Monday, November 7, 2016

Protesting or bullying?

I'm not often ashamed of this country.  Yes, we, as a nation, are generally a chutzpahdik people, but more often than not, the Israeli people will stop on a dime to lend a hand and help someone in trouble.  I've seen it, I've been on the receiving end and on the giving end.  Last night, I was deeply troubled by what was occurring just minutes away from my house.

My husband and I were on our way to a funeral and we had a car full of people.  We had turned out of our yishuv and onto highway 446 only to find ourselves bumper to bumper all the way to the Shilat junction.  Within minutes we realized what was going on.  It was not an accident despite the presence of police and an ambulance whizzing past us at top speed.  It was a group of charedim who decided to protest the law requiring all men, including ultra religious ones, to serve in the army.

For me, this brought back bad memories.  This was not the first time these kinds of protests have happened in our backyard.  We had a week worth in the summer, when the men were given a "vacation" from learning during the month of Elul, and thought that protesting on the highway and inconveniencing thousands of people was a good idea.  It was at one of these protests that I was on my way to pick up my daughter from the mall and got into an accident.  A bad one.  Thankfully no one was hurt, but both cars were badly damaged and I shook on the inside for days afterwards.  The protesters threw themselves in front of cars and the man in front of me panicked and slammed on the brakes and I plowed right into him, turning the back of his station wagon into an accordion.

That day, tensions were high.  So many of my friends were seething.  Mothers were almost an hour late picking up their still-nursing babies from day care and another friend missed her doctor appointment that she had booked three months earlier. My daughter, coming home from work, was stuck on one of these buses and she had to use the bathroom so badly, that she hopped off the bus and ran home from the Shilat junction.  It's a good forty minute walk, maybe a twenty five minute run and she made it all the way home while her bus still sat in the same spot.

So back to last night.  While we were anxious to make it to the funeral on time, we soon discovered via whatsapp that the family in mourning was stuck in traffic as well.  Next to us, a bunch of very young religious boys actually jumped out onto the highway and proceeded to sit down on the road.  Cars were honking, drivers were screaming from their windows in complete frustration, anxious to get home to their families after a long day at work, and the police was nowhere to be found.  I was thinking about this family trying desperately to get to the cemetery to bury their mother and grandmother and I was raging on their behalf.  Emotional and bereft, saddened by such a great loss, this is the one time in your life when you just need to put one foot in front of the other with no obstacles.  It's hard enough as it is to do just that, let alone worry about being late for such an event.  And as a family whose sons served in the army, it's a double insult, a spit in the face.  It's appalling and unacceptable.

You want to protest because you feel it's not important that this country - that is surrounded by enemies - has a top notch army to protect its people, then why are you even here?  A friend of mine actually stopped to tell them what a chilul hashem they were making and asked them if they were aware that her sons were protecting their religious freedoms and they told her to shut up and then told her that only God protects.

Something is very wrong with the chinuch going on in the charedi community if they encourage their youth to treat others with such disrespect.  Even setting politics aside, the bullying tactics they are using to inconvenience so many people and the lack of basic human respect for what is going on in other people's lives is just mind-boggling.  Just last week I was watching CNN news coverage of a group of militants Muslims protesting on a five lane highway in France.  They had pushed flaming tires onto the highway and began crowding cars forcing them to stop.  I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be a woman driving home from work alone - or worse, with young kids in the back - and having your car surrounded by screaming men refusing to let you simply drive to the safety of your home.  It terrified me and despite the police presence, there were so many protesters, that even they couldn't kept the situation under control.  Sadly, yesterday's protest on the 446 didn't seem all that different.

The police needs to take control of these protests and punish the perpetrators by force.  Fining them is not enough.  Imprisonment would be a good first step.  They cannot go unpunished and they need to learn respect and tolerance above all.  It pains me that my son - along with so many of my friends' sons and daughters - are working so hard and so diligently to protect this group of people who are not just ungrateful for the selfless service and protection that these soldiers provide, but are disrespectful as well.

And here I thought, that with all those hours spent learning in yeshiva they would have learned a thing or two about Hakarat Hatov.

Silly me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November musings...

Despite living in this country for almost half of my life (!) there are still many things I just can't get used to.  The Sunday issue is a big one for me.  Here, Sunday is my busiest work day and I get up Sunday morning ready to take it on and inevitably, at some point, I find myself frozen as it sinks in that across the ocean, my family and friends are lazing around in their pjs, eating a decadent breakfast of French toast, or better yet, have slept in most of the morning only to go out for an even more decadent brunch.  The rest of the afternoon is up for grabs - what to do?  The options are endless.  In the winters, it could be ice skating at the local rink, or building a snowman on the front lawn, and if it's too cold to venture outdoors, it could be an afternoon matinee at the movie theatre, or better yet, a movie marathon at home, bundled on the couch with a million blankets while cradling hot chocolate. In the summer, it could be a baseball game, a walk down by Harbourfront, or a trip to the zoo.  Or an afternoon swimming and sunning with friends at the beach.  No one looks at their watch and only when the sun starts to descend into the horizon, does that despondent feeling sink in that Monday morning is just around the corner and you'll have to put in a full week of work before the miracle of Sunday comes around again.

I try not to think about it.

But the second thing that I miss terribly is experiencing four seasons.  This country has just two.  Summer = hotter than Hades; and winter = cold and wet.
Considering that spring and autumn are my favorites, I'm a bit out of luck...

There will be those of you who argue with me that we do have a spring and autumn, but let's be real here.  Our spring lasts a week at most.  It's like yesterday you were wearing tights and closed shoes and then you woke up, the sun was shining and hot and you're now in flip flops.  Literally.  Yes, it might still get cool at night for a few days, but that's pretty much it.  Summer is here.
Today, this November 1st, is the first day of winter.  Yesterday, we actually had the air conditioner on for about an hour in the heat of the afternoon and today the breeze coming through the open windows is actually cold.  It's overcast and it's already raining in the north.  And I've been battling a low-grade migraine for the second day in a row, which is my personal meteorologist telling me that this change in seasons is here to stay.

I remember reading a children's board book to one of my girls when they were maybe three or four years old and it was a story about the four seasons.  The first page was a picture of a beach umbrella and a few kids in their bathing suits building a sand castle.  My daughter pointed and said, "summer!" The next page had a picture of rain boots, and an umbrella and she said, "winter!"  Well, this American book was portraying autumn, but I figured that was close enough, so we turned the page.  It was a picture of a snowman and snowflakes.  She knew it was winter, despite having never seen an abundance of snow.  The next page was a picture of tiny plants breaking through the ground under a light shower of rain, flowers just beginning to bud on the branches.  And she looked at me, confused, and said, "winter?"

Living in Israel, green and growth pushing out from the ground is not spring, like it is in North America.  It's winter, when the rains are constant and the land is transformed from the dry brown hues of the desert into a lush carpet of verdant greens.  The picture confused her because culturally, she associated growth with winter.  And my heart broke a little that she'd never really understand or recognize the beauty of a real spring or autumn.

Most people think of November and they think of the "November blues".  It's back to school and work after the lengthy holiday season, it's putting away all those colorful summer clothes and breaking out the dreaded tights and umbrellas, and it's looking skyward hoping for just a peak of the sun on those gray gloomy days that seem to get dark earlier and earlier.

Even though we might have skipped right over autumn and headlong into winter, I'm eagerly waiting for my migraines to fade so I can enjoy these five minutes of autumn.  Honesty, I'm willing to take what I can get at this point.  I'm waiting for the first heavy rain where I can sit outside on my wooden bench, under the awning of my front door and cradle a cup of hot Bengal Spice tea while the rain splashes inches from my feet.  And I'm waiting to wear that brand new kelly green sweater I bought on sale a few weeks ago, lightweight but still cozy and soft.  And I bought two cans of pumpkin filling to make that spiced pumpkin bread that my kids love. I'm pinning Thanksgiving recipes and have cinnamon and apples on my mind.  I'm thinking about how to celebrate our wedding anniversary which makes this month of November a personal favorite. I'm staring out my kitchen window hoping that some of the leaves in my garden will turn to those gorgeous fall colors of mustard yellow, russet and ochre.  They never do, but I settle for enjoying the tinkling sounds my chimes make as they sway in the wind, after they hung immobile and silent for much too long.

One of my favorite songs ever is Counting Crow's Big Yellow Taxi.  And today makes me remember the lyrics that always have a way of making my heart skip a beat:

...Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you got 'till it's gone...

And it just started to rain.  Seriously.
And I know that if I don't stop to savor this moment, it will pass me by...