© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Rabbinate, singing in the halls, and the ‘being Jewish’ crash course

I thought I would try another free-flowing, multi-tasking, oratorical with a cool title type of blog. You see, life is starting to become normalized for us Nolls in the Middle East and I find that my mind is much less on the things that most people would think of as bizarre or unique. These things are starting to become just, normal. For instance, since I started working at the German, Christian, gas mask making factory and Kibbutz of Beit El, I have gotten used to the German people just breaking into song for no particular reason; like the other day when I heard this amazing voice echoing through the hall and stairwell. In the States, if someone was singing in public and was caught at it, they would probably stop immediately with a sheepish grin and a reddened face. Here, this type of thing is so normal that the drive-by-singers aren’t phased a bit by on-lookers. This woman was cleaning the bathrooms and was evidently enjoying the sound of her voice as it bounced around the tiled rooms. I don’t remember the song but I do remember that it was in English and had that kind of 70’s folk sound to it. The Mechanic sings sometimes when he works in the basement, and one of my coworkers started today with a song that seemed to be running around in his head and itching to get out. I guess I am still American because when they start, I always cringe a little. Maybe like they might not have known that I was there and could hear them singing. On the other hand, sometimes even when I know that I am not alone, I sing a song or two left inside my head from Shabbat. And speaking of Shabbat…

We went to the Rabbinate to open the Teek (means bag, don’t know why it is called that) for my official conversion to Orthodox Judaism. The building was in Haifa, about an hour from us away. We got great directions and had no problems finding it… until we parked. The parking lot was barricaded off so we needed to find a spot on the street. No problem, that was all in the directions. It got weird when we walked past a crumbling concrete apartment building that looked damaged from the last war, across the barren parking lot with the burnt skeletal remains of a few couches, and up to the door of a building that just couldn’t be the Haifa Rabbinate. It was a metal where house looking door with big rivets and graffiti that spread its way across the whole building. We stopped and stood for a second. Adele and I looked at each other and both uttered, “Is this it?” I heard Adele say, “No, I don’t think so…” and then I looked up and saw the little brass sign that said ‘HAIFA RABBINATE’. Ok, but where was the door knob? Anyways, it all worked out in the end. We got in, found where we needed to go, met with the Rabbi (who by the way had the largest beard I have ever seen), and am now on the way with an official ‘teek’. Wish me luck (mazal in Hebrew, like in mazal tov), actually luck is not a Jewish concept and I have always wondered about that. Mazal actually means constellation and that is definitely a no-no. Lots to learn…

The last segment of my fancy title is ‘being Jewish crash course’. This refers to a very unfortunate event that occurred at work the other day. You see, one of my co-workers is mentally un-healthy. He has been having episodes more frequently and had one the other day with me. You see, sometimes we get to talking and I enjoy it because it is great practice for my Hebrew. Usually our talks go well but that day it went real bad, real fast. we were talking about how so many people have been sick this year and he chimed in with there was a lot of pigs that got sick too. I thought, pigs? There really aren’t any pigs in Israel. What was he talking about? Then he said in Germany. Oh, I hadn’t heard of anything. And then he said that it happened during the Second World War and all the pigs died. Now my ‘being Jewish’ antennae went up like lighting. Then he said it. They had Juden-Swine written on their clothes and they were in a concentration camp. I told him that I didn’t want to hear anymore of what he was saying and that it was not ok to speak that way… ever. It was kind of like talking to a child. I told my boss and he spoke to him about it. Later the co-worker came to me and said that it was all a misunderstanding because of the language barrier (he speaks German, I speak English, we communicate in Hebrew) but I know it was something else. The poor guy is mentally ill, and German, and living in Israel with Jews. Ay yaay yaay… so, as far as the crash course, I figure, since I didn’t grow up Jewish, (even though I have lived a Jewish life for more then half of my life) I need to develop some Jewish survival skills… maybe just persecution complex, ya ya ya… I don’t know. All I do know is that I was ready to walk out of that place right then and the only reason I didn’t was that my boss told me some stories of his family during the Second World War. Many of his relatives were forced to fight on the front line because they were not supporters of the Nazis. They were all killed. So here I am, in Israel, converting to Orthodox Judaism, working at a German, Christian, gas mask making factory, that supply the Jews in Israel with protection against the new enemy, Hesbollah, Hamas, Iran and Akmadinajad, and all the radical Islamists in the West Bank under the direction of Abbas (former crony of Arafat). Am I Jewish yet you ask? Neereh…

Shabbat Shalom kulam!