Sunday, May 31, 2015

Boys in My Hood

I had one of those only-in-Israel moments today. 

I was in a terrible mood leaving Alon Shvut this afternoon, and started to turn towards home.  There is a trempiada, a place where people wait to get rides, directly across from the exit of Alon Shvut. I don’t often stop there to give people rides since it’s not inside a Yishuv and I don’t typically see people I know there. But today I decided that I would get outside myself and do something nice for someone else to help me be in a better mood.

The group was very excited when I pulled over – it looked as if many people had passed them by. I told them where I was going and they asked if I could bring them to Tsomet Ha’Gush (a five minute ride). Sure, I said, as four very cute boys in their early 20s started to climb into the car. They saw that I had a large car seat in one of the seats. At first they said maybe one of the kids should stay back, but then they decided that wasn’t a good idea. So all four climbed in, and one preceded to crouch into the car seat and buckle himself in.

We started to drive and I asked them where they live. “Haifa.” “Nahariya.” “Petah Tikva.”

“Huh,” I said, chuckling. “What are you guys doing here?”

They shrugged, not really answering the question, but seemed to be on quite an adventure.

I soon discovered that one of them spoke perfect English, since his parents were Indian, and we went back and forth from Hebrew to English. Each time that I said something in English, the other guys would yell at their friend “What did she say? What did she say?”

“So, was the pigua (terrorist attack) at the bus stop that we were standing at?” they asked.

“Which pigua?” I said.

“What? Well, you know….” They began, a bit shocked by my question.

And I started in explaining that the three boys had been kidnapped from here, but this had happened there…etc.

“Wow, how do you live here?” These native Israelis with their perfect Hebrew and their army service wanted to know.

“What do you mean guys?” I said. “I live here for the same reason you live here. We are all in this together. My neighborhood isn’t any scarier than yours. And it’s beautiful and peaceful.” It was so incongruous to me to be the immigrant with the broken Hebrew telling these native boys about my life.

So then we changed subjects. As we got to the intersection where they would soon get out, I pointed out the Pinat Chama (the warm corner where we have a continuous free flow of food for the soldiers in the area).

Photo credit: Laura Ben-David

“Hey! We were all soldiers. Let us out! What can we get?” They said, while giggling.

“Sorry boys. You’re not in uniform.”

“I was in the Navy. No one ever brought me free food like that on the ship.”

“Hey!” One yelled like a five year old as we rounded the circle, “That soldier has barad (a slurpie). I want barad.”

“Up ahead, guys, is Givat Oz V’Gaon. It’s a beautiful spot for camping and hiking.”

“I’ve heard of it. It’s named for the boys, right?”

“Yes. I’m surprised you’ve heard of it. It’s named for the boys.”

“And there, on your right, is the way down to Hebron. Just twenty minutes south of here.”

“No way! Hebron? Right there?”

“Hey! You should be a tour guide. Look at all of the things you are pointing out to us.”

Giggling with the absurdity of our situation, with the hysterically fun trip they had invited me to take them on, I pointed out that their bus stop was up ahead.

“Will we be ok there? Is it safe?”

“Yeah, you’ll see. We have barriers and soldiers. Just stand behind the barriers. Don’t go in the street. And anyway – you were all soldiers. You’ll be fine.”

And they exited the car, laughing and thanking me for such a great short trip.

And I wished I had offered to take them all home to dinner to show them Neve Daniel. And I wish I had taken a selfie with them...but there was the little fact that I was driving the whole time. 

I went home shaking my head at the hilarity (and irony) of it all, having completely shaken off my frustrations from earlier.

A slice of today’s moment in time.

Only in Israel.

Monday, May 18, 2015

My Imperfect Cup Runneth Over

I love ceramic mugs. Just love them.

And I don’t mean store bought cups with emblems or school colors. I mean mugs handmade in a little studio off the beaten path by a funky, earthy woman. Usually one with cool scarves, a nose ring and a lot of jewelry.

These are the mugs I love.

But I’ve found over the years that I can’t manage to keep these mugs from breaking for the life of me. We have many regular store bought mugs in the house…at least a dozen. And they all stay in perfect shape.

But my mugs? Well, those break within a week of their purchase. Or perhaps just a bit more if I’m lucky.

Years ago I purchased a beautiful mug from a local artisan at her shop in Alon Shvut. And before my father-in-law arrived for a visit, I purchased another so that he could enjoy his own cup of coffee (hands off MY mug!). His still stands in the house. Mine broke long ago.

A lonely mug

Then, when we were at the Zimmerbus in Azuz, just south of nowhere on the Egyptian border, we discovered a tiny one room store. It was down a dirt road…next to the donkey and with no address to speak of. One woman owns it and sits there all day, making gorgeous pottery with her wheel and her passion. She runs workshops for those who happen to stumble into this oasis and she sells her wares. I purchased one mug, and then Josh gently reminded me that maybe I should purchase a second. Hmmm…good point.

So I bought two, and proceeded to drop and break one of them within the week. The second one has been lovingly used for quite a while now (an accomplishment!) but is hanging on for dear life with a few cracks and fissures in it.

Last month, while vacationing in the Golan, we stopped by an adorable information center. The woman didn’t appear to be overflowing with much information, but there was a ceramics store in the area. So, we entered, telling the kids to put their hands behind their backs (talk about bulls in the china shop) and we set about finding a mug for me.

The kids were all excited, “What about this one?!” and “How about that one?” But with each mug they selected, someone would say, “Mommy’s just going to break that.” Or “That won’t last a week.” They all thought they were so funny.

But they were right.

I went to the section of imperfect pieces, assuming I would find something cheaper and yet still lovely. And I found the perfect mug.
What a beauty!

As I was paying for it, the kids were taking bets on how many days it would last.

So I’ve enjoyed it already for a month.

Until today.

Today, when I placed a cup in the sink and realized that I had clinked it against the half-empty mug, chipping it, all I could do was stare.

Really, I thought to myself? Today was the day?

And so the first crack appeared.
Woe is me and my mug!

And then I started to think about these mugs and my amazing ability to break them. 

Life is so much like these mugs. We have something precious, important, glittery and lovely in our possession. And we so dearly want to keep it pristine, perfect, holy.

But life has so many other plans for us.

Our new, sparkly homes have floods, paint chips, mildew; our beautiful infants develop learning disabilities, broken bones, heartache; our dreams get modified, altered, changed.

Life is full of so many moments of imperfection, of re-examination, of flexibility.

And some of them are our doing. If I had just kept the mug out of the sink, if I had just shown it a bit more care…but how often can we beat ourselves up? And how careful must we be?

And yet, through the fissures and the frustrations, the beauty still shines through. 

It may not be the beauty we expected. 

It may not be the beauty we dreamed of and envisioned.

But it is beautiful nonetheless.

And perhaps more beautiful and meaningful IN its imperfection.

Because really, that is what life is all about.

And so, ironically, while 99% of the glasses in our house remain intact, it is my favorite and most cherished mugs that I appear to be incapable of protecting no matter how much I try; and sometimes when I don’t.

And only through letting go, and allowing for those cracks (and the jokes about them) do I achieve some understanding of my life, of the way things work.

Lessons learned on the way to my morning coffee.