Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Swirling Thoughts #226 - airing my dirty laundry. no, seriously.

Chapter 36 in “HOW TO BE ISRAELI” – Know Your Sirens

Several months ago when rockets were shooting out of Gaza in every direction, including ours, we experienced, for the first time, a Tzeva Adom Alert. An up and down wailing siren that we instinctively heeded by scurrying into our safe room until we heard the two thuds of two rockets falling. Yes, we are told the rockets are fired in pairs.

When I say we, I mean me and my kids. I can’t speak for all of Efrat. Though I’m told this is the first time a rocket has made it all the way from Gaza, I’m not sure there’s never been a Tzeva Adom Alert here before. Surely there have been drills. That siren certainly does sound familiar….

And so, while we scurried to our safe room, my friend’s 9 year old son, who was out for pizza with his 4 year old brother when the siren sounded (why that is totally normal, in another blog post), did what he remembered doing every other time he heard the siren. He stood very still and looked down at the floor. Until a neighbor spotted him and pulled the brothers to safety.

Twice in the last 2 weeks, all across Israel, the siren was sounded again. The same siren but this time a steady wail for a long moment of silent contemplation. The entire country came to a halt (motorists stopping and exiting their cars!) to honor the memories of the six million on Yom Hashoah and fallen soldiers/victims of terror on Yom Hazikaron. Except for some of my kids who dropped everything and made a bee-line for the safe room.

Not to be confused with Chapter 35 in “HOW TO BE ISRAELI” – Know Your Seasons

Don’t even think about ordering Sachlab in the summer. You will be rebuffed with a shocked, “Sahlab?!? But it’s SUMMER!”  Even if it is just a few weeks after Passover and really, technically, only spring.

As for Pop-Ices – frozen sugar water in a plastic tube – don’t bother looking for them in the winter. You just won’t find them.  
But for 4 short months in the winter  (only!) you will find the delicacy known as Krembo.

Ask for sandal foot panty hose in the winter and expect the clerk to demand to know why on earth you would need such a thing now. And no matter how good your explanation, she still won’t have them. I’ve said it before. It’s a small country. There’s probably just not room for summer inventory to be stocked through the winter. And vice versa.

Which follows Chapter 34 in “HOW TO BE ISRAELI” – How Not to Give Away How Israeli You've Become in the First Ten Seconds – a chapter for my children when they visit America

In America, hot dogs are generally made of meat. While the vegetarian hot dog may exist, it is not the norm. So don’t be shocked if you ask for hot dogs and pizza in the same meal and someone reminds you of the laws of kashrut (no meat and milk).

When you find yourself a boyfriend (or a seat, for that matter), you don’t ‘catch’ him (or it).
Hey, what about that Cohen boy. Is he available? Nope, he’s caught!

Saving on something in America implies a financial benefit. You can save and guard things but not on them.
Shmulik! Save on this spot for our picnic!
Rosie, guard on the baby while I run into the store.

You can partner up with someone but ‘togetherness’ implies a loving relationship, not a sharing agreement regarding stickers, candy, or make-up. Or markers.
Me and Rosie are together in markers.

In America, exercise is not “sport.”.
Nor is gym class “sport.”
And exercise clothes are not “sport clothes.”
What’s your favorite class, Becky? Sport!
Oh I see you are wearing your sport clothes. Did you do sport today?

Really, it gives me joy to know that my children are speaking English from translated Hebrew. As opposed to their mother....

Ulpan does not guarantee literacy…
My friend asked me what I’ll do next year when Sarah goes to gan. I mention going back to ulpan. Bob rolls his eyes and suggests I go work in the makolet where I can get paid to practice speaking Hebrew. It’s true – in four years my Hebrew really has advanced. Maybe I’ve outgrown ulpan? My friend suggests, at a minimum, I start listening to talk radio. Eureka! Free ulpan in my car!

Later that day, I try it out. Radio announcers are screaming at a guest. I gather that he is an important part of the Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball organization – maybe an owner or manager or coach – and also that there is a scandal of some sort. Just then I pick up Barbara’s “sport” teacher who is tremping to parent-teacher night at school (why this is totally normal, in another blog post). I explain to her that this is how I learn Hebrew, motioning to the radio. I accept her “kol ha kavod” as if I’ve been doing this for four years. I ask her if I understand correctly – the screaming is about a money scandal? She listens for a few seconds and confirms it is but goes on to say that these conversations are beyond even her comprehension. And she is an Israeli SPORT teacher! I’ve surely found a high level free ulpan in my car!

Talk radio topics this week included Defense Secretary Hagel’s visit to Israel, resolution of the El Al strike, and a very animated discussion on what constitutes a salad. The Hagel stuff was easy to understand because they broadcasted him in English. Regarding El Al I’m pretty sure the announcer said he didn’t understand one word of what happened but that the strike is resolved.  As for the salad discussion, I was laughing out loud at what I think they were saying. Stuff like – do tomatoes and onions alone make a salad? NO! A salad has to be four ingredients MINIMUM. Can a salad have big chunks of vegetables? NO! A salad has to be chopped very small! Maybe the language of salad is easy. Or maybe my Hebrew is advancing to a whole new level. A level at which I can understand Israeli talk radio announcers and laugh at their jokes!

Or maybe the joke is on me
As I pulled up in front of the makolet I realized both my babies were sleeping in the back seat. For an instant I longed for the curbside delivery service I’d left behind in New York. But then my salvation came. A good friend pulled up right in front of me, saw my situation and offered to pick up the three things I was planning to buy.
Tacos, Tortillas, and Oxygen.
Tacos and Tortillas I know. But what’s Oxygen?
The laundry detergent.
You mean in the turquoise bottle?
Yes! The turquoise!
I don’t think that is detergent.
What do you mean? I’ve been washing our clothes with it for four years.
You read the bottle?
I saw a picture of clean laundry on the bottle.
Do you remember in America there was a product called Clorox 2 – something you add to your laundry to brighten your clothes?
Um, yes.
Yeah, the Oxygen is like the Clorox 2.
So you are telling me that for four years I have been brightening but not washing my clothes? *sniffing my sleeve*
It seems that way.
Well you certainly look clean. And bright.
Okay, can you please buy me Tacos and Tortillas and PROPER LAUNDRY DETERGENT!

And she did.
And tomorrow (for the first time in four years!) I will really wash my family’s clothes. And I will buy a newspaper.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Swirling Thoughts #225 – happy new month!

 You know it’s Rosh Hodesh when….

Your children wake up and run from room to room scrambling to find the white school uniform shirt (which they haven’t looked for since last month).

You pass the local park and spy 30 loosely supervised nine year olds roasting hot dogs over an open fire at about 9:30am.

Your gan-aged daughter comes home with her lunchbox untouched and reminds you that the Morah gave them lunch “hagigi” (holiday lunch) consisting of pizza and vafflim. It took me about two years before I realized vafflim are not waffles...
Your 7th grader explains, with urgency, the need to bring a bag of Doritos and 30 plates to school because, ‘You know, Mom, we are doing Master Chef today. Likvod (to honor) Rosh Hodesh!’

The significance of Rosh Hodesh (literally, the head of the month) as a cultural phenomenon in Israel surely stems from its religious importance. So important that if you forget the special prayer that pertains to Rosh Hodesh on that day, you need to repeat a good portion of the entire prayer service. But why is the start of a new month so religiously important? I asked my friend David Zeit who explained it like this:

Rosh Hodesh determines our entire calendar (a lunar calendar) - as such it determines when holidays and other significant events will take place. Additionally, the first misva given to us as a Nation, was the misva of Qiddush HaHodesh (the sanctification of the new month)

"This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months" Exodus 12:2
(referring to the month of Nissan). Because this misva was given to us upon our redemption from Egypt, the misva was performed by the Elders of the Sanhedrin in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

Thank you David!

And in case you forget it’s Rosh Hodesh (imagine forgetting Thanksgiving Day in America?), every clerk, tremper, and neighbor you see will wish you a....

Hodesh Tov!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Swirling Thoughts #224 - euphoria

I love to run.
I love my family.
I love Jerusalem.
And I love a strong cup of coffee.
My list is in no particular order.

And so it occurred to me, just minutes after I started out in the 10K portion of the Jerusalem marathon this past Friday, as I passed my husband and kids who were cheering me along the hill that is Bezalel Street, I am running. In Jerusalem. My family is with me. Does a Friday morning get better than this? Coffee would have been  nice but the port-o-potties at the start line were, well, let’s just say I skipped the pre-race coffee.

Some highlights of running 10k through Jerusalem:

* Running with a unit of airforce trainees whose shirts read hashamayim hem hagvul – literally, “the heavens are the boundaries” or in the idiomatic “the sky is the limit”. They were singing Rabbi Nachman’s famous words of emunah (faith) at the top of their lungs,

כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד והעיקר לא לפחד כלל
(all the world is a very narrow bridge and the important thing is not to be afraid at all) 

* Catching a glimpse of Batman stealthily running atop the walls of the old city (yes i stopped to take this picture and no, i did not do it fast enough to catch the elusive super-hero).

* Seeing a lean black runner and mindlessly assuming he was a Kenyan who’d come to participate in the race, then noticing the tzitzit hanging from under his race shirt and realizing, “he’s one of us!”

* Finishing up the race behind THIS couple - their shirts read Faith Church Hungary and each carried a small Israeli flag as they ran.

* Receiving my complimentary Turkish coffee, prepared in a most authentic manner, post-race.

* Comparing notes with Barbara who managed to find a clean bathroom along the route of the 5K race. (That’s my daughter!)

There was much talk about next year's race. (The rest of the kids want in.) 
Becky, "i can run 60 meter!" (and she says meh-ter, not mee-ter)
Asher, "i can run 200 meter!"
Rosie, "i want to run, mommy!"
Peetoosh, "i also want to run!"
Barbara rolled her eyes.
I said, "we'll see."
Next Year in Jerusalem!
post-script: thanks to our generous supporters, we were able to have all this fun WHILE raising 7500 NIS for SHALVA - an amazing organization that provides activities and support for mentally and physically handicapped children in Israel. kol hakavod! and thank you to SHALVA for making it so easy to run!