If you asked me yesterday, I would say nothing here surprises me anymore. Someone did ask me yesterday about my blog. What could I tell them without sounding stoic. I can’t write a blog about hilarious Israeli idiosyncrasies that catch the unsuspecting American by surprise because I’ve seen it all – the multi-racial mascot on the package of chocolate and vanilla cake, the 9-year olds taking 6- and 3-year olds to the park, the cashier’s limp hand dropping a shopping bag in my general direction so that I should be better able to quickly bag up my own groceries, the parking lots with entrances (but no obvious exits) into dead end mazes – I’m used to it. I stopped recognizing those types of things as strange.
I like to think I’m less American now, more Israeli. American, in this context, is both literal - seeing things through American lenses - and a euphemism for 'not totally acclimated to life in Israel'. I make fun of Bob – since he travels, I say he’s been here just about half as long as me. When things strike him as odd I tease him for being so American still.
But then today happened.
And suddenly it’s like I just fell off the Nefesh b’Nefesh flight. Like I’m still in the airport in a delirious tailspin wondering if I made the right choice between the four national health insurance providers. Feeling So. Very. American.
My oldest daughter left the house yesterday morning at 5:30am to get a ride to meet the school bus for her class trip – an overnight somewhere in the north. Mind you, I start out so very Israeli in the beginning of the story, not sweating the details, knowing it’s all under control, that my independent daughter can handle her packing, her transportation, her trip-related responsibilities.
She called me an hour later from a friend’s phone to let me know she’d lost her phone, probably in her friend’s dad’s car. I told her not to worry.
Next I heard from her was 9 o’clock this morning. She called from a counselor’s phone to let me know she is sick with fever. And that she is in Katzrin (4 hours north of Efrat). And that she was told the best thing to do was to take a bus from Katzrin to Tiberias, from Tiberias to
Me: They want you to go alone with fever for 4 hours on an Egged bus?
She explained how it was 40 degrees Celcius (104F) in Katzrin and there was no way she could stay in the campground or go on the tiyul or sit on the school bus.
The air conditioned Egged bus was sounding better already.
She needed to hang up and I used the opportunity to quickly consult with an Experienced Friend.
Me: Babs needs to get home from the tiyul in Katzrin. She has fever. They want to send her on the Egged bus. She doesn’t have a phone. Is that okay?
Experienced Friend, clearly understanding my hesitation: Listen - it’s
She will be okay. She can borrow someone’s phone on the bus if she has to reach
you. Send her on the bus. It will be fine.
I called the number from which she had last called me. The madricha (counselor) answered. I told her to make sure Barbara left with money and Tylenol.
Suddenly she called me from a new number to let me know her friend had loaned her a phone. I wished her a good trip and thought to myself it’s good she will arrive home before Bob even wakes up in NY because if he knew this was going on I don’t think he could handle it.
As she told me later, she did have a good first leg of the trip. The bus was filled with older Russian Israeli women all speaking to each other in Russian. The driver took a most scenic route, down the eastern side of the Kineret and back up to Tiberias.
When she called me from the Central Bus Station in Tiberias to tell me she had a 2 hour wait for the
bus I cringed. At this point, I know for certain, Bob would have FREAKED OUT.
Me: Stay near soldiers. And women with babies.
Two hours is a long time for a 15 year old with fever and a suitcase to be loitering in a bus station. In any country.
As it turns out she found a group of English speaking tourists. Christians from
Africa doing a Global Challenge where they
spend a year visiting every country in the world carrying just their backpacks
and living as locals.
She helped them figure out the bus schedule and eventually they all boarded the crowded bus to
Jerusalem (after which they were moving on to Bethlehem).
Three hours later I met her at the Central Bus Station in
On the way I had called back Experienced Friend because I just had to understand what was happening.
Me: my daughter is on a tiyul in the north, is SICK WITH FEVER, and they send her home alone on an Egged bus?
Experienced Friend: Yup.
Me: No teacher calls me?
Me: This is normal?
EF: This is
Kids are independent. Kid gets sick on a tiyul, they put that kid on a bus
Me: Wow. Just wow.
And so I finally got my independent Israeli teenager back. She had been ready to take yet another bus back to Efrat and was none the worse for the wear, excited to tell me about all the old ladies and young tourists she’d met along the way. Also she was thrilled to have gotten a map from the (fancier than Egged) bus she took out of Katzrin. She looked a little worn but she clearly was okay.
When I told Bob the story via Face Time I could see his mind working, thinking how he would have reacted if he’d been here. He looked pretty freaked out as we spoke!
About 7 hours later as she lay on the floor and I recognized the tell-tale signs of dehydration, I was grateful she was home. I was sure to include the fact that she’d made a four hour bus trip alone from the north with fever on a 40C day part of the intake at the local medical center when we went for some IV fluids, and she got the requisite sympathy from the American nurse and doctor. Except she didn’t need it. Only I did.