What is normal anyway?

We’ve been here almost a year and a half. Honestly, our klita (absorption) has been fantastic. We are very lucky. Not everyone is blessed to move to the place that they want to make their permanent home in Israel – olim frequently find that the town or city that seemed so perfect on their pilot trip is actually not the best fit for their family. And then they start all over again some place else. For us, Rehovot is still the best place. We love it here. I know I keep reiterating that every time I blog, but it has to be said. This city is freaking awesome, our shul is amazing, our community is fantastic.

As we’ve finished dealing with all the bureaucracy involved in the early days of aliya, I found myself wondering what can I possibly write about. Not for my readers, but for myself – I need to write, you see. This is how I get it all out, it’s why I’m so active on Facebook – I have to put my thoughts into writing as part of my functioning – it’s why I kept a journal for 13 years.

I realized this week that while life in Israel is the new normal for us, there will always be things that don’t seem normal. I started compiling a list in my head, and I’d love to hear from other olim if they have things to add.
I’ll start here:

  1. Sundays – ’nuff said
  2. Buying fresh kosher meat from the supermarket
  3. Ditto for kosher cheese
  4. The Post Office
  5. Shopping in general – everyone lives in debt but the malls are always full
  6. School – from the (lack of) hours to the balagan (chaos) of parent teacher meetings, and kids calling their teachers by their first name starting in 1st grade!
  7. Disposable cups, for both hot and cold drinks – the ones for hot drinks are so thin that you have to wear oven gloves while holding them, and the ones for cold drinks are so flimsy that, well, let’s just say I wish I’d put a case of Solo Cups on my lift.
  8. “Aruchat Eser” – literally “a meal at 10am” – not the “elevenses” I grew up with…
  9. Opening my purse before walking into any store for a security check
  10. The amount of paper wasted every time I go to the bank

Please comment with your own not-normal-norms in Israel!

Fam’ly

If you’re as avid a viewer of the BBC “soap” Eastenders as I am (fan since day one in 1985, and still watch every episode), you know the importance of “fam’ly”.  You probably also know this if you’re a big fan of The Godfather, like my husband, but then it’s more about the famiglia.

Anyway, I just got home to Israel from a week in London visiting my family. My little sister had a beautiful baby girl a couple of weeks ago, and for the first time since any of my 8 nephews & nieces were born, I am finally close enough to go meet her as newborn.

Unfortunately I contracted a virus for the last two days of my trip, but until then, I had 5 days of amazing family time. I stayed at my sister’s & brother in law’s, so I got lots of newborn squishy baby cuddles, plus I got to witness firsthand that she does the whole brand-new-baby-in-the-house a lot better than I ever did. I watched my nephews and niece learn how to hold and burp their new sister, and I got to enjoy just being with them when they weren’t at school. I managed to see my “big” (not older) brother for dinner before he rushed off to Manchester for work, and we didn’t even have an argument. I spent an afternoon with his four boys, and I was able to hang out with my sister in law for a few hours where she wasn’t working like mad as a doctor. My baby brother met me at the airport and dropped me off again when I was leaving. He also took me out for dinner one night, and I got to see him over Shabbat. I saw my parents every day.

And then I came home. And it’s wonderful to be home with my husband and my kids and my dog, and in Israel. But I miss my family.

Every time we are all together, the siblings, our significant others, my parents, the kids – and it happens far too rarely, and almost never with everyone – I realise how lucky I am. My family is far from perfect – show me a family that is – but we are a fantastic family.

We are four siblings who love each other in spite of our differences. We are all so different, and yet we get along. Put me in a room with my brothers, my sister, my parents, my husband, my brother in law and my sister in law, and I can tell you this:
What we will argue about, who will pick on whom, who will blame whom for what, who will be blamed for a lot, and who for nothing at all. I can tell you that it won’t matter, because we all laugh at ourselves and at each other, and there is so much love there, that it can’t be quantified. Each of us has traits that annoy one another, but each of us has qualities that everyone loves.

I’ve lived away from my family for 24 years, and while I’m used to it, I hate it now more than ever. Thank God for our family Whatsapp group – it’s the only group that I don’t dread hearing the notification for. We’re all on it, and sometimes what happens in that group is so ridiculous we could star in our own sitcom. It’s easy to feel like we’re all together this way, even though they’re all “there” and I’m over here.

I hear friends talk about their own families and the discord between them and siblings, and I feel blessed. So this soppy blog post is for you: Mum, Dad, Barry, Lyann, Laura, Jon & Jeff, L, A, D, Y, A, M, E & Y.

I wish Mashiach would hurry up and ride in on his donkey so we could all live nearby like fam’ly should.

 

Why my French flag won’t fly

I’m having a really hard time expressing my feelings today. I began writing a whole long blog post, but nothing was coming out right. Then I commented on the Facebook status of someone more or less accusing those who hadn’t changed a profile photo to the French flag of resisting solidarity with the French victims. And somehow in the comment I was able to get across exactly what I wanted to say. So I’ve scrapped the rest of the blog post, and I’m just putting this here:

What happened in Paris is terrible. So is what happened in Beirut. What happened in Sydney. What happened in Mumbai. What happens daily in Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran etc. etc. etc. I don’t feel the need to change my profile picture to the flag of another country in order to express my anger/sadness at yet another act of Islamic terror that has come upon the “civilized” world. Of course I am sad for the families of the innocents who were barbarically murdered in cold blood. But how on earth does putting a French flag on my Facebook feed make any difference to the blindness being shown, even in the wake of another brutal act of terrorism? We need a lot more than flags and “je suis Paris” to rid the world of this filth.

I want to get something straight – not changing my profile picture to the French flag has absolutely nothing to do with the French track record on Israel or Jews. It has nothing to do with much of the world turning a blind eye to the Israelis being targeted by terrorists daily for the last couple of months. It is unrelated to the rising number of anti semitic attacks around the world – New York, Milan, Manchester, wherever.
Any normal person is upset at terror attacks anywhere in the world, and regardless of who carried them out. Oklahoma City. Atlanta Olympics. 9/11. Sydney. Mumbai. Boko Haram in Nigeria. 7/7 London. 13/11 Paris. Beirut. Kenya. Argentina. Somalia. Belfast. Derry. Enniskillen. Sweden. Norway. Russia.
Those really not showing solidarity are those celebrating in the streets, handing out candy, letting off fireworks, dancing – because of the murder of innocents. And I don’t have to tell you where that is happening.

What’s it really like?

Perhaps the question people ask most often is “what’s it really like, living in Israel, when all these attacks are going on?” And you can’t really explain it, because how can you explain it, without sounding either freaking out crazy (OMG,  you cannot imagine how scary it is to leave the house, when any second someone might stab you!!!) or nonchalant (Well, it’s terrible what’s happening, but we can’t let it get in the way of living our lives).

Watch the video. All of it. And then tell me what you think it’s like, to live here, right now.

In the video we saw an attack from today.A security guard (note, not a soldier, or a policeman, just a civilian security guard) was stabbed by a Muslim woman. He managed to shoot her after he was stabbed. In general, I don’t watch the graphic videos from terror attacks. I don’t need those images imprinted on my brain. But this footage was different. It so perfectly captures the insanity of these latest attacks on Jews in Israel. Why? Because you see just how calm this woman was, as she walked along the street, like she was going about her business, right before she attacked a man with a knife. The security guard asks her for her ID, which she hands over to him. While he is checking her ID, she reaches into her purse, and pulls out a knife and simply goes at him. This was clearly a carefully calculated attack. You would imagine that a woman about to attempt to murder a man would have difficulty walking at a steady pace. That she may hesitate briefly before carrying out her mission. And yet, she simply appears to be behaving “normally” right up until that moment, and then she just attacks.

How can we possibly not be suspicious of every Muslim we see in the street, after watching footage like this? Regardless of where you stand politically, how can anyone say “It’s not all Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians”? There is no way of knowing. This is what it’s really like.

I am in the camp that firmly believes we cannot let the crazies make us change how we are living our lives. I do what I have to do, I try not to limit my children’s freedom too much. But we are all more aware, we are more jumpy, we are more careful and perhaps a little less carefree.

Fear

15 Oct 2015 Leave a comment

“I see you looking over your shoulder
Tell me who do you think is out there 
……

I’d rather die than fade away
I read the rules
And yeah I know them
Still you ain’t ever gonna
Make me play the game of
Fear “
 Fear, Bon Jovi – from Keep The Faith, 1992

No one can argue that the current situation here is not  frightening. People going about their daily business getting stabbed is hardly normal.

Back in the 1990s, when I lived in Jerusalem, the preferred modus operandi of terrorists was to detonate themselves on buses. I won’t go into too much detail, because thinking about it triggers a certain amount of post traumatic stress disorder in my brain, and produces photographic memories that I will never be able to erase. Suffice to say, that back in those days, when I relied on public transportation to get everywhere, getting on a bus was easier said than done. Twice “my” bus was blown up. Twice, thank God, I wasn’t on it. Other buses that I frequently took were also blown up. On multiple occasions I chose to get off a crowded bus and walk to my destination, even if it was still a couple of miles away. It felt safer to walk, than to risk being on a crowded bus, and making myself a potential terror statistic.

Until Tuesday, taking the bus felt safer than walking, with this current rise in attacks. And then a terrorist got on a bus in Jerusalem and started stabbing passengers, Last night it happened again in Jersusalem – thankfully this time, only one passenger was stabbed.

This morning my husband dropped me off at the health clinic to get a flu shot. In the center of town. After my shot, I walked to the mall and bought a pair of shoes. Then I remembered a book I needed to pick up, so I walked from the mall  back through the center of town to get the book. From there, I waited at a crowded bus stop, on a busy street in the center of the city, to take a bus home.

It was only as I walked the 7 minutes from the bus stop to my apartment that I realized something. I hadn’t felt scared all morning. I went about my daily life as normal. I am always alert when I walk around – I was in the US too, where I was far more fearful of being held up at a bank, or a gas station. I rarely use my phone when I’m walking in the street, and today I left it in my purse the entire time I was out. Contrary to what you may have read on Facebook, I did not have my big golf umbrella with me  – it’s a lovely sunny day here. I did have my new shoes in their box, which I could have swung at anyone trying to carry out an attack.

I realized, when I got home, that while I’m scared by the situation in general – the attacks are in random places all over the country – I am not scared to live my life here. I’m worried about my kids – they normally have so much independence, but right now we are not allowing them nearly as much freedom. I’m nervous that this will continue for months, and that the number of casualties will continue to rise.  I still feel safer than I did in America. I don’t worry about walking into the bank, or getting gas, or about school shootings.

Stop the madness. Stop the hatred. Stop the incitement. Stop the violence. But I won’t play the game of fear.

Live Before You Die

11 Oct 2015 Leave a comment

“When you’re young you always think
The sun is going to shine
One day you’re going to have to say hello to goodbye
Shout it out let someone somewhere
Know that you’re alive
Take these words wear them well
Live before you die”

Bon Jovi – Live Before You Die Lyrics | MetroLyrics
Well that’s a bid morbid, isn’t it?
But here’s the reality that we in Israel are living right now. We have no sirens. We have no safe room. No Iron Dome. No Patriot missiles. No 90, 60, 45, 30 or 15 seconds. Everything is immediate impact. It could be in the mall, or in the street, in the synagogue or in the supermarket. In the playground, at the bus stop, the train station. It could be right here, right now.
For more than a week now, since the horrible murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, shot point blank, in their car, with their 4 small children watching from the back seat, I’ve lost count of the number of attacks on Israelis. Stabbings, mostly. With scary looking serrated knives, or screwdrivers, or whatever else a would-be terrorist can get his or her hands on. Yes, her hands. There have been multiple female terrorists too. Just this morning, a female terrorist attempted to blow herself and a long line of traffic up near Ma’ale Adumim, just outside Jerusalem. Thank God for a very vigilant policeman, who stopped her car. She detonated the bomb, but the impact wasn’t what she hoped for, and the policeman was lightly injured, and the terrorist more severely. She is now being treated for burns IN AN ISAELI HOSPITAL.  These attacks are happening all over Israel. Not just in the disputed territories of Judea & Samaria. In Tel Aviv. Petach Tikvah. Afula. Hadera. Pre-1967 Israel.
Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t hate Arabs. I don’t hate Muslims. I don’t hate Palestinians. I hate terrorists, and when I look around, it seems that most terrorists today are Muslims. When Jews carry out “revenge” terror attacks on Arabs in Israel, they too, are terrorists. The difference is that when that happens, the Israeli government (in whom I don’t have the greatest faith right now) immediately condemns the attack. The perpetrators are arrested as soon as possible, and given jail time – just like Palestinian terrorists are. The difference is, that when a Jewish terrorist is put away, that terrorist’s family doesn’t receive a life-time wage from the Israeli government – which is what the families of Palestinian terrorists receive from the Palestinian Authority.
Back to our current reality. Our motto has always been to keep living our lives. In the 90s when they were blowing up buses, we kept taking buses. To stop living is to let terror win. And yet. How, how do we live, how do we allow our children to continue living their lives as normal, when at any moment, we could say “hello to goodbye”?
Should my teenager still be hanging out at the mall with her friends?
Should my younger children still walk to school on their own?
Should my son and his friends be allowed to skateboard in all their usual places?
Is that man over there a terrorist?
Is that woman in the hijab hiding something under her clothing?
What is he taking out of his pocket?
Is she going to try and hurt me?
Is he going to try and kill me?
Should I scream?
Should I run?
This is how it is, in our part of the world. And we always choose life.

“You learn to love to live
You fight and you forgive
You learn what’s wrong and right
You live before you die

I made mistakes I caught some breaks
But I got no regrets
There’s some things I don’t remember
But one thing I don’t forget

When you’re young you always think
The sun is going to shine
One day you’re going to have to say hello to goodbye
Shout it out let someone somewhere
Know that you’re alive
Take these words wear them well
Live before you die
Live before you die
Hey!
Live before you die”

Bon Jovi – Live Before You Die Lyrics | MetroLyrics

We Don’t Run

04 Oct 2015 Leave a comment

How to explain the emotions of the last few days?

ושמחת בחגיך והיית אך שמח

Succot, the festival of Tabernacles, we are told to be happy. To have days filled with joy. We build our succahs, we sit in them for our meals, some sleep in them. We spend time with family and friends. Those of us lucky enough to live in Israel have the opportunity to go up to Jerusalem, just like Jews did in the time of the Beit haMikdash.

For me this Succot was to be extra special. Not only did our close friends and former neighbours from Boca make a beautiful barmitzvah here in Israel, but a dream of a lifetime was to come true. Bon Jovi finally came to Israel. Jon Bon Jovi, who couldn’t care less what anyone thinks, spat in the face of BDS and after nearly 30 years finally announced a concert in Tel Aviv. As a Bon Jovi fan for almost 30 years myself, I have always wanted to see them play in Israel.

And yet.

Thursday, after our friend’s barmtizvah, we visited other friends who live in the Shomron. We came home Thursday night, and I didn’t even  hear about the terrorist attack that left Naama and Eitam Henkin dead, and their 6 children orphaned until the next morning. This happened in the Shomron. Not close to where we were, but still, the Shomron. In addition to that murderous attack, there was rock throwing attack near Tekoa, in Gush Etzion, where thankfully, none of the family in the car were seriously injured. And then, shortly before  I lit candles on Friday evening, I learned that a dear online friend, Christie, whom I have known for about 10 years, had succumbed to cancer. A heaviness accompanied me into Shabbat of Succot, My happiness was tainted.

My excitement for the concert on Saturday night was hard to curb. Music has always been my comfort. When I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m scared, music, especially Bon Jovi music, is what I turn to. For me they have lyrics for every occasion. The rock anthems of the 80s, the ballads of the 90s, and the country-tinted songs from the 2000s. And the rest.

I headed into Tel Aviv with a group of friends. We arrived just in time for the band to get on stage. It was electric. For me it was my fourth time seeing BJ live. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to this one. Jon played to the audience. The setlist was tailored for the Israeli crowd – very few songs from the last few albums, mostly older stuff. It was by far the most amazing experience.

Unknown to the band (and to most of us in the crowd) shortly before they took the stage another murderous attack took place. This time 2 more Israeli men were killed by Palestinian terrorists. The wife of one is in a serious condition in hospital, and their baby was also injured. A baby. This attack happened inside the Old City of Jerusalem. The victims were on their way to pray at The Kotel.

Jon Bon Jovi played one song from their recently released album “Burning Bridges” last night. He dedicated it to Tel Aviv, saying “This should be the fight song for Tel Aviv” – I think he meant for all of Israel. The song is called “We Don’t Run”. You can read the lyrics here.

We left the concert, and that was when we learned about the new attack in Jerusalem, in addition to two separate attacks on children – CHILDREN – sitting in their succahs that occurred on Friday night.

How much longer can this go on? Have we entered a third Intifada? What do we do?

We don’t give in. We don’t give up. This is our land. This is our home. We must be able to live here, in spite of those who try to get rid of us.

In the words of Bon Jovi:

“We don’t run
I’m standing my ground
We don’t run
And we don’t back down
There’s fire in the sky, there’s thunder on the mountains
Bless each tear and this dirt I was born in (run)
We don’t run, we don’t run”

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