Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Big hurdle forded yesterday. Ira and I successfully passed our driving tests. You may wonder? You had to take a driving test? Well, according to local lore, after the 'Russians came,' this to be compared with my Mother's line of after the 'Hungarians came,' (explain: post-world war II, the Hungarians who had survived in greater numbers, even though Hitler did his best to kill off as many as he could despite the fact that it was '44, arrived in NYC, they brought with them their more uptight version of kashrut and observance and according to my mother and grandmother z"l, that's when heckhshered cheese first showed up - in the '50's perhaps. Ask Danny Magill for more information.)

Anyway, when the Russians came enmasse, it became apparant that driving laws/testing was even more problematic there than here where driving is quite the sport - people are killed more on the roads than in wars - and they tightened the rules so that every new immigrant has to at least take a lesson and a test in order to be licensed. Use to be, you just brought your American license down and got switched. My parents were the last to be able to do that. In typical Israeli fashion, you have to go for a very intense eye test (no standing and reading the letters at the DMV) and then, of course, to the doctor (such a bore), and then, down to the DMV type of office for your forms to be stamped and such many times and they make note of where your license came from, etc...then, you get to take your lesson and test.

We had been given the name of this guy, David, who is clearly making a killing helping nervous immigrants go through this process. He picks up your papers, gets them to the appropriate offices and then, calls you to schedule your lesson/test, drives you back and forth to the testing area and generally, holds your hand (he patted my head but at least he's over 70) and tells you it will all be fine - this for 400nis or about $100, which is alot of money considering that a regular lesson is about nis100. But we went with it because of all the horror stories - like Alan Salzberg failing the first time. Also, we had waited until the umpteenth moment to do this. You have 3 years to do the test but if you don't pass by the end of the first year, you can't drive until you pass. Some disagree with this, some say you'll just get ticketed if you get caught but there it is.

It was Tisha ba'av/fast day for commemorating the destruction of the 2nd Temple a loooong time ago (you know Jews and their long memories). Light traffic. Auspicious day. I had my lesson at 7:50 with Bob Carroll (went to Brandeis, knows Simcha boy back when he was Fred), and it should be added that Ira and I were making our lives marginally more difficult by doing the test in stick. We both drive stick and in this country, typically, you have to pass the test for stick in order to drive both types. If you pass just automatic then you can't drive a stick. Rediculous I know. Actually, maybe it's not so rediuclous but it's amazing to think that they're so stringent but nobody drives well anyway. One theory we have is that they make you drive so slowly and carefully, that nobody is ever trained to deal with normal road conditions. Also, I think that they are patriarchal to the women and make them nervous so many of the bad driving one sees is by women and then men drive as if they own the road and EVERYONE tailgates which is a major cause of accidents.

We each had our lessons. I, of course, had to go inside btw lessons bec of babysitter handoff since Akiva wasn't in school yesterday, and have my stomach be so upset and nervous that I ate a cracker and drank water (so much for fasting but I'm not a great TB faster to begin with) before I went back into the car for the rest of Ira's lesson (of course the teacher said nothing to Ira about anything - at least not the way he lectured me about road rules and of course, Ira was cool as a cucumber).

The tester entered the car. Nice guy. Ira started and drove, and I kid you not, maybe 4 minutes before being asked to pull over to the right (I thought he had done something wrong but nooo....) and then, I went (I told Bob, our new bff, that I had to go next or die of nervousness) and I drive for perhaps 3 minutes, and finally, Bob, who took us back the driving test offices. And that was it. We passed. For this I had to eat my kishkes out? And what a scam really. Thank goodness I'm not like my niece Elisheva, who's failed 4x and has put so much money into her lessons that it's just absurd. She can drive but they keep failing her on odd technicalities and just to keep getting the money - you have to take 28 lessons just to take the test the first time if you're a new driver and then each time you fail, you have to take a few more and then if you fail a certain amount of times you're really screwed. Natan says he'll never do it.

On to the next adventure.
Natan has arrived back in country. Oh happy day.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tis the Season

Quick trip to the 'yarkan'/veg and fruit guy on Friday. I should preface this that when we don't go to the shuk or to 'supersol deal' we do one of 2 things. We now order organic deliveries once a week - very nice but very small selection of fresh and dry goods. On Friday though, we stop in at the 'yarkan,' for salad makings, fruit, you know, shabbat stuff. Of course, the last week or two, I've been over buying as no Natan, and now no Gabe - got to learn how to downscale. Thank goodness Natan returns on Wed.

Our neighbor across the hall, actually is the proprietor with is brother, I believe, of the yarkan on Derekh Beit Lehem on the corner of Esther Ha'malka, but we really prefer to go to the yarkan across the street from him - also on DBL as well. He's a nice guy and it's a nice store and he always discounts me if he's there BUT they all smoke in the store, they wrap their veggies with saran in pkgs, which let's be honest is no way to buy your produce. They do have good arugula - almost always - and some nice homemade salads. The guy across the way, has more interesting berries and this week, pant, gasp, faint...LIMES.

I have waited a whole year for this moment. On Friday, as I browsed thinking of what else to buy to make sure that we wouldn't have to shop for a few days as life has been too busy (but that's another story), I saw a 'havila'/basket of green, round objects. I've been fooled by these before. They could be green lemons. I looked and sniffed - then, I asked...'ha'eem zeh limon...' I trailed off expected the answer, 'ken, limon,' and she looked and smiled and said, 'limes.' This was funny as it was immediately apparant that there's no real plural for limes in hebrew. Fine with me. I bought a whole basket and began considering my options - margaritas? mojitos? salsa? lime bars? I called Lisa Smith immediately and bought her 6, just as a taste. I came home and cut into the lime and it was a lime - I rubbed my nose in the lime, inhaled the smell and squeezed it on salad and in yogurt and on fruit but haven't done any drinking yet. Working up to it. Gili, the owner, said to expect them to be around for a while but I wasn't taking any chances and the cashier, his sister, approved. She said, people come in and say 'limes!' and then buy 3. What can you do with 3 she asked?' I agreed.

Let the party begin.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wall of Sound

I went to Shira Hadasha on Fri night and Shabbat morning this week. Friday night was particularly special as Jess came, along with a visiting friend and sister-in-law, Miriam but for myself I was struck but how happy I felt to have her there and not be alone as I was on the Shabbatot that she was in the hospital and I came without here. She was greeted with many hugs and kisses and that was nice to see as well.

This morning, I went back for more. I went, despite the 600 people (according to Ilan the guard), despite the overwhelmingly American feel with all of the visiting groups and groupies, and despite the crowding - as a member, at least I can call some of the front seats my own when I come in, a real blessing during the tour group season. I returned, for what I like to call, the 'wall of sound,' of the tefila/prayer there.

We all struggle with tefila - the good days and the bad days. The days that we should have stayed in bed and the days where it all just feels right. The good days definitely outnumber the bad days at Shira Hadasha. This again despite the at times annoying nusach/prayer melodies, or the overly long and yuh buh buh'ying tendencies to the tunes, or the feeling that there are a bunch of Welsh men singing over on the men's side on their way home from the mines. Thing is, there is nothing like the sound of so many people singing out - singing out their stress, their weeks' fatigue, their Shabbat happiness, their pleasure in the experience of the evening.

It's what I like to call, to use a coinage from the Phil Spector era of musical arrangments, the 'wall of sound.' As if we've all been crowded into a small room (we are considering the numbers), with a planned reverb or however these things are really done for our listening enjoyment. Everyone sings, hums, vocalizes, harmonizes and somehow, magically it almost seems, it all words. Invevitably, I feel 'farklempt.' It's sort of like being at a show and feeling weepy when everyone claps at the end - it's the swelling of emotion, all those good feelings and bonhommie that almost brings me to my knees. Sometimes I think, I'm just a shameless wimp, trained like Pavlov's dog to cry at AT&T commercials and other times I allow myself the feeling of emotion, so strange it seems after years of 'dry davening moments.' Maybe they're on to something here, this post-modern version of hasidism, this joyful take on the mundane and commonplace, this happy desire to sing their hearts out week in and week out, even if they need to come up with some new melodies.

My mother and my brother may scoff at it (don't be offended when you read this, Mom). It's too long, they get hungry, why do all this singing anyway? If we went to the local shul, we'd be home already. All of this may be true but once you open yourself up to the experience, it's quite enticing and the next thing you know you're, heaven forfend, clapping your hands and swaying in the aisles. Can closing your eyes and dancing ecstatically be far behind? Beer does lead to heroin at Shira Hadasha.

Shavua tov.