Kibbutz, Living in Community, Making Friends, Parenting

Playground Etiquette

One of the most hair-raising experiences of my thirties has been trying to figure out how to parent kids while simultaneously attempting to make and keep friends.

It took me eight years of careful sociological study and experimentation to figure out how to do this with as much tact, and as little arrogant condemnation of  other people as I could muster. 

How to reprimand my children in public, for instance, while seeming neither a bully, nor a wimp. How to reprimand other people’s brats children so it seemed as if I cared about their behavior more than just how it impacted the present playdate.  How to locate that fine line between co-parenting with good friends… and complete and utter neglect.

The hard time I put in making mom friends in New Jersey was well worth the effort: After five years of dancing around playdates and preschool drop off trying to figure out who I liked and who liked me back, I had enough mom friends where I no longer needed to troll message boards or moms’ groups. Even better, I had a good solid book club and a small contact list of people I could call on short notice should I desperately need a shared drink or cup of tea the minute my husband walked in the front door.

Alas, due to the seven-hour time difference and technophobia, my Stateside mom friends have practically abandoned me.  I can’t blame them. I’m good for nothing at this point; not a drop off playdate, not even a drop off birthday party.

I am not friendless here, though. I have two friends (not counting my husband, which would be both cheesy and stupid, since one of the best parts of having a girlfriend is griping about your husband). Both of my girlfriends I knew before moving here. Yafit was actually one of my first mom friends. Each of us gave birth to our first child in Tucson, and since moved away. Two more kids later, she and her husband now live in Netanya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. With Yafit: There’s no friendly flirtations to partake in; no questioning of our commitment and loyalty to each other. We’re friends. It’s a done deal.

The other is my friend from high school, Shira, who I’m very grateful to have as my neighbor. It’s through Shira that we even knew about Hannaton and she’s been my de facto advisor since we decided to make Aliyah. She’s given us the heads up on potential bureacratic nightmares. She’s let me know where I can buy organic produce or local spices. But, most important, I don’t have to be “on” when I am around her. I can be me…or at least the me that’s still trying to figure out who I am here.

This is not to say that other folks here haven’t gone out of their way to get to know us or be friendly. They certainly have. What I am saying is that I am having a hard time figuring out the rules of engagement.

It’s a whole new ball game for me here in Israel — not just because I’m the new girl on the block or because of the cultural differences (read laissez faire approach to parenting) or even due to the language barrier, but moreso because I have to start from scratch. I need to figure out both who I am as a parent, and who I am as a person, here in this new country and this small, intentional community.

Even harder, I need to figure out how I can share that version of me with people who don’t necessarily speak or want to speak my native language. And, let me tell you, my brand of charm and wit doesn’t translate so easily into broken, present-tense Hebrew.  I almost wish I was pregnant. (God forbid, ptoo, ptoo, ptoo.) At least if I was pregnant, there would be an easy source of conversation; an obvious topic to study in my Hebrew language dictionary.  At least, I could come to gatherings prepared.

Instead, after pick up at the Gan or alongside other adults at the playground, I find myself facing discomforts I thought I left behind long ago. I wonder how appropriate it is for me to linger near, about or around the group of chatting grownups; how much of the conversation in Hebrew I should try to keep up with before resorting to a rhythmic bob of my head in feigned understanding; or how long I should wait to notify the parent of the child who is smacking my two-year-old across the head with a bag of Bisli.

The truth is…I’m getting there. Slower than I like, but I am getting there. I have enough of a playful repor with a few of my new “almost-friends” that I feel comfortable mentioning my interactions with them here. And they’re interested enough in me to take the time to read this blog.

Unless, of course, they’re not interested in me at all; they’re just narcissists. Which wouldn’t be so bad, really, as it would make for good conversation over that beer I’ve yet to be invited to (subtle hint, hint).

I suppose I could be a little more proactive than I’ve been, too. Give up the coy, shy persona that I will no way be able to pull off once someone spends one-on-one time with me for more than twenty minutes.  Or, perhaps I’ll use the oldest trick in the book: My kid as bait. I could encourage my two-year-old to smack their kid across the head with a stick or instruct her to “accidentally” pee on their front yard.

If nothing else, a peeing two-year-old is a great conversation piece — in both Hebrew and in English.

Kibbutz, Parenting

Kibbutz Chic

I have one pair of “skinny” jeans. I bought them at the Gap outlet in Jersey Gardens right before moving to Israel. I wish I had bought more than one because they have become my favorite pair of pants since moving here.

Not because my butt looks great. (Although, maybe it does. You will have to ask my husband or someone who often walks behind me.) But because my skinny jeans fit best inside my ultra-fashionable green polka-dotted Wellington boots — which are the shoes I wear most around here. The skinny jeans and boots look is deceiving, though. Anyone who knows me well understands that I’m only fashionable by accident.

Having arrived here in winter (which is the rainy season in Northern Israel), I’m having a hard time trusting the folks who keep assuring me, “we need the rain.” They all to swear to me there wasn’t a drop of rain in December, and the rain came in with us, but that’s no consolation for the regular piles of stinking muddy socks. What’s worse is that the chemical-free, eco-conscious brand of laundry detergent I brought here from the States is no match for kibbutz mud or the mineral-heavy water.  No matter how long I soak and scrub their clothes, my kids still look dirty.

I probably wouldn’t even bother washing their clothes at all — since they are just putting them back on to go sit in Gan sand or dig through the mud behind the Migrash*– if it weren’t for the smell. Last week, my two-year-old daughter fell into a man-made puddle (man-made because it’s a hole no one has bothered to fill up), and she smelled like a dead cow that had rolled around in his own feces for two days before he died.

The smell was so wretched I considered throwing away her clothes. But then I looked at the tags and I realized they were from Old Navy, which is like saying Barneys here in Israel. Mustn’t throw the baby clothes out with the bath water…

I promise you, my kids look filty, but smell fresh.  And not the kind of synthetic fresh that makes you want to hold your breath or grab your government-issued gas mask. But, squeaky clean from nightly baths (together, to save water) in Castile soap I had my father-in-law buy in bulk on his recent trip to the States.

Considering what the water has already done to my hair and our clothes, I try to be diligent about brushing my kid’s teeth. Not about brushing their hair, though, because I don’t want to get too attached. I have a strong feeling that I will have to shave our heads once lice season arrives. 

There is one day of the week I recognize my formerly well-groomed and fairly tidy children. On Shabbat morning, I can actually pick out my ragamuffins from the others — they don their handsome clothes, clean teeth, and combed hair. 

This past Shabbat my littlest rugrat was confused. “Ima,” she called as she wandered from leg to leg. “Ima, where are you?” She couldn’t find the boots — the rain had finally stopped long enough for me to put them out to dry and trade them for crocs.

What? You think we wear heels to synagogue here on the kibbutz? We’d sink faster than you could say Manolo Blahnik.

That is, if I was fashionable enough to know how to say it. 

Migrash = Open space (here it’s the area where the playground and ball courts are)
Ima= mommy

Education, Living in Community, Parenting, Religion

Finding My Religion

On the one hand, it’s easy to forget you’re a Jew when you live in Israel.

Your name no longer stands out in a roll call. All the dads at drop off, not just your husband, are either bald, Jew-froed, or wear trendy glasses. And Jewish Geography is so common place it’s no longer a game, but part of proper dinner party etiquette.

In the States, whether or not you keep Shabbat is a label. It outs you as an “observant” Jew. Not so here, where by default, most Israelis observe Shabbat on some level, as most stores and restaurants are closed and nothing official can be executed between 1 pm on Friday and Sunday morning. 

On the other hand, living in Israel requires you to contemplate and even commit to what kind of Jew you are. Moreso than in the States where you simply have to decide Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. Or figure out who’s hosting the Passover seder or whether or not to buy High Holiday tickets.

In Israel, where living as a Jew among Jews should be easy (and often is), figuring out who you are as a Jew is a prerequisite for almost everything — from where you will live to who you will be friends with to where you will send your children to school.

For instance, when we were researching where we would live in Northern Israel, in addition to taking into consideration how large or small the community was, how close or far it was from a major city, or how many English speakers lived there, we were also advised to consider how observant the community was. Typically, yishuvim* are either secular or religious…not “undecided.”

While this is slowly changing (and Kibbutz Hannaton, where we live, is at the forefront of this movement), figuring out how comfortable you are with folks driving on Shabbat is a strong indicator of whether or not you will fit in as part of a particular community.

The same goes for school. In Israel, you have a choice as to where you send your child to public school.  You may choose the local secular school or the Orthodox school. The secular schools, from what I understand, have no Jewish studies within their curriculum whatsoever. So, your kids live in the “Jewish State,” but save for history lessons, religion is left out of the classroom.

Whereas in Orthodox schools, students are not only learning about Jewish religion, they are expected to keep Orthodox Jewish practices. Which, if you are Conservative, Reform or Undecided, makes for an unusual dichotomy between school and home.

There are only a handful of public elementary schools in the country that “support the development, promotion, and enrichment of Jewish studies within the general Israeli educational system.” (These are called Tali schools, and the local municipal-run school where we send our oldest child is one.)

So, where do we fit in? What box did we check on the form before we moved here?

I’m just kidding. There’s no form. But moving to Israel certainly forces you to consider where the practice of Judaism fits into your life.

Despite the chuppah at my wedding; despite raising my children in a Jewish home; despite sending them to Jewish preschool and religious school; despite being members of a Conservative synagogue in New Jersey; despite the two brit milah; and despite the glowing recommendation from our Rabbi on our Nefesh B’Nefesh application…it’s been a long time since I’ve considered who I am as a Jew.

And living here is certainly bringing it to the surface.

By here I mean Israel, but mostly I mean Hannaton, where the community is pluralistic — a word I never really considered much before living here. So far, I’ve met three rabbis who live here (one is Conservative and two are Reform). There are community members who drive on Shabbat, but keep Kosher. And there are community members who don’t drive on Shabbat, but don’t wear kippot. There are community members here who send their kids to the Tali school and there are others who send them to the Orthodox one; while still others schlep them far away to private schools practicing democratic or anthroposophic or other alternative educational philosophies.

We’re a mixed breed here at Hannaton. Furthermore, how we practice Judaism as a community is a conversation that seems to be taking place on a regular basis.

Which is just perfect for me. Because, frankly, if I had to choose a religious yishuv or a secular one, I wouldn’t feel 100 % comfortable on either. If I had to know in advance how observant I was going to be once I moved to Israel, I would have shrugged my shoulders with a big, accompanying, “I dunno.”

What I do know today is that there is a place for me in Israel, and a place for me on Kibbutz Hannaton. Which is quite a relief.

As I’m still very much a Jew in progress.

Yishuvim = Literally “settlements,” but moreso large communities or neighborhoods outside of a major city
Brit milah = Hebrew and plural of “bris”

Kibbutz, Letting Go

Stop Bugging Me

I am not a clean freak. Nor am I a slob. I’m somewhere in the middle — which makes kibbutz life tolerable, particularly in the rainy season.

When I was growing up, we were a no shoes in the house, no food on the couch type of family. I had to tidy my room for the cleaning lady (a point of contention for most upper middle class teenagers), but at least I was allowed through the living room, unless there were fresh vacuum lines on the carpet.

In my house in Israel, there are no carpets, just a few rugs to keep our feet from getting dangerously cold. (Apparently, if you don’t wear slippers across the cold tile floor here, you’ll either catch pneumonia, go into shock or turn into stone.)  It’s actually better that we don’t have carpets because it makes it a lot easier to spot the bugs.

I have to give myself a great big pat on the back for the tolerance I’ve shown the crickets and spiders.  I’ve even turned my head at the garden slugs that make their way to the front porch every morning and the centipedes that sneak under the front door in the middle of the night. I’ve only smooshed about half of them…the rest I’ve swept out the sliding glass door with my big Wicked Witch of the West size broom. I’d say that’s pretty compassionate.

But now we have ants. They appeared out of nowhere at the base of one of our bathrooms sinks; in the guest bathroom, which is much better than the master bathroom because I can ignore the problem until the next time we have guests, at which point I will feign shock and utter “What? Ants? I had no idea!”

In New Jersey, where I lived most of my life before Israel, if you have a bug problem you call Jerry the Exterminator. Not me, of course, because I know that pesticides kill you or give you cancer, whichever one comes first. I only call Jerry for the mice.

According to my friend Shira, who has lived here longer than I have, “Every season has its share of critters.” This includes mice, who don’t discriminate based on whether you rent or own your home.  And snakes, which apparently stick to the backyard. Somehow, I thought with all the rogue cats that hang out around here, I wouldn’t have to worry about rodents.  Not so. Could have something to do with folks like my mother-in-law who feed the cats fancy scraps. Who wants to prey on mice and snakes when you can have leftover Schnitzel?

The lice I expected…not because Israelis are dirty or anything, but because Gan is gross. It’s heaven for my kids, don’t get me wrong. What four year old wouldn’t love digging through the mud to find a cellphone from 1998 or snuggling up with a hand-me-down Raggedy Ann doll that looks like it made its way over here on The Exodus? It’s just that old pillows and stuffed animals are lice paradise, so having my kids in Gan pretty much guarantees I’m going to spend the summer months scratching my head off.

I have a theory, though, which I am unwillingly testing out and hope is true.

I think one is genetically predisposed to get lice the same way one is predisposed to near-sightedness or freckles. According to my theory, you are either a family that gets lice or you don’t. It’s something in your hormones or pheromones. It has nothing to do with which shampoo you use or how often you bathe.

So far, my whole life I’ve never had lice.  No matter how many times I’ve anxiously scratched away at little ghost nits in my hair as the school nurse ran her plastic comb through it, I’ve had nary a one. Let me make this perfectly clear: I feel very, very lucky about this, and I’m very scared to say it out loud — ptoo ptoo ptoo kenahora. I have enough conditions and illnesses to manage in my household. That last thing I need to be obsessing over is lice.

Unfortunately, my husband can’t make the same claim I can. He did have lice once as a kid, and so therefore I have to wonder what’s in store for my kids. Did I hand them down the lice-free genes? Is there such a thing? All I know is that having two kids in Gan will seriously put my theory to the test.

The good news is that the influx of little critters has desensitized my previously bug-aphobic kids. Now instead of screaming when they see a worm, they look around for a sharp object to slice it in half — just like any good kibbutz kid should.

Food, Kibbutz, Letting Go

Supersize It

Our Rabbi (who is also our friend) and her family are coming to Israel in a few weeks on a synagogue-organized trip, with a special stop to our kibbutz. We’re really excited to see them, but their visit presents a moral and ethical dilemma:

How inappropriate is it to ask them to devote an entire suitcase to items we need from the States? And is it even more inappropriate to ask them to forgo an item of luggage so they can instead bring us an IKEA Expedit bookshelf?

I’ve only lived here for six weeks and already I completely understand with great compassion why our Israeli relatives and friends always asked us to buy shoes on or toys from Amazing Savings or tupperware from the Dollar Store to pack in our bags and schlep over here for them. For years, the reason eluded me. Why on earth would my father-in-law need coffee from the States? Is he that picky? Why did our little cousins get so excited by a cruddy little Fisher Price wind-up toy we spent 75 cents on?

Why? Because you have to be an Israeli millionaire before you can afford quality tupperware in this country. You need to be among the upper elite before you can buy a decent gift at Toys RUS. And home goods or kitchen supplies? Ha! What you pay here for a ripoff of a Made in China ripoff is the same as what you’d pay in Williams Sonoma for the Chef Michael Voltaggio brand in the States.

I am not kidding. Ask my mother-in-law. We were joking about it last night, but really not. In fact, we were not joking so hard we were crying real tears.

When she goes back to the States to visit, she brings an extra suitcase. On the last day of her trip, she goes to Costco and fills up that suitcase with everything from Kirkland brand white albacore tuna (you can only get Chunk Light here!) to Swiffer refills to Chinet paper plates.

But, then you return to Israel, and you can’t bring yourself to actually use the Chinet! It is like fine china — reserved for dignitaries and special Shabbat guests only.  I mean, what happens when it’s all gone and you have to go back to using the flimsy plastic plates they sell here?

It’s not like you can ask a friend visiting from the States to bring you over some Chinet.  When a friend asks you if you want anything from “back home,” she expects a “Please bring me a movie-sized bag of M and Ms” or a “Yes, I’d really love the new Michael Chabon book.” Your friend is not expecting you to politely beg her to bring you paper plates in bulk.

When my mother-in-law saw me unpack a bulk-sized Bounty paper towels from one of my kitchen boxes a few weeks ago, she audibly gasped. “Zvi, did you see? Bounty…,” she said longingly. I laughed at the time, but after one trip to SuperPharm, where I bought a pack of the paper towels you get around here, I told my husband, “Hide the Bounty! You are forbidden to use the Bounty for anything less than vomit! Do you understand me?!?”

I think about all the items we liquidated at our weekend-long garage sale right before we moved. Or, the leftover items that were donated to charity. Lord, how I wish I had my rusty old teapot (I can’t seem to find anything but an electric kettle here) or my kids’ less-desired Playmobil (I could have resold it here for a gajillion shekels! Or at least re-gifted it to my kids’ classmates at birthday parties.)

Today we re-bought gardening tools we didn’t realize we’d ever need in Israel.  With the rains over the last few weeks, our backyard has grown so tall, we’ve lost our two-year old. I don’t understand. Never, on any of my trips to Israel, have I ever seen a blade of green grass. I’ve seen sand. I’ve seen dry wisps of what may have once been grass. But never green grass or yards. Whomever would have thought we’d actually get enough of the green stuff to require a weed wacker? And yet, today we needed to buy a new one at Home Center. Don’t ask me what it cost — I had to barter one of my kidneys.

I’m a nice girl. I’ll never ask you to pack me a case of Rice Protein powder from Whole Foods or a family pack of Charmin toilet paper. But if you happen to have a little extra room to spare in your suitcase…consider going up to your attic and rifling through your “donate to charity” pile.  If you see an old teapot or some extra under-the-bed plastic containers, we’ll take ’em.

If not, I’ll gladly accept the remaining pack of travel sized Kleenex you didn’t use on the plane. Or the M-n-Ms.

Learning Hebrew

Dreaming of the final exam

I have a theory. Technology is to blame for my inability to recall Hebrew.

Thanks to the internet, and Facebook in particular, I have to recall names, places, and events I never would have if it weren’t for technology.

Before people were able to stay connected and reconnect after years of forgetting each other, we had all this extra room in our brains to retain useful data, such as mathematical proofs, measurement conversions, and foreign languages we once learned.

If I didn’t have to use so much of my brain recalling interactions with people I used to share a cubicle with fifteen years ago when I was an intern in Washington, D.C., I just might remember how to say, “Taxidriver, please bring me to the nearest bus station.” Instead, I have to stay home and learn Hebrew with Rosetta Stone, which is useful if you’re interested in buying a map at a Jerusalem gas station, but is not as helpful when you need to confirm with your child’s teacher that he is up-to-date on the required vaccinations.

I’m convinced that the information I once learned studying Hebrew at The George Washington University resides somewhere in the recesses of my brain.  It’s true that I was always more confident reading and writing Hebrew, than speaking it. I never studied abroad in Israel like some of my classmates and friends, so I was never forced into a situation where I was immersed in the language. (Though, I have to wonder if it’s really considered immersion when you’re living at Hebrew University and socializing with the same people you spent the last five years making out with at camp or during BBYO conventions?)

That said, I must have learned something to make it all the way from Hebrew 101 to Advanced Hebrew Literature.  Recently, I even wondered out loud on Facebook to my friend Frayda, who is a clinical hypnotist, if it was possible to use hypnosis to recall three years of a language acquired as an adult. She wasn’t completely sure, but she was game to try it and so was I!

During our session, I was able to recall a small, windowless, dimly-lit classroom; a professor with a long gray beard (“Max Ticktin!” I shouted. “I haven’t thought of that name in years.”); and a xeroxed excerpt of a story from A.B. Yehoshua. When we were finished, I said to Frayda in Hebrew, “By George. I think I’ve got it!”

No, I didn’t. But that would have been something, right? It would have been even better if my head spun around and I shouted out in Aramaic the directions to find the Lost Ark of the Covenant.

While my one session with a hypnotist did not release the flood, it seems to have opened the floodgates. In my dream last night, I spoke a little bit of Hebrew. Nothing fancy. Just a conversation with another mom with whom I was discussing anthroposophical educational philosophies. For sure, the anthroposophical part was English. However, I definitely said the word, “holistit” in Hebrew.


I suppose there is no easy way. I can’t travel back in time and give my three-year-old self Baby Einstein flashcards; or nudge my college-aged self off onto an El Al plane Junior year.  For now, it’s back to imaginary conversations with sophisticated Israeli men and women on my computer. If I’m lucky, perhaps they’ll join me for a cup of tea at a nearby Bet Cafe.


Holistit = holistic
Bet Cafe= coffee shop

Food, Kibbutz

Organically-grown foodie

Okay, I’m a little sneak. I previously wrote and published this post on February 6 for my wellness-related blog, The Wellness Bitch. However, its connection to Israel is clear and relevant, and has much to do with my making Aliyah. I even added a special little something to this version.

Some people mistake my interest in food for an interest in food.

By that, I mean just because I am constantly thinking and writing about food, people who don’t know me well automatically assume that I like to cook, enjoy food preparation, and think it’s groovy to come up with surprising new ways to prepare root vegetables.

This is not true. In fact, until I was practically forced to cook for my family when I realized that most of Trader Joes’ frozen meals were cross-contaminated with peanuts (a food my son is severely allergic to), I preferred to reach into the freezer for dinner, not the vegetable crisper.

I am not a foodie.

I do not enjoy watching anything on The Food Network, save for Ace of Cakes (I’m amused by the ingenuity and wit of Duff’s crew) and the occasional Jamie Oliver (because he’s so darn cute and an activist, to boot.)

I arrange food on plates with as much creativity and intention as a lunch lady. And I really, really hate the aftermath of preparing lovely meals — dishpan hands.

However, I have to admit since I started buying organic produce from a local farm, and my husband is closely watching whether or not this budget line item is worth it, I’ve become a lot more playful in the kitchen.

The first week I received the basket I discovered the many uses of cabbage. Shredded cabbage salad. Sauteed cabbage with onions, tomato, and garlic. And this dish I used to love to get from my local Ethiopian restaurant in South Orange, NJ.  I suddenly transformed into a little Jewish Julia Child, which I guess would make me a mini Joan Nathan, since she is already the Jewish Julia Child.

This week, I’m exploring fennel and peppers for a very simple reason: I need to make room in my refrigerator. There are so many peppers and fennel bulbs that I can’t reach the hummus.

When I lived in New Jersey, very close to a Whole Foods Market, I bought plenty of organic fruits and vegetables. But, despite the advice and urging from many of my foodie friends, I stuck with the stuff I knew, loved, and could be sure my children would eat. In the vegetable category, this left me with broccoli, spinach, and kale.  None of which has made an appearance in my weekly organic delivery basket. Are my kids enjoying the cabbage and fennel, too?

No, they are not. And this is the very reason I didn’t join a co-op or CSA in the States. However, as my access to organic food here is significantly limited, and gas is extremely expensive, this is the most practical and affordable option for our family right now.  (To learn more about why I choose organic for my family, please read more of The Wellness Bitch, or talk to the folks here in Israel who work on non-organic farms to learn about the unfortunate incidence of cancer among their co-workers.)

I seek comfort, though, in the knowledge that my children eat Israeli salad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and that I brought the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook with me instead of selling it at my yard sale.

If I am really lucky, perhaps she has a trick for hiding fennel.

Middle East Conflict, Politics, Religion, Work


I work from home. And since my younger children are in Gan on the kibbutz and my older son takes a bus to his school in Givat Ela (a 15 minute-drive away), I don’t have much reason to leave. In fact, I don’t really have much reason to shower. (See? Already I’m contributing to the water conservation effort in Israel.)

This makes for a very insular life. Which, for the moment, I enjoy.

Especially since this type of isolation means I can forget I live in a country in the middle of a war zone.

Did you ever see the Christopher Reeve film, Somewhere in Time? It’s a time traveling story in which Reeve’s character, Richard, falls in love with a woman (Jane Seymour) he sees in a vintage portrait. Richard figures out how to travel back in time to the turn of the century to meet her…where they fall in love. He needs to be mindful, though, because if he sees anything that reminds him of his own time, he will be hurled back there in an instant.

I, too, need to be mindful. All it takes is one email, one conversation with a friend, or one visit to to remind me that I didn’t move to a communal farm in New Hampshire, but to a kibbutz in Israel, a land whose fate is consistently in question.

The other day I was driving to Nazrat Ilit, the nearest “city” to Hannaton with my friend Yitzhak, who is also a new oleh. On the drive, he asked me if I was concerned about the situation in Egypt. “What’s going on in Egypt?” I asked tentatively. He looked at me as if I had three heads. “Do you know what’s going on in Tunisia?” he asked. I told him I thought I saw a picture about it on Facebook. He sighed.

When I got home later, my husband Avi was closely reading an email in his inbox. When he saw me looking over his shoulder trying to make out the Hebrew, he quickly closed it out. “What was that about?” I asked. “Oh, nothing we need to worry about right now,” he replied.

The problem with his response is that I already saw the photo included in the email which, it turns out, listed the dates the local municipality would be handing out complimentary gas masks to each family in the region, and the specific locations at which we could pick ours up.

“I see,” I said, noting that the soonest date to pick up our stash was mid-February. I took a deep breath and glanced over at the miklat* in our house, which for now is filled with boxes we have not yet emptied, as opposed to gas masks, extra water, or bags of dehydrated food.  I was better prepared for catastrophe in New Jersey, where I kept a big tupperware box filled with 2012 End of Days supplies in my basement.

Is it ignorant or naive of me to think I could move to Israel and not be forced to confront the politics of living here? I think the clear answer is, Yes.  And, yet, I’m doing a really good job of it so far.

Or so I easily lead myself to believe…

I think it’s only time until I will be forced to confront, or at least acknowledge, what it means to be an American Jew living in Israel. When all the careful indoctrination I received studying International Politics in college, interning at the Embassy of Israel, and working in Washington, D.C. think tanks rises to the surface.  

I am, in fact, very aware and informed of the history of the land I now I live in. It’s one thing, though, to read Amoz Oz or write a paper on “Why the West Bank Is An Important Strategic Asset to Israel” (which I did in 1993). It’s quite another to pay taxes here, prepare my children for a bomb drill, or walk beneath fighter planes doing exercises in the sky.

When there is inevitably another media blitz about an Israeli military choice or when Israel is once again front and center in the international news, where will I be? Lobbying in support of my country? Or quietly insisting that the latest news doesn’t concern me?

Only time will tell.

Like many transformations I’m experiencing as a new immigrant here, my political leanings are still…TBD.


Miklat = Bomb shelter (which by law every new Israeli home built has to have. Most people use these as closets, storage rooms, or offices.)