Maybe there’s really no such thing as a ‘lone’ soldier

One thing I know about Max Steinberg z’l is he was a Jewish citizen of the world who took action for our people.

Another thing I know about Max Steinberg z’l is that his actions brought together Jews of all kinds, pouring out from big and bigger rooms to comfort his mourning parents and siblings.

Is the ‘lone solder’ a solely Israeli concept?

As immigrants, chances are we’ve been, are related to, or have known a lone soldier at some point. A lone soldier is an immigrant who came without family (namely parents) and as such is taken under the wing of the many – the army, an adopted family, and organizations dedicated to his/her well-being.

Max Steinberg (24) was a lone soldier from LA. Sean Carmeli (21) was from Texas. Jordan Bensemhoun (22) was from Lyon, France. The three were killed over the last week in Gaza.

And between our family culture here and the Jewish rules of mourning, thousands have joined in paying respects.

One more thing I know about Max Steinberg: he was not alone.

 

Israeli children and artistic expression: A war story in pictures

Note: We did not ask our five-year-old to draw anything. We didn’t know what he had been up to when at around 7 this morning he came up to us holding a picture he drew.

Turns out, it’s not a story about a disabled boy who has divorced parents.

“Why are there two houses?”
“One is our house, and one is the miklat.”
“And which one is he going to?”
“The miklat. There is sirens.”
“Why is the sky black?”
“It’s night.”
“Who is this? Is it you?”
“I don’t know yet.”

“You see this? <points to yellow in the sky> I wanted so this will be a star because it’s night.”
“Oh yeah?”
“But now it’s a rocket.”

————————————————————

“This is me and you on a boat in the sea, and that’s <muffled, sounds like Abba> cracking open the sky.”

“That’s what? Abba?”

“No, labba.”

“What’s  labba?”

“Labba is טילים (missiles).”

————————————————————

“Hey, what’s that?”

“What?”

“That symbol you drew.”

“I dunno.”

“Where’d you see it?”

“On Bebe’s shirt.”

“It means shalom – peace.”

“I’m drawing an x on it.”

“Why?!”

“Because I want.”

Meat counter convo liz: So I guess I’m that person now

Standing at the meat counter in the local supermarket.

Guy to meat counter girl: “Yeah, everything is crazy, how are you doing?”

Meat counter girl: “It’s so scary!”

Me: “Hey, at least we know exactly when it’ll hit, it’s been evenings and that’s it.”

Guy: “It’ll be quiet till tonight, till they’ve eaten and organized after Ramadam fast.”

Me: orders chicken

Guy: [in english] “Maybe I’ll just go back”

Me: [taken by surprise] politely smiles

Guy: “You’re from the States?”

Me: “Yeah. You?”

Guy: “Yeah. I dunno. What is this? I think it’s time to just go back.”

Me: “What are you nuts?!”

Guy: “What do you mean, this life isn’t normal. This isn’t normal.”

Me: “What do you mean – America is crazy! Did you hear what just happened on July 4 weekend in Chicago?!”

Guy: “No…”

Me: “There were 82 people shot! 14 died!”

Guy: “Muslims?!”

Me: “No, nothing like that! Anybody! That’s the thing! Here we know our enemy, there it could be any crazy guy off the street!”

Guy: “Yeah, but this…”

Me: “No way, you couldn’t pay me… I’d rather know who my enemy is, we can prepare… There, everything is crime, anyone can take out a gun…”

And while we agreed in the end that perhaps, if we were to leave, Australia would be a fine choice…

…I couldn’t believe, with 100% meaning everything I said, without thinking about what I was saying, I had just been that person.

 

 

Yom Haaztmaut 5774: Three reasons why

‘Why did you move to Israel?’

We get asked that a lot, don’t we?

Here’s my #1 reason 9 years ago, and my #1 reason now: Children who know no differently…

The list of reasons for living in Israel grows each year I live and learn here. This year it grew by way of another Israeli kid. One more kid to realize a dream.

(Also, shwarma.)

Workshop in Advanced Citizenship

There’s nothing to make you feel more a part of a society’s special mosaic than to find yourself arriving at the sealed entrance of the Unemployment Office, joining a small mob of people across all of Israeli demographics, all staring at the printout sloppily taped to the heavy doors…

…that the ministry is on strike.

10 Ways Living in Israel is Not What You Think: vote for my Expats Awards entry!

blog-award-2013-entry-150There are a million ways living in Israel is just not what you may have thought… I chose 10 of those and made them my entry for the Expat Blog Awards!

10 Ways Living in Israel is Not What You Think

I’m the only entry from Israel, so LET’S GET LOUD!

Like? Vote! Leave a comment at the bottom of the entry. Comments must be authentic, which means 10+ words. Also, use the share buttons above the comment section to spread the word – those also count. We’ve got till Friday, Dec 20.

And if you have even more ways, feel free to leave those here or there!

P.S. Here are some photo hints as to what my top 10 are…

 

Ready? Get over there and comment! 

Oh Chanukah, oh Chanukah, come… on, diaspora mama.

Well here’s a first.

Last week the kids and I were in the kitchen making latkes (that was also a first, and it was kinda obvious). Playing in the background: a Chanukah songs cd my mom had brought from the States. So, you know, some kind of boy’s choir-esque English-Hebrew mix.

We were singing along; when the songs were in Hebrew, we all sang. When they were in English and still familiar, we all sang. And when they were in English but also have identical Hebrew versions, my kids got annoyed.

“What? No!”

(Yes, they have a point.)

Anyway, after a while I had trailed off alone, singing ‘Sivivon Sov Sov Sov…’ Bebe, who was miraculously still tolerating me in the kitchen, suddenly turned to me and loudly stated,

“Lo sham, po!

I looked at her, confused.

And then I realized – she’s right.

That’s the only truth she knows.

 

Of life in the shtetl; Tevye had a point

A fiddler on the roof…
it sounds crazy.
But here,
in our little village of Anatevka,
you might say every one of us…
is a fiddler on the roof.

Before I lived here in Israel, I lived in a tight-knit Jewish shtetl called New York.

Trying to scratch out
a pleasant, simple tune
without breaking his neck.

To narrow that down, I was part of a small Jewish community within a small section of a small New York City borough. Maybe this would all be different if I had actually grown up in Brooklyn.

We were a mish mash of lost and found souls – who has never been lost, who doesn’t desire to be found? – and one thing we all had in common was, I suppose, a sense of Jewish tradition. It’s how we got there and it’s why most of us stayed as long as we did.

And how do we keep our balance?
That I can tell you in one word:
Tradition.

A friend randomly sent me the Fiddler on the Roof clip today; I suppose you’ve guessed which one by now. It must be a decade and a half since I last watched the movie or heard the soundtrack, but while I was a kid, my family was kind of obsessed with it. For a family growing into some new traditions of its own, I guess it really spoke to us. Or maybe that’s looking at it too deeply; maybe it was just another exciting part of being a minority finding pop culture that fit so perfectly.

Maybe it was because we also totally had the butcher; the mikvah; the Judaica shop.

But after I watched the Tradition scene today, I felt something I haven’t felt in nearly nine years of living here, in Israel, in a paradise Tevye only dreamed about, if he could dream past becoming a wealthy man.

I felt nostalgia and longing for Diaspora. A sense of loss, a sense of missing out.

The strong sense that living as an outsider is the ultimate way to stay true on your inside.

Halacha and tradition came easier there, in the shtetl, surrounded by the majority. Ok, we’re talking about New York, not pre (or post) World War Russia here, and I haven’t forgotten the end of the play.

But… still. In our kind of modern, safe shtetl, explaining holiday schedules to your boss was a pain; declining edible treats from college classmates was awkward; never quite understanding Christmas while watching TV was odd.

We don’t bother them,
and they don’t bother us.

But it made everything else so much more… inclusive. We belonged, to ourselves.

Yes, of course, there were major downsides to the ‘shtetl mentality’ – why do you think I left?

However, Israel is the biggest shtetl there is, surrounded by the largest majority that could be. Together, all seven-something million of us, we certainly have moments when we laugh, we cry, we bicker, we build, we live.

As intimate as it can get here, it’s not as intimate as the shtetl I knew, the outsider’s shtetl, based on local traditions, based on the narrowed-down group of insiders you cast your lot with.

Traditions, traditions.
Without our traditions,
Our lives would be as shaky as…
as…
as…
as a fiddler on the roof!

Simply put, I kind of miss it.