Tuesday, May 17, 2005

My teeth hurt

Well, my trip back to Israel was uneventful, which is the way a plane trip should be. It proved, also, that everything is relative. After having flown from Tel Aviv to San Jose via a 5-hour layover in Paris and a 2-hour layover in Dallas, the New York-Tel Aviv flight seemed to go by in a jiffy. Seriously, we landed and I thought "wow, that was such a short trip"! Sort of like the guy who goes to the rabbi and says "rabbi, my home is so small and my family so big, we are so crowded, what should I do?" and the rabbi proceeds to tell him to move several animals in his house. The punchline, of course, is that when the rabbi finally tells him to get rid of the animals, the man says "wow, my home is so spacious!"


A few months ago, a friend of mine came back from a vacation in the US and was feeling guilty because she had not wanted to come back to Israel. I told her that the issue is not whether she's content and happy about having made aliyah, but rather that now, instead of Israel being the place she goes to on vacation, it's the location of her "real" life, with all its problems and pressures - the same problems and pressures she would have in the US, more or less. No one who goes on vacation is keen on going back to work, a home to keep clean, and whatever social or family issues they have. But if you live in Israel, that feeling of not wanting to go home gets wrapped up with a feeling of guilt, because how can a good Jew not be thrilled to be going back to our homeland?

Recently, that friend threw my own observations back in my face! Don't you hate it when you can't tell someone they are wrong, because they are repeating your very own words?

So I am going to say now: Screw the guilt! I had a great time in the States and I had mixed feelings about coming back! I love Israel but I still did not want to come back! Because Israel is now the home of me, the windows I need to wash, the tax office I still need to go to, and the dental appointment I made for this week! Who prefers having tartar scraped off their teeth over being wined and dined by friends in the US? Not me! Who prefers working to playing "lightsaber duel" with her nephews? Not me!


However, I must say that since I had to come back, I picked a good time. I flew on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and arrived just in time for Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). Since it was Memorial Day, the flight attendants announced that El Al was playing only "appropriate" (read: sad) movies and playing only sad music. It helped me feel like I still deserved my blue Israeli Membership Card, even though I'd been away so long.

And Yom Haatzmaut was amazing. My Israeli neighbor, Nechama, brought me with her to celebrate the day in Moshav Ora with her entire Iraqi family and some of their friends. I spoke Hebrew! We had a mangal (barbecue)! Ah. A day with the natives. The sun was shining, the juices from the beef, chicken, and lamb were sizzling, the kids had a water fight, and I tried unsuccessfully to explain to Nechama's brother why an American would ever make aliyah.

Then Nechama and I headed to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Rechavia, where they had a "living museum" about what the neighborhood was like in the 1930's and 40's, during the British Mandate period and the War for Independence. They had, for example, students from the renowned Hebrew Gymnasium high school (located in Rehavia and alma mater to several prominent Israeli authors) picketing in front of the school with signs like "Jews, speak Hebrew!" There were actors everywhere in period costumes; period music playing; British "soldiers" announcing that we were in Region B and therefore had to follow the rules of the British occupation; and several Egged buses from the 1940's and 50's, open for us to climb into (that was so cool).


Tonight I headed out for the appointment with the dental hygenist. Traffic was slow all over the city due to scattered protests against the disengagement from Gaza. A few blocks from my house, a bunch of teenage boys and one adult man were burning something that looked like it used to be a baby stroller. The kids were all wearing orange t-shirts (orange being the official "support Gaza" color), and there were huge posters strung up all along the intersection that said "Jews don't expel Jews."

This was the first time I ever saw something political happening this close to my house. I'm all for free speech, but that burning whatever-it-was was dangerously close to where cars were stopping for red lights. They could at least have burned it on the sidewalk. (I'm not commenting here on how I feel about the disengagment, just saying that flames and cars do not mix).

The taxi driver and I had been shmoozing until we got to that intersection, but when we saw the protesters we got quiet. I didn't know what to say. This is a bad situation. Those of you who read my blog know that I'm thinly in favor of the pullout, but that doesn't mean that I'm in love with the idea of it. It doesn't mean that I enjoy the idea of people losing their homes -- any people, but particularly fellow Jews.

I think it's amazing that those who are willing to stand up against the pullout may do so without, say, getting shot (though there were about 200 arrests today in Jerusalem, according to the NY Times). I believe in people's rights to protest. What makes me nervous is the idea of what will happen as July gets closer and closer. Today, it's traffic jams and some fires. What will be tomorrow? Next week? Next month? The whole thing is giving me the heeby jeebies. I'm still a soft American, I guess. I haven't been here yet during serious action. I'm getting nervous.


Guess what? Having your teeth cleaned is just as unpleasant in Jerusalem as it is in Boston and New York. Who would've thought?

The price tag is less painful though. :-) 70 NIS (about $15) for the visit. Ah, socialized medicine (Judah, I know what you want to say. You have already said it. I love socialized medicine. So there!)

And, the medical/dental clinic is next to the shuk (famous open-air market). 10 pitot for one shekel! A kilo of strawberries for 10 shekels! A bag of cookies for 4 shekels! Yum!


On the bus on the way home, I saw a female soldier who had an orange ribbon tied to her backpack. I thought that was strange. I mean, of course she's allowed her private opinions, but is a soldier allowed to display displeasure at government policy on an army-issued backpack?

Another woman on the bus approached the girl and asked her about it. If I understood correctly, the soldier replied something about the ribbon being just a ribbon, not a political statement.

Now, one of two things is happening here. Either the girl had tied the ribbon to her backpack ages ago, to make it easily distinguishable from other soldiers' khaki-colored backpacks, in which case she might want to switch it to a purple or yellow ribbon . . . or else she tied an orange ribbon to her backpack as a protest against the Gaza pullout. Again, if it's the latter, I don't begrudge her private opinions . . . but I would have thought there would be rules about this in the army. Are there? Anyone out there know the facts on this? David? Gil?

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