A lesson from newborns and Coney Island.

Today was the most bizarre day I’ve experienced in a really long time. The same day consisted of me holding the newborn boy of a girl I consider a cousin as well as punching myself in the face on Coney Island’s Cyclone.

This pseudo cousin gave birth to her first child deep into Saturday night. This afternoon I was on the Southern State to see and hold the closest thing I have to a blood nephew (I say that with all due respect to my nephews-in-law).

This was the first newborn in my adult life that I actually cared about before meeting it. I walked in the room to find my pseudo family wiped out with exhaustion, and my friend handed me the baby boy, a tiny package of 6 pounds and some ounces. He was absolutely beautiful, and if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, well, I had a lot to behold. New(!) mother also looked amazing; as her sister – the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister – told me about the birth, I couldn’t stop being so utterly proud of this little girl I used to play mattress-stairs with.

This experience just totally winded me; I didn’t know what to expect but felt so comfortable with it each second I was steeped in it. Family; new members of family. I’ve never witnessed it – or been a part of it to that degree – firsthand.

After I tore myself away from the family, I headed towards Coney Island to meet two college friends of mine. We strolled along the boardwalk and then figured, we’re already here, why not take a spin on the Cyclone? The Cyclone is a rickety decades-old roller coaster that is a rite of passage for New Yorkers born and bred. I’ve ridden the Cyclone; my father has ridden the Cyclone, my father’s father… that’s the kind of legend it is. It stands (and dips and dives) for the youth of the Brooklyn-bred.

The experience was everything the baby-beholding was not. Adrenaline pumping as we climbed into the car, profanities flying as we ricketed up the first curve. Somewhere around the second drop, my glasses came off. I realized it and quickly grabbed for them, getting myself stuck in a position of holding the seat bar instead of sitting back. Somewhere in that mess, I managed to punch myself in the nose, smell my own blood, hit my head and severely strain my neck. When the ride ended, I found myself speckled in red with my nose pulling a Pinocchio.

How had I gotten from holding a one-day old baby and being so moved I could barely talk, to icing my nose and not being able to move my head sideways? Or maybe the question should be reversed – when does this youth ride come to an end? When do you realize you’re pathetic for trying?

I feel young, and I know from family history I will feel young for a long time to come. But this is a different kind of young – it’s a youth based on a different kind of curiosity, not the kind pumped by adrenaline and profanities. This youth is not as bold, not as daring, not as stupid, but it is a journey of satisfying many of the questions I’ve held and learning the new questions to be asking. This youthfulness might not be any smarter than the past one, but it’s definitely not stupider.

Or maybe I have it all wrong; maybe I’ve been out of New York for too long and missed the message altogether. Maybe New York was asking me if I really feel up to being here. Maybe she has something to say for those of us who leave her.

Maybe Brooklyn was giving me a beating, showing me what it really means to come back.

I am not a stationary creature.

Over the past few months, I’ve been watching people come and go from Israel. I haven’t been back to New York in over a year and it’s nearly a year since I left the country at all. If you take a look at my past passports, you know that’s a bit insane.

At this point, I’m holding out for the summer, when I have a couple weddings I’d like to attend. I’d likely stay for a couple months over the holidays. Various family members, however, disagree and want me to visit ASAP.

We will see what happens with regard to New York. I’m losing my patience as far as leaving Israel for a trip to anywhere. I have time and I could have money.

Stay tuned…

Why I made aliyah: My new answer.

It’s been a long couple of weeks. I haven’t had much to say and haven’t been wanting to think about the news. I’m currently a bachelorette living in this big apartment since my roommate went to Australia for two weeks. I’ve got a lot of school work to do and a lot of work work to do.

Not complaining; I’m enjoying my situation right now. When I hear about friends trying to cut it in America, paying that god-awful rent and keeping up with terribly high standards of living… I really do appreciate what I have built here. Could I have been this successful if I had lived in New York? I really don’t know. There’s so much about me that is calmer and more focused here.

I think I’ve come to the point where I realize I’m now here more for the conditions of my life than the ideological reasons from 2005. My lifestyle, my job, my school, my friends, my inter(national)marriage all keep me here more than a philosophical desire or religious dream. I do still believe in it, but I think I have a lot of new things I believe in now, too.

Which is why I always find it funny how people who have been living here for around 3 years seem to have a ‘new answer’ to why they made aliyah. Ask an oleh (not chadash) point-blank, and they will pause, possibly squirm, sigh, and tell you, “Well, the new answer is…”

I’m very grateful at how things have turned out for me; I know it’s usually the opposite for a lot of people. My key is to take it all one day at a time, or at the very least, not think more than six months ahead. That way, when you ask me why I made aliyah, I can continuously look back, reflect and be prepared to tell you what my ‘new answer’ is.

Attempting snow in Israel.

Just went for a drive… sort of. I guess I underestimated the snow; we tried driving to a friend’s and although we didn’t make it far, I did get a dose of nostalgia for snowy days back in upstate New York. Yep, stuck in the house all day, playing in the snow by night…

I have to say, I am very impressed by how slowly and carefully my Israeli neighbors were driving. No one flashed me with brights, no one crawled up to my tail. I give them an A for  caution.

At the same time, I would award an A for effort when it comes to this favorite snowy pastime:

Israeli snowmen

They even tried the carrots thing. I guess American movies pay off… but something always gets lost in translation.

Vote for Jerusalem as property on the Global Monopoly board.

Monopoly ManCheck this out from the makers of Monopoly:

Have your say in the world’s first global Monopoly!

I’m creating the world’s first global Monopoly so I want to know what your favourite cities are!

I’ve pre-selected 68 great cities for you to choose from but you can nominate any other city you want – these are known as Wildcard cities.

Vote for your top 10 cities… and keep voting every day!

The 20 pre-selected cities with the highest worldwide votes on February 29 2008 will make it onto the board. Plus, you will have from March 1 to March 9 2008 to vote on the most nominated Wildcard cities. Only the top two will make it on the board!

How fun is that? And whaddya know, Jerusalem is one of the choices. So are New York, Melbourne, Prague, Dublin, and a few of my other all-time favorite cities of the world. Can’t wait to own them all myself… and think of all the dividing Jerusalem jokes we can make!

Go ahead and vote now.

Today I turn three… and am no longer 'new'.

So apparently, starting today, I am no longer considered an olah chadasha (new immigrant). That seems to be the consensus from other olim, the Israeli government and Nefesh b’Nefesh.

Do I feel vatik (senior)? Certainly not… But I suppose I don’t feel new anymore, either.

Whatever I am in numbers or years, I know that what is really interesting is all I’ve accomplished in three years of ‘newness’: Finding a city, finding friends, finding a masters program, finding homesickness… Searching for jobs, registering for a masters program, getting a job, starting Israeli graduate school… Discovering the world of Israeli mediation, discovering the world of Israeli hi tech… Finding a new career, finding a life partner, finding a neighborhood, settling in an apartment… Learning about the various cultures that surround me… Finding new friends, finding a new city, coming close to the end of the masters program…

What freaks me out is not that I’ve been living in Israel for three years; it’s that I haven’t been living in New York for three years. What’s happened since I left? How has the city changed? Where in life are the people I left behind? If I returned, would they recognize me?

And what have I learned in three years? I’ve learned a lot about patience, creativity and open-mindedness, which I still think are the three things you need to make it in Israel long-term – and I now think life in general, as well. I’ve learned a lot of new Hebrew. I’ve learned that if you can laugh, you can enjoy your status of ‘new’ and actually take pride in it.

But, I’m finally here, no longer new; here, on the other side of three years.

Morning Jerusalem.

This morning was the first time in a long time that my heart sang for Jerusalem. It was 5:45 am and we were in a cab on the way to the bus station. The sky was dark and the air was crisp. The streets were almost empty. And my heart was stirring a song for a place I’m about to leave.

It’s always the wee hours of the morning that bring it out in me. It used to happen in New York right before I left, but then it was on the way home after a late night as opposed to leaving very early in the morning. Four a.m., and my heart would yearn for more New York as I was on my way out. I’d breath in and let my body fill with that air I called home.

I’m not going as far this time; I’m moving my address more than I’m moving my self. But I’ve been knocking Jerusalem for the last year or so and I realize that I now know this city the way it should be known – with pride, with humor and with the yearning to know it more over time.

Jerusalem