The baby leaves of Israel.

Today’s Hebrew lesson: עלי בייבי

Not a hard term to learn in Hebrew. It means ‘baby leaves’ – you know, those tiny bits of greenery you put in salad that cost more than the other vegetables combined?

It’s also a term I made up for a certain type of middle-aged Israeli woman – you know the one. She has spiky dyed-red hair, her tight pants are sitting just slightly too high and her shirt is cut more than slightly too low. There are definitely sequins across her chest and they may spell a misleading English word that starts with an ‘S’ and ends with ‘exy.’ She could be high-pitched and whiny or she might sport the smoker’s voice.

And most of all… You see her at the supermarket. She is standing near you, in the produce aisle. She picks up a plastic bag of something; pretty soon you know exactly what it contains.

“…איזה יופי! אוי, מוטי, בוא תראה – עלי ביייייייבי”

That’s right. She just עלי בייבי‘d you.

Babies need stuff.

Tada! In a feat I could never have pulled off on my own, we have managed to choose and order and place a deposit on a baby package consisting of furniture/stuff/things. That, about a week after we first became traumitized when taking a commerical peek at what we were in for. 

To answer a few questions: 

What is a baby package?

Instead of ordering everything separately and possibly spending more than you’d need to – and also (possibly) to make it waaay less overwhelming – they bundle a standard package which you can add on to and choose from within. It includes a crib, dresser/changing surface, stroller, infant car seat, bath, and a whole bunch of little things to get you started (and, yes, to get you hooked on baby-scented name brands). 

What is Motzizim?

Well, for starters, motzetz (מוֹצֵץ) is the Hebrew word for pacifier (or dummy as my husband says it, or binky as my family referred to it, or sucker as the store owners probably call it).

Motzitzim (מוצצים) is a big baby store chain that probably resembles the closest we’d get to an American baby superstore. They have branches across the country. I can’t speak for other branches, but the one in Talpiot, Jerusalem was probably the finest customer service I have ever had in this country. And really, no wonder: the baby business is big business, especially in such a family-friendly country as Israel.

While I’m at it, shout out to Ruti, who totally rocks and didn’t play on the first-time parents stereotype too  much. 

There are other baby stores around Jerusalem, and some of the others we visited in Talpiot were Dr. Baby, Shilav and the back of Bizaar Strauss, but the prices weren’t any lower really and the selections were lame. Others would agree. 

How do we get the goods?

After I easily and wonderfully and painlessly deliver the child, tired husband calls the store and let’s them know we are ready for the – second – delivery (ok, fine, only one of those action items actually take place). Within 48 hours they are meant to come to our apartment and set up the furniture. 

So… that was definitely easier than I thought. And it didn’t hurt our budget too badly. On to birthing class!

Today's word: אעזקה

So. That dysfunctional red alert siren (אעזקה) today in Jerusalem. Not cool, siren-maintance man. Not cool. 

I was sitting in my office and it very s l o w l y dawned on me that I was hearing a siren in the back of my head. I put my head to the window and realized I was hearing a siren! And Israel is in a state of war. And I was in Israel. And… 

It was dreamlike. I’m a very morbid person. There’s no reason to get into it. 

But this reverberates: I moved very slowly. For the first few seconds, I thought about everything; every second was like a ticking clock. 

Of course, it was a test a false alarm a technical malfunction. Which is what finally knocked me out of my dreamlike siren state. And onto the web, a flurry of Tweets and instant messages to attend to.

Today's word: דופק

Today we had our first official visit with an ob-gyn (male, charedi) doctor. All in all, a positive experience. I wasn’t expecting anything crazy, pretty much a questionnaire of whether I smoke and if I’m taking vitamins. Oddly, neither of those topics came up.

Oh sure, I’ve been to Israeli gynos before, male charedi gynos even, but this was, of course, different, because I wasn’t only getting a questionnaire, but a checking-out, and not only a checking-out, but a souvenir.

Even though it’s only about seven weeks, we had our first view of the little bean that is currently residing within my insides. It’s amazing how hi tech this stuff is. He showed us the ultra-sound screen and pointed out the little bean that looks nothing like a creature, nevermind a human.

Then he said, “Yecholim l’rot ha-dofek. At ro’ah et ha-dofek?”

I had no freakin’ clue what he was talking about. Doesn’t dofek mean heartbeat? How does that thing have a heartbeat? I nodded and smiled politely but I knew he knew I had no clue what he was going on about. So he kept repeating it, and the word dofek pulsed in my brain. Hey, doc, if you think it has a heartbeat, then I’m perfectly ok with that.

Later on, we sat back down at his desk and went over the details. He said things are looking good for these early weeks. He mentioned the dofek again. I had to politely interrupt –

“When you say dofek, what exactly do you mean?”

“Dofek – pulse, heartbeat – you mean you didn’t see what I was talking about?”

“Oh… uh… I did… I just… They have heartbeats already?”

I guess I have a lot to learn. Like planning our wedding in Israel, this is a whole new experience that’s going to require a whole new Hebrew vocabulary.

In appreciation of צהר, or small windows.

I attended a secular wedding last night; if it wasn’t my first Israeli secular wedding, then I have only been to one or two before this. The secular Israeli wedding is something I don’t fully grasp.

A Jewish wedding is so chock full of beautiful, wacky and wild traditions, why not have that be a part of your experience? It just seems that aside from the chuppah part, the wedding is just a dance party. What’s that wedding video like? A night out in Tel Aviv?

Well, obviously, to each their own, and I’m only really talking about Israeli Jews who are already somewhat traditional enough to have a Jewish wedding at all. It’s just my opinion; I like a good solid Jewish wedding with character.

Anyway, because of the marriage laws in Israel, put forth by the religious authorities in the government, a Jew can only marry a Jew on Israeli soil and to be considered acceptable, the chuppah ceremony must follow the rules set out by Judaism according to the Rabbanut.

This structure does not go over well with the mainly secular/lightly traditional Jewish population of Israel. Fortunately, there are organizations that exist to try and ease the process – whether you decide to get married Jewishly or not.

If a couple does decide to marry the Jewish (“legal”) way, צהר (tzohar) is an absolutely wonderful organization dedicated to making the wedding ceremony process as smooth, understandable and comfortable as possible. Secular couples can have a צהר rabbi officiate the chuppah (since most people don’t have a rabbi they call their own). The (Orthodox) rabbi comes with experience, a nice voice, jokes to please the crowd, and above all, the acceptance of the Rabbanut.

“צהר” means opportunity, opening or “small window.” Tzohar’s tagline is “a window between worlds.” This makes me so incredibly happy: A constructive organization of religious rabbis who are bridging their worlds with the worlds of the secular population in order to give a positive outlook and helpful experience.

We didn’t get married through Tzohar necessarily, but our rabbi was a Tzohar rabbi. He had the gig down and so did the guy who officiated the chuppah last night. It was really awesome to watch the crowd sing along with the rav and laugh at his jokes about the Maccabi Tel Aviv game. It was awesome to watch the rav respect the taste of the couple, as the bride presented her chatan with a ring and the couple kissed after the breaking of the glass.

The organization does not seek to ‘kiruv’ couples actively. I think the best thing it does is to start a new couple off in the world of marriage with a bit of appreciation for Jewish marriage as well as a good aftertaste towards the religious process.

Today's word: טקס

We attended the Yom Hashoah tekes (טקס or ceremony) tonight, organized by the neighborhood Scouts and Bnei Akiva kids.

It was very much a small-town tekes. A few things came to mind while I stood and watched:

  • It never occurred to me before how it must have been for the Mizrachi population to get to Israel in the 1950s, meet all these Ashkenazi European Jews for the first time and hear the horrors. What did they think?
  • It is inevitable that there will be loud, disruptive, annoying kids at a Holocaust remembrance event. But isn’t that what our grandparents survived for? To continue the Jewish people? Kids will be kids, but thank god they are here, right?
  • This was the first public Tzur Hadassah event that I saw the community come together for a moment. I took notice of the different languages spoken, skin tones, ages, etc.
  • If my kids end up growing to be tight jeans-wearing, spiky haired, Nike swoosh-donning arsim, I am going to – oh, man. Somewhere my parents are laughing at me.

Today's word: שוקו ולחמניה

It must be Israeli food day at work. They just brought us a classic Israeli snack, and as one coworker remarked, “what are we, in kindergarten?”

It’s שוקו ולחמניה, a white roll with “shoko b’sakit”, or chocolate milk in a bag:

shoko lachmania

I realize how weird that may sound, but I guess that weirdness was broken for me years ago when I spent a summer here and an Israeli friend of mine said we were getting breakfast and he walked into a makolet and came out with two white rolls and two bags of chocolate milk.

Today's word: תאונת דרכים

Here’s what I get to listen to 45293436% of the time while driving home from school. It’s a loosely translated sampling of the radio D.J. on Galgalatz reading the traffic report:

“And now, the traffic. Folks, take it easy on the roads out there… We all want to get home safely, and we all need to be a little patient. Here’s some reasons why: On road A, from city B to city C, you have about 30 minutes of waiting to due to a תאונת דרכים at the entrance of exit D. And then on road E, going through junction F in the G direction, there is a תאונת דרכים causing 40 minute delays – careful, drivers. In direction H, towards city I, poor drivers will be waiting 20 minutes to pass to highway J because of a… well, תאונת דרכים. On highway K, on the L side of the M exit, they are just clearing up the remains of what seems to be a serious תאונת דרכים; please, drivers, think of the people around you. We will all get home tonight. Be patient. City N is not looking too good right now; junction O, between P and Q, is heavily backed up after a – can you guess? – תאונת דרכים that has caused all kinds of chaos. Road R is just picking up after an afternoon of back up between city S and city T, when not one – not two – but three תאונות דרכים caused lots of trouble for drivers towards city U. At junction V from city W to city X, there has been a תאונת דרכים causing major delays for those drivers trying to get to highway Y. And – this just in – a תאונת דרכים at the entrance to major city Z. Ah, brothers. A little patience, and we’ll all get home.”

So. Can you guess what today’s word – תאונת דרכים – means?