We're almost on week 8 of Jerusalem. It's amazing how fast the time goes when you're desperately trying to make the most of every day. Several weeks ago we all caught the Jerusalem plague. I thought we were never going to feel better again. I spent several days in bed hacking and coughing and feeling like I was dying. We as a family went through many, many boxes of tissues.
As this week ends we are finally putting away the tissues(everyone but me), breathing through our noses and coughing only a little at night. Funny enough the Jerusalem plague coincided perfectly with the massive rains that poured down from the sky and into our house! Our deck was a lake and our living room was a puddle. Our kitchen was a stream and we were out of towels. Beseder. We are all alive so that's what counts.
Aaron is growing up and finally talking. His favorite phrase is "and me." If Sadie or anyone gets something he wants he repeatedly yells "and me" until we finally give it to him. Sadie is growing out of her clothes. She turned four in March. I'm not sure if she is learning any Hebrew in her Hebrew speaking preschool but she seems happy so it's a good fit. They seem to have acclimated to Israel and are happy.
I'm slowly making friends. There are a lot of interesting, cool people here who are in touch with God and are into living a healthy lifestyle. It's also great hanging out with other women who support living naturally and don't obsess over circumcision. None of us love it but we respect that it's part of our heritage and a religious obligation. It's also so refreshing to get together with other moms and talk about God and life. They are willing to engage and discuss questions about the Holocaust, predestination, the future, whatever I'm grappling with as I learn more about Judaism.
Logan and I are both learning. I have two wonderful teachers I meet with once a week and I'm checking out different seminaries to see if I can find one that I want to attend. I'm struggling with making a decision. Right now I have a babysitter for Aaron but it's not for enough hours per day if I want to attend seminary. Plus, it really adds up financially. It makes sense to put Aaron in a little daycare. I am hesitating since he's so young and I'm not sure how he will like daycare but I really want to have the time in the day to attend Jewish classes.
I've also signed up to become a DoTerra representative. I've heard so much about oils and I am really excited to becoming well versed in their uses. I can't wait to adorn myself with the scents of beautiful essential oils.
Yesterday we attended a Haredi wedding. It was a beautiful experience. The bride and groom come from extremely large families. The bride is one of 13 and I think the groom comes from a comparably large sized family. I am planning on writing a whole blog post on the way people dress here based on their sects. There are Haredi and there are groups within the Haredi. There are modern Orthodox, secular Israelis, Zionist religious Israelis and settler Israelis. Everyone dresses differently based on their community. They also cover their hair differently - men and women. Head coverings of hats, wigs, scarves, kippas are all based on community standards. Most Haredi agree that once you are married you wear black. It can be shiny black, dull black, sparkly black but you should really wear black. Haredi men typically wear black suits with a white button down shirt. They also have an affinity for black or furry hats. Logan doesn't own a fancy hat. My head covering was the right color but not the right material. The woman all had velvet or some other kind of fancy looking black head coverings. I wasn't sure how fancy I could go so I went with my plainest head covering. Ideally I should be wearing a skin tight black shirt under my dress to cover more of my collarbones and to show that I am modest because I am wearing two layers. I am wearing black stockings and flats. Almost none of the women were wearing heels, I saw a few one inch heels but flats were the typical shoe.
I promised an update on life, the universe and everything. So, in case you're wondering, almost all the religious agree that was are now officially in the times of the Moshiach. Essentially we are going to see the rebuilding of the temple and only good will exist in this world in the near (next few hundred years or less) future. The world will return to a place of peace. Is it true? Who knows. But, it's interesting. Do I hope it's true? Yes! The Haredi and the Zionist religious Jews agree on this point - a rare agreement in this unstable land.
Fun fact: Passover is in three weeks. People are already going nuts and freaking out about cleaning. This began right when Purim ended. I am asked constantly if I started cleaning. I'm not sure what to say since we typically clean for Passover the night before in a mad dash as we cry in exhaustion. Thankfully Logan's parents are coming into town on Sunday and we're spending a week traveling. One less week I have to worry about cleaning!
Or sponga. Or squeegee.
I've heard it called by all three different names. Every apartment I've been to in Israel owns one.
Both of our apartments came with one of them. In fact, the apartment we are in currently came with two of them. I still haven't figure out why but I'm very curious.
The first time I used the spongee was when the washing machine in our first rental leaked all over the floor. The living room was a small pond. I saw the spongee innocently leaning against the wall. I grabbed it and methodically pushed all the water down the shower drain.
A week or so later I was walking past a grocery store and saw an older lady using the spongee. Unlike my understanding of the spongee, she had a rag wrapped around it. She was not pushing water around the floor. She was using the spongee to push the rag around the floor. I walked past her perplexed. Why use a rag if the spongee was an oversized squeegee?
When we moved to our next place, the one we are living in currently, I didn't know how to clean the floor. Our floor consists of 36X36inch tiles with minuscule grout lines. The tiles are white. Essentially I have a huge white floor that gets dirty five minutes after washing it. I spent the first few days trying to wash the floor by rubbing any spots with a rag. The floor didn't have spots but it didn't look good. I decided it was time to pull out the squeegee. Aaron's babysitter was there at the time. I told her I was going to use it to wash the floor. She laughed and said, "oh a sponga?" That was the first time anyone had ever referred to it in my presence. I felt enlightened. Overjoyed. I finally knew its name.
I poured water on the floor and pushed it around with the sponga. Aaron's babysitter told me people in Israel either have holes in their floor where they can push the water or they push it on to their balconies. The small metallic holes throughout my floors were locked so I pushed the water out on to the deck.
I asked Logan's cousin how his mom washed her floors. He said she used the spongee with a ready wet rag. I didn't say anything but now the stick had three names: sponga, spongee and squeegee.
At the grocery store I noticed rags you could buy that are specially used with the spongee. I decided to get the ready wet ones to make my life easier. I don't have many rags and didn't feel right washing a load of laundry with only a few rags.
Today I pulled out the ready wet rag and was surprised to see it had a hole in the middle. I hope I am not sacrilegious for saying a tallit was the first thing that came to mind when I saw it.
I gently put the end of the spongee through the hole. I attempted to wrap the rag around the end of the squeegee. I failed. But somehow, a small miracle, I was able to get the floors clean until Aaron returned and threw half chewed orange bits all over the floor.
Fun fact about Jerusalem: People leave books out in the street for anyone passing by to take and keep for free. We are really the people of the book.
Purim in Israel is like Comic-Con in San Diego. Grown ups everywhere are wearing awesome costumes. Purim is not a big deal in the states, but it's a pretty important holiday to the Jewish people.
A long long time ago the Jewish people were threatened. A bad guy, by the name of Haman, urged the King of an ancient Persian empire (presumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) to sign a proclamation allowing all the Jews of the land to be slaughtered. Unbeknownst to him, his wife, Queen Esther, was a member of the tribe. She invites him and Haman to two banquets. At the second banquet she reveals her Jewish identity and asks him to save her people. The King has Haman hanged. The proclamation cannot be reversed but the King allows Esther and her uncle Mordechai to write a decree permitting the Jewish people to kill anyone who is a threat to them. The Jews kill a bunch of enemies and are saved!
Now we celebrate Purim by reading the story of Purim once in the evening and once in the morning. We also dress up, give each other gift baskets known as mishloach manot, give charity, drink a lot of alcohol and eat a big celebratory meal.
Purim is typically celebrated on the 14th of Adar because that is when the Jewish people defeated their enemies. However, in the walled cities of Jerusalem Purim is celebrated on the 15th because the Jews in the capital city of the Persian Empire fought for two days and rested on the 15th.
We are currently living in the walled city of Jerusalem. However, as Americans, we typically celebrate Purim on the 14th. Luckily Logan has cousins in Israel who live outside of the walled city. We went to celebrate Purim with them, took the bus home and celebrated Purim again in Jerusalem!
On the first night of Purim outside of the walled city we took a bus into Kiryat Sefer. It's a very religious neighborhood. We got out of the bus and were impressed with the number of people out on the street. We were accosted by a young red head barely standing on his own two feet while greedily sucking on a cigarette. We were slightly turned around and trying to find our destination. He spoke to us in Hebrew and we spoke to him in English and finally he mentioned the correct last name and we were at the right building. We knocked on the door. Logan's cousin's wife opened the door, a large smile setting her face aglow. The room was filled with children of all ages. There were three couples and 16 children. The evening was filled with drinking and eating. I spent part of the evening discussing my disappointment in God and my difficulty in finding peace when God allowed the Holocaust to happen. Logan's cousin and his friend and I debated God's plans versus our minute understanding of the world.
In between the drinking Logan's cousin's friend shared a very interested story from his own life regarding the Holocaust. As he shared his story his voice cracked and tears pooled in his eyes. He shared how his grandmother survived the Holocaust. She saw six of her siblings murdered, she lost everyone in her family. She ran away and became a secular Jew in America. She had two husbands and several children. When her only surviving child was 57 he died. By this time his grandmother had no one left. Her husbands were dead and she had no more surviving children. She sat shiva for her only son with her grandson (the man telling the story) at her side. He said his grandmother, who had no Jewish background or education repeatedly said the same two things in Yiddush:
1. I am alone, I have no one left.
2. If you have to ask, then it's not kosher.
He explained the second statement was a saying said in her hometown. In those days people raised and slaughtered their own chickens. They would then bring the chicken to the Rabbi to have him inspect and tell them whether it was kosher to eat or not. The Rabbi would do everything in his power to say the chicken was kosher because sometimes that was all they had to eat. Sometimes, the people would say: if you have to ask, then it's not kosher. His non-religious grandmother meant that despite experiencing so much misery in her life she had no right to ask God his intentions.
The bus ride home was quite the experience. It was filled with drunk men swaying back and forth singing Jewish songs in Hebrew. After a rocky start they permeated the bus with beautiful music. When we arrived in Jerusalem the difference in Purim celebration was shocking. Jerusalem was packed with teenagers and young adults dressed up in all kinds of outfits hanging out and celebrating Purim. There was less focus on discussing Jewish philosophy and more focus on having a sexy time. We didn't see a lot of drinking but I have to guess they were all already drunk. We decided to take the light rail down to Jaffa and check out the scene. We stayed briefly since it was midnight and we had two kids sleeping in the stroller.
The next day we spent the morning fighting with Sadie in between friends dropping off mishloach manot. They are baskets filled with candy/fruit/chips/soda that you give to your neighbors, friends, teachers, etc. Typically you need to give two different items so two different blessings on food can be said. People give them out to ensure everyone has food to eat during the Purim feast.
We also enjoyed very loud Jewish music that was blasting throughout the neighborhood. One of our neighbors was really setting the scene for their kids! In the early afternoon we brought mishloach manot to our new friends. In the late afternoon we joined a family for their Purim meal. A very nice family from Sadie's school invited us. We had a lovely time.
Here are some photos of Jaffa around midnight.
Chabad was hosting megillah (the story of Esther) readings all over Rechavia. On every hour for the entire day you could find another megillah reading to attend. Typically megillah readings are anywhere under an hour of time. The rabbi reads the entire megillah outloud for everyone to hear the story of Purim.
We have been flirting with some version of a cold since arriving here a little over a month ago. Last weekend Logan and Sadie fell apart. Logan took a huge shabbat nap while I wrestled the children. I wasn't feeling well but I was in better shape. Tuesday morning Aaron woke up with abnormal amounts of eye gunk. We took him to the doctor, I'm still traumatized and not sure if I want to write about that experience.
That evening as it poured in Jerusalem I walked to three different pharmacies before someone had the prescribed eye drops for Aaron. The next morning Logan was running late to Yeshiva and I offered to take Sadie to school. Only after he left I realized I had no more points on my bus pass and I had no sheckels to pay for a taxi. I threw the kids into the stroller. In an hour I had dropped off Sadie and made it back home. Around two in the afternoon I fell apart. I developed a fever and could not function. I decided to go see a doctor.
Logan called the health insurance to get a list of doctors. Unfortunately the woman he spoke to barely spoke any English. I decided to go to Terem - which I thought was Israel's version of urgent care. Because of the insane amounts of rain every taxi I flagged already had a paying passenger. I walked 30-40 minutes in the rain until I got there. When I arrived I could not find the entrance. I found a man in military garb sitting in a tiny booth. I asked him where the Terem was and he pointed behind him. I tried exiting the booth until I realized I had to walk through the booth to access Terem.
Terem is an emergency room. I was one of the only people there. The woman at the front desk spoke perfect English. She grew up in Israel but her parents were Americans. I asked her if Terem was typically so quiet and she suggested the pouring rain was keeping people from coming. I gave her my passport and my insurance number, ten minutes later I was called to the back. My nurse was friendly, spoke great English. She took my temperature and then called in the doctor.
My doctor was very strange. He stumbled into my area nervously twitching. He acted as if not all of his limbs were in sync with one another. He had me sit on the bed while he sat on the chair. I asked him if he spoke English, he responded that he did and then he spoke to me in Hebrew. After a minute or two he realized I did not speak Hebrew. He spoke to me in English, noting down my responses on his form. After several questions he began to speak to me in Hebrew again. Out of nowhere he violently shook his head and spoke to me in English again.
The doctor checked me for the usual things, did a throat culture and left. A few minutes later the nurse came back saying she wanted to take some blood. I sat there, all I could think was CANCER. THEY FOUND CANCER. I forced myself to breathe. I tucked my hands underneath my arms. My thoughts ran together. How could they find cancer from a throat culture? From checking my heart rate? OMG I AM DYING IN ISRAEL.
I looked at the nurse. Calmly, I asked her, "is this routine?"
"Yes, this is routine. We want to see if have an infection."
CANCER CANCER CANCER CANCER
She took my blood and the doctor clumsily stumbled into my station five minutes later.
He handed me a sheet of paper, there was a prescription for antibiotics, sudafed and throat drops. He warned me not to buy the antibiotics until calling two days later to hear the results of my throat culture. He then handed me the results of my blood work, they could not see an infection.
I was really impressed with the Terem. The doctor did not rush to prescribe me antibiotics. I really like the concept of checking the blood for infection prior to pumping someone's body with intense drugs. I think it's a method that should be adopted worldwide.
We moved into a new apartment a week ago. It's a beautiful place at a great location. We are much happier since our move.
Part of the move required us to get our own internet. This means I was required to call an Israeli internet company and pray to God I could get internet at the end of it all.
I call the company and am very surprised there is an option for English. I excitedly press 2 for English and a man speaking Hebrew picks up the phone. I ask him if he speaks English. He says, "mah?" I say, "English, please, do you speak English," and he mumbles, "one minute" and I'm on hold listening to beeping. A few minutes later someone speaking Hebrew picks up the phone. I ask if she speaks English. She hesitates and then responds, "no, give me your number and we call you back." I give her my number knowing not to expect a phone call back. I wait 30 minutes and call again.
I am SHOCKED that someone speaking English picks up the phone. I am literally shocked. Like I forgot how to speak English for a minute. The guy on the other end of the phone is excited to speak English with me. He asks me my address. I give it to him. He asks me my id, I give it to him. All of a sudden someone is calling me on the phone, I ignore it. The internet guy tells me he just called me on his personal cellphone. He asked me to sms him everything I just told him over the phone.
I stop for a minute and shrug. I agree to sms him all of my information. I sent him my full name, my address at home, my address here, my passport information - he could steal my identity at this point, but I care less, I am one step closer to internet.
Then the fun part begins. He lets me know he needs a picture of my passport. I try sending him a picture but my service does not allow texting of photos. He asks me to find a place with internet so I can email it. Now, I have to emphasize, this guy was the nicest person ever. Anything I said was met with "amazing."
"My name is Esther."
"I went pee."
Okay, maybe not the last part but I felt like a fricken' winner every time I said anything. Amazing!
He also called me "sir" several times. I had not shaved for a few days so I wasn't offended but at some point I felt I had to explain to him that I was a ma'am. We ended up exchanging a series of smiley faces.
Then he begged me, yes, begged me while profusely apologizing repeatedly to find a place where I could send him a picture of my passport.
I walked into town remembering The Coffee Bean had free wi-fi. I got there and my phone went nuts. I yelled curse words and mumbled angry things at the phone despite my neighbors' strange looks. Every time I tried opening an application the phone would send me a warning that my phone had no more space and I needed to delete stuff to empty my memory. I would delete, try to send an email, get another warning sign. This is while it's sort of raining outside, a big rally is supposed to happen in a few hours, Aaron is waking up crying hysterically so I order food that he doesn't eat because he fell asleep again before I got the food so I had to be fat and eat it all, and my battery is about to die. I literally send the email and my phone dies. I search my diaper bag several times looking for my charged spare battery which I later find inside my wallet. Oh and my landlord is angry at me because I was supposed to open the door for the delivery guy delivering an oven, washer and drier but I was stuck in the city trying to send a damn picture of my passport.
I get home, charge my phone and the internet guy calls me from his personal phone. He apologizes letting me know he had to leave work by 12:30 and was no longer at the office. We would have to finish the next day. He let me know he called me repeatedly after I sent the email. I told him what happened apologizing for my dead battery.
Then the best part.
He asks, "can I ask you a personality question?"
I'm thinking, sure, I'm a Leo, you?
"Yes," I say.
"What do you do? You live in a very expensive part of town. How?"
So then I tell him, "I don't do anything."
And he replies,"what does your husband do?"
"He sells plants."
So I explain to him the basic process of Logan's job, I think he was underwhelmed.
It was a pretty funny conversation.
Then I tell him, "look, if you want to make money, move to America."
He agrees with me telling me his brother is moving to either Canada or America that week. We are sad together on the phone for a few minutes and then say goodbye.
The next day I call him, no one picks up and he calls me right back. We set up the internet and I thank him for his help.
He says, "no, thank you!" With great energy.
I laugh. I can't help myself.
Two days later I send him a text message thanking him again.
He calls me immediately.
"So, you are quite happy? You sound very happy."
I can't help but giggle.
"Yes, thank you."
We get off the phone, I look at Logan and burst out laughing.
Getting internet in Israel has been amazing! And the best part, the guy told me if I have any questions or problems to call him directly because no one else speaks English in his office.
Talk about personal service.
We live in a religious community. Logan will be attending a very religious Yeshiva after Pesach. I had hoped I would be able to continue dressing the way I have since living here. I primarily wear skirts below my knee, a t-shirt and a headband. Yesterday a group of women in their sly and cunning ways, primarily by asking me if I was married or looking at me with disgust, let me know I was unwelcome if I didn't dress to the community standards.
I have to now take on a completely new way of dressing. I am intimated, stressed, worried about pretending to be someone I am not. I have to fully cover my hair (I am permitted to show a bit of my hair if the headwrap isn't tight against my forehead), wear clothes to my collarbones and skirts below my knees.
And this is the bare minimum way of dressing!!!!
I don't have to wear stockings all year round, painstakingly cover every strand of hair with either a cloth/hat or wig, wear only dark colors or stop wearing nail polish.
Logan has a very religious cousin I called and asked for advice. I shared with him my humiliating experience and he wisely suggested dressing to the community standard if I want to have a good time in the community.
I want Logan to maximize his Yeshiva experience. I want to maximize my experience as well. I am drawn to the religious community, unfortunately that comes with a price. For the time we are here in this community, I will embrace the community standard of dressing. I have decided to consider it a great social experiment. Can I do it? Can I spend the next five months dressing super Orthodox?
And if not, there is always Tel Aviv where I can wear a t-shirt and let my hair fly free in the wind.
I have been sitting on this blog for a few days. I originally wrote a blog trying to grasp the politics centering around this protest. I give up. In no way will I really understand all the nuances and I have no interest in making a fool out of myself. Instead I will talk about the protest itself, I was there and I can share my experience.
The protest began in the early afternoon. We live in a religious area so we saw many people walking towards the protest. When I exited the house I was shocked to see the sky turning an eerie yellow. I did my best to capture the sky but I am not sure the haze and color comes across in the photos. The protest was very peaceful. We originally stood on the main road leading to the center of the protest, keeping our distance from the crowd. I used the zoom on my lens to take many of the photos (disclaimer for a certain Papa who gets very nervous in these situations). After a period of time we decided to go up to Jaffa Road to have a better view of the speakers. I never did get a better view but I did leave Logan with the kids on the edge of the crowd and walked down Jaffa Road until I could no longer walk without pushing people aside.
It was interesting to see most of the women congregated along Jaffa Road. If I were to compare, I would have to say where the women were protesting was far more emotional and touching. A large speaker system was setup on Jaffa Road, you could hear the voice of the speakers breaking through the air. The men on the the side of the microphone were praying crying out repeatedly, mourning and begging God to hear their prayers. The women cried holding on to their prayer books praying with all their heart. On the other street the men were praying but the soul was with the women. These women were truly mourning. I started to cry without having any skin in the game. I came as an observer and I left as a Jew mourning with my fellow Jew. I left saddened that my fellow Jew was distraught.
It was a glory to see so many Jews in one place praying for the same thing. I wish they did it every week. I wish every week 600,000 Jews came together and prayed for world peace, for Moshiach, for only good in this world. Because, I have to tell you, I am not sure whether God was happy or sad, but God was paying attention. The energy was intense. At one point the sun was hidden by the haze of yellow swallowing the sky. If only we could all come together and pray for a better world instead of constantly judging and fighting each other.
Here are some pictures:
Preschool in Israel is free starting at three years old. This is epic. Your three year old can get an education without it costing you any money. If you're staying in Israel you can easily (well, relatively) get your kids into a preschool.
We really wanted Sadie to go to preschool where Hebrew was the primary language. Getting Sadie enrolled in school has been a process. The first week we were eating and trying to survive horrible jet lag, Aaron was unable to accustom himself to the new time zone. We spent the second week of our time here walking from apartment to apartment in search of the perfect place to live so we could get a lease and enroll Sadie in school for this school year.
First Logan thought he needed to go to the Ministry of Education to sign Sadie up for school. When he got there, a long distance from where we live, he was told he needed to go to the City Hall to enroll Sadie in gan. The next day he took the kids in the late afternoon and walked to the City Hall while I sat at a cafe enjoying a cup of hot tea and uninterrupted time to write. When he arrived he could not find anyone sitting at the front desk. He was encouraged by someone working the security detail to walk through and past the cubicles to find the employees drinking and eating.
They were annoyed with his presence and asked him, "what do you want?" He was informed if he wanted to sign Sadie up for school he needed to return the next day between 9 am and noon. Logan is in Yeshiva in the morning, so I had to take the epic journey with the kids. Sadie woke up the next morning congested and coughing. I spent the next hour encouraging her to leave the house. Finally she agreed to leave and we arrived at 11:15am. We walked through a security check and walked into a large room with two men sitting at separate desks. One man was on the phone and looked away from me when we made eye contact. The other man sat at his desk, bent over until his chest almost touched his thighs and whispered fervently into his cellphone in Hebrew. I waited for a few minutes before he put his phone away and acknowledged me.
As I tried explaining to him that I needed to enroll my daughter in school, he told me to go to the other side of the building and then a man asked him something in Hebrew and was sent to the row of cubicles behind the front desks. I was momentarily confused until I explained that my husband said this is where I needed to be to sign my daughter up for preschool. The man looked at me and said, "kindergarden, not school?" and I said, "school, kindergarden, same thing, no?" He shook his head at me and said, "kindergarden, kindergarden (head nodding twice), school is school."
Okay, so "kindergarden" is preschool and kindergarden, if I understand correctly it's called "gan"; "school" is elementary school. He pointed behind me and said, "go, Adina, go." I looked at him confused, "what? Adina?" I ask him. He said, "yes, go, Adina." I walked into a small hallway dividing rows of cubicles. I looked around until I saw a woman talking to the man who had interrupted my conversation earlier. We spent 20 minutes waiting for him to wrap up his conversation. By the time we got to Adina it was 11:40, cutting it very close. I became nervous hoping 20 minutes was enough to enroll Sadie in kindergarden. Adina and I spoke for a few minutes, she then photocopied our passports, told me there was a kindergarden open for Sadie in Nachalot that was religious but not too religious and then apologized but she had a meeting to attend. I wrote down my phone number and watched her exit the building with some co-workers. I did not know what to do. I expected to finalize Sadie's educational plans and was left with a promise of a phone call the next day.
The next day I was shocked to receive a phone call from the department, it is one of Adina's co-workers. After our funny experience with property managers I did not really expect anyone to call me back. I was informed that all the schools in our area were full and we had to wait until next year to enroll her. My voice rose in frustration. I told the woman on the phone that Adina promised there was an opening this year in Nachalot for Sadie, a 15 minute walk from my location. We argued back and forth, finally she puts Adina on the phone. At this point I am upset, my voice thickened with a Russian accent as I argue with Adina. I demand to know why in 24 hours the class that had an opening no longer had one. I ask for a gan in a religious neighborhood nearby. Adina is surprised saying it's very religious and I need a Rabbi's approval to get in. I admit that is too religious for me, and beg her for any other options. Unfortunately the language barrier made it difficult for both of us to understand each other. Despite the differences in language Adina really did try to make it work and finally mentioned a gan (kindergarden) with an opening in a neighborhood 25 minutes away by foot. She explained that it's religious but not too religious, which is perfect for us.
Two days later we were awake early preparing Sadie for school. We got lost on the way but finally made it there. Her gan is in a little building, there are exactly two classes. From the outside the gan does not match the facilities Sadie enjoyed in San Diego. But they were still cute and cozy. There were some planter beds and playground equipment, nothing fancy. There were lots of toy bikes and sand. I was curious to see what the inside was like. When we entered the classroom we were met by two beaming teachers. Neither of them really spoke any English. One was young and slender, the other older and very motherly in figure and manner. I loved them both immediately. We spent some time trying to communicate in broken English, Hebrew, gesturing repeatedly and asking the help of parents trickling in as they dropped off their kids. There were many laughs and hand shakes and smiling. The older teacher and I felt close immediately. I was relieved almost to the point of tears to see what amazing teachers Sadie was going to have for the rest of the school year.
We spent two hours in the classroom allowing Sadie to integrate into the class. The students were very curious and followed her around as she played at different stations. Aaron ran around and eventually broke a wooden stroller by sitting in it and falling backwards. Her classmates were very cute and shy, smiling sideways as I attempted to communicate with them in Hebrew. Sadie transitioned from being completely attached to my leg to wandering the room quietly. After two hours I was able to have Sadie sit down and do an activity of filling a container with little sticks. She was happy to empty the container on the teacher's orders, running to her teacher to show her the empty container. When they sat down for circle time she wanted Logan to sit next to her. He gently told her no and we stood watching the circle time until she forgot we were there. We were able to leave and grab a quick lunch waiting for Sadie's day to end.
When we reentered her classroom, Sadie was sitting by the teacher in a circle with the other kids. She was smiling. Despite not speaking Hebrew and despite her teachers not speaking English, she was able to feel comfortable in her new environment. For this I have many people to thank. I am grateful for the amazing teachers Sadie had at CHA who taught her with love and patience, who obviously made school a great experience. And then, I have to thank these two women who took Sadie in with so much love. When we were leaving they both grabbed her cheeks and kissed her repeatedly. Neither of them had to show so much affection and care for my child, they could have resented the difficulty of having a non-Hebrew speaking child in their class. Instead, they loved her and nurtured her and gave her a peaceful space where she could grow and learn.
Today was Sadie's fourth day of school. She comes home tired, worn out, her mind taxed by the challenge of learning a new language. And yet, every day she is happy to go back to gan. I will eternally be grateful to the teachers in my daughter's life who go out of their way to love, love, love their students and my daughter.
We are here for three weeks now. They have been very eventful. We have found a new place to live, Sadie has started a public kindergarten (more on that later), Logan is in Yeshiva part-time and I am looking for a nanny three hours a day/5 days a week to watch Aaron so I can work on my writing. We have built a home here. Despite all of these great accomplishments I am feeling terribly homesick. I miss my family and I miss my friends from back home. It's hard starting over in a new land.
I also really miss being able to communicate fully with people around me. The language barrier is starting to get to me. I feel vulnerable. I feel easily taken advantage of by shopkeepers who know I am an American. I feel like a chump. Yesterday at the shuk I wanted to buy a cart to wheel my groceries around. The owner wanted a 150 shekels. I handed him a 120 and asked him if that was enough. It was my quiet way of bargaining. I hoped the sight of money would have him drop the price. No such luck. He was offended waving his arms at me and shaking his head while saying "no." I reached into my purse and handed him the 150 and walked away shaking, upset. I didn't feel the cart was worth his asking price but I was too embarrassed to walk away from the situation. I spent the rest of the time at the shuk mentally shaken by the experience.
I am not used to bargaining. I pay the asking price and move on. But here, when nothing has a price on it, it makes sense to try to lower the price.
This morning when I was at the park with Aaron the sounds of sirens filled the air. At first I thought it was particularly loud city noise when I noticed the sirens were loud and filling the space around me. I began to panic imagining a rocket in the air propelling towards our park. I looked around and no one else looked concerned. Moments later my phone was ringing, it was Logan. It was an emergency siren test, he had received a text message in Hebrew warning him. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I did not receive the terrifying text Logan got minutes earlier that was all in Hebrew except for the part in English: Emergency Alerts - Imminent Extreme Alert.
Israel is an intense place to live. I realize more people die per day in car accidents than in rocket accidents but I'm still afraid. I have developed a fear of living here. This place feels raw and real, very unlike uneventful San Diego. I am starting to miss the feel of my land, the trees, the fresh breeze blowing in from the ocean. Here most trees are cut into disastrous shapes, the landscaping is bare. I miss the false feeling of safety that does not exist in Israel. I miss American innocence. I wish Israel was safe enough to find its innocence. Kids here live in a world where they need to have gas masks in school, learn about ways to protect themselves during rocket attacks. Kids lose their innocence here quickly.
Both of my parents are immigrants from Ukraine. Yesterday was my father's 35th anniversary leaving the former Soviet Union. I always respected my parents' experience but I never understood what it was like to leave your culture and your land behind and try to make it somewhere else. It's a hellish experience. And I am saying this with money in the bank and the comfort of knowing I can go home whenever I wish. My parents came to Chicago separately at 19 with their parents. They had to finish their important years of development in a country completely alien to their own. Russian and American culture are polar opposites of one another. They needed to get a solid understanding of the language and cultural nuances to make new opportunities and to survive.
I am hopeful this is just a phase. I am betting on settling into the land and the culture and learning the language and finding a happy medium in all this chaos. But even if I do, I miss my family. I spoke to a mother of four at a park today. She has been living in Israel for seven years. She said at first she missed the shopping and ease of America. But now, seven years later, all she misses is her family. The older I get the more I realize the importance of family.
Israel is beautiful! I want to share some photos of Jerusalem I have taken over the past two weeks.
Meet the Blogger!
I'm a mom. A writer. A lover of good fantasy. A proponent of nursing when possible. A birth advocate. I am absolutely horrible at keeping my house clean or the dishes washed or the laundry done. I strongly believe in women having a positive birth. When we start to respect women's rights to birth the way they want, we can start to treat women as equal people in this world.
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