Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sliding down a cliff in a skirt

I've always worn short or long pants under my skirts.  As a child, it meant I could climb trees; as a teen, that I could turn cartwheels; as an adult, it means I can sit on the floor with my kids…or slide down a cliff when the need arises.

I was taking a driving test today.  I've had a license for 10 years in America and 8 in Israel, but when making aliyah I wasn't properly informed that there are separate tests and licenses for automatic and manual gear cars.  I tested on an automatic and got a license to ONLY drive an automatic.  But of course, our car is manual.  Driving in Israel can be terrifying.  It was even worse around Tekoa, where I swore those crazy Arab truck drivers must have practiced on a donkey.  You'd have one trying to pass the other, going uphill, around a blind curve.  I was happier not driving.

But now I work full-time, have three kids, and will need a way to buy groceries when my husband makes his next month-long trip to Latin America.  So it's time to update my license.

I showed up at the Misrad Harashui (Israeli equivalent of the DMV) in Tzfat to see what beauracracy lie in store for me.  "You need a vision test," the woman behind the desk informed me.  But there's no "acceptable" place to do it in Tzfat; my choices are Tiberias, Kiryat Shmona or Karmiel.  Got it done in Karmiel.  Next step: call a driving instructor.  Anyone getting any kind of change in their license has to take a couple of lessons first.  I got by with only three.  The young woman testing with me today had done about 35 and was testing for the first time ever.
Last but not least is the test itself.  By this time I've paid 883 shekels; 3 lessons at 100/hour, 133 in fees to the Misrad Harashui, and another 450 for the test itself.  After all the nerve-racking practice driving on the crowded, crooked, double-parked, one-way streets of Tzfat--the test conductor takes us out for a drive in the country.
Forest paths look inviting, but stick to
marked trails if you're on a tight schedule.
And bring lots of water.
"How fast can you drive here?" he asks me.  I'm caught off guard and answer 60, knowing for sure that I wasn't allowed to go over 50 inside the city limits of Tzfat.  Eighty, he tells me with a frown.  Oops.  But there are signs saying to go slow because of all the curves so I just thought I should only go 60 instead, the feeble yet plausible excuse flowed from my lips.  Parallel parking in Dalton's industrial park took three tries.  Oops again.  The next test taker drove us back, killing the engine twice and taking the curves a bit too fast.  I didn't feel so bad anymore.

Walking back, I decided to take another short cut, like the one I took when walking up to C'naan from the Old City.  But this time it wasn't such a great idea.  This path led much higher up than I needed to be, although it was going in the right direction.  After nearly 15 minutes of walking in the sun, I was out of water and faced with two choices: give up, walk back, go a different route and miss my bus--or slide down the cliff.
Pretty, but prickly.

I peered over the edge.  Not too bad...maybe...hopefully.  I scraped up my left arm pretty nicely, but the traction kept me from landing too fast and hard when I hit the thorn bushes at the bottom.  I brushed myself off, straightened my skirt, picked thorns out of my pants...yeah, not too bad.  Two steps forward and I stopped short.  Don't fall into the gutter, I said aloud.  Two steps back now and I took a running jump.  Then I took off running.  I caught my bus.  I also just received news that I passed the test.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Today, on Tisha b'Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av), we are not only mourning the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem but also the anniversary of the expulsion of Spanish Jewry in 1492.

I've made mention of my husband's activities in El Salvador but haven't yet found time to expound on them here, even though I've received quite a few requests to do so.  But really, why hear it second-hand when he's already written so much about his personal experiences here?

The community in Armenia is a remnant of the Benei Anusim.

"Banana-what?" I often hear when giving the long version of the reply to "what does your husband do?"  Also known as Crypto-Jews and alternatively spelled B'nai Anousim, they are descendants of Jews forced to convert and hide their identity.  The Inquisition followed them to the New World and remained officially in force until the early 19th century.

The generations of Benai Anusim alive today no longer have the fear of the Inquisition forcing them into hiding and they are coming out to search for and reconnect to Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, our nation and land.  The internet is helping make that possible.  I always smile when I look in my stats and see El Salvador listed as a country that my blog is being viewed from.  Most of the community doesn't know any English at all.  But they are so eager to connect to Jews everywhere, and there have been far greater barriers than just language in their past.

It's with great joy that I'm seeing off my husband next month as he goes to lead High Holiday services (I'll miss him too...really).  This community of 300 members built a synagogue over 35 years ago but has no sefer Torah (Torah scroll) and the men take turns laying their one communal set of tefilin (phylacteries) each morning.  On this, his third, trip to Armenia, he will take a donated sefer Torah and five more sets of tefilin, as well as continue strengthening educational programs for children and adults.  There's a short Kulanu blog about it here.  It only took a couple of minutes to create my own personalized page through the link on Kulanu's blog to raise awareness and support.

I hope that all of you have a meaningful Tisha b'Av and may we merit--not just to see, but--to be part of bringing about the unification of all of our people.