Friday, April 30, 2004

So, I've just reached a new stage in my life. Young Moshe, the high school student whom I've hired to help around my house, was just here for 3 hours, and now there is no going back! This is like magic!

While I was cooking for Shabbos, someone else was washing my windows (I can see through them now!), dusting my bookshelves and all the books (it's all gleaming!), taking out my recycling, cleaning my bathroom, and dropping off my dry-cleaning.

Oh, my God, now I get why people have cleaning ladies. This is the happiest I've been for a long time. I feel like . . . like . . . . I feel so free.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Second Yom Haatzmaut update:

This was one of the best days ever!

Traditionally, Israelis have a "mangal" on Independence Day. I went to one hosted by my friend Noa at Gan Hapaamon (Liberty Bell Park), in conjunction with Nefesh B'Nefesh. I'd say that overall there were about 70 people there, though not all at the same time. From about 1:30 until around 5:30 I hung out, met new people, lay in the shade, and ate grilled meat (some of you already know that I am a big fan of "fleish"). Yum!

The park, by the way, was FULL of Israelis having picnics and barbecues. It was something else. I hate to think how many cows sacrificed their lives for this. But it smelled incredible. And the weather was perfect. It felt like a wonderful high-70's, low-80's kinda day. Gorgeous!

As one person wrote in response to Noa's evite about the event "Od lo avda mangaleinu; hamangal bat shnot alpayim . . . " (Apologies to those who don't know the Israeli national anthem. The joke would lose something in the explanation.)

Then I went with Noa and her boyfriend, David, to the Museum of the Underground for a "Living History" festival. Usually this takes place in Yemin Moshe, but apparently for security reasons they moved it to this more-easily-protected site. The Museum of the Underground is on the site of the prison used by the British for Israeli and Arab fighters in the Mandate period; it's basically a shrine to the Irgun, Palmach, and Lechi.

The whole thing was a little weird to me; Beth said to me afterward, when we were talking about the museum, "It just reminds me that the only difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is who wins." I don't think that's entirely true, since my understanding is that freedom fighters only target soldiers while terrorists target civilians, but the point is still there, and it still makes me uncomfortable.

In addition to all the regular museum exhibits, they'd also moved in the "Live History" component that usually takes place in Yemin Moshe. Lots of young actors in 1948-style clothing, dressed as British people, Jews of '48, Arabs, and prisoners of the prison-turned-museum, acting out various events that took place within the prison and outside. Near the parking lot were a bunch of fancily-dressed (1948-style) "British" people explaining to the children what the British mandate was and the events of 1948. In the courtyard of the museum were people singing the songs of the resistance, and showing how Jews in Palestine passed the time. The whole thing had a strange "Renaissance Faire that's not" quality to it. But I did get cotton candy, which I haven't had for years. Yum!

I skipped the singalong for 2,000 people, because I was tired and cold and had to go to the bathroom. I hope I'll be able to go to it next year.

Overall, a fabulous day, one to be remembered and cherished: My first Yom Haatzmaut as an Israeli citizen!
Being in Israel on Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) is the best!

Last night I first went to a special "festive prayer service" nearby -- most of the synagogues here do this-- where, before the regular evening service we sang psalms -- the cantor had a guitar, which is unusual for an Orthodox service, because on Shabbat we can't play music-- and everyone was so into it! And we said a full "Hallel" -- actually, sang it all out loud to great tunes -- and blew a shofar. Everyone was in a great mood and it was so cool to be with all these Israelis and Americans, living here, and having a religious service to thank God for Israel's 56 years of independence!

Then I went with to a "singalong" at the local community center. It was a guy onstage with a guitar, and everyone in the audience was, well, singing along! I'd been told that singalongs are a uniquely Israeli institution and I should try to go to at least one (there are several going on around the city). I didn't know any of the words, but I clapped and had a good time watching the Israelis having a good time. I was fascinated to see who comes to a singalong. It was mostly religious teenagers -- you know, good wholesome fun-- but there was also a big group of "cool"-looking non-religious girls sitting behind me, and several young couples and singles, and some older couples. I thought "this event is so NOT cool, and it's fun to see people having genuine fun at a not-cool event." Seriously, everyone who knew the songs was singing along and having a good time. You don't see that much in Manhattan, where being cool is very important.

Then I went to the plaza in front of Jerusalem's city hall -- wait, let me say that again: On Israeli Independence Day I was in Jerusalem and went to Jerusalem's city hall-- to watch the Israeli Folk Dancing. We're not talking about professional dance groups. This is an "everyone is invited to come and dance at City Hall plaza" thing. They had the music blasting and hundreds of people in concentric circles, doing very complex dances. Once again, it was fascinating to see who had shown up and who knows these dances. I was agog at the number of young, urban people who have spent time learning old-fashioned Israeli folk dancing. We're not talking the hora here. These were dances that you definitely need to take a class to learn. It was mostly non-religious types in their 30s-40's, with some older people mixed in. But again, it's incredible how many young people were doing it. A girl with her midriff showing and a rhinestone belt, who was dancing away like she's been studying this for years. She could have been in City Center drinking beer and spraying people with shaving cream, but she'd shown up to Israeli Folk Dancing! I saw several young men, a couple of whom wore kippot, and two women in long skirts with their hair covered, just dancing away. This has got to be the only place where you have hair-covered women, uncovered-head men, and girl-with-rhinestone-belt all dancing together. It was fun and interesting and beautiful to watch, and once again, so fun to be in a country where being un-cool is encouraged!

Today I'm going to a barbecue in a local park-- so traditional that on the radio this morning they are having a contest for "barbecue king," and then hopefully going to a "Living Museum" festival where they'll have all sorts of fun exhibits and activities about 1948; I hear that it's a great event. I also hear that it ends with a huge singalong with 2,000 people, but I'm not sure whether that is happening this year, since they are not doing it in the usual place.

By the way, I gave myself an Israeli Flag Manicure: blue nails with white tips! I'm outta the club!

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Woooo hooooo!

Today is one of the best days of my life!

I just hired someone to help clean my apartment!

Why, you might ask, would a healthy adult woman who lives alone in a 2-room apartment need hired help?

Because she's busy and hates cleaning, OK? And because she found an English-speaking Israeli high-school student who will help her out for a few hours once a week for only 15 NIS (about $3.50) an hour, OK? And because she has better things to do with her life, OK?

Woo hoo! My windows will be clean! My dry cleaning will be picked up! My floors will be mopped! My bookshelves will be dusted! My newspapers will be recycled! On a regular basis. Woo hoo!!!!

Friday, April 23, 2004

Sorry I haven't posted in so long. I've been really busy with my new job. It's such a great opportunity and I'm working with really talented people! But it's also more pressure than I'm used to. Working for a weekly newspaper section is very different from freelancing, that's for sure! So, it's taking up a lot of my time, but at least I like it and it's what I want to be doing.

My trip to the US was very nice. It was great to see my family. It took me a week and a half to even start getting over the jetlag, but it was worth it!

Other than work, I'm doing sort of "eh." Lately I've been feeling lonely. I need to get my act together and start making more of an effort to get out there and meet people. It's lonely working from home. I interview a lot of very interesting people on the phone -- it's not completely solitary -- but I don't get a lot of fresh air, either. It's hard. This morning I was reading the NY Times feature about the QM2's docking at New York Harbor, and I got tears in my eyes, because I miss Manhattan. Yes, Jerusalem is fabulous; I'm particularly looking forward to celebrating Israel's Independance Day next week. But every so often I think about the energy that is New York -- the energy that, unlike Jerusalem's, has no undercurrent of sadness-- and I just wish I could stroll along West End Avenue or watch the teenagers in front of the MTV building in Times Square, or nurse a Coke at the rotating restaraunt in the Marriott Marquee. Or even just sit on an A train, not worrying about whether the next person who gets on might be a terrorist.

I guess I'm just getting tired of the stress, the stress of living here and the stress of having moved here. I love what I've accomplished, but it wouldn't be right to pretend that it's all fun and games. Lately I've noticed that, although my Hebrew is not bad, I've started to clam up when talking to Israelis. The only Israelis I talk to in Hebrew are cab drivers, because we talk about simple things like when I made aliyah, and have a found a job. But even at my paper I get frustrated. I had to call the other day to speak with the woman who was copy-editing my story. I asked for her by name, but the Hebrew-speaking receptionist didn't understand who I was asking for. Do you think I know how to say "copy editor" in Hebrew? No.

The main problem is when I'm talking on the phone, and can't watch the people. It takes away 80 percent of my clues about what they are saying. And since they can't see me, I really have to be able to communicate only with my words, and that's something I have a hard time doing in Hebrew. It's so humbling and frustrating! Really brings one down a notch or three!

And in person . . . I think my self-confidence has taken a real beating, because I'm starting to think that one of the reasons that Israelis ALWAYS answer me in English, even if I ask a question in Hebrew, is not just my accent and their desire to show off their English, but perhaps because they see that I'm just a scared puppy. I feel, frankly, very short and very naive and very WHITE in this country. I feel like the people are ready to burn me just as quickly as the hot Mediterranean sun. Which they often are. Israelis can be the most impatient, gruff people on Earth and I'm just not used to it. It's also true that there's no one nicer in the world than a nice Israeli. But when I'm lost -- and I get lost in so many ways, from not knowing how to get around to not being able to read my mail -- the fear of asking questions and not being able to get the words out is pretty darn overwhelming.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

OK, here it is, my plans for tomorrow (Thursday) in New York, for the information of all my dear friends who might be able to see me:

I'm arriving at Port Authority at around 11:30, and from there am going to My Most Favorite Dessert Company at 120 West 45th Street, where Jessica is treating me to lunch. Thanks Jess! Hopefully my "cousin" Ephi will be eating with us as well. I know there are a few others of you who emailed me that you'll try to stop by during your lunch hour. If you can make it, I'd love to see you! If not, I won't be insulted. I know the world does not revolve around Chayyei Sarah.

I'll have to leave My Most Favorite at around 2 pm to catch a cab to JFK. So, from around 2:45-3:45 or so I'll be at the Swiss Air terminal at JFK, going through security and getting my boarding pass. If anyone wants to meet me there, please do as I'll be very bored. Just call My Most Favorite and have them give me a message, so I won't go to the "ticketed passenger" area without waiting to see you. My flight leaves at 5:20.

Again, if you have to work and can't see me tomorrow, I totally understand. We'll do it some other time, like . . . when you visit me in Israel!!!!!

Have a happy and kosher Passover.

Monday, April 05, 2004

OK, so I'm in Boston! It's been a crazy few days. My mother went into the hospital the morning before I arrived, so my sister and I have been doing all the cleaning and cooking. We actually got everything done very nicely, but I've been so busy ever since I got here.

For those of you who are friends of mine and want to see me in New York on Thursday, I still haven't figured out where to meet people because no one has given me any information about Kosher for Passover places to eat in Brooklyn, closer to JFK. I hear that in Manhattan I could go to My Most Favorite or Prime Grill, but those are mega expensive. Any other suggestions?

When I finalize plans I will post them here.

Chag kasher v'sameach.