15 April, 2010

It's the little things....

We've all read the books "Don't sweat the small stuff", and for the most part I agree. At the same time, appreciating the little things in life really adds quality. Recently there are a few things I have come to appreciate in a whole new way.

The spatula. Detailed shape unimportant; handle, broad flat surface, able to withstand heat. Simple. Necessary. Have you ever tried to make over easy eggs with a fork? Very quickly over easy becomes broken over well if you're lucky or scrambled if you're not. Tried taking undercooked brownies from a pan? With a tupperware lid, only after you've cut off the sides, when you don't have a spatula. Examples abound, trust me.

Immediate showers. During the cooler months in Israel, where there really is no such thing as a water heater, you have to flip a switch, wait 20-30 minutes for the water to heat up, then be prepared to take a quick shower. During the summer, it's immediate, but it's always hot. I mean the name "Dude Shemesh" is kinda cool, and seeing them dot rooftops is interesting at first--but then you have to actually use them.

Stable shower heads. Imagine, you have abut 8min of warm water, and you're trying to shave. But it's a removable shower head, that is permanently removed. Trying to juggle an arm, the shower head, the razor, comical at best, drenched bathroom at worst. The first couple times I did this, I sprayed the water all over the bathroom. All you can do is laugh.

Cheap American candy. There are times when I just want peanut M&Ms or a twix or Snickers. Right now, the current rate is around $2 for any of these. Without a sale, they are $0.75, and usually $0.40 with the abundant sales. Don't even think about getting king size.

Polite drivers. I don't mean to each other, but rather to pedestrians. Granted, everything is relative, and most drivers stay off the sidewalks here, so I guess that's something to be grateful about. Trying to cross the street (in a cross walk of course, I'm not suicidal), takes assertiveness and sometimes aggression. Be prepared, you will get honked at. For the novice, I don't recommend using headphones as you will need all your senses alert. For the pro, absolutely get headphones as it's the only way to block out the horns.

Can of air. The dust in Jerusalem is astounding. All my electronics need a good dusting. After this most recent sand storm, where advisory warnings were broadcast for those with health problems, the dirt literally poured out of my phone--it was never even in the open air.

Carpet. I have yet to walk into a building (other than a hotel) that has carpet. I had no idea I liked carpet so much. Or rather disliked linoleum so much. And for a country where water is scarce, I still can't wrap my brain around the idea that all the floors are washed with an abundance of water.

Dry wall. One might ask, how did you discover your affinity for a particular type of wall? Well, when you go to hammer in a nail into stone, lo and behold, the nail bends and only leaves a dimple in the layers of paint. Forget about pushpins. Everything must be bored into the wall with somewhat large screws and careful placement. Sigh.

It's the little things. Things that are easily overlooked, easily overcome. So small that they are almost negligible. Almost. A few days, no big deal to just get over it. A few years, no big deal to change it. A few weeks? A few months? Too short to change it,,too long to get over it. Just long enough to notice it and feel very grateful and appreciative for the little things.

12 April, 2010

ום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה : Holocaust/heroism rememberance

Jewish holidays in Israel feel different than they do in Colorado. Last night started what is colloquially known as Yom HaShoah. Ceremonies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem abounded. There is actually palpable remembrance, the air is somber.
This morning, at 10a, the Jerusalem siren went off for two minutes, signaling silence. I was standing outside on the mirpesset (balcony), feeling the wind on my face, hearing the sounds of the city and of nature when the siren first started. The jackhammer from the construction workers to my left first had to pause to hear the sirens, then paused in honor of it. To my right, there was no such pause, and work continued. Nature didn't stop either: the birds kept chirping, the cats kept fighting, the bees kept buzzing, the wind kept blowing. And then nothing. Everything, as though on cue, stopped.
It was in this true silence that the deafening voices of those killed could be heard. Quiet balagan.

Today is also the day to remember heroism. To celebrate those who looked impossible situations in the eye and said "I can and will do my part." Perhaps not knowing that their actions were extraordinary, or maybe they knew; they did them anyway.
Maybe we don't know what action will take when we're called, maybe we don't know it's impact. But today, this day of remembrance,  can teach us that knowing or not knowing, we need to act.

To all those who've been murdered and all who've been heroes--thank you, you are remembered.

11 April, 2010

Almost there (here?)

Jerusalem...again. Apparently while I am in Israel, I have a desire to blog far more so than when I am in the States. Perhaps the latter will change with this one, as this is going to be a lengthy endeavor.

Here I am. More "אני פה" than "הנני", for now. I've come so far it seems, and yet I haven't even made it to the start line. I've made it through the 'I can't believe I want to be a rabbi' decision process, the application process, through the interview process, through the acceptance process, and there is one of the hiccups. I have been accepted (wohoo), conditionally (boo). Turns out, my Hebrew ability, not so great; not quite good enough to have passed the test the first time around, although very close. Such a small thing as language was not going to keep me from this dream. I find myself in Israel right now, finishing up a 2-wk course with Ulpan Or just before I am scheduled to re-take the exam. I am feeling good, a little nervous, but more-or-less confident in my ability. I am perfectly ok if the results come back and say that I should do pre-ulpan. In fact, I would almost prefer that, because being in Israel for longer can only be a good thing. When I get a little down at my Hebrew skills, I remind myself of my personal timeline regarding the language. Honestly, I am proud of how far I've come.

Recently, HUC has set up a facebook page for upcoming Year-In-Israel students, and on it soon-to-be students are writing introductions about themselves. I am appreciative of the intros prior to meeting in person in a couple months. I find that a connection can evolve and the people in this new community feel less like strangers. As I read these introductions, I am a little intimidated by some of the comments. People who are Jewish-study majors, who have been going to and teaching at camp for over 10yrs. People who have been going after this dream since adolescents and have laid all the groundwork for it.
Then there is me. I am a scientist. My first career is as an analytical chemist; a career I have been active in for several years. All the learning I have done with Judaism has been outside of a university setting. I owe a huge shout out to the library (and amazaon.com !), to my Hebrew tutor Eti, and especially to the clergy at Har HaShem, my synagogue. Without them, this transition would not have been possible.

And what a transition! As the transition is still in its infancy, I am bogged down with practicalities. Most of which my upcoming classmates can no doubt relate. Get medical paperwork, for me and the cat. Get visa (just for me, he doesn't need one). Make packing list, cut in half, check, double-check, triple check, cut in half again. Look for apartment in Jerusalem--very different than in America, because in Jlem, neighborhood really matters. Come to realization that I must get a roommate (first time for everything I suppose). Keep up with summer HUC reading. Get overseas or internet bank account. And the list goes on and on and on. First priority--pass Hebrew re-take exam.  It is such practicalities which prevent me from being fully here.

The less tangible, non-object oriented tasks, are much harder. Saying goodbye to family, friends, community, home. That will not be easy (nor should it be). Until my first priority (see above) is accomplished, I will not be starting on this part of the transition.

I sit here, in a room in Rechavia, feeling like I am in a dream. Perhaps I am. For next week I will be back in Colorado, back in the lab, back with my friends and this will be a memory. Rather, this moment is a glimpse into the future. For here I will sit in seven weeks, and it will not be a dream and I will really say "הנני".