יום שני, 21 בספטמבר 2015

The Day of Awe


So it is here. Tomorrow. The day of days. The Big One. The marathon of fasts.
Twenty five hours of fasting, praying, klopping, and if the weather forecast is accurate, sweating. At least to and from shul.
Yom kippur is one of my favorite days of the year. I know, it is weird, but I love it. While I’m not a fan of the bike fest it has become, at least here in tel aviv, I am a huge fan of the sanctity, the fasting, praying and klopping.  I also love that even the non- fasters, prayers and kloppers, at least here, still respect and at least to some extent appreciate the unique quality of the day.  The number one pictures on facebook after yom kippur are always of the שyalon or the Begin Highway being photographed empty.  After all these years and ymei kippur in Israel, I still tingle when I walk to shul for kol nidre and see so many people in white, the streets empty and the stillness that ensues. Even with the bikers there is a stillness and awesome quality to the day.
I even love the pre yom kippur warm ups and drills; Those who abstain completely from caffeine in the days leading up to the fast. Those who partially abstain or don’t at all.  It is a true test of stamina and belief that so many of us fast. Today, while chatting with a colleague, we were discussing the pre YK drills.  How nervous the day makes us. In a split second I realized we were looking at it from a skewed perspective. In that split second I felt like the bride who is so wrapped up in the wedding that she forgets to realize that she needs to be a wife. ( men too, just a figure of speech). So many of us are so concerned with the preparation and surviving the fast that we don’t spend enough time thinking about the DAY itself and the MEANING.
Who will live and who will die? Do many of us stop and think about that? Do we all take it as a given that if we fast, pray and klop we’ll make it through. Or maybe we don’t even really need to do that at all.  Ive been told that I have a childish view of Gd; Maybe I do. Maybe there is no direct correlation between action and consequence. Maybe actions and what happens after said action have no correlation whatsoever.
I don’t know. Personally, I believe they do but who is to say I am right?

I do know that I am thinking about the meaning of YK to me, to my family and friends and to Klal Yisrael.  I am thinking about those that are still here and those that tragically aren’t here this year.  I am thinking about who I was last year and if I am exactly the same or hopefully changed in some small way. I am thinking about what I had hoped to accomplish in this last year where I succeeded and where I failed.
I am thanking Hashem for my blessings. For my parents, family and friends. For my amazing girls. For my health and theirs.  For the zchut to live in Eretz Yisrael and be part of the miracle. I am praying for the continued strength and willpower to become a better person or at least a more patient tolerant one.
So on this day before THE BIG YK 5776, while I am nervous about fasting and the heat and being around my kids eating I am also trying to keep the big picture in mind; the why we do it and what we hope to gain.
Wishing each and every one of you a gmar chatima tova, an easy fast, and most importantly a meaningful yom kippur.

יום שישי, 13 במרץ 2015

The Barrier

I remember sitting at my grandfather’s shiva with my mom and aunt, sometime in 1995, surrounded by friends and loved ones. Suddenly, I had a horrible thought. It occurred to me, that the barrier had been diminished.  I had never thought about it until that moment, sitting on my parents’ living room couch, looking at my mom on her low chair and my aunt being comforted by others that there even was a barrier. You know what I’m talking about?  That BARRIER, the one that separates you and protects you from the END.
 As kids we are usually blessed with a thick barrier of four grandparents and two parents. As we get older though, the barrier weakens.  Sitting on my mother’s taupe sofa that day, I suddenly realized that not only did it exist but that in that moment of my grandfather’s passing it had been weakened.  It was a terrifying thought.
Many of you that know me know that since my kids were born my parents come every year for around 5 months.  My friends (and my mom) have told me I don’t appreciate it enough. They say I take it for granted.  That isn’t true.  I have appreciated it and them and the older I get the more I appreciate them and realize how blessed I have been.
My mom usually comes a little before purim and is joined by my dad a week or so before pesach. They usually stay through yom haatzmaut.  The routine, in the last five years that has developed is that my mother tells everyone what to do and we do it.  My dad goes to the shuk daily, I go to the supermarket and she organizes it all. That is not to say I am incapable or unwilling to do it myself.  I mean I am a pretty independent person and manage quite well on my own, but it is nice to have someone in charge other than me.  She makes the food, rearranges the cabinets and drawers and offers Helpful Heloise tips.
Every year my dad and I rent a car and drive to Bnei Brak for a day of bonding in the non kitniyot grocery store.  Arranging for the seder  also is laden with routines; my mom polishes the silver, I set the table and make the charoset; my pre-pesach chores since childhood.
This year my parents are not coming. I know my mom is going to say I shouldn’t write this post because it makes her feel bad but I can’t help it. I am devastated Mommy.  I am so afraid you will never be here again and that I will have to do it alone.  At the same time, I think, having her here is a pain in the ass. We annoy each other, get on each other’s nerves and if she tells me one more time her “suggestion” I might scream. Yet still, I want her here. For all the selfish reasons.  I want her here for me, and for the kids, and because even though I love my friends and we’ve spent all these holidays together for years, it’s not quite the same as your biological family.
I have been thinking lately about my aunts and uncles.  The next row of the barrier.  I spoke to my aunt today and while talking about the family I just kept thinking back to all those Sunday dinners with all of us; my family and hers, our grandparents and their siblings and I  realized that, once the barrier breaks down again, who will I share those memories with?  My sister was too little too remember.  My cousins might not either, they were pretty small themselves.  These memories, which I never really think about but all of a sudden seem hugely important to me.
I look at myself in the mirror and lately I do NOT see a girl, or a young woman .  I see older; much much older.  I think of how young people look at me and realize they think I’m old.  I’m part of a different demographic.  I keep thinking that in 25 years I will be the same age as my mom and that my girls will only be thirty.  Isn’t that too young to have such an old mom?  Then, of course, I think about the (additional) disservice I’ve done them.
I don’t have some witty or pithy ending. I’m just really sad.  The circle of life is NOT always pleasant or happy.  I’m trying to take it one day at a time but most days I wind up crying.  For what was, for what isn’t and for what I hope will not happen for a very long time.

יום ראשון, 25 בינואר 2015

Rosa Parks or Go to the Back of the Bus


A lot of stuff happens in this little country of ours around buses.
First they were the subject of great debate since many were “gifts” of the German government as remuneration for the crimes and atrocities of the Nazis.
Then there was the endless social debate over the ability to last an entire bus ride, in August, on a non –air conditioned bus amongst non- deodorized, smoking Israelis amidst the “oh so odiferous scent “of diesel fuel.
Then, of course there were the horrors of the Intifada and random buses being blown up with school children, soldiers, women and grandparents just wanting to go about their daily life.
Things had been fairly quiet surrounding our beloved public transport system….and now, again.
In all my many years in Israel, I have never been fearful of the people in my midst.  Of course the harrowing sounds of the sirens all summer long were stress inducing and havoc wreaking on one’s nerves. When walking down the street, especially with my kids, I made sure to know where I could go if a siren blasted, but I never actually feared for my life.
While I wasn’t in Israel during most of the Intifada, the look that we all gave one another was of mutual fear, tension, and camaraderie. I don’t recall looking at people suspiciously.  Maybe I was young and in that place and time I felt invincible. Maybe when you aren’t a parent it is easier to still continue to get on the bus. Whatever the reason, I didn’t suspect anyone who was with me of wanting to hurt me.
In my heyday, walking the streets of Tel Aviv, at all hours of the night I was not ever suspicious or on alert. I have never felt at risk or insecure. 
Until now. Now I am.  I am a public commuter. I take the bus daily, in the mornings with my girls to gan and then to and from all the places I need to be.  I happen to love the bus.  I like not having to deal with traffic, parking, and the stress of not being on my phone. It is the only time during the day that I can just be quiet with myself and one of the few occasions in my life where I can depend on someone else to do the work. 
Since these random stabbings have begun, though, I am not the relaxed and passive passenger.  I am suspicious; I look at the people surrounding me. I try to sit alone, or stand at a distance.  The other day, the day of the most recent attack, not two kilometers from my house, a man got on the bus and sat next to me.  An Arab man.  A working class Arab man. I got up. I moved seats, to a row where I was alone.  And I felt guilty, bad, racist, and very un-politically correct.  He turned around and looked at me, or rather, glared at me.  Then I felt guilty for feeling guilty. I started to justify my action and to rationalize my behavior.  I know my more moderate or non-Israeli friends are probably rolling their eyes at me. “That Ellie, so right wing.”
 Maybe, or maybe finally adult and responsible enough to realize that I have just this one life and my children have just one mother. These random acts put everyone at risk and under suspicion. 

I am sorry dear cousins for suspecting one of you even though I know not all of you feel as these murderers do. I am sorry for generalizing.  I am sorry for doubting you and your personal value systems.  I need to protect myself and my kids and my friends and family and countrymen. So yes, I am going to get up and generalize and judge and continue to be suspicious and racially profile, and I am going to sit at the back of the bus if that is what it takes to feel safe…r.