Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reflections on One Seder

Somehow...it doesn't quite feel like Yom Tov with only one day of chag. I suppose that's normal-- but...it feels...missing something- wait, let's rephrase that so it's proper English and makes sense: it feels like something is missing. As much as the two-day yom tov was long, it feels like something is missing now. Like it's only half of a chag.
My aunt and uncle are doing a second seder; that's also weird, to have a second seder going on in the background while I'm sitting here tapping away on the computer.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pesach in the Holy Land

Subtitle: My first chag as an Israeli

Pesach is one of those holidays that is so darn family-centered. Growing up my parents, sisters, and I always went upstate with my father's parents, my aunt, uncle, and cousin (my dad's sister and her family), and my mom's parents (my mom is an only child). And there were 12 of us in the house, plus the dog-- Bubby and Zaidy (my dad's parents)'s room, my aunt and uncle's room, my family's room, and my Grandma and Grandpa (my mom's parents)'s room. The kids all slept in in their parent's rooms/in the couch when passed out from exhaustion at the seder.
We had our traditions-- the kids rotated setting the table/serving/cleaning up; 2 kids per seder and the rest of the meals were 1 child each. My mom brought the European kiddush cups for the seder, four of them in four different sizes. There were originally 3 in the set from my great-grandparents, and then a fourth one was added from a family friend. Only the largest two were big enough to actually have enough wine from, but we used them anyway. My Zaidy, my Grandpa, my dad, and my uncle each had a seder plate, and everyone had their own kiddush cup. My Zaidy's was red/maroon glass, my Grandpa's kiddush cup was green with a glass insert, my dad's was silver with his name, and my uncle's was silver also. My cousin had his own, too, also silver. My Bubby, Grandma, and aunt used glass ones, and my mom and sisters and I used the European cups and sometimes supplemented with other cups.
The way Pesach went in my house was a couple of weeks before Pesach, my parents would go upstate and bring stuff up, and then a few days before my Bubby and Zaidy would go up and supervise the cleaning lady. In our house in the city we would clean and get the house Pesachdik because my dad came back over chol hamoed to work. My Grandpa made the charoset in our house, with my little sister and I as taste testers; mostly wine, but he always made one container with grape juice.
We would all get upstate, and my Bubby and Zaidy would already be there, usually my aunt, uncle, and cousin as well, and my Bubby would be making chremzel (matzah meal pancakes) for us to eat. We would unload in between eating, saying hi, and petting the dog.
Once everything was in and we were ready to get ready for the seder, my Grandma would do the eggs, whoever was on duty for the seder would set the table with my Bubby, my Bubby would make the salad, my mom would be heating the food up, and my aunt would be doing the seder plates and whatnot. Everyone was doing something.
Then the guys came home from shul. Treasure would let us know. Eventually the guys would pick their matzahs, everyone would end up with a Haggadah (usually the same ones, although it always took 20 minutes to pick...), and we would start. Zaidy made kiddush, the Grandpa, then my dad, then my uncle, then BZ. For Karpas, my Bubby would make the salt water (with pepper too) and put it in two white bowls with the same cups every year. Once Yachatz happened, we (the kids) would tell our fathers/grandfathers that we would "keep" the afikomen safe and make sure it was in a safe place until the end of the seder. My BZ took his dad's, and us girls (my sisters and I) would split up between my dad, Zaidy, and Grandpa. Usually my dad gave it to my mom to hold and Lis got it; Andrea got Grandpa's because she sat next to him, and I got my Zaidy's. Once Andrea got married and went to Seder with Yoni's family, I took Grandpa's. And we would go through the seder, reading and talking. Ma Nishtana, Lis and BZ did. We used to do the multi-lingual thing, but then it got tiring. Of course there were the classic moments of, "And the rasha says, 'What kind of crap is this?'" and divrei Torah and comments interspersed in Maggid and in-between. Motzei everyone did on their own-- but until that happened... We got to shulchan orech-- no matter who was on duty, I served soup. My thing was soup. Is soup (as in, I know what everybody in my family wants and can tell you-- clear soup, veggies, no veggies, only certain veggies, noodles, kneidel, how much...it's kinda freaky/cool). Then came tzafun, aka negotiations. We used to negotiate individually, but eventually we all (all 4 of us cousins) negotiated together as a group, on one night for both sedarim. It was a game: we would hide the afikoman, we would say we won't give it back, my dad would threaten to eat another piece of matzah instead and not wait for the afikoman and we would talk to my Zaidy. Grandpa always agreed right away, or before my Grandma died he would "consult" with her. But it was just so much fun. As the seder went on, though, there would be different people "taking breaks" by falling asleep on the couch or going to their beds. At Hallel and Nirtzah, we would go around during Echad Mi Yodeah and Adir Hu, etc., taking turns reading. If I close my eyes-- actually, I don't have to, I can just picture it-- I can still hear almost hear my Grandma's voice, and I can still see and hear my Grandpa reading from the large print Haggadah in his English-Hungarian accent. I miss it. I miss them.
After Grandma died it wasn't the same-- close, but still felt her missing. And then Andrea got married and they were by us once, but after that went to the hotel. And last year Grandpa died so that was one less person at the table. And this year...well, this year, I wouldn't be there, my aunt and uncle came to Israel because BZ is here for the year, and so my Bubby and Zaidy and parent and Lis would have been the only ones. And that's depressing. So Bubby, Zaidy, my parents, and Lis went to the hotel and they're going to get to spend the Seder with Andrea and Yoni and Squishy-- one, at least. The other seder they're doing with Yoni's family.

I'm having a hard-ish time. Remember how my mom didn't want me to be lonely? I'm not lonely, but I do miss my family and friends back in NY. I think I feel it a little more acutely because of the break-up and not having that person like before, but it's also the first time I'm away from my family and missing the real traditions that we do every year and the...just the home and family. Sukkot isn't as much, because I went away for the last days anyway so it was kind of whatever. But Pesach-- we were all together. And there was always too much food and too many drinks and everyone getting on each other's nerves and being in and out and...this Pesach is going to be hard. Good, nice, different, but hard.

I also realized that I can't not live in Israel, but I definitely left someone I very well could have married. I'm having a bit of a down moment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two posts in one

First Post:
Yesterday I had to go from Beit Yehuda in Givat Massua to Rechaviya; I needed the 13. I could have taken the 12 the other way to meet the 13, but the person at the front desk said I could also catch the 13 at Malcha. I didn't remember that, but I figured, "Well, that's the direction I need." So I asked the bus driver where I catch the 13. He asked me, "Where are you going?" I told him, and he goes, "You should have taken the bus the other way." Well, I hadn't...so he told me what buses to switch to and someone else chimes in, and then the front part of the bus was debating which was the best way for me to get where I needed to go. Only in Israel.

Second Post:
Two years ago at this time I was back in NYC. March 25, 2008, was my return flight to NYC after spending about 9 weeks in Israel.
I did not want to be back, I did not want to be back. It was more like a vacation or short trip in between being in Israel.

And here I am now, March 25, 2010, getting ready for my first Pesach as an olah, as an Israeli, and planning my trip back to NY from Israel. This time when I book a round-trip ticket it will be from TLV to JFK/EWR and back to TLV.

It just keeps hitting me...I live here. I live here. I. LIVE. HERE. ISRAEL. This is freakin' awesome!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The weekend

In Israel, the workweek is a little different than in America.

In America, the workweek is Monday-Friday; typical business hours are 9-5. In Israel, the workweek is Sunday-Friday; typical business hours are anything from 8-6:30, with 2-3 hour breaks in the middle, and many places will open Sunday or Friday, be closed any day from Monday-Thursday, and often end their day at 12:30.

My week goes from Sunday-Thursday. I have classes from 8:30-12:45 Sunday-Thursday, and then Thursday-Saturday (Shabbat, here) I am free. Why is this nice? Why is this not nice?

I love having Friday free (not everybody has this, but many people do). I can get ready for Shabbat and not have to be pressured to do things in the 2 hours that I have once I get home from work. Or have to worry about having enough time to get to my destination before Shabbat.

Why is this not nice? Because when I want to do something on Motzei Shabbat, or when I take my Shabbat afternoon nap, I have to take into account that I have class at 8:30 am on Sunday morning. I miss my Sundays. But Fridays here are sort of like Sundays. Except that you have to be ready for Shabbat by the time sunset hits. Rather, 18 minutes before to light.

Another thing about Shabbat here- since pretty much everybody is Jewish, everybody wishes each other Shabbat shalom-- from the bus driver to the cashier in the supermarket to the garbage man to the taxi driver! Not everybody is Jewish, but most of the people that I am in contact with are, anyway. It's so nice.

שבת שלום לכולם! Or, Shabbat shalom everybody!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My head is clear now / I know I'm right / I will not fear now / I will not fight -"Reach," Caren Tackett

I am no longer dating the person I was for the past 2 months. So why is this going in my aliyah blog- what does this have to do with my aliyah process?

Well, for starters, we have a lot of mutual friends-- many of whom form a strong social network and support for me. We started dating about a week and a half after I got here. Which is interesting timing because I had just gotten here, and it's not like there was anything going on before I got to Israel.

He is also an oleh, although he's been here longer than I have. We were looking for different things in the relationship. So it ended.

And so went my first relationship in Israel. And now I am single again. But not to worry-- it's Israel! Everyone wants to set anyone single up!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Purim x2

There's Purim and there's Shushan Purim. Shushan Purim is celebrated in walled cities, such as Jerusalem. And it's celebrated indeed!

I decided I was going to celebrate regular Purim. This year was a little more complicated because Purim fell out on a Motzei Shabbat, which meant that I would have to be outside of Jerusalem on Motza"sh to hear Megillah, and since Megillah is read before havdalah, I would have to be whereever I was going to be for Purim, for Shabbat.

I went home (Chashmonaim) (as a side note, I was home for the past month of Shabbatot. That is so rare; the last time I was home for a month was the month before I made aliyah) for Shabbat. And heard Megillah in Chashmonaim. Then I went to Yosef's because he was having a party at his house. I borrowed a sari/saree from Shana and even though Madoor (an Indian guy from Ulpan) showed me how to tie it and he helped me pin it where it was supposed to, it took me about 20-30 minutes to wrap; man, those things are complicated. When you don't know what you're doing. On Sunday morning I heard Megillah in Raanana and I was supposed to go back to Chashmonaim for seudah...which I thought was at 3...and turned out to be at 1:30. I found this out at about 11:30... I quickly packed up my stuff and Yosef took me to the bus. I waited for the bus. And waited. And then one of the buses drove by, stopped about 3 feet from the curb and said that the buses aren't stopping at that stop, but only certain stops including Aluf Sade. Ok, fine, take a bus to Aluf Sade. And again, wait. And wait. And it's now 1 pm. There was no way I was making it to seudah because of all the traffic. Back-up plan: Call Eli and Avi and see if I can come to them for seudah. And they said yes! Yay! ...Ok, go back on the bus to Bar Ilan and follow the directions to the supermarket, pick up stuff, and go to Eli and Avi's. Oh, yeah, and in the rain. Yay! (I'm not sure if that was sarcastic or not; you decide).
Seudah was really nice. Really nice. It was a bunch of people from Bar Ilan, most of whom I'd already met. I wore my sari, but it kept getting the way, like every time I bent down. I have to learn how to work it. I did figure out a way to tie it up, but it didn't look so good. Whatever; I'll practice more.
After 6 pm the buses were running normally, so around 7:30-8 I left Eli and Avi's and went to the bus and got home. :)

Shushan Purim:
Monday morning I went into Jerusalem (I stayed in Chashmonaim overnight so I didn't have to worry about hearing Megillah in the morning, because outside of walled cities it wasn't Purim anymore) and went to the Sadehs for seudah. It was the first time I met Yaffa and the rest of the kids (well, the rest of the boys anyway; the one girl wasn't there) and it was a lot of fun. The seudah was long and crazy and there was tons and tons of food.
Aside from the seudah, Jerusalem itself was nuts. There were firecrackers and fireworks being set off everywhere you turned-- pretty, but I'm pretty sure that there were lots of burns and other injuries, seeing as it was mostly kids who were doing them. For a shock, there were lots of drunk people...gee...
The best part, though, was the buses. The buses normally have the route number and the direction written on them-- for Purim it alternated between the route number/direction and the route number/פורים שמח ("Purim sameach"-- Happy Purim") and the music on the buses was Purim music. I love it...can't wait for Pesach!

That's one of the amazing things about being here, about living in Israel. It's MY country, MY holidays, and MY people. I mean, people gave bus drivers mishloach manot (aka shalach manos, aka packages of food that you give out on Purim)-- think about this! Do people give the bus drivers in New York candy canes on Christmas? Or candy bars on Halloween? I love it.