Yom rishon, 30 Cheshvan 5771, Rosh Chodesh.
What has changed since we made aliyah, three years ago? Here's a stream-of-consciousness slice of our lives.
I have a son who has fought in a war. I have another son who is preparing to do the same. I no longer think of this as bizarre -- though it has probably caused me to daven with more kavanah.
My husband has started the favorite career of his life as a guitar teacher. He is "15 years younger." So say his sons.
One of my sons is fulfilling my "dream aliyah": At 20 -- a great age for absorbing a language -- he is immersing in a religious kibbutz ulpan program.
My youngest son, now quite as tall as his brothers, likes school for the first time in his life, and is being scouted for professional football.
I finally got to be the writer and photographer I wanted to be since I was ten years old.
Small things have changed, too.
I automatically drift to the left on a sidewalk or down a public hallway now. I can spot the Americans, even before I read the Yankees symbol on their baseball hats, by their insistence on walking on the right. (Don't for a minute think this is reliable. We are a melting pot of the world's cultures. Generally, we make an effort not to crash into each other.)
Everybody has taught his stomach to expect cholent by 10:30 or 11 on Shabbat. In the morning. We guess that they daven this fast because they have been reading and speaking this language since they were pitzilach.
I now speak three languages haltingly. When I want to speak German, only Hebrew will come out. When I want to speak Hebrew, it's as if my mind were an electronic Roll-O-Dex, carefully (whirrrrrrrr) choosing (whirrrrrrrr) one (whirrrrrrrr) word (whirrrrrrrr) at (whirrrrrrrr) a (whirrrrrrrr) time..... While English is still easy for me to maintain, I often find that only a Hebrew word will come to mind.
At my house, we don't face East to pray. (Facing East would mean, incidentally, that we would be bowing to Mecca.) Since we are situated to the South of the Holy of Holies, we face North.
I no longer absentmindedly hum the Orioles' baseball theme, or a catchy jingle from one of the Baltimore radio stations. I now find myself singing "Gal-gal-galgalatz" or "Kol Chai, Kol Chai, Kol Chai, Kol Chai..." as I leave the house for the bus. (Galgalatz is the IDF radio station, and Kol Chai is a religious radio station. Kinda depends on my mood...)
My kids prefer Osem Ketchup to Heinz.
I now type "חחח" nearly as often as I type "LOL" in emails or Facebook comments. (First person who says "GROW UP!" is gettin' a couple of knuckle sendvitchim.)
Instead of little bags of Cheerios, I now see kids waiting for the school bus, eating halves of avocados and red peppers, or munching on pitot, or drinking chocolate milk from plastic bags.
I have undergone a cultural fascination shift. I used to wonder what possessed urban black teenagers to introduce the fashion of displaying three inches of underpants above the waist of their pants. (How does one participate successfully in gang warfare with one hand holding up one's jeans?) Now I wonder what is meant by wearing a hijab along with pencil pants and three-inch spikes. (What is the point, and how exactly does the imam feel about it?)
Gefilte fish, once a staple of our Shabbat meals, has been replaced by various brightly-colored salads (such as carrots with ginger and garlic; beet salad; or salads of olives and onions). I was worried that my family would complain. Then they informed me that gefilte fish -- as expensive here as chicken -- was never a favorite of theirs anyway. Now we have it for Rosh Hashana, and it's special.
True -- I might see flowers and candy in a vending machine here; but I also see seforim. And there might be indoor-outdoor thermometers hanging on a display in the hardware store; but there will also be mezuzot.
We have very Yid-centric headlines here. "Fur Import Bill Amended to Accommodate Shtreimels" is one that comes to mind. Perhaps such headlines existed in the Goldene Medina as well; but they seem to stand out more here.
I don't recall in America ever being asked at a simcha to watch a friend's purse while she dances, because she doesn't want to leave her handgun unattended.
Standing at the butcher counter in a major supermarket, I had to explain to several customers and to the butcher that "OU" is a very reliable hechsher in America. They weren't so sure... because they'd never heard of it.
Jewish holidays are on everyone's radar. Can you say heimish? There. I knew you could...
During the Ten Days of Repentance, we witnessed several Jews of different backgrounds performing tashlich at a small pond in the Wohl Rose Garden, right near the Israeli Supreme Court building. There were five or six Chareidim, shuckling gently with prayerbooks in hand. Across from them, on the other side of the pool, was a youngish Russian Jew, singing the prayers of tashlich aloud in a beautiful voice. While he was not Chareidi, he clearly knew his stuff. When they were finished, one of the Chareidim went over to the Russian and shook his hand. There was a short, pleasant exchange, after which my husband said, "I have hope."
Stores offer products for 1 shekel each in honor of Shavuot. The products offered might include: Tnuva, Strauss or Tara white cheese (gevina levana, 250g), Tara sweet cream and HaMutag pasta. At Sukkot, Angel Bakery gives us a "matana" -- a gift -- of two extra hotdog rolls in the package. Coca-Cola gives us a free additional .25 liters of Coke. At Purim, the local online chat list heats up with interesting offers and requests: "I am offering Superman, Ninja Turtle, Robin Hood, soldier, Moshe Rabeinu. Looking to borrow a cowboy, and Rivka really really wants to be a parrot -- any good suggestions???? ~ Shifra"