The 70 year old with elbows of an 18 year-old

I can be pretty scrappy if need be. I mean, hey, just cause I stopped growing at the age of 11 and am just shy of reaching the 5 foot mark doesn’t mean much. I can hold my own when it comes down to it.

9 times out of 10, holding my own is a necessity if I am in any semblance of a line. Waiting to pay at the grocery store, getting on the bus, even getting on and off the elevator can turn into an argument and the key is to be prepared.

One thing that took me a long time to get accustomed to in Israel is that old people are experts at sharpening their elbows. Age doesn’t slow them down – in fact, it adds to their momentum. It is more prudent for them to beat you the bus and oh, there’s a sale on olives? you better move it, son.

The bus is my biggest obstacle these days. Summer’s here and it’s hot. My goal is to get on the bus first, claim an air conditioned seat and get lost on Instagram in peace before starting my day.

bus

Here’s my reality: meet the ferocious eye contact of the old man using a walker, offer him to assist him onto the bus, receive a smile accompanied by an elbow to the face, end up getting on the bus after everyone else, be forced to stand up the whole ride since the seats have all been claimed by this point (see what I mean about being prepared here?).

So, then comes the question: when does being scrappy benefit over being nice? My policy maintains that when it comes to the bus, there is wiggle room. I prefer to help out the old man, even though his elbows are surprisingly strong for his age.  However, in the grocery store line there is no compromise. You gotta stake your claim and refuse to budge. You give an inch and everyone will be trampling all over you.

And let’s be real here, the best tool at your disposal is a very heavy sigh, an audible “נו” and then the argument begins. But at least it’s free of elbows!

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Home

An amazing thing about living Israel is the fact that instead of a 12 hour (minimum) flight to Europe, I can jump on a plane and be in some magical, historical European city in a matter of 5 hours or less. Just a few months ago, I took a long weekend and flew to Prague.

The slight bummer of living in Israel is that a very large majority of my vacation days are spent returning to the city in which I grew up, instead of in Europe. Don’t get me wrong – I love going home. Nothing beats going home home and seeing my mom’s “Welcome Home” sign (that even though she makes a sign every time I come home, she still maintains that it is a surprise). Getting daily hugs from my parents, having a huge kitchen to bake in, seeing good friends,and the TexMex food are just some of the amazing things I love when I go home. That list can go on and on.

Kira in Israel and Kira in America feel like two very different and distinctive personalities (don’t worry, I’m not schizophrenic). As time goes on, they have slowly started to merge and now it takes less time to get oriented when I return to the US. But this means that as the different versions of myself merge, it’s harder to separate the desires of each one. Home is now an even more confusing concept, as it is both where I live and where my family resides…and also an idea for the future. This is both comforting and stressful at once because both places are home, while ultimately I still have no idea where “home” really is. But the good news is that I have time to figure things out. In the meantime maybe I can work out who Kira in Europe is 😉

It’s not black and white

When I came to Israel as a teenager, I was welcomed with open arms. I was given a tour of the country, met lots of like-minded people and was sent out to explore a brand new, beautiful culture.

A few years later, I came back to live in Israel for 10 months, to volunteer here, and I was again in a good situation: my flight was paid for by the government, I received a stipend and I was given lots of free time to go out and enjoy myself in this magical land.

Upon making aliyah, I signed a few forms, had a Rabbi certify that I am Jewish and bam – citizenship. I got another free flight, an “absorption basket” (money), discounts on health insurance and much more. I received endless feedback letting me know that presence was not only requested, but it was deemed investment worthy. This country was more than happy to take me in and offer me the best that it has to offer. All of this, because I am Jewish.

Unfortunately, not all citizens (Jewish or not) experience this same amazing process. The Ethiopian population in Israel is faced with adversity, ignorance and hate for no logical reason. Last night, this group of people protested and fought for their right to equality. It was so sad for me, as a struggle-free citizen (socially, at least) to realize that my experience is unique. It is not safe to assume that each person is appreciated for what they have to offer – we are still living in a world of discrimination and petty judgements.

I hope that yesterday was a wake up call for this country to value each and every one of its citizens, whether they be black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, disabled, tall, short, American, Arab, British, or even Israeli-born.

Yom Hazikaron

Today is Israel’s memorial day. Unlike in the U.S., there aren’t huge sales going on, no barbecues are happening and we aren’t celebrating.

Today is a somber day, and it is taken very earnestly. Last year’s Yom Hazikaron was tough – I went to a huge ceremony in Kikar Rabin and felt the collective mourning of a nation. But this year’s ceremonies were much more difficult. After last summer’s war, the names of the soldiers that fought, that got injured, that were killed, were still fresh and easily recognizable to me.

Hearing those names being called out in sadness and in gratitude, we all mourned in what felt like a deeper way. We mourned their sacrifice, we mourned the struggle, we cried for their families, for their friends, their comrades. We took the time off of looking towards the future, as our future is still conceivable. Last night and today, we look to the past, to the soldiers that are brave enough to defend us and that do so with pride.

What’s Up?

Today’s blog post is based on an actual conversation that I overheard in the kitchen at work not too long ago. The conversation went like so:

Person A: ?מה קורה (what’s up?)

Person B: ?מה  העניינים (what’s up?)

Person A: ?בסדר. מה נשמע (not much. what’s up?)

Person B: ?איך הולך (what’s up?)

This is already ridiculous, but WAIT! Now Person C enters the kitchen – it’s about to get interesting!

Person B: ?היי אחי! מה שלומך (hey! what’s up?)

Person C: ?הי, מה חדש (hi, what’s up?)

Person A: ?נו- חברי. באמת. מה המצב (Guys come on. Really. What’s up?)

Ironically, considering the fact that Israelis are an impatient breed, this is not such an abnormal way for conversations to begin. Inexplicably (at least to the native English speaker’s ears), this a legitimate form of a conversation opener – you greet each other until one of the conversationalists has enough and pulls out the all mighty “נו,באמת” (literally means “come on, really?!”) This phrase is generally expressed in an exasperated sigh. I imagine that with the right participants, an intro like this could go on for hours.

In an efficient, no-bullshit conversation, it usually goes like this:

Person A: ?מה נשמע (what’s up?)

Person B: ?היי .סיימת מה שביקשתי ממך לפני יומיים (hey. did you finish what i asked you to do two days ago?)

Person A: כן, כן. אשלח לך עוד מעט (yes, yes. i’ll send it to you in a minute) Side note: This response is a sure sign that Person A totally forgot to complete B’s task.

Note that in Hebrew, the proper answer (and literal translation) to “what’s up” is not “nothing” or “not much.” – in Hebrew you respond with “good,” “fine” or “all’s well.” This leads to a bizarre misunderstanding in translating between the two languages, and often leads to Israelis attempting to correct me in English.

In that same conversation from the kitchen at work, once everyone was done asking each other what’s up, they turned to me and, in English, asked me (surprise surprise) the same question.

So naturally I replied with “not too much,” as is customary. But nope. I was told: “Keeerra, when someone esk you what ees up, you answer to heem with ‘good.’ You don’t say ‘nothing’ – dat is not correct.” Yeaaaah not so much.

I suppose my summary of this post is this: when you hear an Israeli ask someone a form of “what’s up,” do yourself a favor and just walk away. Either that, or grab some popcorn, make yourself comfy and get ready for the show.