Brought to you by the rock I hide under

When I’ve had enough coffee in the morning, I choose to listen to the Israeli news on my drive to work instead of the latest self help guru I am following.

Truth is, I am not fluent in Hebrew enough yet to understand exactly what the newscaster reports, but I know enough key words to get the gist of the headlines, and unfortunately too many keywords not to panic when I hear pigua (attack) or Ahmadinejad.

Celebrity news, like Whitney Houston’s death this year, comes through loud and clear. I love it when they splice in a comment in English from Obama or, in the case of Whitney, Crying Funeral Goer #4. I feel really smart in those moments.

But when they start discussing the crime beat or internal political developments, I am in way over my head. Not only that, but I also get this overwhelming feeling that I should be understanding what they’re discussing. Like, it’s important or something. CONTINUE READING

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Action, action, we want action

There’s a chorus inside my head that won’t shut up.

It’s the group of internal activists (who look remarkably like me except they wear sexy wife beater tank tops and cargo pants) holding up signs that read:

STOP TALKING ABOUT IT AND DO SOMETHING

The activists look like me, but they are a lot louder and a lot less lazy. They also speak better Hebrew than I do because they are imaginary (and sexy).

I can’t be sure, but I think they run on adrenaline. Or hormones. Or fear. They certainly are antagonized easily.

I’ve been trying to shushy them since I moved to Israel.  I rocked the boat enough in the good ole’ U.S. of A. and I was hoping for a fresh start here in Israel where everyone thinks I’m that nice, but boring introvert who lives in the ugliest house on Hanaton.

But the hot chorus girls in my head won’t shut up.

They keep saying to me, “Do something! You know you can. You know you want to.”

What are they talking about?

Okay, I’ll tell you. But promise you won’t tell anyone?

I like to change things.

I like to figure out what’s not working (in my life or yours) and make it better.

Some people call that complaining, but I call it innovation. Or coaching, depending on whether or not you asked for it.

There are some things that bother me about living in Israel. Some of it I’ve agreed to suck up and get used to: like imitation Ziploc bags. And some of it I tolerate: like signs with egregious spelling mistaeks. (I mean mistakes). But there are other things that I just can’t tolerate, and I know these are the things that the hot sexy chorus girls in my head are screaming about.

Things like garbage fires. Which aren’t as bad as tire fires, I guess, but still really, really bad for my asthma, and probably for anyone else’s healthy lungs.

Or, like trash in my backyard. Not the stuff that looks like trash in my backyard. Those old bikes and toys we actually still play with. But, I mean the actual trash that litters the beautiful fields behind our kibbutz.

And, of course, the health of our children, my own three and the “children of Israel.” The angry mom in me; the woman that a whole slew of activist moms in the States know as “The Wellness Bitch,” she is the leader of the hot chorus girls. She’s the loudest one. Because she has seen how I can affect change when I set my mind to it and when I empower others to do the same. And she’s bored with nice, quiet Jen.

She wants me to make some phone calls. She wants me to push people’s buttons. She wants me to write to government officials and call out Israeli food companies that use Yellow #5. She wants me to hang flyers in Kupat Holim promoting natural birth. She wants me to seek out all the amazing wellness practitioners that she knows exist here in Northern Israel and create community.

But she knows I’m afraid. So she hasn’t pushed too hard. But she’s getting antsy. Or maybe she is taking advantage of the fact that she can read my mind and she knows I’m a little less afraid than I used to be.

So, now I have two choices. I can hope that a few Extra Strength Excedrin will do the trick. Or I can start making a list of people to call in the Ministry of Health or Environment to see what can be done about those garbage fires. Apparently, there’s already a law against them. But that’s not stopping my neighbors in the next village over.

It’ll be a small first step, I know, but that along with a visit to the organic farm where we buy our veggies might be just enough to appease the hot girls inside my head… for a little while.

A little sick

Can someone who is a lot more informed than I am explain to me what’s the problem with socialized medicine? Because so far, it’s working out for us.

Please don’t forward me links to good articles in The Washington Post or transcripts of speeches from well-spoken congressmen. I just want the straight dope. Why should I be worried? Why should I be fretting that I moved to a country that gave me free healthcare from the moment I stepped down off the plane onto its soil? And then let me choose between four competing healthcare plans? And then handed me a card and said, “Now, go get sick!”

I should clarify something. Our current healthcare plan is not free. It’s almost free. Upon signing up with a national healthcare provider, we got a call from a representative who offered us an upgraded version of the plan we chose (to the tune of about $20/month per person; less for kids). I had heard from friends that the upgraded version gets you the better pharmaceuticals (for the one who takes antibiotics, read “my husband”) and access to alternative practitioners (for the one who doesn’t, “read me”). So we said, “We’ll take it.” After all, we were used to contributing out-of-pocket fee for our private plan  in the States.

However, so far, I feel like we’re getting a lot more for our money here than we did in the States.

No office co-pay for sick visits.  And while we do still have to pay out of pocket for most prescription medication, the cost for a 10-day dose of the high end antibiotic here, for instance, was 14 NIS (which is the equivalent of about $4).

Plus, I just heard yesterday that because I have the upgraded version of my plan, I can go to a nearby wellness center and have a full work up done by an osteopathic physician for only 30 NIS and then choose from a variety of body workers and alternative practitioners to see for about 60 NIS per 50-minute visit! (You do the math now; the dollar is about 3.4 shekels.)

I haven’t had a chance to fully delve into all the benefits that come with my Kupat Holim membership. Mostly because when I asked the customer representative for a booklet in English, she apologized and told me one doesn’t exist. Someone should let the Jewish Agency know this, as it’s a bit of a hiccup for new immigrants who have not yet learned Hebrew, but desperately need health care. 

Why do we desperately need health care? Well, for one, a lot of new olim are babymaking machines. Not me, mind you. But lots of other women.

But, second of all, because new olim are weak. We’re mostly migrating from ultra-clean communities and then plopping our kids in Gans that not only refrain from using antibacterial hand lotion eighteen times a day like they do in American preschools, but hardly ever instruct the kids even to wash their hands. Take that immune system!

I normally never need the doctor. In fact, in the last four years, I saw my primary care physician only twice for well-visits and zero times for sick visits. Ever since I started paying attention to my health and making lifestyle changes that strengthened my immune system (insert plug for Mindful Living NJ and The Wellness Bitch here), I never get colds and only rarely pick up those winter viruses that put you in bed for a day or two. But apparently, it’s a known fact that newbies get pummeled by Israeli germs and bacteria. For those of you who’ve had kids in daycare, it’s like that first year you put your kid in; it seems as if he has a never-ending runny nose.

Since moving to Israel, I’ve been sick at least three times, despite my arsenal of American-bought herbal and homeopathic rememdies. I purposefully schlepped over here oil of oregano, zicam, Boiron’s cold calm, Young Living essential oils, and a whole slew of non-medicinal products that usually help me stave off colds when I feel the first tingle of a sore throat. Not working.

My middle guy has been sick for almost two weeks now — on and off with a mix of symptoms. When we finally took him to the doctor the other day, she told us it was possible he has mononucleosis. I don’t know about you, but I associate Mono with college co-eds and too much making out. Not something I think my four year old is going to pick up. But apparently it’s quite common for kids under the age of 5 here in Israel. (But usually goes unnoticed or undetected.)

Being sick in a foreign country stinks. Parenting sick kids in a foreign country stinks a lot worse. But as worried as I was about what we’d find here in terms of level and quality of service, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Certain politicians would have you believe that citizens of countries with socialized medicine have to walk five miles in the snow just to see a doctor who is going to treat your influenza with leeches and vodka.

Not so here. (So far.) No long lines. No long wait periods to get in to see a particular doctor. Friendly staff. Doctors who listen.

Perhaps I should give it time.  After all, we’ve only had to deal with a cold or a little “shil shul.” Maybe there will be plenty to piss me off about socialized medicine in due time.

My Passover wish: Let us continue to be so lucky that moving forward our experiences  with Kupat Holim are as few and as pleasant. I have enough to deal with, dear Lord, without having to Google Translate lab results and medicine contraindications.

Please hear my prayer.

Amen.

Moving

Don’t worry.

We’re not moving anywhere.

But this blog is.

I’m happy to announce that The Jerusalem Post invited me over to blog about my Aliyah experience on The Jerusalem Post Blog Central. You can find my new blog there, “Israeli in Progress,” on the Blog home page in the Aliyah category.

Hope to see you join the conversation over there. And if you like what you read, please share with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.