Friday, March 24, 2006

Appreciation Wednesday on Friday- Hodgepodge of Different Thoughts

I was going to write a post about how this week has been all about my trying to reach a state of equilibrium. I've been quite stressed and somewhat anxiety-ridden the last few weeks, and have been trying to figure out why. I think in general it's a stressful time for anyone who lives in or cares about Israel, what with Hamas in power next door and elections coming up. Plus, I have to come to terms with the fact that Purim is not all it's cracked up to be, and it's better to simply accept that than try to fight it and make it my favorite holiday. And I have to accept, also, that I am not perfect and that certain things I'd like to change about myself are harder than I would like.

Anyway, in thinking about certain things I'd like to blog about, I realize that almost each one brings up something I appreciate. So, here goes, Appreciation Wednesday:

JOB SEARCH: I've decided to look in earnest for a part-time job in journalism, PR, grantwriting, program coordinating, teaching, or anything else that sounds interesting and uses my skills. The freelancing thing has been great and I love it, but I'm always in a state of just not quite making ends meet. I've come to terms with the idea of giving up some of my freedom in exchange for regular work, being part of a team of people I see every day, and having some stable source of income (which my freelancing can supplement a bit).

So as I spruce up my resume and embark on a job search, I'm ever grateful to God for endowing me with so many marketable skills. Yes, it's true that I myself did some hishtadlut (my own effort) to learn them, but I do not take for granted even for a second that it is God (and my parents) who gave me the opportunities to learn those skills, the interest in doing so, and the ability to learn them. It would be arrogance of the highest order to think that the things I can do, I can do only because of my own desire to do them. There are many people who would love to learn new skills and cannot because they do not have the opportunity, or for some other reason that has more to do with circumstances than their own drive. So, thank you God for giving me these gifts. And thank you to my parents for all those years of private school, college, and for the help with graduate school. I really appreciate it.

ELECTIONS: Yes, the process of deciding for whom to vote has been stressful for me, this being my first election since making Aliyah. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be to find English-language information about all the party platforms (thank God for Wikipedia!). For a long time I had it narrowed down to two choices: Big Party A, whose platform strikes me as at least minimally acceptable, but I'm sort of lukewarm about it, and don't really love the personalities who are leading the party . . . . Or Small Party B, most of whose platform I love and agree with almost completely. But but BUT! It includes one thing that I cannot in good faith vote for. It goes back to the "acceptable collateral damage" idea I've discussed before. If I love everything else, but the party advocates one thing that I find absolutely unconscionable, what should I do?

I considered voting for the smaller party anyhow, since if they win a lot of seats, the winning party (probably Kadimah) would probably try to make a coalition with them, and then probably incorporate some things I like without implementing the thing I hate. But there are two problems with this: a) After what happened with Hamas, I believe in voting for a party that you wouldn't mind seeing in power. If, for example, everyone who supports Kadimah assumes that Kadimah will win anyway and therefore votes for smaller "boutique" parties, then Kadimah won't win. And b) Kadimah has said that they would never join a coalition with Small Party B. That could be bunk, but I'm trying to navigate some complicated waters here and have to go with the information I have.

So it looks like I'm probably voting for Big Party A. I'm only 75 percent OK with it, but in this part of the world, 75 percent is already pretty good.

And regarding the elections, I appreciate two things. First, I appreciate that I live in a democracy at all. That is huge.

And second, I appreciate all the people and institutions who made my aliyah possible. Because without having made aliyah, I'd be watching this game from the sidelines. Instead, I have a place waiting for me at a polling station and I can play the game myself. There are so many supporters of Israel around the world who are watching this story unfold from outside. But I'm here, and I'm playing. It's just one vote, but it is a vote.

I gave up a lot to be able to cast that vote. Left behind my language and culture and family and friends . . . mostly to just live here and be part of the story every day as I buy my breakfast cereal and talk to taxi drivers. But also, so I could vote. So I appreciate myself for having picked myself up and become an Israeli citizen. And I appreciate Nefesh B'Nefesh, and my parents, and all the people who have supported me and helped me to be able to come and to stay, and to vote.

And I really appreciate whoever it was that listed all of Israel's political parties on Wikipedia. Thank you!!!!

CHAVRUTA: In these crazy times, one of the things that keeps me sane is my three-times-per-week gemara class at Pardes. I've loved it all year, but a few weeks ago there was a development that made it even better. Due to a requirment in her program, my previous chavruta (learning partner), Nili, with whom I learned very well and whom I like very much, went to America for a month along with several other members of the class. So many chavrutot (sets of people who puzzle out the texts together, in pairs) were switched around. I ended up with a lovely recent Cornell graduate and marathon runner, Elana Brochin. And I have to say, learning with Elana is like magic. There was no way that anyone could have known in advance -- we're very different from each other in many ways -- but when it comes to learning Gemara, we have this great wavelength going. For some inexplicable reason, as soon as I started learning with Elana, the Talmud started speaking to me much more understandably. Yeah, half the time it's still completely frustrating and we sit there going "OK, this is really hard material." But the other half, we just get it. Elana claims that it's me who is getting it and telling her what's going on, but in that case, Elana must be my muse, because this has never happened before.

I think it's because we both give each other time to think. We have a good "flow" in terms of who looks up various words in the dictionary, and we do this little dance where we read ahead through material we don't understand, hoping that a line that comes later in the text will illuminate a previous line. So it's a lot of backwards and forwards, one of saying "maybe it means this" and the other saying "hm. But then what does that mean?" and then each of us silently perusing the text until one of us says "eureka." I appreciate having that silent time to look it over and letting the words coalesce in a way that makes sense. I also appreciate that Elana often reminds me that sometimes we don't have to understand everything, and it's more worthwhile to move on than to break our heads over something that we understand "well enough."

And, she's very sweet. She models certain behaviors for me that I think will make me a better person if I can emulate them.

So, thanks Elana, for being an amazing chavruta. I'll really miss you next year!

Shabbat shalom, everyone.

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