Wednesday, August 26, 2009

While we're writing letters

Dear World:

Your compassion for the Arabs in assisting them to obtain one more state is noted. While you're protesting, writing slanderous articles promoting blood-libels, boycotting our professors (but not our useful products), calling us murderers and Nazis, would you mind taking a few minutes to help a young man?

He was kidnapped over 3 years ago, at the age of 19. He is being held hostage by a group identified by the US as being a terrorist organization. His family has been allowed no contact. This terrorist organization has refused to allow the Red Cross to visit the hostage, in full contravention of the Geneva Convention. The terrorists have offered no terms to release this hostage. His family has no idea if he is even still alive.

His name is Gilad Shalit. His birthday is on Friday. He was kidnapped when the terrorists snuck into Israel through a tunnel. He is a hostage because he is a Jew.

Dear World, please spare a minute of your indignation for this young man. Demand that the Red Cross be allowed to visit him. Demand that his family be allowed to visit him. Demand that he be released. Today.

Bring Gilad Shalit home.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Here's how it's gonna go down

Dear US State Department:

We have Uncle Sam. We will not release him until you change your policy towards Israel and realize we are not the bad guys. We are good guys who have our slip-ups, just like everyone else.

We will snip off one star at a time until you accede to our demands.

The People of Israel

Monday, August 10, 2009

Climbing the language barrier

Living in Israel as a non-fluent Hebrew speaker has really made me appreciate how difficult it must have been for all the non-English speaking immigrants to America. I'm being specific about the US, because I think Canada is far more tolerant of ESL immigrants than the US is.

At least in Israel, there is such a large English speaking population, that you can easily find someone who speaks English to help you find an address, a post office, explain your water bill (if you can find ANYBODY who could explain the water bill), etc. We constantly "complain" that when we do try to speak Hebrew, the person we are talking to - bank teller, supermarket cashier, cellphone service - usually says, "it's okay, you can speak English." We have to argue with them, saying we need to practice our Hebrew. Eventually, we compromise: we speak Hebrew, they speak English.

In one community I lived in back in the US, there was a significant number of immigrants from Guatemala. Hardly anyone in my town spoke Spanish, and these people didn't speak English. Typically, they found construction jobs, or housekeeping work. But a few were able to get jobs in other areas, including our local Burger King. I remember our receptionist stomping into the office one morning, because when she went to the drive-thru at the Burger King to get coffee (they had very good coffee), the Guatemalan girl working the drive-thru didn't understand "milk" and "cream" and our receptionist had to settle for the wrong thing. She was ranting about people "coming to our country and not knowing the language."

I felt for the drive-thru girl. I thought how scary it must be to be in a new country and not know the language, and to most likely, be far away from her family and friends. But I also thought, why doesn't she learn English? So many people speak it, it must be easy enough to learn.

I have a different respect for her now. Yes, enough people here speak English that I can get by for now, but this past Friday, the Health Ministry found E.Coli in our water. They issued a boil-water alert, and the City posted a notice to boil all water used for eating, drinking, and brushing teeth. Now, first of all, they issued the warning on Shabbat and came up with some lame excuse that they didn't want to disturb Shabbat, so they posted flyers outside of synagogues and called "some people." We didn't go to services that day, so we missed the flyer.

But the main issue is, the flyers were only in Hebrew. The notice on the City's website was only in Hebrew. The article on the news website was only in Hebrew. If it weren't for our English language email list, I never would have known about the water situation, and Morey, Maimo and I would have been merrily drinking tainted water. Fortunately, on Shabbat, we drink a lot of coffee and tea, which was from water boiled in our urn. But anyway...

I was reassured however, that in the event of war, the government issues all warnings and alerts in English as well as Hebrew.

Good to know/טוב לדעת

Thursday, August 6, 2009


No, we're not talking Angus here. We're talking air. Cold, cold air.

When I lived in New York, and we had hot, sticky, humid summers where you felt like you walked into a wall of water and were about to suffocate when you stepped outside, I hated air conditioning. Air conditioning was dry and stuffy. And smelled funny. And usually either didn't work well enough, or worked so well, you needed 3 sweaters just to stave off the chills.

I much preferred open windows. Even on very hot days. Open the windows and let the breeze blow. I would acquiesce on very hot nights and put the a/c on, but it had to be really really hot. And I rarely ran the a/c in my car. In fact, one of my cars didn't even have a/c, much to the shock and horror of my family.

In Vancouver, of course, it was only ever hot enough to think about air conditioning two weeks out of the year. Except apparently, this year. Vancouver was hit with a heat wave that made it hotter than Tel Aviv. Felt for them, we did.

Here in Israel? It's a completely different story. I heart my a/c. We couldn't live without it. People plan their synagogue community around which synagogue has a/c. We'd have our a/c on 24/7 if we could afford it. As it is, we have it timed to come on for an hour, every two hours, during the night or we'd never be able to sleep. The a/c is on in the car nearly every time we're in the car. People go to the mall or grocery stores just for the air conditioning. We love our a/c.

Except. Israelis love a/c a little too much. We keep our temp set at 27*. Yes, I know, most of you are scratching your heads saying, "27? That's not cold." It is when it's normally 35 outside. (And yes, we appreciate the irony of thinking that 23 was warm when we lived in Vancouver.) However, most stores and offices keep their temperatures set at a balmy "meat locker" setting. When I had pneumonia last month and had to keep going to the doctor, I was literally shivering from chills - unrelated to my fever - when I got into his office.

This makes it just that much harder to go back outside. Because 35 is bloody hot. 35 feels pretty darn hellish when you're coming out of an air conditioned building. But 35 feels like you've stepped into the middle of a raging inferno when you come out of an iceberg.

We know nothing of moderation here. We're an all or nothing kind of people.

*27 celsius = 80 fahrenheit
35 celsius = 95 fahrenheit
Yes, we do frequently get temps higher than 35.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Safety in numbers

From the moment we announced we were making aliyah, we have been asked, "aren't you scared? Isn't it dangerous?" Morey likes to point out that in a period of 4 months, there were 14 murders in Vancouver as a result of gang activity. Drive-by shootings, shootings in restaurants, etc., and the majority of the victims were innocent bystanders who just happened to have picked the wrong place to eat that night.

Israel has a ridiculously low homicide rate. But I know what they're referring to, of course - the "situation" over here. Even with the "situation", it's still safer to be in Israel than most other places. Thank God, things are relatively quiet right now, but even during the Gaza war, we felt safe.

However it has occurred to me that while being in Israel is safe, Israel is dangerous to me. Since I have lived here, I have
  • torn my achilles' tendon
  • fallen and sprained my wrist and ribs and banged up my knee
  • strained my knee (fun is realizing you can't put weight on your knee going downhill and you're at the Acropolis.)
  • broken my toe
  • had more colds than I can count
  • had the flu
  • had pneumonia (which I am, thank God, finally starting to get over)
I've been here a year.

This is definitely taking the cholim hadashim* tradition a little too far. But I can certainly attest to the efficiency of Israel's medical system.

Please God, next year Israel should be a little safer for me.

* New immigrants are called olim (immigrants) chadashim (new). Sick people are called cholim. Since exposure to new germs and stresses causes most olim to get sick quite frequently during the few year or two, new immigrants are jokingly referred to as cholim chadashim