Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My very own Theory of Israeli Productivity

It's not a secret that Israelis are some of the greatest innovators of all time. I'm sure most of you have seen this video:

I'd like to join the list of scientists, doctors and inventors of Israel. I've decided that my deep seeded love for this country and it's inhabitants is not enough. It's time for me to make some real contributions. Drum roll, please.

I have recently coined the Theory of Israeli Productivity, and I hope to go down in history, to be remembered by generations for this personal contribution. It's an equation that works only within Israeli borders, and it goes like this:

If you plan to/need to get x, y, and z done on any given day (or within any given time period), no matter how much planning, yelling, screaming or cursing you do, you will accomplish approximately 1/2 x.  If you're lucky.
Case in point: Yesterday I had roughly 75 things to do, and had planned it out carefully; it was N's first day of Gan, and he'd be out of the house until 1pm. I was up early, and I was on the ball. I arranged to get the car from my FIL, nothing could stop me this morning.

After I dropped my FIL off, I figured I would zip over to the orthodontist and get the forms that I need to get X-rays for Thing 1 and Thing 2. I called first, but no answer, which doesn't really mean anything, except that maybe a bored receptionist is sitting next to the ringing phone, but doesn't actually feel like answering it. I drove over there, but when I got there, everything was locked and sealed shut. He's on vacation in America. Ok, no big deal.

I figured I'd give TPH some time to finish his work while I ran over to the SuperBus lost and found to pick up something a brother had left on the bus. This time though, I figured I should call first. It took some time, but I found the phone number, and amazingly, the actual address. Score. But when I called, I got a recording telling me they are only open between 5:45pm and 7:45pm. How convenient. Strike Two.

Next on list: go home to pick up TPH and get our Israeli license process moving. (One year after our aliyah date it will get much more difficult and expensive; we'll have to take the tests all over again, with many hours of driver's ed. If we get it in before our July 4th Aliyah date, it's a simple eye exam and a driving test.) I run home to pick up TPH, but then get a call that the plumber (yes, the one who never, EVER can be reached or shows) is actually next door and is headed over here when he's done! So, we wait. And wait, and wait. He finally shows up, makes a grand mess of my bathrooms, and gets into an argument with TPH, because he pretty much refuses to fix anything that's broken. The clock is ticking, the kids get out in 1 1/2 hours…

Finally we are on our way to BS proper to get TPH his eye exam. The optometrist (and oh, I use that word so lightly) is a small shop in the BS merkaz. It takes us 20 minutes to find parking (and let's take that lightly too—I ended up parking on the sidewalk). We finally get in, and she says, "Oh! We ran out of those forms! Come back tomorrow."

I am so sensible, so I nod wisely and say, "Oh, don't worry, our next stop is the DMV down the block, I'm sure they'll have the forms there."
"No! Only we have the forms, not even the Misrad HaRishui (DMV)! I said, you have to come back tomorrow."

Uh, ok. Strike Three. Or is it already four by now?

Lo Norah, as they say. No big deal. We go back to the car before the policeman can ticket me, and we drive the 5 blocks to the Misrad HaRishui. I am one step ahead of TPH in the license transfer saga, and am actually ready to schedule my driving test. Except that when we pull in to the parking lot, we ask the security guard naively, "Is this the Misrad Ha'Rishui?" and he says, "Yes, but they are closed today."
"Why?! It's Monday!"
"Vacation. Sorry."

Now generally, BAW and I are very tame, calm and relatively unvulgar. At that moment however, we both begin to curse and mutter under our breaths, using very, very bad words.

It's unbelievable! Vacation? Day off? On MONDAY?? Does anyone around here work????

We head over to the pet shop (that would make a PETA activist faint from its filth) and what do you know? They actually have the puppy treats that we need! I almost walk out with a baby chiuahua because I am just that annoyed.

We have exactly 30 minutes until it's time to get the kids, so we say, the heck with this, and we don't even attempt to finish any of the rest of our errands, and we go out to lunch.

Let's recap:

Get forms from orthodontist: X
Get running toilets and clogged pipes fixed by plumber: X
Get BAW his eye exam for license transfer: X
Get my driving test scheduled: X
Get dog treats: YES!

And there you have it, the Theory of Israeli Productivity

Sunday, May 15, 2011

American Mother in the Dark: Pre-Lag B'Omer Thoughts

I was on the computer in the guest room today, and I suddenly noticed that it seemed uncharacteristically dark for the middle of the day. I got up to open the blinds but once I reached the window, I was momentarily confused; the Trisim (blinds) were up, and yet all the sun was blocked. That's when I noticed the gigantic pile of glorified junk outside my guest room window, covering and filling the entire 4 foot wide and 12 foot deep alcove that said window opens up to. As we moved in less than 2 months ago, I've been priding myself on the fact that we're still relatively clutter free. Until I looked out that window and saw what looked like the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Ok, seriously, I shouldn't joke about that, but even with the knowledge in the back of my mind that my boys have been quite busy preparing for their "best-on-the-street, no, best-in-the-neighborhood, no, BEST-IN-THE-WHOLE-CITY" Lag b'Omer bonfire, I never would have been able to guess what they've actually been up to all these hours. 

Lucky me, now I don't have to. There, outside my guest room window, propped up against the side of my house, for my viewing pleasure is a jumble of junk unlike any I've ever seen. Yes, they have the typical cardboard boxes, old newspapers, random sticks and pieces of wood (some appearing to have recently been sawed off of trees -- we'll have to discuss that). But there are also planks 10 feet long, some with enormous dirty, rusty nails sticking out of them. There are several old splintered wood shipping pallets and even some sheets of scrap metal (I guess we'll have to talk about what flammable means, too). Don't forget several cinder blocks.

My first reaction is to (in a way that only Amercian Mother can) freak out and demand an explanation: "Where did this all come from???"
"Don't you see how dangerous some of it is??" 
And most importantly, "How the heck did you get it up here??" (We live one flight up.)

But instead, I pause for a minute and can't help but smile. I think of all the lessons they're learning; working together (without killing each other), the value of good, hard work (even though they did use a "stolen" grocery cart to lug things from a construction site), communication skills (screaming at each other and fighting does too count) and negotiation skills (luckily the Arabs at the site were the negotiating type).

In all seriousness though, they are working together with other kids in the neighborhood towards a singular goal. It's hard work, and they're happy to do it, knowing that the results will be well worth it. It's particularly exciting for me to see them preparing, because my pilot trip to scout out apartments at this time last year was enhanced greatly by watching the kids in the neighborhood scurry around carrying anything that could move (sometimes anything that could be re-moved) and building these story high bonfires. I'll never forget the flight back that motzei shabbos, actually being able to see the bonfires from the air as we took off from Ben Gurion Airport. 

So, American Mother will once again sit down and be quiet, because she really has no place on Israeli Lag B'Omer, except maybe to enforce some fire safety and bring lots and lots (and oh boy do I mean LOTS) of water to the actual bonfire site. And know that when we need to run to the doctor for Tetanus shots, American Mother will be there, right where she belongs; knowing deep down that she's done good for her kids. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trying Times

Saying that I woke up with a migraine would be the understatement of the year. Three Excedrin, a bottle of Pepsi Max, and one extra large coffee later, I am just starting to come out of the fog. It's been another rough week here, and I'm starting to realize just how intense living in the Holy Land can be.

The first time I ever came to Israel was when I was a young, energetic girl of 18 on the brink of my entire life; everything was new and exciting, everything it's very own experience. The time after that, I had been married for only 2 weeks, and we had just started the very beginning of our lives together, and we were focused on the novelty of being newly married and experiencing Israel together as a couple. The third time, we actually moved here. For good, or so we then thought. We had two young children and and third on the way, and life was all about focusing on ourselves, our new little family, and sharing E''Y with our kids. We were young, a little self-centered, and things were good.

This time things are different. They are still good, but this time I'm a little older. A little smarter, and a little less self-centered. This time we've arrived with a bigger family, older kids and for the first time, a real look into what it means to be part of the k'lal, the greater whole. It can mean more simchas; more births, more Bar Mitzvahs, more weddings. And sometimes the reality of being part of that k'lal can be tough.

Yesterday afternoon I attended the levaya (funeral) of a young mother from our neighborhood, who was suddenly taken from us. I didn't know her particularly well, but I went as part of the community that we've grown to love after being here less than a year. I went because after three weeks of fervently davening, praying for someone's recovery, you start to feel a connection. I went to show Hakaras Ha'Tov to a woman who was behind much of the organizing and planning of our shul events, making our community and shul the great place it is. I went to show how grateful I was to her for being someone who came over to me my first few weeks at a new shul, in a new city, in a new country and shmoozed with me to make me feel comfortable. I went because she and I are part of the same whole.

Exactly a month ago, I attended another funeral of a 15 year old boy from RBS who was on a bus going to visit his grandmother, when the bus was bombed by terrorists. I know his parents, but again, not particularly well. I went because again, we are part of one whole, and his parents should not feel that they are alone in such a terrible tradgedy. Apparently I was not the only one who felt this way, as there were easily over a thousand people in attendance. Last night was his shloshim.

A couple weeks before that, the Fogel family was murdered in their home. And while I would've liked to attend the funeral, I was only able to tune in live on the Arutz 7 website. The Fogel parents were the same age as myself and TPH, they had 6 children, and they were living a life with goals very similar to ours, and again, I felt that connection. I still find myself thinking of them at odd moments, and holding back tears. 

I'm just beginning to understand how hard it is to live here. Given the financial difficulties, the constant struggle for peace within our own borders, the cultural differences, and let's face it, the desert climate, it's becoming clear why most Israelis look older and more worn than their American counterparts. The emotional stress of being part of this greater whole can be very trying. However, it also brings out a gratefulness that I have never known before. After each piece of bad news, after each tragedy, I find myself hugging my little guys a little longer, trying to be just a tiny bit more patient, and appreciating every moment with my spouse. 

And like I said, it's still good. Sometimes we're just forced to push ourselves harder to see that good and to truly appreciate each and every person in our lives, and every moment that we are given with them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Yom Ha'Zikaron

Last night, R had a bad asthma attack that ended with us at the doctor and him on the Nebulizer. Thank G-d he's fine and breathing much better today. We didn't get out of the office until well after closing time, after dark. On our way home, he skipped and jumped and chattered and insisted that we count the Israeli flags we passed. He was up to 19 when the siren announcing the start of Israeli Remembrance Day sounded. If you've never heard the siren, it's hard to explain; it's an air raid siren that can be heard from anywhere, it's loud and it's emotional. It stopped us in our tracks, and we stood there on the dark street for the moment until it ended. 

It then sparked a conversation on the way home, as I tried to answer all the questions a five year old can conjure up in a few minutes: What is that noise? Why do we stand still? Why do soldiers have to die? 

And once again, explaining things to a child, I was able to really clarify things for myself. BAW and I both come from more Yeshivish backgrounds and by now are used to the common misconceptions about the State of Israel and "frum" ideas about the evils of Yom Ha'azmaut and anything Zionistic. We've spent years defending to our fellow Jewish Americans our increasing desire to live in E"Y and become part of the greater whole of Jews who live here but respect and appreciate the medina, the State. We made a very conscientious decision before we stepped off the plane to send our boys to schools that would encourage above all else a love of Hashem and Torah and Mitzvot, but also a need and right to defend our homeland.

On that little walk in the moonlight with R, standing there listening to the siren, and saying my perek of tehillim, I  felt a real significance of remembering all those who have given their lives so that we can take our walk in the moonlight. 

Later that night, our amazing shul once again put together a fantastic program for the evening. An "Erev Nashim" --"Women's Night" where women of the community gathered to sing, share stories of loss and strength, and to remember those who have fought or been killed Al Kiddush Hashem. It was truly an inspirational night and another reminder of how very lucky and thankful I am to be here.