Homeland insecurity: An expat on the labor of love and land

An expat is neither here nor there, not completely. An expat has their heart in two places. An expat has passports updated, ready.

An expat’s fomo is just another part of the gig.

United States of America:

I don’t know if it’s an apology I owe. It’s an acknowledgment, at least.

Over the last five years or so, I started feeling really, significantly disconnected from America. I started giving up. The feeling I’d never move back there by choice developed into more than a feeling; eventually a ‘known’.

I felt if I ever moved back, I’d be relocating to a new unfamiliar country. I mean this on a personal level. I came to feel I didn’t fit in the landscape. The culture.

I had fallen way out of love, way out of like, with my country, my people, my culture. Not a government thing – an everything thing. The whole picture. The inaction. The action. The priorities. The sensitivities. The personalities. The close mindedness.

I had cared so much but then I just couldn’t invest any more care.

And then this happened. A year and a half ago, everyone started talking about 2016. And it was ridiculous and I laughed. And I still couldn’t make the feeling come back. I stood by and watched. Until I started watching closer, until I started thinking again, until I started caring again. Until I realized I have something to say and for me, there’s still a place in the conversation.

And I didn’t have to ever want to move back to know that I do care and always will. Being away is what keeps me with you. Being away helps me be the best version of a patriotic citizen I can be. It’s an acknowledgment of the kind of relationship we have. It’s an odd but honest one.

Being away keeps me American.

Israel:

It’s time.

For too long I’ve used the American elections as an excuse to ignore you. The fact is, 2015 was so devastating and I just couldn’t pour anything else into this. Ever since, I’ve been angry, and ‘busy’ was a fine excuse.

But what if I was angry and busy, but for you, and not at you? I came here to be counted, I came here to cast my lot. There’s value in that and I will find it again. I will uncover it again.

I always wanted to come back around to political activism. This place is a fucking disappointment. It’s too painful to get involved but I don’t want to look back and know I didn’t do enough to show my kids what could be if we only work towards it.

America taught me that about my adopted homeland. After everything there in the past year and a half, I still care. I care about a place where my heart doesn’t beat.

Surely it is time to pivot back to the here and now. To where my heart beats in real-time. To where I chose to live. To where I’ve built a home. To where I cast my lot.

So what’s next?

One last thing: Consider why your mothers, sisters, daughters wear the veil

The first time today I was able to really consider it all – how to verbalize the anger and frustration and loss – was after I passed a couple male colleagues in the hall, after a joke was cracked, and I lashed back that this was not the time to speak to me about elections.

I didn’t even realize I’d feel such a loss before it happened.

I was on the verge of losing it all day, of letting out a verbal barrage of why their offhanded remarks or cable-tv inspired thoughts were not the reason why so many of us are so hurt and disillusioned today. Why it’s more personal than a party thing or political leaning thing. A why-do-you-even-care-you’re-an-expat thing.

I felt raw and I got raw. I showed my rawness. It was open and I wasn’t privately licking the wounds. I let them show.

That is never my strategy at work. It never has been in all my career.

And maybe it was because I never really believed this outcome could happen, that it took me so by surprise, that suddenly I was so so incredibly, deeply, painfully sad today. Sad for her. Sad for Hillary.

Because she may be flawed; she may be toxic; she may be power hungry; she may be criminal – but one thing she is, that I am too, is veiled. We women are veiled.

We veil ourselves in the workplace. We veil ourselves because it’s the extra credit we have to fulfill to be on the same page as you. We veil ourselves to help alleviate the pain and progress the potential of decreasing that pay inequality.

We veil ourselves so we avoid the pain and hypocrisy of being called bossy or nasty or bitch. 

The veil is invisible, but the fact is, every woman I know in the workplace wears one. Some are thinner than others. But it’s been taught to us, ingrained in us, through the way our parents spoke to us, through the education system, through religion, through society.

Be good.

Be perfect.

Put on a smile.

Don’t complain.

Don’t say no.

Even if all things were equal – paychecks, experience, power, chances of winning the presidency – the woman still wears the veil. All things being equal, she’s ten steps behind.

Hillary wears the veil.

I wear the veil.

A world where a presidential candidate can claim he’s great for women, and then threaten to sue every woman with a story to tell, is a world where we still wear the veil.

A world where a presidential candidate advises victims of sexual harassment in the workplace to find new careers, is a world where we still wear the veil.

The veil is thin, it’s sheer. You can’t see it unless you know it. That’s why the men who are disappointing me don’t even know why.

I grew up in the 90s; I only knew a strong-headed first lady. I grew up in the 90s; I attended Bring Your Daughter to Work Days. I grew up in the 90s; I believed wholeheartedly the glass ceilings were being shattered and I’d get a taste of that one day.

I was fed this by parents, education, society. But I knew the only way to do it was don the veil.

I button up my feelings at work. I’m complacent and cooperative. I don’t let my anger get in there. The 25-cent difference in my paycheck is eaten up by being agreeable and tame and a woman.

So when I passed the colleagues in the hall; when I swatted away stupid comments by privileged clueless well-meaning men; I lost it, when I let feelings out through my pores; when I got nasty – I thought of her.

All things being equal – and so many of you made that point – ‘they’re both horrible’ – as if all things were indeed equal – you don’t see what it’s like to be marginalized, veiled. When your whole life you lived the experienced of being marginalized, and one of your own is up there breaking down the way for you to follow – you have no idea what that means, how it reverberates. The ripple effect of knowing the veil paid off.

Privacy. Secrecy. Coldness. Power hungry. Overprotective. Flippant. Elitist. Pantsuits. Not a hair out of place. No home baked cookies.

It’s not all the work of the veil. But so much was born from it.

We can’t just be. We have to be in comparison to.

We have to lean in. We shouldn’t come off too strong.

We have to have it all. We can’t possibly achieve 100% at everything we do.

We live up to a standard. But we were asking for it by living up to that standard.

It was a strong, tiring try. I wanted a reason to put the veil away. Or peek out from behind it. Or know that maybe my daughters have a shot at not needing one.

Hillary made a crack in the ceiling. She did it with decades of veiled attempts.

But I think the truth is, the woman who becomes the first she-president of the United States will not wear the veil.

 

‘I’m sorry.’

Before I share this: I’m a classic American millennial unregistered independent. I’m also an expat. My dog in this fight is a different shade than an American resident’s. That said, I did have opinions, I did have a worldly view, I did have a dog nonetheless.
Federal elections are my SuperBowl. This one was a bit more than that. I don’t recognize America and it’s clear I was right that I never really fit in or lived in a different reality as a New Yorker.

All that weighed on me this morning, after hours awake watching the coverage. My kids watching me watch the coverage. 

My daughter was watching me as I let out a sigh and I turned to her:

‘I’m so sorry.’

Her face asked, why?

‘I’m sorry we couldn’t do better.’

Her face asked, how?

‘Remember I told you there was a man and a woman running for president in America?’

‘Yes.’

‘And the man is a bully? And the woman had made a lot of mistakes, and we make mistakes and we all do wrong things sometimes… and how no one can be perfect…’

‘Yes.’

‘And even though neither of them are perfect, I really didn’t want a bully to win.’

‘You wanted the woman to win?’

‘Yes… I really wanted you to see something different.’ 

‘And the man is winning?’

‘Yes.’

‘Who did grandpa want to win?’

Now I was holding back tears. 

So they say the healing has to begin. But to what end? The chorus stays the same. The song never ends. 

Sleep well, America.

Now I’m Mother Goose and Knesset MK Rachel Azaria gets it.

Mother Goose figures out the way.Recently, I made a conscious decision to give up.

It was a few weeks into my return from maternity leave, talking with younger mothers at work who were looking to me for answers.

I didn’t really have many. I gave some tips, some words of advice. I thought, maybe I could just be the Mother Goose. Come under my wing for a minute, have a seat, feel unjudged. Feel vulnerable and supported. Know I don’t have the answers. I don’t have solutions. I only have some acquired, coffee-stained wisdom wrapped in my daily insane struggle to keep up. 

That goes for coworkers, for friends, for younger moms, for my kids one day – who may have it even worse.

After that, I let out a long sigh, reached into the universe, and decided to be ok with the Struggle. Because I have no choice.

I had given up the last shred of hope hunt for a working parenting life mentor and decided to be an imperfect substitute for others.

Israeli MK Rachel Azaria (JPost)And tonight, Israeli Member of Knesset Rachel Azaria verbalized why: this is generational. This is fairly new. This is indicative and caused by a few concrete reasons she could list after having done her studies on the topic of differences between our generation’s parenting styles versus our parents’.

The following are my notes from tonight’s meetup with the MK via the Ima Kadima group, an organization run by a team of local Anglo-Israeli parents working to support and campaign for working, career-oriented mothers.

Difference between how we grew up and how we’re raising kids:

  • The public space was ours vs now.
  • The food was homemade vs now.
  • More mothers took off during early years.
  • They could live off one salary, at least for a few years.
  • We work more hours today.
  • The standards became unstable, smartphones, being available at night.
  • More cars in the 90s, more traffic. Kids used to play under buildings, now they are parking lots.
  • Everyone walked to gan… less cars.
  • Food is given to kids somewhere else, so we are not in charge.

In the meeting, Azaria covered three areas she’s been working on included in the list above:

  1. Food
  2. Public spaces
  3. Time

1. ADRESSING FOOD IN TZAHARON:
Azaria has worked on the legislation to make the food given healthier.
Also in two days they will pass committee as legislature that puts the food under the national standards and jurisdiction of the health ministry.
And then next week should pass for next year’s academic year.
Note the new law about no sweets in schools, ganim.

2. PUBLIC SPACES:
Azaria is working on urban planning better organized for children.
Trying to make it better for kids to walk to school, foster independence.
That we shouldn’t have to drive our kids to school all the time.

3. TIME:
Azaria is also tackling time. Being in the workforce with young kids. Three key questions:

A. How do you give parents more time?
B. How do you make it possible for both parents to be involved with the kids?
C. Where does the government take more responsibility for the kids?

A. How do you give parents more time?

1. Azaria extended vacation days from 10-12 recently. That was a big job.

2. Trying to meet with histadrut morim. Trying to work on yemai histaglut.

B. How do you make it possible for both parents to be involved with the kids?

1. Sha’at hanaka can be split.

2. Yemai machala for kids… so parents can switch off without penalties for having to pay for taking the days off. Now it’s combined. View it based on the child and family unit and not individual employee.

What else do we need to change so we view the child and not the parent? Something to split between two working parents? Azaria wants more suggestions of legislation.

C. Where does the government take more responsibility for the kids?

1. Prices of Tzaharon

Once ganim became subsidized, the iriyot jumped the prices of tzaharon… depends on city size, less in Jerusalem. More kids, price drops. “We will only be able to combat this after the budget.”

2. Maonot yom

Next term… too big. Need too much money.

3. Maternity leave

  • Maternity leave – People want to handle it but it’s very expensive. That’s the main problem.
  • No one has thought about it in a holistic way.
  • Not just number of weeks…
  • How do you bring in fathers?
  • How do you bring in employers? They pay chafifa… there’s a lot of choser vadaut.
  • It’s hard for employers. They need to plan, not allowed to ask but need to practically ask to manage your company.
  • What if you had an in between option where you can come back partly for a phase, easing for both the employer and the employee.
  • A few days for men at the least – to build it in… it’s significantly more expensive.

Challenges: 
**Giving flextime is hard to make a policy. It has to be up to workplaces.
**Tav chavrati for family friendly workplaces… again not policy… very hard to do.
**Changing perspective of employers… and what is the incentive for them? The research exists about productive employees…
**Hatavot for employers also hard… expensive… where do you start and end?
**Big companies versus small companies – harder for small companies to work it out and they need the hatavot more than the big companies.
**Daycare at company is a good idea but doesn’t work practically unless you live next to your work. Most people want daycare close to home.
**Tamat you are in between if you make too much but not enough… also Tamat is hard to find in many places.

Fun fact:

Azaria once hired a consultant who was pregnant at the time, to the shocked reactions of colleagues at the Knesset. As if she didn’t know what that could mean.

A favorite quote:

”I don’t like legislating laws that won’t be followed.” AKA, laws without practical meaning.

Catalyst for change:

Azaria’s video campaigns are the most watched in Israeli politics – more than even the Prime Minister’s (bless him for trying). And the reason is clear: she’s addressing one of the largest struggling demographics in our country: WORKING PARENTS.

On rocks, Arabs, talking it out, conflict, and more rocks.

This, an hour after listening to the recent This American Life podcast on the way home from work; the one titled, #570: The Night in Question, the one about the Rabin assassination and associated conspiracy theories.

“Listen, I want to talk to you about some stuff. Do your friends talk about Arabs in school?”

“[My teacher] does.”

“Really? When?”

“When we do [prayers] for the soldiers or people that are sick.”

“What does she say?”

“They throw rocks on us.”

“Do your friends ever call each other Arabs when playing, or say anything?”

“No, but today [friend] asked his ima if he is Arab.”

“He is not Arab… do you know that where I work sometimes Arabs come in to help fix things? And Abba used to work with an Arab guy. And lots of Arabs work around us. And they don’t throw rocks. Most Arabs don’t throw rocks.”

“More throw rocks or less throw rocks?”

“Way less throw rocks.”

“But why do some throw rocks?”

“Because they are angry.”

“But why are they angry?”

“Because sometimes Israelis or Jews make mistakes and do not-nice things to them, and sometimes they do mistakes or not-nice things to Israelis. But you know how we always say that when someone hits you, you should first try talking to them and not hit back? So here people aren’t talking, they are just hitting back.”

“Why aren’t they talking?”

“Sometimes it’s hard to know who to talk to.”

“How do they throw it? The rocks?”

“I guess regular…”

“Like this?” (pitches)

“Sure. I guess.”

“…what kind of rocks?”

“Uh, regular rocks I guess.”

“From the ground?”

“Sure.”

“Where does it happen?”

“Where Arabs and Jews live close to each other.”

“Are the rocks big or small?”

“I dunno. Honestly, I’ve never seen it happen. I haven’t ever been there when it happens… yet…”

He looked at me, kind of surprised. It was too late to take it back but it registered I could have been anywhere near involved with an Arab throwing a rock.

“…but that’s a good thing.”

He turned six and a half today.

So I knew it was time for bed when he next asked,

“…but so Ima, why is your shirt inside-out?”

 

 

It takes people to conflict.

In a total understatement, there’s been a lot going on in Israel lately. People say it’s the start of the third intifada (again), while other people call for the third intifada.

Stabbings, shootings, stonings, molotov cocktails. Lynch mobs.

And the beat plays on: the same media headlines, the same talkbacks, the same Facebook statuses. The same quotes from the same politicians. The same calls to action from the same leaders. The same nonaction after the same calls to action from the same leaders.

This, after coming off a week of ranting and raving that everything in America stays the same, that gun rage carries on, that no one cares. Obama’s post-Oregon shooting speech could be translated into Hebrew.

In dealing with frustration and anger that we find ourselves yet again in the midst of the ‘beginning of the third intifada, question mark’, I wonder aloud at this thought: why do people – people on the Jewish/Israeli side of the spectrum – continue to refer to the Palestinian and Israeli-Arab men and women and teenagers (if we call our 18 year old victims teens, then so are some of these) who commit acts of knife-wielding terror, animals?

What’s animalistic about making a conscious decision to make a fatal political statement about your life place/politics/anger/zeal? Animals don’t make those kinds of choices – people do. That’s what makes us people. The committers of these acts are people. Men and women. People who live a different reality to you, to us, to whoever. That doesn’t make them animals. It makes them people, in a very true way.

People shot point blank at mother and father driving with their children in the backseat. People stab other people in the middle of busy roads and outside office buildings. People throw stones – when did you last see an animal throwing stones?

People find guns and shoot them at other people who are not living the same reality as they are. People of all stripes – some of them share our reality and some don’t.

And so we are people too, even if we think other people don’t agree. We are people who make choices about how to handle and interpret and act on our reality. Everyone involved in this conflict is a person.

It takes people to choose to conflict. It takes people to choose to not conflict.

The State of Jerusalem Pride 2015: lovers love, haters hate

‘Why do we have parades?’ My 6yo kept puzzling over that one.

‘We have parades to say something.’

He wanted to know what we’re saying now.

‘We’re saying that love is good, everyone can love whoever they want.’

‘Why are there rainbows?’

‘Because there are so many kinds of love.’

The kids will probably remember it most as ‘ugh, mom walking us all over Jerusalem while we were already tired.’ But I believe a good education can be subtle, and take place over the course of an entire childhood.

And the reason to be there, more than anything else, was to be there.

Because teenagers need to see other people like them.

Because people need to know they are not alone.

Because families have a right to be, despite shape and size and sex.

Because a violent hater can be released from prison and a decade later repeat his crime six times over.

One day it will click.

Also, rainbows.

Local Holocaust remembrance in 2015 and beyond

Since becoming a mom, everything has gotten harder to swallow. I don’t read the news as much. Especially local evening news from New York. I can’t stomach certain facts of life. And I’ve distanced myself from my cultural ties with Holocaust education and remembrance.

Which is getting easier to do – less voices, more distance from 1945. In Israel, there is a debate over what it all means for the next generation. Can you really expect a generation born into relative national freedom to identify with this historical chapter?

I pushed myself to come out tonight to Tzur Hadassah’s beit ha’am to listen to a local resident and Terezin survivor tell his story. Reuven Fisherman was born and raised in Denmark. Though the Terezin concentration camp in the Czech Republic is the one place I have visited, I hadn’t known the Danish angle. And I hadn’t heard as personal a telling as I heard here.

And I hadn’t heard an Israeli survivor in a long time. Nor one that lives in my community. And has a lot more in common with me as an oleh than many of my other native neighbors.

Like a lot of other survivors, he hadn’t really started telling his story publicly until relatively recently. He published a book in Danish, which was used in a documentary, which is set for release on May 5, which is the exact date he was liberated from Terezin. The book should be coming out in Hebrew by the end of the year he hopes.

There were local scouts in the audience. There were a few other grade school kids. I wondered if my kids will hear a ניצול שואה telling their story, live, in person. I was in first grade when this was all revealed to me in the open. I guess in Israeli standards, they are not too far off from the live, survivor reveal.

Especially since in Israel, Holocaust education starts in pre-kindergarten.