Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thank the Creator

I want to take a moment to say a sincere thank you to all the creators out there. No joke. I take too much for granted and it isn't right.

I was lying in bed last night, listening to music and a particular song came on. This song happens to really touch me. I don't know if it is the particular sequence of notes, the words in the lyrics or some magical combination of bits and pieces, but this song makes me feel something profound every time I listen to it. I don't just like it. It compels me. I have written about this before but the feelings are still very vivid. The same thing happens, though, when I see certain pieces of art. Some paintings really TALK to me. I don't mean that in a literal and psychopathic way -- I mean that something in the artwork speaks to my being in a way hard to describe. I stare at the painting and do more than appreciate the brush strokes. I fall into the picture. It could be some kinetic art or some hyper realistic one or something else but, man, does that art do a job on me. And poems, movies, TV and even (though rarely) dance -- sometimes, I watch something and I am transfixed.

And I don't know how it happens. Really. I can't figure out what muse has descended to create such perfection. I can't understand the process that a creator goes through when crafting something; does he or she know that this piece of expression is going to reach into my soul and pluck a lost chord? Does the artist understand that while much of his work is "nice" something happened and turned some pieces into the sublime?

So to all the creators, from the sculptor who controls my eyes as I watch the car drive by to the author who gets me to cry over people who never existed to the ultimate Creator who made me and allowed me to be affected by my world, just know: someone says "Thank you" and appreciates your hard work, and is in awe.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Come on and Take my Free Ride

First, the rule is you take on 1 piece of carry-on luggage that you can fit in the overhead bin and 1 piece of personal carryable something, that can be stuck under the seat. This means that you shouldn't have 3 bags, your shopping bag, your hat and ukulele. On the flip side, if you sell someone a seat, you, as an airline, should provide space for one piece of carry on luggage in an overhead bin. If my piece conforms to FAA (or whatever) regulations, I should be able to put it above my seat and not worry about it. The wheeling and dealing on the flight was ridiculous, mostly because people brought 2 or 3 pieces of luggage plus other bags. Bins were opened and closed, feelings were hurt, fingers were crushed and I sat there, comfortable in the knowledge that my bag was stowed and safe. Of course, when we landed I had to look around for it because during the game of musical bins, someone moved mine without telling me.

We took off close to on time and I had a chance to watch both X-Men: Apocalypse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I'm better for the experience. This 777-200ER was an older model with no video on demand and a generally junkier in-flight entertainment system. But before I complain too much I have to recall the olden days when an 11 and a half hour flight required that you talk to other people because there was almost no entertainment. So at least this was something.

For breakfast, the choices were "omelet" and "Blinches." Sure, they looked good, but they are not blinches. There. I just needed to call them on that.

I did get some sleep (the flight left at 12:30 AM so I was ready to nod off anyway, but the beer helped). I put the headphones in and tuned to whatever channel seemed inoffensive for the moment, slipped on the eye shades and sat up real straight and napped. I woke often to the sound of screeching children but I just cranked up the music, found another channel and fell back asleep. I anticipated something for this flight -- I knew Maddie wasn't coming back so I expected that I would wallow in my sadness with an empty seat next to me. I bought the ticket and checked her in online, and when I presented myself at the counter to explain, the woman seemed to understand. I sat down and dumped some stuff on what I expected to be an empty seat. Imagine my surprise when a man came over and sat down. Now, I didn't ask to see his ticket and I'm too non-confrontational to say anything, but inside, I was livid. How dare he sit there. My righteous indignation knew now bounds and at least 2 dimensions. One, this was a seat for my kid. It should be treated with reverence. Second, I paid for the seat -- I wanted the meal that came with it, the space in the overhead bin and some room to stretch out! But it seems, El Al resold that seat once I told them that Maddie wasn't coming. Now it would make sense if they, after having resold it, refunded me some money, even if just a percentage. Maybe they could kick a hundred bucks as a compensation for making an empty seat for them to resell at substantially more than that. Maybe they could move me up to first class and give me a pedicure. Maybe. Maybe not.

But did they have to sell the seat to a guy who spreads out onto both armrests? Jerk.

At 1.5 hours before landing, I filled out the Customs Declaration. I thought as a religious powerhouse, writing about my customs would be easy but that was not what the form was about. In truth, I have no idea what the form was about. I'm 47 years old and have no idea what I signed. I wrote my name and address on it and said that I didn't have $10,000 worth of bearer bonds, fruit flies or tractors and tried to read the back. After failing at that, I looked at the spot that asked me to list what I bought and I wrote "doggie poop bags" because I did. I hope they appreciate that honesty. Then I looked around because no one said what I was supposed to do with the paper after that. I needed an adult. Why, along with an air marshal, isn't there an air accountant or air tax advisor? Everyone else seemed totally comfortable filling out the paper work with no help and they were all chatting and laughing at me. If I had gone to high school on an air plane, this would have reminded me of that. There should be a class in school about Customs Declarations.

I skipped breakfast (blinches?) and thought to myself "I could really go for a candy bar right now." Let me explain.

There are many things I love about Israel and I especially love all the food options, but I am allergic to many nuts and this means that I can't eat anything after the main course in Israel. When I go to Israel, I break my no-carb diet so sweets SHOULD play an important role in that. However, everything is made with nuts, especially my arch nemesis, hazelnut (AKA filbert). Regular chocolate there has hazelnuts in it and the cross contamination is rampant. In America, the phrase "may contain nuts" is a legal requirement and usually can be ignored. (I did say usually, not always). In Israel, when they say "may contain nuts" they mean "yeah, you know this has nuts in it." So as much as I love main courses, I crave dessert and as much as I crave dessert, I cannot have any of it. For the longest time, people in America begged Israeli friends to come visit and bring large amounts of candy that is only supervised as kosher in Israel. If I spend time in Israel, I will have to beg American friends to bring in American candy so I can survive. Weird.

Anyway, I got off the plane quickly and ran up the stairs to get to customs. Some guy asked me who I was, stamped some paper and sent me into another line where more silly questions were asked and papers were collected. I was hoping that, much like the hallways on my entrance to the airport, the space between the customs hall and baggage claim would include a candy store or the like. But there was NOTHING to eat so I stood next to the baggage carousel (worst. carousel. ever.) and watched the same 3 pieces of luggage go around for 25 minutes. There was no motivation to get there quickly if the stuff isn't loaded onto the conveyor belt for 30 minutes after arrival. My bag arrived in the midst of the pack and I tried not to knock over too many small children who were crowding next to the machine, but what happens in Newark stays in Newark, so let's leave it at that.

My elder is in an apartment, learning how to turn on a stove, how to keep herself busy and how to do whatever it is is her dream to do. More power to her. Thank you for bearing with me as I vented my way to and from the Holy Land.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Just a Note before I go


Writing from the airport now and man, this wasn't easy. By "this" I don't mean the security lines. Sure, there were some blips, but on the whole, things have moved rather well. I spent the day hanging out with Maddie. We went to the hardware store and bought a large chain and lock after figuring out how we would secure the chain to her apartment wall to ensure that no one steals her washing machine (which is outside her apartment) - if you see some guy running down the street carrying a washing machine, you will know that we have failed. We also emailed the medical insurance people to process an address change (now that she, for sure, knows her address) and we wandered down Yafo just because. We stopped into a Fox Home store which was beyond both of our financial reaches but it was air conditioned, so there's that. We also looked into a few other stores just for fun. It was nice to be able to make nasty comments to each other. We ran into a friend of Maddie's who has just started in the army (3 weeks ago) and she seemed still excited. Maddie and I also went into the local book store (Steimatzky or something like that) and she bought a couple of books to tide her over. I had a nice chat with her about what she ashould be doing to fill her days until the army stuff kicks in. That's the real concern -- without the structure of work or school, how does she stay busy. We brainstormed and I listed a number of options:
1. Set a daily walk (one suggestion, to the Kotel and back)
2. Set up a daily workout regimen to prepare for the army.
3. Buy a newspaper daily and read it to learn about Israel and Israeli politics.
4. Find people and talk to them to brush up on Hebrew skills (also, hire a teacher to work on Hebrew, but that may be out of budget)
5. Find a website which has relevant Hebrew words and study up
6. Start a list of things she needs for the army and keep track of prices
7. Volunteer at one or ore of the soldier centers (to learn lingo and make connections)
8. Help out family with child care
9. Write me long, daily emails detailing her life (or just start a blog).

There were other suggestions but 9 is a lot to ignore in one sitting so we'll stop there.

We had lunch at Apple Pizza which was surprisingly good (at least thge pizza...we were unimpressed with the fries). Back at the apartment I sprayed for bugs (we had bought the Israeli equivalent of American bug spray called "Raid at Entebee." No...no it wasn't.) And we contemplated moving the refrigerator. We talked some more about how she can be prepared, what the upcoming challenges would be and how she can deal with them. Her neighbors (including the guys upstairs who hung the Confederate flag on their window) are lone soldiers so she is only as alone as she lets herself be. There are plenty of people to connect with. Eventually, I started staring at the clock so it was time to get dinner before I went stir crazy. Note -- we called the sheirut (shared minibus service, 64 shekel to the airport, about 16 dollars) and told them our departure time so it was just a matter of waiting.

We argued about where to eat dinner and eventually I said, "I have never at an actual meal in the shuk, and I'd like fish and chips." So that answered that. We went into the shuk and ate at a fish restaurant. She had a grilled salmon salad and I had cod based fish and fried mashed potato balls. That's a thing, apparently. The food was good and we ran into a teacher I used to work with who, as everyone has done, gave Maddie contact info and sincerely asked her to stop by for a meal or a week. Whatever she needs. There really is a spirit of Middle Eastern hospitality going on. It is lovely to watch even though I'd rather be pampered in a really expensive hotel.

After dinner we went back to the apartment to hang out and wait for my ride. On the way, I was pulled into a mincha minyan. This wasn't some group of a few kids who wanted to dash off davening; this was a hardcore sephardi mini-shul and the mincha was substantially longer than I expected, but I, again, felt like I was part of something important. Afterwards I went to catch up with Maddie in her apartment. This is where it got real, and real tough. She is no longer a child. She is a woman. She is independent, smart, driven, and bottom line, still my little girl. I held her when she was tiny. I comforted her when she skinned her knees. I watched her grow up through high school when I drove her back and forth every day. I have been (I'd like to think) an important and constant presence in her life. That could be good and it could be bad, but whatever it was, it was. So cutting that cord and letting her be on her own was very tough. I want to be just a moment away so I can fix everything, or at least be there when things can't be fixed. I want to be the daddy who is needed by his little girl. I know that she was away for a year already but there, there were surrogate parents who kept her in line and who established structure. Now she is truly (at least until the army kicks her in the pants on a daily basis) on her own, running her own household. She's almost 20 and I'm not old enough for this. Anyway, we went outside to wait for the van and she hugged me and I hugged her back. She was, for one last minute (or 10, as it turns out) my little girl, wearing my coat, grabbing my arm and just wanting to be held. When the van came the scene was just pathetic -- the two of us blubbering like whales, or something like that. Eventually I climbed on and waved goodbye as we pulled away. It hurt. I mean, it really, really hurt, and as much as I am excited and proud, as much as I admire her and know that growing up is a part of life, I wonder if it will ever stop hurting, or if I would ever want it to.

I sniffled my way through the van ride which stopped on top of every hill in the surrounding desert, but only after hitting every bump along the way. I refrained from throwing up because I didn't want to appear any weaker than a crying, fully grown man already looks. I held everything together until, at the airport, I had to explain why I had 2 tickets and was only one traveler. The kindly ticketing lady let me have a tissue which was nice of her. I then made it through a few other levels of security, ran into some other people who didn't want to be seen with me, and am now here, a barbarian at the gate. I will update with what I hope are boring details about a boring flight which I sleep through. But I doubt it.

Hebrew For

I started walking around on Friday (that's Hebrew for Sunday). With Maddie still setting up and planning on a hardware store run to buy more bits and ends (or odds and pieces, I forget) I decided to walk to the Kotel. The Kotel is Hebrew for center of the spiritual universe. When I stand there in silent and very personal meditation, I truly can feel God's presence. The sun beat down but I pressed my head against the stones, closed my eyes and felt like I could place myself very clearly in the continuum of Judaism. As I whispered a quiet prayer in a sincere and spiritual mood, a spiritual bird spiritually pooped on my spiritual arm. True story.

I washed up and returned to the wall, and chose my spot more carefully and reconnected with the divine. On a Friday, one is accosted by more than the normal number of people asking for charity and contributions and I was easy pickings in my spiritual mood. I started giving a little bit of money to each of them t including the guy who just wanted to know what time it was. Now I'm broke but I believe that local etiquette allows me to walk up to strangers with my hand outstretched and they have to give me money.

I was standing at the wall and next to me a morning minyan (that's Hebrew for minion) was wrapping up (note the tefillin joke for the advanced users out there) and I heard one man ask the guy who led the prayer service, "Is this a Sephardic minyan?" The man answered, "This is the Kotel -- it is an everyone minyan!" It was a nice moment.

Next, I went in to the prayer plaza (the little tunnel area on the left side of the Kotel. I have never gone in there and it was great and I'm not just talking about the air conditioner. But that was awesome, too.

As I stood around, I overheard two men arguing. The guy in charge of the parasols was not allowing a man to take a parasol to a woman who was standing in the heat. There was much angry shouting -- very Israeli. Then, suddenly, one of the men apparently crossed a line of propriety. When he saw that the other man was really hurt, he immediately stopped arguing and repeatedly and sincerely, begged forgiveness. He kept saying "We are brothers!" Brothers fight but always have limits and ultimately want to reconcile. Another nice moment.

I walked back to the shuk (that's Hebrew for madhouse) area up Yafo Road, so I could meet up with nephew Rafi as he and his camp hiked through towards the old city. I was to transfer a bag of chocolate biscotti (that's Hebrew for brownie) to him. I ran into a group of college kids from campuses which lack a Jewish community. Some guy organizes these trips to help otherwise unconnected students have a chance to be part of the nation of Israel. Another nice moment.

I walked, dodging people and motorized bicycles. That's a thing here. In Jeruslaem, there are so many hills that it is more feasible to get around with a small motor attached to your bicycle. In Tel Aviv, it is so flat that the same conclusion holds. Motorized bicycles everywhere and drivers (from the 12 year old Arab boy to the elderly Chareidi woman) are fearless, zigging and sometimes zagging, and often, not in that order. In a country where people don't jaywalk, it is interesting to see the disregard for safety exhibited by these bikers. Vespas and motorcycles also abound -- easier to park than cars and they make shopping more convenient.

I handed off the biscotti to Rafi, walked through the shuk on a Friday (think Times Square, but with more cumin). Back to Maddie's apartment and then immediately back out to another store to buy a hot water urn and a microwave (she will save the hot plate for another day). Then back to Nomi and David for some pre-shabbos relaxing and calls to family.

By the way, Maddie was confirmed as disqualified for jury duty based on the bank statements I got printed in English (hapless dad and all that) and, according to phone calls, I will be getting the Ikea money credited and the car rental money returned within 10 business days. More updates on that as events warrant.

Then Shabbat (shabbos, sabbath, Saturday...whatever). We had a great dinner with baTASHevA and Zevi and Emmy, plus Micha and his friend Avrumi. Chicken, quinoa with butternut squash, zucchini, potatoes. Yum. Throw in 2 bottles of wine and you have a party. Afterwards David and I played Scrabble and chatted, then sleep. I davened at Kol Rina in a bomb shelter (it is much nicer inside than you'd think). Then lunch back with Nomi and David (and some great garlic/oregano smothered potatoes, plus more chicken and vegetables). I walked Maddie and friend to another friend's house and, to atone for all the potatoes, walked down to the Kotel. Nomi and David took 3 kids to the Hametz house in the old city (where Eli was eating lunch) and I came along. I went past the house as I was asked by a man from Flatbush if I could escort him to the Kotel. He felt safer walking with me. I don't know why, but he did. I didn't, but whatever. I certainly wasn't going to turn down a chance to go to the Kotel.

Then back up to the Hametz house for an afternoon of conversation about education, Judaism, children and security protocols at the airport. Lolly the kelev (that's Hebrew for bear) demanded I rub her belly so I complied because she is, after all, a bear. Then I walked back to Maddie's to play backgammon (that's Hebrew for shesh besh...look it up) and Chamesh Avanim (Hebrew for Kugelach) until I made havdalah.

For dinner we walked to Cinema City to eat at Moses, a hip and thigh Burger bar. We were joined by the Aarons (take a bow, Aarons). They made aliyah 14 years ago (I think) and are finally comfortable being seen in public with me. The drinks were overpriced, Maddie fell asleep at the table and the fried burger was more of a bit of showmanship than a culinary advantage. But I ate it anyway because it was fried. The onion strings were delicious and then the Aarons drove us home. How about a hand for he Aarons [ http://healthcareisrael.com/medical-care-for-gap-year-yeshiva-study-israel-programs/ ].

This morning I have begun to pack. Maddie has to make a couple of phone calls and I have to go buy chocolate. I expect my next entry will be from New Jersey, summing this all up. I anticipate tears and long hugs, but eventually we will have to let go and Maddie will have to accept that the chocolate is not for her.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Everything's (a) fine

For reference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xi8NvSetZc

Thursday...Thursday. First thing was to return the car. Maddie and I drove over to the return place in Romema where there was absolutely no instruction as to what to do once we got there. In Tel Aviv, at a little, local airport, we expected a lack of English. In Jerusalem, we expected English. We found precious little at the rental place. Also, the idea of a line and waiting on it seems foreign to this culture. The guy in the "office" (a makeshift trailer with a sign on the door saying "stay out") said "what do you want" just in Hebrew. Hebrew is a lyrical language in which complex and poetic concepts are reduced to a shrug of the shoulders and the word "Mah?"

After he finished shouting with another customer (Israel is a land in which everyone is always almost angry and almost always angry) we explained that we were returning the car. He had another guy check the car out, telling him that we had had an accident and that there was a dent in the rear of the car. This was not entirely true and by that I mean, this was entirely not true. The other guy took a look, took some pictures, checked some stuff on his computer and said "You are ok. Bye." No paperwork, no nothing. So we left.* We DID ask how to pay the parking ticket I got that morning. I know, I know, why pay a ticket on a rental car? Either because I am hopelessly honest and got the ticket fairly, or because with my luck, I will get pulled off the plane and placed in a Turkish prison which I hear is no delight. I was told that I could pay it in any post office. Makes perfect sense.

We started walking back (we found a shortcut) because Maddie's friend was meeting us back at the apartment. On the way, we passed a post office so I ran in. I wasn't sure what button to push on the machine which spits out the number you wait to be called so when the woman said something to me in an annoyed tone (it sounded like "Parah Aduma" but I doubt she was calling me a red heifer) I played the card that has been so useful recently: the "I'm a happless American tourist" card. I waved the ticket and said "I need to pay this please." This works for when the teller/service provider is a woman because they all then imagine their own hapless husbands and have mercy. So she motioned for me to come up and took the ticket. She was shocked when she looked at it. She asked "You just got this! You want to pay it already?" She didn't know it was a rental car but was shocked that I didn't want to wait until the due date and then 3 weeks more before I paid. I gave her the fine and she smiled, amused at my silly American naivete. I ran out and caught up to Maddie just as she locked the door to her apartment.

We welcomed Maddie's friend and sat and talked for a few minutes. Our plan for the afternoon included meeting Steve who had the cash that his father got changed so that we could open the bank account, and buying all sorts of little things that Maddie still needed. We started off down Ben Yehuda to get some food. Ben Yehuda is a perfect street on which to say "what do you want to eat?" "I dunno...what do you want?" And so on. We ended up at a bagel place. Bagels in Israel are sort of like bagels but not quite and spreads are much more diverse. The friend had cream cheese (esque...) with pesto and something else. Maddie had a LOT of butter and sweet potato. In Hebrew, that's batata. I don't know why, but it is fun to say. Batata. I had a whole wheat "bagel" with cream cheese and tomato slices and cucumber slices. I should have had it toasted (which is really "pannini pressed").

From there we walked a couple of blocks to buy some water and catch a cab. Off to "Cinema City" to meet with Steve and receive an unmarked envelope of cash. Perfectly reasonable. Then we got a Lyft/Gett/Taxi back to the bank to wait like groupies on line for a concert. On Thursdays, the bank opens up again at 4PM, til 6:15. We were advised not to go in the afternoon but we threw caution to the wind and, using Maddie's friend's cachet, we went in and took the number (M111). We were called pretty quickly and worked with Aviva Sharvit (if you are in Bank Leumi, ask for Aviva Sharvit. It won't help but there you go) to open the account. The friend peppered her with questions (do you really need a three hour lunch break? How did your bank win that award? Who was Nisim Behar?) while I played the "hapless American dad" bit and she had the requisite mercy. To open an account, one has to deposit EXACTLY 10,000 shekalim in cash. We tried depositing 13,000 but were told that any transaction over 10,000 would require an additional level of managerial involvement. Any less than 10,000 wouldn't meet the minimum. And you can't have 2 transactions in one day so we couldn't open with 10,000 and then deposit the rest later.

There are fees for everything -- transactions, no transactions, going below the minimum, staying above the minimum holding a debit card, using a credit card, speaking with a teller, breathing the air. Once we signed our lives away (and Maddie settled on a spelling for her Hebrew name) we emerged relatively victorious in that Maddie has a bank account which temporarily had 10,000 shekalim in it. I am sure that because of the fees, she has less now. Also, you have to do the majority of your banking at your home branch. Not your bank, your actual branch. They won't let you open an account at a branch too far from your home address. And changing branches is apparently harder than changing banks.

Then back to go food shopping. We went to Supersol and bought everything. Some things twice. We carried it all back -- in Jerusalem, most everything is walkable if you have anough time and muscles. I had the time and by the middle of the walk, I developed huge pains in my hands as the plastic bags dug into my fingers. But we made it. The evening was spent putting food away, fixing bits around the apartment (I put a lock on Maddie's bedroom door as the lock-set in the door only locks from the OUTSIDE), changing bulbs and putting everything in its place. We ordered pizza and watched the first 45 minutes of Bad Boys before it was bed time. I dealt with a call from work at 11pm and slept.

*This morning I was notified by Julie that the security deposit of $1,000 which was not supposed to be charged if we returned the car was, indeed charged. So that is what I have on tap for this morning, plus maybe a walk to this "Old City" which I keep hearing about.

Good shabbos, all.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

TA then not TA

OK -- I'm just going to write a few short ideas down. I don't have the energy to compose a detailed account of everything, so bear with me.

1. I didn't sleep much so I was a half asleep zombie all day. If more zombies were half asleep, zombie movies wouldn't be as scary.

2. We walked to the central bus station instead of taking a bus there. The central bus station is not like the bus terminals in the US. I mean, both have buses, but there are significant differences beyond that.

3. We took the 480 to Tel Aviv. The highway was nice, the traffic reminded me of home and then I fell asleep. We ended at some bus terminal (not the central bus station) in Tel Aviv and walked around a little. We made our way onto another, local bus (was it the 183? I don't recall) and rode for 2 stops, then walked 10 minutes to the Defense building (on Kaplan street?)Maddie met with some guy and filled out paperwork while I fell asleep on a chair in a hallway. I know, surrounded by soldiers and pictures of famous army type people, I should have been more awed to be in the center of the Israeli defense system, but we half-zombies (or was it half asleep?) need to catch naps when we can.

4. Afterwards, papers safely stowed, we walked around (waiting to hear from Nomi about Ikea). We went to the Sarona market area. There are a series of separate small buildings which house boutiques and restaurants, and an indoor food court/food mall. Very fancy. Almost completely treif. We ended up in a restaurant outside (Biga, I think it was called). Maddie got sweet potato tortellini with chunkss of sweet potato in a sauce.She liked it. She also got a foccacia with dipping sauces. The menu (an iPad) read "Entrees" but it took one to a sub menu called "Starters" and the dishes were as large as main courses.

It was hot so we sat in front of a huge fan.

I got 2 (what I thought were) appetizers -- one a "polenta" (more like creamed corn) with green beans and mushrooms. Fantastic! Also, a sweet potato. (I ordered a carpaccio of vegetables but they didn't have).

While we were there, Nomi texted to report that the Ikea delivery people had not yet secured the order so we just canceled the whole thing. It was more dramatic than that but don't worry about it.

5. Maddie ordered a Gett (like Uber, only not Uber). We waited and then got in to some car. We told the guy to take us to the car rental place "Sixt". He took us to the airport. But not THE airport. There is another airport in Tel Aviv -- a little one where short people fly small planes. Or something like that. We walked around looking for the car rental place (small airport, no signs). A kindly policeman directed us to the appropriate trailer. Inside, the nice gentleman who speaks English explained that he had no cars. This is why we make reservations, children.

We walked in to the next trailer and explained ourselves again. This company (does it really matter which it is? Kal Auto. There, are you happy?) had only big cars (in Israel, this means a sedan as opposed to a subcompact) which was exactly what we needed. We rented one on the spot and drove to Ikea in Rishon Letziyon (Google maps!)

6. Ikea was similar to the American Ikea. We were hoping that they would have a different system for delivery if one orders in the store but when we saw that the delivery office had the name of the company which had failed us already (Dror4U. Do NOT use them. Rent the car.) Maddie insisted that we just hope that the stuff fit into the sedan. So we went shopping. We got most everything we needed, I moved car from the outside lot (really just an open field with cars in it) into the underground loading area, watched a youtube video about how to fold down the rear seats, and loaded up. We got the bed, the mattress, the mirror, the pillows, the dishes and everything else into the car. Next we set up the phone with the address in Jerusalem and started driving back. I tried not to fall asleep. That would have been bad. Nomi and children (kudos Nava) staked out a spot near the apartment (easier said than done)and we moved everything upstairs.

7. Dad's time to shine -- I started assembling Ikea stuff. I like doing that and am pretty good at that. I should have been a lumberjack; I think it is the same idea.

8. Break from Ikea for dinner (burgers, delivered. Nice.)Then more assembling. Back to Nomis and sleep, and I did sleep. And it was good.

Summary -

I'm sure I am missing stuff. I know that there are plenty of emotional notes I have skipped, events and details which have been glossed over and wry comments which I could have made. But the bottom line is that Maddie had a bed with a mattress, sheets, duvet, pillows and such for last night. I rented a car in a foreign land and ate burgers. My daughter signed up for military service. A pretty humdrum day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A letter home

We are leaving for Tel Aviv in a few hours. Attempts at sleep have, once again, failed. Nerves, jet lag and coffee have ensured that 4AM is no longer a lonely time. So my late night thoughts get the better of me.

Earlier today, we visited the Lone Soldier Center in Jerusalem. Maddie is known there as she has been spending time there and meeting people over the last year because she knows that volunteering is what she truly wants. She did ask me not to get involved in the parent groups on Facebook so as not to embarrass her. She wants to join the military but the old man is still embarrassment. Awesome.

So I typed up this letter in the hopes that it captures a little of what I am feeling, and isn’t too embarrassing.

Dear Israel,

Hi and I hope all is well with you. I’m visiting you, filling up on falafel and spirituality, then heading back home. I know it is unusual to send a letter while I am already here, but it is even more unusual to write to a country. But once I cross one line, I might as well cross them all. So hi.

Here’s the thing – I bought 2 round trip tickets, but on the way back, one of the seats will be empty. My daughter now has an apartment and is hoping to volunteer for the IDF. After a year and a half of service she will reevaluate if she wants to come back to the US (where she was planning to go to college).

Israel, I’m lending you my elder daughter and I’d like to chat with you about this, so pull of a coastline and let’s talk, why not?

Maddie loves Israel. I guess that that is natural – we brought her up sending her to Zionistic camps and schools. We told stories of Israel and showed her pictures of all of our trips. We imbued in her a respect for her religion which has, at its core, an urge to return from exile to a land of our forefathers. We sent her on a summer trip, we took her ourselves and we encouraged her to study in Israel after high school. We wanted her to love Israel and she does and that’s great.

She’s a special girl. She is passionate, curious, intelligent and independent – all things we tried to instill in her so, again, this is on us. And did I mention she loves Israel? We are incredibly proud – she is living the dream that flickered in me, briefly, in 1983. She is reaching a potential that is admirable and inspiring, so we’re proud. And, we’re scared.

She wants to join the army. This amazes me. The idea of doing anything really early in the morning other than writing blog posts and lying awake wondering how one can actually FORGET how to sleep has always confounded me. Long hikes and other physical exertion never made any sense no matter the hour. And I don’t look good in green – I’m big enough to admit that. But it isn’t just about some generic army. You are facing a constant and existential threat. I was worried enough when she walked through your cities and took buses while there were clampdowns because of stabbings, but now she is donning the uniform and volunteering to be a target because she truly loves you and wants to do her part to protect you. She is strong (more strong than even she realizes) and she wants to be part of something important. As a family member, as a community member, a student, a Jew, she already was, but for her, doing her part as a member of tzahal will make her feel like she is going to be part of something even greater. And I applaud that. But in a country always on the brink of war, how can a parent not worry?

But, and I know this, most of the young people in Israel serve so my worry is not unique. Every parent thinks his or her child is special, so I am not unique. It would be easy to reassure me in this way and tell me to toughen up and deal with my worry because my kid will be fine. But Israel, I need to tell you, that isn’t very reassuring. I know – you can’t give me anything more, but I need you to know where I stand on this. I am proud and I am frightened. I am amazed and yet I expected nothing else. We knew she had to leave the nest and fly but she is flying very high, very far and very quickly, and when I look at her, I still see a baby.

She’s yours for now. Please protect her so she can protect you.


P.S. Sorry if my thoughts are mixed up. Trying to come to terms with this is difficult, but doing so on 2 hours of sleep is even more so.