26 – Ireland and ice skating and obituaries

26 ~ Ireland and ice skating and obituaries

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Even with the air conditioning, the brutal HEAT of last year’s Jerusalem summer compelled me to consider August options. A friend’s enthusiasm about a recent tour led me to 10 days of brilliant, life-giving Green, cool misty rains, being surrounded by water, and the simplicity of English as everyday language. www.RoadScholar.org brought me into a group of 18 seasoned, interesting travelers from the U.S. this past August.  We tramped on/off the bus and stayed in 3 different 4 star hotels from West to East, Shannon to Dublin, across the center of the Green Island.img_0740Visually and emotionally, I was most moved by the Cliffs of Moher.  I’m not typically bothered by heights – I’ve para-sailed, stood near or walked trails on substantial cliffs, flown loopy-loops in a small plane over the Grand Canyon, and loved amusement park big-time roller coasters until the jostling started bothering my neck … The Cliffs of Moher, well, that was the closest I’ve known to acrophobia, but then is fear an irrational response if standing on the 40th floor of a building without protective fence or barrier.

I sat on the ground and slowly scooted forward to peek over the edge, pushing down FEAR.  Than I was suspiciously at the people nearby, lest the tormenting girls gang from Jr High (AKA: Middle School) reappear and push me off.  Where did that come from!?!  When did I last think of them?  FEAR, obviously, connected to something real in the past.

So I did what I know to do.  I talked to God about it.  “This is scary.  This is high, and that a fall would be, well, bad.  But I generally don’t fall down, so why am I so afraid?  Terrified!  A fall would feel helpless, like I did with those girls decades ago, but REALLY!?  Why now?”

I sat and watched the ocean beat against the cliffs’ majesty, personally diminished in a good way by the strength of nature.  What a joy to be alive, to feel the wind pushing mightily to keep me on the cliff, to have sunshine and no rain on this day, to be here, to be small and insignificant in this scheme and yet very much OK, loved, at peace.


The dairy farm and stud farm were nearly other-worldly to this city girl.  Our group listened to the experts describe their work, their animals, rhythms of the seasons, and how for some the expertise passed through generations.

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Having successfully navigated around the cow-pies, we stood in warm sunshine with moisture escaping the thick grass below our feet, learning about dairy farming from the handsome 47-year-old son/grandson of dairy farmers. Amidst a flurry of questions, someone asked about favorites and Tom quickly said that while cows are not named like pets, they’re “known” by their number, and his favorite was 607.  “Why?” I asked.  With a tender voice, he explained that she eats and drinks just the right amounts, is healthy and gets impregnated and births calves without complications, gets along with the others. . . is “low maintenance.”

I like the concept of being “low maintenance” (always amused to recall the conversation between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally) but for many years I worked to earn approval and love by not requiring much or making demands, since my requests were not productive.   I still try to be “low maintenance” in certain situations.  Flexible.  Especially as a guest in someone’s home, considering which restaurant to meet at or when, what might be interesting to everyone… BUT at this point of life, I’m much more direct when it matters to me.  And perhaps Billy Crystal’s character would have said that I only think that I’m low maintenance as well.

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At the stud farm, the guide gave the sordid details of mating-for-money racehorse breeding.  No, there was no live demonstration, but she said it’s over in a minute or so, so I suppose it wouldn’t be all that interesting.  Below is the “honeymoon suite”; note the observation windows!  When folks pay many thousands of dollars, (whether pregnancy results or not) they want to see the happening

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My eyes were greedy for more of the up-close in-color video of the birth of a colt including the well-baby-checks during the first few weeks following.  As always, I hung on to the success and disappointment stories of lives, even horses’ lives.  Great name: Invincible Spirit, and is he ever treated like a king.   I wasn’t aware that sterilization is used to modify the aggressiveness of some horses assigned to certain roles . . . makes sense, but this beautiful horse, Invincible Spirit, will not be subjected to that.  He is no longer racing, but presumably having a grand time and earning great money, studding.

We spent an afternoon in Dingle, a beach town worthy of more time than we had, to take a boat ride and enjoy local cuisine.  Dublin was big-city-great for shopping and assorted tourist visits.  The Celtic history and treasures were new to me, and I appreciated their love for their land, sacred documents, faith history, preservation efforts for the ancient language… sound familiar?

 

Next blog will include the Jewish Museum of Ireland.  Who knew??


Questions readers have asked re Jerusalem and/or Israel as a whole:

  1. Where are most of the tourists from? What languages are spoken? Because this is a land of immigrants, there’s no way to know for certain by their language whether people are visitors or locals, but tourists tend to stand out with that goofy touristy look.  There’s no way around it, and even if dressed “right”, they act touristy by looking at their surroundings in ways locals don’t.  It’s wonderful!  And reminds me to see-again-for-the-first-time rather than zoneout as I walk or drive through familiar areas.
  • Hebrew, the official language of Israel, is a modernized version of the original Biblical text (Old Testament). An example is to compare the King James Version Bible with contemporary English translations.  The vocabulary and grammatical differences can be challenging to the new reader, but basic idea is generally discernible.
  • On the streets of Jerusalem and to degrees throughout the nation, Hebrew is seasoned with assorted accents of English (Australia/South Africa/Great Britain/U.S), Russian, French, Spanish, and various Asian and African languages I can’t identify… Immigrants may be “lone soldiers”, young folks from around the world enlisting/immigrating

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Of course many are speaking their own language, seemingly from everywhere, except perhaps the Muslim countries closed to U.S. tourism.

  • Also, there are a number of international workers, from India, Pakistan, and Nepal who opt to leave their families for as long as 7 years in order to send home life-changing income that will provide university to their children, improved housing & sustenance, etc. Those I’ve met are personal assistants to the elderly or otherwise disabled in private homes, group homes, and facilities (eg, retirement centers).  I respect these mostly mothers and fathers in their 20s & 30s who watch their children grow via Skype; their personal sacrifice for the sake of bettering the future of their families takes my breath away.

Unless doing goofy tourist things, it’s fair to assume most speaking accented Hebrew have immigrated, but sometimes they are Hebrew speakers vacationing from wherever or own an apartment that sits empty except during their visits.

 

Did you know that learning a language after early childhood leaves an accent

 because the language-learning functions of the brain essentially seal-off certain skills around 7?

You’ll find exceptions, but they’re exceptional.

 

  1. While Israel is a nation of immigrants, I have met Israeli’s whose families boast as many as 8 generations here! I’ve met Israeli’s whose families returned here from Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Spain, France, England, Australia, South America, Holland, Ethiopia, South Africa…
  2. How do Israelis feel about Americans? The U.S. is recognized as a very important ally but approval or disappointment with current U.S. policies/politics varies, as you’d probably expect. Some think the current administration supports Israel, while others are deeply concerned about the ramifications of changing U.S. policies towards the only democracy in the Middle East.

I love museums of history, and those with war history particularly inspire me.  My heart beats stronger when touched by heroism.  The courage to sacrifice all for another, even for unknown others.  Many sacrifice for their family or even perhaps a friend, and that is remarkable enough; and sorely missed when missing.

But ultimate sacrifice for strangers who would never know the name or the cost behind their salvation?!?  May I have that kind of courage for

Israel’s destiny to again be a homeland for the Jews marked a moment of celebration in 1948 when the UN majority approved statehood.  Then struggle ensued for survival against invading armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq, who fought alongside the Arabs living in Israel.  Where many Jews and Arabs had been friends and coworkers, with the onslaught of the Arab nations, they became enemies overnight.

English-speaking military volunteers from around the world came to help the fledgling Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) defend themselves.  Jewish and Christian pilots, ground troops, officers, medical personnel, engineers, and others brought support, training, and sacrifice to the fledgling nation, only a few years after the conclusion of WW2 and atrocities of the death camps.

One life said it all for me: Esther Calingold.  She wrote her parents a letter dated May 23, 1948 in the event of her death.  Prompted by the death of a close friend, also a young comrade, even Esther’s youth couldn’t fool her to think that the same fate might not happen to her.  Her timing was perfect, as she was killed just days later.  Death at 21.

May 23rd 1948. Dear Mummy, Daddy and everyone, If you do get this at all, it will be, I suppose, typical of all my hurried, messy letters. I am writing it to beg of you that, whatever might have happened to me, you will make the effort to take it in the spirit that I want and to understand that for myself I have no regrets. We have had a bitter fight, I have tasted of Gehenem – but it has been worthwhile because I am convinced that the end will see a Jewish State and the realisation of all our longings. I shall only be one of many who fell (in) sacrifice, and I was urged to write this letter because one in particular was killed today who meant a great deal to me. Because of the sorrow I felt, I want you to take it otherwise – to remember that we were soldiers and had the greatest and noblest cause to fight for. God is with us, I know, in his own Holy City, and I am proud and ready to pay the price it may cost to reprieve (?) it. Don’t think that I have taken “unnecessary risks” – that does not pay when manpower is short, but I did find the excitement I always needed and have enjoyed it. I hope that you may have the chance of meeting any of my co-fighters who survive, if I do not, and that you will be pleased and not sad of how they talk of me. Please, please do not be sadder than you can help – I have lived my life fully if briefly, and I think that is the best way – “short and sweet”, very sweet it has been here in our own land. I hope you will enjoy from Mimi and Asher the satisfaction you have missed in me – let it be without regrets, and then I too shall be happy. I am thinking of you all, every single one of you in the family, and am full of pleasure at the thought that you will one day, very soon I hope, come and enjoy the fruits of that for which we are fighting. Much, much love, and remember me only in happiness. Shalom and Lehitraot, Your loving Esther

Esther was devoted to reestablishing the Jewish homeland. Was her life lived fully?  Not by my standards, and the sorrow of her parents must have been shattering, but I take courage from her life.  She was not a woman hiding in fear, tradition, bravado, or whatever else.  Her love compelled sacrifice…willingness to be a sacrifice.

Is it a perfect storm?   Zeal + feeling impenetrable = the compelling courage of the young

In ways I’ve never been tested, I feel Esther’s passion, and would want loved ones to know that I’m doing what I love.  Here’s more about Esther, if you’re interested  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther_Cailingold


Write your own OBIT? http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35688113  In advance of course.

Rather than leave difficult decisions and possible conflict to those in grief, why not deal with your life while you can – draft and NOTARIZE the Will you’ve thought about.  Designate the precious items to those you want to have them, say how do deal with your body if you care at all, and take the pressure off of those you love during what would (hopefully?) be a time of grief.  People tend to not make good decisions under duress, and conflicts arise.  Also, document and have conversations with your loved ones about when to end life-support.  I’ve sat in ICU waiting rooms and watched families anguish over one last member still uncomfortable with “unplugging” dad or grandma.

I’ve survived drafting and finalizing wills in both U.S. and Israel!  Really it’s good to have it done, even if you think you have nothing to pass along, give them the information they’ll need about these issues.


War Food Meaning

Israel is a land of museums.  I’ve always been attracted to ancient stories and relics, and after visiting countless exhibitions here and elsewhere, it seems to boil down to 3 fundamentals:  war, food, explaining life’s purpose and hardships (AKA: beliefs).  The first 2 survival issues, and the later– the quest for meaning…purpose – the element of our soul that sets us apart from animals.

Zimmer #3 overlooked a vista of green rolling hills with scattered settlements surrounding Montfort Lake (videoed on the last blog), an easy 1 km (1/2 mile) walk.  Across the lake is one of Israel’s 2 ice skating rinks, so I watched the skaters and then walked home to get warmer clothes, socks, and a 50 Shekel bill.

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The first feel of the blades on ice brought to mind 2 things: my age, and how difficult it was to rehab from a ski fall resulting in ACL repair when I was in my 40s!  I gave up skiing to avoid repeating another injury and my body/mind were quick to remind me how fast a slip can happen, how HARD the ice is!  I hung on to the edge like a novice, humbled, and it took a few times around to begin skating reasonably.  Soon, the chilled air and my body’s movement-memory swirled with childhood memories and a joyful grin, silencing my unhappy feet in painfully uncomfortable rented skates (both size options and assorted sock options brought no relief).  It seems skating backwards and spins are a thing of the past, but still the feel of the brisk air and controlled sliding made me happily 7 again.

Ice Capades and Ice Follies (before the days of Disney On Ice) inspired me to want to learn to ice skate, so for several years my father paid for ice skating lessons.  Otherwise, as a child I was the UN-athlete – too fearbound and lacking confidence to try anything.  But I loved skating until my classmates outskated me.  They were fearless and the classes were no longer fun because I felt failure, although I skated gracefully, and even had a reverse gear and simple spins.  I never told anyone why I wanted to quit, that I had no confidence and was terrified.  I began piano lessons, instead.  Skating now brought back the joy of sensations, the degree of accomplishment, my father’s generosity to fund an interest of mine, my mother’s sacrifice to schlepp me to weekly lessons after work, and the mature perspective: appreciation of my relative success at the skill.

I skated around the teenage girl teaching her gangly beau, mothers handholding first-timer 5 year olds, a few grandpa’s with young children – same here as in the U.S.  My heart is warmed by the happy-memories-flood even though reminded of the unexpressed fears that bound much my childhood.

Why tell the story?  These days I’m told that I’m courageous, and I guess I want you to know that I missed out on a lot because of fear, and that propels today’s courage, partly.


Waves of loneliness are not unique to me, but were very difficult during some of these 22 months in Israel.   At times they SLAMed like the ocean waves that would knock my breath out while body surfing the Pacific.  I ask God for help, direction, courage to change what I can and acceptance and wisdom… I’ve passed through some sort of adjustment or growth and am much more settled in who I am on the map, and in this life. The language+culture challenges are so well expressed in this article – it validated and therefore comforted me and might be of interest: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-loneliness-of-not-knowing/#comments

 

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