Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I'm baaa-aaack!

Not really.  Still back in the United States, but missing the Holy Land with every fiber.

Just back to blogging, after a sabbatical to birth and raise the kiddo for a while.  I know a lot of you readers were interested in my life in Israel, but I'm blogging about life with The Kid these days if you are interested. If you hate babies or laughing, please do not come visit my other blog.  If you don't hate those things, stroll on over...


We're planning a trip to Israel next Spring..with a 15 month old...on an 11 hour flight.  Let me take this moment to apologize and prepare my fellow passengers in advance.  My kid seems to have the energy of a hyena on crack, so there's that.  It should be an interesting post to say the least.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Bride’s Final Top 10: The Best of Israel

I’ve sat down to write this post three times.  The first time I opened a blank page, typed the title and closed my computer.  The second time I got halfway in, then deleted most of it and closed my computer again.  Finally, my third attempt I felt my final post was an appropriate end to the amazing year I have experienced.
 Maybe that is a bit of commentary on how much I have fallen in love with this country and how I can never quite be done with her really.   In four days we leave Israel and it is getting harder to say goodbye.  Even though we know as clear as day we will be back, we also know it won’t ever be the same. Like any great love affair, your first time is always the one you cherish the most. 

This year has afforded us the opportunity to completely explore our world, our relationships and ourselves.  We have discovered passions and unearthed strengths we didn't know we had.  We have grown to appreciate life and each other at a new level.  We have created a new life, a new family within her borders.  For that I thank her.
1.       Her Beauty.  Where else in the world could you sink your toes in the warm, blue Mediterranean waters, float in the lowest point on earth, climb the greenest hills of the Golan and hike through dry desert sands all in one day?  Here in Israel.
2.       Her Spirituality. Jerusalem is the center of the universe for the world’s three major religions.  It is hard not to feel the presence of God here.  A walk to the store turns into a history lesson, a daily commute passes through some of the holiest sites in the world, your backdoor opens to the land God touched.
3.       Her Warmth.  As much as I complain about the Israeli attitude, I know it is only a ruse.  Israel is one big neighborhood and we’re all just friends and family living nearby.  My dry cleaner told me she is sad she won’t be able to meet our baby.  My cabbie wished me blessings for safe travels and said he hopes we come back home soon.  No one is a stranger here and friendships are forged for life. 
4.       Her Humor. It’s dark, sometimes morbid, always sarcastic and more often than not, politically incorrect.  Israelis are hilarious and only those who have survived living in this crazy country could ever understand.
5.       Her diversity.   The bag boy at my grocery store speaks 5 different languages, my neighbor upstairs is an Argentinian woman, my ulpan class of 25 people was comprised of no less than 15 different nationalities, my best friends here are from Canada and New Jersey.  I’m a Christian gal from the South married to a half-Israeli/half-American Jewish guy, but we fit right on in.
6.       Her Sense of Community. Never in my life have I experienced such a deep sense of community.  Gilad Shalit is every Israeli’s missing son.  The terror victims are every Israeli’s brother.  Tragedies and memorial days send the entire country into mourning and we can pull 400,000 people together to rally to improve living conditions for our neighbors in one night. 
7.       Her Resiliency.  Terrorism, intifadas, unwinnable wars, internal turmoil, entire countries who wish she would disappear.  And yet she hasn’t disappeared.  In fact, she’s grown stronger, bigger, better through all of it.  It’s a beautiful thing.
8.       Her Contradictions.  The modern and the ancient.  The religious and the secular.  The freedom and the restraint.  The safety and the danger.  The happiness and the heartbreak.  You can have all of it in Israel. 
9.       Her food. Hummus, olives, shwarma, lamb kebab, hummus, schnitzel, couscous, fresh fruit, sweet dates, falafel, hummus, any of DH’s family’s Libyan dishes, warm challah, iced cafĂ©.  Did I mention hummus?  
10.   My family and friends.  I was accepted into DH’s beautiful family with open arms immediately.  They are wonderfully warm and kind people who profoundly love.  There are cousins, aunts and uncles who without them we wouldn’t have survived.  My mother-in-law has been our saving grace and my brother-in-law our dearest friend.   I’ll miss having my son grow up around his wonderful family here and I promise him every night we’ll come back often.   And the girls, you my darlings, are my heart.  Your love and friendship has meant the world to me.
I will end my final post with a request.  If you travel, visit Israel.  If you give, give to Israel.  If you pray, pray for Israel.  It isn’t the first time and probably will not be the last, but she is facing enemies who want to destroy the beauty I fell in love with and crush the spirit that is a beacon in a region of darkness.  We need Israel and right now she needs us.
Goodbye Israel, you know we’ll always come back to you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One Year

One year ago today we moved to Israel.  Are you thinking the same thing I am?  Yep, I can't believe we survived either.

Wow, an enitre 365 days has passed since we stepped off that El Al flight and dove head first into this crazy adventure.  Prior to moving here, I had so many mixed emotions about the road that lay ahead.  Today, one year later and 2 weeks until we move back, those mixed emotions have come back in floods, with the uncanny ability to drown my heart both in joy and heartbreak within minutes.  Well, maybe that has a little to do with the raging pregnancy hormones too.

It hasn't been always easy or fun to live abroad.  It hasn't been all terrible days either.  In my final few posts, I thought I'd share with you some of the things I'll miss and things I won't miss about Israel. Let's start with those particular gems I absolutely will not miss about living here:

The Bride's Top 10 Reasons I Question My Sanity for Living Here List

1. The difficulty.  Little things like paying bills, dealing with bureaucracy, shopping and transportation are compounded by the language barrier and cultural differences.  I'll be glad when it doesn't take an extra half hour to argue with the check out lady.  Or I don't have to get my husband to translate how I check the Israeli phone's voice mail and understand how to pay my cable bill (or if  this is even the cable bill I'm looking at).  Or I don't ruin another baking/cooking project because I don't understand the Hebrew written on the package--olive bread for your french toast anyone? Yeah, I did that.

2.  The missing out.  I feel I've missed out on so many events back home with my friends and family.  I missed holidays, births, weddings and milestones of the people who matter most to me in the world.  My friend's children and younger cousins have grown an entire year without me.  I have missed them more than words can say.

3.  The expense.  How can such a tiny country cost so much to live in?  Moving to Israel was definitely not the most sound financial decision we've ever made.  Taxes are nearly double here than in the States, so are the price of cars and apartments.  Our 800 square foot, one bedroom apartment is a few hundred dollars more than what we paid for our 1,500 square foot 2 bedroom in the United States. A new Kia compact car here almost $15,000 more than in the States (and that doesn't include the $7/gallon gas prices). Even the price of deodorant here is almost enough to make a gal want to stink for a few days.

4.  The poor quality of everything.   If the unreasonably tiny fridge and stove, leaky air conditioning units (no central air in the desert is an entire other complaint of mine), scary electrical outlets that may or may not electrocute you and door handles/cabinet doors/light fixures that decide to fall off for no reason in particular haven't driven me insane yet, then the clothes that disintegrate after 3 washes, the parchment paper thin furniture and the mind numbingly slow internet (ironic for a country that practically built the technology) just might.

5. The hard as nails Israeli attitude.  Sometimes it is just easier to be nice my darling Israeli friends.  Sometimes it is not worth the fight.  Sometimes a smile will go further than yelling.  Try it once in a while, you may like it.

6. The customer service.  The customer is never right in Israel.  Even if you are right, you aren't.  Even if it would take an extra 2 minutes to fix, it won't get fixed. Even if you miraculously manage to get someone to do something for you, it is with disdain and loud complaining.

7. The ridiculous holidays.  There are some times I honestly think Israelis make up holidays so they don't have to work.  Word of advice, don't move to Israel a week before Rosh Hashana like we did.  You will get nothing accomplished for an entire month.  Then be aware of the random Jewish holidays that shut down the country on any given day.

8. The bureaucracy. The day we decided to move back to the States was a glorious day for the simple knowledge I wouldn't have to set another foot in the Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of Interior). If the Israeli government could make you wait in line to sign a piece of paper before you could pee, believe me they would.  Israeli bureaucracy is tedious, illogical and unnecessary 95% of the time.

9. The cats.  This one is purely for Marilyn's sake.  It is a cat eat cat world out there and my dear pooch is just trying to survive.

10. The T-rex sized bugs.  This one is purely for DH's sake.  I grew up in the South and even I haven't seen bugs the size of these suckers and have the tenacity like they do.  I think I actually saw a roach look at me with revenge in his eyes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Life Interrupted: Terrorism in the South

As I was busy packing for our move yesterday, a coordinated terrorist attack struck in South Israel near Eilat. 

Life interrupted.

Most of the victims were returning from or going to Eliat for vacation.  Yesterday, they only wanted a short reprieve from their hectic lives.  They only wanted to laugh and relax in the beautiful resort town.   Today, they are dead.

Life interrupted.

Families have been torn apart. Fathers have been taken from their children, wives from their husbands, sons from their mothers.  I am angry at the senselessness and that I have to once again help my host country mourn for her citizens.  Before moving here, I had hope for the conflict.  I had hope the violence and hate would end and peace could come to the region.  I couldn't understand the hopelessness that Israelis felt about it.

Today I understand.  It is easy to take a break from the conflict in the States.  Every once in a while, I would flip on the news and for 5 minutes feel sad for my husband's homeland.  I would turn off the television and go on until next time.  My life was uninterrupted.

When you live it.  When it is miles from your front door.  When hold your breath hoping you don't know a victim.  When you pray this time it won't escalate.  When you fear for your husband, your friends, your family during the hours following.  When you cry for their dead children as they celebrate your children's death. When you can't get away from it ever, not even on vacation.

The bitterness, the anger, the hopelessness inevitably seeps in.  I pray for this country and her citizens.  I pray they can one day live without the senseless hatred their neighbors use as an excuse to interrupt their lives.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moving Again: The Dog's Innermost Thoughts

Really guys?  Is that what I think it is?  Are those...moving boxes?  I hate you.

Let's go over this one more time.  I hate moving.  I hate it as much as I hate cats.  And you know how much I hate cats, because I try to eat them. Are you trying to make me eat you? I'll do it. Don't think I won't. I've been eyeing that Mom character for years now.  You know I'm not completely thrilled about her anyway. She's the other woman and we've always had this love/love relationship.  She loves me and I love to drive her insane. 

Okay, I've been your loyal companion for eight years now.  In those eight years you've tortured me with this moving crap. I've followed you from our hometown to college to Atlanta back to college then to Washington, D.C. back to Atlanta to Israel and now back to Atlanta.  Make up your minds people! If I had thumbs, I'd have hitchhiked my way back home a long time ago.

Yes, I admit I haven't always been the most willing participant in these moves.  I may or may not have destroyed and/or peed on your belongings in an attempt to sabatoge.  I may or may not have willfully eaten things to divert your attention.  I won't say, but if I have it is totally your fault.

Whaaat?  What do you mean I have to get on that damned plane again?!  That's it, no more Mr. Nice Guy...I'm eating you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Crap Stays: My Packing Method the Second Time Around

I don't know if the huge international move almost exactly a year ago traumatized me for life or I just don't care anymore, but my moving methods and stress level have both been noticably different this time around.

Between the 200,000+ protests a mile from my front door in Tel Aviv, the crazy riots in London and the scary-sounding-but-not-quite-sure-what-it-means downgrade from S&P in the States, I'm pretty sure the world around me is coming to an end anyways.  So therefore as long as I manage to throw some crap in a suitcase and get myself, DH and the dog safely on the plane to live out our final days in Atlanta, I think we'll be okay.

Or maybe it has something to do with the fact I'll be inching closer to 7 months pregnant at the time of the move and cannot imagine lugging 2 oversized suitcases, a carry-on and pulling the world's most ridiculously large dog crate around an airport.  Can't we just stick the dog in a box and FedEx her back please?!  I'll cut some air holes in the cardboard, I promise.

Plus I'm pretty sure it is against the law to make a pregnant lady move abroad.  I keep telling DH he should be grateful I'm not reporting him to the police for this indecency. But then again, I think I got a pretty good deal out of it. Back home, we have an entire storage unit of furniture and probably close to a dozen boxes filled just with books that I will only be lifting a finger to direct our hired movers to move. 

Whatever the reason, I don't even have an ounce of stress over this time around. It may come back to haunt me when I realize I really kind of do need those crucial insurance documents and 5 pairs of jeans I left on a random streetcorner in Tel Aviv, but seriously if I leave half my closet behind I really could care less--except my shoes.  I will have my shoes on that plane.

So in less than six weeks this awesomely exhausting, inspiring and insane Israeli adventure will come to an end.  I am both content with our decision to leave and heartbroken to see it end.  I will never ever be the same person for this wonderful experience.

As always, check back again 24-48 hours prior to and post move, I may be singing a different stress-induced out of key tune about moving.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Springtime In the Holy Land: Part 1

Spring really is a beautiful time in Israel. There is really no need to check the daily weather report in Israel during Spring. But if you did, it would just say “perfect” everyday.

Spring is also one of two holiday seasons in Israel. Beginning with Purim in March through Passover in April and ending with Holocaust Memorial Day, National Memorial Day and Independence Day in May.

Purim is a festive holiday to celebrate Queen Esther who helped defeat Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people. Much like it’s American cousin, Halloween, children dress up in costumes and grown-ups get drunk. No, seriously, the Talmud states one should drink wine until you cannot tell the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai." Sometimes the Jews really know how to celebrate. Mishloach manot, or delivered gifts, are a traditional custom of Purim as well. DH and I nibbled for weeks on the baked goods and candies we got from the family. Amongst the drunken adults in fairy costumes and the hamentashen covered children in fairy costumes, DH, my brother in law and I spent a very untraditional Purim by waking up at 3 am to climb Masada at dawn. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful holiday.

Next up was Passover, by far my all time favorite Jewish holiday.  I have always enjoyed Passover seder no matter if I spend it with our ultra-Orthodox friends or our ultra-Reform friends, either way I have a grand time. This Passover was certainly one for the books for two reasons. First last year at the end of seder we proudly lifted our glasses and said the traditional “Next year in Jerusalem” knowing that in fact next year we would celebrate Passover in the Holy Land. Second, for nearly 9 years I have heard about the Israeli family’s Passover traditions from DH.

I finally experienced the traditional family Passover I’ve heard so much about. Well, I use the term “traditional” very lightly. This was actually one of the least traditional Passovers I’ve ever had. DH’s family usually holds a huge barbecue and karaoke night a few days prior to the first night of seder. Word of advice, if you are ever invited to this event I highly suggest arriving late as DH and I did. I was immediately placed at a table and served bbq chicken, lamb, beef, kabob and Israeli salad until I had to beg them to stop filling my plate. At one point, a cousin just placed a giant pan of chicken wings in front of me until I got my fill and only until she was reassured I couldn’t possibly eat anymore did she pass it along to the rest of the family. Then the karaoke began. Oh the karaoke. Thankfully, I also come from a karaoke loving family so I knew what I was in for. For the rest of the night, traditional Hebrew songs lovingly sang several notes off key pierced the night sky.

A few nights later the family gathered once again for the first night of seder. Although I cannot say this was the most religious or tradition laden seder I’ve ever been to, I can say it was one of the most satisfying. The next day at lunch, DH and my youngest bro-in-law taught the Israeli cousins how to play American football. Needless to say, I don’t think it will catch on amongst the Israelis.

During the seven days of Passover, one is forbidden to eat leavened breads and grains. In the States, this was always a difficult week for us. But in Israel, the supermarkets cover the aisles of chametz (foods not kosher for Passover) with large plastic tarps and don’t sell anything that isn’t kosher and restaurants only serve kosher for Passover foods. Apparently it is much easier to observe Jewish holidays in the Jewish state. Huh, who’d a thunk it?
Photo credit: The IsReal World

Easter was at the end of Passover this year and I observed it by reflecting on the blessings I’ve encountered in God’s land. He has given me so much to be thankful for and I can honestly say I will look back on my life and always say these were some of my best days.