Friday, September 5, 2014

Fight or Flight: Battling One's Internal Environment

Shalom, chaverim!

All is well here in sunny Nahariya. The children are back to school, so the Israeli version of school bells going off--to signal each change of class--are ringing around the town like an overly-loud mobile phone ringtone. By "Israeli version," I mean that here, school bells are actually electronic snippets of nursery tunes and folk songs. "Rock a Bye Baby," "Happy Birthday To You," and even "Jingle Bells" samples are used. When I would hear these tunes blaring at the Druze school I worked in last year, the setting itself gave it an even greater surrealist touch.

The past week has been a series of one domestic battle with our environment after another. Last week, our landlord's refrigerator finally gave up the ghost. Fortunately, we had a small spare fridge (given to us by an American olah who returned to America, screaming, after living a few years here), so we didn't lose too much food.   We've already had to fix the landlord's fridge twice at our own expense, but this time we just gave up and went out fridge shopping.Now we have a nice, shiny, brand-new Whirlpool fridge that is doing a great job. However, our landlord's old, humungous fridge is also sitting in the kitchen, right next to it. This puts a little dent in our available dining area, to put it mildly, so we've put the dining table in the living room.

Our new fridge is the tall, skinny one

Another ongoing battle with this apartment has been with water being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I swear, I have never, ever lived in a dwelling that seems to be losing the fight to the immense power of water, as much as this place is losing. Leaking roofs, blocked drains, leaking pipes within walls that lead to sickening mold and falling plaster, drafty single-pane windows that make the place humid and black-mildewy (not to mention causing us to waste vast amounts of electricity), a temperamental toilet, a washing machine that has a very unaccommodating drain pipe--the list goes on and on. Fortunately, our landlords have been as patient as saints in working to solve all of these problems, and by no means are these problems unusual when you live in an old apartment block anywhere in Israel. Other renters have had terrible luck with the same problems, but with uncaring and incompetent landlords to deal with on top of that.

However, the constant battle against the elements does get us down at times-- at least, I'm starting to take it personally, which is part of the immigrant paranoia that is induced by chronic culture shock. So many physical objects in Israel just break and disintegrate at an alarmingly fast rate. Some of this may be due to the harshness of the salt air and the intensity of the sun. As a small example, I can't even tell you how many times plastic clothespins, less than a year old, have literally crumbled in my hand. Electrical equipment gets corroded, ceases to work, and sometimes start electrical fires. Refrigerators go kaflooey, computers crap out, phones die, plastic and metal cooking utensils snap apart in one's hand, chairs collapse...even a brand new computer desk Elul bought the other day broke--just as he was assembling it. Sadly, the (generally crappy and overpriced) Ace Hardware in town won't take returns of items that have been assembled by customers, even if they are inherently defective.

Okay, enough kvetching! As chance would have it, my bad mood was just interrupted in the most delightful way, in the form of a phone call from our friend Elisa from Temple Sinai in Delray Beach, Florida. She's here in Israel, staying in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and will be attending a wedding in the West Bank (gulp!). She sent us a "suitcase full of love" from Temple Sinai, which I have received with great pleasure and gratitude. We send the back the same, but in shipping container-sized volume.

I really can't express how much we miss and care about our friends and family in America--those who belong to our Temples Sinai of Las Vegas and Delray Beach, and those who don't. We really, really miss you all! The older we get, the louder the clarion call of family, friendship, and congregational life rings in our heads and in our hearts. Since we really don't earn enough to be able to take lots of time off and travel back and forth for visits, however, it's really a conundrum. We feel very torn, and have not figured out a way--yet--to resolve this problem.

However, as the Israelis say, "ha'kol yihiyeh b'seder," which means "everything will be all right." That, along with the Arab maxim, "trust in G-d and tie up your camel," are the two things I always tell myself to keep going and to keep the faith.

Shabbat shalom, chaverim!


  1. You paint such a vivid picture of your circumstances and living situation. I am sure are your loved ones here in the states miss you as much as you miss them.

    I feel like your battle with the elements is similar to what we faced in the sometimes has desert of Amargosa Valley, but we had Vegas near enough to remedy in major issue. I hope the repairs come fast and maintain, I do love your dinning area.

    Hope all is well with you both and only gets better :)

    Take care and I will keep up on your wonderful blog.

    "Mr. Pico"

  2. adjusting to life in Israel is very harsh. New friends, new culture, new atmosphere can be very overwhelming, but I must say your kitchen looks amazing I love the maroon, silver, and white combination you have going on.

    I hope that things turn up for the best and just remember Israel is a warm and welcoming culture so there is always someone to land a hang.


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