Thursday, April 28, 2011

"If You See Something, Say Something"- NYC MTA campaign slogan

The Egged version of that statement is something like, "נא לסרוק מושבך ולדווח על כל חצף חשוד." ["Please check around your seat and report any suspicious object."]

There's a story that my mom has told me about when she came back from Israel and went to do shopping and wasn't able to carry all the stuff in at once so she left it by the elevator or door or something-- basically, she wasn't around it. She was worried that someone might see it and call the police. And then she realized that she was in America, where nobody cares if there is a bag lying around with no one around.

In Israel you are taught (trained) from a very young age to be aware of your surroundings. If there is a bag just sitting there-- be aware of it. Ask the people around you if it's theirs; if it's not-- call the police and get away-- fast. Many times it's just a bag that someone accidentally left. Or a box that someone left and didn't put in the garbage. But no one is taking a chance-- it's really, "See something, say something." Today on my bus there was a bag (note: Israeli city buses have a space by one of the doors that's technically for wheelchairs, but people use it more for carriages and big packages/bags) in the wheelchair section, strapped in. It must have been there for a while even though people were getting on and off. All of a sudden, a stop before Machane Yehuda the driver gets on the loudspeaker and starts yelling something-- unintelligible, of course, and about 5 seconds in people start getting up and getting off the bus. Immediately you know that there's something wrong and it's not a problem with the electrical system on the bus. It turned out to be the bag of someone who doesn't really speak Hebrew and she didn't understand what the driver was saying until people started getting off the bus and someone told her.

You know-- I didn't even feel any kind of adrenaline flow. It was just...that's life in Israel. A chefetz chashud (pronounced with a hard "ch," like challah or Chanukah)-- suspicious object-- is just part of life here. Thank G-d it was someone's bag from shopping. Welcome to Israel.

(on a side note, if the object is not claimed, as happens as well, the police clear the area, block off the street, and bring in a robot to safely detonate the chefetz chashud.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I was just looking at my pictures from Pesach two years ago, the last Pesach that I was in NY for and upstate-- the way I grew up having Pesach.

Pesach really seems to be THE holiday that exemplifies the whole family coming together. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur not as much, and even Chanukah, because of it's proximity to other winter holidays. But Pesach-- everyone who has some connection to Judaism and tradition remembers the seder. For me, Pesach was my family together, upstate-- see here; I don't need to post it again.

It's something that I want my kids to have memories of, the way I have-- my immediate family, plus my grandparents, plus aunts, uncles, and cousins (well, only one set in my case). It was also something special-- because my mom was an only child and my grandparents all got along, my mom's parents always were at the seder even though it was upstate and in my Bubby and Zaidy's house. I always had seder with both sets of grandparents. I wonder what seder was like this year in my house (my parent's house...). The first seder they had a friend from the neighborhood over and the second night a different family friend came over.

I wonder what my seder will be like once I have my own family. I should probably write something else about that, because that seems to be a repeating theme: The future for me in Israel, with my own family. Not that I have someone to start it with, but it's still something that I clearly think about a lot.

Pesach 5771

My second Pesach in Israel. The first one I'm without anyone that I was normally at a seder with (last year my aunt, uncle, and cousin were in Israel and I had the seder with them); I was with my adopted family from Chashmonaim-- small, just 5 of us. And-- again, felt weird (but less so than last year) to have only one day of chag.

Then on chol hamoed I did the very Israeli thing of tiyuling (or for those that speak proper English-- going on a tiyul). On the first day I did a tiyul in Jerus
alem, and the second day I did Yehudia (the upper one; for those of you that know the trails-- the red to the green). I had wanted to do Yehudia for
quite a while, and I"m really glad that I got to finally.

Jerusalem tiyul (Even Sapir):
This is one of the many hikes that start from Hadassah Ein Kerem, or right nearby. There isn't too much to say about this tiyul. It was, as one of the others put it, a nature walk. It was pretty much walking along a dusty road with pretty flowers on the sides. There were points that you saw the hills and it WAS beautiful, but it wasn't so much my kind of tiyul. Give me
climbing and rocks and water, etc. Not a dirt road...That being said, here is a pretty flower shot and a scenery shot:

Yehudia: The weather was perfect-- not too hot, not too cold; a little bit of sun, but not bright and too hot. Also, the path itself was very shady. Let's discuss the tiyul. The big thing about Yehudia is the ladder and the water. You have to climb down a ladder and then swim. It wasn't bad, just don't look down :) You kind of have to, to know where other people are so you don't go down too fast and step on them, but don't look down to see how much further you have. And don't look up to see how far you came down. The water was so cold-- it literally shocked my body into stopping breathing for a moment. It was like being a water tester in camp (which meant that the head lifeguard threw you in and asked you how cold the water was and then told everyone else to get in and start swimming laps to warm up), except then I knew the water was going to be cold. This was colder. This was totally my kind of tiyul-- rocks, climbing, water... Much better than just walking on a road-- give me things to climb on, water, etc...mmmmm... After the tiyul we had a BBQ with a disposable grill which ended up not working so well so we made a small fire and used the screen/rack thing from the disposable grill on top of that. See here:
"Disposable grill?" you ask? Yes. That is one of the many wonderful things that they have here. Tiyulim and camping and BBQs are so much a part of the culture here; school trips-- hikes. End of school trip-- hike. Holidays-- hikes. And camping.

Now getting the food for the tiyul was a bit more interesting. In Israel, the majority of people eats kitniyot (legumes, rice, etc., including corn, beans, canola, chickpeas...for a more in-depth explanation, click here) and there is significant debate over whether or not people living in Israel should or should not eat kitnoyot regardless of their cultural background (Ashkenazi or Sefardi) (see here for more on that), however my friends and I do not. So everything I bought had to be not only kosher for Pesach, but kitnoyot-free as well. A challenge in the average Israeli supermarket. The kosher for Pesach part was easy-- the shelves that are not kosher for Pesach were draped off and labeled: (the word on the sign is "chametz," or "leavened"-- aka, not kosher for Pesach. The hard part was finding non-kitnoyot stuff. Even things like yogurt-- "kosher l'pesach l'ochelei kitnoyot [kosher for Passover only for those who eat kitnoyot]." And some of the signs were confused, like this one:
(the sign says, "l'lo chashash kitnoyot"-- basically, "not kitnoyot." However, it was under rice which is very definitely kitnoyot. Confused sign...) But I was able to find meat (the hamburgers and hot dogs were the harder ones because they are processed; raw meat isn't kitniyot) and even the sweet chili sauce (also hard to find). And marshmallows. I would say, based on what I saw, that easily 2/3 of the products are only for those who eat kitnoyot. Not helpful.

I leave you with some pictures from the Golan (most of them are on someone else's camera-- we only took 1 camera on the hike, because of the water and I have to get them from her):
the road:
the mountains:
more mountains:
and again:
the Kineret:

And one more reason to love and appreciate being in a Jewish country:
The bus has the traditional Passover greeting of, "A happy and kosher Pesach."

Monday, April 11, 2011

I hate the army

I don't really. I shouldn't. It keeps me safe and allows me to go places with less risk of getting hurt.

But I just hate how it so royally f's up so many people's lives, particularly those who did not go in when they were 18 and just out of high school. The IDF, particularly the non-career soldiers, is geared towards 18 and 19 year olds who have just finished high school and have not yet gotten higher education or in any way really started their lives.

For the others, olim, people who decided at a later age to volunteer, and those who already have life experience beyond high school-- the army interrupts their lives. Many people who choose to serve at a later age who are non-combat positions and actually get into the unit/area they want-- they're very happy. But that doesn't mean the army doesn't screw up things for them, too. A friend from Ulpan wanted to go in for 1 year-- the army made her go in for 2, despite her age (24) and the original statement that she would only have to serve 1 year. She's a few months in. Another friend who is also 24 volunteered-- she is in the unit she wants and I'm not sure how many months she's doing. Another friend who made aliyah in his mid 20's and went to law school and then volunteered-- he just went in at 29. The army is not designed for people who have lives already.

Combat soldiers? Forget it...your life as you knew it or thought it could be is over. If you're married-- maybe you get to go home for Shabbat. If you're not married, you don't have a life. You don't. Say you have every other Shabbat out-- let's just say, because that's pretty standard for many. get out, in theory, Thursday (which could be anywhere from the morning to the night) and depending on the time you get out, by the time you get home, you have just enough time to start a load of laundry so you can do the next one, etc. so that your clothes will all be dry before you pack them up for the next two weeks. You have until Sunday morning-- say...anywhere between 9 and 11 am (usually; depends where you have to be) to be back at your base. Besides the laundry, you also have to take care of the things you couldn't do over the past two weeks were in the army and couldn't leave. Hope your bank is open on Friday...or that you have everything you need so you can go directly from base to the bank... If you do not keep Shabbat, you have Friday and Saturday (Shabbat) to hang out with friends and family, relax, watch TV/movies. And finish your laundry. But you're usually sleeping a lot of the time. If you do keep Shabbat, you have until Shabbat comes in (just before sunset on Friday) and after Shabbat (about 24 hours plus 72 minutes from when Shabbat started) to do all those things and then on Shabbat you have time to hang out with friends, read, sleep, etc. Now try to have a social life in there. Where? I don't know. I guess it makes sense not to date (seriously date, not just screw around- pun not intended) until after the army. But when you're married, it's really hard-- you are away from your spouse for at least a week and you're expected to be able to have a normal relationship?! Major props to those who are doing this.
And it's so frustrating. It's very difficult to have a normal life when you're away from your family for 2 weeks (at least) at a shot and then to expect to be able to have normal relationships with people other than your army buddies? You get used to it...but it's still not normal and sometimes not possible. Another friend has been engaged for almost 2 years because she wasn't able to marry when she was in the army. It really-- forces you to put your life on hold or not be in a place (for many people; not all) to have a relationship that requires a lot of maintenance (talking about combat positions; non-combat is very different and does allow a lot more of having a "normal" life). And it's hard for those of us who aren't in the army and want to have a relationship-- any kind of relationship-- with those in the army. Call to say hi-- "Sorry, I can't talk, I'm busy." And they're busy every time you call because their schedule keeps getting changed and this one wants to switch and they go out for this operation and that job...and when they can in theory talk, it's either 2 am or you're at work. Or about to go to sleep. Or they're going to sleep because they're so damn tired.

It sucks.

I'm not in the army, and a large part of the reason I didn't volunteer was this-- I have a life already, I've begun it. And serving in the IDF would have meant putting my life on hold for a short amount of time, learning to do something new because they don't have OT in the army, and then resuming it 6 months later, or even a year later; they wouldn't take me for longer. In any event, it's putting my life on hold. At the age of 25, when it's not matim at all for me to start. I can do more and better for the country outside the army.

But it still affects me and my life and what kinds of relationships I have with my friends who are in the army.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hello, juxtaposition

Death meet Life.

I've posted about this more than once; I am very blessed and fortunate to have more than one family. In NY I have my family, plus my Queens family and of course my friends who are family. In Israel I have two adopted families-- one who I have known since I was born (my dad and the mom grew up together, about 5 houses away from each other, and when my sisters and I would go to my dad's parents on Shabbos afternoons we would also go to her mom's house), and one that I met only after I moved here.

In family #1, the grandmother was sick for a couple of months, and recently her medical situation deteriorated and she passed away yesterday. In family #2, one of the children got married yesterday.

When I found out the grandmother, Babi, passed away I sent a text message to one of the daughters in family #2 what happened and that I didn't know what was going on. I went back to house, found out the game plan, and I decided-- I'm going to the wedding. I don't know how long I'll be able to stay, because I have to catch a bus back, but I'm going.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this post. It just struck me, the contrast between death and life. Going from a place where you're figuring out funeral arrangements to a wedding. Trying to straddle and balance two conflicting...everything and be there for all your families and yourself.