Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Time to Cry

Standing on line at the post office this morning, I started to cry.  Heaving sobs burst out of me, the first time I have "given in" to the daily stress here in Israel since we returned from the United States almost two weeks ago.

The guy at the counter didn't seem concerned at all, several other people came over to me, offered me tissues and tried to reassure me that "soon this will end. It will be OK."

One person asked me, "Why are you crying?"  And I answered with that characteristic Israeli shrug of the shoulder, "For no real reason, just like that."  And another woman said to me, "No one cries for no reason these days."

It was easier to dismiss my tears in front of these kind strangers than to explain:
I am crying because our soldiers are dying every day to keep us safe, while literally the rest of the political world on planet Earth tries to convince us that we are the criminals and that we ought to cease defending our lives, our very right to exist.

I am crying because I am physically exhausted, having not slept decently in the last two weeks because of night terrors and nasty thoughts and concerns for the security of my daughter and my extended family.

I am crying because some guy (yes, a dating thing in the middle of all this) treated me like garbage in a time that I am more vulnerable, and I lament the unfairness of my doing all that I do, alone. (On the heels of my brother's wedding, and the start of his beautiful life in marriage...)

I am crying because if it had not been for my birthday several days after we returned, a day in which luckily people pay attention to you,  I think that many people would have not noticed that we had been away at all.

I am crying because after not working for two and a half weeks, and having the expenses of the trip, something in my car went "pop" and now the windows are opening and closing by themselves.  Of course my issues - physical, emotional or financial - are nothing compared to the experiences of the soldiers and their families, and the parents of the three boys murdered one month ago, the trigger for this military incursion. I should just be content, it could be argued, that my family is thank G-d healthy and that we live in Jerusalem, where there has been relative quiet.

I am crying because I am still emotionally jet-lagged from my trip, a large part of me wishing I had extended my visit in the United States where I did not have to face the struggle of this current Israeli reality.

After the post office, I walked home while attempting to avoid contact with people, ashamed of my feelings and my blotchy eyes and my running nose.  Went to work and shut off my feelings, because that is what I must do;  if my schedule allows it, I will cry some more later, before I have to pick up Raphaela from her last day of camp, and put on a brave face again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Girl Power

"This is a wonderful day!  Thank you, Mommy."

There is nothing quite as empowering - for a five year old or a 46 year old - as having the opportunity to stroke the horn of a rhinosaurus.

(The chief care taker of the herbivores at the Zoo says that the two beasts, named Shalom and Carmi, are like "big sloppy dogs," each one wanting attention.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Growing Up

This morning, from Raphaela: "I need a proper pocket book, because some day soon I am going to be a Mommy."

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Every Friday night, after I light Shabbat candles, I give Raphaela a blessing, and then the two of us sit together and say "thank you" for the gifts and the positive experiences we have had in the last week.

This Friday night, Raphaela said, "Mommy, I want to give you a blessing too."  I leaned over, she placed her hands on my head and whispered: " Mommy, I love you so much. I never want you to die. I love you so much and I thank G-d for keeping you safe."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

How does a single mother in Jerusalem celebrate her birthday with jet lag and the background stress of a war?

I spent most of the day not working (the present), so I could wear a dress today instead of clinic clothing, and invested a little extra time with make up and jewelry.  After dropping Raphaela off at camp, onward to errands all over town:  post office, bank, supermarket, dry cleaners and electrolysis (sort of a present).

Grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then I picked up my daughter from camp;  together we made my birthday cake and had it for dessert.

Wild times, I tell you.

Tomorrow I get to clean the house for Shabbat and take Harry to the vet for his yearly shots.

Mostly, I am grateful to live in a country where despite a war, I can have a "normal" day and I can see signs of community all around me:  Raphaela's class made pictures for injured soldiers and delivered them to the hospital, and they also assembled a care package to be sent to soldiers on the front lines.  30,000 Israelis, most of whom did not know the American-born soldier who died this week, attended his funeral on Mount Herzl, and continue to stream over to the hotel where his family is in mourning, sitting Shiva.  All over the social media, posted information regarding the support of soldiers and their families, and the people living under constant bombardment, especially in the South of the country.

Maybe when this phase of the war is over, we will remember that we must remain united, and not just during those times when our enemies actively attempt to wipe the State of Israel off the map.

Monday, July 21, 2014

War Report from Jerusalem

Upon arriving home, I noted that the two eggs in the pigeon's nest in our window had hatched, and there sat two somewhat large chicks, being tended by their parents.  Since then, one of the two chicks has lifted its wings and learned to fly;  his sibling adamantly refuses to budge from the window sill.

It has been almost amusing, the perpetual "conversation" between the adult pigeon and this baby, which probably translates to, "Come on already, your brother/sister figured it out, it's not scary.  Get out of the house and get a job..."  And yet in the last week there has been no progress, the chick is staying put.

Watching Dora last night on cable television, the show was regularly interrupted with notifications of bombings taking place in real time throughout the south, a free service courtesy of the government.

I get it, it is scary out there, and now more than ever for those of us living in Israel during a war.  Last night we both went to sleep early in an attempt to finish off our jet lag, and I woke up with a terrified start in the early hours of the morning, having just dreamt that I got separated from Raphaela during a missile attack, playing out the horrible possibilities as a parent.  I never really fell back asleep after that, my heart was racing too fast and I did not want to close my eyes and replay that scene in my head.

Then, while walking Raphaela to camp today, we stopped at the usual spot to feed the street cats for whom we have taken responsibility.  An Israeli soldier sat on the wall, he could not have been more than 22 or 23 years old, unlit cigarette dangling from his fingers.  I told Raphaela to thank him, to acknowledge that he is putting his life in jeopardy to keep us secure.  I asked the soldier where he was stationed, and he told us that he was waiting for his ride to the army base, and after that he would be placed on the border of Gaza in the South of Israel.

With tears in my eyes, I wished him well and told him to "stay safe," as if he or I have any control over the matter.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Home Again, Home Again

From New York to Kansas to Boston to London, we have arrived home, to Jerusalem.  I must admit that I did not want to take my daughter into a war zone, when life in America seems so familiar and so comfortable, superficially easy.  Honestly, I know very few of my friends and family in the United States who wake up each morning and think, "Who is trying to kill me today?"  (There is always a little room for paranoia, especially in New York City...)
On Friday morning, jet lag be damned, Raphaela and I went to Palmach street; we dropped off clothing at the dry cleaners, got supplies for Shabbat and restocked the fridge from the supermarket.  Everything and everywhere, Raphaela proclaimed with joy, "That's my Gan!"  "That's my bakery!"  "This is the best day ever, I'm home!"  And I was reminded why it was so important for us to come back to Israel, because in her heart, Raphaela is an Israeli and Jerusalem is the place where I found my life.
Yet, regardless of my jet lag, I stayed awake all night waiting for the sirens to go off, and wondering where Raphaela and I would be safe from attack, and praying for the safe return of our soldiers involved in the ground operation in Gaza.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tora Dojo, An Apology

I have returned from Kansas from my brother's wedding, a beautiful event for my brother and his new wife, and our joined families , and I now have the time to sit and catch up with my parents.

My father happened to mention a very old post on this blog, in which I referred to his teacher, friend and mentor, "Sifu" Sober of the Tora Dojo karate training, and an event which occurred over 25 years ago.  My comments were taken as a slap in the face to an old and dear family friend, and have been hurtful over the years.

For the sake of my father, and my own conscience, I called Professor Sober this evening;  we spoke candidly about our perceptions of the event, and of our desire to make peace, especially in light of the greater terrible threat to the Jewish Nation.  True friendships and connections always find a way to reconnect and forgive, and I am thankful to report that we have succeeded.

Perhaps the hardest part of being a grown-up is taking responsibility for our actions and being able to admit that our approaches were flawed, and then finding a new way to heal a wound. I am grateful that Professor Sober and I were able to forge this path, and I am grateful to my daughter for teaching me that as a parent and as a human being, we can embrace our imperfections and try to learn from them, if we are just a little brave.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Inner New Yorker

For several years now, I have struggled with the weight of my rigid routine and the loss of my identity as a woman and as an individual, my needs and passions that might reflect me without any connection or obligation as a mother.

I am happy to report that after spending four days in New York City, I have rediscovered the essential Me, the passionate Me, the human being I was with much credit to my college years and as a single person.  I am also happy to report that Raphaela seems to have the natural qualities of an Inner New Yorker, she far surpassed my expectations in every way during this visit.

The Museum of Natural History, the MET, Central Park, the Upper East and West Side; Raphaela and I must have walked at least five miles each day and she not once complained of aches or pains or discomfort from the muggy heat.  My daughter stopped to talk to every police man we saw on the street, and found playmates in the sandbox at the children's playground or at a coffee shop.

For one entire week neither of us have sat in front of a television, we haven't had time in our schedule.

This morning we left the City to head out to Long Island, to meet an old friend at the beach.  A homeless woman boarded the subway and in a brief and polite statement explained that she was not begging for money, but rather anything that might make life on the street in the hot New York Summer a little easier, "even a sip of water."

Every other passenger in the car ignored this woman, made her invisible, as one would expect.  Raphaela and I looked solemnly at each other, and Raphaela gave this person her water bottle. The  homeless woman immediately smiled at us, a sweet honest and happy expression, and inhaled the water as if it were her last breath.  Then she said to Raphaela, " Thank you! I never finished school and  did the work to have a successful life. Stay in school and be good to your mother."

I was so proud of Raphaela, for her kindness and her essential humanity.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An Israeli in New York III

On the Long Island Railroad, my daughter asked to borrow the newspaper from a random business man, so she could read up on the World Cup.
We visited my former college campus of Barnard-Columbia and had a picnic on the Great Lawn.  "Your Gan is beautiful! " marveled Raphaela.
We must have walked over four miles yesterday afternoon, and not once did Raphaela complain about her legs hurting or about the humidity.
I must have taken at least 100 photographs yesterday, our first day in the City, more than the last five years of my living in Israel.
Raphaela's spoken English has improved by leaps and bounds in the last four days that we have been in the United States.

In Manhattan I am inspired creatively, I reconnect to memories from my childhood that I thought had been lost forever. Sharing these feelings, this place, with my daughter has only reignited my passion to move forward, and compete, and lose the often restrictive routine I have in Israel. This morning I woke up early ( jet lag) and watched the Upper West Side wake up, entranced.

I met my brother for dinner last night, some private time before he gets married this weekend, and he observed, " I haven't seen you this happy and alive in a long time. I never understood why you left New York."

"We must explore this new world." Said Raphaela, looking at the height of the buildings and the activity of the streets.

Meanwhile in Israel, too close to Jerusalem and even in my neighborhood, my friends prepare for war.  I would be lying if I denied entertaining thoughts of keeping me and my child safe and happy, here in America.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Matter of Timing

Last time we visited the States, approximately two years ago, we avoided the short period of time during which rockets rained down on Jerusalem.  Instead of learning how to run to the bomb shelter in her nursery, my daughter celebrated Thanksgiving with a delicious feast, with her family in New York.  It was over by the time we returned.

Today, as I sit at a baseball game in New York (minor league team, called the Ducks), Jerusalem, my city, is almost literally burning.  Friends of mine who live in our neighborhood are afraid to leave their homes or travel to happy occasions throughout the country.  The senseless murder of three Jewish boys seems to have been answered with the senseless murder of an Arab boy.  If I were home right now, I might be locking the doors as well, glued to the news.

Is it wrong to be grateful for my brother for choosing to get married this week in Kansas, so we could be far away from the fear and the chaos?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

An Israeli in New York II

Having gained many insights and life experiences my first 26 years as an American, I am certainly grateful for the gift that is My Idealized United States. Coincidentally, Raphaela and I arrived to New York Erev July Fourth, and we celebrated with my cousins and their close circle of friends at a lovely barbecue leading into an entire weekend spent with friends and family.

Clearly, however, after 17 years as an Israeli citizen, I have lost that spirit and  emotional response to the American way of life, I most definitely think like an Israeli.  Somehow, with the daily threat to our existence from our Arab neighbors, and with the relative youth of our country, Israeli Independence Day is celebrated similarly in the physical sense - meat and beer and fireworks - and much more enthusiastically in the rememberence of the founding of the State of Israel.  Every year that we have not been nuked or otherwise wiped out of existence is testament to our survival and stubbornness.  We are staying put despite the cultures and individuals working against us, so shut down the stores and open Israeli BBQ season. Chag Sameach!*

So this year, the first time I have celebrated the American  Fourth in many years, I felt distant and almost unimpressed.  Many people here have little sense or appreciation for their history and continued existence.  And this is no longer my holiday, my possession of a US passport is more a formality and less an emotional attachment.

I am an Israeli in my head and in my heart, and that evolution of my life provides sacred pause on this trip.

[Chag Sameach = Happy holidays in Hebrew, normally reserved for the religious events in the Jewish calendar]

Thursday, July 3, 2014

An Israeli in New York

This evening, after landing at JFK airport and going through customs, I turned my back on Raphaela for just a moment, to get a luggage cart, and she was gone. With the help of several policemen and customs officials, she was found ten minutes later, wandering around/exploring the airport.

Furious and terrified, I picked up my daughter, gave her a big hug and said, "Raphaela, New York is not Jerusalem! At home you can be brave and independent, because you know the place and people know you. In New York, stick next to me at all times. I would be devastated if I ever lost you." (Thinking that if she ever got lost at home, at least several people would watch over her, buy her a cookie and keep her safe until I found her.)

Ironic, given the recent events in Israel, though perfectly consistent in my head.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

As I finish up packing our suitcases, I feel a sense of sadness bordering on guilt, for leaving Israel when we as a nation are still in mourning.  This is my home, I love my life here, and if it weren't for the fact that the brother I love is getting married, I would not be traveling now.

My body is behaving as if it is the morning of the SAT exams, I woke up every ten minutes throughout the night, for fear of missing the alarm clock, and my stomach is tied in knots.

Last night when I was getting Raphaela ready for bed, she burst out crying because she was going to miss her teachers and her friends from school.  In order to get her to sleep, we had to call her teacher, who reassured my daughter that she would be missed, and that she would be home soon.

I wish there was someone who could reassure me of the same.

Raphaela is bringing more shoes on this trip than I am.