A futuristic lizrael update.

Lots of people are talking about ringing in a new year – at work, in the news, on the party scene. I’m not much of a New Years gal, but it seems 2008 holds a bunch of new experiences for me, before it’s even begun.

The year starts for me with recognizing the fact that I’ve been here for three years now. I feel like three years is the second hump to cross (after one year). There’s something about three years… (maybe it’s because the Nefesh b’Nefesh financial assistance contract is completed?)

Along with acknowledging three years of aliyah experience, I get to take on some new ones with a set of wheels… Yes, in the newborn weeks of 2008, I will become the dreaded creature known as: Israeli driver.

Soon after, we’re set to hit the beginning of February, when we make our big move; I haven’t really made it clear yet, but here is the official announcement that we are leaving Jerusalem and moving to Tzur Hadassah, a cozy suburb about fifteen minutes away, tucked in green hills, next to Beitar.

Fast forward to the summer, when I plan to be finishing the requirements for my Conflict Management and Negotiation degree at Bar Ilan. Not sure what comes after that in terms of a mediation career, but I’ll be glad to know that I’ve completed my Masters.

After that, it’s all a blur: living in the Israeli suburbs, finished with graduate school. Maybe I’ll have a chance to fall in love with Israel all over again and see this place through the eyes of someone with their feet in the ground. Then again, maybe I’ll get antsy and wiggle through the days until I can’t take it anymore.

Whatever the year brings, I’m looking forward to the new experiences… Three years in, and I’m ready for the next phase. Is the next hump the ten-year? I won’t bite off more than I can chew, but I can say I’m ready to start the trek… Although for this phase, I’ll (finally) be trekking in a car.

Stay tuned…

Trogdor, the Jerusalem Burninator!

Now, I know there are a ton of Anglos in Jerusalem… and lots of street artists… but I never expected to walk through the center of Katamon and find this:

Trogdor the Burninator!! in Jerusalem street art

I was following Homestar Runner back in college. The SB email in which Trogdor the Burninator was born is a classic… Which is why worlds collided right there, on Hizkiyahu Hamelech street, where the Trogdor of my pre-aliyah days meets Anglo youth culture of Jerusalem.

TROGDOR!!

TROGDOR!!

A whole new meaning to 'pilot trip.'

Apparently, the Jewish Agency is giving a whole new meaning to ‘aliyah pilot trip.’ Haaretz reports:

Program allows Jews to give immigration a chance

The Jewish Agency will introduce a “trial immigration” program to Jews from abroad, as part of a broader strategy to make the move less intimidating for potential immigrants from the West.

As part of the new flexible immigration program, participants will become “trial residents” – a status that will make them eligible for financial benefits that ordinary tourists are not. JAFI officials say they are working with the Ministry of Interior and plan to introduce the program within the next six months.

The program, which will not obligate participants to immigrate, aims to provide a supportive framework for job searches, as well as expose potential immigrants to various living options if they were to move here. Jewish Agency officials say they are hoping to create living quarters for young Jews in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Participants in the program will also be assisted with travel and living expenses.

My husband, the aliyah counselor, says there is a downside to coming this way if the countdown for rights expiration by the Ministry of Absorption will start the date you came to Israel, not the date the trial period ends.

I suppose it’s a sound idea; it’s important to restructure aspects of the country for the evolution of the state. The seniority in me cries, “deal with it newbies!” but the fact is, evolution of the system is crucial to its survival.

Morning Jerusalem.

This morning was the first time in a long time that my heart sang for Jerusalem. It was 5:45 am and we were in a cab on the way to the bus station. The sky was dark and the air was crisp. The streets were almost empty. And my heart was stirring a song for a place I’m about to leave.

It’s always the wee hours of the morning that bring it out in me. It used to happen in New York right before I left, but then it was on the way home after a late night as opposed to leaving very early in the morning. Four a.m., and my heart would yearn for more New York as I was on my way out. I’d breath in and let my body fill with that air I called home.

I’m not going as far this time; I’m moving my address more than I’m moving my self. But I’ve been knocking Jerusalem for the last year or so and I realize that I now know this city the way it should be known – with pride, with humor and with the yearning to know it more over time.

Jerusalem

Israeli Jew on Christmas.

Back home in New York, Christmas for Jews means Chinese food and  going to the movies (apparently).

Because I have a TV this year, I can’t forget that tonight the rest of the world is celebrating various versions of this holiday.

My Australian husband has recalled the Chinese food and movies tradition (which I’ve actually never done back in the States) and made Chinese food… and now we’re watching movies.

Santa Chinese food

Happy holidays to those who are celebrating! Enjoy the Chinese to the American Jews who are stuck at home…

An academic lizrael update.

*Yawn*. *Stretch*. It’s a sunny winter Sunday. Today is as good as any to update about the awful university situation in Israel right now.

Basically, I have no idea what is going to happen for the rest of the year because the department heads, university presidents, strikers and government don’t know. Somewhere in this giant, ridiculous, embarrassing strike the idea of education got forgotten.

We, the students, cannot plan our summers, even if some of us (me) have overdue degrees to complete, weddings to attend abroad, family to visit and life to go on.

They are talking about considering next semester (bet) as a semester aleph and the summer as a semester bet to complement it, since there are full-year classes that haven’t started yet (like mine). Then again, my department can’t plan the next steps – including courses and schedules for these semesters – because the professors on strike can’t talk about it or plan. So I can’t start finding a way to somehow finish up before the summer, using only next semester.

Well, there’s the state of academia in the State of Israel… for now.  Unfortunately, this battle isn’t over yet.

Gaydamak is the new Rothschild.

I learned a new word today – or is it metaphor? – from my landlady’s son. He’s here to do some repairs and got to asking us if when we move, we’re buying or renting. He mentioned how this building we live in is a wealthy kablan’s (contractor) dream. In his words:

“All you need is some ‘Gaydamak’ to come here and buy all the property from the owners, knock the building down and build a tower of apartments.”

Until now, the wealthy Jewish gabillionaire that Israelis would use as their metaphor in conversation was Rothschild – not a specific one, just the famous European family of wealth. In fact, in the Hebrew version of Fiddler on the Roof, the song “If I was a rich man” is translated as, “If I was a Rothschild.”

Well, according to my landlord’s son, the Rothschild example is going out in the 21st century and a new guy has stepped up to be the wealthy, dreamy metaphor of Israeli money conversations: Arcadi Gayadamak, Russian-Israeli king of Jerusalem, Sderot and massive amounts of charity.

Welcome to a new age of the Israeli wealth-dream.

American self discovery (finally, a use for my English major)

I finished Slaughterhouse-Five today on my way across Jerusalem. One of the most finger-pointing themes of the book – relevant to me these days – is expressed in the following lines, by character Howard W. Campbell Jr., as he describes American prisoners of war compared to others.

“[Americans] were known everywhere to be the most self-pitying, least fraternal, and dirtiest of all… They were incapable of concerted action on their own behalf. They despised any leader from among their own number… on the grounds that he was no better than they were…” (pg 131)

Reading between the lines, I can’t help but agree with author Vonnegut in his description of the American sense of self. There is an awful lot of self pitying and individualism, to the point of selfishness. Very little of the collective. Not much is  bigger than your own self. I’m all for defining your own individuality, but also incorporating the collective that surrounds us.

The longer I’m here, outside the U.S. – away from that mentality – the more patient I’ve become, accepting and aware of the higher powers in my universe. I don’t feel that I’m owed anything; in fact, I feel lucky when given some kind of rite or favor. My work ethic has expanded from plain working hard to working hard as part of a greater society, where I must work hard for the greater good. I am responsible for myself, and when things don’t go my way – well, that’s just life.  

I appreciate what the last three years in Israel have taught me about my American self and my other-word self. I think that it’s when you step out of your self that you can truly realize what you are composed of.

And for now, I’m ok with what I’m finding.