Archives for the month of: August, 2015

‘Have you had a breakdown yet?’ I was asked on Shabbat. ‘Of course I have,’ I answered. ‘Many, many mini breakdowns.’ Notably the woman who asked me is a social worker. She runs an infertility counselling centre and has nine children, which includes a set of triplets. This is a woman who knows about breakdowns. And yet she smiles and has a wicked sense of humour. An inspiration to everyone who has breakdowns. Especially Aliyah breakdowns.

So what is an Aliyah breakdown?

It can be so many things.

It’s opening a carton of yoghurt, expecting creamy, plain yoghurt and feeling devastated after the first salty, leben bite. In context this is after many, many attempts at buying full cream, plain yoghurt. You wouldn’t think it was rocket science to buy a normal carton of yoghurt, but it is.

It’s banging a gate in frustration after walking with heavy grocery bags from the shops, realising that I’ve locked myself out of our home.

It’s shouting more than I would, fighting more than I would. We are all more on edge. More ratty than normal, especially at the end of the day.

It’s failed driving tests (My husbands not mine. I haven’t had the guts to try yet).

Burnt chicken wings, a cup of pink lemonade spilt over the table onto the chair and floors. A frustrating sticky mess.

Of course the breakdowns could be because of the scorching sun that cooks my eggplant that I put on my patio table to dry out.

It’s ignoring mail that’s piling up, school Hebrew doesn’t prepare you for bureaucratic correspondence.

It’s slinking out of a trial Ulpan class, as I realise that my Hebrew grammar is from upside down land and I’m going to have to build my Hebrew foundation from scratch.

It’s not automatically reading in Hebrew the way I do in English. (The reason for the yoghurt fiasco, the diet pineapple ice lollies that I thought were mango, the cookies that I thought were parve but were milchik, that I gave as a Shabbat gift for a meat lunch. We all wondered why they were so delicious.)

It’s everything that goes wrong in normal life but it’s taken much more personally. It highlights my humanness and vulnerability. It shows me that we are all fallible as much as I’d like to pretend to myself that I’m not.

The truth is that breakdowns are happening all around me. I am not alone. Jerusalem is grappling with her own shadows. Every shop on Emek Refaim bears the sign ‘׳ירושלים אומרת לא! לֹאלימות ‘Jerusalem says, “NO! to violence”’.

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When terrible things happen we all pause. We forget about yoghurt and leben and diet pineapple ice lollies. We reconsider who we are, what values we have, what we teach our children.

As we break down we grow up.

Of course with Aliyah we break down just a bit more often than usual as every day brings something new.

‘There is only one rule about Aliyah,’ my sister in law’s very good friend announces to me over coffee. Eager to follow any rule that will guarantee our Aliyah success I am all ears. ‘Don’t speak badly about Israel.’ Come again? She kindly elaborates, ‘Whatever you project onto Israel is what you get in return. If you complain about Israelis and find fault with everything, that’s what you’ll get. On the other hand if you’re positive, even if you fake it, only good will come to you.’ Good rule, I thought to myself. After all the lesson is well learnt from the twelve spies who projected a negative story about the land of Israel which led to the Israelites wandering for forty years in the desert, not meriting to enter the land at all.

So I’m not going to complain about the inferno of heat that Jerusalem is experiencing at the moment. I’m not going to mention how walking outside is like being squeezed in a cheese toaster. The cool Jerusalem nights are no more and my husband ran out to by fans, late at night, with the rest of the Jerusalemites who realised the heat was not going to go away. This is the August, Middle Eastern heat that we were warned about before we came. But we’re not going to mention it.

What I will chat about is the wonderful camps available for children in the summer here. The first month of us arriving we sent our boys to Liga Camp, a dynamic sports camp, where they met many children their age who will be in the same school as them. Next on our camp program was the government sponsored Ulpan camp where they were going to learn Hebrew. They arrived ready for anything but the reality, which was that almost all of the Olim were from France. There were a couple of Russians, one American family and two brothers from South Korea, but the lessons were mainly in Hebrew and French with a smattering of English. The children all spoke French amongst each other. We thought school’s going to be tough enough; let’s find them something else.

French is the new English here. In fact I’m on a chat group for the new Olim at our boys’ school which is all in French. A great opportunity to improve my very limited French, I know.

I feel somehow that I’m living history here. The French Aliyah is made up of real people, and the proof is the wonderful patisseries that are available all around Jerusalem. One is right around the corner from where we live. It’s called Ness and is a definite go-to stop for all pastry lovers. They have the most delicious almond, chocolate croissants I’ve ever tasted. And for those watching their waist lines (as I should probably be) they come in mini, truly French, sizes too. Their soft, creamy custard brioche is a must and goes very well with their excellent cappuccinos. They also sell the most delicious parve cakes and cookies for Shabbat. I highly recommend the chocolate mousse cake and chocolate truffles as well as their decadently delicious milky tarts and cakes. It’s not cheap but everything is simply delicious. In this weather it’s a treat to sit in their air-conditioned cafe, where there is normal, healthy food, but I wouldn’t bother with it when there’s so many sweet treats to eat. A small croissant, a cafe hafuch for fourteen shekels is a cheap treat by any standards. And yes it’s a great place to improve your French, as the waiters and patrons are mostly French.

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The conclusion with the camps, for those interested, is that we’ve sent our older boys to Hackers Camp, which is a science, computer camp, where they do activities such as make indestructible eggs that they throw from two stories up, (and it worked my boys came home with eggs intact so they could have omelettes for supper) and they go on excursions like visiting Google in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile my seven year old, who is too young for Hackers, is a Madrich – counsellor of five year olds at his friend’s home camp.

I would add another rule to my friends ‘be positive’ rule about Israel. Nothing is what you expect in Israel, so just relax and eat excellent pastries.

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Ness Cafe (with Ness Patisserie next door) 42 Emek Refaim, Jerusalem