15 – Purim & Confrontation tea, anyone?

History abounds with persecution, pogroms, and forced conversions of the Jewish people.  This past week celebrated one heroine of history and you may have her story in your own home!  If you have a Bible, locate the book of Esther and read it with me.  The cliff notes version is: young woman risks her life to expose deceit and save her people.

I’ve loved Esther all my adult life as a model for courage, acceptance, faith, wisdom and candor, within the confines of her culture.  The amazing story of her life is celebrated here with costumes — none scary, unless clashing colors, lime green wigs, or clown/jester styles frighten you or your 3 year old.

Purim’s Thursday night celebrated the holiday with bands that played outdoors throughout the night, in my neighborhood, anyway.  The sound amplified and bounced about the neighborhood’s Jerusalem stone with excellent music and vocals, some Hebrew-worded pop tunes you’d recognize, and most new-familiar to me from my local radio station. At 3a.m. they were still going strong but my 5a.m. awakening was greeted with lovely quiet.  Costumes on the street rang of Halloween for several days, and the imbibing and celebration felt like New Years Eve.  A few same-s and differences:WP_20150306_007

  1. Rather than Trick-or-Treat, people bring lovely gift bags of homemade or store bought treats to friends and neighbors. The 3 I received were touching and generous – a kind gesture to this newcomer; of course I did not give any since I had no CLUE!!  I’ll hope to come up with some way to respond sooner than next year, without it seeming like paying them back.
  2. Adults are as serious about costumes as the kids, and it’s nearly mandatory to at least wear a silly hat. A friend from Jewish National Fund was visiting and insisted on buying me a hat for the festivities, so I am now the proud owner of a tiger stripped cowboy hat.  Would have been perfect for dancing in Denver with my cowboy boots and cut-off jeans!
  3. Alcohol is a part of the celebration. I did see a few overly enthusiastic imbibers but the city’s predominately walking/bus riding/taxi hailing population seemed to be taking good care of their own.
  4. Costumes are displayed on the street everywhere, and signs are posted for elaborate children’s events for families in synagogues and community centers; there are parades and seriously catered private parties, etc.

*Optional homework: read Esther’s story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Esther

(P.S. New Years Eve was a non-event in my end of Jerusalem – perhaps the more secular nature of Tel Aviv or Haifa take Dec 31st more seriously. I don’t know.)

There was another terror attack today in Jerusalem, and graves were desecrated on the Mount of Olives.  http://prageruniversity.com/Political-Science/Israels-Legal-Founding.html#.VPC_3vnF-So

Did you watch Bibi’s speech?  http://www.aish.com/jw/me/Netanyahus-Speech-in-Congress.html?s=feat

Are you confused about the impassioned opinions, rhetoric and spin?  I like these reflections: http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/krauthammer030615.php3

As in any large city, ambulance, police, and fire sirens seem ever present in Jerusalem.  A few noticeable differences include policemen sharing a motorcycle, riding in pairs.  It makes sense, since two are better than one to deal with situations requiring police attention.  Also, I see EMS motorcycle pairs.  Think of the access they have in pedestrian areas and navigating gridlock.  While the ambulance lumbers to the destination, who wouldn’t prefer skilled EMS caregivers quickly on top of the medical emergency, rather than bystanders helplessly standing by?

Inquiring minds are asking:

  1. What happened with the new phone that I couldn’t get unlocked? The technician who taped the phone together (after it’s collision with the bus) confirmed what I was told from my calls and online research: the new, replacement phone absolutely could not be unlocked except by T-Mobile, who refused to help since I no longer have an account with them. However, since all the damage was external (screen and speaker/mic), the technician suggested putting the “brain” of my old phone into the new phone body.  He made more money, and still I was ahead of where I’d been had I purchased a different phone here; best of all avoiding the added challenge of learning a new phone while so many other “New”s consume my days.  Would you want a new body or a new brain?  I’m having trouble deciding.
  2. Last weekend’s rain and snow flushed through the walls and into my main room. A grave disappointment that the second effort at roof “repair” was again no repair at all. The apartment owner is being reasonable and negotiating fairly.  She will let me out of the lease early if I want and I’m not paying March rent to balance out paying for a full apartment while only using ½ of it these nearly 3 months.  Going forward, we’ll navigate based on when/if it’s repaired.  My preference?  To stay put, with no rain indoors.  I want it ALL!
  3. An MD told me to get out of this apt with black mold, and yet Jerusalemites tell me mold is in most of the apartments and bleach is the answer, routinely. Which voices to heed?

Assertion vs Aggression

Do you enjoy asking for help?  How do you take correction? Do you happily embrace fighting for your rights?  How do you feel when there’s an outburst in a group that needs to be reasonably cooperative/cohesive?  4 ½ weeks into language class, we’re indeed becoming “family”.  While I’m ever impressed with the turn-taking and patience of students towards one another, the course’ intensity has flushed to the forefront personalities and…dynamics. Adjustment to life as an immigrant includes stressors at multiple levels and now, from a minority, these many new challenges are evident in stretched tempers.  We’ve seen a few confrontations, hurt feelings in response to perceived slights, and friendship/alliances are forming (time will tell which “take” and which blow apart)…  yup, definitely “family”!  The instances of outbursts and leaving the room were followed by apologies, explanations of the misunderstandings …. a fresh start and going forward, rather than leaving.  I hope it stays that way and will certainly give my best to encourage in that direction.

My challenge is walking the fine line, modeling a better response without directly addressing the muttered criticism I hear.  I understand my neighbors are frustrated for whatever reasons – like I said, “family” – but words spoken aloud sully those who hear, and can be so easily overheard by the target.  Mean is mean, whether in Jr High or now.  I’ve known people who would address this directly, but I no longer routinely offer unasked-for advice to people with whom I’ve not yet built the equity of a trusting relationship. I hope for others to care enough about me to offer their reflections when I’m being insensitive, but not everyone feels that way. I want to ask how they’d feel to have harsh words muttered about them, but thus far it seems I would be setting my standard for them to meet, rather than recognize their standards may justify the muttering, at least for now.

Frankly, that kind of confrontation feels more like trying to CHANGE someone – convince them to treat others differently.  If they wanted to do that, they’d already be doing it.  I think of a scene with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail” when she calls him an “empty suit” and immediately puts her hand over her mouth, apologizing. Her character doesn’t want to be a person who hurts another, even with the truth. Trying to convince someone that in the spirit of “fairness” or “rightness” they should act differently seems to me, well, too often fruitless.  On the other hand, I fully embrace the reality that there are times a loving friend or stranger has to intervene and I hope to be that person.  The challenge is what warrants unasked for intervention, and how and when to proceed.

One class drill took us around the room, asking and responding to “Where are you from?”  Portugal, Ethiopia, Finland, Hungary, France, Taiwan, Australia, England, Korea, Romania, Sweden, Holland, Manhattan, Brooklyn, plus miscellaneous fly-over states.  Class time is mostly focused on words’ meaning and use, but we spend time reading and writing as well.  The age range spans early 20s to mid-60s, and what appear to be full spectrum educational, professional, personality and life-situation parameters, plus the cultural and linguistic effects of ‘round the world representation.

Mny wrds wtht vwls cn b rcgnzd nd r rdbl n cntxt.  Written Hebrew does not include vowels.  Children learn to read with vowels, as am I, but vowels are not included anywhere except for beginning readers.  It simplifies spelling somewhat!. Another huge blessing is that this language is entirely phonetic, meaning ONE sound is associated with each letter. No letter like “c” sounds different in receive vs car vs child, or silent letters, or “ph” is fffff, all the different vowel sounds, etc.

30% of my class are learning Hebrew through English as their 2nd 3rd or 4th language! Imagine the sets of filters to store vocabulary, keep grammar straight, etc!!!!  They can’t hear the sounds that are not in their language base, so struggle predictably with “r” “z” and assorted vowels.  They mostly inspire me but sometimes I feel more like a dummy when I see what they accomplish!!  Down the hall is the Russian speakers’ beginners class, as well as assorted intermediate and advanced classes, morning, afternoon, and evening.  How do the teachers rotate from one to the other, multiple languages, levels, and still remember most of our names and strengths, silly things that have happened, etc?

The lines for the woman’s 2 toilets are, well, like lines you see everywhere.

The building, however, would likely fail U.S. building/electrical/plumbing/OSHA/etc inspections, so not everything is universal.

I try to listen as much as possible to a soft-rock radio station, and recognize/understand dramatically more words in the songs or DJs these past 3 weeks.  A good sign.  The songs on the station take me back to long nights of dancing – Nightclub 2, Swing, Fox Trot, Waltz, Hustle – with favorite, generous hearted dancers for each, and you know who you are!  I’ll always have a special affection for those dancers who taught me that first year! You know who you are, too.  You gave me the gift of acceptance as I strove to make friends in a new community as a humble beginner at the craft.  I miss that, and you.


There are 2 categories of mis-thinking that are tripping me up less and less as I accumulate birthdays:

  1. Things I should do brilliantly, because I know how to do them – count that up to CRAZY-making!!! Perfection is a subject that stands on its own…
  2. All the things I feel responsible to know, or want to know …eg, history’s names/dates and specifics… political science issues, names, etc…geography, my friend’s children’s names, and now grandchildren…simple math that I don’t use often enough so have to rework basic principles I’ve forgotten, or the tax and financial things that come so easily to my brothers… I could go on and on. Sometimes I think those with amazing memories think others are just lazy because they don’t store data the same way.  Part of it is the Nature vs Nurture debate, of course… talent or “gifting”, rote memory, perseverance/discipline to study, interest level.  As always, I want to be more than I am.

My standards!  For you, my standards have oodles of forgiveness and 2nd chances, but for me?  That’s another thing! The crazy-making of self-expectations are demonstrated in a WW2 Battle of the Bulge biography: Platoon Leader, Lyle Bouck of the 394th Infantry Regiment led his 18 men against 500 German paratroopers’ for 8 crucial hours, preventing an even larger force of Nazis from advancing, and ultimately making the platoon the most decorated in US Army history.  However, Bouck declared many years later that, “I felt like what I did was a failure.”  Why?  Because he and his men couldn’t hold the Germans beyond those 8 brutal hours, and were captured as POWs.  Imagine!  Amazing, miraculous success and judging it a failure. Battles are everywhere, within and without, and I take courage from great warriors.  I love reading the Psalms for that reason, and more.

Yesterday, when I stood after a long session reviewing Hebrew homework, I moaned and bent over at sharp lower back PAIN.  I soaked in a hot tub and tried to stretch, thankfully slept reasonably well, but awoke with the unrelenting PAIN.  Hours later, a disappointed me returned home from the first visit with a new chiropracter, 300 Shekels poorer and not feeling any better, so hoping his diagnosis of “muscle only” is correct and that continuing exercise and stretches will resolve the matter.  Until then, waaaaaa.

WP_20150224_002P.S. The photo of the soldier with the huge riffle on his shoulder is no costume, but instead a common sight in the Shook (farmers market) and everywhere else. One of many armed soldiers and other security around town, just another shopper among the crowd in the same market you see the video of the musician with guitar.

May your week be pain free at all levels, except the good pain of stretching into who you WANT to be.


(with joy!)

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