plans for the rest of the week.
Hmmm… after my camping trip, wanna go shooting?

On the way back to the car we picked up water bottle cases that can be worn as backpacks. One for each walking member of the family. This is an item that says something about its owner. It says bearer of this bag has walked in nature under a scorching sun, by design, for a period of time long enough to consume 1 ½ liters of water. Believe it or not, this is something all Israelis do (or have done). With school or camp or army or friends or family vacation. Covering as much ground as you can on foot seems to be a goal of some. Throw in a riverbed, some natural pools and a waterfall and now you have the objective of most everyone else’s tiyulim. The water bottle backpack can be worn like a badge of honor in my estimation – indicating your standing as true Israeli. One year in the aretz and I buy books like an American but I hike like an Israeli.

As I unpacked my purchases I asked,
Where is Saba?
Bob smiled. Outside with the gardener.
He’s supervising the planting.
Go. Go see our new fig tree.