The new American consulate in Jerusalem (now with room to breathe!)

Let’s hear it for American consulate 2.0!

Had to go back to ze Fatherland territory to register new baby’s citizenship, get her passport (1/3) and apply for her Social Security number.

For a while now, Jerusalem and Jerusalem-area American-Israeli residents have been going to the shiny new consulate in ‘west’ Jerusalem (is Arnona not a hop-skip away from East Jerusalem, in reality? I kinda thought it was East Jerusalem).

The building is really nice and there’s a lot of American-ness in it. The giant, thick glass window-walls of the interior facility made me feel at home for some reason. It’s a bit airport-y but that makes sense; what with the security details swiping the cars in the (spacey!) parking lot to be tested for chemicals… and all.

Basically, it’s not a dank, old, claustrophobic ichsa with no parking in East Jerusalem. So, win!

Kudos to security for making me drink my own poison (water in an opaque bottle) instead of taking it away and wasting/pouring it out. That’s an Israeli airport technique. As opposed to an American airport technique. So I guess American security is learning?

I had heard that the new facility would be ‘mother-friendly’ which I assumed meant a nice nursing section. If you turn back the time to the last time I went to the American consulate – two years ago – I thought I was meant to breastfeed in public and then got sent to a tiny little corner with a shower curtain around it. This time, from what I could tell, I was supposed to nurse in the bathroom, in a separate space from the toilets and sinks which had a couple chairs. Next to it was what I suspect was a change area (a long counter top). Definitely an upgrade, but most breastfeeding moms would complain about having to use the bathroom.

Well, in any case, I nursed the little one in the gorgeous courtyard outside the bathroom, complete with park benches, shady trees and patches of grass.

In other news, the ordeal was fairly quick, except having to wait nearly an hour at the end for the passport papers to be approved. I’d recommend going on a day when you can get the first appointment slot. The parking is spacious, so if you can drive, go for it. Otherwise – I’m not sure if/how the public transportation works (I saw other people pulling up in cabs). I also think they need to get a bit more organized with how you line up once you’re inside.

But otherwise, not bad, American compatriots.

Thankful.

Yes. I celebrate Thanksgiving. Every year.

There are some modifications, of course. I serve the big holiday dinner on Friday night, since this Thursday is a weekday in Israel, like any other. I don’t have every exact ingredient; fresh cranberries are near impossible to come by out here.

But I do manage to order a whole turkey from my favorite meat counter in Jerusalem. And I don’t have to look very far (not past Emek Refaim street, anyway) to find some good ole Shop Rite brand canned cranberry sauce.

And this year, like any other, I will participate in the American holiday – no matter how sketchy its roots, no matter how exaggerated its celebration. And while no one ever takes seriously the ‘going around the table and saying what you’re thankful for’ – why, this year I will.

It’s been an intense year since last Thanksgiving, when I was just visibly pregnant and we all joked about everyone at the table wearing maternity pants after dinner. I have a lot to be thankful for, and luckily for me, it’s all corny and wonderful.

My little start up family is awesome. I’m thankful for my not-so-start up job. A good trustworthy landlord is always something to be thankful for – and on top of that, a good trustworthy apartment. Living in Israel has its many moments, but I like living here, I like that this is my culture right now, and I like that I’ve been mindful enough to make good decisions and end up where I am today.

And, most of all, I’m thankful that even thousands of miles across the world, I can pre-order a whole turkey one time a year and cook that sucker well.

On coming and going, via route self marking.

I attended a fascinating discussion last night called “Piercing, Tattooing, and Cutting: Traditional Sources Meet a Modern-Day Trend.” It was held in Merkaz Edna and led by Sarah Halevi, a psychotherapist from Efrat.

It was basically a review of the connections and implications of self-marking from sociological, psychological and halachic vantages. While I didn’t necessary learn that much news, I did get a trip off hearing these issues discussed in a somewhat-public forum. The small audience was made up of a pierced girl who was probably younger than me, a girl around my age who is a social worker, two concerned moms (religious) and a very concerned set of parents (religious, somewhat naive).

Halevi summed something up that was definitely news in the way that I’ve never heard it put so simply before. She said she once had a student who explained to her the difference between American teenagers and Israeli teenagers when it comes to self-marking, drugs, etc.

American teenagers want to להכנס (come in) while Israel i teenagers want to לצאת (go out). The Americans are coming from a life filled with numbness and materialism; it’s empty and they need to prick themselves in order to feel alive. The Israelis live in a land of denial; they are expected to buck up and move on when a fellow student is shot and killed on the highway or an older sibling loses a limb in the army. They don’t get a chance to wallow or escape, so they do anything to remove themselves from the situation.

It can go either way, of course, depending on your family and social status, but in a general sense it was interesting. Definitely food for thought for the anxious parents present, who by the way, were all Anglos living in Israel… Maybe that has something to do with it?

Typical Israeli supermarket conversation.

Russian man with silver teeth: grumbles something in heavy accented Hebrew (or maybe it was Russian?) and points to a package of frozen dough

Me: “Slicha?”

Russian man with silver teeth: grumbles something else in Hebrew, pointing to the price

Me: looking confused

Russian man with silver teeth: smiles big, “Aaah…. Priveyet, russian russian russian russian russian…”

Me: smiles back, “Lo yoda’at…”

Russian man with silver teeth: now he’s looking confused, grumbles again in Russian accented Hebrew

Me: explains what he needed to know in American accented Hebrew; unfortunately for him, the price is not to his liking.

Russian man with silver teeth: walks away grumbling, “Nyet! Nyet! Nyet!”

And there we have it, once again. Russians assume I am Russian. It has happened probably a dozen times now. If only I could understand what that means

Happy Australia Day!

Nah, I’m not Australian just because I’m married to one… But the Aussie I’m married to was given Lamingtons today by an Aussie coworker in hono’u’r of Australia Day this Saturday, and he brought one home for lil ole American me. Another benefit to “mixed” marriages.

The Lamington is an Australian pastry consisting of sponge cake dipped in chocolate and coconut. Here’s a Lamington recipe for the patriotic.

Australia Day Lamington

Register to vote by absentee ballot.

Recently, the Australian residents of Israel had the opportunity to vote by embassy or by mail in their federal elections. It got me thinking – since I live with an Australian citizen – about the 2008 American presidential elections coming up (come on, everyone else is talking about it this early).

Then tonight I found a posting about registering to vote on Janglo: visit the Overseas Vote Foundation website and receive information and steps to register to vote. Easy and efficient.

Why can’t mainland, non-absentee voting be the same?

People-watching in a mirror.

Waiting for my mom at the airport this morning, I got to engage in the curious ritual that is people-watching. Airport arrival halls are the best places to people-watch.

This pre-holiday Friday morning was even more interesting.

One family particularly stood out to me. I watched a middle-aged couple – probably around my mother’s age – walk out through the sliding doors of customs and scan the crowd. At one point the woman smiled enormously and began waving. A youngish couple – maybe in their late 20s – waved back with similar smiles and began walking towards them. The mother and daughter embraced wildly (because now it was clear, these were the young woman’s parents) while the father and son-in-law patted backs. Questions were flung around and the family, reunited, as they walked off towards the exit.

The family was speaking American English. The scene was so familiar to me, I wanted to cry.

The daughter made aliyah, maybe a few years ago. She met another Anglo oleh and they decided to literally build a bayit ne’aman b’Yisroel. Her parents had either never been to Israel or had visited only once or twice before she made aliyah; they are still a bit awkward about coming here. But they come – maybe once every other year when their adult children don’t visit the States.

The woman reminded me of my own mother so much, and the daughter was all me. I’m not alone in this world of aliyah; I never thought I was but sometimes it’s hard to remember, even when surrounded by other olim.

I held back my tears and turned back to the sliding doors, waiting for my mom and already smiling.

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