Archive | August, 2013

Back in Israel

30 Aug

900Arrived late this morning in Tel Aviv, went quickly through the citizens line at the airport for the first time when entering Israel, sort of a re-aliyah moment. Anyway, no trip from the airport is complete without a Nesher (shared van/taxi) to take 8-10 passengers to their final destinations. Drivers of the Nesher are often gruff, scruffy, with a deep smoker’s voice, and of dubious repute when it comes to handling the vehicle.

Before we are off the airport grounds, the driver (not wearing a kippah), whose name I later discovered was Levi, is already on his cell phone. Correction, he is yelling at person on the other end. Conversation concluded, the passenger(wearing a kippah) next to me comments to Levi that he must love driving back and forth all day between the airport and Jerusalem because of the beauty of the land. The two begin trading verses from all over the Bible. When one man cant finish the rest of a verse, the other one finishes it, but with the volume meter continually rising.

We then move on to politics. At this point, I have been listening to the conversation, which is in Hebrew, and been able to follow, I was afraid I would lose them once the topic shifted. Thankfully, I was able to hang in there with them, not daring to participate, but listening attentively. Both of them like the Prime Minister Netanyahu, but for different reasons, economic, political, security, etc… Levi begins to explain his position, but before he starts he warns the passenger not to interrupt. Guess what, the passenger interrupted. Levi’s response, “Ay, let me finish.” This was repeated a few times until Levi had driven home his points. The passenger then began, but Levi jumps in with an emphatic, “And one more thing!” I could hardly contain my laughter.

Levi also gave us recipes for Shabbat, new ways to use the Shabbat food warmer, told us that he doesn’t go outside in the winter, and tips on how to avoid Friday traffic all over Israel.

At some later stage, Levi reaches for his water, which means taking his eyes off the road for what seemed like five minutes. Taking a swig, he says, “This is the only good thing that the Arabs have taught me.” He had wrapped his bottle in newspaper, and covered it with a plastic bag. “Why pay 300 shekel” he says “for a thermos, when I can make this myself! I filled it at dawn, and I still have cold water!” He then offers his name and phone number to anybody who would like it. Why? He says, “For help, for restaurant recommendations, for reservations, for a driver, anything you want.” With that we were all dropped off at our respective destinations.

Back in Israel. Where else does this happen?

Shabbat shalom.

Growing Up “Israeli”

23 Aug

August 22, 2012. On that warm Tuesday I arrived in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, was whisked away on a bus whose airconditioning must have ceased working years ago. Frequently before this moment, I had heard stories of ascending the stairs in the airport and entering the airport branch of the Interior Ministry in order become a citizen of Israel. A couple of hours later, I walked out of the building as an Israeli, but that was just the beginning, I was still an “Israeli infant.”

I had already enrolled in a yeshiva whose primary population is Israeli. Two days later, in a small gathering in Jerusalem, I received my official Israeli identification card. As part of the absorption process, several visits to government offices were necessary, forcing me to tumble through the hoops of a bureaucracy that is entirely in Hebrew. The guys in my yeshiva celebrated my aliyah with me with singing and dancing. Although embarrassed, I appreciated the support and passion of my fellow students. With my new citizenship came the responsibility of participating in the rotation of students whose job it is to stand on guard, which meant taking a couple of days out of learning in order to learn how to properly operate a firearm. And so, I graduated from toddler to teen.

Unfortunately, the process of growing up Israeli would be expedited in November as Hamas treated me to my first war. Friends were called to their reserve units, while trying to maintain focus on our learning, we were glued to the various news services, as more and more friends were activated by the army. Thankfully there was no ground offensive and the war ended after a week, but not before I would twice have to scramble for a bomb shelter, awoken once from a nap. Later in the year we would have drills, which in true Israeli fashion, I ignored. 

In March I appeared for the first time at the drafting office in Jerusalem, exactly seven months after making aliyah. Since then, considerable time has been spent attempting to clarify my army service, which will likely begin in the coming months. 

Next week I will head back to Israel after summering and working in Washington, set to take the first steps into Israeli adulthood. Having ticked the boxes on a number of quintessential Israeli moments, I wonder which one will be next.