Summer’s End

living in Israel
beach at Ein Ha Yam

The girls and I spent our last day of summer exploring new places; my friend is moving back to Israel and she’s living in a small community a half an hour out of Tel Aviv call Ein Ha Yam. Down the street from her house, we entered a wild beach through grass-covered dunes that looked like Cape Cod to me and we explored the big rocks. The girls collected sea shells and chased baby crabs across the beach; they were hard to see because they were the exact same color as the sand on the beach. This particular beach is the destination of nesting sea turtles.

living in Israel
cliffs of Ein Ha Yam

This desolate, wild beach felt so different to me than the sardine-packed beaches of Tel Aviv. I marveled at the beauty of the nature, the big fluffy clouds, the razor sharp cliffs that dotted the coast and my good fortune that my dear friend is again living near by.

living in Israel
sea spray

Tomorrow, two of my girls will start school; they’ll be entering junior high and high school. My little one will start school on Monday and I’m hopeful for a new year for them filled with new friends, old friends, new activities, new challenges and a lot of good old fashioned learning! The daily grind will begin again, but I’ll be happy to have a schedule so that I can finally get some work done!

living in Israel
rocky shores of Ein Ha Yam

Mad Hatter Flower hats

 This flower hat is the picture of summer!

Emili and Elli in summer flower hats

Look it’s a Summer bouquet! Sometimes a hat is more than something to keep the sun out of your face; it’s a statement. Hats don’t denote social status anymore, but they do convey a sense of fashion. A flower on your heads is definely a fashion accessory that says “look at me”. The old saying: “if you want to get ahead and get noticed, then get a hat” applies in this case.  I gave my niece Piper a flower hat a few summers ago and I have never been stopped by so many people or heard so many comments as when she wore that hat around town (Bloomington, Indiana). Today’s utilitarian hat wearing traditions are much more ho-hum than those of by-gone days, but I believe this flower hat falls into the category of  a hat for “an occation”. What is the occation to wear such a hat? A beautiful, sunny day!

Yellow Flower hat

Many Realities

Emili and I riding a camel in the Negev desert.

I saw the movie “Ajami”, written and directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, several months ago. It’s about an Arab/Christian/Jewish neighborhood in Jaffa, Israel and the daily lives and struggles of the people who live there. “Ajami” was nominated for a ‘Best Foreign Film’ Oscar award but didn’t win; I thought it was a good movie even though I watched it in Arabic with Hebrew subtitles and I don’t speak either language. My friend Aya lives in the Ajami neighborhood and as I stood on her balcony one evening with a glass of wine in one hand and my camera in the other, I snapped pictures of the sun setting over the Mediterranean Sea. The lives of the people in the movie and the lives of the people I know who live in Ajami are as night to day, apples to oranges, two very different realities.

The view from Aya and Arik's balcony in Ajami.

There are many different realities in Israel, from the Jewish reform, to the conservative, to the ultra orthodox, to the secular Israelis, to the Ethiopians, to the Yemenites, to the Druze, to the Bedouins, to the foreigners, to the Muslim Arabs, to the Christian Arabs, to the Christians, to the Russians, to the illegals, to the Kibbutzniks, to the Sephardic, to the Ashkenazi. When we first moved here, I was surprised to find so many distinct groups of people with so many differing views and opinions and most of them seemed to dislike the others. For me, in America, the groups were fairly easy to understand – there were mainly whites, blacks and Hispanics and they were struggling to get along with one another. It was so much more complicated than that here.

A mine field in the Galilee.

As I was living a normal life in Tel Aviv a few years ago, citizens of Sderot, a small town only 40 miles to the south, were fleeing from scud missiles shot at them by Hamas (a Palestinian terror group) from the Gaza strip (this has been going on for the last 7 years, but has subsided as of recently). One of my seamstresses lives in Sderot and occasionally when we were speaking on the phone to discuss the children’s costumes that she was sewing for me, the phone would go dead because a rocket had torn down the phone lines or she had to hang up and run to her bomb shelter because the rocket warning siren had just sounded. As the citizens of Israel live in relative peace as of today’s date (May 17, 2010), the citizens of Gaza and the West Bank live under extreme restrictions and living conditions. Sometimes I try to explain to people that living here can be compared to when I lived in Chicago; you know where the “dangerous” neighborhoods are and if you’re smart you don’t go there. A drive by shooting or a suicide bombing, are we really safe anywhere these days? I think not.

View of Jaffa from Neve Tzedek.

The situation in the Middle East is not easy to understand, follow or come up with a solution. But if I can tell you anything about understanding the situation here, I’d tell you not to believe everything you read and to consider the source of your information. The perception of the situation here is so skewed outside of Israel that it’s clear to me that you must be a very good interpreter to understand what is really going on. It also doesn’t help that no one seems to want to write about non-eventful, beautiful days here, which contributes to the perception that everything here is bad and that the whole country is constantly fighting a war. One of my best friends, Storm has been here 3 times to visit me. The first time she arrived, Israel was experiencing quite a few suicide bombings, so we didn’t go to many public places. The second time she was here there was fighting in Gaza and the calls that Storm received from her concerned family and friends from America were panicky. They asked her if she could hear the bombs exploding and this was all after we had spent a fun afternoon at the mall. The fighting that her family had heard about on the news was about an hour away from where we were. I was relieved that she had left Israel thinking that it was a normal enough place and she felt that my family and I were o.k. here. I thought that her visit gave her the information to have an educated opinion of the situation in Israel. I think it’s all too easy to read an article in the newspaper and formulate an opinion based on the writer’s opinions. But we can’t all jump on airplanes and visit foreign places just to be able to have an educated opinion about the situation there. Sadder yet, most of us don’t really care about the situation in the Middle East or the Congo or Chechnya or anywhere else for that matter because it doesn’t really affect our daily lives (point taken!). But before someone gets on a soap box or starts formulating opinions, they should be correctly informed, very informed.

View of Tel Aviv from Jaffa.

 

Forge Ahead

Today is one of those days your mother warned you about. You know when nothing works, things crumble as you walk by them and you just can’t get it together, let alone feel creative. My cash register dosn’t work today, so I can’t very easily open the store; I’m sitting here waiting on a repair man (whom I’m guessing from past experiences will never show up). My computer died a few weeks ago and I’m still trying to get the hang of the new “used” one that I now have. It’s missing the software to download my camara, so I can’t download any of my current photos And my phone is broken And my website is taking a really long time to finish  And then, someone came into the store yesterday and gave me some “constructive criticism” and it kinda killed my creative buz. I’m looking for a little inspiration and a kind word. It’s not always easy to find what you need here.

Many times when I walk out the door in the morning,  my neighbor yells hello to me from her window. It’s not uncommon for her to ask me, why don’t you do something with your hair or are you getting fat? It sounds a little harsh, but really that’s how people relate to one another around here, rather bluntly and without any sort of filter on their mouths. You’d think I’d be used to it by now (10 years)!  Don’t get me wrong, my neighbor is great! She’s a lovely woman, we just have very different communicating techniques.

Well it’s time to open the store, no repair man yet. Maybe I’ll run away to the flea market to look for some inspiration. A little voice inside my head says you must stay, you need the register to work. Another little voice inside my head says, take this Friday off, go shoot some great photos and sit at a cafe. The voices are now dueling, who will win?

Hope

What do you hope for? When I was younger, I hoped for things like a nice car, an artistic job, a higher salary, more vacation time and a little bit of a tan in the summer. Today, I hope for very different things, like a parking spot, a tiny garden space, health and happiness for my family and friends. I hope for the success of Doron and my businesses, for a wider variety of organic fruits and vegatables in the organic market where we shop. I hope for peace, even though I think this sounds like a very beauty pageant thing to say, living in Israel makes hoping for peace a daily thought.

Know hope Grafiti in Tel  Aviv

When Lili was 6 or 7 years old, I was driving her to school and out of the blue she asked me what a bomb looked like.  I told her I didn’t know exactly, but that I did know that we shouldn’t pick up bags, packages, toys or dolls that were left on the street or on a bench because there may be a bomb inside. I remind my three girls of this often.

Dove print in Portugal Peace Doves, fresco in Sintra, Portugal

Emili was born in a hospital in Tel Aviv (do not get me started on that experience). A religious man walked into my room (without knocking) and handed me a box. Inside the box was a gas mask for babies, basically a big plastic bag looking aparatus with a breathing device connected to it. I think it was because the gulf war was going on that I recieved this thoughtful gift, I’m not sure if they give out baby gas masks on a regular basis. We picked up our masks for the two older girls from a distribution center. A mask for children looks like a space suit rather that a mask like you always see in the movies.  Lili was 6 and in the first grade, Elli was 3; the night before the war started we all had to test our masks to be sure they worked. Elli was too little to test her mask , but we put Lili’s on her and that is an image I will never forget. Everyone had to travel around with their masks once the war started; they have a shoulder strap attached to them. All the school children decorated their mask boxes. You could see everyone heading off to school in the morning with their backpacks and a decorated gas mask box hanging off their shoulders.

Elli praying Elli praying

 A customer at my store told me that the little boys in her son’s class at school were playing suicide bomber. “What do you mean?” I asked her. I couln’t imagine children playing such a game. She told me that they wrap something around their wastes (a rope or belt ) and they pretend to blow up.

 

Tel Aviv 020 Tel Aviv graphiti

We moved to Israel nine years ago and the intifada started two weeks later. There were many buses that were blown up during that time (to this day I have never taken a bus here and I forbid the girls from doing so). The sobering fact is that most people here need to take buses to get to work.  A bus blew up about a mile from the kindergarten where Lili was. You could tell that something bad had happened because all of a sudden, you could here radios everywhere. Every store, school and house, turned on the radio and you could feel a tenseness in the people on the street. I asked someone what was going on. “They blew up a bus on Allenby Street” a lady told me. I hurried to Lili’s school, people were yelling in the street and helicopters were buzzing all over the area, looking for the bomber. I started to breath very heavily and a sound came from my throat; I new I was starting to panic and I tried to calm myself. Once I was inside the kindergarten, many of the children were crying. I took Lili’s hand to take her home and a woman yelled at me that we couldn’t leave. I thought this must be procedure, staying put after a bombing till everything had calmed down, so I just stood there with Lili. An Israeli mother yelled back, ‘we’re leaving! and everyone pushed past the guard at the gate. I went too and we went home.

Hope Emili holding Doron’s hand

My children attend a French school in our neighborhood. The pupils are from all over the world and speak many languages. There are Catholics, Protestants, Jews and a few Muslims (usually from Egypt) at the school. It gives me hope that my girls will understand people from many different places, that they will learn to be respectful and sensitive to other religions and cultures and races.

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