On citizenship, mistakes and boobs.

Today started out with traveling (yes, it felt like traveling) over to East Jerusalem to arrive at the American Consulate to report my 1/3 American son’s birth and apply for a passport for him. Well, almost 1/3 American. Apparently there was a chunk of the application process which I missed: proof I’ve lived stateside for at least five years of my life, at least two of which I was over the age of 14.

Something that a whole bunch of people forgot to mention when I double, triple and quadruple checked I had everything I needed. Before going through the process today. For no less than three hours.

Life’s a series of expensive educational experiences. Or something.

Although I did get a funny story out of it:

Obviously, two numbers before we were called in from the outdoor waiting room, my baby starts to get hungry. I try to hold him off until we can at least be inside and know we are *thatmuch* closer to getting seen by a clerk. Finally we do get in and he has started wailing, which, I can’t really blame him for.

The room with the clerks is ridiculously crowded; Charedis, Arab Israelis, American-Anglo olim… everyone’s in for the waiting party. I look around but can’t find a bathroom or even a private corner to nurse him. I have never nursed in public before, but I figure – here goes.

Just as the shirt comes up and the blanket goes over me and baby’s head, my husband reaches over and tells me the guard said there is actually a nursing room in the back. I scramble myself up and get out of there, behind some ghetto curtain.

Meanwhile – what I didn’t find out until later – is that as I was starting the nursing dance in the public waiting room, an American consulate clerk was getting pissed off that I had done this. After I left, I heard on the loudspeaker a message in Hebrew that “those who need to nurse should go to the back, behind the curtain.” Apparently, he asked one of the Israeli guards to announce this. An Israeli-Arab guard who heard the announcement laughed and said loudly in Hebrew, “What, this guy has never seen tzitzim before? He’s never seen a woman’s tzitzim? His mother didn’t give him the breast to feed him?”

Of course, grouchy American consulate guy didn’t understand this. But lots of members of the room did.

I actually find that doubly funny since in the States, until recent decades, breastfeeding was not at all common. So, no. His mother didn’t. The dude probably has breast-envy.

And, so… here is ALL the information so you don’t make the same mistake I made regarding documents:

Note: They are actially great at emailing back ASAP.

Also note: If you gotta feed, feed behind the curtain or feel prude America’s wrath.

A model, a citizen… a baby.

Five visits to photo shops, 6493542 attempted DIY shots, and one sore infant’s neck later – passport photos for the US, Australia and of course, Israel. Yep, our son will be a triple citizen by the time it’s all over. And not without his own brand of being sleepy and making us crazy, part II.

My baby wouldn’t make it very far if hired by Gerber, let’s put it that way. He’d rather sleep, kvetch, root, and flail than be still for a passport photo attempt. And, hell, why not? He’s a freakin baby. So when the US government wants a photo with eyes open, ears showing and a dead-center stare, well – how about you guys do it? 

So my baby is no model. But if all goes well, he’ll be a citizen of a second country after this Tuesday.

(Of course, for Australia, land of the free and easy-life, requests that you mail in your application and photos instead of making an appointment and waiting in a ridiculous long line at a consulate in East Jerusalem. Though when you arrive in Oz they are just a touch fanatical about your personal history with plants and dirt. But that’s for another time.)

Ancient lizrael history.

Subject: update from the mideast
Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2003 09:30:06 -0400
hey friends,

i honestly dont think ive felt this happy in years. im in a place where i belong and im having an incredible time. its so real and unbelievable at the same time. i never understood those ppl who go to israel and never return, but im starting to now… i have one year left at [university], and its gonna fly… im starting to look at grad school here next week. ive spoken to a lot of people, americans, about how theyre experience in making aliyah was. im coming to know better its going to be hard – its not just a dream – last night i had a mini freak out when i realized how much i would miss crazy snow and new york city… seems small, but its a big deal. i thought about leaving my family and u guys and, yeah, itll be really hard – i grew up with many of u from the start, some of u are newer but the thought of not really getting the full chance to get to know each one of u makes me feel empty and careless. but as i was looking out at the entire ‘skyline’ of jerusalem from the top of talpiot, i realized theres no where else to be. for me. for lots of other ppl too, but right now, for me. i get sad thinking about americans and why they dont move here. its a hard thing though. leaving everything. house, car, job, family, shul, youth.steady paycheck and the garantee ull get to work that day. theres lots to get used to, and since im ‘low maintence’ in a way – kal vchomer everyone else… i mean who knew air conditioning was a luxury…

if it was doable, i dont think i would go back to ny. i know its only been 2 weeks for me, and i know i have things to finish back at home, and i know irrational staying here is stupid, so no worries for u. its just, ive completely opened my heart to all these new possibilities surrounding me here, and in life, and i dont think ive ever felt so complete, except for being in love, and again i find myself in love, but here, and like all relationships, this one has its hard, heart-hurting pulls, like the fact that im leaving my immediate family and friends behind, at least physically… it tears at me. i hope u dont think ur not enough for me, or the community some of u have given me in america isnt good enuf – no, i guess ive never felt completely accepted into the ny jewish community, or perhaps i never accepted them totally either, but i did have a great time and i love those of u who made it so much better than it could have been as a baal tshuvah… u know who u are…

well i guess thats all kind of heavy and i wasnt going to write all that actually… but my heart is weighing with excitement, happiness, anxiety and sadness, and i wanted u all to know where i stand.

ive been keeping safe, no worries. i have my very own plan for where to sit on the bus and how to react to being blown up types of problems. became friends with a medic. u know, just in case.

and i could def get used to this tan way of life.

im sure i have lots more to say but im at work (Jerusalem Post) and need to write about crap bec they dont realize how brilliant i am… i should be covering sharon’s trips to the bathroom, not puppet festivals. ha.

i love u all, please have a great summer! im going to be home sooner than we realize… gulp, cant wait…


The shaking of my non-faith.

You may think you have everything to lose until you have a kid. Yeah, I had stuff to lose before… but now everything I had to lose is seen in the new light of having a kid and thus everything to lose. 

Which is why today it dawned on me: My family lives in Israel. Israel. There are a lot of messed-up places in this world. In fact, most of the world is covered in messed-up places, circumstances, people. And I have chosen to live and raise my child in one of them. One of the more dramatically messed-up ones, that is. 

I’ve always been a morbid person. I save it for when I’m alone and free to think out every ridiculous scenario. And, every so often I’d get these morbid freak-outs before my son was born, nearly four weeks ago. They’d end in, ‘well, we’ll figure it all out when/if the time comes.” 

Now, needless to say, the morbidity is growing in intensity and frequency, covering a range of topics. And I find myself alone and free to think  more often these days.

I’ve even  managed to put a morbid damper on my son getting his new citizenship(s) and passport(s). Like – well, what if he really needs to use these to escape? What if there’s someone out there who really would harm a little boy, Jewish, Israeli, whatever? How will we protect him? 

I’m not a praying woman for the most part. I don’t have the kind of unshakable religious faith in the destiny of this country that others have. I’m pretty practical when it comes to all that. 

And here is my non-faith, shaken, by this tiny little boy, all  mine to protect in this messed-up world.

Maybe this is how one becomes a praying woman.

Making the most of maternity leave.

It’s three and a half weeks later and all of our ‘afterbirth’ guests have departed as of today. Needless to say we are looking forward to being able to settle into a semi-permanent routine where he goes to work every day till 3pm and I’m hanging with the little one playing Holly Homemaker. 

Paid maternity leave in Israel is 14 weeks, giving a little less than three months left at this point to make the most of a time when I recieve a paycheck yet stay home all day caring for a newborn. Which, yes, is insane. To a degree. Luckily I’ve managed to balance it all fairly well so far, and now that I’ll have a bit more freedom to move around, I’m looking forward to it all. 

How have I managed to survive so far? Lists. And more lists. I even draw little boxes next to each item that I can check off after I’ve completed it… (of course, being me, I don’t delicately check them off, rather vigrously cross them off, overly excited to have finished something these days). The days after I arrived home from the hospital, I was absolutely shocked at how my days were run minute to minute. I’d forget to pee for hours (not that I really wanted to, between you and me).

I could barely breath, and to cope, I started making lists in the same yellow notepad I had used to take notes in our birthing class and keep track of contractions (those pages are now artifacts of a former life). The pages got filled very quickly, but pretty soon, as things died down – the checklist items were dwindling, too. 

It’s kind of like my birthing class teacher said – between contractions, there will always be a break. Your body won’t betray you. And this little infant does the same… Between feedings, there is always a break. Between sleepless nights, there is always a break. And in that break is when I get to do the laundry, shower, and yes – read a few pages from a book or update Twitter. 

And now I’m actually at the end of the notepad and my list items have evolved from “shower” and “drink water” to “organize mp3 player” and “burn cds of baby photos for parents.” Not bad for less than a month, huh?

An Israeli parenting first.

While I was pregnant, I found that I wasn’t getting too many invasive comments, suggestions and guesses from middle-aged to older Israeli women (as I had dreadfully expected). When I mentioned this to some, they said not to worry; the comments would come for sure once I had a baby to show for it. 

“They’ll tell you that your baby is too hot or cold, they’ll tell you what to do to make him stop crying… There will be plenty of savtot walking around who will not resist telling you what to do with your baby.”

Today was my first day out in public with my newborn. 

Today I experienced my first savta telling me my baby was too cold. 

“You only have one blanket on him? It’s so thin. The air conditioning is so high. Feel me, I’m cold. Are you sure he’s not cold? He’s definitely cold, how can he not be? You should cover him. He’s right under the air conditioning…”

I smiled politely and repeatedly said ‘thank you’ until she walked away. 

Besides – you have to trust me, lady. This kid has his momma’s sweat genes. I’m not too worried.

Mother's Day.

People have been asking me, “how is to be a mom?” As a brand-new mother, I haven’t yet had a chance to think about what it is to be a mother. Not enough time, you see. 

In some places (not Israel) today is Mother’s Day, so maybe I should take a second and try to express what it is to be a mother; at least, a brand-new one.

So… there I was, wee hours of the morning, one minute pushing very hard to advance my child in the world (as a Jewish mom, first time of many, I’m sure) and the next minute I’m a mom. It was – wait, baby is crying, gotta go. 

And what is it like to be a father? I definitely can’t answer that one, but it is fun to do the laundry and notice a sweet (and clean) father-son moment:

Another brit, another Jew.

Yesterday we participated in what must be the oldest Jewish ritual, decended straight from (poor) Abraham. I do not envy Sarah, by the way, who had to deal with the healing of not only an 8-day-old with a bruised penis, but a moody teenager and her senior-citizen husband. 

Yes, the brit mila. Ritually slicing and dicing to bring your newborn into the covenant with God. The blood and gore didn’t really bother me though. It’s the sad, slow healing process that makes it hard. Although – and I don’t care how graphic it is – when it comes to sad, slow genital healing, I can certainly relate. He should know, he was there. 

…And is it not a  little strange that the mohel let us keep the knife?

“Ze petek hachlafa,” he said.