14 – Palestinian Courage & Serenity Prayer

14 ~ Palestinian logic and Serenity Prayer

Courage! Where does it come from?  What if everything you know, everyone you love, all your worldly possessions could be lost if you proclaim the truth?  Add to that pride’s challenge to changing from wrong thinking, admitting error…I hope this brave Palestinian has rock-solid security around him and those he loves. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/we-palestinians-hold-the-key-to-a-better-future/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=e7d5d4e1d2-2014_02_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-e7d5d4e1d2-54695769


President Obama’s recent meetings with Muslim Brotherhood leaders may have caught your attention in the news – Here’s what you probably didn’t hear: http://unitycoalitionforisrael.org/uci_2014/?p=13271

On the lighter side, I enjoyed a 26-hour vacation from Jerusalem into family, in its best sense.  However, since these friendships are new, I feel more an observer of family than a participant, regardless of the genuinely warm welcome.  Do you suppose mastering the language is likely a key factor?!  I want them to speak Hebrew, but then I don’t understand (yet!) and require someone to step out of the conversation long enough to translate the gyst for me.  Mine is a naturally “outside” position, for the time being.

The overnight visit for Shabbat to my darling Yedidya’s darling family was, well, darling on all counts.  I so wanted to pack his amazing mother into my tote.   A charming, relaxed hostess and amazing cook, I think life in my apartment would be much improved with her taking care of me!!!

Really, each Shabbat invitation since I’ve been here has extended to me gracious acceptance and love, regardless of my fumbling with their traditions, kitchen procedures, and repeatedly confusing names I’ve never heard before.  All encounters leave me hoping for deeper friendships over time.  Other’s traditions or practices is not exclusively about living overseas. It can be the encounter of roommates or spouses from the same culture whose styles define “on time” or “economical” differently, or can’t agree on what a made-bed looks like.

Always, I want to be more than I am.  I’ve been reminding myself for over a decade that I CANNOT be expected to know things I haven’t been taught or had the opportunity to learn.  All my life, I’ve sought to learn the how’s and how to’s about so much of life; in hindsight I wish I’d know how to select teachers at the front end of that quest, and understood how influenced I was by those around me not in official “teacher” capacity.  Acute awareness of all I don’t know typically applies in varying degrees to practical and emotional/social needs:

  1. to-do’s (eg, mechanical stuff, using Quicken, hanging picture on walls of Jerusalem stone, etc),
  2. Relationships – how to navigate conflict, making/ deepening friendships, who to not entrust which parts of myself, etc

What do I do with all this?  Some call it the Serenity Prayer.  It all circles around my daily conversations with God as I begin the day, and walk it through – the acceptance of my abilities and limitations, balanced by the challenge to learn and grow… these days I’m grateful, even pleased with, the things I do well.  Mostly, I’m even grateful for the fires of life that have refined my less-lovely inclinations and attitudes, not because I enjoy the hard times’ sorrow, but because in hindsight, I see the fruit of wrestling with my self-ness, pouring my heart to God to change what I cannot.

This week brought the completion of week 3 of language school, resulting in one very weary me.  It’s great, exhausting, and I’m learning so much through the wonderful techniques of the program’s teachers.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  But it’s great.  However, this week was mostly very difficult days following too many nearly-sleepless nights. Tough days are characterized by my emotions being too close to the edge, apparent in me as weepy, rather than irritable or cranky.  Tears are so messy and make most people uncomfortable.  Strangers steer clear, lest they find themselves wondering what they did wrong, or even worse, trying to help the pitiful, weepy woman.

What prompted the crisis?  I was wrestling with the all-too-familiar fear of failure, of not being enough for the task at hand.  While those fears are connected with my own tough self-standards, there’s a basis in reality that feeds them, as well.  NEWS FLASH:  I have not always been “enough” for the task at hand.  Whether due to my expectations, or others’ expectations of me, I wasn’t enough.  In those times, my heart again looks to my Maker.  Still, it took a while for my mind-chatter to settle into the truth, and sleep is the hill on which my battle is typically waged.

FYI: practicing a language alone is, well, lopsided. Plus, it makes me feel lonely to wish for conversation practice.  I think I need people with whom to rehearse all these new words and grammar.  You’d agree if you could see me directing assorted sentences to imaginary male/female listeners, residing in different corners of the room.  Thus far, they’re not talking back, which is a disappointment because that’s exactly what I need to happen.

One day I went to an event that was not what I’d hoped, but rather than walk out, I prayed to not miss whatever might be there – for me, or to pass along to another.  As it turns out, I met a woman who might be a good match for conversation practice.  We’ll see if it, or any of the many other like-encounters work out.

Is this the time to mention that a rack I hung came crashing to the floor and managed to crunch several CD cases.  Soooooo, I returned to the hardware store for the largest hangers touted to be most effective on this thin-plaster-coated STONE.  I pounded the 2 hangers in and the rack held, with gentle use, for another week before crashing again, sending more CD-case splinters.  Even though the CDs aren’t stacked directly below, they seem to be the target with each descent.  I surrender!  My purse is hanging on the back of a chair and the rack is safely on the FLOOR with nowhere to fall, much to the relief of the CDs.


WP_20150220_006Serious Snow fell in Jerusalem last night and it’s COLD.  The primary wall of my main room (livingroom+kitchen) has worsened week by week since mid-December, due to rain damage; it embodies my imagination of leprosy.  Jerusalem had exceptional rain and snow the past several winters before I arrived, so it’s not ME.  I have not brought Denver weather to the desert!   And my saga of rain damage and uncertain repairs is a common problem among Jerusalemites.  I’m still waiting for the rains to prove the most recent attempt at roof repair was adequate, so the painters can return to recreate Duststorm Central (aka: wall prep), and then I hope to finally hang pictures and set up the main living area.  How will I hang those pictures, you ask?  Ummm I’m certainly not going to trust those hooks with large, framed pictures.  I am told there’s some sort of jack-hammer drill for this stone, and at that point, I’m out of my league, so will ask for help from Yedidya and/or my friend who graciously loaned her husband for earlier projects.

Can you find the snow people the kids next door built?WP_20150220_009

Central air is a valuable feature here in Jerusalem, and is called “Air Conditioning,” referring to both cooling and heating.   This makes for potentially comical dialogue as the owner boasts the home’s air conditioning, and then is puzzled when asked about heating.  They repeat, “It has air conditioning” and the potential renter/buyer says, “I understand.  What about the heat?” and round and round it goes, Laurel & Hardy style, or just like communication between men and women.

Have you mastered a language besides your mother tongue?  I’m open to tips or suggestions!  I’ve always had great empathy and respect for those who learn English some years after the language they learned at their mother’s knee — the unending vocabulary of English, exceptions, exceptions to exceptions, convoluted grammar, the spelling rules. Remember diagraming sentences in school, or searching for a word in the dictionary because you don’t know how to spell it, only to discover the spelling is impossibly convoluted if/when you ever do find it?!?

Hebrew is a much more organized language than English, with more consistent rules for spelling and only 3 tenses (compare with English’s 12 or more tenses). Many words’ meanings even perform multiple logical functions; for example, the word for “to weigh” is used as “to consider”.  Now, doesn’t that make sense?

I love that I laugh more than I did a decade ago.  That this very intense heart even finds humor in crashing coat racks, the shower head squirreling around to spray the entire bathroom when turned on with full water pressure, or that I seem to always have laundry to (hang)dry when it’s raining.

Is it ok to laugh alone?  I hope so.  The commercials on a Hebrew radio station bring to my mind goofy cartoons dancing to the silly voices and songs.  While I usually have no idea what they’re selling, the technique is the same mostly-annoying not-clever commercials you surely also hear.  Why do advertisers seem to think we’ll be attracted to their product?  Although the sound is annoying, the pictures in my mind are silly, and I laugh out loud.  I love that.

This week, I finally tackled something I’ve been putting off: learning the Hebrew letters on the keyboard.  Simple emails will be good spelling practice, but the hunt&peck method will not work so I’ve at last accepted the challenge to memorize the Hebrew keyboard, much like I did qwerty in high school typing class.  The challenge is greater because we do all our work in class with handwritten Hebrew and the keyboard letters are print, not cursive.  I’m told today’s kids don’t learn cursive as did preceding generations.  They must learn the keyboard in Kindergarten, now, right?

Learning is an amazing process because we begin with something that seems impossible – whether a new exercise at the gym, food prep technique, or smushing information into our brain so it sticks. Over time and practice, with a few or many mistakes, it gets easier and eventually, second nature.  In myself and others, I observe a continuum for learning a skill or knowledge:

  1. I know nothing but think I can probably do it, or bluff through, regardless. Example: I made cakes from scratch as a teenager, which were impossibly heavy and inedible
  2. Learn some parts of it, and become a “know it all” Example:  Teenagers!  Nuff said?
  3. Learn more and realize I know NOTHING! (Graduate school, for me)
  4. Continue to study and learn, only to conclude I never will know anything… when in fact, at this point, there is a respectable base of knowledge about the subject.

I learn from your comments.  I think about your lives and the parts of our lives we’ve shared.  I miss dancing and singing and so many faces.  But I’m thriving and loving.  Thank you for coming with me.  If you post comments, they’re seen and treasured by only me.   I’ve opted to keep all comments private, just so you know.

שבוע טובה





13 ~ around the Israel Museum and Negev

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Israel Museum and the Negev

Language school week-1 is completed.   The first day was like the start-up of a new job, and brought back my last “new job” with fond memories.  Nervous, excited, hopeful, afraid of—failure, I guess.  Isn’t that always it??


Walking the mile to my class, my mind and heart flitted from one reflection to the next.

  1. I rehearsed Hebrew words I know from the past year of studies.
  2. I thought about my last new job, my boss and coworkers – the highs and lows, disappointments and successes, and how much I learned in the experience and value that employment through a crucial 5 years of my life. Hmmmm, were any 5 years of my life NOT crucial?
  3. I prayed for calm-headedness to think, remember, stay focused, not be intimidated by those who might know so much more, to make friends (I’m always looking for forever-friends), and network to build effective study groups.
  4. Wondering how I’ll do this 5 mornings /week for 5 months!!!!


So, you ask, “How was it?”  Everything!  It was hard, and easy, and fun, and hard, and repetitive, and too fast and too slow, and as are all things, extra challenging because of the people in the room.  We have multiple teachers each day because, they explained, they’ve learned that otherwise students complete the course able to understand Hebrew spoken by only one person!!

Photos are posted of the writing on the board by the end of this first week, and the student’s morning which begins with an assignment to write 15 sentences in Hebrew.  We’re learning words, grammar, spelling, reading, talking, mostly under rapid-fire, think-quick pressure because effective communication warrants all of that.  Holding up a line with, “ummmmmm” while mentally composing a sentence won’t work with shopkeepers or bus drivers or government offices…


Investment advise:  this is not a sales picth, but if you hear that Jack LaLanne juicers will become available in 220V, I suggest you invest in the stock!

The Jack LaLanne juicer wins my award for easiest to clean, price, and respectable juice production.  My 6-year-old JLL doesn’t extract quite as much juice as my new Braun juicer, but cleaning the Braun product is much more cumbersome.  Lest you think the Braun has become like the proverbial stationary bike that too often becomes a clothes rack, I do still juice daily!  The extra effort is worth it to me, but if I had a do-over, I’d use the Jack LaLanne with a transformer to convert 110 to 220.


Confession  In my neighborhood, and many in Jerusalem, the 25-26 hours of Shabbat closes the streets from vehicles.  I’ve posted a photo of the kids playing in the street, behind the barrier placed at sundown Friday evening.  One Saturday I walked through the lovely park surrounding the Knesset and museums and found sweethearts of all ages, families, teen/young adult clusters of boys or girls or mixed, runners, family soccer with little ones chasing and tripping over the ball, and some that looked more like competitive leagues.  Occasionally a wave saddens me on these excursions, that no other person sees what I see.  Pictures, even words, are so 2-dimentional, but as I walk, I talk about it all with God, pray for them, and appreciate the beauty of my moment enjoying their moment.

Confronting cultural and religious differences sometimes challenges my dark side, I admit.  Occasional ugly thoughts whisper, judging something as “silly”, but just as quickly the thought is gone because I don’t roll out the red carpet and serve it tea.  Over the years, I’ve learned to not entertain those judgments and other thoughts, but rather take the opinion to my own practices, traditions, beliefs… life.

One Shabbat (Saturday) afternoon, I wandered through a special exhibit in the gardens of the Israel Museum and have included some photos.  Grateful yet again that fear of heights is not an issue, I climbed the bamboo structure with the children and a few young couples.  Read the description http://www.dmstarn.com/big_bambu_israel.html

It’s not Israel related, per se, but was interesting, and very high!  I caught a few views of Knesset, and beyond that my new neighborhood.  There are several outdoor sculptures – I especially liked Adam by Rodin.  And one picture captured construction equipment, giant limestone “wheels”, and modern art sculpture.  It’s Israel! We have it all!

Shabbat visitations:  On Friday, I caught the last bus out of Jerusalem to a small town, 40 minutes away, to visit the family of my darling Yedidya (“yeh-deed-ya” or Jedidiah in English, means loved by God). Because of Shabbat practices throughout the nation, I left Jerusalem Friday afternoon to arrive before sunset, enjoy candle lighting and dinner with the family, spend the night there, and all day Saturday until the first bus after Saturday’s sunset, finally returning to Jerusalem, about 8pm Saturday evening.  The tradition mandates keeping me for more than Friday night dinner, which is so very very different from my experience. My comfort zone is stretched to consider a 27 hour visit…accepting that kind of hospitality from budding friendships.  It’s a challenging way to get acquainted.

  • I’ve been graciously invited to several other friends’ Shabbat evening dinners in Jerusalem, and the 30 minute, late Friday night walk home is lovely. Never a moment of fear for my safety, except that I might trip on the sidewalk!
  • On one occasion, a young woman working customer service for Jerusalem Water Dept thought her mother and I would hit it off, so the mother called to invited me to Shabbat dinner (imagine that!!!). Sadly, we couldn’t work it out because without busses, I’d have 1 ½ hour walk home, and that family had no place for me to stay.  We’re hoping to meet for a weekday lunch when schedules allow.

First Time Experience: Last week’s visit to the Negev included pulling a carrot from the ground, rubbing off the worst of the dirt and splashing water over it from a water bottle in the car, and then biting into sweet, freshness!  A first for this city-gal.  We also made a visit to processing plants washing and bagging potatoes, and carrots.  Yedidya knows the owner and I was returned home with what feels like 25 pound bags of each.  It’s always nice to have something to give away to neighbors.

Another big step: My condo in Denver sold quickly, and well.  I considered 3 different brokers and am happy with the choice, the buyer I chose comes with cash (no appraisals, inspections, loans to navigate), competitively above my asking price, and the decision is good.  While preparing for the move last fall, I had no plan to sell the condo.  In hindsight, I see I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth or focus to even consider selling.  It was all I could do to empty the unit, selling or giving away what wasn’t coming with me; besides, selling before the holidays would have hit a different market, perhaps less successfully.  Letting go of the Denver home that held so many memories, growth, friends, tears, gains and losses, years of ballroom dancing and amazing singing groups…  well, letting go is only partially true because those experiences and the precious friends entwined within will always be part of who I am.  They/you have contributed towards these ventures, my current challenges and this fulfillment of dreams.  I can only hope I’ve done the same in your lives.