Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Wonderful Wednesday

The papers Ugh! How dated! I mean The Internet is full of the miracles of the states, but being a) self centred (in the loveliest of ways) and b) not American, I'm focusing on wonders closer to home. I'm resisting the urge to be anti-American and state my relief at not being part of a state that puts it's leaders on MTV and talk shows. Oops.. just did it. Did anyone notice??

  1. A wonderful joyous moment today when I realised that I had understood at least three minutes of my class without even noticing! Didn't even consult my trusty right-hand man - which comes in the form of an electronic dictionary. It only lasted a few minutes, and luckily isn't the only part of the class that I understood (I had to concentrate harder for those bits.. However, and here I really mean HOWEVER it really made up for the other moments in class where I wonder a) what the hell are they saying? b) what the hell am I doing, c) surely everyone else knows that I am a fantasist and don't understand a thing.. All very distracting thoughts in their own right. The bottom line is; after a week in University in a language in which I am only a provisional licence holder (at best), I am still standing. Ready, well almost ready, to fight a new week.
  2. The joy of a really compulsive read! I am almost finished reading "The Song of Names" by Norman Lebrecht. There are many qualities to books, and since I haven't finished this one, I am not ready to declare judgment on it. However (favourite word for the day??) it did manage to swallow the whole 4A bus today. That's saying quite a lot for a book. Anyone who has had the joy and honour of the Katamon/Har Zofim bus route will understand..
  3. My American number! It's so nice and normal to have a landline again - any landline! But this one is particularly special since it looks like Philadelphia number and is free calling "back home". Now I just have to find more time to spend on it..

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Rainbows and Registration

  1. A wonderful weekend with the Hippies down south. A super drive with amazing views, reminding me a) how big and b) how wonderful this ol' state of mine is. I need to get about it more, travel more, get to know it better etc.
  2. Despite all of the above, including waking up at 7.30am to witness the most peaceful desert scene, crashing out in my own bed was great. The stars the night before were INCREDIBLE! If only a photograph could capture even an idea of how wonderful it was to lie by a campfire, looking up at the sparkly carpet of stars.
  3. Registering for Uni.. am freaked out of all proportion. However, it's going to be fine. This whole thing is going to be an exercise in the science of "It's going to be fine". Ok, so I don't know exactly where my classes are, what classes to do or what the hell they will be about, ok that I am going to lose three evenings a week to be in Ulpan, ok that this is probably the hardest, the real-est thing I have done in Israel so far, in fact anywhere so far.. ok ok!! It's going to be FINE!!
(any reassurances/offers to attend courses for me/offers to write papers for me etc will be welcomed with open arms.)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Nerves and Nice Surprises

  1. I only know one person who lives in Mevasseret. He doesn't even live in Mevasseret most of the time, but who did I see on the bus in Mevasseret? Correct!
  2. Got some really wonderfully reassuring help from a friend who has already done the degree I am about to start next week (if there isn't a strike..). I am uncharacteristically nervous about starting (if there isn't a strike..) and feel that the more I talk about how freaked I am, perhaps, the better it will be? Well, time to put on the "rational hat" (I think there is one in the back of the wardrobe..) and face the fears with a harmless little Q&A session tomorrow.
  3. Umm... struggling for a 3rd I can really write about today.. I had a really interesting meeting today. I met a woman who is really serious about affecting major changes in Israel in a totally realistic and potentially successful way. She's starting small and isn't put off by the magnitude of the job. And I might get to help her on the way. It was genuinely reviving and inspiring to meet someone who wasn't just kvetching about the state of Education around here, but was really doing something. Who said Pioneerism is dead?!

Thursday, 16 October 2008


I was prevented from writing in detail about my cookies on facebook, and luckily remembered I(just in time) that I do have another venting OOps I mean writing opportunity on the dear old web..

1. So, I'm doing the marathon make cookies for a party we're having on Saturday night. The making cookie procedure has become very evocative for me. Last summer when I left London, I also found myself making many many cookies many many times. And now, each time I make cookies, I remember. And it's a nice memory. People ask me what I miss from London and I always find it a very difficult question. Of course I miss people. And marmite. And maybe Green&Blacks. And the great green outdoors. But would I want to go back? Right now, the answer is certainly no.

Every now and then, often when I am making cookies, I think back to the Summer of 07. I felt so well supported and loved by the people around me, and so scared of the future ahead of me, although that anxiety is difficult to really recall now. I stood in my parents home and talked about about my Grandmother and how she unknowingly sent me on this path of Aliyah. I looked around at the group of friends gathered to hear me and wondered if I was crazy to leave those amazing people behind.

Of course, none of the parts of the sentence really add up. Yes, I was crazy, but hopefully in a good way. They are amazing people and I haven't left anyone behind. I have made good friends here and I have managed to keep hold of most of the relationships that were always so important to me. And importantly for me, especially as someone who likes to keep things stable, similar and reliable, is that I made a positive and proactive acceptance of the fact of life never staying the same, of no two moments ever being the same.

2. My room is beautifully tidy. Ok, so I can't find anything, but I am enjoying how nice it looks. While it lasts.. Ok, in contradiction to no. 1, perhaps there are some things that I like to change..

3. Not to sound too much like Mrs Dalloway.. but I am looking forward to the party!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Politics Shmolotics

  1. Exercising the political muscle was nice. It didn't take me very long to get over the British/Non-Israeli/Sit on Fence-ist views which were sorta appropriate to England after having made Aliyah but now I have Opinion! Hear me ROAR!!
  2. Wonderful housemates who humour me/entertain me/laugh at me but most are generally vital ingredients in making our flat a home, not just a group of rooms we share.
  3. Once a BA-nik, always a BA-nik. It may be boring, but boring is stable. Stable has some nice things going for it.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

He has given us the gourd. The GOURD!

1. Decided, totally unexpectedly, and totally without preplanning, to have a haircut today. I got off the bus, and there it was, the hairdresser beckoning me. I mean, he wasn't actually beckoning me, but there was certainly a certain pull towards the hairdresser. Anyway, it ended up being one of those "only in Israel" conversations. I wanted a something dramatic (for me, nothing asymmetrical or too funky), and we talked about the appropriate-ness of this time of year. New hair, new me, new year etc etc. Then he proceeded to compliment me. Now, perhaps if he had been speaking in English, I would have simply disregarded his comments, but there is something about those complimentary words in Hebrew which lends them to have a greater depth about their meaning. Na'im (pleasant), Chayn (grace).. I don't know which of these words have biblical roots but they just seem to be a much more serious compliment than "nice".

Or I'm a sucker.

Either way, never look a compliment horse in the face. Or something like that.

2. Am loving having two of my oldest and dearest friends in town. Loving that it feels like no time has past and loving (am I overusing this yet) that I am lucky enough to have two such wonderful people in my life. And their husbands seem to tolerate me too.

3. The Life of Brian. Always a treat for an evening. Especially when combined with good company, beer and sushi.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Weird Wednesday

i.e. it's weird that it is Wednesday all of a sudden!

  1. Realising that it's unusual and wonderful to a) still be great friends with the people you were friends with in secondary school and b) to live in the same town as them! Saw one for lunch today and then spoke to the other in the evening.
  2. Having most of the things I needed for my appointment with Misrad Haklita, not having to wait too long and dealing with someone nice who spoke English. I don't ever expect to have everything I need on the first attempt.
  3. Being ONLINE AT HOME!! It's been 2 months, which is kind of a long time. Perhaps I'll even blog more!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Having had such a gap...

it was hard to start again.. But then I did. And it was ok!

  1. Religious tolerance DOES exist in Israel! I saw it myself! And was humbled! Ok, think I am done with exclamation marks now, perhaps for the year and will explain the episode. I got onto a sherut to Tel Aviv and there's a guy with a black hat sitting in the aisle seat, next to an empty seat. There is one other seat at the back which I really really don't fancy. Squished up and sweaty in the back of a sherut or next to the frummer? Well, actually, I didn't even consider sitting next to him. Being a bolshy and increasingly assertive Israeli, I told him that I think he needs to move. Must make a mental note to develop the old "inner voice/outer voice" thing.. Anyway, seeing as he is also an Israeli, perhaps an even more authentic one than me, says, "No, I don't". Hmm thinks I, and then say, "well, can I sit here?". "Betach sheken" (of course) says he. So I sit down next to him and then try and back track on what I realise might have been offence. "I just wanted to be sensitive.." I begin to mutter. So far so good..
Then enter stage irreligious woman from the opposite seat. Of course I know she is irreligious because I judge people according to their clothing. Bad, bad person I know. She asks Mr Black Hat if he'd like to swap seats. He isn't bothered, but does and us girlies sit together. So, after months of searching, I really found it! Religous tolerance in this holy state! It kind of makes up for the girl in one of my ulpan classes who said something like, " I feel so different to other Jews here, we should all feel closer. When I am on the bus through Me'ah She'arim [ultra othordox area] I feel different to the people who live there. They look at me like I am different."

I think I was alone in wanting to pull her hair and shout "YOU ARE!!!!". Oops.. let more exclamation marks in. Sorry. Won't do it again..

Truthfully, it was an useful episode because it reminded me about how my expectations of people can be wrong! I form opinions not based on how they actually behave, but how I presume they behave. I still often find myself thinking or talking about how religious attitudes are so significant here in the way people behave towards each other. And I am still only talking about Jews and Jews, I haven't even got to the 'Jews and Others' matter. And don't worry, I'm not going to do it. Well, not for a while anyway. During this year, one of the biggest learning curves has been on different ways that people express their Judaism. A large component of Diaspora Jewry is about being different from people, about being "other". Here, where most people reside amongst other people of their race, the starting point is completely different. Everyone is Jewish. Ok, I know it's not everyone, but most Jewish children go to schools with other Jewish children, they don't grow up with the feeling that they are different/special/picked on/wierd because you are Jewish. Incidently, when I was 5, I though that everything that was different about me was because I was Jewish, eg being a vegetarian and spelling things differently (i.e. wrong) It took my mother ages to convince me that 'visit' had two 'i's, and that I didn't have authority to spell it differently because of my Jewish-ness.

Anyway, I digress.. children here don't have that sometimes horrid, unbearable and painful experience of being different because they are Jewish, as so many people, particularly boys in England, do. The delineations are drawn differently, or to put it another way, nasty kids find other reasons to pick on children; origin, looks... But this all means that Israeli Jews don't necessarily have any common ground about their Jewish-ness. They find English "kippa in the pocket" types very odd because you are either religious or you are not. When I taught in London, I met a child who said, "I'm Jewish but I live in Israel". This does sound ultra Zionist, and I quite agree with the idea as it happens, but she (strangely) simply equated Israeli and Jew.

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit now. Suffice to say, I was glad that I had the opportunity to be reminded that it's way too easy to be judgemental.

Ok, now a brief number 2 and 3:

2. This is going back a bit, but as the stress is mounting, I'd like to remind myself about it. I got into University! This was a fairly complex procedure involving seemingly endless forms and phone calls to people to explain what the hell I was supposed to be doing, endless attempts at trying to meet people during their opening hours, endless opportunities where I had to pull myself together and not give in to the nerves, endless psyching myself up to the challenge of a Masters in Hebrew, not to mention* passing the Gimmel exam [3rd level in Hebrew Language school] in order to get in. The mounting stress now is that now that I have convinced those in charge/proved my worth, I actually have to do it. Conversations, reading children's books.. these are all easy compared to understanding lectures in Hebrew. I know that I am giving it a go, that I can do it and all the other sorts of rallying cries to use in order to keep psyching myself up but I am, basically, really nervous!

But I got in, have got the letter to prove it and everything. And this is a good thing.

[for the detalists among you, I am starting a Masters in Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, in Jewish Education, in November, in Hebrew.]

3. It is, really, nice to be back in Israel.

* Not to mention?? What sort of ridiculous phrase is that? Not to mention something that I am about to mention?? I hate these phrases. Honestly, I only left it in so I could rant about it a bit, perhaps even find some fellow phrase fascists.

"Honestly" is another one.. next time someone uses it, try replacing the word with "I'm about to lie here".. for example:

"Honestly, I only left it in so I could rant a bit"
[I'm going to lie here] I only left it in so I could rant a bit.

See, what actually happened is that I re-read what I wrote before pressing the publish button, and realised that I had used the heinous word, and then rather than changing it, I thought I could rally some support for the cause!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Shwarma and Beer

  1. A surprising and wonderful turn out at my "Drinks in London" do this evening. Is always hard to juggle and manage to really catch up with friends while on such a brief trip, but it's seems like it is a) appreciated, and b) worthwhile to at least skim the surface of what people are up to and when they're going to make aliya! Well, for some..
  2. I live in the country of kosher meat and shwarma on every doorstep. However, chips, vinegar and a lemonade shwarma still has a special ring to it, especially if it's on a rainy day in Hendon. Even better if it can be accompanied by good company and watching the Olympics.. which brings me on to..
  3. Usain Bolt. What a pleasure to watch!
  4. Am extending to four items today; midnight tea with the doctor. There are people you can pick up with anywhere, any time and about pretty much anything. It's the best reason for visiting London.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Long Absences and Overdose of Family

Have been in England for a while, and before that was in Denmark, which all gave me a lot to write about but want to stick to the brief; three things that were great today.

1. Hearing the soldiers outside Buckingham Palace play Dancing Queen by Abba. Who says they have no irony!?

2. Being a proper girlie aunt to my nieces and straightening their hair. Hearing them say, "Don't say you're not good at this!" GHDs! I'm crap at hair, just great at spending money on good products. Actually, this counts for today as well as for the whole week; watching my many many nieces and nephews getting on with one another, and yes, as cheesy as it sounds, watching my parents gain great pleasure from it. That was good too..

3. This conversation has been waiting to happen for a really long time. The one where I try to academically, objectively debate with my brother about his chareidi lifestyle and how it fits in, or rather doesn't fit in with the rest of Israeli society. Glad to have finally broached it, even though it was annoying and I don't feel any easier about his choices. But then, they are *his* choices...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bin Men and Marching Bands

  1. When the yoghurt pot exploded all over the bin men today and they just laughed out loud at each other. Not a single trace of malice or annoyance.
  2. The end of Ulpan Party was an unexpected delight. This Ulpan (Hebrew Language School) has been a 'tikkun' for my previous experience, i.e. that one was largely disappointing and unsatisfactory in terms of it's teaching. This party was very simply arranged; Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, music from a band called Marsh Dondurma (Ice cream in Turkish??) and fantastic views over the city of Jerusalem, but it was exactly what people wanted to be doing and the music was really good. Well, to be during the three weeks, it would have to be-right?
  3. The other good thing about this event is that I was able to really express my thanks and appreciation to my Ulpan teacher, Mazal. Her teaching has really been incredible, she really successfully portrays her love of Hebrew, her knowledge of the linguistic links and transformation from a biblical, ancient language to one that is modern, vibrant and constantly growing. And that special thing that really incredible and intelligent teachers do; the art of making the complex straightforward.. something to aspire to!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Ice Coffee hmmm

  1. It's not that I miss Starbucks, but there is, just occasionally, something rather nice about sitting in an anonymous, could-be-anywhere-in-the-world coffee shop where the music is bland, the salad forgettable and the service is poor. It's just familiar, and yes, here in Coffee Bean, the internet is free!...I am sure the whipped cream on my iced additive drink is not included in the 88 calories it is purported to contain.
  2. Actually needing a jumper this morning was wonderful! I have totally forgotten the notion of cold, particularly the sort of cold that is not induced by aircon. By now, of course, it's back at 29 degrees..
  3. Was wondering about number three until an email arrived, just a moment ago, telling me how I had made my friend's day. Well, she just made mine. It's an amazing thing that it's so easy to forget that my actions have an effect on other people. I don't want to sound preachy, but I can't work out why these obvious facts, which totally enhance life and improve it no end, usually slip my mind. And always at the times that I need them most. Appreciation feeds appreciation, love feeds love. Thank you to the wonderful J for making me feel unbounded today!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Loving Ulpan

1. 8.20am, which, incidentally still seems to me to be a ridiculously early time to be anywhere, let alone an 45 minute journey from home, was in fact a wonderful time to be watching a small (schmooli style) silver tabby kitten chasing it's tail in the cafeteria at university. Nothing big or special, but I just enjoyed it enough to remind me that it can be these small moments that make a day.

2. So the lentils weren't soft. The onions were too big and too raw. The aubergine was too chewy. But my friends ate my version of 'Moussaka' anyway. Perhaps they were starving, or just really nice people. Or maybe, it's just because it was covered in cheese, and cheese is always good. Actually, even better than good if it's melted..

3. I admit it! I'm disappointed that the visitor who I was expecting couldn't come over. But it does give me a nice quiet evening in, perhaps an early night or even to complete some of the large pile of homework chewing it's way out of my bag. Or maybe I'll watch Curb.. :)

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Not really managing this every day but...

22nd July 2008

It's been a really hard day actually - disappointments looming large from the national to the personal but yet, today is a day where I want to remember that somethings were good.

1. Someone got behind a bulldozer and tried to attack innocent people again, leaving many injured but thank God, no casualties. The remarkable bravery and selflessness of people saving us from an even bigger catastrophe. On the bus, people around me making and receiving the "check in" call from relatives, checking that they were elsewhere at that time. I heard an old man gently reassuring his wife, "Thank God, I'm OK". I don't think I will ever get used to making and receiving those calls, like some of my friends are, and perhaps I don't really want to. But still, something about that old man on the bus will stay with me for a while.

2. The woman in the queue behind me in the Supermarket was a real cow, moaning and bitching about the amount of time she had to wait and how few people there were on the till. I didn't shout at her, or give in and let her go in front (yes, can also be a cold hearted bitch) but did quietly, in more or less correct Hebrew, tell her that her behaviour was unreasonable and put everyone else around her under pressure. I know it won't make any difference to her but the pressure of trying to operate in a language that I am not fluent in is immense at times. Every so often I realise how deficient I am, how people don't take me seriously or how many opportunities or just simple pieces of information I miss. So, it's good to count the occasions where I don't over-react, but also don't feel like a pushover.

3. I'm enjoying a rare breeze on a 30 degrees day. My sister and family are coming tomorrow and I know that all other stresses will melt away, even if just for a second, when I'm being hugged and kissed my five little girls and my wonderful sister. The anticipation is lovely.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Sunny Tuesday

1. Seeing dear A & A and appreciating their open hearts and spare door key. How wonderful to just place a key in my hand and say use it whenever you want! For them not making me feel like I aught to have left when they came home.

2. Overcoming a potential panic attack in a tunnel 50m beneath the ground. Seeing D who was so the right person to mull it over and accepting her love as she walked me home for the sake of my company. For her pushing me gently to think about things which are difficult.

3. Maybe this date that I am waiting for won’t be as bad as I assume.. Actually, the date went very well from one perspective; I spoke Ivrit all evening! This was not only good for the practice but also for the concept of fearless dating. It’s just an opportunity to speak Ivrit. Much easier to deal with.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Three Beautiful Things

1. Met one of those lovely rare people wrapped up in a bureaucratic job, but who actually was available when I turned up, was able to answer my questions, took an interest in what I was doing and encouraged me.

2. Received a lovely compliment from a fellow class mate and managed to be gracious and say thank you, without explaining it away or pretending that I didn't have skills.

3. Applied something I learnt to something I have known for ages!