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