© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Where the Wild Things are

My family and I came to Israel for my son Zach’s Bar mitzvah only two short years ago. At that time, and every other time that I had visited, I felt something soothingly familiar. In the past this feeling proved to be quite elusive as upon returning to my home our lives just seemed to creep back in and wipe away, what I can only call, the aroma of this ancient and holy land. With lots of things to do and think about – kids, businesses, school, friends, house, the experiences became memories and the feelings we had of a tangible connection between our Souls and this place just seemed to melt into the unconscious. We talked about Israel and loved and supported it, but it was not the same thing. It was just too hard to grasp and to hold the substance of that feeling. It slowly vanished like the smell of a gourmet meal that has already been gulped down.

Two years ago, upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport I was greeted by my son Zach in one of the most amazing ways. I had left the United States a week after my family because of work and when Zach ran from the car he hugged me and looked at my face, into my eyes, and said, “We love it here, we want to move here!”

I was very tired from a long flight and just laughed it off but because of this interaction and my subsequent awareness I was able to contemplate the possibility of actually moving to Israel. By the end of the trip my family and I had become so used to the idea that it had grown into the bud of a plan. We held it for the next year while we prepared to move. We had many moments of, “no we can’t! And what are we thinking?” my business was one of the biggest dilemmas for me. I had just achieved a life long goal of having a fully functional woodshop and studio with every tool I ever… well, maybe not wanted but surely that I needed, a custom spray booth, a waiting list of clients… just everything. When these thoughts crept in I would just remember my son’s eyes on that day in Tel Aviv to keep my stride, to remember what was real and what was really fiction. On the plane back, Zach decided to wear a yarmulke all of the time. I told him that if he did then I would also and we both did for the entire year that we prepared. Maybe this served as a reminder for us about our experience in Eretz Israel and a reminder for when everyday life tried to creep back in and fuzz over reality.

When we were on our trip in Israel we spent a day at the beach at kibbutz Nachsholim with my sister in law Barbara. I think that this was a pivotal moment for both Adele and I and I have often wondered why. It was, after all, just a barbeque on the beach. We drove through the kibbutz on the walking paths to get there because the road was blocked with a barrier. We parked next to the sand and carried all our stuff a little ways over to some rock outcrops and cooked shishli, kabab, veggies, and pita on a little (as they say in Hebrew) “Grriille.” Josh was happily snorkeling in about two inches of water and we all just watched the crazy beach dogs roam around. Maybe someone owned them, but maybe not. Phoenician and Roman ruins were everywhere, on the cliff above us and in the water. Arab fishermen were bringing in their catches. The occasional kibbutsnik would wander down the beach and we were just living. It felt like the Wild West. It felt like I could do what ever I wanted to, with no rules or laws or restrictions. Yes there are laws, and to be more specific, there are Torah laws. Here in Eretz Israel we seem to be more on our honor. We live inside our souls and are constantly reminded of the tremendous history and cultural breadth just under our feet.

Here in Eretz Israel we all have a lot of faith it seems. Maybe it emanates directly from the ground or it is just in the air. The people that migrated in The States out west a hundred years ago must have had a similar faith. I guess I had to go east in order to go Out West. There are people here with guns stuck in there belts. There are soldiers with M-16s and Uzis on the streets. There are wild animals that I have seen for myself on quite a few occasions. Animals like boars as big as Rottweilers, Weasels or Mongooses, Hedgehogs, crazy Raptors and scavenger birds, Geckos and Tortoises, Octopi, Parrot Fish, Lion Fish, Coral and sea creatures, deadly Asps, little Jackals that howl outside my bedroom window, feral animals like Parrots, Dogs, and the family of Cats that live under my front steps. This is the real Wild West with good guys and bad guys, yeah just read the news… with savannahs, dessert highlands and undersea jungles. Snow and surf are here too, but most importantly for me, this is the place where life can really happen. The place where East meets West, where good meets bad, where the rules are there as, “more of guidelines”, to quote the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, and we are allowed to live from our Souls.

I barrowed the title for this piece from the children’s story Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, because it speaks of so many hidden things and places. Here, in Eretz Israel, there are wild things, hidden and also seen. There are places that jar the senses with haunting beauty and places that exist only in our minds. There are creatures that, with a quick snort, disappear into the imagination. This is a place of ideas and of pure Soul. In it we can slide and we can tumble, we can float and we can also fly. We are caressed and soothed by its roughness, by its wildness. Here we can discover things that we might not have even dared to dream of. Eretz Israel is a place that allows the deep places inside us to come out and play… where all the other wild things are. In one Month we will have been here for one year. I am continually thrilled by the immensity of this experience.

Dig deep, live big, our Souls are truly wild… and love living.

LagBaOmer and other cultural divergancies

Hi everyone,
Today was a very interesting day at work. The weather is starting to get a little hot here and I decided to wear something different to work because of it. In California we called them shorts, and in Colorado we also called them shorts, but in Israel we call them miknasaim qatsarim (short pants). I felt a little self conscious wearing them because I havent seen anyone wear them at the factory, but it is going to be a long summer

So I get to work and the first thing that someone says to me is, "Sunny-Boy!” with a big smile plastered across his face. And keep in mind that this is a guy that has barely said two words to me, boker tov and shalom. So, as you can probably guess, the rest of the day was filled with questions like, "do they wear pants like that in America ?" and, "did you wear those there?" My boss kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye like I was wearing lederhosen or something. Now I just need to get them used to it I guess. Ha, Ha, very funny everyone.
LagBa Omer was immense this year. In Boulder we were lucky to get to a little gathering in Niwat or something to light a bonfire. Here in Israel and specifically in Zichron, Nachsholim, and Dor we had trouble walking without stepping onto one. The whole country must have been ablaze. Here in Zichron we had what my friend Laura Chizalli (yes the one and the same from Boulder ) called Armageddon. It was absolutely insane. I will attach a picture or two. About 2 or 3 days before Lag a Omer we could see some of these amazing structures going up all around town. They were like some kind of crazy cultural burning man thing, but all over the place. Everyone from the Chiloni (Secular) to the Haradi (Extremely Orthodox) were out to make these one of a kind sculptures to burn. Some were small little cute ones and some were gigantic sprawling piles of shipping pallets and couch skeletons. And the most amazing thing is that when they go off, the life they have is all there own. The big ones you can't even get within about 50 feet of them.

In the morning, the air was a dark smoky smelling fog. It eventually cleared and after work that day Adele and I went for a bike ride. Some of the little religious kids, in there excitement about the night before, accidentally started a little brush fire near our house. All the neighbors were just standing around watching it so we just chalked it up to one more day in this amazing place. The fire was out when we got back from our ride and people everywhere were still trying to light little bonfires in a few choice spots. I dont think there is any wood left in Israel .

Shavuot is in two weeks and I get the day off of work! I love the holidays here. And there are a lot of them!

Be well everyone,

How to become an Israeli...

Last week I went mountain biking with Zach, his friend Nadav, and Nadav’s father. We went to a place called Ofer. I was a little worried about the ride because I really didn’t know the terrain. It was supposed to be quite technical. So, we meet up with Nadav and his father, Uri and head off to this great spot. We ended up at Har Horshan and Uri asked me to pull up beside his car to tell me that he went the wrong way. Ok, we turned around and went to the right place. We get there and start getting out stuff together and I can see that Uri is a lot more uptight than I am. He is a bit over weight and his equipment is pretty old. So now I stop worrying so much about me and start to worry about him a bit. We take off on the bikes up this little trail and it is very technical right away. We all need to get off and hike a lot, but Uri starts to complain about it. Lama, kolezman tsrchime lalechet? (Why do we always have to walk?) He is going on and on about it and his son Nadav is just speeding up the trail as fast as he can, maybe so he doesn’t have to hear or something.

While all this is going on, I start in with my usual trip of trying to be the pacifier by telling him that it is hard and I have to walk too and what not. This approach doesn’t seem to be helping. He is still complaining and going on about it. After we get to the top of a little section, we stop for a hafsaka (break) and I start saying how tough it was and he looks at me and says…

“Why do you keep belittling yourself? You are a better rider than me. Stop doing that.”

So I stopped for a second. What do I say to this? I am just being a polite American. You know, if you don’t like the food you are being served you eat it anyways and say thank you. So, I looked back at him and said,

“OK, you suck!”

He seemed a little shocked at first, and then, we got along great for the rest of the day! So, I learned how to be a little more Israeli today. By the end of the day we had all crashed our bikes, watched a bunch of little kids fly through the air on these rusty nail and rotten wood rampote. (I was corrected when I said rampime which is male plural of ramps; it was explained to me that anything dangerous was female when pluralized in Hebrew… (Right)…) so now we have a place to go mountain biking in world class terrain, a crazy downhill mountain bike park, and I have a new friend named Uri. What fun!

The place we truely live

When we are born, Sages have said that, we slowly begin to forget what came before. We fill our minds with the necessary things to get what we need to grow and this information just types over the existing memories. This idea speaks to me of how we live, day to day. We rarely operate from a place that incorporates the whole of our existence. What if we were able to hold onto the memories of what came before? Could we really exist in this life if we knew what was before it? And if we knew what was before it, would we also know what was after it? To know the whole of our existence would beg the question, ‘what would be the point of living? Why do we live?’

I believe that every day we spend the time we have doing one of two things, either nothing special or contemplating the idea of "why do we live?" Is there really anything in between? When we are happy or fulfilled we feel alive. When we are sprawled in the gutter, we also feel like we are alive. It would seem we live in order to feel. I have said that I moved across the world in order to live, but what if it was just to feel? Or maybe just to feel alive? In my life in the perfect cocoon of Boulder, Colorado I perfected the art of loving life. Life was handed to me with a great big "flatiron"(for the Boulderites reading this) spatula, here you go, eat up! There is always more! My life now is always subject to questions like what in the (beep) am I doing? Why am I here, in the Middle East of all places? And at the same time I am amazed every day at the hidden surprises behind each corner.

Here in Israel, time seems to be manipulated by a greater force. I feel the days go by just like before, but it isn’t just like before. Time is compressed to a day to day context and it is, at the same time, expanded to include all of history and creation. It seems to be all about awareness. Being in Israel feels to me like the center of the Universe. It is a place where time and space intersect and condense and stretch, all at the same time. That is a tough one to relate to, I know… remember that scene in the movie ‘Men in Black’ when the universe was inside a locker and inside that Universe there was a world with a Universe around it and on that world there was another race of beings, with lockers and everything? Does the Universe ever stop? Maybe thinking about the idea of ‘why do we live’ is really to search for our Universe’s center. Maybe the whole of the Universe comes down to a simple thing like; in order to know that we are alive we need to feel and to feel we need to be tested.

My Son, Josh came home from school today with paint and clay and whiteout and dirt and more embedded into his personage. I just smiled at him. He said that his day was just OK, but I know better. Just looking at him tells the story of his day. When we look at our lives, we can see the story that lives there. It isn’t about what we want it to be at all. It is about what is really underneath all of the lead-ins and lines that we invent to package our lives. What if we decided to not try to package our lives? What if we lived our lives in such a raw state that it was absolutely impossible to label anything about it? I think that would be the closest thing to what it would be like to be in the presence of G-D. Living in Israel is not easy. There is no Costco here (yet). The movie theatres have intermissions. There are tractors puffing down the road in front of your daily commute. There are jellyfish. And, oh yeah, there are violent terrorist neighbors that want to annihilate you. We live here with all of this and more, and then realize that the day was spent doing nothing special. That is the fine line where divinity lives. It is the place where we are tested and feel alive. In the end, I believe that it is the place where we also, truly live.

The whole Country stopped for two minutes

Yesterday, the whole country stopped for two minutes. I was working in the factory and both kids were in school. Adele was driving in Netanya to pick up our driving licenses, (yes we passed), and everyone stopped what they were doing and stood solemnly to remember The Holocaust (Shoah). the break bell had just sounded for me at work and I came up the stairs and stood in the middle of the factory with everyone else that was stopped in their tracks to remember, and more importantly, not to forget. Adele was amazed to see everyone in the city of Netanya come to the windows, the front of their stores, or stop their cars in the middle of the street and step out to stand still as well. She said it was like the twilight zone - but absolutely incredible to witness and be a part of. Since I have been in Israel, I have seen people with a number tattooed on there arm. Maybe in the grocery store or just standing in line at the post office. There are still Holocaust survivors in the world and many are here. I get the chills just thinking about it. This country is absolutely amazing and needs to be experienced and supported at all costs. There is absolutely no place on Earth that could ever take its place.

It is so easy to forget what humanity is capable of as we go about our business. I work at a bench sometimes and sometimes at the next bench over an old German man comes in to work there. He uses a walker to get around and was the first Nagar (Carpenter) at the factory. After I first met him and he found out that I was from the U.S. he was exited to tell me about how he was a prisoner of war in an American P.O.W. camp. I held my breath as he spoke of it for fear of what he would tell me. He was 17 years old and was drafted into the army towards the end of the war. He was very afraid and the Allies were beckoning him to run over to their side in the middle of a battle. He told me that he threw down his weapon and did. As he told me the story, all I could think about was, "what did he do before that? He was 17 then. What did he do when he was 16, or 13? I only say hello and goodbye to him now. When I work at my bench and he is not there, which is most of the time, I find myself wondering if he has passed on. When he does arrive the next time he gives me a smile when I say hello to him, but a weird smile, like he wishes that either he never told me about being in the German army during WW2 or that maybe he wishes it never happened at all.

I have heard many stories from people that were in a camp or people that lost everyone and grew up with out a family. Some were just video clips and some were from friends. What really upsets me though is that for the stories I hear there are countless others that will never be told or heard. The vast number of people that are no longer with us and that were never able to tell their stories is just too overwhelming for me to comprehend. I guess all we can do now is to listen to the people that are still with us and hope that they feel comfortable enough to share their stories with us. Soon, there will be no one left to tell the few stories that remain.

I hung the largest Israeli flag that I could find on the porch today. Next week is Memorial Day and Independence Day follows immediately the next day. I am just floored by this place.

Love to you all,
Don’t forget,
And try to always be ready to listen,


Just two days

Just two days that are worth a small note. Yup, this is my life for the last two days. I will start with Thursday morning.

Adele and I woke up at 6 am to drive to Netanya for our driving tests. Why Netanya, since I live in Zichron almost an hour away you ask? Well, don't. So, we get in the car only about 10 minutes late and speed away into the usual morning traffic. Yes, blood pressure is rising... and yes... we are talking about the whole driving test thing here which if you have been following, isn't exactly the best topic for Adele and I to handle. Oh, I forgot, on Wednesday after work Adele called me and said that I need to go to the Doar (post office) to get some Toffuses. You know, I don't even think that is a Hebrew word. Toffus?... somebody must have just made it up so that everyone can have a good laugh every time it gets uttered by guys like me. So the Doar was closed. I called the driving office in Netanya to find out what to do and this is all in Hebrew mind you, and the secretary tells me, (I think) that I can get to Netanya a little early and go to the Doar there. Yup, we got into the car 10 minutes late and hit a wall of traffic. Now the blood pressure thing has a little more weight, doesn't it?

After traffic interspersed with Adele and I artistically spatting across the car our unique brand of Parsel-toungue, we arrive at the Netanya Doar at 10 minutes to 8! This time my fancy short cut worked! Yay, there is a G-D! Adele goes running off to, yes... stand in line. The Doar opens at 8 and there are already about 20 people in line. Oyyyyyy! OK, so now I am just breathing deeply and trying to remind myself that it is only a stupid driving test. So what is the worst that can happen? I just have to wait some more time and take the test with a pissed off instructor and tester just waiting to fail me. Did I mention that I failed my first ever driving test in the States because I was so nervous that I almost ran an old lady down in the crosswalk? Yeah I was only 16 but at least everyone spoke English.

So I am in line now and Adele is pacing just out of sight. We wait, and wait… a spot opens up and we run up to ask about the Toffuses and the lady says,
"What? What is a Toffus?"

Adele does some fancy explanation and the woman seemed to understand but we still don’t know how to pronounce the friggin word. In the mean time the driving instructor has called and is now livid because we aren’t at his office already. I guess his secretary didn’t tell him what we were doing, and come to think of it, why didn’t his secretary tell us we needed the toffus thing earlier? Maybe she did and we just didn’t understand the word. Who knows? So we race off to a new meeting place at the canyon (mall) and pull up at exactly 8:30 to a large grin on our instructors face. He hurries us out of the car and we stand around for about 20 minutes while paperwork and stuff is filled out by not only us but two other guys that are going to take their test also. These guys are from Russia and have been in Israel for only 2 months. We all get into the car with the tester, which is no simple feat since now there are four men and one woman all trying to squeeze in to a car the size of a matchbox, and slowly creep away from the parking lot. The older Russian man is driving and it feels like he has got one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. As he goes swerving down the road Adele gets into a conversation with the other Russian guy in the back of the car with us. I look over at him and notice that half of his face is a bit saggy and he is slurring his words a bit. Adele looks at me and whispers, "I think he has had a stroke."

Our eyes got bigger around but I figured if he is here in the car he must have had some practice before the test, right? We continued the conversation and in the process of this find out why we needed to take the driving test in the first place. We thought it was just because it was a new Country with different rules and what not. Makes sense right? Well, to make a long story short, The Russian immigrants that had been coming to Israel had been getting into all kinds off accidents and when the government looked into this it found that in Russia you don’t take a test to get a driving license. In Russia you buy one. I have no idea how that works. You just pay somebody some money and they give you a license? Kind of like a fishing license I guess. So, while we had this discussion with the guy in the back seat Adele and I are getting a little nervous about being in the car with the Russian guy that seams to be just barely missing every other parked car on the road as he meanders his way through the test. In the end, it all worked out. No accidents and we now need to wait until next week to get the results. The instructor told us that they used to give the results right away but there were two little incidents in the Country when someone failed the test and pulled out a gun and shot the instructors! South Central L.A. ? Actually they probably have had the same problems in the States.

Did I call this letter a short note? Sorry, but this is only halfway through one day. Maybe you should take your time and read it like the morning newspaper or something. Anyways, after the test we drove to my mother in laws house to help her fix some stuff and hang some paintings and on the way I decided to take another short cut since the last one worked so well. This time it didn’t work so well. We got stuck in traffic and went in circles for a while until I pulled over and let Adele drive. Yes, the parsel-tounge was back and it lasted until we got back to Zichron, or actually Faradise, which is the Arab town next to Zichron when Adele asked to be let out of the car. I refused, for obvious reasons, and eventually we made it back to Zichron. You know, all this fuss over a driving test sounds a bit over the top, doesn't it? Well, the day is not over yet.

Zach had been planning his birthday sleep over and we decided to do it at the beach. It started out at maybe six or eight kids but by the time it finished we ended up with sixteen! And that was only the ones who ended up sleeping, well actually no one really slept. The night started out fine. Zach and two of his friends were responsible for collecting wood and when I got back to the house after the test they were, yes… sitting in front of the computer. After some gentle reminding I went to run some errands and they went to find some wood. I came back to a pile of junk in my driveway. (it is still there by the way) so I drove them around the neighborhood and between pallets from the local winery and other assorted stops we did all right. We had enough for a bonfire to last until four in the morning when the rainstorm finally hit. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I decided to let Adele off the hook because it was quite plainly making her life hell to think about the logistics with getting her to work at the base and after just returning from Jerusalem the night before our test, she was very tired. She rode her bike to work, about and hour and a half ride, and I went down to scope out the camping situation. We found a great spot in the bushes next to the beach and set up. One of Zach’s close friends from England was helping and at about 6 or 7 o'clock the kids started to show up. I left to pick up Adele from work. She was whooped. We came home and later took Josh down to check out the situation at the beach. There was about 20 kids all running and dancing and yelling and playing and who knows what else around the bonfire. The food I laid out was shredded and all of the kids stuff was everywhere. We helped a bit with semores and I drove Adele and Josh home. I went back and set up a little spot on the sand to sleep. It was great to watch the teen rituals going on. The boys were walking a thin line between childhood and adulthood. They would all be sitting and engaging with the girls at one point and the next they would be romping around like a bunch of monkeys. So funny!

Well, I mentioned rain didn’t I? Yes, I got the weather report before I left and it said that there might be some slight rain showers the next morning. OK, we can handle slight - right? At about 10 o’clock I was tracking a storm out in the Mediterranean Sea that must have been over Greece . It was moving towards us. By 12 o’clock the wind kicked in and all the kids started dragging their tents into the bushes because there were no stakes to hold them down. By 2 o’clock I was hoping the storm would turn away because it was an electrical storm and by 4 o’clock I was counting the seconds between flashes and booms. (so now you know what the photo is at the top of this page is, my friend Zohar took it at exactly four in the morning just down the beach from us) After one particularly large boom I decided to climb out from under my hastily thrown together tarp contraption and get everyone under some cover. All the kids had just started to settle down and I told everyone that they needed to get all of their stuff together and drag it all over under one of the caravan roof that were near by. There they continued to pack stuff and fold up the tents in the dark as the rain pelted down for about an hour. Everything was wet because the tents weren’t really water proof but at least we didn’t need to worry about the lighting so much. One of the kids called his dad who had a car that could take 7 kids and I shuttled 7 of them and all of there stuff over to the entrance to the beach in my little rocket powered cardboard box of a car in shifts and came back for the rest. They as well were shuttled in shifts, first to the entrance, and then to their homes and to ours. We had five kids crammed into Zach’s room and all got to sleep about 6 in the morning with a pile of wet and sandy stuff sitting in my studio downstairs. I went back to the beach the next day and found some tarps, shoes, towels, and my prescription glasses that I had lost in the dark and the wind and the rain and the lightning bolts, during our hasty retreat. OK, that’s the story. I guess it was only one really long day and not two. Whfeew! So, with that, I will just say,
Love to you all, be well, ve shavua tov,

Out of the Desert

so, where to begin...
I guess we need to go all the way back to when we were slaves in Mitzraim (Hebrew word meaning Egypt and also place of narrowness). during this time of the year we are encouraged to look, once again inwards, and to find our own place of narrowness. our own private Mitzraim can be found if we have the courage to look, in the dark and fecund corners of our souls. Once we find these hidden places and take stock of (what I usually find) the amazing variety of fungi, all we need next is… Matzah! We eat this wonderful thing once a year for a period of eight days to remind us of who we are on the inside, without all the fluff and fancy that our egos tend to add all year long. My sister in law Pamela referred to this as vitamin ‘M’ at our Seder in Jerusalem . Yes, this year in Jerusalem ! And G-D willing next too!

O.K., so maybe I went a little too far back…3500 years is a long time and this letter may get a little long winded. how about I just start off with how work is going? So, work is very fun for me! I am making mostly kitchens for the German Christian kibbutznicks at Beit El but sometimes I need to crank out some little boxes that they use for the guts of a mobile gas mask unit that rides on small open trucks for the army. My Hebrew is getting better all the time and maybe I will learn a little German as well. The whole factory is closed for the week of Pasach (Passover) and after working for a half day on Monday we drove to Jerusalem for an amazing Seder with family and friends. There was about 20 or 25 people and we told stories, learned Torah, Prayed, and yes, ate Matzah from 8 in the evening until 2 in the morning! The kids too! Wow… I loved it!!! Thanks so much to Aba and Pamela for creating such an amazing Seder!!!

After the Pesach Seder we drove to the Negev desert and stayed with some friends and family in mud huts on Kibbutz Revivim. We hiked in the desert to see colored sands, black irises, and ancient ruins and caves, and returned to the hastily built mud huts to make … more Matzah! We were so busy that we didn’t have time to let the dough rise! Haw -haw – haw! Yeminite Jews were staying there the first night and late in the night the Elder of the community gathered all the clan around to tell a few stories. Everyone was very quite and at every punchline the whole group laughed and laughed. We brought some drums and they made short work of us with their drumming technique. Wow, they are good. An old woman that had shared some of her Marak (soup) with us earlier told us we had to settle down and eventually I had to put the drums away because all the little kids kept coming by to sneakily beat on them real quickly.

Josh is loving his vacation from school. The kids get three weeks off now for Pasach. He stays up as late as he wants and gets up as late as he wants. We visited this morning with an Israeli family that we know and they do it that way too. Zach was going to have a beach party for his birthday tonight but the wind was a little much. Something called a chamseen when the wind blows in from Jordan in the east and fills the air with hot and dusty granuals for a day or two. Then it goes away and the usual awesome weather rolls in. So, in Adeles last email she may have mentioned our little experience with Shfeyah (Zachs school) when we went to get Josh into it. We showed up for the interview and sat down with two teachers, Zachs math teacher and someone else. Immediately Zachs math teacher asked where Zach had been that day in school. Adele had been in Jerusalem and I leave the house before they go to school in the morning so we just looked at each other and picked up the phone to call Zach. Yup, he ditched. And to make it even funnier, after turd wrangling with Zach for a while that night the whole truth came out. Josh decided to stay home too and they watched TV and played video games all day long. I should have guessed that something was up when I walked in the house after work and found that almost every surface of the house was covered in wrappers and crumbs.

All fun aside, we had some bad news recently. Our dog Cody has died. He was living with my Mom in Northfork, California for almost a year now and got cancer or had elevated blood platelets or something and died the daya after Pasach. We didn’t find out until we returned from the Negev . We all missed him this year but he had the best retirement any dog could have had. He had his own lake to swim in and goats and ducks and geese to chase. He had a lot of love there. Thanks Mom.

So, tomorrow we take our first driving lesson and Thursday this week we will take the test and finally be legal to drive here. That took a while. We were told by nefesh b nefesh that we had a year to do this. I was told by a police man that we needed to get a liscence before we drove here at all and I was told by someone else that spoke to another police man that we had to get it done by three months after our arrival. Since no one really knew, we chose the year answer. Wish us luck.

We all miss you all very much and hope that some of you can visit soon or even later. Stay healthy in body, mind and most importantly spirit and don’t forget to pay attention to the lurking fluff in dark and pungiant spaces during this holiday season.

Chag Sameach,

Shalom Kulam

Shalom kulam,
I haven’t written for a while because I have been a bit under the weather. Yes it has been cold and rainy here but that is not what I meant. My first few weeks of work have evidently taken it out of me a bit. The second week of work I caught a cold but either was able to hold it at bay or it was really just nerves. The third week of work I got the stomach flu and had to call in sick for two days. The fourth week of work I got a full on head cold along with Adele and Zach. We have been snuffling around trying to get better. I think that the sicknesses here must just be a lot more virulent for us tall and soft white people from North America.

At work I have been making friends with Israelis, Russians, Canadians, Germans and one or two Americans and Brits. They all have such different accents and it is sometimes hard to understand their Hebrew. One of the Israelis that works in the aluminum area is crazy to be a pilot. He is a bit old to be a pilot but doesn’t seem to be phased by it. The Jets fly over all the time when they practice and he goes running out of the room to see them when they do. Another guy, one of the Russian guys that works at the factory, was asked to help me on the “Krisig”, German for sliding table saw, and wanted to jump into the drivers’ seat right away. He, evidently, watched how I did it and decided that he wanted to give it a try. He said, “Ani Aosey et ze acshav”, while sweeping me away from the saw with a broad arm gesture. I didn’t let him and later, when I told my boss Yochanan about it, his eyes got real big. He just shook his head and we moved on, no big deal. Yochanan showed me the bomb shelter in the Nagaria (woodshop) the other day. We walked into this storage room with shelves of parts from the floor to the ceiling. My mind kept thinking, in an earthquake the shelves fall over and squish everything around them. Maybe it is all bolted down, or maybe it doesn’t really matter because that is different than a missile landing nearby, I don’t know. Then he showed me the chemical and biological filtration system in the shelter. Now that is state of the art! These are the machines that the factory manufactures for people and companies all over Israel and the World. A group of people from Singapore were at the factory recently and it was a big deal. I guess they are worried about China and North Korea.

One of the Germans from the factory told me a disturbing story about something that happened to him while he was on a camping trip in the North. He was trying to make a fire and needed some paper to get it going. Some Arabs were nearby and he went over to ask them if they had anything to help. They turned out to be drunk and since the German man spoke Hebrew they replied with,
“Sure, first you take our country and then you ask us for paper for your fire?”
The German was taken aback at their response and immediately began to impersonate a German tourist for fear of being attacked or something. When they understood this the Arabs started to congratulate him on the Holocaust! He told me that he was very upset by what they said because he was so ashamed of his Country’s history. What a crazy mixed up world. How can anyone celebrate death? …Enough of that for now.

The power is out here now. I am writing this on the laptop. The power goes out a lot. This time it is lightning near the house. Sometimes it is just rain or wind or something. The first time it happened we were all worried and called someone on the cell phone. They just said it will come back on and not to worry. It did. The power flickered in the factory once last week too. I am getting used to a lot of things now. I was looking at some pictures of our house in Boulder before we moved and had so many memories. After I looked at some pictures of our life here and realized that I am building memories here too. It is starting to feel like home in a physical sense now as well as just being spiritual or instinctual. We are really just starting to feel moved in now. Adele and I walked on the beach on Shabbat. It was amazing. Tel Dor is an ancient port that has ruins spread around it. We walked on the bluff for a couple of hours. It was great. So, Hope to see anyone and everyone here sometime. Love from the Holy Land,
The Zichron Nolls.

Tower of Babel

Hi everyone, I completed my first week of work and really like it. It feels so good to be making sawdust again. I think that I just love to do it. it is so much in my spirit or being or whatever. after having a little break, just over a year now!, I realize that just thinking about how to get the most out of the wood or being as efficient as possible, stupid little things like that are so much a part of me. I guess i was meant to be a carpenter, at least for now... my job is in a little woodshop at the German factory. the name or the factory, (actually i think the whole community) is Beth El (house of G-D). it is made up of Christians from Germany that in the late 60's started to move to Zichron and Benyamina because of a prophecy from a woman (i forgot her name) that "in the coming Apocalypse" this area would be spared. don't quote me because I don't really know. the community is structured as a Kibbutz and there are now many members now coming from Canada and the U.S. They hire people from Israel to work for them occasionally and i have met some Local grown Israelis and also Russians. a few people speak English but mostly we all have to communicate in Hebrew. The Germans speak German amongst themselves. The intercom is always spouting German, and all of the tooling is in German. It makes it fun when a guy like me, a native English speaker, has to work on the CNC machine which is all labeled and programed in German, and the use of which is all explained in Hebrew! It feels like the tower of Babel!
It is a wild time to be living, much less in the center of the Universe. Hope to see you here soon...Love to you all, Drew.

Planes, trains, and automobiles

Actually, there aren't any planes or trains on my mind now, just cars or to be more specific, Drivers licenses. We had to go to the Misrad ha Rishoui to try, once again, to get our drivers licenses going. This was the third time we had been there. It is in Haifa, a 30 minute drive for us, and the first time we went we forgot our Todat Oley (New Immigrant Passport) and had to turn around. Adele and I got a little divorce on the ride home but made up later. the second time we went they told us that we didn't need to be there yet and told us we needed to get some paper work started and to go to an optometrists office in a nearby mall (we call the mall "Scud Mall" because Saddam shot one at it while it was still under construction during the gulf war. on the way to the Scud Mall we had another little divorce but made up in the mall by forgetting all our little problems by, yes you guessed it, shopping. after we waited in line for almost an hour we got into the optometrists office and got the Tofus, (official paper work? sounds like soy bean curd to me). we got the eye exam in the same office, conveniently, and then we had to go to our Kupat Holim (Socialized Medicine Doctors Office) to get a medical checkup. so, now that we had the paperwork all filled out and our Tudat Oley in hand we were going to get it done, (I said "were", didn't I?) at the Misrad ha Rishui we were told that Since Adele had her drivers license stolen last Summer and the replacement didn't have the right date she now needs to deal with the DMV in Colorado to get the right paper work from the States before she can get her drivers license here. after the adjustments that this balagan made are completed (cross your fingers) she will need to make another trip to the Misrad Ha Rishoui and the next step is two or three drivers lessons and a driving test, ( not written, driven) to then get licenses. Yaay! Or should I just say Oyy! I guess they figure that if you can get through all the hoops to get a license you can't help but be ready for the Indie 500 and that is what it is here sometimes on the roads. Once again I am going to shout out about how I DONT HAVE TO DRIVE TO WORK! 5 or 10 minute walk, right from my house. That is definitely a YAAY! Today we decided to look at the dreaded budget. we entered all the credits and debts, or should I say pros and cons and (assuming we didn't forget something) at the bottom we found that if we don't spend anything on any superfluous items we may have about n's2000 ($458 at today's exchange rate) at the end of the month to put into an account that we can use for saving, going out, or maybe travel! Hey, maybe on a plane or a train! You know how that stuff works, we shall see... Josh got into a big brawl at school. he was tired, from setting his alarm early in the morning to watch BobSpog (Sponge Bob) and got into a scuffle with one of his friends, who had some other friends who decided to pound Josh. the two kids had to be held apart by each's respected friends and they all worked it out after a meeting with the secretary that day and the teacher the next. I guess they are all friends again now. Maybe it is a Middle Eastern hot head thing or maybe it is a Josh thing. Probably both. Josh is also changing big time now. Don't tell anyone but,... he kissed a girl for the first time (I think) at a little Bat Mitzvah party. He was so funny when he came home. He wanted to know about how it was for me when I was young but didn't want to give me any information about why he was asking. When it got pretty suspicious he just said that he needed to talk to his big brother first. Cute, cute, cute! All I heard Zach say was "you beat me by three years!" now I can say - OYY VA VOYY! With good reason. Zach had his little party that I wrote about last time and it seemed to go quite well for him. We were told by all the (Originally) Americans here that we needed to stay in the house, check up on him occasionally or just worry about it. We were told by all the Israelis that we should not worry about it for a second, that we should trust him and to give him some space. We, as responsible parents tried to do both. We left the house while they had the party and then we came back home about a half of an hour before we said we would. They were all sitting properly on the couch in the living room drinking soda and tea and having lovely little conversations! For the rest of the night until about 2:30 they were all very quite and eventually all fell asleep. In the morning we discovered that 7 or 8 people had slept over and they all were very polite, thanking us for the party multiple times before they left at about noon. Different world here. Zach was very industrious and cleaned up most of the mess and also thanked both his Mom and I many times for a very successful little party. He is a really nice kid. We are very impressed by his ability to blend into a new world here so quickly. Many blessings to you all and to wrap it all up for today, If you actively think of life as being too short, it may actually feel just right. Notice everything you can and think about what you noticed at least one more time. And... Always Love yourself.
Love from the Holy Land,

Eight Months Already?

Shalom Kulam!

We are still doing well in Zichron. The second to last orange house on the left in this picture is where we live now. Adele has been very busy working for the army and developing her private practice. I have been looking for work and doing bids on jobs. I have finished two projects thus far, a shtender for the Shule, and a vanity for a beach house. I update the website occasionally if you would like to see. http://www.bigsundesign.com/ Both projects I was able to build in my little garage, however, I now realize that to make anything larger I will need to get a more appropriate space to work from. This understanding and the fact that none of the bids that I did came in accelerated my search for employment and also my stress because I cant make very much money by getting a job as a carpenter.

Through a friend of my sister in law Debbie, I was able to get an interview at the German gas mask factory in Zichron as a carpenter. This is the same factory that is nestled into the valley outside my living room window (you can see it in a previous photo from my merpesit). I needed to push my way into an interview because I am evidently over qualified for the job. At the interview, there were 2 people waiting in the hall to interview and one inside already. I sat down with my resume and portfolio in between these guys as it was the only chair available. No one said a word. The other guys were about 30 years old. One had long dread locks and the other had frosted spiky hair. We sat for about 10 minutes while the guy inside was interviewed. When he was done the guy with the dread locks went in. We waited for another ten minutes and another guy showed up. He was wearing a little white kippah like you get at weddings and had a Versace t-shirt on. He sat down. No one talked. The dread lock guy came out and the frosted hair guy went in. 3 or 4 minutes later frosted hair came out and wedding kippah guy said that he needed to go into the interview next because his wife was having twins at that very moment. I said "bavakasha, ain baya" and then waited for another 10 minutes.

When it was finally my turn, I went into the little room and was greeted by an Israeli and a very neatly dressed German guy with a big smile. So, long story short, I didn’t need to even open my portfolio because it was too fancy, they liked that I was an Oley Hadash, I interviewed with them in Hebrew and in English, waited over the weekend, called on Sunday to be sure they knew I was interested, and this morning I received a call that I got the job! Yay! So now, I won't need to get another car that I can't afford because I can walk 5 or 10 minutes to work! The people are nice there too! I was worried about having to work with mostly Arabs, Russian immigrants, and Ethiopian immigrants. That is usually a pretty rough crowd here in HaAretz. So, I will be working in a factory with state of the art German machinery, five minutes from my home! Did I mention that they are Christian? Well, maybe more like Amish. They all live as simply as they can. They wear simple button up shirts, dress slacks, and live like Mennonites or Amish or, I don’t know yet. They drive cars and use electricity but their philosophy is very specific about living. I don’t actually know much now but I will learn about it. They want to make Israel beautiful so that Jews make Aliyah… I think. I am extremely exited to get busy with something. I will go through a three month period as a new employee and then (with the help of Hashem) I will get to be permanent and receive some kind of insurance or something. It is all new to me.

On a down note, Adele seems to have really hurt her knee. She went to some weird dancing thing to check it out and this woman fell on her and Adele popped her knee. She went to the hospital this morning with her sister Kate. I don’t know yet what is happening with it, but I think that it will be ok. Maybe rest for a week and pain and a brace for 3 months. The worst case scenario is surgery. Oyy… I am sure she will be writing all about it some time soon. Zach will be having a little party at our house on Thursday night this week. I think we are supposed to lock ourselves in our room or leave the house. I remember when my parents did that for me and my little brother. We rolled up the rug and had a dance party in the living room while they sat in the car at the end of the street. It sounds weird but I guess it is a bit normal or maybe normal just for me. Josh now has a rabbit. He is making some friends but it is a bit tougher for him. Good thing he has some time before he needs to get his act together. Zach has only one year to get his Hebrew down enough to take his baccalaureates in Hebrew. These are tests that determine your collage placement. They start here in 11th grade and every year the kids take them. They average the scores or something like that. I don’t actually know. I think he will do OK. He is already getting A's on some tests and says that he understands most of what is going on in the class. We have to have lots of faith to do this. I have been using this faith for a long time now and feel that sometimes I have had to use it to hold my family up. Just last week I hit rock bottom. My faith started to falter a bit. I started to think about what if we moved back? What if I can't find work? What if we can't make it here? It felt very lonely in that place. Getting this job was a G-D send for me. I needed to remember that all things that happen have their purpose. I needed to be down to know what it was to be up… or… something like that anyway. I hope that all is wonderful for everyone and please write me sometime. I would enjoy hearing from you all.
Love from the Holy Land,Drew.

Directions in a Foreign Language

Shalom Havre!

Finally I am sending some pictures of my new city, or I guess you would say town, no, maybe technically it is more of a village… I am now out of Ulpan (language school) on an official basis but decided to continue with it two times a week for two hours a day just to keep tuned. I am now trying to figure out what I am going to do with my life! Not an easy task. Sometimes I want to build a business again and sometimes I just want to get a job. Maybe I will do both. I have done a couple of little projects, a Tansue style vanity and a Shulchan (Torah table) for my Temple.Yesterday I had a job interview at a little wood shop about an hour from here. The guy there gave me instructions but the combination of his broken English and my broken Hebrew sent me to a little town in the Shtakeem (Territories) called Ariel. I started to get a little worried when I saw Bedouins with kafias walking along the road. I pulled over at the entrance to Ariel and consulted the map again. While I was sitting there an Arab guy came up to the car and asked me if I could take some papers to the hospital in Ariel. He was very insistent and took the papers out of the manila envelope to show me that they really were just papers. I had to tell him no about 10 times before he got the hint. Ariel is only about 15 or 20 minutes into the Shtakeem but it is a totally different world. It is a very large community on top of a hill as most of the Jewish settlements are. There is not much else around there accept a few scattered little Arab villages. When I went through the checkpoint I should have started to wonder but I thought maybe this wood shop is in the Shtakeem as many industrial sites are there on Moshaveem or Kibbutzim. It wasn't far out of the way but quite interesting. If you keep going on that road you end up going by Ramallah, (you know, the city where roving bands of thugs and terrorists shoot guns into the air on strange occasions like when The World Trade Center was destroyed). Oyyy!

Also, I have begun to make art again. The government gives artists an incentive to create as an Oley Hadash (new immigrant) and all I need to do is to show a record of having made art professionally elsewhere and to show a piece that I made here. So I made a drawing of the view from my studio window and it was so great to do it that today I went on a little walk around town and took some pictures, (that is why I have some to email), and will start to draw from some of them. Maybe I will have a show here sometime soon! Anyways, life seems to always be ready for us and all we need to do is jump in! Having jumped off the high dive this time, I feel like I have to learn how to swim all over again! I hope that the belly flop that I did doesn’t sting too long! All kidding aside, this is a great adventure / life to be in. I wouldn’t trade for anything. The kids are doing very well. They have been on a little tiyul (trip) to the desert to see Ein Geddy, the Dead Sea (Yom Hamelech) and Mount Masada with each of their classes. This is an amazing thing that the schools do here. They take these class trips and do hikes and sleep with their friends in little cabins. I think that they do it every year. Both Zach and Josh went from different schools to the same place and saw each other randomly there. They are on the busses coming back now and I am looking forward to seeing them. Adele is doing so well here. She is building her practice at lightning speed and is working for the Army as a Physical Therapist. I am going to the Base for the first time tonight to a party with her. She tells me that these boys are so amazing. They are not only physically developed but spiritually and emotionally as well. Just what I need, a little competition! Oyy! Just kidding, Adele and I are growing in leaps and bounds everyday. The stress is not easy but it sure produces growth! We are really starting to feel settled, (starting), and hope and pray that we will thrive here. I love all of you and miss you very much.


Baja or Israel?

Hi Everyone,

We have all slowed down a bit and begun to start to get used to this new place. We have had some ups and downs but for the most part are still doing well. I will be very happy to be done with Ulpan (language school) because it takes a lot out of me. The program is very demanding. I went to a very wealthy part of Israel yesterday for a possible job with someone I met in Ulpan. It is like Newport Beach there and a good place to get connected with work. We shall see. We have some great mountain biking right out of our house here. There are nature reserves on two sides of us and an old farm town on the other, with the beach at the bottom of the hill of course. Sometimes, in the morning, I am reminded that I live in the Middle East when I walk to my morning car pool meeting. I walk pass Arab Women on their way to work instead of Hispanics or something. It is very strange and seems to always take me by surprise. It really feels like California or something here, until a reminder wakes me up. We live very close to an Arab town called Faradis. Sometimes we go there to get veggies and fruit. It is like going to Tijuana to shop just 5 minutes away. There aren’t any real building codes there and the buildings just sprawl up the next hill with barely any roads. I have been in there a couple of times and all I can say is that I wouldn't like to get lost there.

Love to everyone,