Earth Changes (sung to Lara’s Theme)

Two years ago, it snowed like the apocalypse in Newark, New Jersey.

Nevertheless, the airports were open the next day and early in the morning December 28, we packed our three kids and 15 duffel bags into a shuttle bus. As the sun rose, we headed up the NJ Turnpike from my mother’s house in Cherry Hill to Newark International Airport to meet a plane full of Jews preparing for a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight to Israel.

13 hours and five barf bags later, we landed.

But not to the Israel I had imagined in my mind.

Not the Israel of USY or Birthright.

Not the Israel that threatened to burn your skin lobster red or put you in a hospital in Beer Sheva for dehydration.

We landed in winter Israel; which, apparently, gets really wet and cold. For months.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but do you know that I did not pack in one of those 15 duffel  bags a pair of sweat pants? Not for me; not for my children.

I’m pretty sure I packed two pairs of pants for each kid and about 10 pairs of shorts.

I kid you not.

For January.

In Northern Israel.

To be fair, I had only been to Israel once in winter. And, while it’s true, I DID spend two weeks volunteering on a God Forsaken army base outside of Tzfat, during which I vaguely recall sleeping beneath a wool blanket in my large, down-lined khaki army jacket; I think my memories of being dehydrated by the Dead Sea prevailed.

I thought it was perpetual summer in Israel. I thought the worst it got was windbreaker and jeans weather.

Nope.

Luckily, a month after we arrived in Israel with our duffel bags, our shipping container arrived in Haifa. And, two weeks after that, following a port workers strike, our winter jackets and hats arrived. And my two pairs of Wellington boots.

The boots have been my best friends through two and half winters.

Jen in boots

Now I know better: Winter in Israel, on a good year, is wet. And cold.

And on kibbutz — very, very muddy.

But, as naive as I may have once been about winter in Israel — I feel very out of place in, and a tad bit disturbed, by the winter wonderland brought on by this storm.

I'm lucky I brought my down jacket from New Jersey with its faux eskimo hood

I’m lucky I brought my down jacket from New Jersey with its faux eskimo hood

B-ice-cycle in our backyard

B-ice-cycle in our backyard

Ice raining down on my porch?

Driving winds slamming against the side of my house?

Flooding (and drunken tubing ) on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv?

Something feels…amiss.

And if it were one random stand alone instance of freak weather, I’d probably chuckle and enjoy the cheers of my 4-year-old who doesn’t remember the snow of the  blizzard we left New Jersey in. She thinks this freezing rain is snow.

But, I don’t have to tell you it’s not a stand alone instance of freak weather.

Where ever you’re reading this from — Australia (where wild fires rage), the midwestern and southern U.S. (where the impacts of drought are still being felt), Seaside Heights (still soggy from Sandy), flooded Great Britain — you know what I’m talking about.

Freak weather is becoming less freakish; and more freakishly common.

Winter in Israel was never this wintery. At least, not in a long time.

And after we make it through this storm, I wonder if anyone is going to be talking about it.

Or if they’ll simply shrug their shoulders in a “Huh, wasn’t that interesting” sorta way and praise the Lord for the rising of the Sea of Galilee.

Don’t get me wrong — we need water here. I am certainly grateful for the water.

And yet … suspicious.

Sensitive to the ominous winds of change.

Clouds loom over Hannaton

Clouds loom over Hannaton

Looking for trouble

Apparently, I missed an earthquake today. I don’t know how. I wasn’t riding in a car. I wasn’t swimming. In fact, at 11:53, the time at which it happened, I remember looking at the clock on my computer and wondering how long I should wait before taking lunch.

But I missed it.

I’ve been waiting 36 years to be at the center of a natural disaster and I missed it.

Okay, a 4.1 magnitude earthquake centered some 50 miles away from you is not quite a natural disaster, and I should be thankful for such a statement.

But, since my coworkers, just a few desks away from me, felt the shaking (most thought it was construction going on in our office building), I’m a bit bummed that I didn’t feel a thing.

Maybe I was too hungry.

Others would brush it off, be happy that it wasn’t “the big one” that apparently Israel is due for. But, not me. I have this unexplanable desire to feel the earth tremble.

I don’t know when my obsession with disaster began.

Certainly, when I was still a kid. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d put my money on The Wizard of Oz. I was entralled with the film from a tender age, and those of you who are American and in your thirties or older will remember that  it used to be an annual tradition to watch The Wizard of Oz on TV, like the Ten Commandments during Passover, or The Year Without A Santa Claus, during the holiday season.

I remember being as young as five and sitting Indian style in front of our color television watching intensely the cyclone rip Dorothy away from Kansas to Oz. Since the movie simultaneously thrilled me and petrified me, I spent half the time in front of the TV and the other half behind the couch hiding.

So, it could be that my fascination with catastrophe is thanks to L. Frank Baum.  Or, preferring smut to literature, you could subscribe to the Audrey Rose theory: I was reincarnated into this life after perishing in a terrible catastrophe in a previous life; my soul is haunted by said catastrophe; and I naturally seek out to learn all I can to prevent it from happening again.

Or, more realistically, perhaps I’m just one of the many thousands of sensitive human beings who, without trying, automatically attempts to empathize with another’s suffering by imagining what it’s like to be in one of those situations: from tsunami to hurricane to flood.

I know I’m not alone in my fascination. There’s a reason why in recent years we’ve seen an explosion in catastrophe related entertainment:  With shows like “Storm Chasers” and “Full Force Nature,”  The Weather Channel and The Discovery Channel expertly take advantage of our society’s growing interest in (and dare I say understanding of) the frequency with which disasters occur, how ineffective we are at predicting them, and how often they signficantly impact civilization.

When I moved to Israel, I was really surprised to learn we are located on a bunch of active fault lines. Furthermore, there are some dormant volcanoes sleeping in the area of the Golan Heights. Who knew? Here I was anticipating only the anxiety of terrorist attacks or regional turblulence (aka “war.”) I had no idea that earthquakes and volcanoes were a possibility, too.

Don’t mistake my glibness for a death wish or insensitivity for those who have suffered horrible losses in the face of disaster. I know I can afford to be glib because I’ve never gone through it. 

But now, with the ghosts of war and terrorism constantly hanging over my head, I suddenly realized I don’t want to. In fact, I wonder if there is some way to retroactively reverse all that wishing for disaster.

Because, truth is, there is only so much turbulence this sensitive soul can handle. Considering I still jump every single time they make innocent announcements over the kibbutz loudspeaker, I think it’s probably best I didn’t feel the earthquake.

I need to stock up on my adrenaline for when I might really need it.