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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tisha B’ Av

(the 9th of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar)

Sometime before I was born, a tree began to grow, somewhere in the Carolinas in North America (Hi Aunt Cathy!). It was a Carolina Pine Tree and it grew for, maybe, 50 years before it was cut down for lumber. It had a journey through giant saws and then to a kiln to dry it properly. It went on a ship and maybe made a few stops in Europe before it finally landed on the shores of Israel. Once it was offloaded, it probably sat in a shipping yard for a week, or maybe a month, and then went to a local lumberyard, maybe in Haifa. Then, as it worked out, it finally found its way to an agalah (cart) in the basement maksan (storage area) at Beit El in Zichron Yaacov where my Son Zach, was busily working at his summer job (at the Nagaria (woodshop) with me!).

Well, to really tell this story right I guess I need to back up to about the time of Moses. He is the guy that led the Israelites out of Mitzraim (Egypt) and the story goes like this… at the border of Israel, after hearing the horrible tales from the spies that were sent in to get information about the land that G-D had promised to give to the Jews, the Israelites decided to flee. They turned from G-D and forgot all the miracles that He had done for them. After this moment of complete idiocy, G-D told the Israelites that not only would they have to wonder in the Sinai Desert for forty years, but that throughout time, the 9th of the month of Av, would be a day for the Jews to cry. Now that is really heavy. And to make matters worse, maybe a little history can also shed some light on that ill-fated promise;

The first temple in Jerusalem was destroyed on Tisha B’Av.
410 years later, the second temple was also destroyed on Tisha B’Av.
On Tisha B'Av in the year 1290, Edward I issued an edict of expulsion for the Jews from England.
The expulsion of the Jews from Spain during the Spanish inquisition took place on Tisha B’Av, 1492.
In 1914, WW1 (the parent of WW2) broke out on Tisha B’Av.
The final solution to wipe out all the Jews by the Nazis was signed on, OK, not Tisha B’Av, but the eighth of Av (I guess the Nazis were a little bit eager) however,
The first cattle car which left the largest ghetto in Warsaw, loaded with Jewish Men, Woman, and Children heading to their deaths, left on Tish B’Av, 1941.

There are more dates with more horrible reasons for Jews to cry but I just don’t want to think about it all. It is just too overwhelming. Well, that is probably why, on Tisha B’Av, 2007, in the basement maksan at the Beit El factory in Zichron Yaacov, Israel, I was busy treating the day just like any other day, even though in the back of my mind, there was something lurking, something dark and dangerous, something that I had pushed as far back as I could get it. And the further I pushed it, the further the fate of the day was willing to reveal its ugly head.

I walked by Zach, who was at the time trying with all his might to lift these giant beams of Carolina Pine into a space that was designed for perfectly straight boards, and not the twisty, warped, and splintery boards that were sitting on the Agala in front of him. He had been sweating for about ½ of an hour before he asked for help with one, very innocent and unpresuming board. I reached down and began to move the board in his direction, but at the last moment, noticed a sharp pain, like a needle being inserted under my fingernail. I quickly withdrew my hand, muffled a few curses, walked swiftly to the back door for some air, had to sit down before I got there, and then, I guess I passed out from the pain because when I opened my eyes, there were people running around me, trying to figure out what was happening. My Boss, Yochonan was there. I remember speaking in slurred Hebrew and then I remember getting up and walking to the bathroom to wash the wound. I had to sit down again and eventually I had to lie back down on the concrete floor and briefly lost consciousness again. Ay Yaey Yaey! They made me lay down on a little cot in the hall for an hour and nursed my wound with some dressings. It wasn’t that big of a deal, not too much blood or anything. It was just a sliver, half way up under my ring finger nail and a quick pry to drive the day home for me.

I eventually was able to continue working that day and tried not to be too embarrassed as I passed people in the halls. I only passed out, twice, from a splinter… OK, OK…I know; big things in small packages. Maybe next time I will see it coming.

Shabbat Shalom Kulam.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Arabs with Cranes

This story begins about 2 months ago when my friend Elan came to me after Beit Kinesset (Synagogue) one Cabalat Shabbat (Friday Eve.) and said, in a very hushed and, I have to admit, inquiring voice, “I really want to build a skateboard ramp. My brother built one and it is just my dream to have my own ramp.”

Now Elan, it appears, is a real mover and shaker in the skateboard world here. He knows guys from all over the world from his business dealings with building a new skate park in Tel Aviv and also got a little park in the plans for a nearby construction project in Zichron. (Just in the plans mind you. It is now stuck in typical, Subcontractor no-mans land, Israeli fashion) So, I got to wondering about why he needed a ramp in his front yard, or to be more specific, in the only parking area to his house within 200 meters. I guess he just has skateboards on the brain or something like that. I used to skate ramps when I was a kid and it is very addicting. I know where he is coming from; well I did maybe 35 years ago anyways.

So, since I am a skateboarder, surfer, snowboarder, and most importantly, a Nagar (carpenter), why not build a ramp? How hard could it be? It couldn’t take that long, right? Well, in Israel we don’t have weekends. We have Yom Shishi (Friday) and Yom Shabbat (Saturday). On Shabbat we don’t do any work and even if we wanted to, we can’t make noise because it is a real day of rest. No running around shopping or going to morning ball games with the kids. People are either praying in Beit Kinneset or sleeping and resting with friends and family. Most of the stores are closed (maybe like 50 years ago in The States on Sundays) and it is a very quite and peaceful day in the whole Medina (Country). So that left us with Yom Shishi and because we are in the Middle East in the summer, it gets quite hot around noon here. Actually, it gets hot about 10 in the morning and stays that way until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, so if we wanted to get anything done we needed to be started by 7 in the morning and finish as early as we could, maybe 1 or 2 in the afternoon. We did this a few times over the last couple of months but mostly we started at 10 and finished swimming in the humidity at around 1 or 2. Ahyyy!!! I think you heard some earlier exploits of these fun times in a previous Blog (Shabbat Shalom).

The first day we spent, what was supposed to be a couple of hours, at one of the local lumberyards in Haifa. After a few politely irate calls from the wives we finally finished ordering the etsim (wood) for the ramp at about 2 and drove back to Zichron to get the house cleaned and ready for Cabalat Shabbat. I think the term ‘Arabs with Cranes’ was coined on that first journey back home. Elan said to me, “what if they don’t deliver the wood? What if they just cash the check and split? I guess this can happen sometimes here, I have heard of stories like this or like when his next door neighbor who is building a house had an aluminum subcontractor go bankrupt right after receiving a check for about ‘n,s’ 30,000.00, bad, bad, bad… I tried to reassure him, with my extensive knowledge of the Israeli mentality (ha ha), and he moved right into, “what are we going to do when (if) the wood arrives and some Arsim (punks) or Arabs steal it from the front of the house? We will have to cut it up and put it in the house or lock it or something. The Arabs could just come with a crane and take it away!”

So the rest of the trip home, and I admit for a few days after the wood finally did arrive, I was scanning the horizon for Arabs with cranes. Elan told me that he did see one once a few weeks later. When, on the next Friday, we met at the house for the wood delivery and stashed it neatly in the back of the house, wrapped it with chains, plastic tarps, and padlocks to keep the Arsim from being tempted, Elan's wife Eviva came out to enjoy our exploits and chimed right in with, “aren’t those chains going to give the Arabs with cranes a nice little hook to take the whole thing away?”

We all had a good laugh at that one and now, with the help of Moshe and Edan, the wallet and carpentry skills of Elan, and of course, the tools and vast knowledge of the Israeli way of life - me, we have a micro ramp… Elan, what is the deal here? (he just text messaged me that the sun is beating the ramp and we need to do something, maybe next Friday or Thursday eve…) let me just finish the Blog first! Maybe he just wants to skate the, yes, finally finished ramp! Skate on Elan! I will join you after I give my wife some much needed attention, I get the house cleaned, finally, and I get some sleep!

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dude, swim for it!

Boker Tov! (good morning)
Well, maybe not so tov this morning. My day started out late. Well, to be fair, this morning really started the night before when Adele and I had a little row with Zach about all the normal things that parents and teenagers tend to discuss. You know, things like being more respectful to elders, doing chores (at least sometimes without being asked 10 times), spending some time with his little brother, and all sorts of things like that. It was hard, as usual, in part because Adele and I have different approaches to this problem. Sometimes I just want to pound him, well that is always my first urge, and after I check my emotions, I always want to go on and on about all the things that I can think of, since I finally got his attention. Adele, on the other hand, starts by yelling a little, talking a little, and then just wanting me to pound him (a little). In the end we took away his phone and computer privileges and grounded him till we think he is back on track, probably a week or so. (I hope he doesn’t read this!)

So, because of all this, I got to bed late, forgot to set my alarm, woke up late for work, and, on the throne of contemplation, was figuring out how best to manage what was left of the morning, when from somewhere in bowels of the house I hear a moan of horror… “OH MY G-D! THE HOUSE IS FLOODED!”

So, in my mind (yes I am an eternal optimist) I am thinking that it is just a little water from the sink or something, right? Wrong. I moseyed down the stairs to solve the problem and save the day, thinking that maybe I will just be a little late to work. Yeheah besader (it will be OK), right? Well eventually it was, but once again I am getting ahead of myself. I stepped off of the last step into 4” of water. It was everywhere and pouring out the doors like a spaghetti strainer. Where was it coming from? I quickly scanned the room and… Dude! The dog was standing in water to his knees on the merpeset (patio). I slid open the door to let him in and, along with the happy dog, a miniature Niagara Falls gushed through the opening. Oyy…

Now I think I need to go back to a day or two before when Adele, my wife, asked me to fix the clogged drain pipe that drains the water from this particular merpeset. Actually, I think I need to go further back to when my wife asked me to clean out the storage area and put some shelves in or something, just to get things off the ground… Yup, the storage area is on the bottom floor of the house and I could hear clearly the steady trickle of water as it worked its way down through layers of suitcases, camping gear, beach stuff, artwork, and even the precious cartons of sponges, Lawry’s Garlic Salt, and aluminum foil. Not even the Ziploc Bags were spared. Sometimes I hate woman’s intuition. Errr…

It was all mush. And it didn’t help that the concrete floors of the house are sloped down to the back of the house, the cheapo hose that I have to sling up 20 feet to water the plants on the spigot-free merpeset broke, and the merpeset drain (a hole about the size of a marble that is supposed to empty the water from a 30’ by 30’ area) got clogged with two leaves, a few pebbles from when Dude tore up a potted plant, and some pesky little rabbit droppings. Enough whining already! Mantra time… I have a dog, I have a rabbit, I am fulfilled and happy, and I live in the Middle East… I have a dog, I have a rabbit…

OK, so now we have some new shelves and they have all been organized meticulously, we have a drain that is debris free (it is still the size of a marble though), and floors that sparkle like they were soaked in 4” of water – overnight, and I learned a new word today. I asked the Landlord who came right over when we called, “how do you say (flood) in Hebrew, Bul or something like that?”

He says, “Lo, Mebul is when it is big like from rain. What happened here is called (shit-a-phone).” I just looked at him, slack-jawed. And yes, then laughed my head off!

Yom Tov Kulam.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Have you heard the one about…?

Well, it is not exactly the same, but we seem to be living the joke about how a guy is unable to sleep at night (metaphor of restlessness), and he goes to the town Rabbi and asks him what to do about the leak in the roof, the squeak in the floor, and the drip in the sink. In our case, the Rabbi says, “leave everything comfortable that you know and move to the Middle East. After you get there you need to get a rabbit and build it a hutch. But not just any hutch, you need a hutch that keeps the rain and the sun out. It won’t matter if the rabbit droppings end up everywhere, just as long as the hutch is big enough to make your wife cringe and at times fume. When that is done you need to get a dog, but not just any dog, you need to get a dog that was abandoned and rescued off the street. You need to get a dog that challenges not only you but also your wife. You need a dog that sheds black hair everywhere, a dog that barks and growls at every dog and cat that you pass. You need to get a dog that needs lots of training. When that is accomplished, you need chickens. Now mind you, not just any chickens but ones that make noise and smell and demand care in return for maybe a measly egg or two a day.”

So far we have made it to the dog. I haven’t noticed the leak in the roof for a while now. The floors never did squeak because they are all tile and stone here. All the sinks and toilets are leaking, no matter how many times I replace the silly little washer things inside, but I don’t really care so much about all that. We have a rabbit and a dog and we live in the Middle East. We don’t actually have chickens yet but my wife keeps threatening.

In the end of the real joke, the guy goes back to the Rabbi and says that he still can’t sleep at night. All the animals make so much noise and it is really terrible. The Rabbi says to the man, “ok, get rid of all the animals.”

The guy does as he is told and immediately he feels so wonderful. The leaks and squeaks and drips all lull him to a sound sleep every night. He is truly fulfilled and happy.

Wait a second; I am already fulfilled and happy! Maybe I will stop with the rabbit and the dog and just forget the chickens, at least for now…

Always count your blessings, every minute should be cherished, and never count your chickens before they have hatched!

Shavua Tov Kulam.