41 – Ugly words and Caroline

This is Caroline – What is she thinking?

In the tiny gallery of Nahariya’s Historic Water Tower, I noticed Caroline pondering herself in the mirror. Is she feeling darker than she is? Why? What does the darker-ness mean? Has it been put upon her by someone or generated from within, her own perception?

After my few art classes, I examine renderings of water and mirrors for technique, but it’s the suddenly-revealed-to-me Stories that keep me rooted before a painting. Subtleties pull me in, and I ask the painting questions, pushing deeper. Reflections in water and mirrors make me especially curious, and when pictures are without explanation by the artist, the art is entirely liberated to reveal its own stories. In this instance, it seemed important to name her. What comes to mind as you consider Caroline’s life? What would you have named her?

Art frees my imagination far beyond reading a great novel, because it invites me to create the story. In the process of creating, my heart engages with characters and their moments, their emotions. Admittedly, I love making them be who I want them to be. Is it like playing with dolls?

A hot air balloon, my free flowing imagination wants to fly untethered. But it’s not always been that way. With each decade I find my soul responds to things I didn’t like or even notice in years past.

These days I give myself time to absorb beauty, food, well-phrased words. I even eat more slowly, enjoying the texture and taste of the food and the view from my balcony, when I have one. Quiet, instead of using the time to read or computer surf.

Above was my view of Monfort Lake in the Galilee’s lush hills, until a few days ago. For the next few days I will visit friends from a home base of a tiny, pristine AirBNB rental nestled in the heart of Jerusalem, sans balcony.


Israel is again burying police and citizens because of terror. You may have heard about the terrorists who smuggled, stashed, and then used weapons to murder and terrorize at the Western Wall (aka”Wailing Wall”) and Al-Asqa Mosque complex. The Arab world voiced outrage over the immediate, temporary closing of the site for investigation, as well as installation of metal detectors, obviously warranted.

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0717/lake072117.php3

Against what other nation would international protests be directed for temporarily closing-for-investigation a crime scene and implementation of increased security measures? It is beyond logic. There have been other attacks since then, within and outside of Jerusalem, and more terror just yesterday resulted in slaughter of a family sitting in their home for Shabbat dinner, resulting in 3 civilian deaths and others critically injured. What next? Where?

http://www.debka.com/article/26153/This-is-a-war-for-sovereign-control-of-Temple-Mt

Muslim Arab religious and political leaders continue to promise to terrorists a glorious heavenly reward, plus astounding financial gifts for their families, and streets or monuments likely being honored in their name – all for the killing of Jewish civilians, children, elderly, security workers, as well as whoever else happens to get in the way.


swordswordswordswordswordswordswordswords

At around the age of 9, my long ponytail was cut dramatically into a pixie style. Shortly afterwards, I was sitting in the car waiting for my mother when a pickup pulled up alongside the car and three noisy 20-something boys/men climbed out. They looked around guiltily and then noticed me. While I couldn’t hear the discussion that ensued, I heard well their parting words, wrapping themselves around me as only words can. “It’s just a little boy in the car.” They laughed, piled in the truck, and drove away.

I relived the moment for decades. Both my younger and older selves debated between 2 undesirables:

  1. They knew I was a girl and were ridiculing my haircut. (But how likely was that? Wasn’t I just being self-conscious?)
  2. They thought I really was a boy. (arghhhhhhhhhhhh)

Both options were far worse than the already-regreted haircut that took years to return to “normal.” Far, far worse.

Tacitly accepted for decades, those words shouted louder than affirmations from others or the mirror of hypercritical self-assessment. I was almost 30 before I finally found courage to tell trusted friends what had happened.

All along I feared telling the story would give it reality, but of course keeping it locked within gave it far more power. Need I say how freeing it was to release the mean or unfortunate moment into the trash, where it belongs. Thankfully, my trusted friends didn’t ridicule the power of the words, or the pain they’d caused.

Can you relate? Have you told your story? Stories? Be courageous.


(Arab) bride beauty (the groom didn’t seem to want to be in my photo). Western Galilee’s Monfort Lake is popular with area Jewish, Arab, and Druze communities. It is surrounded by a wide walking/biking/running path approximately 2 kilometers circumference, natural + Zen-garden-like landscaping, and tree-shaded picnic areas. Paddle boats can be rented, and there’s a nearby ice skating rink and a large community swimming pool. Piped-in music varies from new-agey jazz and 60’s hits to popular Israel artists in both Hebrew and Arabic

People-watching kept me going around the lake 3 or more laps: Arab men of all ages gathered around bong pipes (what do they smoke?), family picnics and birthday celebrations, sweethearts and good buddies strolling or sitting in conversation, athletic trainers coaching 10-15 women with boot-camp style exercises and running. The variety was endless.

Israel’s intense summer is upon us, and the humidity from the lake and beautiful greenery is thick, but nothing compares with the hot-humidity of Tel Aviv and the other beach cities.

The family who had rented to me the studio on their property has 5 beautiful daughters under the age of 10. The community is so routinely safe – Muslim and a smaller number of Christian Arabs + Druze + religious and secular Jews living and working side by side – that the older sisters enjoy the lake’s community swimming pool independently!


when words are swords

I’ve spoken many, many words that caused pain, and my regret is deep. I can’t dismiss them to youth or zeal. . . they were entirely my responsibility and horrid. Just a few months ago a friend implied she didn’t know a lot about something and I agreed, too heartily and quickly. Her hurt expression and “OK, then,” told me I’d seriously offended her.

“I’m so sorry,” is so lame, but all I had to offer, over and over, impotently. “I don’t know why I said that.” Trying to put into words what the friendship means and my respect for the person and and and arggggggggghhhhhhhhh.

Much later I realized the source of my words: Her knowledge of all things Israel far surpasses mine, and I was startled to discover that I actually knew more than she did about which of two cities is larger, a tiny thing. My thinking was not that she didn’t know much, but rather that, surprisingly, I knew one thing more. Can you see the difference? I wasn’t putting her down, but rather myself, awkwardly, and unfortunately.

worse than Clueless in Seattle is Clueless Everywhere Anytime…

I know there are many more instances when I’ve damaged someone and remained completely clueless, even to this day. A long term friend recently told me how she felt very disappointed and upset after our previous conversation. Clueless-me frantically tried to remember what I could have possibly said to offend her so deeply, all the while saying over and over “I’m sorry…never meant to…so sorry…obviously was clueless…”

Words cut like knives. Not knowing we’ve done it, sliced someone into pieces is the worst. Don’t you think?

Often I get clobbered by strangers. Questions, observations, not speaking to me or even acknowledging my presence. I’m sensitive but my hurt feelings are mature enough to tell me the stranger, or even friend, was Clueless. Strangers don’t know where the soft sides are. How could they?

Boundaries

Intentional clobbering by friends and acquaintances is the last category. These hurt because my walls are down. Having had many many birthdays, I’ve finally learned the pain is sometimes avoidable. Too often, I ignore my intuition or “feel” for the person in the interest of building a friendship. I let them too far in and then the snake bite hurts. I have myself to blame for not using good judgement, not taking care.

Still, as painful as it is, I’d far rather be a recipient than give unintended word bombs, inflicting wounds, sadness, or uncertainty about how others – friends or strangers – are valued in relationship, or life.

Learning about issues surrounding Jewish history, and history in general, as well as everyday life, I’m stunned with what people take to their graves. Impossible experiences, too often never exposed to light of healing. There is so much we never know about each other, parents, siblings, lifelong friends.


July 26 will be the 1st anniversary of leaving my Jerusalem apartment for structured homelessness, to explore this land and her people. I’ve wrapped up a record breaking 7 weeks in one city, Maalot-Tarshika (in the western Galilee) and 6 of those weeks in one bed! (Week 1 proved to be too noisy to be viable, so for the first time all year, I ended a reservation sooner than initially planned, moving to the quieter one).

The year has been thrilling and peaceful, successful and frustrating, disappointing and fulfilling, lonely and blessed with moments of kind companionship – all the things of life!

Not paying rent (except for where I lay my head day by day) has made traveling now seem smart, so I’ve offered one or both passports in Ireland and China, as well as the U.S, and have 2018 plans for Japan and Vietnam and Alaska and even a few cruises. I’ll soon leave Israel’s desert heat for a week in Switzerland with a friend who’s lived there since before WW2, then the US, and finally a week in Poland.

May your journey today be blessed, whether working your way through today’s to-do list, enjoying family and friends, or changing diapers, and may you know how LOVED you are.

40 – Nahariyah and Grandma

A 30-minute drive from my current digs brings me to the  beach town of Nahariyah. 54,000 Israeli’s currently call Nahariyah home. I’ve discovered those who don’t speak English speak Russian, as the area became a popular landing point for Russian immigration.

Tragic events of 1979 link then with now for this resort, seaside town just 10km (6.2 miles) from Lebanon’s border. Wikipedia‘s version reads like a Patrick Clancy novel, but far worse than a terrific imagination, it Happened.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_Nahariya_attack 

Then. Now. Forever?

I finally dedicated a morning to visit 3 of the 4 landmark/historic places listed online. The first was closed, with a sign telling me that much and more, but the more was beyond my language skills. I drove on to the next: the Lieberman House Museum.

What did I know in advance? Only that it was listed with the others as a site to visit when in the city. Google “What to see in or near (Your City)” and see what you find. Perhaps something for an outing. Let me know!

It seems Nahariyah owes its foundations to a handful of visionaries and many hardworking pioneer families, most formerly middle classes of Europe, beginning new lives far from all they’d known. The visionary founders, experts in their respective fields – agriculture, city planning, finance, land management -endured conflicts not unlike today’s leaders. Disagreements, ego, competition, and whatever else complicated the effort. A lifetime of working with skilled professionals in several different arenas leaves me convinced there are predictably challenges among any group, doing most anything. What’s your experience?

the whole story is here:   http://museum.rutkin.info/en/node/27   

The timing was crucial, as foresighted Jews who were and able to escape Europe in the mid-1930s arrived. Learning agriculture, climate and endless adjustments of an international move, they were the embodiment of centuries of prayer to return to the Land. They received none of the assistance I received in 2014. I can only imagine how very very difficult.

I studied the visionaries faces, read their bios, and imagined them finding commonalties and differences as they collaborated to establish Nahariya. Never a team person as a child, I learned in professional arenas to collaborate, follow the leader, and disregard the irritants that accompany every group effort. Years later I enjoyed teamwork singing with Sweet Adelaines choruses, 70 – 170 women, ages 13 – 85, as well as smaller bands. All had challenges, but were functional because unified by common goals.

What teams are landmarks in your experience?

How were you stretched?

What did you learn?

I read Nahariyah’s story and studied photos, taking in all of the tiny Museum’s first floor in 20 minutes. The first few years of the settlement went well, with great crops and growth, but then the crops struggled the pioneers were forced to explore other options. Some built guest cottages and tiny hotels, earning the settlement a Honeymoon Stay reputation. Others opened shops to train hairdressers, or made clothing, furniture, and other specialty items. Surely they would not have ventured in new directions had their initial agriculture plans succeeded perfectly.

How adaptable are those who succeed! Whether finessed or clumsy, it seems the goal is to maintain vision while adapting, changing methods and strategies whenever warranted.

Fifteen noisy tourists had arrived after me, looked over the first floor displays and climbed the stairs to the second floor, so I waited. Their voices carried through the floor so loudly, I absolutely did not want to be beside them, and later was grateful I’d been patient.

The 2nd floor was at a glance, a disappointment. Nothing of interest. Black and white photos of the 1930s and 40s hung on the walls, and in a corner by the window stood 2 mannequins with women’s regional attire. I took a quick look, shook my head and glanced at the stairs I’d just climbed.

I shrugged, and stood.

Waiting.

A scratched and chipped sculpture of a woman’s head was on a stand in a corner. It called to me, so I approached. Nearly lifesize, and not especially impressive, I looked more closely. My fingers wanted to touch it more than any other sculpture before which I’ve stood.

Confession Alert: I touched it.

Museum behavior like that can get a gal in serious trouble, but they must have not had video surveillance because the authorities were not waiting for me when I eventually descended the stairs.

My fingers traced her eyes, cheekbones, her lips, over and over. Tears filled my eyes.

What’s this about?

I was touching my grandmother’s face. How long has it been, or did I ever touch her face like that. Perhaps when my hands were tiny, the size most grandmothers wouldn’t push away. I don’t remember her ever pushing me away.

Years later, I did caress her face, but it wasn’t clear then that she recognized . . . herself or anyone. My fingers, now on the keyboard, remember and pull my heart back to that non-descript corner’s humble sculpture. I’m stirred by how real she was to me in that moment, and now.

Her love, imperfect as it was, but passionate for me, filled me with memories. Sleeping in her bed with her, pet name for me only, Matzo Ball soup, her cookies (I have her cookie jar, but never has it produced for me any of her cookies). Her eccentricities!

She once shook her finger in the face of a beau who towered above her, warning, “If you hurt her, I’ll kill you.” He nodded and said, “Yes Ma’am.” I wonder these many years later whether she would have killed him, had she know how that went.

Why that sculpture? I don’t think the face was so like hers? Was it a memory I needed refreshed?

I was refreshed.

I’ll return to Nahariyah for the other places yet unseen, as well as continue to walk her beach when the evening’s cool the humid heat, but Nahariyah will forever be sweet to me for the experience of Grandma.


Silly pictures and games with sounds help me begin to learn new words. With repeated use they become what they mean and the association drops. Do you have a story from using similar techniques to learn professional vocabulary or hard to remember names?

  1. Imagine a park or beach scene with colorful kites flying, their colors a kaleidoscope:  קייץ  is pronounced “kites”  and means: summer (easy enough so here’s another)
  2. How do vegetarians feel about meat?   חלבון  sounds like “Hell-bone” and means: protein. It kind of fits, if you think about it.

They say learning is good for your brain, and now your brain has had some exercise. Besides new information here and there, I hope this blog overall  stimulates your heart. Has it?


You cannot even laugh when you want to laugh, and you want to tell me that I’m in prison and you’re free?   Natan Sharansky

Is the name Natan Sharansky familiar? A Russian Jew who agitated against the USSR regime, he was convicted by political court for spying for the CIA, despite U.S. government efforts to prove otherwise. Sharansky spent 9 of a 13 year sentence in USSR prisons (1977 – 1986). Relentless protests and appeals led by his wife, Avital, combined with the changes in USSR’s regime and finally resulted in his eventual release and immigration to Israel.

I took the opportunity to see him interviewed in Jerusalem in May. He told the audience of more than 300 about taunting his captors by telling them jokes about the Communist Regime, and that they wanted to laugh, but didn’t dare. How much freer he was, as a prisoner, than were they.

His quote above rang within, and I scribbled on a scrap from my purse, in the dark. I think a lot about freedom. FreedomS, that is. There are so many kinds I’ve experienced in a lifetime, and yet have often felt bound, nonetheless. Those binds are wrong lessons learned and fears that I no longer want to rule my life. Many have been shed, but it’s an Onion Phenomenon – always another layer.

This link has several good video clips of his interview (simply scroll down a few paragraphs into the article)

http://www.timesofisrael.com/at-toi-event-sharansky-talks-of-freedom-and-how-israel-went-wrong-propping-up-a-dictator/

Recent news about Otto Warmbier’s return and heartbreaking death brings to the forefront that some things remain the same, always. Absolute power. The fragility of our lives. A family’s grief. What can others take from us? Sometimes, we only think they have power, and yet other times they really do, and can take those we most love.


Animals! I prefer people

I came home one evening to find a HUGE roach on my bathroom floor – this guy was easily 2 inches long. It took a lot of “whapping” cuz he moved fast, but I finally got him with the bottle-bottom of toilet cleaner stuff. Then the dogs in the neighborhood barked all night. Big, deep, barks and barks and barks. Then leaving for the morning, I encountered a SNAKE easily 3 feet long and a fatty, too. The last snake I met was on a Colorado hiking trail, an angry rattling rattler and we hikers and bike riders lined up giving him his due respect, AKA “distance!”  After about 10 minutes, he calmed himself and slithered off of our trail. I greeted the snake here with a startled scream and my hostess’s daughter, around 10, came running, then explained something about another snake shorter but still plenty long, having recently been sighted. She said more but that’s all I could sort out of her rapid Hebrew. I walked to my car still shuddering, thinking how fat he was. Shuddering, until it occurred to me, they eat mice. A good thing. He looked like he had eaten many many mice. Finally, most evenings I walk the nearby lake, smelling like the repellant to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Addendum: Several days later my hostess explained Fat Snake was actually some sort of legless lizard. Neither would be a friend of mine, but I hope they keep up good appetites.

Enough already.


Note the Hebrew letters for spelling play, and the don’t-litter sign

“Ready-set-GO”            “One-two-THREE”

Which did you hear as a child?

In Israel, it’s

שלוש-ארבע-ו

(translated) “Three Four And-


>http://www.fandango.com/thezookeeperswife_188135/movieoverview Zookeepers Wife – a must see movie – especially you animal lovers; Holocaust era but no camps or that kind of despair


A Loving Moment in the Sheltered Workshop

The woman from Ethiopia immigrated to Israel with family more than 25 years ago. A grandmother of several, she is blind, welcomes conversation and is quick to say she is grateful to work. Besides 2 languages from her nation of origin plus Hebrew, she speak some English. Most days she strings ceramic shapes with assorted sized beads into simple decorative mobiles. Someone arranges, from left to right, the color sequence and unless one of the handmade shapes was not made correctly and is without a tiny tunnel for the wire, she works independently.

A week after our initial meeting, she recognized my voice as soon as I spoke. “Linda, is that you?” Please don’t ask me if I remember her name.

One recent morning, she worked beside a younger woman, wrapping for store display darling ceramic catch-alls, tiny soap dishes in the days before liquid soap. Downs Syndrome does not interfere with her intense concentration to the task at hand, filtering out a bevvy of distractions that take down most other workers. She never, absolutely never, seems to be told to get back on task, as do so many others. As the expert at our project together, she told me when I’d not met her expectations, but otherwise keeps to herself while working.

At one point the Ethiopian woman coughed, lightly, a suddenly dry throat. A moment passed, and the younger woman with Downs syndrome asked if she was alright, then whether she wanted “something cold.” Without waiting for a reply, she left her own work and returned several minutes later with a glass full of water.

The simple gesture made my day.

What have you seen in the way of kindness that took your breath away?


May you draw closer to those you love, and may they become more sure of your affection for them. I’ll be visiting friends in Colorado and California in August and hope to manage the same.

39 – Day One Day Two and lunch


Greetings from Maalot-Tarshika, in Israel’s north, midway between the Sea of Galilee and Lebanon. My studio apartment for longer than usual (7 weeks), overlooks beautiful Lake Montfort


First and foremost, as Father’s Day approaches in the U.S., check out what Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha, has to say about his famous father’s parenting. http://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/lessons-from-my-father/


Day One

Like many, this particular day began with a wisp of a plan: to buy tickets for 2 performances. Uncertain about best seating from the information on the websites, I opted to check out the venues and purchase tickets on site. A simple 10 minute drive to one and a 30 minute drive to the other. What else would the day bring?

The first, Kibbutz Ga’aton, is known for its well-respected dance company that performs worldwide, each coveted position earned through tough competition.

Contemporary Dance, to be precise. Here’s an example  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_GwuNoQ7cM 

Those of you who know me well won’t be surprised that I love its intensity. “Modern Dance” was the only gym class I liked in high school and I would loved to have had the skill to pursue it.

If the genre is unfamiliar to you, here’s a good explanation. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-modern-dance-1007279 

More dance to watch from Israel:

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-itm-001&hsimp=yhs-001&hspart=itm&p=modern+dance+in+israel#id=3&vid=2c048be91ed193f2ea9903862fd9f0d5&action=click

back to Day One

Searching for the office to purchase a ticket, I happened upon a group of 30 dancers sitting on the floor in a circle of a rehearsal room. After one young man told me how to find the ticket sales office, I did one of my favorite things to do in life: I told them how amazing they are.

Although I have no way of knowing whether these are the same dancers, dancing in this Company means they are the caliber of those I had previously watched, when by chance I first visited Ga’aton. The word “Dance” on the community’s sign had caught my eye, and curiosity led the way.

I explained to the group, “Last September I happened into the back of the large performing hall for what seemed to be a final rehearsal for a performance. What you do is amazing. Your skill. Strength. Focus. Your dancing gives me joy.”

I love making deposits of affirmation like that. Love Love Love it!

I Wish, and watch always for opportunities. Words like that must, of course, be genuine. 110%

Jaws dropped. Eyes opened wide. Who is this strange woman? A few glanced at each other and smiled. Then I asked if they all spoke English, thinking too late about the language issue. They all nodded, and I thought, “Of course, it’s the common language for all international programs.”

Leaving grins and the love of gratitude, I strolled through the shaded park-garden in the center of the community, and purchased my tickets. Paying cash, I asked about a receipt but was instead assured my name would be on the list for admission. Ok, then. Her name was Simon. The concert is Saturday, June 10.

Ga’aton’s Dance Company does so much international touring, it’s rare to catch a local performance and I’m thrilled the timing coincides with  my stay in the region.

On I drove to the second, Kibbutz Eilon, renowned for world caliber violinist training. http://www.keshetei.org.il/abouts_EN.asp  After purchasing the ticket, navigating the exchange in Hebrew, my hunger reminded me to think about lunch.

In the northern hills of Israel, make-do options for food can be found, but always I want the adventure of eating, not just make-do. I took a chance and followed Waze’s navigation (is it used in the U.S.?) to the nearest “food” place. It turned out to be a pizza and beer joint with mini-market groceries. Ugh.

Opting to hold out for great, I chanced throwing the dice a second time and followed GPS to the next closest. Fifteen minutes of winding through hills found me in a teeny-tiny village called Shtula, on the Lebanon border. The best way to describe it is to tell you that the most recent data I could find (from 2014) indicated 265 residents. It doesn’t look like it’s grown.

There was no signage, but Waze said I’d arrived, so I parked and peered into the windows of what appeared to be a community hall. Round tables with white tablecloths were beautifully set in a large dining room that could have seated 200, but no living being.

I tested, then pushed the door open, thinking, “Perhaps preparing for a wedding reception or BarMitzpha party” just as a woman entered the dining room. In jeans, 30-ish, pony-tailed hair, she was busy setting tables, but welcomed me into a small room off of the kitchen in response to my question, “Are you open?” When she paused from scurrying, I explained that I was looking for a vegetarian lunch.

A man about the same age entered, impressive camera in his hand. That’s when I noticed the white light-reflective boards used by photographers on a table. They weren’t really open for business.

The woman suggested something I didn’t understand (there are just so darn many food words to learn!) and then brought out a delicious looking, artfully designed dish of grapeleaves (dolma) and onion-wrapped rice. Delighted with the adventure of the unknown, I asked for a smaller portion and sat where she motioned, feeling like family, sitting just outside the large kitchen rather than in the formal, prepped for photos, dining room.

The photography session continued and my hostess/chief/waitress brought dish after dish from the kitchen. Some photos were of a round table, filled with platters of wonderful looking food, family style, and each dish was also photographed alone. The photographer’s “eye” was good for balance and color. Even the meat dishes looked appealing!

https://www.facebook.com/pg/hemdathagalil/photos/?ref=page_internal

Meanwhile, food began to materialize on my table: a wonderful humus plate, dolmas as promised, raw and pickled veggies, Kurdish pita (a potatochip-crispy, paper-thin bread). My feast ended with generous slices of perfectly sweet cantaloupe and Kurdish tea (cinnamon-y wonderful).

Offering imperfect Hebrew, smiling a lot, and sharing my food, I managed to charm my hostess’s 4 1/2 year old into sitting with me. The tea party atmosphere and novelty of me made my food more appealing than the yogurt cup with which she had been toying.

After the adventure with lunch, I drove through town and found a huge chicken coop. Check out the utube I found for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfINrR_BdFU  I’m confident there are more chickens in Shtula than people!

All in all, Day One was a success story, and I returned to my current home happy to have taken a chance. It doesn’t always work out this well, but it would never happen if I weren’t willing to chance.


Can you relate to someone whose dreams and experience are impossibly far from yours?

I don’t currently have a “home” anywhere. Nor am I searching for a place to live or trying to decide between favorites, but intentionally being untied. Staying in cities or villages a month or more, as though I were living there, gives me a sense of local flavors.

I’m currently beginning re-visits, with lists of “to do” from people who asked whether I visited Pki’in(?), learned the story of the statues, or folk danced where I’d found none. During this stay in Maalot, among many things, I’ll be checking out the nearby villages that are restricted to Christian Arab residents (legally). In one, the owner of a Belgium chocolate + coffee shop explained that his family had lived there forever and that he has 400+ neighbors who are relatives. Imagine!

I’m visiting friends I made in September, and bought a month membership at the gym again, things I particularly enjoyed. What began as a potentially 6 month maximum project is now looking like a 2 year plan, twice around this tiny nation.

Meanwhile, I am taking advantage of not paying rent, and traveling overseas as well. This past year to Ireland, China, Italy (search by country name for previous posts with reflections from those trips) and in the coming year: Switzerland, Poland, Japan, and Vietnam.

I’m learning that this structured “homelessness” is disturbing to many, and it is certainly odd for me. All my life, I’ve wanted every move to be the last, learning a new community, building new friendships, establishing new routines one last time. However, each of my lifetime’s 31 addresses were followed by another.

Moving to Jerusalem in November 2014 was the biggest, and still I searched for a neighborhood, even an apartment, to stay forever. It was not meant to be, and after 1 1/2 years, I cancelled my lease and packed into storage my tiny household, viciously weeding out unessential’s yet again.

Only this time, for the first time, the dream was not to move to the next place forever. Instead, I had a different vision: to become acquainted with the Holy Land’s regions, the people who give each area personality, her culture, music, great coffee, amazing food, historical and archeological sites, and whatever else presented itself. I wanted to know the land well enough that when someone said where they were born, I’d have a sense of that area, their roots, possibly even the specific city.

This quest has entailed a minimalistic lifestyle. For practicality, my wardrobe consists of the same “uniform” most days with variance only when clothes are drying or weather warrants a change. Shoes are cumbersome: running shoes, sandals, and another pair of sneakers for pilates/Zumba at the gym and Israeli folk dancing.

I stay in short-term rentals found through friends of friends or Airbnb or  Booking.com, most with minimal kitchen space and equipment, but enough to assemble serious vegetable salads and morning tea, and sometimes even stir-fry veggies with gluten free pasta – a feast.

Days are varied combinations of studying Hebrew and extracting conversations whenever possible, volunteering, taking classes, going almost anywhere I’m invited, and of course adventures like Day One. However, I’ve learned to schedule carefully because all things being new + communicating in a new  language is exhausting beyond words. I resist falling into routines or allowing too many favorites, lest I leave something undiscovered or explored by too often defaulting into a comfort zone.

Exhausting, but I love it! Forever? Probably not. But for now it’s my Journey and I’m learning and growing and happy.

The all too familiar ache of loneliness would visit if I were still dancing and singing and hiking and who knows what else in Denver, or anywhere else. I find or am found by new friends, and enjoy at least one encounter every day for which I’m grateful.

That I’m not intentionally not anchored bothers some, while others say “I’m impressed / Wonderful / You’ll know the country better than most Israelis.” I agree it’s not normal, but even missing conveniences of a home, this lifestyle is working for me. I’m thriving. I hope these reflections encourage you towards your challenges-for-the-good.

P.S. Another dream is finishing the novel I’ve begun, and that it will, well, Happen.


A Catholic Family’s Courage

SPOILER Alert: this is not a concentration camp story.

Lovely, articulate, and full of gratitude, Rachel Malmed spoke to a small group of American tourists at Israel’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, on Jerusalem’s 50th anniversary of liberation. I would have loved to take her to lunch to hear more specifics of her story, but happily can share with you her story.

The Spielberg Foundation’s documentary   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL9pqOwcHMY

And (translated)pages from Rachel’s diary beginning age 9   Holocaust Diary pdf.

Finally, Leon, Rachel’s brother wrote the story  https://www.amazon.com/We-Survived-At-Last-Speak/dp/1609620267/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1496923285&sr=8-1&keywords=we+survived+at+last+i+speak


It seems that “Kindness” struck a chord in Post 38. One friend told how she and 2 roommates made lists decades ago of character traits they hoped to find in their future husbands, Kindness being agreed upon by all and at the top of one’s list. One roommate seems to have found kindness in her husband of 10+ years, while the other two continue the quest, living full lives in singleness.


This blog, written by my friend Yehuda Lave, has food for thought or a smile for everyone: http://yehudalave.bmetrack.com/c/v?e=B35680&c=8DE03&t=0&l=192A1079&email=%2FAyznM3%2BFTs%2Bn6mNCtRgZxaIw4W6c2hcNyIeD9VsXLU%3D 


Day Two

Day Two was unplanned except for a few things to research and to hit the gym. I googled art classes in the neighbor city, Kfar Vradim, just to double check the areas options before signing up for a Japanese Art class that would begin the following week in Maalot.

What surfaced? A well reviewed cafe/restaurant + sheltered workshop of various arts and craft items for sale. Having stayed in that city before and not learned of the facility, it seemed timely to go for a visit and meal, still hoping there might also be an art studio with classes.

New experiences are upper floors of a building constructed of preceding lessons. Surprised, I find myself more than comfortable –equipped – for some new moments at hand, as though the Present stands on the Past. Is it a function of age that makes this phenomenon more frequent these days?

The building complex was beautifully designed, welcoming, but I checked out the food first. I like to think I’ve mastered the art of strolling past diners without being terribly obnoxious about peering at their food. The cafe seemed worthy of the day’s lunch, and I proceeded to explore the rest of the facility.

Entering an open door, I was greeted by an attractive young man in a bright green T-shirt. His speech and demeanor suggested he was one of the clients, working there, and very capable socially. After my first few sentences in Hebrew, he switched to English, so I asked, “Why?”

Delightfully, he giggled and explained that I had an accent. Really? You think? He had my heart with his charm and verbal skills. Work stopped as several of the 8 other workers sanding wood for what I later learned would be lovely patio chairs, watched the conversation, tennis-match style.

In another room I found 3 seemstresses making skillfully designed and stitched dolls and zippered purse/pouches, and in another young men and women wove strips of fabric into plastic tote-bags, another painting ceramics from molds. There were several rooms with computers with sophisticated nonverbal systems used by physically disabled, non-verbal workers.

Products are sold online, clients receive paychecks based on their days at work, and that the funding is primarily government resources. https://visit.org/israel/maarag/israel-art-workshop-art-in-the-special-needs-community

The lunch, a vegetarian Israel-style Moussaka, was perfect, and I was able to bring half home for the next day. It’s a special treat to revisit a great meal twice and I’ll be looking forward to several other items on the menu for future visits. I spoke at length with the Manager of the program and now volunteer for a few hours twice a week.

Hopefully, living wisely today prepares us for tomorrows. Like flash-backs, my interraction with the clients at Maarag reminded me of experiences dating back decades. The visit was a penthouse on the tall structure of life, beginning while still in undergraduate studies at Cal State University Long Beach, and followed by assorted projects with sheltered work environments during my career. Consequently, it’s a natural and easy environment, although it certainly wasn’t in the  beginning.

Today’s challenges call forth lessons, successes, and failures of the past. Given the uphill climb of learning this language, plus culture, plus each new region, moments of competence are a refreshing aroma that I’m intent upon savoring.

Besides interaction and love, volunteering will be great language practice for me because their language skills are mostly simpler than the “man on the street” and their speech often a bit slower as well. We’ll all do our very best and learn together.

One day everyone gathered for a special musical treat. I hope this brings a smile.

 

38 – Expressions of love

The violinist’s melody danced into the sunset and skipped along the rocks of Tel Aviv’s beach. By chance, happily an audience at the right place and time, we few strangers grinned at one another, grateful for the lovely, but too short, concert.  (try another browser –Chrome, Edge, Firefox, etc- to play videos. Or try your “smart”phone. Let me know if you cannot open the videos. If you’re a techie with suggestions, PLEASE please share them with me)

Here’s his card in case you want to have him at your next event:


Last week Jerusalem celebrated 50 Years of Reunification. Parades, ceremonies, and memorials filled calendars as many flooded into the city from around the world as well as Israel – like a huge 50th birthday party. Although still a frequent site of terrorism, Jerusalem has dramatically been reunited with the entire world. Worshipers of the 3 major monotheistic faiths are at last able, beginning in 1967 until today to enjoy freedom to visit and worship at their holy sites, thanks to it being under Israel’s rule.

The victory came at impossibly high cost to the tiny country whose population then approximated today’s Indiana (around 6.5 million). Proportionately, by deaths + wounded as a percentage of the entire nation, Israel lost twice as many of her population to death or injury between June 5-10, 1967 —

In 6 days, twice the percentage of deaths + wounded than US lost during the 8 year battle in Vietnam.

Six days of fierce battle cost beloved lives and forever broke mothers’ and sweethearts’ hearts . . . and left everyone grieving for more than one.

more specifics on the history: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/background-and-overview-six-day-war

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrRpzzjYu9Y  a string of youtube’s on the 1967 Upset, appealing to different audiences. perhaps a few you’ll appreciate


The Melody Hotel in Tel Aviv caught my eye for more than the name.

can you see him?

I imagine the designer of this bit of flavor on the building’s side is a fun-loving soul who would be interesting to meet.


Modern Turkish music in Jaffa:


Art Classes were the highlight of more than 2 months in Tel Aviv. Competition was stiff, and included: learning folk dance steps, meeting people, really great coffee, wonderful music on the streets and in cafes, running along the beach, terrific vegan/vegetarian food, perfect weather . . .

But the art classes and wonderfully skilled teacher were like fine chocolate. . . Signing-up on a whim, I was immediately intimidated by the skill and experience of classmates, but stepped past my insecurities to learn and be honest with the process. https://www.telavivartstudio.com/

The Figure Drawing Class was part of my sampler strategy: try a variety of mediums, learn a few techniques, and see what might “fit”.

The first few minutes after the model removed her wrap were uncomfortable-newness for me, but with a timer running to get a quick sketch on paper, her body lost its vulnerability and became a collection of shapes and proportions.

from my first figure drawing class (the ghosty background lines are another work on the other side)

The model, a student of jewelry design, maintained poses in the center of the room for increasingly longer times; first standing, then seated on a chair, and finally on the floor. What did she think about, frozen in time, naked, surrounded and studied intensely by 6 students?

As our teacher circulated to offer suggestions, explaining, asking . . . doing the work of great teachers who know their craft, I wondered about the 2 male students. How different was this experience for them? Was sexuality a distraction? Seeing their work afterwards told me they’d been busy sketching, erasing, revising. Perhaps they compartmentalized potential distractions, or bypassed them as I had. I wished I had a friendship with one of them to discuss it, but alas, my efforts at conversation with them fell flat.

I fully intend to pursue Art Studios at upcoming destinations in northern Israel. However, I’ll release my wonderful experience in Tel Aviv rather than set up impossible comparisons or expectation. Each new opportunity must be unique.


Tel Aviv and Jerusalem parks often include exercise equipment. The ergonomic designs seem to work for most bodies, using the individuals’ body weight as “weight”. I see all ages and fitness types on the equipment, some with personal trainers teaching them creative ways to target additional muscle groups.

Sometimes conversations slow the exercise and the hard plastic seating becomes too much like a park bench. . . until a more serious exerciser asks for the equipment. Just like in gyms.

I ran the beach and used the equipment, walking or running a stretch of the coast most days at least once: early morning, sunset, late at night. I can only imagine that as the hot hot, humid summer reveals itself, the runners will be found late late or early early, and that this equipment will be hot to touch in summer’s mid-day, even under the shade.


What did you do when someone you love received dreaded news of death or illness? or was promised lifelong challenges of a diagnosis, medical complications, cancer, traumatic injury?

The comfort we offer to others comes in so many forms, but the end result I want to give and receive is genuine love and affirmation. Months ago I listened to a story about a much-loved grandson, who had received a diagnosis of childhood diabetes. Although recent Star Trek-like developments are making diabetes far more manageable, the boy’s Savta (Hebrew for grandmother) grieved at the thought of anything less for him than a lifetime of perfect health. Who wouldn’t feel that way?

Besides that, the big WHY? comes into play.

Not one to sit in passivity, this devoted grandmother researched to learn all she could about the disease, new developments towards prevention, management and cure. The energy and intensity of her research screamed to me of her love the for boy. Others would not do that research but instead express love and concern in other ways. Some of my Israeli friends express love with food. Great food. I feel the love of some by their interest in my life and what I love. One friend who passed away years ago was a gift giver. It didn’t take long to discover that the way to express love to her was to give her gifts. Any token qualified, it seemed.

Kindnesses are love to a stranger, and happen on the street. Teens slowing to allow for a fragile, slow-moving “gramps” to pass. The man who let me go ahead in the cashier line at the market. Hopefully, my smiling face and “good morning.”

Kindness from friends is sometimes sacrificial. A friend who tried to give me his ticket when I mentioned I wanted to attend Jerusalem’s national celebration this past week. (I refused his ticket, and he scrambled somehow to find me another) A dear friend who spent hours and gas all over Denver to find impossible-to-find ladies handkerchiefs for me, bought almost 20, and then washed and ironed them.

Listing these few and not listing so many many others stirs in me gratitude to God, to those I know and love, and to the strangers. A perspective that I want to become habit.

I love stories of the lengths people go to love another. Does going great length prove love? I used to think so, but no longer. Needy “love” sometimes compels people to pursue, but need is not the same as love, and in the long run the destinations of Love vs Need are far apart. Like taking the wrong flight, landing in Need instead of Love can be a huge disaster.

Job losses, broken marriages, loved ones making choices of self-destruction. . . Sometimes I wonder what’s around the next corner and whether I’ll be woman enough to navigate the decisions, sorrows, disappointments that life guarantees. Whether as recipient of the sorrow, or friend to the sufferer, I hope to somehow be enough for the challenge.

Until then I’ll lean-in ever closer to the One who gives me each breath, do my part to nourish and prune my heart of love, and embrace the fundamentals that make for coping gracefully.

May you grow in patience and kindness and gentleness and hope and love . . .

 Take a few minutes to let me know your thoughts, with an email or comment on this site (for my eyes only)!

37 – Seeing Life at every turn

This past week was Israel’s Memorial Day, and on it’s heels, Independence Day #69.

The strategy makes perfect sense: Solemn ceremonies gather families and friends from all over the nation to honor the deaths of 23,544 men and women, loved ones forever remembered.

Unlike the U.S., where many don’t know anyone who served in the military, nor have they lost anyone through war, everyone here has lost loved ones in uniform.

Independence Day begins the moment Memorial Day ends, like turning on a light, with upbeat ceremonies, songs, shows, fireworks, flags on cars and homes, barbecue, and even more ceremonies.

Below is the earlier, shorter version of fireworks at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, and the second set were grander and longer. If you have trouble running  my videos, try opening the blog on your smart phone, or another browser (Chrome, Edge, Firefox).

If there are other solutions, or you have suggestions how I can make the videos more easily accessible, Please let me know

 


Do you find some people “look” like their dogs? This beautiful young woman and her doggie just might have the same hairdresser. A photo of them from the front seemed a breach of privacy, so tell me: Am I pressing the envelope to include this?

same “Do”

I give smiles away for free if I can catch the eye of faces that appeal to me – old, young, beautiful or not.

Some startle and then give me a smile back. I calculate a 40% return on my investment.


New Friends Old Friends Odd Friends?

How do we grow from who we were to who we are today, and still keep the connection with friends?

Talking about his Independence Day barbecue, a friend mentioned preferring his conversation with the 4-year-old son of good friends over the adult conversations. It sounded like he was growing away from the child’s parents, so I said, “Tell me about your friendships.”

He described changing each decade and appreciating both new friends who know him as he is today as well as those with history, but that sometimes history is not enough. He’d recently met with someone he’d known well 20 years ago. Over coffee, they discovered how both of them had changed, at the same time recognizing the “who they were” within their current versions. It was clear, however, there was no longer a connection.

Today’s dreams being understood by those who knew us back in the day is precious indeed.

Another woman has only friends from her youth. Why?

Is there no need? No time? Or no room for new friends?

Making new friends can be difficult, and is risky, since trust is built or earned, and betrayal is brutal.

I love talking with children and elderly, and so sometimes find it easier to mingle with them than with my age-peers. I’m likely to reach out to people who are alone. Not always, but I sometimes feel expendable in the peer-mingle.

What about you?


A recent home-of-the-week – around 350 sq ft

The sleepy 3am trips-without-tripping from the loft bed to the bathroom were the only downside of this tiny studio


I try to keep my eyes open for moments to embrace. They soften the day. Precious. Funny. Provoking. 

the challenges of translation are found everywhere – even inside the stall

Not a Singles Group, but…

FluenTLV.com hosts a Saturday evening club that feels like what must be like a singles mixer. After paying my 20 shekels (think $5) and receiving a red wristband indicating I’m a native English speaker, (as though they don’t know that from my Hebrew!) I search the restaurant’s huge outdoor bar area for the table with the sign “Advanced Hebrew.”

The 100+ participants will spend several hours in Tel Aviv’s cool evening air initiating and navigating conversation with speakers in their target language. Each table has one or several “Ambassadors” who earn free entrance volunteering half the evening as a coach /conversation helper /question answer-er. Then they swap around so each Ambassador spends the other half of the evening practicing their target language.

I’m certain I’m the oldest of the attendees(sigh), but they talk with me and I benefit from the exercise. I’m amused to see young men sometimes speechless when an exceptionally beautiful young woman is trying to get him to talk. It’s funny, in a sweet way. I confess trying to assess which conversations are “chemistry” and which are merely open and friendly. Surely some loves will bloom as these mostly 20- and 30-somethings meet to stretch their new-language skills over a glass of wine. It’s a better fishing pool than the bar scenes’ “Haven’t we met before?” or “Hey baby.”

I imagine the servers finish their shifts with headaches since the entire area sounds like one big international argument, except everyone is having a good time, so the vibe is happy. The evening is hard work for me and the overwhelming noise level a huge obstacle. Not yet knowing the language well enough, the ambient noise makes it impossible to “fill in” sounds or words lost in swirls of conversations.

P.S. I’m nowhere near “advanced”, but thankfully well past the extreme basics of “My name is/ How are you?/ Where are you from?”


Like Aspens in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, taxi horns in NYC, bikinis on Southern California beaches, Israel’s desert dons Red Anemones in January and February. I sat in this field a long afternoon last winter, filling my eyes with their happy glory, watching children run and sweethearts kiss.  These months later, I appreciate revisiting the moment.

Darom Adom (Red South) Festival. January-February 2017


Emerging

In Rome earlier this year, walking towards David, famously immortalized by Michelangelo, I was introduced to a series of 4 of the great artists’ intentionally “unfinished” works.

The concept is: the person emerges from the stone by the hands of the skilled creator

What are we doing if not slowly being revealed for who we are…what we’re about?

Too slowly, by my estimation, but then life demands to be lived one moment at a time. I was never before the woman I am today, no matter what I wish.

Michelangelo’s Slaves


Have you wondered why hotels don’t crack down on theft? This is the first of its kind I’ve seen. Do you think it’s crass, or reasonable?

Yitzhak Rabin’s life as a husband and father, Army hero, leader, assassinated Prime Minister was a far cry from my own, but still, these words resonate deeply!

“Extraordinary privilege has fallen to my lot. I have done things that I barely dreamed of, or hoped I would do.” Yitzhak Rabin

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.  Ecc 3:1

Last January, I turned off of a 2-lane road in the Arava to explore a site I’d passed many times in Israel’s eastern desert, along Jordan’s border. (see blogs 32, 33, 34)

I found Camels

and miniature horses (compare these little guys to the camel in the background)

and an outdoor cafe with huge pots of homemade veggie and meat dishes.

I noticed a large tent for overnight stays, and thinking I might be interested in staying there sometime in the future, I peeked inside:

 

Communal sleeping on the ground? I lost count after 30 mats. Hmmm  There was a time when I would have loved the adventure of that. Now? Not so much.

I returned from that drive particularly grateful for my mattress, quiet, and facilities.


the translation?

Have a good week

With a smile

with a hug

with happiness

with a dream

that will come true

 

Let this be a conversation – write and tell me what you think, what you’re up to, what you’re dreaming…

36 – Art Classes and Expectations

This morning’s siren wailed, as it does each year, for 2 long minutes.  As all of Israel came to a halt in Remembrance, I sat on a bench, watching the children who are not, whose chance for swings and slides and all the joys of life was brutally stolen 70 years ago.

Holocaust Memorial Day, my 3rd here, began last night at sunset. The Brodt Jewish Cultural Center opened its doors for an evening of testimonials through story and song from families of survivors.

in Hebrew

and Yiddish even

After the siren, a mother pushed a stroller into the park and I breathed again, feeling the swings’ joy


Around town in Tel Aviv

these can be found everywhere – some are just too cute to resist

Israel Army training at the Mediterranean (no these won’t count as your exercise for the day!)

 

A hot hot day: bikini-clad beside Modesty – Tel Aviv shows more skin more often than Jerusalem, and feels more diverse in religious observance and lifestyle. Statistics confirm the greater diversity
High Rise construction and traffic jams – Tel Aviv is a thoroughly modern city

I even found Oldies Jazz one evening:


Art Happens

Was it pride that felt so “itchy” in my first art lesson? The 20-something instructor was gracious and open-hearted, more than capable. Still, the battle within was with the (small) part of me that felt foolish. “OF COURSE you don’t know this stuff. It’s not a biological instinct and you’ve never been taught.”

I quieted my inner-self about being clueless, opting instead for “childlike” by asking (dumb)questions. I was even honest when I didn’t know where to begin or what next. Teachers teach because people need to be taught. Thankfully, or I’d have missed out on many great experiences. Dancing, my career, how to work-out with weights . . .

It’s almost always about the Within

The first 2 classes and a special event Paint Night has released self-assigned homework for pondering and prayer:

  1. I see only a fraction of all there is to see. I’m missing so much beauty.
  2. Am I exploring creativity, or expression?  Where do they overlap?
  3. From where do creativity and expression come?
  4. With what type of people do my heart and mind connect, and why? The art class question of “with which materials do my heart + mind + hand connect?” reframes a lifelong question about why we connect with some and not others.
  5. Instinct plays a huge role in the learning process – whether a new skill or making a friend. I don’t want to miss out by rejecting something too soon. When should I heed instincts to turn another direction, or embrace? Or, will I miss out if I don’t give it more time? When is “I don’t like the feel of this” to be heeded and when is it necessary for growth?
  6. I wonder what my readers think about these things.  Please write and tell me!!!

During my first lesson, a very experienced student implemented several suggestions from the teacher, and after an hour’s work I noted the cluster of trees in her oil painting had taken on markedly improved depth and realism. Cool.

I’m relaxing (mostly) into letting myself create and play with charcoal and pastels and ink and paints with the teacher/coach. Seeking to see what I look at more honestly has found me sitting and studying shadows of leaves and twisty branches, the natural creasing of the back of man’s t-shirt and how the hair he still has curls tightly in countless shades of gray.

It’s easier to resist researching something on my phone or thinking I should get moving and get something done. I am getting something done.  I’m seeing the world around me.

Although I’ve journaled extensively, only twice have I drawn to express myself. In 2007 I brought a sketch to my counselor, a picture of how I felt. I’ll never know whether it was effective for her, but it was for me.

The second time was April 12 – the first art class. Charcoal in hand + permission from myself resulted in putting Loneliness on paper, and even instilled a bit of confidence that I can do more with what my heart sees.

The pottery class visit several months ago (blog #33) gave me what I needed to go to this next step.  May these reflections free you towards your next step, class, or whatever other good and healthy and wise New of your life is pending.


More Sames and Differences: Israel vs U.S.

Vegetables preside: The mid-afternoon meal is later and larger than “lunch,” and the evening meal lighter and also later in the evening. Vegetables hold a far more significant place in each meal – multiple veggie salads and warm veggie dishes adorn the table. Most veggies seem to have more intense flavor. Is it soil or the super-advanced techniques to grow food from Desert?!?

Coffee:  Homes don’t have drip-coffee makers!  Expect instant, or what Israel calls “black coffee”, more like cowboy coffee.  Boiling water is poured into a cup that’s already prepared with a generous teaspoon of specially-ground coffee; milk and sugar are usually stirred-in to preference, and the concoction is left a minute as cake or conversation fill the table. The coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the cup, leaving a richer coffee flavor.  Once I understood I was not obliged to drink the sludge at the bottom, I found the flavor better than instant.


Bedouin Museum

Then and now – violin and guitar of goat skin and horsehair strings
Then and now – model of tent-homes
Needlework of assorted Bedouin Tribal Insignia – wall hanging approx 13′ x 10′

Not what it seemed: Encounter vs Keeper

I wrote about meeting people at cafe’s and exchanging contact information, or being told where they gather – a sort of casual invitation. Nothing came of either. Did I misunderstand? Perhaps.

What now? Am I disappointed in what wasn’t, or delighted with the encounter that was? Finally, I can say I’m genuinely delighted with the moments of encounter. Period.

My quest for relationship is not permitted to steal the gifts of moments I receive. That includes the many fun, albeit brief conversations with servers, cashiers, bus riders, etc.

As multitudes of stars in a night sky make the night more lovely, I’m treasuring each encounter. They’re not all (my) sun, but rather stars flickering at the moment.

I’m letting go.


Kibbutz Negba fighters – statue stands about 12 feet tall

Negba Kibbutz, founded in 1939, played a substantial role in Israel’s War of Independence. Like most, Negba’s Kibbutzniks were socialist idealists. Forced to become soldiers with too few reinforcements or weapons, they desperately defended themselves against Egypt’s well equipped and manned 6,000 troops. The Egyptians attacked Negba in waves of 500 against the Kibbutz’ mere 140 (residents plus reinforcements). Meanwhile throughout Israel, the surrounding Arab nation armies attacked, stretching impossibly thin the fledgling Jewish nation’s resources.

After 3 months of battle, Negba Kibbutz was destroyed-but-victorious.

What?

Victory is incompatible with complete destruction. Isn’t it? Stories like these abound, and challenge me to revamp my expectations regarding success. Negba’s statue above conveys to me the power of Determination and Courage. While not enough on their own, aren’t they crucial to living well?

http://www.zionism-israel.com/dic/Negba.htm   for more of the history

What was the success of Kibbutz Negba? Egypt’s plan to conquer Tel Aviv after marching through the Kibbutz was thwarted. Negba held the Egyptian army long enough. Just long enough to allow an Israeli rag-tag army to be formed and deployed to fight for survival, with miraculous results.

The records I found shows 11 defenders died. Many of that generation immigrated here to escape pre-war persecution, or were post-war survivors with no remaining family. Still, family or not, is it a comfort to loved ones to know that the impossible cost of death brought the safety of so many other lives, even generations ahead?

Strength and determination scream from Negba’s enormous statue. Two men and a woman call to me to be more than I am.


Ilana Goor’s name may be familiar to those of you with art education or exposure beyond my own. Atop a huge cliff with a 3-sided view of the Mediterranean is the Israel home of this eccentric artist/collector, who also resides and works in NYC. My photos couldn’t capture anything worthwhile, so take a few minutes to checkout the museum website and Utube links below.

Eccentric is an understatement. (if the site comes up in Hebrew, click English in the upper left corner)

http://www.ilanagoormuseum.org/Collections/Collections/  On the lower right side of this link find the 2014 video of her interviews in NYC and here. It’s fun meeting the artist in the video… while I’m sure my vote cancels hers in most elections, I respect her talent and appreciate the success she’s enjoyed.

Other pieces are displayed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3lRbUncGW8

 


 

Last but not least, are videos from this past Saturday morning’s Israel Folk Dancing by the sea, and evening Fluent Tel Aviv (FluenTLV.com), a weekly gathering for conversation-experience among language learners (Hebrew!!, English, Spanish, French, Russian, and others).  Though impossibly crowded and noisy, my first visit was a grand success and I look forward to returning.

35 – Italy, cheesecake, and love

 

One morning in Tel Aviv I slowed my steps past an outdoor cafe to get a better look at some men. That is, what they were eating. Cheesecake.

 

NY-style baked cheesecake is a rare find in Israel. Options are usually either a sweet, creamy, unbaked concoction or a too-sweet baked-but-cake-y textured variety. Neither worthy, in my humble opinion.

The men watched me slow my pace, scrutinize the half eaten slice, and enter the tiny shop. I peered at the slices in the case. It was baked and didn’t look like the “cake-y” variety. I take this cheesecake quest seriously.

Exiting the shop, I Good morning‘d  the 3 at the table and asked about the cheesecake. They confirmed that it was worthy of a try so I said I’d return, thanked them and went my way.

An hour and a half later, I found them still there.  It was nice to be seen, and greeted. I ordered coffee with the cheesecake, hoping the effort would be beneficial on 2 counts: cheesecake heaven + conversation and potential friendships.

I’m always hoping to “pick-up” potential friendships and (Hebrew)conversation. When people are friendly enough for brief interaction and SEEM normal (safe), I peek through that partially open door with words and questions.

I hope I’m open and friendly, without being foolhardy or seeming needy. A few of my friends here are people I “picked up” in similar scenarios, a .0?% of all the conversations I’ve had on the streets, shops, and hiking trails. But the tiny minority who are interested in friendship reinforce my effort. If I talk with 50 and come away with one who becomes a resource for places and people in Israel or more Hebrew practice conversations or best of all, a friend to meet for coffee . . . Terrific.

The men left me to myself to savor perfect coffee and 1/2 of the slice, which was not a disappointment.  As always I eavesdropped to pick up whatever snippets of words I could catch. Finally, the one who had first spoken to me initially asked how it was, talked with me a bit, introduced the others, and said they’re there every Friday morning. I’ll return in two weeks when I’m next in town on a Friday and hope they have patience for my level of Hebrew.

I share the story because carefully, sometimes, it’s really OK to talk to strangers. Who doesn’t want more friends?

“Its harder to make new friends as we age.”

That saying has followed me around for a decade of birthdays. I’m a better friend now than when I was younger, and so think it should be easier.  I’m certain that I’m a better person.

a “quiet” mid-afternoon

However, the busy sidewalk cafe’s that fill the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv trigger loneliness within me. I wonder if it’s also a trigger for others.

Groups of friends afternoons and evenings, laughing, every age range and gender mix, sharing great looking food, leaning into each other’s stories, standing to hug as others arrive or leave. . . some are Birthday parties or other obvious celebrations, but mostly friends sharing a meal.

If I decide to eat there because the food looks great, I wrestle with having to chose one item.  If “we” were a group we could order-to-share, which is as Israeli as the Star of David.

Many restaurants serve an array of appetizers/salad-y dishes to groups, with certain orders. I love that variety and taste adventure. Sharing a (typically huge and substantial) salad is accepted practice, but it takes 2 or more to share! I eat half, and bring the rest home for another meal.  It’s fine, but not the same.

What to do about the alone feelings when passing these restaurants?

  1. Accept the situation as it is:  I moved half-way around the world, 8-10 time zones away from my precious, closest friends with shared history.
  2. Appreciate their fun: While resentment is always an option, not a tiny part of me resents what they have. I absolutely hope they are as happy as they appear, savoring each other and their moments. It brings a smile to my face and my loneliness flees when I step out of my own feelings to enjoy their happiness.
  3. I am reminded of my own precious moments of camaraderie.
  4. I can’t help but wonder: What sorrows balance these moments for them? I can only imagine the struggles of their lives, and would not trade my problems for anyone else’s.

Recently, a friend explained that these are relationships from army service or college days.  Israel’s size, culture, typical family and friends’ proximity, and the era of electronic connections make keeping friendships a different experience than the many lost contacts of my school days and (too)many moves. My friend explained that the impenetrable shared history of these connections make my hope to be invited-in to meet their friends pure fantasy.  Of course there must be exceptions to the rule, but not (yet?) in my experience, so understanding this cultural perspective helps.

After drafting the above, I took a walk to get out of the apartment for the first time all day.  As always, I asked God to set me where I belong, if anywhere. I passed many cafes, studied menus, was discouraged by too much cigarette smoke (more on that later) and whatever other intangibles kept me walking.

Having given up, I passed a cafe on a corner with the aroma of freshly-baked pastry and coffee, instead of cigarette smoke. Two women approached the table beside me, pulled over another chair and asked for my extra chair; I offered to move so they could push the tables together for a group. That opened conversation with the mother, about my age.  By the time her husband and adult daughters had settled in, she’d asked for my contact information to talk again.

I LOVE IT when they ask for mine, since 99% of the time I’m initiating. When I left, she reminded me to be sure to call.  Wow!

I walked home sweetly melancholy because her openness and kindness were a special treat, better even than the coffee and warm chocolate croissant.

Chance encounters? Friendly smiles.  Love is a muscle, to be nourished and exercised and stretched.

what do you think?


These days I’m loving Niki Haley. But hoping she has Secret Service security, given her UN position and, her courageous words. But will anyone listen? Will you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv8Hqlubst4&sns=em and the transcript: https://usun.state.gov/remarks/7678


A week in Italy included 3 days in Rome, 3 in Florence, and 2 in Venice.

Michelangelo’s David. What a guy. Florence

A few Predictable and some Surprising highlights:

Predictable:  Vatican art, Madame Butterfly opera in a historic church, getting lost in spaghetti-grid streets that change names every block, more art, concert of familiar Renaissance classics with orchestra + opera in era costumes and wigs, an impossibly awful tour guide, more art, once-in-a-lifetime-perfection cannoli and a pizza slice, 3 tenors in another great-acoustics-church concert, Synagogues and Jewish History, perfect cup of coffee, genuine gelato. . .

 

St. Peters’ Basilica – Vatican

Smoking was everywhere.  Predictable, but still I’m surprised

Italy’s streets were full of smokers, seemingly always up-wind from me on sidewalks and outdoor cafe seating. How can they taste the food? I’m especially surprised to see teens and young adults smoking, given the health campaigns of my own youth plus the cost plus the restrictions on smokers in pubic.

Addictive.  Expensive: health, social, financial. (Smoking is prohibited indoors in Israel but the outdoor seating is usually fair game. As an aside, several months ago I had an appealing conversation with a very interesting Israeli man…until he lit up.

Back to Italy’s Predictable Highlights:– Rome and Florence were great but I enjoyed Venice most because of the water, and rode the ferries for hours.  Water restores me.

Surprises…unpredictables in Italy:

In a perfectly respectable neighborhood, this caught my eye:

condom vending machine

The paintings below were in Florence’s Uffizi gallery – one of several museums that was worth the trip for me.  Their stories caught my attention: The first is one of a set of 4 war scenes painted for someone-important’s bedroom.

War scenes in your bedroom?!?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/18/feng-shui-bedroom_n_6888646.html

And this one is of the artist’s lover, a “fallen” Catholic Nun, and the baby (not the angel) is their “love child”

 

No Wine Appreciation.  That is surprising for some  Sorry. I don’t like wine.

 

Have I led a sheltered life?  I had no idea bodies could be made VISIBLE in coffins, in Churches, for centuries!!

Antoninus Pierozzi 1389-1459 Archbishop of Florence & Patron of Diocese

The lyrical Italian accenta felta likea Ia wasa ona a movie seta the entirea weeka.

I appreciate a wide range of art.  These handsome Italian police were lovely to behold.  There were others, but I’ll subject you to only one photo.

My natural “foreign language” response  is Hebrew.  I could feel High School Spanish from so long ago trying to surface in the midst of its cousin-language, but the Spanish is too deeply buried under these years of Hebrew. Alas.

I was pained to see how much easier Italian would be to learn. The letters afford easy “reading” and so many words on signs were guessable.

“No thank you” = “לא תודה רבה”

It seemed tour-guides and vendors were soliciting everyone, everywhere. I watched them guess at tourists’ language and then offer Spanish, English, French, Russian … but never Hebrew! I admit it was fun seeing them stop in their tracks, and tilt their heads to my “לא תודה רבה”.

However, one waiter asked where I’m from and then spoke Hebrew with me!  He was darling, oh so young and handsome. Throughout the trip, I interrupted strangers speaking Hebrew to introduce myself and enjoyed those conversations, even collecting contact information for future follow up.

have you been to Italy? what did I miss?


ADVISE Regrets: to accept or reject?

Back in the day, a university career counselor advised me against pursuing a double major: Spanish + Speech Pathology. His rationale was that I could not hope to master a 2nd language without living in a Spanish speaking country at least one year. Makes sense.

But, for the 17-year-old I was, the thought of being a foreign exchange student felt overwhelming. Logistically, it could have been an option for me, but I didn’t feel even remotely capable, and so accepted his advice to drop the Spanish goal.

In hindsight, had I pursued the double major, a few years of maturity might have generated the confidence and sense of adventure for an exchange program. Who knows?

That advise I accepted, regretfully.  And I don’t have the heart to even begin to list of the times I rejected advice which later, oh-so-desperately, I wished I’d accepted.

Is it some sort of “Murphy’s Law” to establish a bizarre equilibrium between bad-advise-embraced and good-advise-rejected? Probably not, but seems so.

I remind myself that the outcome of the choices that we do not make can only be imagined.

There’s no way to know what might have been. Speculation, logic, values, history, and whatever else, try as they may, but rarely is there certainty whether we missed better or worse outcomes in the “what if’s?”. Would we have dodged a bullet or bought the winning lottery ticket? Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors (1998) brilliantly demonstrates the phenomenon of not knowing outcomes other than the life we live. 

your thoughts?


Purim in Tel Aviv

Purim is celebration of deliverance (from extermination) of the Jewish population of the Persian Empire in 478 BCE. It honors the courage of Queen Esther. And is a happy costume holiday (see also Jerusalem’s Purim in blog #15)

everyone gets in on the act

Randomly, I stumbled upon this neighborhood children’s event, singing a favorite Purim song

and Hokey-Pokey!!!  (why do some videos distort horizontally and others don’t!?!)

All in all, Tel Aviv’s streets the day before, during, and after Purim are as entertaining as Jerusalem’s.


wanting to be loved

in my friendships, I want to be loved, included, pursued even…

but more than wanting others to love me is my yearning to be a conduit of God’s love

my choices boil down to:

  1. basing my actions on earning someone’s love, respect, or being wanted  OR
  2. opening my life and love to others, and hopes of stimulating them to open their heart toward God, beyond the bad press, stereotypes, abuses, and whatever else stands in the way

the anchoring of my heart into this passion has kept me from turning myself into a pretzel for approval-love

it frees me to be who I am

your thoughts? please take the time to tell me about yourself

34 ~ MUSIC and dogs and museums

“For he who lives more lives than one – – more deaths than one must die.”  Oscar Wilde

Have you considered the versions of YOU over a lifetime?  Did you push against the deaths – transitions into new seasons – leaving fingernail-scrape marks like in a cartoon?

My version of resistance sometimes manifested as decision-impairment. Stuck.  I spent many years under the illusion that if I had done better or made better decisions, I’d have avoided the changes of a lifetime.  Weary of letting go of what was known and venturing into unknown, I’d stagnate at a decision-point.

Thankfully, a few of my “lives” included dreams realized: 

  • Ballroom dancing
  • supporting causes dear to my heart
  • my career as a Speech Pathologist
  • living in Israel

I’m happy with most aspects of the lifetimes’ collage.  Still, I’m painfully aware of how much better to have gained wisdom more wisely.


What do the Jews do to Palestinians?  Cure their deaf children.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4924163,00.html


leashed and unleashed

I began watching relationships of dogs and their people when living in NYC. Devotion. Affection. Patience. Attention. That is, what the dogs receive. I’m told their masters (is that the right word?) receive the same in return.

I wish for all children to have parents with as much patience for exploration as people give their dogs. Rarely do I see a dog yanked away from his curiosity.

A few years ago I hiked with a friend and his wonderful dog, who requires no leash.  He was fun to have on a hike or walk, well-behaved and smart, and didn’t slow down the hiking group.  While he lingered to investigate, he kept an eye on us and stayed within reasonable proximity.

Staying at a friend’s beautiful home in the hills of Har Adar, 30 minutes west of Jerusalem, I took Shadow, their dog, for a walk.  Shadow is also wonderful but absolutely needs a leash.

Leashes compel the dog’s person to Wait! while the dog explores absolutely everything for as long as it takes.

Lingering as we did released a revelation: In a museum, I’m the dog on a leash.  I must stop to read and take in everything, and then linger for my heart to absorb the colors and shapes.  They are aroma to my soul.  I return to sections to reread descriptions or history, to revisit paintings, compare styles. . . it’s crazy-making. And I know from experience it’s no fun to have someone along who is intent upon strolling through a few areas of the museum and then leave.

My conclusions after leash-walking Shadow:

  1. I still don’t want a longterm relationship with a dog; visiting is great, a better fit.
  2. Continue solo as an intense, museum visitor rather than drive my friends away.

Oh, and Shadow did find something special on our walk.  It took all my strength to let him explore without biting or being bit.


5 minutes of digestible history  with  http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/the-video-that-obama-and-the-u-n-want-removed-from-youtube/?omhide=true

 


 

Museums show me souls searching for Creator. Artifacts and posted descriptions share commonalties that bind times and cultures. I find all or most of the following:  creation stories, worship, blood sacrifice, music and dance, fasting, lamp ceremonies, bells and fire in worship, ceremonial clothing, incense.  History screams of man’s quest for meaning, for help with the struggles of survival, and hope for when this life is no longer.

For some, life’s struggle is more focused on physical, cognitive, or emotional issues challenging life’s challenges.

Autism’s spectrum seems to encompass all three areas.  The Artists’ House in Beersheba has a room of amazing art by those living courageously through the blur of autism.   For all we know and don’t know about it, I relate to it most personally in the quest to connect through the haze of disconnection: The times of my life when I strived to connect with someone, but failed for reasons that in some cases still elude me.

Empathy leads me always to gratefulness for my struggles, never coveting someone else’s or thinking they have none because they aren’t evident.

I’m curious about the artists. How I’d love to hear them describe what prompted the choice of subject and medium.  Does their work express something about themselves, their perceptions, or?

I took an art class and a drama class in high school, but both experiences were flat.  I was hiding then because I was afraid to fail.  These days I’m a seasoned expert at failing, so boldly go where no (wo)man has gone before into uncharted (for me) territory.

I’m planning on signing up for an exploratory art class in April.  It’s not that I think there’s some hidden “gift” but rather that even a limited experience might release creativity that hasn’t found its way through writing. If not now, when?

Is there something you’ve wanted to try? or learn? Well, then, take your class, and please write to me about it!  Take a risk.  If not now, when?

EXCEPTIONS: parachuting, climbing Everest, wrestling crocodiles, and such .  It’s better to live to tell the story.  I think.

Commit with me to be Gently Courageous


“If you board the wrong train it’s no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I’ll be taking a break from Israel thanks to off-season rates in Italy.  Traveling via train from Rome to Florence to Venice, so sharing these life’s-train quotes from two people I admire greatly.  

“When the train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off.  You trust the engineer.”  Corrie ten Boom


Personal expression

During my stay in the Arava (eastern Negev – blogs 32 and 33) I visited a retired farmer’s woodshop.  This farmer by trade, his degree in engineering, now pursues his lifelong hobby.  Although we conversed simply in Hebrew, he seems to be a man of few words; his expression is his craft.

The adventure began, as do many, in finding his workshop. Finally, a sweet young soldier called someone to say she’d be a few minutes late, and then helped me understand/translate his directions (in Hebrew) and even accompany me to the site. The kindness of others is like fine chocolate.

I entered a metal, industrial looking building the size of a tennis court. It was filled with industrial shelving, huge slabs of various woods, equipment and tools, and lots of dust.  I can’t name walnut from mahogany, but the slices of assorted woods stacked against one another were like body parts, varied in size, shape, color, and origin.

He led me to the end of the workshop and opened the door to a space filled with his work.  4 levels of shelves lined the room (about 20′ x 15′). In the center were tables, some furniture pieces, and toys/games.  All his handiwork, each piece unique.

I breathed.  The aroma of the wood was . . . rich.  I deliberately oooohed and aaahed aloud, thinking it the best compliment I could offer.  He left me to explore, and explore I did.

With his hands he shouts his love of beauty! Variety of color, size, shape. Bowls, cups, plates, Judaica, candle holders, toys. Like so many children on a playground, each one-of-a-kind, beautiful and full of life.

(the video distorts horizontally, but might be helpful)

Places where line and color shouted texture demanded to be touched.  Smooth as porcelain.  The few with intentional knot-y texture with holes felt somehow like they should: polished and yet still earthy.

I was wishing I had a wedding gift to buy… something… but alas, left only with my heart full.


Elie Wiesel said, “With a Nobel Prize come quite a few lessons. For one, you learn who is a friend and who is not. Contrary to popular wisdom, a friend is not one who shares your suffering, but one who knows how to share your joy.

I count among my closest friends incredible people who have rejoiced at the blessings of my life, regardless of their own struggles.  Their expressions of love is humbling and shakes me to my core.


Music!  (finally)

The universal language, with so many dialects!

I can’t define Blues, but I know it when I hear it.  I found great blues in a pub in an artists collective in the old city of Beersheba, the capital city of the Negev (8th largest city of Israel).  Feel free to tell me how to improve videos recorded in a dark room!

OK, you music critics: whaddya think?

A great aspect for me was that the pub was about the music, not drinking and smoking.  Smokers took care of that outside before the music began, and drinkers weren’t drinkers, but rather listeners, with a beer or glass of wine. Perfect!


unique expression in Tsukim, a tiny community of a few hundred in in the Arava (eastern desert):

She played a variety of instruments, perfect for the desert’s breezy warmth, the surroundings, the crowd’s mood…


The field workers and the university agriculture students of the Arava’s performed their cultural dances at a fair.  Think county fair (food and specialty and craft items to buy) + trade show for farming equipment, seeds, pest control + concert and performances in the big tent. Here are a few of the students’ and workers’ performances from countries of Africa and Asia.


Saturday night Jam Session at the best restaurant in the Arava


A local concert in the Arava. Everyone but me seemed to know all the songs and sang along, until:

Knock-knock-knockin’ on Heaven’s door =  להידפק על דלתות השמים


The following are something-for-everyone-variety from Ramat HaNegev’s Annual Music Festival, including a few you’ll recognize. I was invited to 2 amazing days of touring plus the festival from the gracious leaders of the Ramat HaNegev’s Regional Council.  Israeli-grown music expands far beyond what I found on the streets of Jerusalem.

Even if you have not learned to appreciate opera, this voice is a MUST HEAR for 26 seconds of your life.

(more music coming) Vietnam in Israel

New friends: these young people from Vietnam are studying for their Masters degree in Agriculture at Tel Aviv University.  The extension campus for “AG” students is in the Arava.  I was asked to help them with their English and we became fast friends, mostly discussing cross-cultural living as well as U.S./Vietnam wartimes. I hope to visit them and their culture next year, when they finish their degree and return home.

January 22 was Vietnam’s New Year so I met my students at the Vietnam Embassy (in Tel Aviv) for a once in a lifetime party.  Several hundred students, temporary workers, and immigrants (converts? or by marriage?) filled the small Embassy space.

The table was filled with an astounding variety of pork dishes and a few vegetable options.  For me the highlight was this (PAINFUL) karaoke, which I’m compelled to share with you under a very very broad definition of “music”

And what to do at the end of the Embassy’s party?  Dance!  or is Vietnamese Macarena?


last but not least…Childrens Entertainment.  I’m told that this group is like having the Sesame Street performers come to town.  BIG TIME.  Or for some of us, Sheri Lewis’ and her puppets, or Mr. Rogers or Annette Funicello.

The theater was packed, the kids excited beyond measure. The hour long show was darling (almost too-sweet, but not quite), filled with familiar songs everyone except me knew from childhood past and present.  I was delighted to see as many dads as mom’s there, most seeming to enjoy.

It’s a big deal to bring national celebrities to the Arava’s 3,700 population.  My few weeks of volunteering had earned me sweet, excited greetings from several children, explaining to their parents the new face in a region of few strangers.

Please write me!  post a comment (it’s private to me only) or email. Tell me what you’re doing. I welcome feedback about the blog, of course.

 

33 – Wildlife in the desert and the potter’s wheel

Near the south end of the Arava, Israel’s south-eastern desert, is Hai Bar Wildlife Preserve/National Center for Biblical Wildlife http://www.natureisrael.com/haibar.html   They are re-building the population of native species named in the Bible but “lost” to the land through centuries of drought, unrestricted hunting, and whatever else. It’s a work in progress, because some species struggle to adapt… much like China’s panda’s who don’t survive when released into their natural habitat.

Here are 4 to see, including the cranky one who attacked my car.

As with many birds, males ostriches are colorfully attractive.

 

It seemed my presence aggravated this female ostrich (Job 39:13; Lam 4:3) – she attacked my (rental)car, but fortunately didn’t leave a dent.

There are baby ostriches a-comin’.  She or one of the other gals must have been friendlier at some time; perhaps with the fetching pink, black, and white dude in the first photos.  The huge eggs will take around 45 days to hatch and both papa and mama will take turns sitting to warm them.

 

Below are Addax, a type of antelope, translated assorted ways depending on the Bible translation

 

The next are onager, a type of wild ass, usually translated “donkey” in English Bibles  (many references). They were far away and it’s a bad video, too long, so take a quick look, but I included it for you Bible-knowers who will remember Balaam riding the donkey who sees the angel in their way.  Perhaps these fellows are ancestors of that donkey.

Here’s the Bible story – um, sort of.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPE1gwBLbz4 

Finally, check out these White Oryx’ great back scratchers!  They’re also a type of antelope (Deut 14:5; Is 51:20).  They star in this video with Israel talk radio in the background, just for fun; don’t ask me what they’re talking about!!

A Few More Differences  Israel – U.S.

  • Israeli’s don’t leave a voicemail message, or seem to check theirs. However, they return calls to numbers that have called them, even numbers not recognized, and expect the same.  It’s just the way it’s done.
  • Israeli traffic signals flash green before changing to yellow.  It helps!
  • While U.S. drivers are likely to hurry through the light before it changes to red, most Israeli drivers stop for yellow as though it were red.
  • At the end of the signal, most U.S. drivers seem to be momentarily cautious before entering the intersection after it changes to green, but the red light flashes before changing to green here and Israeli’s enter the intersection the Moment! it changes.  You can count on being HONKed at if you’re not immediately moving to a green light.
  • No right turn on a red light.  Ever! That’s a tough habit to break.

I have graduated to (almost always) being able to put gas in my car without having to ask for assistance. That means navigating the various computer instructions at different stations, entering information required (assorted combinations of my ID#, the car license, how the charge will process on my VISA, etc).  It’s still such a new phenomenon that I can’t resist doing the Snoopy Happy Dance each time I succeed.


a few shots in my farming community neighborhooddoes anyone know why the birds crowd together?  Family groups?  Good buddies?  Or are they like strangers who crowd together in an empty theater?

This farmer obviously wants his Thai workers to enjoy their time off!

sunset

The community’s mailboxes.  There were more at my college dorms and we had an exceptionally low residence-on-campus program for the 20,000 students!


The Hands of the Potter – a nearly missed opportunity

My hostess on the farm mentioned several places to be sure to visit during my stay in this community, so I took phone numbers and names.  Later that afternoon one returned my call and 15 minutes later I was in her ceramics studio/shop.

Her craftsmanship was impressive and she explained (in Hebrew!!!) the why’s and what’s of her collection/items for sale. While I couldn’t pass an exam on the specifics, I was delighted to find I understood reasonable chunks of her narratives! I think.

Better yet, she mentioned teaching a class that evening, so I asked to visit. When I returned for the class an hour later, both students were at the 2 electric “wheels,” one shaping a mug, the other a small bowl. 

The pottery teacher alternated from one to the other, explaining, demonstrating, guiding their hands to model pressure with a tool or a finger inside the vessel. I understood enough of her interaction with her students to realize why her Hebrew had been clearer than most: a teacher at heart gracefully simplifies to the student’s level.

My heart became a collage of learning-memories.

At first I was envious of hands-on teaching. I thought of countless attempts at pie crust and cakes from scratch – failed projects I’d tackled from a recipe alone, without skilled hands to guide mine.  Learning to make my own clothes by trial and many costly errors.

Then my Memories found me, times of being taught for which to be grateful.  A few:

  1. voice lessons detailing how to use my instrument to its capacity
  2. dance partners patiently guiding me to “feel” their lead
  3. my mother teaching me how to make macaroni and cheese for a girl scout badge
  4. a favorite prof teaching teaching-strategies in graduate school
  5. Bev Powers, my counselor, teaching me to this day how to live as who I am

I regret not taking advantage of opportunities for fear-based reasons, like not taking, or fully participating in, classes in high school – art, ceramics, drama, chorus – because I didn’t know how to do something.  DUH! That’s what classes are for.

Not always knowing when to ask for help or bother someone with our troubles is universal, right?!  What do you think?

I realized my own not-trying occurred primarily during my years of childhood and adolescence, but not entirely. While the trip through Europe and Israel alone at 19 (blog 32) cracked open a door to risk… released confidence…and a sense of not wanting to miss opportunities, I see that the fears holding me back as an adult were about earning/keeping (“important”)critical people’s approval.

They certainly knew so much more than I did. If they didn’t see my potential, how foolish would I be to even try? That door has opened more with the years, allowing me to GIVE IT A SHOT.  Sometimes to disappointment, but not every time.

Hindsight is glorious

Back to the potter’s wheel:

The teacher’s hands made it look so simple, easy. The students struggled not because of anything other than inexperience and learning curve.  For one, this was a second lesson, while the other had had several lessons months ago. Can aptitude even be revealed before we give it a good try, with effective instruction and guidance?

The clay resisted the students.  An odd lump refused to yield to pressure. Later, the other student suddenly found herself holding half of a vessel, the clay in her hand having separated itself from what remained, now spinning wildly and threatening to fly of off the wheel.

Failure?  Absolutely NOT.

Learning? Big Time.

The teacher’s words were gentle, her hands knowing when to guide theirs, when to simply rescue, always explaining.

Then I smiled at thought of my high school sweetheart, Tom, who taught me how to write for a class report.  Literally, how to structure sentences.  It was humbling, but that lesson was the best equipping for college I received, proved to be crucial to my career, and developed into a lifelong interest.

Risk-taking-to-learn reveals abilities and NON-abilities.  When in your life might a (better?) teacher have made the difference, or unlocked skills to a higher level?

FAILURE!Learning.

Calling it what it is has taken a lifetime

Back again to the potter’s wheel

The hands at the wheels were covered with clay from the vessels in process.  It was intimate, the potter and her vessel.  Even the most simple bowl or cup required skill, concentration, time and energy, with clay-crusted hands.

The teacher prepared a handful of clay by throwing it on the hard surface again and again, again –  WHAP WHAP WHAPWHAP.  I was the clay: thrown hard to get the “gas” out, being made into something solid, something real.

These days, I have several precious friends who are wrestling with their worth – to God, to friends, in life. Whether simple bowl or more complicated 8-stemmed Menorah, we are in the hands of the Master Potter.  And loved while being remolded.

Much of my life I’ve embraced the concept of being clay in God’s hands (Jeremiah 18).  The 2 hours in the potter’s studio, watching a seasoned craftsman, deepened my understanding of being molded-by-design-for-purpose.

Also, the process of being SMUSHED for remaking.  Still not my idea of a good time.

This greater knowing is peaceful within, because I’ve come to trust the Potter.


Holocaust Memorial Day

was January 27 – remembering liberation from the camps. The recurring theme for me is (No surprise!) COURAGE.

This link includes interesting bios of several survivors, now living in Denver. http://mizelmuseum.org/program/eyewitness-to-history-a-holocaust-survivor-speaks/   They are choosing LIFE rather than destroying their lives with resentment (or denial) of their suffering and loss.


Films with Courage to live ~ Courage to love

Sometimes movies inspire me towards courage. 

Hidden in Silence  Living in the remote desert, 1½ hour drive to a theater rules out my (rare) desire to see a movie.  One evening I searched the internet and found a WW2 movie that I hadn’t seen. It rang within me because of the heroine’s COURAGE, thankfully without battles and war scenes  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIFI_MneBQg&spfreload=1  Let me know if you watch it, what you think.

Defiance is a movie I found at the library years ago…. It’s a true story, intense, and intensely inspirational. Violent.  Based on one family’s leadership of over 2000 Jews hiding about through several years of WW2 in Poland’s forest http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/education/newsletter/28/bielski_brothers.asp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bielski_partisans

You’ve Got Mail  I admit the romantic me responds to the courage in Tom Hanks’ determined, for the good, pursuit of Meg Ryan. It was a gamble more likely to fail than succeed, and I appreciate the character putting his heart on the line.

The Age of Adaline is about a woman whose injury in an accident results in her not aging. At All.  She lives her situation with grace and learns to live with short relationships, since after some number of years, anyone expects their friend or sweetheart to age.  The concept is heroic to me because, well, instead of lamenting that her life isn’t “normal” or even typical, she lives it, adjusting her expectations and pursuits.

Adaptation to new versions of ourselves  – whether chosen or forced upon us – requires choosing life over regret, failure, disillusionment

Braveheart – Great courage inspires me, especially for the good of those who need help.

Bucket List – the surprise precious friendship of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman!


Tamar

One afternoon I explored a nearby archaeological site with a name the Bible readers may connect in the wrong direction: Tamar.  The name of the daughter of King David who was raped by her (half) brother.  euuuuu.However, in this case, Tamar is the name of a way-station, confirmed by archaeologists to date back to King Solomon’s Empire (around 1000BCE), (Gen 14:7; 1 Ki 9:18; Ez 47:19; Ez 48:28) and the Ottoman Empire(1300-1500CE), and of course today’s Israel.  It may even have been a way-station in the days of Abraham.

http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/BiblicalTamar.html#Structure

A 4-room home – what remains of it – stands here.  (the panorama shot makes it appear curved, but it’s squared and straight)Alone, in the barrenness of old stone structures and dry sand, I heard the voices of life.  Building, loving, crying, bearing babies, carrying water from the nearby spring, offering hospitality to travelers.  I wondered about predators then.  From what did mothers protect their young?

I live so comfortably, even when I’m not comfortable.  I’m acutely aware that I have no capacity to even imagine what their lives were like.  And yet, imagine, I do.  Better to imagine than sign up for some sort of bizarre survival excursion to experience living as they did. It’s enough heartbreak for me to know some in today’s world live lives only somewhat more comfortably than did they.  My life, my heart, is full, thankfully, and filled with thanksgiving.  Without experiencing everything possible.

The more I learn the less I know.

my prayer these days?  fill my heart with what You want me full of.  

oh, and please show me what to do with it.

 


 

If you were reading along on this journey in the first year of living here, you might remember the wait through scores of numbers for my turn in Jerusalem’s main post office.  As it turns out, outside of the big city, a visit to the post office and government offices is, well, “small town easy.”  It took 5 minutes to apply for my Israeli passport. No one waiting. Quiet office. It took longer to find a parking space.


The school at which I volunteered in the Central Arava includes all 800+ students, from preschool through high school, and their very own mini-farm – animals and two large greenhouses filled with colorful arrays of veggies.  I spent two or more mornings each week with the kids, as a teacher’s helper in the farm area. The children work together for projects, learn to prepare and sell produce, care for animal families (goats, chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits), go bird watching and other outdoor excursions on and off of school grounds.

They are curious and fun and happy, and they take care of one another. Some were interested in this new face, and then more-so or not-so-much when they realized I couldn’t speak or understand well. Others brought me classmates who spoke English, having immigrated as families from elsewhere.  Some naturally spoke slower, patiently offering correction of my vocabulary or grammar – probably future teachers.  The youngest counted or asked questions in English to show what they knew.  Since they spend most of their day in the traditional classroom, their time at this school farm is a favorite for most, and I enjoyed the “side” of them that I saw.

Some gravitated to the pens with the animals.  I imagine they were working out the rough things-of-life that are softened by holding a fuzzy rabbit. Rubbing the scratchy head of a baby goat as though he were a dog, feeding the fish, catching the baby guinea pigs.  Does it give their souls a break from whatever bothers their hearts?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were more affectionate with one another than American children. Hand-holding, arms around each other, leaning in to see or speak with body contact. Not sexual, but comfortable.  Perhaps a manifestation of small community? the farm school area’s relaxed atmosphere? fewer lessons about the danger of (big city)strangers? other ideas?

A deep hole was needed for a project and some (mostly boys) were eager to use the shovel to help.  I felt their moment of realization that it’s so much harder than it looks, digging into the dirt, lifting the too-full shovel.

Picking vegetables, learning about the roots and weeds, peeling countless cloves of garlic for yummy pesto.  They work as a team, mostly, to prepare the food, and if they’re not selling it at the fair, they’re consuming vast quantities of the just-picked veggies from their farm: munching on raw cabbage, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower. . . without dipping it in anything!!!

Work Dodging:  a few in the older classes usually managed to do no real work, instead flit from one working group to another, always below the radar of distracted teachers. I guess that’s universal!

This city gal had never before pulled a vegetable out of the ground, so I was way out of my element.  The immersion in Hebrew and the loving energy of children, the warmth of the teachers. .  .  I should have paid them for the opportunity and the fun.

32 – Desert at the right time

Desert at the right time  because the weather in my new January-February home in Israel’s desert has January temps of 65′ days and 40′ nights, a far cry from summers’ 103′ days!  More about the Arava and this new region, later.

Like the Grand Canyon…amazing…like Mars…I want to stay to do all these hikes…who knew(this was here)?…breathtaking…no one told me. . .

After map-studying and internet research I visited Timna Park. What I found rendered me muttering aloud “like the Grand Canyon…amazing…like Mars…I want to stay to do all these hikes…who knew?!…breathtaking…no one told me. . .  over and over, all day.

My photos don’t do it justice, but I’m sorry to say that were you to fly here for a full 2-week tour, you’d likely not make it this far. Most don’t.

Copper was first mined here at Timna when Egypt’s Empire was at its strength – probably before 1500BCE.  The above “holes” are natural, due to erosion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timna_Valley

the Mushroom below is also from erosion!The 15,000 acre park is filled with a variety of rock formations of truly salmony-pink sand and rock.

It is laid out so visitors see the main sights by driving from one to the next, in/out of the car to walk short distances to the vista, cave carvings, or whatever.

The dry sand in some areas so deep that I was reminded of the extra effort of each step while walking through Southern California’s far-from-the-water, deep, dry beach sand .  But here at Timna, right beside the deep loose sand is hard stone or a thin layer of dirty-sand scattered with rocks. This desert’s absolute mix of texture and line and color lends drama and beauty.

 

The following 3 photos of the worship site are the only man-made items in these photos from Timna. (Besides the 2 children in one photo and handrails in another)

And here is the view  from above – a good climb, although this is the highest view of it that I could get, about 1/2 way up.

My ascent continued and the following photos are the view from the TOP.

An Israeli around my age concurred with my muttered exclamations of awe and we had a conversation. Although he was born here, this was his first visit(!), bringing his mother on an outing. Besides them, a few families, a few sweethearts, and a mini-tour-bus of well-behaved tourists, I had the park to myself.

Can you see the camel nursing her calf on the ancient etching, below?

or the people standing below, on the left, then someone beside a table. Are his/her arms raised?  What might he/she be doing?

P.S. After spending the day resisting the gorgeous hiking trails’ that beckoned to me, my plan is to return when the weather cools next Autumn for a devoted 4 days of glorious hikes. I’m already looking forward to it.  Fortunately, lodging is available nearby, since I’m way, way, way past camping outdoors.  I’ve paid my dues with all that effort and discomfort.


I’m now staying in the center of the Arava – that means I’ve left the north to learn-live in the south-eastern region.  The Arava is the eastern region of Israel’s desert, bordered by Jordan and extending south of the Dead Sea all the way to Eilat, a beach city at the southern tip. The above described excursion to Timna Park was 1 1/2 hour desert drive south, nearly to Eilat.

All places within 2 1/2 hours of this current home are a desert drive.  Pay attention to the gas level, bring water and food. Hydrate, but not too much unless you’re nearing facilities!

A simple map:  http://www.aicat-arava.com/86748.html  This is website of the University in which I’m volunteering with North Vietnam students.  13 nations come here to learn Israeli agriculture techniques!

website about the region https://www.facebook.com/centralarava     Also, the videos at the bottom of this website are a fun view of the what I’m seeing every day (albeit the singing by students from the Agriculture University program in which I’m tutoring is not for the musically inclined)

More about the University’s students that you might find of interest: http://www.thetower.org/3358-thousands-of-african-asian-students-study-agriculture-at-israeli-institute/  and more at http://www.jnf.org/byachad/winter-2015-byachad-articles/spotlight-aicat_p5.pdf

And here are more maps, in case you’re struggling to envision Israel in relation to our neighboring countries:  https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=arava+israel+map+today&fr=sgm&hspart=SGMedia&hsimp=yhs-sgm_fb&imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fisraelproject.kolemeth.org%2Fimg%2Fmap.png#id=22&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.elciudadano.cl%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2012%2F01%2Fisrael.jpg&action=click

 

 

This move means I’ve traded Lebanon and Syria as neighbors for Jordan.  There is no fence on Israel’s 307 km (191 miles) eastern border with Jordan.  I’m told the IDF has it under control, which means the security process is in place but not made public, as is appropriate.  Also, the Jordanians have benefited from keeping the border peaceful since 1994’s agreement; nowadays they are also motivated to keep our shared border (as well as all of Jordan) free of ISIS and their lot. 

However, the residents of the Arava talk of “when” not “if” conflict arises from Jordan’s border.  It is doubtful that Jordan has the strength to resist ISIS, plus 70% of Jordan’s population consider themselves refugees – Palestinians – (although now 3 or more generations removed from the actual refugees) and are easily manipulated by the “push the Jews back into the ocean” dogma of Palestinian leaders and as preached in many mosques.  In addition to that, Jordan’s king does not have the support of the people that his father enjoyed.  It seems only a matter of time.

The road east, towards Jordan’s mountains

Driving to explore, I’ve seen landmines-warning signs around fields (remember the landmines in the Golan?).  I rest peacefully, knowing the IDF has set in place whatever other defense measures are warranted, without posted signs or fences.

If there isn’t enough danger from landmines or terrorism or war, this region is challenged with flash floods.  Earthquakes (California) and blizzards (Colorado) are the limit of my dangerous natural phenomenon experience. I’ve learned that don’t need to experience something to want to stay clear of it:  films of floods have left me with respect enough for their strength.


Wikipedia translates the Arava as “dry and desolate” although I’ve not heard those words from the residents.  They love their lives here in Arava’s central area, where around 3,700 residents live and work in 7 (mostly farming) communities.  These pioneer-spirited folks appreciate what they have:

  • One supermarket,
  • 3 gas stations,
  • 1 school for all 800 students,
  • 6 restaurants that are open 2 or more days each week… most of the time,
  • A Mobile phone/computer shop,
  • A Medical clinic,
  • Assorted artists and entrepreneurs (soaps, candles, massage, etc),
  • Tourism specialties (lodging that ranges from Bedouin-like tents to pricey-romantic get-aways)

What to do on day off?  Family outings for hiking or support local entrepreneurs:  jeep rides, crocodile farm, bird watching, guided treks….

A visit to the hospital, buying clothing , vitamins, large appliances, furniture and most everything else means a drive of 1 ½ hours to Beer Sheva or Eilat.

Many of the area farmers employ short-term or long-term laborers from poorer countries (Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, India,…) and so have built simple housing for them on the farm property.  Some have also built guest-housing for vacationers to rent for weekends or special events in the area.  My guess is that the nearest hotel is 1 1/2 hour drive elsewhere.  I’m renting a perfect little studio apt on farm property.  This weekend the 3 other guest houses on our property are full as well, as there was a big bicycle race in one of our communities.

Whoa! this is my backyard? what happened?!  I’m a city-girl!!!

I spent my childhood in San Francisco!  And then many years in the hustle, bustle of Southern California and the 2 largest cities in Colorado, and 5 years in NYC. My reservation for 6 weeks on a farm in this tiny community would be a first!

Turning from the highway towards my next home, my first thought was “oh no.” It looked too barren!!!

The gated entry is not like prestigious like “The Gates” of high-end property. Instead, these gates surround most small Jewish communities throughout the nation. Schedules vary, based on terror risk, but most are closed every night, and the communities’ emergency plans include them closing against terrorists.  So the gate didn’t bother me at all, and I was encouraged to see a few trees.

and then delighted with the oasis-feel!  It’s lovely, and an I’ve since discovered each of these communities of the Arava to be oases.

Walking my neighborhood these days, multiple senses are startled by horses and goats and chickens in neighbor’s yards, laborers driving noisy farm equipment, huge packing houses on most everyone’s property filled with produce from today’s harvest, and greenhouses on fields in every direction from the community filled with …GREEN.

Here are a few sights around town:

My hosts, an open-hearted couple, met almost 40 years ago as young adults on a kibbutz, when he immigrated from Zimbabwe. Note the well-worn stuffed character adorning the front of my ever-cheerful host’s tractor

Every few days I find just-picked tomatoes, red peppers, onions and/or eggplants at my door.  Fresh is wonderful! The only thing better would be if they prepared the meal for me as well, or raised chocolate.

As with my last “home”, in the Druze Village, there are no addresses here, although homes here are numbered.  Not street names, but numbers at least help to ask for directions.   A woman I met was one of the first families here 40something years ago.  She is still living in the same home, albiet modified over the decades.

In those days it was a Mosh-butz.  Kibbutz communal organizational strategies were used to begin the community, with intention of it growing into an independent, entrepreneurial community, which it has done.  Somewhat like an HOA (Home Owners Association), the Moshav committees maintain shared areas/facilities and addresses shared concerns that arise.

Did you know that the pioneering-Israel Kibbutz of the first 1/2 of the 20th-Century fully embraced socialist values and structure? However, in the past 20 years most have undergone re-organization for privatized ownership  and hence are called a “Moshav” (small community/town) instead.  I believe the Kibbutz model of communal care for the children and shared facilities was the only way to begin efficiently from scratch.  There still remain a small number of true Kibbutz as well, whose members are devoted participants to the communal idealism of the original model – except children now live with their parents rather than in Children’s Houses.

More about how a Kibbutz functions: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Society_&_Culture/kibbutz.html

Some other Israel desert “words” you’ve probably heard:    

Negev – is the southern ½ of Israel – desert – of which the Arava is the eastern region,   

Sinai, is south of Israel – desert in Egypt – that Israel won when attacked in 1967, and then gave back to Egypt in keeping with the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. 

 

 


I’ve learned the desert takes shape in countless ways.  Some places like Utah, others Las Vegas, and still others a movie set for the Sahara Desert.

Driving my Kia Picanto here feels like driving a toy car in a sandbox.  I see the Mountains-Hills-Rocks surrounding me as though the sand was poured and scooped and patted to create unique shapes as far as the eye can see.  My perspective is that of a toy soldier in a sandbox. Except I KNOW that the hills I drive between are solid, even though some appear to be poured sand with a peak that could blow away.

This past Saturday I sat atop a mountain,

or hill,

or hill-rock covered with sand and dirt and more rocks. . . Mountain feels too “Colorado”; Hill too inconsequential and soft, Rock is too small. What should I call these?

Whether mountain-hill-rock-sand, I sat on it for a very long time and it was very hard.  Its beauty, quiet, its big-ness, the peace was the best “Sabbath” for my soul. Prayer for me is conversation with God, rather than read or recited prayers of others.  We talked about issues inside and out, and I left the mountain-hill-rock-sand with Perspective and Peace accompanying me on the descent and return “home.”  As always, I thought about you –  and so wish I could give you what I received – soul-to-soul.


Throughout my stay in the Arava, several times each week, I’m helping Israeli children with their English, plus a group of North Vietnamese Master’s Degree university students use English in their classroom.  Logically, English is the universal language for education of multinationals and I was asked to help the Vietnamese students. Exceptional with reading/writing, they seemed less confident verbally.

I’ve discovered they are up against a huge cultural issue: “Good students” in Vietnam do not ask questions or offer ideas, and there is no class discussion.  Consequently, they are not only challenged with the pronunciation and vocabulary and grammar issues of communicating regarding course content with the professor, but even more significantly, out of respect and conformity, they have spent their lives as students not speaking in class.

We’ve discussed culture at length, and adaptation to learning/living among others with very different ways of doing things.  I’ve challenged them to adopt the mantle that they have earned – to intentionally shift from being “Vietnamese children in school” into “International Graduate Students (with a voice).”  As they are freed-up in the classroom, we’ll use our time together to improve their pronunciation.

I thought there would be a downside, that these English tutoring gigs would not be Hebrew-learning opportunities for me.  But I’m surrounded by Hebrew at the children’s school.  I even understand the teachers and children better than last year’s classroom gig.  Hallelujah!  More about the kids in the next blog.

The 7 Vietnamese students are so loving and warm that our sessions feel like friendship.  Also, their group is a simple, short-lived revisiting of my professional skills.  Given the many times each day that I make mistakes with Hebrew – although I know better, my heart still defines those mistakes as “failure” –  I’ve really enjoyed being in a “zone” in which I feel competent, even if only for these weeks.

Otherwise, as during my stays elsewhere, I spend time visiting places and hoping to make friends.


LOST

I was warned that not everyone is “made” for this desert. The colors and serenity, and the quiet, as far as the eye can see.  Stark. Troubling? Depressing?

I’m sure not all readers will understand, but I’ll take a risk and share it anyway: By the end of my first week here, I was troubled.  The only word for how I felt was Lost, and it took a couple of days to sort out why.  I was feeling the desert, and “LOST” is my heart’s response to it, this desert.  I’m not lost, but the desert resonates within me as that.

This is absolutely the time to be here! Days are around 68’ and nights 44’.  August averages are 103’ day and 80’ night.  Ughhhhhhhhhhhh  My friend who lives here concurs it’s just too hot, but not too hot to drive her and her farmer-husband and 3 year old to leave this land they love.  They’re raising their family in this community, plus being a part of building this community’s resources for future generations.


1974

My darling dancing buddy and friend, Richard, asked about my first trip to Israel.  The photos impossibly faded, negatives long ago lost in countless moves, I’ll do my best to paint the pictures with words.

In the spring of 1974, I called my father to tell him that I’d decided upon a major I thought would be a good fit (Speech and Language Therapy), that it required graduate degree, and then took a huge leap to add that I’d decided what I wanted for college graduation, years away: a trip to Israel!  I’d been studying the Bible for several years and yearned to visit – where it all happened.  It was a far-reaching impulse, a dream, to so boldly ask for a generous college graduation gift I was certain he’d never consider.

However, he called me weeks later and said to put together a plan with costs for a summer visit to Israel.  “You betcha!” I got right on it and sure enough, found myself trekking Europe enroute to Israel that June.

I shudder now to think of how unprepared I was, doing it alone at 19… for almost 2 months. Really all I had were flight reservations and a pre-purchased Eurail-pass for 90 days.  I met a woman on the plane to Copenhagen who showed me where to begin – getting around, find a room to rent in a home, etc.   Three days in Copenhagen was my first experience adjusting to language/culture challenges of transportation, food, tourism, etc.  I took the train south, sleeping on the dreadful, upright seat through Switzerland, chewing on bits of bread and cheese.

As the train made it’s trek south through Italy, I talked at length with an “older” man – he must have been 40!! – from San Marino, a tiny country within Italy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Marino  Horrified that I was seeing none of his region except what daylight allowed through train windows, he persuaded me to leave the train with him for the afternoon.

I went! 

I know. I know!! Who does that?? And lives to tell the story?

He was the perfect gentleman, honorable and kind and charming.  Without agenda!

He took me to a lovely restaurant for one of the best meals of my summer. I remember tasting mineral water for the first time, at his urging, but my youthful palate thought it a poor substitute for sugary or artificially sweetened soda; now I love it!

He took me to the beach, sand hardly visible under large umbrellas filling the expanse like a silly puzzle.  I thought, “how absurd” to use umbrellas, since the point of the beach was to get as brown as possible.  Now I invest in and use quality sunblock products, wide-brimmed hats and scarves, and have wished many times to be sheltered under a massive umbrella like those that day, so long ago.

I wish, oh how I wish, I could tell you his name, but alas, it’s gone.  I’ll always remember his face.  After the most amazing afternoon, he took me back to the train station. I can’t recall whether we even exchanged contact information.  He was a gift to me on my journey, as have been so many others.

The next overnight was transit in another uncomfortable seat on the ferry from Brindisi, Italy to Greece, followed by a few nights on an awful upper bunk in Athens’ noisy, co-ed hostel, and then a late night flight to Tel Aviv.  It was a student flight and there were more of us than seats on the plane.  I remember sitting on the floor of the aisle of the plane with a number of others, certain this would not be allowed in the U.S.

The first few days in Israel I stayed with 2nd cousins in Tel Aviv and Haifa, although in those days I was really not at all clear how we were related.  They seemed so far away, their family here since before Israel was a nation, I didn’t put together that our grandfathers were brothers until years later.  I guess the language, culture, and national differences in a family that was already confusing to me, besides being fragmented, rendered me incapable of sorting out the family tree.  They graciously hosted me several nights, did a much needed load of laundry, introduced me to humus – which years later became an acquired taste and favorite – and off I went to explore the land.

A hostel in the Old City of Jerusalem became my home there many weeks, and I found a 10-day student tour to visit north and south regions that were impossible to access alone. The previous autumn, Israel had been invaded by Egyptian and Syrian forces on Yom Kippur – the holiest day of all – and miraculously conquered the Golan Heights from Syria, and nearly Damascus as well. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3621090,00.html

Our tour bus passed countless tanks in the hilly battlegrounds of the Golan, still “parked” from the war 9 months ago.  In days long before iphones, we marveled at elaborate TV antennas on Bedouin tents in the south, in the Sinai Desert.  As is mandatory on all Israel tours, we floated and then shmeared our bodies with mud from the Dead Sea, the area far more rustic then, and the Sea much larger in mass than it is today.  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/israel-dead-sea-shrinking-hundreds-sinkholes-are-opening-its-shores-photos-1513207

My heart was alive here in ways I’d never known, especially so in Jerusalem. Seeing the places about which I’d read, learning more of the history and archaeology was a dream come true.  The city of Jericho, caves in which David hid from jealous Saul, the Mount of Olives . . .

I yearned to stay, but that seemed a fantasy.  One day noticed a clerk about my age working in a local market, and realized I couldn’t even get a job because I didn’t speak the language, that I stood no chance surviving here.  I see now that I had absolutely no confidence to even consider studying the language, much less the international move.

Vision for a career path that felt like a good fit, for which I must have –  amazingly! – had  the confidence (“faith”), offered a more viable future. Looking today at the girl I was vs the woman I became, I see I had much to learn through career and life to be able to do what I do these days.

While the successes are more fun, I’ve learned far more from the failures and disappointments.

The trip wrapped with returning through Athens, and then more trains into Spain.  My destination was a small village where some other cousin-y person was somehow the queen of the summer’s fiesta.  I never did sort out how there was “family” in Spain. I’m painfully aware how disconnected I was in youth, so unable to ask for clarification of important things, feeling shame for not knowing so many things magically . . .

The train brought me to Barcelona just before midnight.  I’d been sitting beside a Catholic nun, and using my High School Spanish to ask without asking (why not ask?!) whether they had room for me to stay overnight at her convent.  She didn’t understand or didn’t want to… so I exited the train at midnight with no bed for the night.  The station’s resource desks were closed.

A man appeared, inviting those of us who had lingered in the station to follow him because he knew of hotels with rooms available.  Winding through dark streets of Barcelona, I did what I still do when talking with others: not pay attention to the direction and completely lose my way. The hotel in question had no rooms and the group dispersed.  Alone I stood on the empty street.  The dark, empty street somewhere in Barcelona, Spain after midnight.

I began walking towards what I thought was retracing steps and quickly realized I had no clue.  High school Spanish gave me some ability, but there was no one to ask and even then I knew enough to hesitate to reveal that I was lost and alone.  Praying “though I walk through the valley of death You are with me and You guide me and …” I found myself at the train station.  Locked.  And Dark. Several others and myself “slept” (somewhat) on the steps of the Barcelona train station that night.

The next morning I found my way to the looooooooooong un-airconditioned bus ride through August’s hot oh-so-hot country terrain of Spain to the tiny village for the festival.  I stayed in the home of an old woman who I think was a relative of the relative… it’s still a blur and I don’t know who I could ask now.  The large, old home had an outdoor toilet.  She had no refrigerator, but walked every day to the village’s shops for fresh milk, produce and meat. The paella was amazing!

From seedling to tree

Writing this forces upon me the girl of then.  And the journey to the woman of now.  Unrecognizable, and yet so familiar.

During that trip I discovered museums in Athens and Israel surprisingly appealing:  clay pots for storage, pouring vessels, jewelry, tools, and weapons of ancient civilizations.  Museums, years later in England, New York, Austria, Germany, Kansas City had the same allure . . .

I came to understand they anchored me in a way.  Immersing myself in a people long passed, likely working much harder towards physical survival that I’ve ever imagined, settled an unsettledness within.  Their lives put a perspective on my struggles that complimented my practice of thankfulness to God for my blessings as well as the disappointments.

It’s not the same now.  I’m in a different space and those areas of a museum don’t pull like a magnet.  In hindsight, I see that my soul resonated there.  I needed to rest my life with theirs as part of a vast continuum – same though different.  It helped me feel less alone.  I don’t know how to define it any better, but please write to tell me how this resonates with you.

If it’s not apparent, one of the many reasons I write is with the hope to stir your heart, and your curiosity. I love hearing what you’re thinking on these or other matters that come to mind.