Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to Life--Again

Shalom, chaverim!

Well, in the land that is known for reportedly having at least one spectacular case of resurrection, here's a far more modest example of revivification--I'm back!

I've been dithering about what to say here about why I haven't posted for such a long time (December of last year was my last entry...yikes!). To make a long story short, things really started falling apart for me last November, and they haven't really started to pick up and sort themselves out until now.

Mostly, the problems were physical and involved seemingly endless rounds of tests and visits to various doctors all over the country. Neurologists, endocrinologists, heart specialists--you name it, I was there. After going through all the investigations and tweaking a few things here and there, I think I finally have a handle on what my conditions are, what medications I need to treat them, and what lifestyle adaptations I need to make in order to stay healthy, happy, and functioning. There is certainly room for improvement, though--taking up regular exercise that won't trash my knees or my joints is next on the agenda. Middle age has its advantages, but really starting to "feel it" physically isn't one of them. So it's a work in progress.

It's been hard to come to terms with the fact that I may never be able to get back to my "old self," who used to be able to easily juggle multiple jobs, lots of projects, countless moves, and a social life. I can do a lot less now than I used to, and I need to sleep more and rest more frequently. However, living at a slower--and more mindful--pace doesn't have to be all bad. I know this in theory, at least. I've attended two ten-day Vipassana meditation retreats in the past which demanded total silence and abstinence from all reading and writing, so I should be better about being "okay" with slowing down, but it's still a struggle for me.

If you've been following the world news, you'll know that Israel and Hamas just signed a "permanent" (whatever that means in the Middle East) ceasefire after fifty days of hellish, destructive battle and countless deaths and injuries. We were fine, more or less, up here in the North--only a few jerks set off a handful of rockets towards our area from Lebanon and Syria, and it seems the perpetrators were quickly dealt with. Some damage was done, but thank goodness no one was killed.

Still, it was truly a rotten summer. No one really felt like celebrating or going out to have a lot of fun, and no one really felt like going too far away from home.  It just didn't seem right, and it sometimes didn't feel safe, depending on where you were thinking of travelling to. As for Elul and me, we usually just hung around Nahariya, except for during ceasefires. When the ceasefires held, the whole nation breathed a sigh of relief; it was a palpable feeling. When fighting started again, gloom descended along with it.

The propaganda wars on social media, and within the news media (due to the ability to "talk back" to internet news stories by commenting on them) were intense, unrelenting, and often extremely vicious. Some real-life friendships were made stronger, some were destroyed, and some were severely tested. The anti-Israel demonstrations within Israel and outside the country, particularly in Europe, were extremely upsetting and frightening. I've never seen anything like it, and hope to never again. I've lived in England and in France, and seeing these demonstrations on the news made me feel sick, sad, and baffled. How could this be happening now, in 2014, in the same streets I had lived in so long ago?

My teaching career in Israel is taking a few twists and turns. This year, I might not be teaching in any Ministry of Education schools, as I just found out yesterday that the job I had been promised at the Druze school at the end of last year has mysteriously disappeared. At least, no one has any record that the Ministry of Education has awarded me any teaching hours to work there.  However, I did manage to find a job teaching English online for an Israeli company. I've just started with them and they seem like a very nice group of entrepreneurs, so I hope my hours with them will grow.

Elul has been having his own struggles with his health over the past six months, and they are reaching a crisis point. At the moment, he is unable to work his job full time anymore, due to repetitive strain injury and chronic pain from arthritis. This development has placed him firmly into the quagmire that is the Israeli social security system, aka "Bituach Leumi." This Kafka-esque institution has more forms, committees, meetings, and chase-the-tail gyrations than I've ever seen. He is lost in the thicket, so to speak, and there's no real trail of breadcrumbs he can follow to get himself out.

However, all is not lost. We are getting help in the battle from the wonderful Yanina Muskinow of the AACI (Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel), who explained Bituach Leumi very elegantly. "With Bituach Leumi," she said, "you need to understand that it does not operate by laws, but by rules. The whole art is to find out which rules and forms support your intended outcome the most." There is an art to letter-writing that must accompany one's application for various services, and if the letter is not written in a certain way, an application may be denied. The good news is, you can always write another letter and submit the same information (e.g. medical records), and get approved. Zoink!

My pet sitting business, Aliyah Petsitting, has dwindled down to the grand total of one client, for whom I am extremely grateful. This has been entirely because I have failed to market my business, even though I have the advertising material prepared and ready for distribution. Such is the insidious and opportunity-robbing nature of depression and fear. It literally prevents money from coming into one's pocket, as if you were zipping your own wallet closed with your own hand. At least now, though, I am less afraid to answer the telephone if someone calls who doesn't speak English. I may have to muddle through in awful Hebrew, but at least I can give it a fighting chance.

At the end of December, we will have been here for three years. Time seems to pass very quickly in Israel, and there is a certain sense of time distortion that many olim seem to comment on. Perhaps this is due to our aging brains, as research has shown that the older our brains get, the faster time appears to pass. And even though I've been mainly whining about the tough times I've been having, please don't think it's all bad or miserable. We have made good friends, and Nahariya--and Israel--is still beautiful and full of life. We are supporting ourselves and working hard to build our future. We are seeing more of the country, slowly, and we can speak one heck of a lot more Hebrew than we could at the end of our first year. We're still glad we came and don't regret it at all. So, we're hanging in there.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to two great bloggers I am fortunate enough to know in real life. One is Shem Tov Sasson, who, like me, was born in Seattle and raised in Michigan. We met him while we were on our pilot trip to Israel and he was a young man in Ulpan. Now Shem Tov is older, and has been serving in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). He has a terrific blog, full of stories about the interesting places he visits all over Israel. We met up at the recent annual Nefesh B'Nefesh Go North Picnic (which was terrific, as usual), and he encouraged me to start blogging again, despite my embarrassment. If he can blog from a war zone, what's my excuse? I don't have one, period.

Shem Tov's blog is called "Israel's Good Name." Also, his parents own and operate Aliyah Lift Shipping, and handled our lift when we made Aliyah from Florida. We received wonderful service from them, and no, they aren't paying me anything to say this! The picnic was held at Michmanim, an ecological Biblical village far up in the hills of Karmiel. It was a fascinating and beautiful setting for the event, and it was great to catch up with some old friends there.

Pressing concerns: A picnicker examines an ancient olive press at Michnanim, the Ecological Bible Village

My kind of picnic setting--plenty o' rustic
A view from the entrance down to the picnic area

View from the mountaintop down towards Karmiel

The second blogger I want to support is that of a former colleague from our teaching days in Nevada, Alvaro Pico. "Mr. Pico," as we addressed each other back then (I was "Miss Lana"), has been blogging about his weight loss experience for the past month at "It Can Be Done - Dropping the Weight." He's going great guns, is dieting and exercising sensibly and with a great attitude, and is getting real results. Both he and Shem Tov inspired me to sit down again, stop making excuses, and start blogging again.

As for you, kind and patient readers, I want you to know I really appreciate the Facebook comments and emails you've been sending me over the past months, with your good wishes and encouragement to keep going. It's been tough, and I've felt bad that I wasn't able to pull myself together any sooner than this. Still, thank you for caring, even though I wasn't able to respond with any action at all--sometimes not even a thank-you. I heard you and I felt your care and concern, so believe me, your kindness did not go unappreciated. If any of you can spare a thought to send some prayers and good thoughts to me to help me get out of my own darn way, I will be exceptionally grateful. And of course, please pray for peace in the Middle East--everyone around this region needs all the help we can get with that one!

Shabbat shalom, chaverim!