Thursday, October 29, 2015

Developed in Israel - " Anyone Can Improve Their Own Handwriting " and Interview with Kate Gladstone. WCTV14

Kate Gladstone and Jason Alster talk about their books and videos dealing with messy handwriting , dyslexia, dysgraphia  on Meet The Author WCTV14 .

Meet The Author with Kate Gladstone

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Israel Update and the reason I wrote my memoir / novel/ first person account about living in Israel

Leaving Home Going Home Returning Home

Hi, It has been 9 years since I returned to the USA and 6 years since I wrote my non - fiction novel / memoir "Leaving Home, Going Home , Returning Home : A Hebrew American's Sojourn in the Land of Israel." Since then, I have watched Israel from afar and from close in that my two daughters and grandson are living happy lives in Israel. So I was thinking anew about the relevancy of my book, what messages it has for all readers. I was also thinking about writing an updated version of the book from a perspective of 10 years later. Well , yesterday , as an author and board member of CAPA - Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association I went to a lecture on author branding. The most important thing that the speaker had to say was be clear about your message. Well , I know that seems simple , but many authors actually are not clear on that. How do I know? Well , I run a book marketing network meeting; have a TV show for authors " Meet The Author " out of WCTV14 in Wethersfield, Connecticut; and I offer video book trailer services. What I have come to be surprised about if how much an author's message is not always clear. So, looking at the recent news about the violence and knife stabbings in Jerusalem especially and in Israel in general I came across a news article about how the terrorism is not only about attacking Jews , but actually more about being a "TV hero" or being seen as a "martyr". The innocent person being attacked is just a prop for a social media show. Notice I did not say Hollywood show. I said social media show as a terrorist can have his video about the killings placed on Facebook - even by a friend filming from the sidelines as they themselves will most likely be killed or arrested. Well , looking back at my book on a chapter written about the 9/11 attacks and my own experience of living in Israel during Intifada one and two and actually knowing people killed or wounded I wrote a chapter named " The Business of Terrorism" . In that chapter , just as in the recent article , I talked about how the whole terrorism thing is about either being a star or making money from a terrorism enterprise. It had nothing to do with destroying Israel and everything to do about business and legacy. So, that bring me back to the clear message about my book . It was clear to me that I did not write it as if I needed to write a memoir for some therapeutic reason or need some authors write their memoirs for. Rather, I wrote the book for the sole purpose in that others might get to really understand what Israel is about in a special way. I felt that I had that unique perspective at the time because I was both an American and a Jew who lived in Israel. So , I felt I had a unique perspective in that I could write about Israel, but using my special life there as a camera and showcase. In that regard , I wrote the "memoir" as a Non- fiction novel so that it would also be entertaining as life in Israel was for me and the vast majority of Israelis. Now you might ask, " How can that be if there is so much strife there? Exactly, that was a purpose of the book, and this was even corroborated by a recent research study which showed that Israelis are among the happier or content people of the world. So the basic message of " Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home" is to understand what Israel is really about from a first person accounting and sift that from the surrounding noise. I also wanted people to have an entertaining , exciting , and education read.

Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home: A Hebrew American’s Sojourn in the Land of Israel Authored by Jason Alster List Price: $18.99 6" x 9" (15.24 x 22.86 cm) Black & White on White paper 308 pages ISBN-13: 978-1439258750 (CreateSpace-Assigned) ISBN-10: 1439258759 LCCN: 2009911178 BISAC: Travel / Middle East / Israel Whether you dream of moving across the country or to another continent, or you are returning home after a prolonged absence, Jason Alster’s Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home is an illuminating and inspiring read. Alster paints a picture of his move to Israel, his palette of words reflecting the tones and hues of this Mediterranean nation, but the message he conveys could be applied to any move, to any change from one place to another. Why? Because this book is about the courage to change, to take risks, and to trust oneself regarding that place we wish to call home. How does one adjust to a new language, to a culture decidedly different from the one left behind? What new lessons must we learn? Is there a sense of isolation and longing, or is it possible to become part of that new place and create a sense of community and belonging? According to the author, the answer is a definite yes! Page after page, readers will discover the keys—and occasionally the secrets—to fitting in. CreateSpace eStore:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Leaving Home Going Home Returning Home - full text

Here is now the full text of my story about living in Israel. I think the world should really know what life in Israel is like , at least from an American's perspective. Not the junk you sometimes hear in the news. That is why I wrote the book. I am an award winning scientist and was considered one of Israel's top therapists when there. I also got to meet many of Israel's top researchers and scientists when there and even helped their children through my biofeedback practice and learning strategies courses. My fathers family lived during the Holocaust and my Mother's family lived in Czarist Russia, and I live through the riots in the USA. So I had a unique perspective. The memoir is positive , even fun to read, with many of life's lessons to be shared. A hard copy may be purchased on and Kindle. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Leaving Home, Going Home, RetuRning Home A Hebrew American’s Sojourn in the Land of Israel " Jason alster October 2009 Copyright © 2009 Jason Alster All rights reserved. ISBN: 1-4392-5875-9 ISBN-13: 9781439258750 Table of contents Prologue ix Ronald McDonald is an Israeli 3 An Israeli sense of humor 5 Chasing the Ark of the Covenant 7 How the adventure began 13 The pre Aliyah days - at home 17 Aliyah and the Diaspora Jew 19 Aliyah and the Shaliach 21 Aliyah and the girlfriend 27 Aliyah and the lawn sale 29 Aliyah and the parents 33 Israel - for better or for worse 37 Aliyah and the trip there 41 Aliyah and the Ulpan 47 Aleph, Bet, Gimel – The A, B, C’s 53 Aliyah and “The Ugly American” 57 Aliyah and Ulpan kibbutz 61 Working in Israel and America, the Israeli way 67 Aliyah before the “Post Zionistic Era” 75 iii Aliyah and the other way around 79 Aliyah, marriage, and children 83 Don’t buy foreign cars - buy Japanese 87 Falafel and shawarma versus hot dog and hamburger 91 Don’t touch the shawarma, no matter how delicious 95 Israeli’s are natural locavores and specialize in culinary tourism 99 Main Street Israel 103 Biofeedback: Feeling good about yourself 107 Biofeedback, the Rabbi, and the Witch Doctor 111 “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War 113 Zichron Legal - Chapter one Building in Israel 127 My Israel A-List: Having fun in Israel 137 Greek Salad = Salat Yevanee 145 …and then there are things that didn’t exactly “make the grade” 149 Driving in Israel 155 Working in Israel: A prelude 161 Working in Israel my way: Self employment 165 The dentist and Murphy’s Law 167 The Centre for Biofeedback, Self-Regulation, and Study Strategies 169 Why can’t Jason ace an exam? 173 Israel: The Land of Miracles 177 On A Bright Sunny Day 181 The case of the fifth grader who whispered 183 The case of the tank mechanic who had tank phobia 187 The case of the alchemist 193 Lessons learned close to home 197 Turning the page on the Holocaust 199 Divorce, Israeli Style 203 Yankee Zichron - only in Israel 211 An artist in search of his mentor: A story about roots, and tolerance 217 Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home 225 Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home: Day One 233 The Proof is in the pudding 237 The Rise and fall of the Almighty Dollar 239 Israel at 60 243 What other tourists think 247 The Nothingness 249 The Olmert Affair: It starts at the top 253 Post script and Eilat fish 257 The separatist and the Kosher complex 263 In search of my genre’ 267 The business of war 271 September 11, 2008 273 Another day for a post Zionist American Israeli 277 Epilogue: The Passover Seder 279 Appendix 283 Dedicated to Americans who decided to live in Israel. Those that stayed and those that returned. Prologue While sitting in a movie theatre in Israel it came to me like a spark. A bout of creativity, a decision to take action, doesn’t always hit you like a bolt of lightning, but can be more subtle. In my case, the idea jelled while I was watching the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. The movie initially caught my attention because a neighbor of mine took his wife to Tuscany, Italy for a wedding anniversary and enjoyed it there. I was wondering if I should vacation there too. In the movie, an American woman named Francis decides to purchase a home in the Tuscan countryside and begin her life anew. Keeping a positive attitude, she was determined to acclimate with the locals, overcome the hurdles associated with moving, find the fulfillment she was seeking, and even meet the man of her dreams. During the movie I realized that I have had similar experiences while moving and living in a Mediterranean country. I too started anew, acclimated with the locals, and had funny and enlightening encounters with the characters I met. I became conscious that I am now really a part of this corner of the world. Couldn’t I write a book about it? Everyone has a story to tell This is my story Like a famous discoverer I feel that I also discovered America, and I discovered Israel; but most of all, I discovered myself. Golda Meir did it! She moved from the USA to Israel and became Israel’s first female Prime Minister. So too, I moved to Israel. This is a story about my experiences of moving from the USA to Israel (making aliyah, as it is known in Hebrew) and then returning to the USA. It is the story of how I left home to go home, only to return home. Here, you will find tales of my adventures in finding my home, where the low moments meet the happy times, the ordinary meets the unusual, and the setbacks meet the successes. I hope that you, the reader, will be able to share some of the lessons I learned about living in a country that I was not born in. The experience helped me achieve a deeper understanding of the country I left behind. I never knew that what I saw from there, I did not see from here, and what I see here now, I would never have seen from there. Footnote: If Golda Meir had moved from Israel to the USA she could not have become president of the USA because she was not a naturalized born citizen. Ronald McDonald is an Israeli As an appetizer, I want to share a funny story. I actually once submitted this short story to the Reader’s Digest column “Life in These United States” because it lacked a “Life outside the United States” section. It was never published - there. While driving with my youngest daughter Limor, I asked her what type of food she would like to have for lunch. Want Chinese food? “NO!” OK, what about Middle Eastern? “NO!” OK, what about vegetarian? “NO!” OK, so…what do you want to eat? Young Limor answered, “I want Israeli food. I want McDonald’s.” An Israeli sense of humor When you want to look back at your achievements, you have landmarks. I considered it a landmark when I could understand the local humor in Israel and laugh at the jokes told in Hebrew – or better yet – when I could tell a joke in Hebrew and have Israelis laugh. Fol lowing, is one of the popular jokes I heard reflecting on the unique difficulties Israelis faced dealing with the very slow service of the only phone company at the time, Bezeq (“flash” in Hebrew). Someone who has grown up in the USA their whole life would think nothing of the following joke, but this would have Israelis laughing till they cried. Why? At the time when I first heard this joke, you would have to wait at least three months for a phone line to be installed, no matter where you lived. For an American, waiting this long for a “simple service” like this is unheard of especially nowadays when everyone has cell phones ready and waiting for instant communication in their pockets. The joke: Moshe moves to New York from his home in Israel. He wants to install a phone and calls the local phone company. He does not expect the installation to happen soon. “Hallo – phone company? Can I havvve a phone inshtallled in my shmall apartment?” The operator says “Sure, we can install one this afternoon.” Moshe blurts at the operator in disbelief. “Hallo, vhattt did you shay? Did you shay the phone vill be here dis afternooon? VHY ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME?” Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home The phone operator is stunned, not being used to such a loud and animated response. She tries to get her new client to calm down. “OK, Relax! I can have the phone installed this morning!” Some jokes were funny only if you lived in Israel. This one about asking for directions is from Dry Bones, an English language satirical comic strip that I saw in the Jerusalem Post. When I first read it, I just cracked up because it really happened to me too. It went something like this: A tourist is walking down the street and asks for directions from an Israeli passerby. The Israeli points straight ahead and says to the perplexed tourist, “Go straight, go straight, and again straight. Then, turn left and keep going straight.” In a country as small as Israel, why bother giving complicated directions? It’s sort of like saying, “go that-a-ways.” It’s true that there were not enough street signs around in Israel to help you find your way quick, so asking the locals for directions was the norm. Today, there is GPS and street signs, but then you meet less of the locals. This joke was applicable to the new Oleh (someone who recently made aliyah). An Israeli meets an Oleh and gives him some advice in how to deal with the austere living and high taxes. “If you want to be a millionaire in Israel, bring two million with you.” Chasing the Ark of the Covenant I am wondering where to begin the book. Should I start from the beginning of the adventure and make it chronological, or should I start from the more pertinent? While having my daily look at the news from my other home, Israel, a country frequently compared to the state of New Jersey because of her shape and size, an article stood out. With all of those horrible news stories, beautiful little Israel had come to symbolize a place of strife and intifada instead of “a land of milk and honey.” This time, what I read wasn’t about politics and conflict. The news I found was of an archaeologist named Tudor Partiff, a British Professor of Modern Jewish Studies. A real-life Indiana Jones, Partiff is chasing after the biblical Ark of the Covenant – in Africa. Whatever happened to the ark after the Romans captured it in 70 AD is one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries. In the article, Partiff claims to have found a remnant of the ark in a museum in Harare, Zimbabwe, hiding in plain sight on a dusty shelf. Partiff feels the ark was simpler than what we were led to imagine. He argues that Moses and his people were just recently freed slaves and could not have had the ability to mold an ark like the ones recreated in books of the Bible. Instead, the ark was more humble, small like a drum and made of wood, possibly once covered in gold. I hope I understood that one correctly. I later saw a television documentary on Partiff. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Partiff ’s story sparked a light bulb in my head, for I had some questions of my own about the Exodus story. If the Israelites built the cities in Egypt and were thus witnesses to Egyptian art, why did they not copy Egyptian art in the land of Israel or even build pyramids of their own? All in all, Partiff ’s story is what finally got me inspired enough to put pen to hand. After all, some people who made aliyah to Israel joined archaeological digs in search of lost treasure and biblical “facts on the ground.” Or just in search of roots. I had that spirit too – to uncover my roots in the Holy Land and make an adventure out of it. Within my first months in Israel, I volunteered to join an archaeological dig on the Gamla Mountain atop the Golan Heights. Gamla, which is “camel” in Hebrew, resembles the humps on a camel’s back. The Gamla overlooks the Sea of Galilee, has its own waterfall, and is surrounded by two rivers: the Nahal Gamla and the Nahal Dalyot. On Gamla, there is a walled Jewish city with a synagogue etched sideways on a high, rocky, mountain cliff. Josephus Flavius was the Jewish Commander of Galilee and in 66 AD fortified Gamla as his main stronghold on the Golan Heights. The Israelites of Gamla revolted against Roman rule in 67 AD as part of the Jewish Wars against Rome. For that, Gamla was set to siege and destroyed by the Roman legion general Vespasian who later became a Roman emperor. At Gamla, reminders of the revolt and destruction were all around. I saw stone cannonballs, ballista, and bronze or copper Roman arrowheads – a rare find in the Middle East and indicating that a ferocious battle took place. There was a tower with a breach in it and a large spearhead sticking out at the base. On my trip, I also uncovered Jewish coins, clay lanterns, and Roman glass. Reminiscent of the history of Masada, legend tells that the Jews from Gamla committed suicide rather than be captured by the dreaded Romans. According to this tale, the Jews from Gamla jumped off the cliff into the ravine, yet one of the great Israeli archaeological mysteries is that no human bones have ever been found at the bottom of Chasing the Ark of the Covenant the cliff anywhere on Gamla. It is thought that wild boars dragged them away for a meal, but no one knows for sure. Shemarya Gut- man, a famous Israeli archaeologist who was one of the first people to discover Gamla after the Six Day War, was himself there on the dig that I had joined. He looked like Ben Gurion and was from that generation too – same hairdo. He told me and the rest of the volunteers on the dig that day that any coins found buried on Gamla are historically valuable. Since no other city is known to have been built atop Gamla and since no bones have been found in the area, the coins are the best clues to find to prove and date the legend of Gamla. I brought my first Israeli girlfriend with me to Gamla to join me for the week at the dig. I met her at an aliyah absorption center where I was staying at in Herzaliya by the coast. She made aliyah from the south of France, and like me, made aliyah on her own while her parents were still living in France. One of her parents was French and the other Tunisian. At the time I met her, Bridget was serving in the Israel army and going to the dig with me would be her vacation. She spoke English with a British accent and sounded allot like Kyle Minogue. Bridget smoked European cigarettes, looking like someone out of a foreign film. Her hair was long, wavy, and light golden brown. What the Israelis call “gingi.”But most of all, she was French and knew more about the affairs of men and women than me. I enjoyed meeting a European woman. The word was that European women were not in a gender war with their men like American girls, and were supposed to be better at supporting relaxed relationships. That part was debatable. At Gamla, we dug early in the morning before the hot sun came out. I found Roman glass, pottery, a few encrusted coins, and half a signet ring. The coins are probably now sitting in a museum somewhere. Every now and then, an Israeli Cobra helicopter would patrol the narrow and steep ravine below us for terrorist infiltrations from Syria or Lebanon. They flew so close that if I threw a stone I would Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home have hit the top of the rotor blades. In the afternoon, after digging, we hiked down to the stream Nahal Dalyot -and dunked ourselves in the cool water. There were fish in there that looked like trout, but when I threw a piece of bread on the water, they grouped and devoured it like piranhas. I promised myself to return there with a fishing pole. When we returned to the camp, we sat for dinner on picnic tables under tents provided by the dig organizers. There was that cowboy atmosphere. The food came by jeep from a local kibbutz a few miles away. It was hot dogs, baked beans, bread and famous Israeli chocolate spread with plenty of apples and oranges. The Israeli hot dogs were skinnier but spicier than the American version. One of the kibbutz members who supplied us walked barefoot all the way over from the kibbutz. Wearing only khaki shorts, he was tall, blonde, toned with striking good looks; undeniably a natural poster child for a kibbutz advertisement. One of the young girls on the dig, a tourist, tried to start a conversation with him and asked if his feet hurt. He said he had strong soles and had been walking barefoot since he was a child. This reminded me of barefoot Greek marathon runners. I let them be. There was so much food brought in the boxes that they must have been expecting an army of volun teers. Alternatively, the antiquities authority had to buy a minimum amount from the kibbutz to get supplied. That night, the leftover food was thrown down the same cliff the early defenders jumped off. Suddenly, pairs of small bright red lights shined out of the dark from the distance. It was the eyes of wild boars making their appearance for the feast. Could the theory of the wild boars stealing the ancient skeletons be true? Were the early settlers really carried away by the ancestors of those wild boars? It remains an open mystery. On my last day of the dig, after lunch, I bit into an apple and left it on the table, enjoying the beautiful scenery. The workday was already over. There was no afternoon digging because of the heat. Quietly, a green chameleon crawls up onto the wood table. Its eyes, each one a cone shape, are looking in different directions. One eye Chasing the Ark of the Covenant looking at me and the other eyes my apple. Is the chameleon going to eat my apple? A fly then lands on the apple oblivious to the chameleon which now had the color of the table, grey. Zooop! A long and fast sticky tongue darts out from the chameleon’s mouth. The fly is lunch. Soon, another unsuspecting fly lands on the lonely apple, and disappears without leaving any evidence at the crime scene. Zooop! The chameleon, whose tongue hits its prey in about 30 thousandths of a second, made a meal of at least five or six flies. I picked up the chameleon and it hung to my finger with its curled tail. I never saw a chameleon in action before, actually I never even saw a chameleon and now we were friends. There I was, young, in Israel with a lady friend on an archeology dig enjoying sunshine, beautiful scenery, good food, exotic animals, and adventure. All of this in one package, I could hardly ask for more. Till that moment, it was the best day of my life. How the adventure began I can remember the first moment the inkling of a thought of living in Israel came to my mind. I was twelve years old and was sitting in a Bible class at the Yeshiva of Hartford Hebrew Academy, a private Jewish school. The rabbi was reading portions of the book of the prophets. We were learning about the land of Israel, her people, cities, produce, and the ancient Israelite wars. There was a large map of Israel on the wall and the rabbi was pointing on the map to the places mentioned in the Bible. Naturally, I started to daydream and visualize about those places and wonder about what they looked like, how nice it would be to visit them, what it would be like to live there. The names of the ancient and modern Israeli cities and rivers were on the tips of my tongue. I knew them as well or even better than places in my own country, the USA. Jerusalem was in the mountains. From the story of Jonah and the whale Jaffa was by the Mediterranean Sea. You knew that Egypt was southwest of Israel across a desert because the children of Jacob traveled south to Egypt. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers were the areas over to the east where Abraham was born before he made aliyah to Israel. I quickly noticed that many towns in New England have biblical names: Lebanon, Hebron, Bethel, Bethlehem, Gilead, and New Canaan to name a few examples. In my daydreams, though, more and more connections started to form beyond mere maps of places far, far away. My mind drifted to the names of famous people in Israeli history whose names had Biblical roots: Moshe Dayan, Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Yitzhak Rabin, David Ben Gurion, and more. The Bible, like a culinary guide, told of what foods grow in Israel. The most famous are the seven species: “A land of wheat, and barley, and vines; of fig trees and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey.” The story of Chanukah tells of how olive oil was used as a source of light. You even know the coin of the realm - the Shekel. There were classic movies with top actors about Israel and the Bible. There was the Bible, Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston, Samson and Delilah with Victor Mature, King David, the Exodus with Paul Newman, Cast a Giant Shadow with Kirk Douglas to name some. Looking back, you could conclude that growing up in America was fertile ground for the promotion of visiting or even moving to Israel. The rabbi then talked about the historical Jewish concept of moving to Israel. He called it aliyah, which in Hebrew means “going up,” both spiritually and physically. The geographic and spiritual center of Israel is Jerusalem, situated on a high mountain you need to “go up” to get there. In contrast, the word yerida or “going down” is the term used for leaving Israel as in going down from the mountain. Your stature is going down a level when you depart the Holy Land. The rabbi then said, “All Jews are responsible for each other.” They have brotherly love! To me that meant if I move to Israel one day the Israelites there will take responsibility for me too, just like America took responsibility for my father who was a European refuge from the Second World War. That sounded to me like what I learned was inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.” Already I understood that far off Israel had shared values with America, my natural home. Was my attraction to Israel genetic, spiritual, or cultural? I do not know. There seems to be that something about the Jewish peoples and their bond to Israel, their clinging to a longing to return How the adventure began to their ancient homeland after two thousand years of persecution, expulsions, defeats, and Diaspora. Obviously, at age twelve, I was not able to implement any plans to make aliyah, so I went on with my life. Nevertheless, in time, I was increasingly drawn to the spectacular and frequent news events coming from Israel. Actually, you couldn’t miss it. There was a news item on Israel almost every night; The Six Day war, Sadat visits Israel, the Egyptian and Israeli peace accords, the spectacular rescue at Entebbe airport in Uganda, the Lebanon war, the defection of a Syrian pilot to Israel. Israeli wins Nobel Prize. Specific to aliyah, there were the in gathering of exiles to Israel as if on a magic carpet, and even named “project magic carpet”. The return of the modern day lost tribes of Israel seemed to relate to me that anyone can go to Israel from anywhere, and Israel not only accepts them, but she even helps them. The B’nei Israel in India, the Cochin Jews of India, and the Falasha’s of Ethiopia, the Jews from Yemen, the Russian Jews, the Jews from war-torn Europe, from South America – they all moved to Israel after hundreds of years of living in their respective countries. Their braving difficulties in traveling to Israel are the basis for many books, songs, and movies – the Exodus for one. If I decided to go to Israel, how was I to prepare myself for this dangerous journey? Maybe dangerous is a harsh term, yet I had heard several stories of terrorist attacks and hijackings of planes traveling to Israel. There was terrorism and wars in Israel and on all her borders. Was I was ready for that? Can you ever be ready for that? I postponed making a final decision to move to Israel until I finished college and had at least begun working in a semi profession. My thinking was Israel needs professionals to help build her up, not just new immigrants. What gave me the courage to act came to me while reading a favorite book of mine. Sitting on my bed one night and pondering the question, I was immersed in The Hobbit by Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home J.R.R. Tolkien, an action-packed adventure story extraordinaire of the survival of just ordinary people (like the Hobbit himself) while embarking on a journey to a fantasyland. With wits, perseverance, and a little luck, the Hobbits were able to finish their quest, all the while discovering inner strengths they never knew they had. For me, the story was an inspiration and a road map – the impetus I needed to make that first step to start the journey. The pre Aliyah days - at home But America was good to me. I had a good job as a research technologist in a hospital in New York. Sure, Israel might be a nice place to visit and I have some relatives there on my father’s side. They moved there from Germany when Hitler came to power and Jews with means could still get out. My mother, Edith, my father, Felix, and my sister, Audrey, had all visited Israel once and I assumed I will eventually visit there one time too. Actually, I talked my Dad into visiting Israel saying he should visit his aunt, a surviving sister of his mother Fanny who perished in the Holocaust, before it is too late. He took a one-week vacation there. Audrey, at sixteen years of age, went to a summer camp there and toured Israel. My Mom, a member of the Amit Women organization that helps Israeli daycare centers, went on a fact-finding tour with the group visiting the Amit facilities. Consequently, I lived in the USA with part of my family on my father’s side originating from Europe and emigrating to both the USA and Israel. On my mother’s side, her parents originated from what was then Russia. Talk about the wandering Jew – my family was it! Here I am, surrounded by a Jewish and pro- Israel family. There was interweaving unto my psyche of Israel, the Bible, Judaism, and American values. In my home, there were letters and correspondence with relatives living in Israel and I saved the stamps. Consequently, I was exposed to peoples and relatives from across the world. 16 17 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home I once asked my Dad, “after the war, why didn’t you move to Israel where your mother’s sister was? Why did you choose to come to the USA instead?” He told me, “I originally did plan to. Hagana (Jewish paramilitary) recruiters from Israel came to the Jewish detention camps in Europe to bring Jews from the camps to Israel. (My father was in the displaced persons camp DP- Landsberg after the war). I was scheduled to go, but a friend who was a medic did not want me to go. There was a war raging at the time in Palestine (as Israel was called under UN British mandate). My friend took my fever with a thermometer and declared me as having a fever.”Then my dad said jokingly to me, “If I would have ended up there, maybe I would have been either a general or dead.” So he missed the boat – literally. Hence, dad came to the USA, and as fate would have it, was drafted into the Korean War (more about that later.) I never understood from his story if my father asked the friend to declare him sick on purpose or if the friend did it to “save” him by his own accord. After all, he did not have to go to Palestine if he did not wish -- he originally volunteered. I can only guess that the military-aged survivors were under group pressure to end up in Palestine. Alternatively, the chance to enter America came only after he already volunteered to go to Palestine and he wanted to change his decision as the situation in Palestine became increasingly dangerous in the period leading to the 1948 Israel war of Independence. You have to give credit to the Holocaust survivors who did go to Israel. They just finished with one war to enter another, and many were indeed casualties of the war especially in the famous battle of Latrun. Whatever the case may have been, while living in Israel later in life, I would tell people when they queried me why I moved: “My dad had originally planned to come here; I came in his stead.” Aliyah and the Diaspora Jew So what made me do it? What made me finally move to Israel? How did I do it? If I was to sum up all the reasons, thoughts, and actions behind the big move, it was all because I was – and truly felt like I was – a Diaspora Jew in search of my real home and homeland. I did not want to be a minority anymore either. Why did I feel his way? According to Wikipedia, Diaspora is a Greek word that literally means “a scattering or sowing of seeds.” The concept of Diaspora in human history refers to the forcing of any people or ethnic population to leave their traditional homelands, the dispersal of such people, and the ensuing developments in their culture. In early Hebrew school I learned that the Jews lived in what they called “The Diaspora” because the Romans exiled the Jews after a Jewish revolt in 68-70 AD and destroyed King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. As a result, the Jews were then dispersed all over the Roman Empire. It was a huge and utter defeat, a calamity of such great proportions that a day of mourning, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorates it with a day of fasting. And yet, even today, I am living testimony to the Jewish Diaspora. Even in recent history, the Jews were still running. My family was still running. My mother’s mother and her family ran away from the Ukraine, Russia because she was a witness to the Cossack pogroms in Odessa. My father was dispersed because he was born in Poland, Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home sent out of Germany by the Nazis when the Reich came to power, and was later interned in a concentration camp during World War II. Knowing all of this history of persecution, my mom took me to go see a Yiddish play at the Jewish Community Centre, It’s Hard to Be a Jew. Enough said –you can guess the plot. I was to feel that I was born to hardship, just because I was born Jewish. She always wanted to strengthen my Jewish heritage, while wreck ing my self confidence at the same time. So here I was, like many other children to immigrant parents, growing up in small-town America but with roots elsewhere. I am sure that this background had a tremendous influence on my decision to want to move to Israel. I would have the right of self-determination and self- actualization in a country where Jews were not in the minority. That is what I thought when I began planning. If someone asks me today why did I move, I can sum it up in one sentence. I wanted to experience living somewhere where I was not in a minority. Now this concept of the Diaspora as brought over to the USA by European Jewry – is it really applicable to a first-generation American Jew? After all, I was also being taught in my secular classes that the American Constitution states “all men are created equal.” Furthermore, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yes, I was what you would call a child of Diaspora Jews, living now in the land of the free. But, was I free? If I have a complex about who I am, can I really be free? I knew where I came from, but where was I going? Aliyah and the Shaliach When the process of making a decision to move to Israel is close to YES, your next step is to approach an Israeli representative named a shaliach (a messenger or mission manager). The purpose then of the shaliach is to help people make aliyah to Israel. My shaliach had an office in the Jewish Community Center in West Orange, New Jersey where I lived after university (more about that later). Once approached, he or she interviews you to see if you are ready for the move and screens you for the journey. I did consider moving to Israel right after college. I went to the Israel consulate in New York to ask them about making aliyah. I did not know about the shlichim then. I met a woman who was an official there who took it upon herself to play devil’s advocate. She told me, “No – it is not for you!” This surprised me. After all, it was Israel’s stated policy to invite Jewish people to her land. This was my first of many experiences with that point about Israel: stated policy and reality are two different things. Still, meeting this woman might have been a blessing in disguise. Right after college, I was still of age to be drafted into the Israeli army. If I had made aliyah then, I would have been drafted right into the Israel army. She might have wanted to save me from the draft. I also did not have an actual profession cemented yet; she might have wanted me to find gainful employment when there. Even so, that was really none of her business. Most of the people that immigrated to Israel did not even have professions – that’s what the kibbutz was Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home established for. This was all happening around the time of Meir Kahana, the American leader of the Jewish Defense League who won a vote in the Israeli parliament, who at the time was an “American cowboy” in Israeli eyes. He was widely considered by the Israeli elite as an anti-Arab racist with troublemaking tendencies. I know this was a sentiment many secular Israelis generalized to other immigrants from North America, especially those that settled in Judea and Sumaria (the West Bank). Maybe the official was being cautious and thought of me as a one of those cowboys too. The West Orange shaliach held group meetings that featured discussions and lectures lead by Israelis who visited America to speak with anyone interested in moving to Israel. He suggested that I arrange one meeting at my home. The shaliach invited others interested in aliyah, and about five people showed up. At the second meeting I attended held this time at the community center, the shaliach invited an Israeli just to speak about his life in Israel. Nowadays, the idea of having open discussions with shlichim about living in Israel is probably uneventful, yet I must mention that this was the year 1981 and Israel was now a state for only thirty-four years. It was a relatively new phenomenon to meet Israelis outside of Israel. One particular question I asked the guest shed some light on the cultural differences to expect between the “there” and “here.” It was well known that Israelis earned a small average salary in those days of about $5,000-$7,000/year while paying amongst the highest taxes in the world, and yet many middle class Israelis were driving new cars and had private homes called villas. I had to ask: “If salaries are so notoriously low for someone working in Israel, how do you thrive on that?” Even famed Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir joked during a visit to the USA that an American sanitation engineer earned more money (around $17,000/year) than she did (around $12,000).” Our guest answered, “We somehow get by. If I need a loan, my family helps me out. If I need to pay for roof repairs so the rains will not fall in, I contact a roofer. He does the job. I then tell him I Aliyah and the Shaliach cannot pay him now. What is he going to do? In Israel, they do not evict you from your home if you do not have money to pay a bill. Everyone is needed there.” I was astonished. So that’s the secret to surviving in Israel– don’t pay your bills on time. In later years, an Israeli friend of mine who had a coffee shop in an upscale town expounded on this theme. He told me a story of how a customer tried to get out of paying for his coffee. When the customer was done drinking, he complained that there was a paper left in the bottom of the cup after he tore a piece of paper napkin and placed it in the cup. Then he got up, acting disgusted, and left without paying assuming the owner was duped. I later learned that salaries in Israel were often low on purpose. With a lower salary, you ended up paying fewer taxes.The employer would thus compensate the base pay by giving a wider variety of tax free benefits than you would expect in the USA. This would include car leasing, paying for your meals at work, paid company vacations, large home appliances passed out on the holidays, and company-run entertainment. It appeared that you are better off negotiating a full package of benefits for a new job than a higher base salary. Besides the meetings with the shaliach, I attended a meeting with a “garin” (seed, nucleus) of young people who were moving to a kibbutz in the Negev. The group met at a camp retreat in upstate New York by a lake, conducive for relaxed thinking. This kibbutz was in the south of Israel closer to the desert border with Jordan and situated one hour north of Eilat. There were lectures and films about Israel and the kibbutz. There was also singing, hiking, and bonding. People in the garin met Israelis who came there to talk to them about the move. They talked about the kibbutz agricultural product, which were red onions that grow well in the winter desert. I specifically remember that one of the shlichim was an ex-Israeli soldier on crutches, wounded in the Yom Kippur War. I was moved by his courage to travel after Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home what happened to him and try to influence people to move to Israel in spite of his misfortune. The basic idea of the garin was to find strength in numbers. That is, if you decided to make aliyah with the group from the retreat, you would have more support and comrades than if you made aliyah as an individual. Although I had a nice time with the garin, I did not consider this option mainly because I didn’t like the idea of being secluded in the desert and away from civilization. It also meant that I would have to totally give up my line of work at the time which was working in a hospital. I also sensed that the other members of the garin had already gelled together since they knew each other for about a year. In spite of all of this, I went to another meeting (party) of that garin held at the home of one of the members in Silver Springs, Maryland. After all, these were a unique set of Americans who wanted to do the same thing I wanted to do, move to Israel, so I traveled there from New Jersey. I felt I was mingling with the right crowd, yet I went there more to learn about aliyah than to join the garin. Overall, the shaliach was very helpful. He even did a search about where I could find a job as an EEG technologist in Israel and listed two hospitals with openings. To their credit, the Israel government and the Jewish Agency as to their policy actually paid for my airfare to come to Israel as a temporary resident on an A1 visa. Technically, it was a loan that turns into a grant if you stay there for at least five years. I stayed. If you return before then, you are expected to pay the loan back yet I do not think it was enforced. The shaliach even prepared the ticket to El- Al Israel airlines for the trip, with the chance to choose an ulpan (Hebrew language school) for six months. I told him “OK, get me a ticket.” At the time, I took for granted the opportunity the Israel government and the Jewish Agency was affording me. This was January, 1984. I informed the people in my apartment I was planning to move to Israel in a month. They made a really nice Aliyah and the Shaliach going away party for me. I quit work too and felt ready. More about them and my life preceding aliyah will follow below. Then the telephone rings. It’s my sister Audrey from Connecticut. “Jason, I am going to have a baby soon, can you stay for the circumcision ceremony (brit mila) if it’s a boy?” (The brit mila Biblical ceremony is held on the eighth day after birth.) OK, I had no choice. I had to call the shaliach and tell him that I must now postpone the trip by at least a month. Unexpectedly, he reacted in a way that I did not comprehend at the time. He became nervous and even indignant, perturbed that I was postponing the departure. He tried to use pressure tactics on me to get me to go now as if his career depended on it. “You can’t postpone,” he said. “The Ulpan School starts now, you will be late for the school opening.” “Wait”, I said, “you can’t force me, and I will go when I am ready. This is a free country!” My guess was that there was some sort of unwritten quota to fill to bring “olim” (a person in the process of making aliyah) to Israel. If he did not succeed in sending olim, he might be sent back to Israel for lack of vocation. While the majority – if not all – shlichim considered it a mission to help olim come to Israel, part of the job’s attraction was being in the USA for a rotation and receiving a salary in dollars. It was a boy! Jeremy Yanofsky, my nephew, is the one editing this manuscript, 25 years later. Aliyah and the girlfriend The die had been cast and a new date for the flight was set: April 17, 1984. It seemed so surreal, yet so real. I found myself looking for another excuse to postpone the trip, so as to be completely sure. It just figures then, as luck would have it, that I would meet a sweet and very pretty girl at a Jewish dance in North Jersey. Her name was Miriam. To be honest, it was not that easy for me to find Jewish girlfriends. They didn’t grow on trees, and living away from my hometown, Hartford, I did not have my family network to help. In addition, I was a secular Jewish person with a traditional Jewish past; a totally secular or an absolutely orthodox girl would not be a fine match for me. I had a small gene pool to select from. One of the reasons I moved out of Connecticut was because I thought it would be easier to find a Jewish mate in areas of larger Jewish populations like New York and New Jersey. There was no Internet dating services at the time to sift out a contender from the great disconnect – just Jewish singles dances. It’s very unfortunate that with the Jews being such a small people in numbers they are further divided into religious sub-groups of orthodox, traditional, and secular. In a way, I was hoping, alas, that Miriam would be just that excuse to keep me from leaving home. She had a Thunderbird sports car, she was hip, and we got along just fine. She didn’t know yet that I contemplated moving to Israel in just about two months. I rationalized that if we were a pair made for each other, she might join me on my trip, but I couldn’t help but wonder: do I tell her now I Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home expect to go to Israel soon, or should I wait? I just might reconsider altogether going if things work out between us? After dating her for about five weeks and getting along very well, I called her. “By the way…I am considering moving to Israel very soon.” There was a moment of silence at the other end of the line. I did not hear the words I hoped to, like “really? Tell me more!” Instead, she replied curtly, “but I’m not interested in going to Israel.” Just like that – as if I would have expected her to decide right now. Then, another voice gets on the phone. Her mother, who was eavesdropping the whole time, jumps in: “why are you dating my daughter if you are going to Israel?” She asked this as if Israel was at the other end of the world when it is only a ten hour flight away. Caught off guard, I said the first daft thing that came to my mind: “for fun I guess.”Wrong answer! Dating Miriam just “for fun” was actually the furthest thing from my intentions, but it sounded better than “I just might want to marry your daughter.” Well, mom made it easy. She asked me to stop calling Miriam. For a moment, I thought: hang on, wasn’t Miriam an adult who could make decisions for herself and have her own conversations? I guess not, and really that’s not for me either. All I had to do now was sell off my things and go to Israel as planned. Aliyah and the lawn sale Since I always considered living in Israel a viable option, I never really purchased long-term furniture and appliances. Still, being 28 at the time of departure, I had accumulated a large collection of things that needed new owners. I put ads in the newspaper and held a lawn sale. I managed to sell off almost everything I owned. There was my bike, chairs, books, and Viking broadsword that I bought in a Renaissance fair. The things that sold the best were the kitchen utensils, oddly enough. I could never buy someone’s used kitchen utensils, yet apparently moms liked buying them for their away- from-home college kids. My vinyl record albums sold well too. One of those was a Beatles 1964 original album. I sold it as a used item for fifty cents, which I now realize was a huge mistake. I can imagine the smiles on the faces of people who bought the record. They went right to it, as if they discovered an old coin in their grandpa’s attic. We’ve all heard the story of the person who found a hidden treasure at the lawn sale. Well, that was my lawn sale. I kept a photo of the lawn sale and showed it to friends – it was sort of like an exhibit on “see the sacrifices we make when moving.” The hardest thing for me to part with was my regal cat, Blackie. I had to give her to the next door neighbor. Blackie was one of the most aristocratic cats you could have ever met. I received her from one of my housemates, a medical student, who purchased her from an animal shelter. I wondered why anyone would purchase a cat from an animal shelter. It turned out that the shelter had put her photo Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home in the newspaper with a cute cat’s smile and red ribbon around her head. She was a shining example of the lovely animals you can find at that shelter seeking a new home. I was proud to be Blackie’s owner and wanted another good home for her. Last to go was my car – an amazing car at that, a classic. It was a green 1975 Volvo with leather seats and a tape deck. Even this came with a story. A big and burley guy from Newark came to my home to buy the car. Naturally, he asked me why I was selling it, and I told him truthfully about my plans to make aliyah. With a smirk, he said “yeah, sure, I bet there is something wrong with the car.” Then with a threatening voice, and in my own home, he said, “If I find anything wrong with the car, you are “dead meat.” I will throw a bomb through the window of this house if you lied to me.”Taken aback, I wondered if he was suspicious of being cheated because of Jewish stereotypes or if that was his way of trying to lower the price. Aviad, a close Israeli friend originally from Jerusalem, immediately came forward to back me up when hearing this. Aviad was a strikingly handsome James Bond type of guy whose parents immigrated to Israel from Turkey. Jerusalem, at that time, was a common target for terrorism attacks. Aviad was taller than I was, but still shorter than the buyer was. With his Israeli accent, he said, “Chey you, don’t talk to us about bombs. I am from Jerusalem and I know about bombs, you trow a bomb chere and I vill trow it wright back at you.” I was flabbergasted as much as I was proud that my friend stood up for me like that. This Israeli guy had experienced real-life danger by living in a war zone and knew that talk was cheap. To me, he exemplified a brave Israeli. The buyer backed down and said, “OK man, OK, I believe you, I’ll buy the car. If you really do get to Israel, send me a letter from there so I know you’re not telling me a story.” So I did. It was the first letter I sent back to the USA. I sent him a postcard of sunny Israel Aliyah and the lawn sale with a stamp of a Kfir (lion cub) Israeli jet fighter. The Kfir was an Israeli-made spread wing fighter plane that was designed something like a French Mirage. The Kfir stamp had a large blue Star of David on the wings. It was my way of saying to his face “don’t mess with the Jews,”- from miles away, all the while wishing him well in his new car that I really did enjoy. Aliyah and the Parents Looking back, I tried to make sense about my parent’s position in the aliyah process. Being Jewish, they knew what aliyah meant and its historical place in Jewish culture. It meant moving to Israel and making your home there, even if only for a period of time. As aliyah is so entrenched in the Jewish psyche and history, they had to accept it and maybe even support it. Now if there was a trend in the Jewish community, almost like a fashion style, aliyah was in. Jews around the world were “returning” to the land of Israel in the thousands. After 2,000 years of Roman exile and consequent Diaspora, the state of Israel became a reality and making it possible for Jewish people to settle there. The population grew from about half million Jews in 1948, to almost 7 million Jews by 2008. According to Wikipedia, at the time of this writing there are 110,000 North Americans in Israel with about 3,000 a year moving to Israel. The largest number came after the 1967 Six Day War. To me this felt like a “funnel effect”. I could chance to meet other Jewish people that were distances afar but now were concentrated in a small geographical location. The “ingathering of the exiles” as it is called in Jewish history. Once living in Israel, my mom back home joined a support group called Parents of North American Children in Israel, or PNAI. Both of my parents had relatives who moved to Israel. My parents each had already visited Israel once, as did my sister for summer camp. That is, my families connection to the Jewish people and Israel were tangible not just theoretical. I did inform my family a year before I Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home moved that I contemplated going. To their merit they did not try to hamper me. They gave me total freedom to follow my dream. My mother’s stance was that if it made me happy, it was OK. She resolved herself to the situation and visited me just about every year that I was there for a total of eighteen different trips. Each vacation lasted about a month and when added up she spent a total of a year and a half in Israel. I would call her an honorary Israeli citizen. She even made good friends there that she happened to visit every trip and even corresponded with when she returned to the USA. As I mentioned earlier, my father did make a trip to visit his aunt, and then once to visit me. The last time I saw my parents before the big move was at Greenwich, Connecticut which is halfway between Elizabeth, New Jersey where I lived and Hartford Connecticut. We met at a park for a picnic. It was my final goodbye. I asked my Dad for info regarding his relatives in Jerusalem, and suddenly he burst out in anger. “What do you want to do with my relatives?” Taken aback, I said, “I thought they are my relatives too. I will need contacts. I am going to be a stranger in a strange land (also the title of a book popular with the North American Olim).” That’s when my leaving finally hit home for my Dad. I was not just talking, but taking specific action that involved him too. Thankfully my Mom backed me; he calmed down, and gave me what I asked for. His cousin and her family lived in Jerusalem, and his aunt lived in Ramat-Gan. He then asked me what I needed to take with me and took me shopping. Wanting to pack light, one of the things I bought was a multi-purpose Swiss army camping knife. It seemed to have everything in one bundle. It had about five different blades, a fork, a spoon, scissors, tweezers and a plastic toothpick. My father then made another statement elaborating his denial: “Oh, I understand now. I see you are really preparing for a camping trip. You will be back soon, just wait and see.”Yes, that was my father. All in one, he loved me and he supported me; however, he did not totally believe Aliyah and the Parents me or understand me. The longer I stayed in Israel the longer I had an “I’ll show him” attitude about the issue. Of course, living in Israel would turn out to be more than a camping trip; but, whenever I opened the Swiss knife at a camp fire I thought about my Dad. I succeeded above my own expectations because when it came down to it, I was determined. Sure enough, Dad was proud of my successes and later basked in their glory. On visits home, he would happily parade me around to his friends. Nevertheless, during these trips, he did try to convince my future wife to move to the USA. She did not want to move to the USA, and liked living in Israel. Over time, my Dad concluded that it was she who was keeping me in Israel year after year. It was not. Israel - for better or for worse Before I eventually made aliyah, I was living in a large five-bedroom house I rented with some old school buddies that I lovingly dubbed “The Mansion.” I had made it known to my first landlady at the time that I was about to move to Israel. She was a retired lady active in the Jewish community, and she even kept a kosher home. She also had another Israeli tenant, Adam, whom I became friends with. She took pride in that she was one of the first female pharmacists in New Jersey – she might have even been THE first! As an outspoken woman with a lot of energy at her age, if you met her, you would have no problem understanding that what Mrs. J wanted to do, she got around to doing it. Mrs. J was an avid fan of Israeli folk dancing at the Jewish Community Center in West Orange and also belonged to a local synagogue sisterhood in Hillside, New Jersey. She organized the guest speakers for their meetings. In that capacity, I was invited to give a talk about aliyah to the sisterhood, or her “friends” as she called them. I was delighted and honored, becoming aware that “my aliyah” was a larger community issue than just my own personal aliyah. I thought maybe six to eight retired ladies with nothing to do would show up for coffee and cake around a table. When I opened the door to the synagogue hall, there must have been more than sixty people waiting. Mrs. J was popular. She introduced me and simply said with her wide smile, “this is my friend Jason Alster. He is going to make Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home aliyah, and he agreed to speak to us today. There will be time for questions at the end.” I spoke for about twenty minutes of how I was preparing to move to Israel and the process I was going through like meeting with the shaliach and selling my household items, and why I was going. Since I had not actually moved yet, I did not really have the feel that I was giving an expert talk here. Still, I felt like a celebrity being interviewed at a news event; anything Israel sold. The best part was the question and answers. Some questions were really critical like “what television programs will you watch in Israel?” as if I already knew. Then one question came that caused a switch in my thinking about the issue. It stood out in my mind for years because my own answer surprised me. I think about that moment as if time stood still for a flash. It was a simple question, but yet profound. “What will you do in Israel? I mean, how will you occupy yourself ?” An otherwise regular question, if it were for an ordinary situation. But aliyah was not ordinary. Again, I was not sure. Someone else might have answered that he or she planned to live on a kibbutz, or maybe he or she planned to volunteer in the defense of Israel. My response, though, was rather ordinary. But that was the key, to have an ordinary life, just be it in Israel. “I plan to do regular things like watch TV, go to the movies, work, and raise a family. I expect it to be just a normal life. Even if that home might not be as luxurious, it will still be mine.” I then said, “Israel, for better or for worse.” This became my motto – the definition of my aliyah. Just as if I loved Israel as a bride, our partnership would be for better or for worse. That idea has stood out in my mind all through my years in my home there. When Mrs. J and I parted, she wished me well and promised to give me a call if she visits. She said her folk dancing group makes Israel - for better or for worse trips to Israel and she planned to go too. Sure enough, ten years afterward Mrs. J finally called: “Hello Jason, I am dancing in Jerusalem.” She must have been close to seventy five years old. Mrs. J had the secret to living longer: keep active, keep planning for the future, and keep smiling. Aliyah and the trip there In the epic movie Exodus with Paul Newman (1960), about the founding of the State of Israel, it showed that the British considered aliyah as “illegal immigration.” In this, the USA and Israel have something historically and fundamentally in common: they both had to break away vigorously from the British Empire to gain independence. As I lived in Israel, I could not help notice the old British forts and police stations peppered all over the country and wonder were the British there planning a true mandate of Palestine for her peoples or another colonial run empire possession. In one part of the movie, immigrants of all ages landed secretly by boat from Europe on a beach at Atlit, a town just south of the major British port of Haifa. They immediately were greeted by the Israeli clandestine resistance, the Pal mach, and changed into new, local clothes so as not to be discovered by a British patrol. From there, they made a three-hour night march by foot through a deep ravine to a kibbutz on the Carmel Mountain range. I traveled this route many times as a back road that connects the coastal highway with Haifa University through the Mt. Carmel Park. In the dramatic scene, babies were being carried on the backs of the Palmach with their lips sealed with band-aids so they wouldn’t cry aloud in the quiet night. My trip to the shores of Israel was less dramatic, like the quiet before the storm. Aviad, the Israeli friend from Jerusalem, drove me to the JFK airport in New York. He seemed as excited about my trip as I was. Originally, he and my other Israeli friends tried to talk Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home me out of going. They could not understand why I would want to leave America and go there. After all, they came here. I was just doing what they were doing, backwards. When Aviad understood I was determined, he decided to help his friend. We arrived at the El-Al ticket lounge and right away I noticed the extra security. Mind you, this was in the days before other airlines had tight security, before 9/11. I, having a Jewish Agency ticket, was allowed an extra luggage piece. At the entrance to an escalator were Hassidic Jews in black garb offering a tallit (prayer shawl), and tefillin (phylacteries) containing prayers. Aviad, a secular but traditional Jew, told me to put on the tefillin and say a prayer for safe passage. I did and we departed. It’s funny how simple thoughts enter your mind at times like this. I was thinking that Aviad had it easy this day. He was going back to his house to continue with his day-to-day life. For now, he did not have to follow his dream and depart on a journey to the unknown. It is now my day to do that. He already followed his dream and came to America. Of course, I also had to say my goodbyes to America. I did not know when I would be back again. Being at a New York airport, posters with the Statue of Liberty were everywhere. A symbol of freedom to the new immigrants entering this harbor, for me, it was also a symbol of the freedom to exit. The flight to Israel was essentially uneventful – so much so that I do not even remember it that well. I was seated next to an Israeli. We barely talked. Funny, we had nothing in common, and yet, we had everything. If we met during different circumstances things would be different, I was sure. He did tell me where he lived and I did not know where it was. It wasn’t one of those biblical cities I knew so well; it had a Modern Hebrew name. He also told me he had commuted to the USA on business. I told him I was making aliyah and moving to Israel on an A1 temporary residential visa. He wished me well, but was not really interested in chatting with me and busy with his own affairs. I hoped for a more noted response, but it turns out that meeting olim is not an unusual thing for a native Israeli. During Aliyah and the trip there the flight, as on all long El-Al flights to Israel, a group of Orthodox Jews gathered in the back isles to pray their daily prayer. I thought it gave some flavor to the flight. The food on the plane was kosher by standard; it was perhaps the first time I did not need to make this a special request. I remember having the chicken and it tasted like … chicken. After 10 hours of flight, I hear an announcement in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic. “We will be in Ben Gurion airport in 30 minutes, please fasten your seat belts. The weather is warm and pleasant.” Since it was April when I left New York, it was still a bit chilly there. The warm weather in Israel was already a bonus just for making the trip. I look out the window searching for any sign of the shore, feeling like a modern-day Columbus in reverse. Then I see it. The blue and white coast soon turns into a red and green colored land punctuated by green-topped palm trees and red roofs. Most the houses I notice are stucco white with red roofs, different from the black shingled roofs at home. The little big city with skyscrapers, Tel Aviv, is to my left. Ben Gurion airport is a bit southeast. As I took all of this in, the loudspeakers on the plane starts playing the folk song Hava Nagilla, sort of cliché. Passengers now awaken to the tune and there is a new energy in the air of “home sweet home.” I did not bend on my knees to kiss the ground with my mouth as travelers to Israel before me have, to pronounce their zeal for arriving in the holy land. However, I did reach down with my hand to feel the tarmac as if to say to myself “I am here.”The other passengers were occupied with quickly catching the first shuttle bus to the airport customs so as not to wait too long in line. They did not kiss the ground either. I was in no particular rush and got in the long line for the border control. In contrast to the chilly weather in New York, Tel-Aviv was hot and humid and people were wearing short-sleeved shirts with short khaki pants and walked with sandals. Then I heard it – TICK CLICK BANG BAM! The border control officials, mostly young girls in uniforms, are banging and Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home banging away in everyone’s passport with a large square stamp. Here it is -the famous Israeli bureaucracy I was warned of, right at the border entrance. I had no idea what bureaucracy was except that it was an integral part of Communist Russia and now a sample was served to me. (I would later define bureaucracy as a form of control where the bureaucrats want to know what color your underpants are). I then hand her my passport with a paper from the Jewish agency. She asks me if I’m making aliyah, and I nod, smiling innocently. Bang, bang, at least five times on a few different passport pages. She orders me to go over there to a private entrance where the police officer is guarding. I do. He leads me into an almost empty lounge with rows and rows of chairs. Only a few seats are taken by a new immigrant family, from Russia. I thought, so these are the Russians, they look like people? Funny, in America, the Russians were “the enemy;” here, they were a source of immigration. It reminded me of the time I participated at a protest rally in Manhattan to free Russian Jewry in front of the UN building on the East River. Seventy-five thousand people were at this rally as well as the mayor of New York City. Now here I was, sitting in the same room with freed Russian immigrants. A blue and white banner on the wall said WELCOME. An elderly man walks over to me and greets me. He seemed like he was a volunteer who took it upon himself to meet any new comers. I give him the paper. “Are you here with your family or alone?” he asked. “I came alone.” “OK, then please have a drink.” He gets me a glass of punch from a large pitcher. “These are your instructions. You will take the cab to the Ulpan School in Kfar Sava.” Accompanying me outside and past customs, he gave a voucher to a cab and I got into the cab with the cab driver, a total stranger. The driver put my Dad’s army duffel bag on the roof. We left the airport and came to the exit. Aliyah and the trip there A black and white sign pointed straight to Jerusalem and another pointed left to Kfar Sava. The car turned left. April 19, 1984 was a beautiful spring day. The old airport road to Kfar Sava, a town of 80,000 inhabitants on the Sharon plane, was lined with Cyprus and palm trees, lending needed shade to the passengers. For the cab driver it was business as usual, I was just another customer. The only words he spoke to me the whole half hour trip were “Do you want the radio on?” As he turns on the radio, I hear the new top American rock song by Van Halen, “Jump.” Now that just happened to be my favorite song at that time. I lean back and imagine Van Halen jumping on the stage with his feet spread wide open and his guitar swinging around like figure eights. Looking for a sign that everything will turn out right, I concluded that this has to be a good omen. Aliyah and the Ulpan The Ulpan (Hebrew language school) in Kfar Sava was a very nice place and centrally located. It was near the town’s central bus station (Tachanat Mercazi). In Israel then, the town’s central bus station was a major location in that private cars were a luxury. Students, soldiers, and tourists could all be seen meshing at the Tachanat Mercazi. Nowadays, an improved and modern train service reaching key locations has expanded. The ulpan method was designed to teach adult immigrants to Israel rudimentary language skills of conversational Hebrew. Its primary purpose was to help new citizens become in tegrated as quickly and as easily as possible into the social, cultural, and economic life of Israel. The Ulpan was a melting pot not unlike Israeli society itself. Part of the method was to speak entirely in Hebrew without translation, forcing the student to think in Hebrew. It was a quick, efficient, and common method that had to be utilized to absorb immigrants of all ages from the many different countries. Ulpan also provided instruction in the fundamentals of Israeli culture, history, and geography. Trips to functions, parks, and historical sites were part of the school’s curriculum. My first days in Israel seemed like a dream. Enough time had not yet passed for me not to be still considered a tourist. My bags were not totally unpacked. I was happily absorbing new sights and sounds, foods, peoples, languages, cultures, and media, but I did not feel overwhelmed. That was the job of the Ulpan. They welcomed me, gave me a dormitory type room, and fed me well. For breakfast, Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home a lot of eggs (betzim), hummus spread, avocado, chocolate spread on white or rye bread, yogurts, eshel (like a watered down sour cream) and instant Elite coffee (some people actually like the stuff). Eggs were a popular course, and I never expected that it could be made in so many ways. Havita is an omelet, betza me-kushkeshet is scrambled eggs, betzat eyin is for sunny side up, betza kashe for hard-boiled egg, and salat betza is egg salad. Other egg meals included, cholent with betzim for bean casserole or bean chili with eggs; an egg sandwich with romaine lettuce, onion, tomato and feta cheese; humus with a hard-boiled egg; and shakshuka, cracked open eggs dropped in a pan of cooked hot pepper, onion, olive, and tomato sauce. Somewhat like a Spanish omelet. One of my favorites is barekes with a hard- boiled egg cooked in bean cholent. Barekes is a Greek and Turkish specialty of mashed potato, cheese, mushroom, or spinach filling in a light and crisp layered dough pastry. The hard-boiled, slow-cooked, brown-skinned cholent egg is sliced in an egg cutter and served with a pickle. Since breakfast proved that the egg came before the chicken, we were of course served chicken for lunch. The most famous was schnitzel. Schnitzel is chicken breast flattened by hammer or hand, breaded and fried in, well, an egg batter. If you want to be a bit Mid- dle-Eastern, you can add parsley, cilantro, and spices like paprika, mint, or cumin to the batter. The schnitzel might be served in a flat bread pocket pita with salad and hummus or on a plate with French fries (or “chips” as they are called in Israel). There were chicken hot dogs, chicken soup on Friday nights, and just plain broiled chicken with paprika. Lunch was served with pita bread, Israeli salad, tea and lemon, or Turkish coffee. For supper, if it was going to be a dairy meal, more eggs with chocolate spread, bread, butter, jams and yogurts. These were not great for the calorie counters but delicious. About fifteen people were in my Ulpan class. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by a group of people in which English was not the main spoken language – instead, most people there spoke Aliyah and the Ulpan Spanish or Romanian. In my class were people from Romania, South America, Russia, the UK, Australia, South Africa, and the USA. At first, the English speakers sat together during meals. Eventually this changed as we all began to speak Hebrew. I was impressed by the level and diversity of people I met. There was a lawyer from the UK, a young married couple from New York, a businessman from Argentina, and a young girl from Australia. The Australian girl had a sister already living on a kibbutz in Israel. Before the course ended though, the American couple and the lawyer from the UK decided living in Israel wasn’t for them and returned home. The rest stayed. Tirza was the name of our teacher. She lived in Ra’anana. Once, she invited the class to her home for tea and you felt like you were family. She would speak only in Hebrew and if you did not know a word, Tirza would point or pantomime. She refused to use another language to translate a word you did not understand. The idea was to use other Hebrew words to understand a concept. We would learn new words every day. Sometimes, I just did not get it, so Tirza would whisper in my ear the English translation but frowned as she was breaking her own rules. Luckily, I already knew some Hebrew and could write the letters because I went to Hebrew Academy in Hartford. Unfortunately, even with Hebrew school, I did not speak modern conversational Hebrew and needed the Ulpan. This point, I witnessed, was a bone of contention between one of my classmate’s parents who once lived in Israel and the Academy’s teachers. It even led to a loud argument. He wanted the Hebrew school to emphasize teaching modern conversational Hebrew, while the American-born rabbis were emphasizing teaching liturgical Hebrew for prayer and bible study. Today, more Hebrew schools understand the importance of teaching Modern Hebrew and also have a larger pool of Hebrew speaking teachers to instruct it. It only took us about three weeks to start speaking some full sentences. By then we were reading a synopsis of current events from a newspaper section that was specially written for new immigrants. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home It had large type, highlighted words, and vowels. Modern Hebrew usually does not have the vowels in print – do not ask me why. Maybe it saved ink, but Hebrew is already a more condensing language than English. If you put an English dictionary side-by-side with a Hebrew dictionary, the English one is always thicker even though the Hebrew language has been around longer. Classes each day were just four hours long, but six days a week. In the afternoon we were free to look for work, go to the beach, tour, or just hang out. There was no homework. The Ulpan had its share of parties in a community room, even weddings. After all, life goes on. Social workers had meetings with us to ask about our needs and even help us find work or a place to live after Ulpan. A month after my arrival, there was Israeli Memorial Day and then Israeli Independence Day celebrations in the town square. Quite often, after classes, I found myself at the beautiful white sand beaches of Herzaliya, the next town over. I would swim in the warm greenish blue Mediterranean Sea while thinking “this is the life I’m glad I came”. I could never have guessed that moving to Israel would be fun as well as relaxing. From my perspective, I was recuperating from life in the Diaspora. One of the things I had packed in my Dad’s duffel bag was a rubber raft. I thought there might not be one for sale in Israel, why take a chance. Shows you what I was thinking; fun, sun, beach, and relaxation while preparing to eventually work hard. Probably the most amazing item I also brought with me was an international portable color television with both American and European systems. It came with a radio and a cassette tape player dual tape recorder. It played on ten batteries as well as electric current. Not only were the electric appliances different in Israel 55 Hz vs. 60 Hz in the USA, the television systems at the time were also different Pal versus NTSC. Today we have cable television. I had to travel to an Israeli owned appliance store in New York to find it – not unlike the Israeli owned appliance store portrayed in the movie Aliyah and the Ulpan Don’t Mess with the Zohan with Adam Sandler, a movie about Israelis who settled in America. I looked up Ulpan in Wikipedia and it says that even after five months of intensive Hebrew study, the majority of new immigrants over the age of thirty still cannot read or write Hebrew at a minimum level. “Teaching Hebrew by the Ulpan method was supposedly in crisis.” I always understood that the purpose of the ulpan was to help a newcomer learn at least 500 words so they could get by, and then later they could take additional private classes. In my line of work, I actually meet people regularly in America that can’t speak a sentence in English. I think their life would be much more rewarding if they knew the language of the country they are living in. Using the Ulpan method for new immigrants in America could be a great idea, if not a requirement. Aleph, Bet, Gimel – The A, B, C’s Learning another language had its trials and tribulations. I personally did not like learning other languages when I was a young student. Honestly, I did not have a rote memory if what I was learning had no immediate relevance to my life. After all, America was a great country – the foreigners on TV spoke English, and all the good songs are in English. Aren’t they? Either way, I had a decent memory, but only for things I wanted to remember. I could not repeat things like a parrot. When I attended French classes in 9th grade I barely remembered a word and had no intention of going to Paris as I had not even been to Hollywood yet. On a family trip to the World’s Fair in Montreal, Canada, I learned more French in a week than I remembered from a year of French class. In college, though, I took two semesters of Spanish thinking it would help me living in New York. Another language was a requirement and French had already proved to be a disaster. Little did I know that one day my first Israeli girlfriend would be French, even though she spoke English with a British accent. The rudimentary Hebrew I did know came from grade school and synagogue. I could pray in biblical Hebrew – Shakespearian Hebrew, if you will – but could not hold a conversation in Hebrew. I did pick up some Modern Hebrew phrases from my Israeli friends and the new Israeli songs coming out, but that did not really prepare me for living in Israel. Nevertheless, others in my ulpan class thought of me as lucky because I already knew more Hebrew than they did. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home One anecdote from the ulpan days happened when trying to decipher store signs. Taking bike rides in the school’s neighborhood I could practice my Hebrew by trying to understand the storefront signs. My first major purchase was a ten-speed English racer. Since Kfar Sava was situated on the coastal plane, it was mostly flat and easy to navigate. In a Hebrew word, you need to find its shoresh (root word), which consists of three letters. For instance, the root of S-ha- l-o-m (peace, go in peace) is made of three Hebrew letters shin, lamed, mem (whole). Hence, to be in peace is to be whole. You can see already that Shalom in English is six letters while in Hebrew it is four letters and the root word whole is only three letters. This is an example that Hebrew is more condensed than English. With this key to understanding Hebrew by finding root words, you can unravel a myriad of words. A similar concept in English would be the words immigrant and immigration coming from the root migrant. In English the root “migrant” here is seven letters and in Hebrew Oleh (migrant) is only four letters. Hence, we have an example of Hebrew being a more condensed language than English. Thinking along these lines, I came across a kiosk with an exceptionally long word for Hebrew on the stores overhead sign; eight large letters long. Puzzled about the meaning of the word, I could not figure out which three of the eight letters made the root. I tried to spell it out phonetically three letters at a time. Was it san, ndw, vic, chim? I tried to pronounce the constellation of Hebrew letters out loud. San -dvi –chim. Sandvichim? …sandwiches? But that’s an English word! Modern Israeli Hebrew is amusing – its hardest words don’t originate from the Hebrew. Similar, I soon discovered that to Israelis “soda” means club soda, not something like cola or baking soda. “Cola” would later become synonymous with ordering a Coca-Cola soft drink. Cultural differences in brand naming such as these are Aleph, Bet, Gimel – The A, B, C’s a bit confusing at first and can make ordering food frustrating, but eventually you learn a whole new way to communicate and find what you’re looking for. I remember the time when I was hiking in the Judean desert and came to a vendor in an ice cream truck. Asking him for a cold orange soda on his shelves, he did not understand what I was talking about. I gave up trying to figure out a way to say “orange soda” and just pointed to the bottle. Once he could see what I was talking about, he smiled and said, “Oh! Orangeada.” This turned out to be a local brand name synonymous with orange soda. Translating an expression word-for-word from one language to another according to what a dictionary might say does not work when trying to translate the MEANING of an idea from one culture to another. I realized that the orange soda was a classic example of this problem. I figured then that “orange soda” was not in this vendor’s cultural vocabulary, but “orangeade,” like “lemonade,” was. Another thing I learned on my bike expeditions was that Israelis wanted to practice their English on me as much as I wanted to practice my Hebrew on them. An even trade you expect, except that I was supposed to be in a Hebrew speaking country. As I am trying to converse in the language of their land, I am hearing English in return. Therefore, we ended up with a Middle Eastern compromise. I spoke in Hebrew and they would speak in English. It took about five years in Israel to pass an important language landmark, when I was able to speak in Hebrew and was finally answered in Hebrew. Nevertheless, even after twenty years in Israel and speaking fluently by then, there still were Israelis who wanted to practice their English on me although I spoke Hebrew better than they spoke English. I was happy to help. Aliyah and “The Ugly American” The Ugly American by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick was a significant book I read for a political science class in college. Written in the period just before the Vietnam War, the book wanted to show why American-Asian policy had snags. One tale I was impressed with mentioned that as the USA was donating rice to poor inhabitants in southeast Asia, the Chinese were writing over the English labels MADE IN CHINA. When the rice reached their destination, China received all the credit; the people did not know it was a donation from the USA. The authors tried to explain misperceptions other countries had of the USA. This scenario arguably sounds even truer today. Newspaper editorials around the world continuously note that the USA has an image problem because America does not speak the language or understand the cultures of other peoples. What I did not expect was to experience the “ugly American” syndrome myself and in Israel of all places, especially from fellow Jews. While America as a country with ideals was generally looked up to I found, Americans as individuals did not automatically receive that level of entitlement. The first time I felt the “ugly American” syndrome away from American shores was right at the Ulpan. I was soon to discover that while there were Jewish bonds unifying us, dissimilar countries and political entities were tugging at that alliance. A young South American woman in my class had a serious disdain for Americans. She talked as if she was indoctrinated by Fidel Castro himself, stressing how Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home big American corporations hurt South America. Between classes, I once happened to hum a then popular disco song by Barry Manilow, “Copacabana” (1978), about a bar altercation in the famous New York City nightclub. She said she liked the song too and she knew of the Copacabana hotel mentioned in the song in Havana, Cuba. I couldn’t help but tell her, “I don’t think so. The Copacabana is a nightclub in Manhattan. I know – I used to live in Manhattan, and I passed by it many times.” “No,” she said indignantly and sure of herself. “Don’t be silly, the song is about the Copacabana in Cuba! You Americans think everything is about you!” I tried to convince her, but she would not have any of it. I told her, “But the lyrics say ‘at the Copa, Copacabana / the hottest spot north of Havana’.” She just refused to accept that the song was about a club in the USA. Some might say it’s not wise to disagree with a woman. That may be, yet her inability to accept what I was saying merely because I was an American was a definite eye opener. Another example came from when I visited an acquaintance in Jerusalem. His parents were Polish and they settled in Israel before the Second World War. The acquaintance and his sister were born in Jerusalem. His sister, attending Hebrew University in Jerusalem, worked as a waitress in a local five star Jerusalem hotel. I was still getting to know life in Israel and was interested even then in the cul tural diversities of peoples. So I asked her if she noticed any unique characteristics in the manners of the different international tourists. According to her, the Europeans were quiet, polite, and reserved, while the Americans had a sense of privilege. While they were nice tippers, they were loud and very bossy, she said. If something was not to their liking, they would immediately complain. I was not too comfortable with the rest of my visit after that. Yet another example that sticks out in my mind came when I was completing my master’s degree program comparing the brain waves patterns of coma to the EEG pattern of normal sleep in search of a Aliyah and “The Ugly American” prognostic feature. While joining grand rounds at the hospital’s neurology unit, the clinical director, who was a top Israeli neurosurgeon, recounted a story about a visiting American neurosurgeon. He joked about the surgeon, saying that the American doctor had a certain air about him. The American would say, “You guys on your side of the Nile do things one way, while we Americans do it another.” The Israeli surgeon then smiled and recounted, “I thought you guys were the ones on the other side of the Nile.” I eventually understood that being an American to the rest of the world means that you are originating from the world’s superpower. Regardless if you feel super or not, you will be judged and scrutinized accordingly, and sometimes even respected. Aliyah and Ulpan kibbutz About the time I was finishing my Hebrew classes at Ulpan Kfar Saba, Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in an emergency action dubbed “Operation Moses” (1984) to save the Jewish community in east Africa from famine and civil war. Years later, in an interview Shamir gave to Israeli television about his life, he recounted that this was one of his great achievements. The Ulpan Kfar Sava was to be turned into an Ethiopian center and the present residents were found new homes. I was again a new immigrant and I ended up temporarily in a hotel turned absorption center in beautiful Herzaliya Pituach on the coast. The Hotel Tiran is a five minute walk from the luxurious Dan Acadia tourist Hotel known for its gorgeous beach and tournament tennis courts not far from the Herzaliya Marina. In addition to the beautiful coast and tourist hotels, Herzaliya Pituach is the residence of many of the diplomatic ambassadors to Israel. Here, the average home was a gated palace with a sign on the outside “Beware of the Dog.” Although I felt like I was on a perpetual beach vacation, I couldn’t help but think: wasn’t I supposed to get on with my life sometime soon? I came here to meet Israelis and integrate into another society, not live in a pampered dream world. I felt it wasn’t going to happen in the neighborhood I was in. Was I ready to leave this dream? Besides, the prices at the grocery were exurbanite compared to the other side of town, and I did not have a car yet. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Before I decided to find work, I wanted to try one more thing. I liked the idea of living in the country and wanted the experience of working in agriculture. I wanted to try living on a real kibbutz. An Israeli kibbutz is a collective community that was traditionally based on agriculture and light industry where communal living combines socialism and Zionism. I remember in college that I took an exam to evaluate what line of work I was best suited for, and the educational counselor said I should work on a farm since I liked nature. Being in the city of New York at the time, I brushed the counselor off, yet I did end up taking courses in biology to attempt having some connection with nature. I asked the Ulpan social worker to be transferred and I was entered into another Ulpan at Kibbutz Ein-Dor. The kibbutz was in the countryside northeast of Tel-Aviv on the road to Lake Tiberius and right across Mt. Tabor (Mt. of Transfiguration) about a 90-minute bus ride from Herzaliya. Mt Tabor, situated in the Jezreel valley, is close to the location of the famous decisive crusader battle defeat at the “Horns of Hattin” in 1187. Ein-Dor was founded in 1948 by members of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. The founders were from Israel, Hungary and the United States, and later joined by members from South America. Ein-Dor had a refet (stockade) of milk cows and a factory for specially insulated wires that I was told was used in airplanes. I shared quarters with another American in a bungalow. It was like camp and summer vacation all in one. You worked for a few hours in the early morning and played by night. Ein-Dor also had an overseas volunteer program where young adults came to live and work on kibbutz in exchange for Hebrew classes, room, and board. When I was there, I met other volunteers from Scandinavian countries, Great Britain, and Holland. Some also came to work for room and board, spent a month or so, and then moved on to the next country. One volunteer I met came from working in the vineyards of France. Most came as volunteers or on student exchange programs to learn about Israel. Aliyah and Ulpan kibbutz The logic for the program was that small Israel could better defend against enemy propaganda by providing future leaders with firsthand real-time objective information. Young Israeli soldiers, meanwhile, also had an arrangement to use the kibbutz as a home away from home during time off. I got to meet firsthand old-timer kibbutz members that came as pioneers to build a country. I found them to be a very political and opinionated group with loads of wisdom and unique experiences, but some were also set in their ways. I gave them credit for allowing “outsiders” to mingle and use their homes for the advancement of the country. I soon learned that the pioneer kibbutzim in general were undergoing at the time a crisis in that their grandchildren, modern Israeli in every way, wanted out. They wanted to move to the big spirited cities like Tel-Aviv, or start a kibbutz of their own or just leave the country. For my first kibbutz job, I was put on a work detail bending down and removing stones by hand from the fields. I could not help thinking about the early American colonists clearing their fields and building stonewalls that still cross New England today. I wondered, why did the kibbutz wait until now to remove the stones? Were they waiting for me, the volunteer, to come? A tractor followed us and we threw the stones on its wagon. I used this work as an opportunity to sharpen my abdomen muscles for that elusive flat stomach look. We would get up early in the morning before the hot sun came out and have a light breakfast in the fields: Turkish coffee, sliced avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, onions, pita, chocolate spread, halva, hummus dip, and eshel (a form of sour cream). After a week of stonework, I was rotated up to work in the orchards picking avocados. Rotation of work tasks is a fundamental in most Israeli work places. This way, there is always a backup if one member has to go to reserve army duty. We were told that the avocados were for sale in Europe at about one dollar each and the French especially liked Israeli avocados. I was counting the money for the kibbutz as I was picking them, in the hundreds a day and that was just me. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Avocados were a challenge to harvest and naturally well camou flaged. For comparison, when looking at an orange tree, you cannot miss seeing bright orange round balls all over. When you look at an avocado tree, you just see large dark green leaves, not avocados. The kibbutz manager had to enter the foliage, bend under the tree, and lift a branch to demonstrate where the avocados were hiding. You had to look from the inside out to see dozens of avocados hiding each under their own leaf. I climbed to the top of the avocado tree and worked myself down from the inside, throwing the avocados to another volunteer waiting with a burlap sack. The social life on this kibbutz was electric. Beautiful blonde haired girls from Scandinavia, by the dozens, came to work in the Israeli kitchens and fields. Some even ended up marrying dark haired guys from the kibbutz. Honestly, I was envious of the men in charge of the kibbutz work details. They had it made. They got to choose the prettiest girls to work for them and invite them to their rooms for coffee or tea after work. What better way to promote Israel. In some cases this was a point of contention between married kibbutz members under these free-for-all circumstances. At night, you could unwind in the kibbutz coffee club, the mo’adon, and watch television or see a movie. There also was a library, board games, and plenty of cakes, coffees, hot chocolate – as much as you can eat and drink. People gathered in the mo’adon to watch the nightly news. On any given night I counted over fifty people. No one could complain they were lonely here. There was also the popular Israeli folk dancing as well as lectures. One Friday night, my American roommate and I took an evening stroll to the next nearest kibbutz down the road, Gazit. Although famous for their Friday American softball games, to the volunteers at Ein-Dor, Gazit was famous for its Friday night disco. At this time, there were volunteers there from Norway. Their disco was in their underground air raid bunker, a massive concrete rectangular glob with air ventilation pipes sticking out of the tops. Inside, underground, was a major disco party. What Aliyah and Ulpan kibbutz better use for a bunker with proper acoustics than dancing away the night to disco music? Another night, we had a barbecue. While sitting by the fire and singing songs, a patrol of IDF armored half- tracks rumbled through the fields on maneuvers – not something I would have expected in my backyard in the USA. We waved to the soldiers and they waved back. This time the natives were friendly. A coming of age tradition at the kibbutz was to climb Mt. Tabor, 1843 feet above sea level. It takes about three hours if you are still young. Mt. Tabor has a rounded top and there are two churches perched there: the Church of the Miracle of the Transfiguration and the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Elias. I had already been acquainted with Mt. Tabor from a tourism poster hanging in an Israeli pizza shop in Elizabeth, New Jersey across from the old Elmora theatre. My favorite spot for gobbling down a falafel was at the table under the poster. Since then, I always wanted to visit the location of the poster’s picture. What better way to tour the mountain than to climb her? Two lady volunteers from Holland wanted to join me, and the large brown kibbutz dog with pointy ears, Brownie, followed. One of the girls had this thing where she dressed in all black, including black lipstick, the punk style. I had yet never seen this before, and I once lived in NewYork!We climbed straight up from the south side of the mountain without a path, and did not take the winding 2.5 kilometer paved road. I felt as if I had just climbed the Israeli Mt. Everest. When we reached the peak, I wanted to enter the impressive Church of the Transfiguration and have a look. Much to my chagrin, the kibbutz dog, having a mind of his own, was curious or thirsty and zipped into the monastery before I could stop him. Just as I was about to enter and retrieve him, a monk in long brown robes and a dangling rope belt jutted out in a huff and puff. “WHO DOES THIS DOG BELONG TO?” the furious monk screamed in English, assuming we spoke English. “How dare you desecrate the sanctity of the church?” Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Then, staring right at me, the monk asked if the dog was mine. I told him truthfully “no”, all the while really wanting to propose that maybe the dog just wanted to be transfigured. I thought it would have been nice if the monk screamed in Hebrew though. I changed my plans, went to the more welcoming St. Elias church next door instead, walked around the gift shop, had a drink of water, and looked Working in Israel and America, at the panoramic view the Israeli way While on a job interview, a British-born Israeli medical director confided to me: “As Anglo-Saxons we are not well prepared for the trials and tribulations of working in Israel.” What the heck did that mean? It did not sound too encourag ing. Well it did not take long to find out. For me, there were subtle differences between working in the USA and Israel as dictated by culture, national policy, and social values. These were not apparent until you already started your employment. Knowing the how, when, and where of it, will prepare you for your “employment enjoyment” and success. Unfortunately, your foreign employer might not even be aware these differences exist because he or she might not have had a point of reference for comparison. Actually, only someone who has physically worked in both the USA and Israel will have the practical knowledge to lend advice. Let me backtrack a bit too when I first observed Israelis “at work” in the USA. Before moving to Israel, I lived for five years in the Elizabeth, New Jersey area. I moved there for employment in 1979, after completing an EEG neuro -diagnostics medical technologist program in New York City. Visiting the local Jewish Community Center in West Orange, I found a room for rent sign posted by a retired Jewish lady, Mrs. J. who also kept a kosher home. She already had another tenant, a young Israeli, Adam as mentioned previously. 66 67 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home By way of Adam and his American Jewish girlfriend, I met other young Israelis for the first time. Young Israelis were just starting to immigrate in quantity to America and many seemed to congregate in New Jersey, a close ride to New York City. In 1979, Israel was just 31 years of age and experiencing repercussions from the recent and traumatic 1973 Yom Kippur War – Israel’s 4th war in just 25 years. The Israelis I met in New Jersey all had been in uniform in that war. They flocked to the USA as tourists, students, and immigrants. Some had green cards, which allowed them to find employment and stay for a few years. Some did not, and were seeking ways to stay after their visa expired. I had a chance to observe them in action. We bonded well and had something in common; as they were away from their homes and families, so was I. As the American Jewish friend who could help them navigate their new world, I was also eager and curious about life in their old world. All in all, these young Israelis found the American dream and be came successful, quickly I might add. The Israelis I knew integrated well and some even opened their own businesses. Some went to the synagogue, and others avoided anything to do with anything of a religious connotation. In fact, I remember being dispirited when one Israeli refused – downright refused – to place a ceremonial skullcap or yarmulke on his head at his own brother’s Jewish wedding. He proclaimed that he did not like the politics of the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and did not want to identify with their political party. He himself married a nice Jewish girl a year later, in a civil marriage. Although the young Israelis I met were “Jewish,” they were a strikingly different type of Jewish compared to those that I grew up. For one, they all had recent army experience and even battle experience. They had that certain camaraderie and worldliness that came with that. Curiously, they also had contact locally amongst some of the Israeli Arabs and Palestinians born in Israel. Looking at the Israelis and Palestinians, from an American perspective, they seemed to have a lot more in common than not. They came from the same Working in Israel and America, the Israeli way area of the world, knew of the same historic places, ate the same foods, drank the same Turkish coffee, and had similar accents when speaking English. They even looked more similar and in some instances dressed similarly. That is, many Israelis themselves originated from Middle Eastern and Arab countries. The Palestinians, surprisingly, even spoke Hebrew better than my Jewish friends and some of the Israelis spoke fluent Arabic. If not, they knew a few phrases in Arabic from school and work. The businesses created by the Israelis I met ranged from pizza and falafel restaurants to used car dealers and insurance agencies. They were accountants and engineers as well as waiters and waitresses. For most, even though they did not have a college education, they had marketable skills they carried over from their compulsory military service training or Israeli trade schools (ORT). I met a jet pilot mechanic, an auto mechanic, and a few security guards. Adam was an airplane mechanic and served as a sergeant in the Israeli Air Force during the 1973 Yom Kippur War on an airbase in the Sinai. He would tell me that in the first days of the war he knew it wasn’t going well because the jets he serviced were simply not returning to base. This was unlike the 1967 Six Day War, when all the planes returned to base. Adam started a used car business and was able to make minor repairs to the cars on his lot himself, saving mechanic fees. One time my car was stuck in a parking lot in a rainstorm. I made just one phone call, and Adam right away came out and got my car running, on two separate occasions. I had no concept of what to do to get it running. Later, I enrolled in a mechanics course to at least learn how to do a tune-up. It was uncomfortable to realize that I knew nothing about cars even though my Dad did teach me how to change a tire and the oil. Adam was able to use his mechanical knowledge in purchasing cars for the lot. He would take me to dealer car auctions in the south of Jersey, and I learned a lot about cars while he inspected them. The used cars that he did not yet sell, he started to rent out for a cheap rate and thus began a used car rental agency. Adam liked Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home to drive around the different sports cars he purchased before he sold them. In Israel, cars were extremely expensive because of taxes and were therefore considered a luxury. He told me he began to admire cars when he saw the cars James Bond drove in the movies. In the USA, he must have felt like a king. He told me that the extra miles he added to the car were not enough to drive down the end sale price of the car and thus exchanged cars from the lot frequently. Adam even said that if you buy a car in the east coast, it sells for a higher price in the west coast. Thus, he sold cars to his Israeli friends who wanted to tour America coast to coast on a low budget, and they would sell the car at a profit in California after the 3,000-mile trip. With the cash difference, they could still take a plane back. It took me years to find the term that best described the qualities Adam and his other Israeli friends had. They were real entrepreneurs, educated by the facts of life. They formed a solid network, keeping each other informed about business opportunities and life in the USA. They worked hard and played hard. They partied together, went out to clubs together, they made trips together, helped each other, and they got in mischief together. A tremendous energy and zest for life. I had the feeling of watching the Three Musketeers; “All for one, and one for all.” This contrasted with the American concept of “individualism” nurtured by myself. I soon sensed that they all were serious at making money – real money, in a short period of time and acting as if their survival depended on it. For them, America was one big Horatio Algiers story slash playground. No matter what business they were in, they had another business on the side. Truly, for them, the sky was the limit. Adam and his Israeli accountant friend Daniel had the car lot, an export business sending toys by ship to Israel to a friend who had a toy store, and they even owned rental properties. One time I was standing with Adam in our rented backyard. He was waiting for a customer to purchase a car he advertised in a local newspaper. Away from the car lot, I gathered he wanted to give the impression that he Working in Israel and America, the Israeli way was a private seller and not a dealer. A man came to buy the car from afar, and Adam named a price. The person wanting to buy the car asked if the price was negotiable and Adam said with a captivating smile, “sorry, not really.” The customer then acted smart and made a much lower offer anyways. Adam said, “You know, I am so sorry, but I had already given you a deal at the original price I stated. Now if you still want the car, the price has just gone UP to its book value.” Surprisingly, the person bought the car probably not expecting that Adam was a professional salesman. New immigrants they were, but they exuded a self-confidence that I was always envious of. It was almost as if Adam and his friends were just born astute negotiators. They never sold themselves short either. Sometimes clients became nasty when they found out that Adam and Daniel were Israeli. Adam and Daniel always kept their cool but in the back room there was a baseball bat standing just in case. The car lot was near Newark, New Jersey, a rough city. I visited the lot a number of times to watch these guys in action. Each visit was a learning experience. One time, Daniel – a short fellow not more than 5 feet 4 inches tall – opens his business case, and pulls out a large pistol that looked like a magnum (these were the Dirty Harry days). Adam sees the gun and does nothing, acting as if it was just another day at the office. I, meanwhile, was struck; the only real gun I ever saw was in a policeman’s holster or in a museum. Explaining why he was exhibiting his pistol; “Some clients threaten me,” he muses, “they intimidate ME when they don’t like a deal or want their money back. I just had one now.” He smirks, examining the gun. “They threaten ME, but I am the one with the Israeli army experience. I am the one who knows how to really use a gun. I was in The Yom Kippur War.” Returning the magnum to its case, Daniel then points to outside the door. “He didn’t read the sign before HE threatened me– all sales final!” He made his point. Ever since knowing Adam and entourage, I would wonder to myself: is there something missing in my life, being born Jewish Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home in the USA? Why don’t I have the confidence these guys have? I had a college education, I had a steady job at a prestigious hospital, and I came from a loving family…yet these fellows all seemed to know what they wanted in life. They all had girlfriends too. Actually, women flocked to these guys. They knew exactly what they wanted, even if it could be summed up in two plain words doubled, money and success, more money and more success. Adam even had a plan. He would say, “I want to work hard now, make a lot of money by age 40, and then retire on a beach in Tel-Aviv eating barbeque.” I thought, “Is he for real, to retire at age 40?” In contrast, I had no clue what life has to offer and didn’t even have a path to follow. I did not even have a life plan. It was at a party at Daniel’s house that I initially broke the news that I was moving to Israel. He asked me a prying question I thought. “How much money do you have saved to take with you?” I told him that I saved $20,000, proudly thinking it was a respectable sum – more than a year’s salary for me. I had been saving for a few years already and was satisfied with the sum. “That’s all?” Dan yelped, to my surprise. “That’s not enough! You will need more just to survive! Prices there are higher than in America.” The indignity of it, I thought. An immigrant from little Israel tells me in super power America that I did not have enough saved money to go where he came from? How discouraging. Of course, this was before the outsourcing of American jobs became common water-cooler chatter. I was already wondering then who these “super foreigners” were. Granted, they were already here in America, but how did they become so successful so quickly? What were they doing that I wasn’t? What school did they go to that I did not? I worried about whom I would be up against in seeking employment in Israel. Was I about to jump into a lion’s den? Was Dan correct? Eventually after moving to Israel, I found many answers to these questions, survived, and even flourished. The bottom line was that what Adam and Dan had was raw ambition and what they did was Working in Israel and America, the Israeli way to open up multiple avenues of income. This strategy was something I would have to learn and master myself if I was to succeed in Israel. After living in Israel for ten years, I saw Adam, Daniel, and Aviad again. They visited Israel with their now wives for Adam’s son’s Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Adam and Daniel now spoke of having a used car and rental agency empire with multiple lots in multiple states. Yet, oddly enough he complained or maybe joked that his best friend, who stayed in Israel, was even more successful than he had become. I pondered about the lessons I learned from my old Israeli friends later that night. That is, the grass is greener on the other side only if you believe it so. I think that whatAdam was missing was that a really happy man is content with what he has. After all, by now I too was doing well but I was happy and content, and living in Israel. I guess I was now the American version of outsourcing, bringing a dose Yankee ingenuity to Israel. Aliyah before “The Post Zionistic Era” You could say following a political, historical timeline that I came to Israel during the tail end of “The Zionistic Era” and the beginning of what is known as “The Post Zionistic Era.” I dubbed this period “The Pre-Post Zionistic Era”. To me, the feel of the Zionistic Era was captured best in the movie The Exodus, in which the British blockade of ships like The Exodus bringing Jewish Holocaust refugees to the Promised Land still under British mandate was portrayed. This period in Jewish history was also captured in documentaries that showed so called water tower and stockade settlements being built overnight by early settlers. They would quickly erect a water tower and a stockade and call it a settlement, hence the periods name. By the time the Hollywood movies and history books about Israel’s founding reached me later in the early 1960’s, about twenty to thirty years had passed. Yet, watching the films and reading the books for the first time seemed like current events rather than history. Time then was relative to a youngster like me. Still, Israel today just about sixty years young, boasts achievements that many other countries have not reached in generations. When I first walked the streets there, the conversations I overheard were mainly nationalistic and about army reserve duty, Yom Kippur War exploits, and whether other Jews from Russia would settle mainly in Israel or elsewhere. During this historic, nationalistic Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home period I felt very welcomed as if I was someone needed for the nation’s good by joining the “greater Jewish family.” Israelis believed, and stated frequently, even in press interviews, that it was the duty of every Jew to move to Israel. You heard this almost everywhere. If you had a bureaucratic problem, wanted a discount, or needed someone to translate a document, you could always invoke the holy words “I am a new immigrant, I am an Oleh hadash.” It was the key for the native Israeli to bend the rules for you. After all, rules are made to be broken even in Israel. An Oleh hadash could still feel he or she was a part of building a new state. Living in these interesting times might have been similar to what it felt like to be one of the patriots building America during the times of George Washington and the Continental Congress. Olim, who came from North America, spurted in at different times. These were notably right after wars Israel had fought and won, probably capturing attention and emotional support, receiving media exposure. Soon, there were mixed American Israeli couples who decided to live in Israel, and there were people like myself who just came when the time suited them right. The country was bubbling with tourists, young volunteers on exchange programs, overseas student programs, and new Olim attending ulpan. A point of note: no matter how long an American was settled in Israel, they retained their American accent even if they now spoke fluent Hebrew. One short auto maintenance television show I started to tune into regularly was hosted by an American who spoke Hebrew with a thick American accent. He discussed topics from how to change the windshield wipers to how to purchase the best grade of oil for your car. The corresponding Hebrew R, G, and CH letters were especially hard for Americans to pronounce because these are guttural letters. Poking fun at the American TV personality with “the accent” was common at parties. It was sort of like the way Americans joked about how Chinese or Japanese people on TV fumbled the letter “L,” making a phrase like “lots of luck” sounded like “rots of ruck. In Hebrew, an example would be the famous Aliyah before “The Post Zionistic Era” word CHAI “for life”. English speakers, my mother included, could not pronounce the CH and say “HI” instead. I would be kidded for wrongly pronouncing the name of a person I worked with. His name was Roenie pronounced “Rrrroenie” which to me sounded like the English name Rony, and I pronounced it as Rony. All in all, it was nice watching a TV program in Israel where someone has a thick accent and they still let him on. Bearing that in mind, here’s a tip: if you are going to have a show on a foreign network, make sure you get some speech and vocal training, or risk being poked fun of. Aliyah and the other way around In 2007 I saw the movie You Don’t Mess with the Zohan starring Adam Sandler who portrays an ex-Israeli Mossad agent tired of all the fighting in his homeland. Zohan retires from the Israeli anti-terrorism business and immigrates to America, following his dream to be a famous hair stylist. He soon finds a job working for a young woman who owns her own salon, and he ends up falling in love with her. The twist to this tale, however, is that the woman turns out to be Palestinian who also happens to be the sister of the main terrorist Zohan was trying to apprehend back in Israel. Eventually, they both end up joining forces with all of their Israeli and Arab friends to settle a conflict with a neighborhood bully. The real twists in the movie however, are behind the scenes. The Palestinian salon owner, for instance, was played by a Jewish actress with Arabic roots. Knowing Israelis who settled in the USA firsthand, I liked the movie and thought it was funny. Sandler, to my surprise, played a stereotypical, yet very believable Israeli character right down to the Israeli accent, complete with cravings for hummus and beach paddleball. Furthermore, the film featured contemporary Hebrew rock songs, which is certainly something you don’t see in your average American-made movie. I am sure that people close to Israel enjoyed the movie on one level and audiences elsewhere on another. Critics compared Zohan to the movie Shampoo, with Sandler playing the Warren Beatty role. My take on the American perspective is that Palestinians, Israelis and Anglo Saxon Americans can all Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home enter the American melting pot and get along together. Zohan de serves his chance to be free of the Middle Eastern conflicts and finds his dream – in America. From an Israeli perspective, however, it might be questioned what was the real purpose of the film beyond its sense of humor? Was it a social commentary expressing the hope that Israelis and Palestinians will make aliyah to America where they can then live in peace? Or was it just stating a fact that Israelis themselves are moving to the USA in enough numbers to finally make a movie about it. A member of my own family once asked me “why can’t the Palestinians and the Jews in Israel simply get along, negotiate, and make peace already”. Of this question, Americans have been accused of not having patience. Notice, it is not we Jews and Palestinians in America that have a problem, but rather you Jews and Palestinians in Israel that are problematic. The translations behind the translations: Our Jewish lives in America would be more comfortable if our Israeli brethren just made peace with the Palestinians. Translation: Please retreat to the 1967 pre-Six Day War borders and give back the occupied lands so the world can have peace and quiet. Recognize a Palestinian state in the land of Israel with Jerusalem as a Palestinian capitol, give the Syrians the Golan, and uproot all the “settlers.” If only Israel did this, then Jewish relations with other Americans would be better. Oil would be cheaper, and everyone would love the American Jews, who, by the way, fought alongside the Israelis in some of the best Hollywood movies. Of course, the Israelis would have to swallow their pride, live with insecure borders, and be a small and meager nation again, sensitive to the whims of her neighbors. However, that’s OK, as long as we Jews in America have some quiet. To be sure, many Israelis (after their military service) left a war and a poor economy to settle in the USA, even taking on American citizenship. That’s OK too. It’s a free world for those living in democracies. However, is that something to be idealized in a movie, making aliyah in the opposite direction? Israelis have stated many Aliyah and the other way around times, they do not want American Jews to tell them what to do, because like the Americans, they themselves fought and won most their wars. They want the American Jews to visit as tourists, perhaps settle in Israel, and vote. But they want the American Jews to understand, that even after donations and political support, policy has to be made in Israel, otherwise there is no real self determination. Alas, Israel gets most of her weapons and political support from America, and the Jews of America have an influence like any other American citizen, and a say to that too. My kudos and thanks to Adam Sandler and the cast and crew for making a movie about American Israelis that was funny and reminded me of my American Israeli friends. It will be nice if there will be a Hollywood movie about North American Aliyah to Israel and conversely, a North American Aliyah Awareness Day in Israel. Thus, I dedicate this book to the Americans who have moved to Israel, those that stayed and those that came back too. Aliyah, marriage, and children For three years preceding my aliyah, I was working at NYU Medical Center in the field of sleep wake disorders research on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) for sleep apnea. At the time, this was a groundbreaking field and sleep apnea was just beginning to be recognized as a medical condition that needed worthy diagnosis and attention. One day, I entered the NYU hospital library and looked at the Journal of Sleep. There was an article there by the Israel Technion Institute of Technology Sleep Wake Disorders Lab in Haifa. It was a research paper done on the sleeping habits of shift workers at a factory near Haifa. Once I knew that a sleep research institute even existed in Israel, I decided that when I arrived I would go there for an interview. It turns out that they were interested in using CPAP for sleep apnea in Israel too and asked me to wait some time for a decision about employment. I had the distinction of being amongst the first registered polysomnographic technologists (R.PSG.T) of which today there are many. I was the only R.PSG.T in Israel, a feather in the cap of any institute engaged in obtaining sleep research grants. While having the time of my life on Ulpan Kibbutz Ein Dor, I received a call and was accepted for a position as a sleep research technologist to score and stage their sleep records (REM and non- REM sleep). With that, the fun that was Ulpan kibbutz came to a close, and I was suddenly employed again, this time in Israel. I had toyed with the idea of joining the kibbutz if I did not receive this position, but I did really like the idea of a career in medical Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home research. Remember, in university, the guidance counselor suggested I go into farming so working on the kibbutz would not be so bad either. Looking back, the only thing that kept me from being a kibbutznick was that phone call. Haifa is such a beautiful city on the Carmel Mountain slope that I was very happy about having to move there. The carefree tourist vacation was over; now it was time to get down to business and become a constructive part of Israeli society. A short time after working there, I was told that the center was opening a branch sleep institute in the bigger city of Tel-Aviv; so on occasion I was sent to Tel-Aviv to help with the setup there and score sleep records too. Not a year in the country and I was helping it be built. I did not have a car yet, so I took the bus, and the lab was situated in walking distance from the central bus station in Tel-Aviv. While on one of the bus ride to the new lab, I ended up sitting next to an attractive young lady who wanted me to translate something into English for a document she needed to give to the American embassy in Tel-Aviv. She was very open and friendly, spoke English, and told me she worked at one of Israel’s major banks. After talking to her for a while, I asked her out on a date. She thanked me and told me that she is presently engaged to an American doctor and that she will be moving to America to live there. Just my luck – that was why she needed my help in translation – to fill out forms for the American embassy for a visa. Again, I meet a case of aliyah in reverse. As fate would have it, though, she thought I was so nice that she gave me the telephone number of a lady in the bank that she worked with. So, I went out with her friend on a blind date. She wasn’t really for me, but I asked her for another date anyways. She said yes, and I asked her if she knew someone for a single American student I met at the Technion Institute. Maybe we could set up a double date? She went for it, so my date brought a friend with her who also worked at the bank. When I saw Leah, I noticed how pretty she was immediately. As it turned out, though, my friend ended up talking to my Aliyah, marriage, and children date more and more while I ended up talking to Leah. After I went home I asked my date if I could have Leah’s telephone number. She said yes. I proposed to Leah after a month and we were married six months after that. The fellows at the sleep lab were astonished. I just began working there and already there would be a wedding. They couldn’t figure on how that happened so quickly. In 1967, at age eleven and just months before the Six Day War, Leah and her family of eight brothers and sisters immigrated to Israel from Bombay, India. They were Sephardic Jews from the sect called Bene’ Israel. Another Indian sect that moved to Israel is the Cochin Jews. The Bene’ Israel believe their ancestors were once oil pressers in the Galilee and that they are descended from survivors of a merchant shipwreck off the coast of India. There are about 60,000 Bene’ Israel living in Israel today. I thought they were the nicest, warmest, people I have ever met. When I first met Leah, I had never heard of the Bene’Israel and thought she was a tan skinned Yemenite Jew (Yemen is not that far from India, after all). Opposites attract, as they say, and you could have not found a more opposite couple. I was light-skinned, she was dark and tan. I was from the west, she from the east. I was an Ashkenazi Jew, she Sephardic. I worked in science and medicine, she in banking and finance. I was born to a cold New England climate and liked the cool weather. She was born in one of the hottest places on earth, Bombay, and liked heat. I had a very small family decimated by the Holocaust, she had eight brothers and sisters and their countless offspring. I had attended five weddings in my whole life, while she seemed to attend a wedding each month. Yet beyond the surface, we actually had quite a lot in common. She and I were both Diaspora Jews who made aliyah. She and I both spoke Hebrew as a second tongue. She had a traditional religious Jewish education and so did I, but we were now secular. She came from a kosher home, and I wanted my home to stay kosher even if I was now secular. She cooked Indian cuisine and I love Indian cuisine. Keeping kosher, I could eat vegetarian dishes at an Indian restaurant Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home that were hearty and delicious. From her perspective, I was a university- educated American, adventurous and worldly. From my perspective, Leah was exotic and different and would cement my being a part of Israel. We both wanted to raise our children in Israel. With Leah, I had two beautiful daughters, Shanee and Limor. Luckily, the Asian and Western mix made for the most beautiful of children. On visits to the USA, people would actually stop on the streets to compli ment how unique and pretty my children were. I carry photos of my daughters on my key chain and get compliments all the time. With opposites attracting and similarities combined so smoothly, I felt like a poster model for making aliyah to Israel. Don’t buy foreign cars - buy Japanese Once I took a position at the Technion and was employed, it was time to purchase a car. Fast-forward to a conversation I had in the winter of 2007. I was at the library during lunchtime on the Internet checking my stocks. A medical resident noticed I was using an online broker. As a fellow trader using the same service, he asked me what stocks I invested in. I told him about my favorite international pharmacy stock right now, an Israeli based company, TEVA. TEVA was still doing Okay even with the beginnings of a severe drop in USA stocks, especially those associated with the financial markets. Israeli stocks were known to be well diversified and resilient in the face of adversity because of the country’s volatile security situation. The resident said he purchased three thousand dollars of a financial stock and it took a dive. Now he was troubled because his wife was angry about it. I asked him why he bought these particular stocks, considering the poor state of the American stock market. He replied, “I wanted to support America, so I purchased these American stocks.” As I told him then, I thought he was misguided, knowing that a cardinal stock rule is not to get emotionally attached to your investments. Trading stocks and investing in the market is for earning money, not making political statements. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Looking back to my time in Israel, though, I had had a similar thought in mind when I purchased my first car in Israel. It was a new 1985 sporty and fast Ford Escort. An American car assembled in Brazil and sold in Israel, used by both the British and Israeli police departments. I wanted to keep my American roots in Israel, so I purchased an American car. I also figured that if the police use that car, it must be good. I did not really comprehend what it meant for an American car to be assembled outside the USA. BIG MISTAKE! The other Israelis were purchasing mainly Japanese cars – Subaru, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Mazda, to name a few. Even though the initial Ford prices were good, I later found out that every time I had to service the car or change a part, the price was higher because it was an import from a foreign country – the USA. I read that the Japanese auto companies had placed service stations all over Israel before they even entered the Israeli market. This led to better service, more customers and lower prices. The police, meanwhile, had their own garages, service contracts, and taxpayer shekels, so they didn’t have to worry as much about keeping their Escorts running. While the Escort really rode well, mine needed more upkeep than the Japanese cars. It even broke down a few times before I drove 60,000 kilometers. Each visit to the garage would mean my whole month’s Israeli salary. Money being tight, Israelis considered buying a car more a financial investment and necessity, not a luxury. Israelis sought a car that could hold its value with time so that they can sell their cars at a good price and be able to buy a new one later on. While they owned their cars they would keep it in spiffy clean condition, always keeping a resale option open. In other words, they purchased their cars with its end selling price calculated in. With all I invested into it, I kept my Ford for 10 years. I had to. Yet, when I tried to sell the car, the resale price did not hold up nearly as well as the comparable Japanese cars. Therefore, I lost money here too. Ironically, there were some unexpected advantages even so; the Ford Escort was not a popular car to steal, and its insurance Don’t buy foreign cars - buy Japanese premiums thus were low compared to other cars. Luckily, a police officer eventually bought my car. He was used to driving Escorts at work and liked that car. He also got a well maintained used car on the cheap. Later on, I would own a Mazda an Opal Astra (German) followed by a Nissan Versa. Each of these cars served me well. Ever since my bad experience with the Ford Escort, I am still surprised at routine services that I only needed an oil change. I just could still not believe that the Japanese cars really were almost maintenance free as advertised. Lesson learned. When in Rome do what the Romans do: buy Japanese. Falafel and shawarma versus hot dogs and hamburger It’s the things that are strikingly different that our brains are pro grammed to pay attention to. Amongst the first things a tourist to Israel notices are the rows of falafel and shawarma vendors lining streets that should have been named “Falafel Lane”, or “Shawar ma Avenue.” Their sweet aromas filled the air. Colorful salads are stacked high, and crowds of customers fill their pita pocket breads. I wondered why vendors in the USA do not add a vegetable falafel to the hot dogs and hamburgers they sell. Many of the stands come with names like “King of the Falafels,” or “The Best Shawarma in Town.” One restaurant ingeniously had an inverted set of yellow double m arches on its roof that you could see for miles, almost as if to say they were turning the idea of having a McDonald’s on its head. The inverted m would look like a W which was the Hebrew letter shin and the beginning of the owners name Shuli’s. This clever logo seemed to say, “get our shawarma…or if you want, make it a Big Mac kebab.” Falafel, although delicious and vegetarian, is a fried snack served with oily “chips,” which is the Israeli term for the “French fries” that Americans may know and love. Many think falafel (also spelled felafel) is Israel’s national food because of all the falafel places. Not so! Hummus is Israel’s national plate. Hummus is considered healthier than falafel because it is not fried. Falafel, in contrast, you can Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home eat while walking on the street, even though it drips sesame seed (tahini) sauce right through the pita like a soggy napkin…that is, until someone with Yankee or Israeli ingenuity came up with a half moon shaped plastic sandwich bag you put your pita into. It’s such a great idea; someone should make a cylinder-shaped plastic sandwich bag for leaking wraps and burritos and then pay me royalties for the idea. A restaurant specializing in hummus is called a hummusia: part working-man’s joint, part spiritual experience, and part cowboy hangout. An Israeli friend I had named Ben had a hummusia that looked like a western movie chow wagon, complete with a kettle with black coffee on an open flame, the horse attached to the wagons, and someone playing his banjo. Only here, however, the modern day cowboys come with their motorcycles and helmets and eat on the picnic tables next to the construction workers whose giant bulldozers are parked out back. Meanwhile, the chef ’s dog makes the rounds licking the fingers of the patrons sitting under the shady tall trees. Hummus, like falafel, is made from chickpeas. If you have never tasted falafel, stick with the strictly chickpea version rather than any beans and chickpea mixture substitute. There are different hummus types, and hummus may be served smooth or with chunks of chickpeas and pine nuts. Think of it as choosing between smooth peanut butter versus chunky peanut butter. I learned from Ben that good hummus is served warm and the type of olive oil you use makes a big difference. Just like people who bring their own wine to special meals, hummus connoisseurs bring their own olive oil to the table with the wine. An amazing thing I learned from Yossi, the owner of another hummusia, is that hummus is a very filling and inexpensive meal. Hummus, when homemade and cooked early morning fresh, is a wholesome, healthy, and well-rounded sit-down meal perfect for the working man. That is why people working on construction away from restaurants will have hummus in the morning and it will keep them full for the whole day. Hummus is full of healthy calories, but Falafel and shawarma versus hot dogs and hamburger if it is the only meal until supper then there are no worries! When an Israeli wants to go on a diet, the first thing they might say is that they are going to cut back on eating Humus. A proper hummus plate is served with a hard-boiled egg, onion, tomato, olives, minced parsley, and sweet, strong Turkish coffee. Chopped garlic, paprika, or hot green peppers can also be added on top as well as warm fava beans. A nice side to the hummus is pita bread split in half, open faced and toasted with a sprinkle of olive oil, cumin, and sweet red paprika. Just delicious and appetizing! Another way to eat hummus is the Druze way. The Druze, an Arab sect that are citizens of Israel, usually line national parks on weekends selling pita Druzie as a family business. Their pita is like a wrap or burrito they bake over an open inverted metal drum with a portable gas flame underneath. The women of the house make the pita Druzie over the oven while the men fill the wraps, collect the money, and pour the Turkish coffee. They serve the soft wrap warm with hummus filling, goat’s sour cream (lebané) and olives on the side. You can tell them if you want it “hot” and they will add crushed peppers spread to it. Usually, chairs are available right under a pine or olive tree. Arab Israelis say their hummus is the best in the Middle East, and from the acquired taste of it, I do not doubt it. One famous Israeli-Arab hummusia near Tel-Aviv claimed they had a better hummus than in all of Amman, Jordan. Ben told me that he had a secret hummus recipe. He took pride in that hummus connoisseurs would come from all over Israel to try his version. He never confided in me his secret, but I do know he long cooked his hummus with onions in their shells and that gave his hummus a sweet taste. He seemed to indicate that it had something to do with the length of time he presoaked the chick peas and then cooked them. Maybe he said that to put me off the tract? Just think about it – Jewish Israelis improving on a delicious Arab meal! That’s Okay, because the best Greek salad I had was in Israel too. It’s all in the ingredients. The hummusia was Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home like United Nations neutral territory, where both Arabs and Jews, secular and Orthodox, would sit together enjoying their vegetarian hummus meal. Since there is no meat in the hummus, there was no issue of kosher rules or other dietary restrictions, so people from both of these cultures could equally enjoy the all-natural vegetarian meal together. If there should ever be a peace agreement between Don’t touch the shawarma, no Palestinians and Israelis, hummus should be served at the party. matter how delicious After five years of working at the Technion Institute of Technology, I wanted to further a career in research by earning a Master of Science degree at the Technion, and I opted for a career change. Just as I was completing the master’s program, I received a position as a biofeedback practitioner at Ramat Chen Mental Health Day Clinic in Tel-Aviv. While still living in Haifa, and on the farther side from Tel-Aviv, I had to travel two-hours each day for a trip that combined a twenty minute car ride to the Haifa central bus station, the Tachanat Mercazi of Haifa, an hour bus ride, and another twenty minutes walk to work. Nowadays, as a sign of Israeli progress, the Haifa/Tel-Aviv connection is much improved; the trip to Ramat-Chen now takes about ninety minutes using the train. On the way back home, the bus came to a stop at the Tachanat Mercazi of Haifa. Israeli bus stations are notorious for their fast food especially because young soldiers and tourists in a rush stop there. Numerous stalls of falafel and shawarma stands line the walkways of any station. An assortment of cut vegetables are kept in glass bowls filled with water to keep them fresh. Plenty of seasoned and spicy salads are piled high in a mound shape, making an inviting feast for the eyes. An upside-down bowl would be placed within a bottom bowl and the salads are piled on top of that, producing an appetizing bottomless effect. The sweet and spicy smells of cumin, 94 95 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home curry, onions, cilantro, parsley, garlic, fried eggplants, hummus, tahini sesame drip, sumac, Turkish- coffee, and pickles all intermingle and permeate the air. Believe me, it is hard to pass by and not have a sandwich and call it dinner. Part of the fun is to watch the knife acrobatics a good shawarma carver puts on. Slabs of turkey or beef are piled up on an upstanding rotating spit, broiled on the sides by long electric heating coils. If he is good, he manages to slice just the right amount needed in one shot! He cuts a half-moon into the pita bread with a Japanese blade and presses the edges so the pita pocket opens, ready for a sandwich. Unfortunately, after just one year of commuting, I started to gain weight. How can this be, I wondered? I did plenty of exercise by walking to work every day, and the turkey shawarma was my only supper during the week. With all those vegetables, I thought that the shawarma had to be a healthy complete meal. Then, one fateful day, I reached the bus station extra early and was just in time to catch the cooks setting up the shawarma skewer. They must have put about 20 layers of turkey meat one over the other, but I noticed that they were adding something else too – slabs of something white between the layers of turkey. Exposed, it was revealed that slices of lamb fat, one between each layer of turkey, was making up the white I noticed between the layers in addition to a few more slabs I already knew were crowning the top slab. This would allow the juices to drip down over the meat for additional flavor. When the shawarma was set up and sliced down the side, this lamb fat layer only looked like small white specs camouflaged between the red and brown slices of turkey. I never imagined the specs were pure unadulterated fat! When a slice along the side is made, the shawarma takes on a marbled stone appearance, thereby hiding the fat cooked into the turkey meat, unless you dig deep and take pieces of shawarma out of the pita and examine them closely. Needless to say, I thought I was buying a 100% meat sandwich for bargain prices, but as I found out that shawarma is the fast food Don’t touch the shawarma, no matter how delicious of the Middle East, I was really getting a 50% pure fat sandwich instead. The notion that you get what you pay for worked well here too. So from then on, I had to just wait and eat dinner at home, staving off temptation as I strolled past each shawarma stand offering to serve me a fix. All in all, the moral of this story is that if you ever change where you live, you and your stomach are bound to be caught unawares. Our parents and teachers educate us about local foods so that we can learn about how to make healthy choices, but that doesn’t necessarily cover us if we re-locate. Correspondingly, if you chance a new type of ethnic restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask what the ingredients are before you eat. Israeli’s are natural locavores and specialize in culinary tourism While on the topic of local foods, here’s a story about a trip to a Druze town called Dalyat Ha-Carmel, located on the towering Car mel Mountain range fifteen minutes southeast of Haifa. It was quite common for Israelis to combine shopping at Dalyat Ha-Carmel in their souk (Arab outdoor market) and then eat an authentic local oriental meal. Entering a restaurant with my mother on one of her many trips to Israel, I asked the owner who was waiting on us if he had the fresh fish on the menu. This was usually either the common lake tilapia (St. Peter’s fish) or the brook trout from the Dan River. He said of course he has fresh fish served every day, so we ordered the trout. He served us olives, pickles, pickled tomatoes, some eggplant salad, and pita while we were waiting. That’s what I liked about a Middle Eastern restaurant, the assorted appetizers before the meal. Taken aback, the owner exited the restaurant and disappeared. It was then that we suddenly noticed we were the only ones there, which is usually not a good sign for a restaurant. I got up, looked outside, and was bewildered to see that the owner had walked a few blocks away - to the fish market. Talk about a delicious fresh trout dinner! After the meal, we were served baklava and fresh peppermint tea sweetened with local honey. I learned how to cook fish that I liked to eat from the Israeli Arabs. They prepared fish differently than the battered and fried Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home New England favorite of fish and chips or the mushy fillet of sole fish my mom baked in butter. They would broil the fish whole in its own skin smeared with olive oil and spices like rosemary, thyme, and lemon inside the slits and sprinkled with sea salt. The skin becomes crisp while the inside is soft, juicy and tender protected in its own natural case. Arab cooking was what I would call a good example of locavorism – that is, eating foods that are locally grown. The ingredients used in these recipes came from the fields surrounding the town and were handpicked. It was common to find people in the fields looking for spices and herbs to later serve in meals. For comparison, a dish like New England fish and chips soaked in oily batter is served with high cholesterol mayonnaise-based tartar sauce, oily French fries, and often the traditional coleslaw, which too is usually drenched in more mayonnaise. If that wasn’t enough, sugar-saturated ketchup is poured over everything. People nowadays think that eating local foods has many advantages and health benefits. Locally grown produce is fresher, boosting taste and nutritional value. Seasonal foods are also cheaper than those imported. Many Israelis have gardens and grow their own fruits and vegetables. Once you plant a tree, you pick the fruit yourself during their different seasons. In my own backyard garden, I planted different fruit trees and spice plants. I had lemon, banana, mango, mandarin, orange, pomella, grapefruit, papaya, apricot, and plum trees. I also had mint leaves, rosemary, lavender, lemon grass, verbena, sage and persimmon. All together, I had 15 different fruit trees in my yard. Becoming a locavore also forges a connection between you and your community. It was common to exchange garden foods with the neighbors, as there was more than what one can eat on each tree. The yards had such aromas; you could pick out the scents of the different trees just walking up the block depending on the direction of the wind. We would also exchange clippings of different plants to grow ourselves. Voila – the barter system in action! You have a mint bush, I have a lemon grass plant; you have a red flower, I have the seeds for a yellow plant. Here, it was Israeli’s are natural locavores and specialize in culinary tourism possible to trade each other’s resources and make each other’s lives easier – yet this practice went beyond neighbors helping neighbors. Once, when I needed fertilizer for the new grass I just had put in my yard, I went to a local winery. There were peels of the grapes in a big pile and ready to be thrown out, and I remembered that a tour guide of the winery said the locals used the grape peals for fertilizer. So I took a plastic bag I had in my car trunk and filled up with fertilizer (tossed grape peals). When I came home, I just threw it on the grass. Within six weeks, I was beside myself to see the surprising results: grape seeds were in the piles of peels and these unexpectedly grew into vines! I could have had a vineyard if I wanted, but didn’t. Locovarism in action meant everyone shared openly with each other, which was beautiful to behold and be a part of, yet locavorism had its limits since it was bread from austerity. When I first arrived, I noticed that no matter where you worked, you were offered just the same three choices of coffees and only one type of tea: Elite instant coffee or decaffeinated, Turkish coffee, or what soon became my favorite, Wissotzky tea (particularly the fruits galore blend). Fortunately, as time passed by, there would be almost as many choices in Israel as there were in any American grocery store. Main Street Israel I had a conversation with an 80-year-old stroke patient in the hospital I presently am working at. She was receiving an electroencephalogram exam, known as EEG for short. Like an EKG of the brain I call it. When I returned to the USA (after living in Israel for 20+ years), I took a position as an EEG technologist, a job that I had years of experience in. I try to talk to my patients and help them relax, which not only makes life easier for them, but easy for me too since the results of the exam will turn out better if the patient is at ease. After some how you do’s, she said she was originally from Naples, Italy. I told her I visited Milan, Genoa, and Lake Como, and she says to me, “You know, you look Italian.” This is not the first time I have been told that. My mom grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut on Front Street, named so because it was on the waterfront of the Connecticut River. In Hartford’s since- forgotten version of Little Italy, my mother learned how to cook Italian dishes with hot spices, and she even learned to speak some Italian before she went to school and spoke English. Her parents, being immigrants from Russia, spoke Yiddish at home. My mom said her Italian neighbors would tell her not to be ashamed of being Italian. She, of course, was proud to say in return that she was Jewish. Considering that the roots of the Jewish people are from Israel and that Italy is one of her Mediterranean cousins, it’s not far-fetched to think that Jews and Italians have much in common. Some claim that since the Romans captured many Jewish slaves during the Roman Judean wars, Italians have Jewish genes in them. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Just as my mom would tell her neighbors all those years ago, I tell my patient that I’m sorry, but I’m not Italian. We talked a bit about my trip to Italy, and she said, “I miss Italy. The food was natural and fresh – not like here (in the USA). There, you go and kill the chickens fresh. You have fresh olive oil. The cheese is fresh. You walk along the road, enter a field, and you have a ripe tomato. You make your own sausages.You cook your food fresh each day.You pick your own herbs. The people were never sick.” I knew exactly what she was talking about firsthand. My wife used to take me to the shochet (the kosher butcher) on Fridays to slaughter a chicken fresh for the Sabbath. The place was across the street from the soccer field in Kiryat Atta a suburb of Haifa. She claimed chicken tasted better fresh than frozen. Personally, I could not tell the difference because I did not know whether my mom cooked a frozen or a fresh chicken. My wife also bought her fruits and vegetables fresh almost every day as if there was no fridge in the house, whereas my parents only did their shopping once every few weeks putting everything in two fridges. This meant a ton of trips to the grocery for me, but for her, it meant better eating. Since I was the one driving, I would wonder what she did before we were married. I later discovered that Israeli women were used to walking to the grocer from home. No wonder why Haifa was populated with so many beautiful women – the hills amidst Carmel Mountain kept them in shape. Why waste money on a fitness center? I liked to walk the streets in the old towns in Israel and I nicknamed these towns affectionately as “Small town USA.” These towns had one main street and the bigger the town, the longer the main streets. Every town was a feast for the senses. These main streets were often lined with stores with wide open doors, and storeowners would stand in the entrance and greet the people passing by amidst loud, but inviting music. Each storeowner probably knew most of his or her customers by name, as the towns were not that large. Unlike any other main street you may have visited before, this music could actually tell you a lot about the storeowner. A store teeming with Main Street Israel music with Arabic melodies sung in Hebrew by a popular Israeli artist let you know that the storeowner was not an Ashkenazi Jew from the East, but a Sephardic Jew from the Orient, or perhaps an Israeli Arab. If the storeowner was Ashkenazi, or an eastern European Jew, you’d probably hear rock music or news broadcasting all around you. As the years progressed, some storeowners replaced their beloved radios with wall-mounted digital televisions, yet you could still learn a lot about who ran the store from what was on the tube. There were the sweet smells of falafel balls cooking in oil, broiled fatty turkey shawarma roasting on rotisseries, pungent Turkish coffee dashed with cardamom and mint tea with honey brewing in pots. Sesame seeded bagels and warm pita bread baked fresh daily filled the air with an aroma one will only find in a little Middle Eastern neighborhood. Newspaper kiosks, a fixture in Israeli towns, sold assorted nuts, peanuts, and almonds, all amongst the best I’ve ever tasted. It is said that when the former peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, visited Israel he too remarked that Israeli peanuts were of top quality. Almonds have a special place on the Israeli landscape. There probably is not a more beautiful tree than the almond tree. She blossoms a short period each year, and this happy occasion is even marked by a locally known kindergarten song, Ha-skediya Poracaht (“the almond tree is blooming”). This song commemorates Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish mini holiday of planting trees that happens around February, when spring is about to begin in Israel. Biblical Holidays and their seasons, when living in Israel, now made sense. February is not a time to plant trees in New England. Children go out to the national forests and plant trees that they can visit when they are grown. Keeping that tradition, I had my mom plant a Clementine tree in my yard. Each year she visited, she noted the tree had increased in size and fruit. When Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa visited The Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa in the 1920’s they planted two palm trees, now still there and towering and at the entrance. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Popular stores on Main Street Israel that always attracted people are the Lotto and Toto stands. People could buy a lottery ticket and bet on which soccer team would win each week and by what score differentials. These stands were many, blasting reruns of soccer matches on the mounted televisions as if the roar of the live crowd at the game in the background was an advertisement. I was not a sports fan and usually did not frequent the Lotto kiosks, but a quick peek inside revealed old men with unshaven beards playing Shesh Besh (backgammon) on small round tables drinking Turkish coffee and eating their cheese and potato bourekas. Bourekas is baked flaky phyllo dough pastry filled with spinach, cheese, potato, or mushrooms – not to be confused with a European potato knish, which has a much heavier crust. On the coffee tables are Lotto and Toto slips on orange paper cards with tiny squares and short yellow pencils to fill in the blanks with which one would guess which teams will win and what the final scores of the games would be. Whenever a goal is made in a live game, brace yourself as the whole Lotto and Toto stand explodes with the announcer screaming at the top of his lungs: “GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL LLLLLLLLLLl!” It must be noted that this street life I witnessed firsthand compared to the street life depicted in news reports I watched before moving to Israel were practically like night and day. You were led to expect a terrorist attack at any moment, but in 1984, tensions were mostly at the border with Lebanon, and there was a three-mile wide buffer there. You did not really feel threatened on Israeli streets; soldiers and police are everywhere working tirelessly to keep the neighborhood safe. You could walk around even at night without any worries at all. This sense of security was, and still is, the real target of terrorists you hear about too often in the news. Their goal is to disturb this otherwise natural small town rhythm by sending out suicide bombers into café.s and discos instead of attacking military bases. Biofeedback: Feeling GoodAbout Yourself In 1990, I took a class in medical hypnosis at the Technion Institute Medical School next to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. From what I understood, there is hypnotic induction enacted by a therapist and there is self-hypnosis that anyone may learn. One day, my class was screened a movie we were shown of a lady having a Cesarean section during childbirth; hypnosis was used to reduce bleeding. Here, psychologists were using hypnotic induction to assist a patient that had to undergo surgery without anesthesia to reach a calm yet focused state of mind. Following this stunning display, the teacher taught us an arm levitation exercise. “Close your eyes,” he said, “and imagine that you tie a yellow or green balloon to one hand. Let that balloon rise and take your hand up with it. Watch your hand as it follows, and then your body lifts up.” I started to imagine that there was a yellow balloon tied to my hand and I was letting my hand lead me forward and above. I was flying like a magic carpet over an imaginary town and had a bird’s eye view, floating above the red roofs on the clouds and looking down to the street. During self hypnosis I had a feeling of dissociation from my body, a shift in attention. I could see the red rooftops common to that part of the world, the people, and the cars. I was flying high, virtually, or on a cloud, and having a good time. It was a classic relaxation response experience; my mind floated away into an altered state of consciousness, moving from a Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home state of physiological arousal to a state of lower arousal. After about ten minutes, the instructor told us to count back by ten, open our eyes on one with a smile on our faces, and feel relaxed and happy. I did, and found myself happy and smiling. Remarkably, that feeling of relaxation lasted the whole day and into the next. It was the most relaxed feeling I remembered ever having in my life up to that point. It felt better than the feeling before falling asleep, better than the day I had an adventurous trip with my best friends to the creek, better than a day at the beach, better than when I scored an A on an exam. That experience with the relaxation response exercise left me with burning questions I set out to research for several years soon after. What happened exactly during that exercise? When does one feel the most relaxed? For that matter, is relaxation a natural behavior, or is it learned? How long does a relaxation response last? I can remember times when I was a kid that I would occasionally complain that I felt I had a motor propeller churning in my stomach. This feeling further manifested itself when I was administered an overdose of asthma medications. I know today it is called hyper arousal, a feeling similar to drinking a lot of strong coffee and feeling jittery from caffeine stimulation. When I participated in the self-hypnosis demonstration, that stomach churning feeling subsided for a full day or two. I felt great and I was hooked. I needed another fix, but where and how would I get it? While working in the field of sleep/wake disorders, I had read about a new technique called “biofeedback” that was being used to help insomnia, which in the article was considered a disorder of hyper arousal rather than a sleep disorder per se. When I completed my master degree in neuro-physiology, I found a position posted for a “research physiologist” in the wanted section of the English newspaper, The Jerusalem Post. I had no idea what the position was about, but I applied anyway. As it turned out, Ramat-Chen Mental Health Day Care Center was looking for a biofeedback therapist for their new unit. My luck could not have been better at that moment. The Biofeedback: Feeling Good About Yourself center offered to train me in this new discipline, and the director of the biofeedback unit also researched sleep and coma – the subject of my master thesis! When I called about the position I said, “Are you Dr. so and so who wrote the article on sleep and coma?” He was elated when he found someone actually read his work, especially if that someone was applying for his job opening. With my background in sleep research and knowledge of medical hypnosis, and with the coincidence that the director also had plans of eventually opening a Sleep Lab, I was told right in the interview that the job was mine. Needless to say, I accepted right away; I couldn’t ask for more. I found a job that I was passionate about, and little did they know I would also get my fix. Working with biofeedback fit me perfectly like a glove fits a hand. Biofeedback is a type of mind-body conditioning mainly used to reduce stress and increase relaxed concentration. This practice involves using real time electronic instrumentation and animated graphics to monitor physiological activities of your body and then relaying this information “feedback” to you. Essentially, biofeedback is a means for a person who struggles with keeping calm and focused to become active in influencing his or her body’s voluntary and involuntary processes. Once you are aware of what your body is doing on a conscious and subconscious level, you can find a way to change certain patterns of behavior to reduce stressful symptoms. This may include influencing one’s breathing pattern, muscle potentials, sweat flow, body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, and immune system. In the clients that I gained over the following years in Israel, I found that people seem to be born with an ability to invoke a relaxation response when needed; hence, relaxing must be a natural skill. However, many people that I have worked with will claim that they have never experienced this feeling of relaxation or that it was somehow lost after a chronic illness. In other words, they lost their relaxation response and ability to combat stress, rendering their Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home body out of balance. After much work, I found that rather than being lost, that feeling of relaxation that seemed like a faraway dream for these people was suppressed or forgotten. There was more to the picture than just being “stressed out.” My studies revealed that over time, people have in fact become more sensitive to common stressors consciously or subconsciously and lacked the knowledge or aware ness of know how to initiate a relaxation response sufficient enough to combat this heightened sensitivity to stress. Fortunately, the ability to boost one’s ability to utilize a relaxation response could be re-learned, and biofeedback is one of the ways to help. In biofeedback analysis, stress and relaxation are measured by psycho-physiological parameters, and the physiological signal is relayed back to the individual with visual and or auditory feedback. Biofeedback, the rabbi, and the witch doctor Initially working in the biofeedback clinic in Tel-Aviv, we had an interesting time trying to convince patients to try this new technique. Patients agreed to come because I worked with a very persuasive staff. One of our early patients who suffered from anxiety and phobias finally agreed to try an eight-session course of biofeedback. The medication she was taking for her problem was not enough. She told us that she first went and consulted with her rabbi. He blew the ceremonial ram’s horn for her, the shofar. It did not help. She then tried a witch doctor and the incantations did not solve the problem either. So she thought, why not try biofeedback, she already tried everything else. I felt like we were being seen as the bottom of the totem pole. I approached the manager of a large factory near Hadera, Israel and made my pitch forthright. If you promote stress reduction techniques to your workers, I pledged, they will be happier and thus more productive. Then I asked the manager if he would like a biofeedback demonstration. With a smirk, he shot back, “thanks anyways, but I can always get them call girls. Then they will be even happier.” “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War The Jews have an expression that we repeat every year while reading the Passover Haggadah, or the story of the exodus from Egypt: “In every generation someone arises to smite us, and we nonetheless prevail.” During the Gulf War of 1990-1991, we heard another expression from Nachman Shay, a radio announcer entrusted with keeping the Israeli home front population informed about Scud missile attacks in a relaxed and cool manner: “Na-avor gam et zeh,” which translated means “we will get over this too.”This became a huge catchphrase of the first Gulf War and it was repeated during many Israeli television shows of the time. It was Saddam Hussein’s threat that he was going to “burn half of Israel” that scared me the most. I think many Israelis who had become accustomed to hearing these threats from Arab nations took this one in stride or did not even pay attention at first. Yet early on, I felt that this threat was different and ominous. I felt that this threat was not like any other threat, for it was made by an Arab leader that had already used chemical weapons on his people. Saddam Hussein surely wanted vengeance for the Israeli Air Force attack on the Iraqi nuclear plant in Baghdad in 1981. Up until this point, living in Israel proper was relatively peaceful. We had a resolute Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, who would protect us. In spite of this, Israel still had to be concerned with the buffered and fenced border of Lebanon to the north, the Palestinians in the volatile West Bank and Gaza, and the PLO exiled to Tunisia. Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, meanwhile, fortunately kept relatively Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home quiet thanks to various UN negotiations, peace treaties, agreements made behind closed doors, and an electric fence. We felt secure inside Israel proper except for the occasional terrorist attack. These, when foiled, gave Tza’hal (the Israeli Army) a good name, granting Israel confidence in that she would be able to dictate the terms of a lasting peace. With terrorist attacks down to an all-time low at the time after the first Lebanon War and before the first Intifada, Israel felt it had deterred Arab attacks on the whole. During this time period, there were fewer than two dozen casualties versus hundreds killed in an Arab war. For comparison, in 1948, a full one percent of the population was a casualty. When Saddam Hussein rose to power, though, he became the fly in the ointment. He called for Tel-Aviv to “burn,” not unlike the big mouth from Iran today. Note that Hussein used the word “burn.” In this context, “burn” is a code name for a chemical attack; chemicals burn the flesh down to the bone. We knew that he had chemical weapons and missiles; he used them in his ten-year war with Iran. Iraq also had battle experience. Israel asserted that she could beat Egypt, Syria, and Jordan independently or collectively in a war because Israel has “more real time battle experience” fighting terrorism. Here, however, was a vindictive Iraq with a motive, with battle experience, and with dangerous unconventional weapons, vying for leadership in the Arab world. Soon, a real fear grew in Israel – a fear that a reckless Iraq would join forces with Syria or Jordan to form a coalition of Arab armies poised to decimate Israel’s largest and quietest border to the east. By December 1990, six months passed since Iraq invaded Kuwait. Operation Desert Shield by the UN coalition had not begun as of yet. At this time, I had just begun working as a biofeedback practitioner for about two months in the Tel-Aviv Mental Day Care Clinic at Ramat Chen, a suburb outside Tel- Aviv. Living in Haifa in an apartment I purchased overlooking the coast, I traveled two hours every day to work in Ramat-Chen by public transportation. “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War I had just finished my master degree in medical sciences and neurophysiology at the Haifa Technion Technical Institute’s medical school. I took the job position at Ramat-Chen as an opportunity to move from medical diagnostics (sleep wake disorders and EEG) to something more behavioral and people oriented (biofeedback). I was drawn to biofeedback as a profession ever since I took a course in medical hypnosis. I always loved the study of psychology and started out in college majoring in psychology. However, my grades on exams did not reflect the effort I put in as well as I had hoped. In my opinion, the questions were too theoretical in nature; I needed more substance, so I switched my major to combined physiological psychology. In this more concrete and practical branch of psychology, the exam questions were more clear-cut and scientific rather than being open to interpretation. In retrospect, if I had known what I wanted out of life at the time that I was in college, I should have majored in clinical or research psychology. Instead, the change I made then ended up leading me astray, deeper into the medical diagnostics field instead of the behavioral field. Biofeedback would later lend me a chance to come full circle and work in what I initially wanted. Coming February 1991, all that stood between me and the completion of a thesis was the oral exam. Of course, living in Israel meant that you knew a war with an Arab state could happen at any time, without warning. Even as far back as my very first weeks of working at the Technion in December 1984, I overheard a staff secretary talking about the 1982 Lebanon War. Still fresh in her mind, she lamented aloud: “all the Technion students that had died…so many students.” Now that I was a student in Israel too and at the Technion, any new war that might arise would naturally be the last thing I could possibly want for obvious reasons, yet I could not hope to control the events to be. Iraq started a war and she invaded… Kuwait, at first. Six months later, Israel was next in Iraq’s sights. The Gulf War was on, and Iraq threatened to use Israel as a hostage. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home If anyone attacked Iraq, she would burn Tel Aviv or Saudi Arabia– again, not bomb, but “burn.” Everyone, especially those in the pan-Arab society wondered why Iraq invaded Kuwait instead of attacking Israel. “Oh Saddam”, they wailed amongst themselves – “was it for power? Was it for money? Was it for leadership of the Arab world?” The attack on Kuwait was the Joker in the deck of cards for the design of pan Arabism. In the midst of all of this, Israel was merely a decoy. Whether she was a decoy or target made little difference, though – she was still between a rock and a hard place. Constant wonder and fear raced through everyone’s minds. Will Saddam deliver the chemicals by plane or by Scud missile? Are the Scuds accurate weapons? Do the Scuds have a long enough range to reach Israel without falling on Jordan first? How will the jets attack us? Would the Scud war heads be of chemical mustard gas, nerve agents, biological poisons or anthrax? The answers the public received were not entirely comforting, yet they offered some solace since they helped us understand the threat as best we could. We soon learned that the Scuds can hit large cities, but they are not accurate enough to hit smaller army targets. This meant that they also can’t hit you if they are aiming right at you, but if the Scuds are aiming away from you, there would still be a higher chance that they could end up swerving in your direction. OnTV and in the newspapers, we are shown photos of Israel moving anti-aircraft missiles out in the open to the eastern border, through a mountain rift in the desert between Jordan and Syria, of course. You would think we would feel secure from this display, but these are the same missiles used in theVietnamWar. These anti-aircraft missiles may be effective against fighter planes, but not for ballistic missiles and Scuds. The pessimists droned on about another holocaust or just left the country, yet everyone else worked remarkably hard together to “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War keep Israel’s spirit and conviction strong. Engineers became instant media experts talking about the latest in weapons technology to the point where you could have completed engineering school if you paid close enough attention. Psychologists discussed mental, emotional, and spiritual casualties of war in the average person’s mind and the need to “talk it out” to survive it all. Medical professionals panned over what chemical and biological weapons can do to the body, and politicians stressed being strong in the face of adversity. Rabbis recalled miracles of the past, happening again but Nachman Shay talked to us, the ordinary citizens, through our radios about getting over this bridge on stormy waters. Army officials, meanwhile, took every chance to reassure us about modern warfare by talking to every newspaper, news radio, and news TV station in Israel. The Israeli Army and the Civilian Guard worked hard to give the survivors of the Holocaust generation a sense of security and a sense that Israel can defend herself even against unconventional weapons. While all you could hear about was the war and its mass destruction, the Israeli Army and the Civilian Guard stressed that the only real defense we have if we are attacked is retaliation. The more of the population wiped out in a first strike, the stronger the retaliation. Israelis in the know understood this as code for “if the Scuds are conventional, Israel will destroy the Iraqi infrastructure”…but if the Scuds kill too many people, Israel will attack the higher echelon and even tell us which neighborhoods they live in so the other side understands Israel is serious. If the Scuds are unconventional, Israel will fight fire with fire, hinting it will go nuclear if pushed to the brink. The code word for that was “The lesson will be very, very painful and unexpected in its intensity.” Fortunately, Saddam waited. He flinched. Maybe Israel was just a diversion away from his invasion of oil-rich Kuwait. Maybe Israel did not have enough oil to bother with. Maybe he expected a weak world response and an American weakness indicative of a Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home post-Vietnam mentality. It could be that he never really cared about the Palestinians and their cause, just supplied lip service. In the end, Saddam did not foresee the coalition of forces that joined against him. The war was over before it started. Israel cleverly took the unexpected defensive, with the notion this time that a good defense makes for a good offense. Saddam failed to anticipate this strategy as well, and it actually foiled his plans to get other Arabs on his side to start another Arab-Israeli war with the focus away from his invasion of Kuwait. As part of their defensive strategy, Israel decided to supply the whole population with gas masks – Jews, Christians, Arabs, and even pro Hussein Intifada-prone Palestinians. This is a little known fact, that Israel supplied her then-enemy the Palestinians, with gas masks. Even though Yassir Arafat supported and visited with Saddam Hussein publically, the Palestinian people were just as scared as the rest of us. They knew that the wind could blow from Tel-Aviv to their cities only a few miles away. What if a chemi cal missile from Iraq missed and landed in the Palestinian territories, only a few minutes away by car from the Israeli green line? Layer’s of protection was the key to Israel’s defensive strategy. In addition to the gas masks, everyone was instructed to have a sealed room in the house. Plastic sheets were used to cover all the windows and openings and these were taped down. Everyone did it. It was a hardware store field day. Can you imagine the hottest item for sale in Israel was duct tape? We waited in lines to get gas masks fitted for the whole family, children included. It was the modern day family affair, like going to a science fair. My daughter Limor was only 3 months old at the time. Since she was just a baby and could not put on a gas mask, so she would have to be placed in a plastic chamber that looked like the incubators used in the neonatal ICU. The chamber was complete with holes for hands to enter without letting in contaminated air and had a battery operated fan ventilation system through charcoal filters. We then had to practice drills with air raid sirens that would go off “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War and give us about 10 minutes to enter our sealed rooms. During the last couple of years people of Sderot, Israel, given their proximity to missile launches from Gaza, found themselves in an even more dif ficult situation with half that time to seek protection. The air raid sirens were perched atop schools, and one was across the street from us. United States Navy missile cruisers began to enter Haifa port on their way to the gulf. As a volunteer for the American in Israel version of the USO Navy Home Hospitality Program, I was invited with a group of other members to board a missile boat and visit. The captain of the ship gave a speech on how the USA was going to the gulf to protect world peace and stand by Israel…and that’s exactly what they did. Here I was, an American in Israel, on an American missile ship in an Israeli port, sending her off to war. I could never have imagined that! I understood then what it meant for America to have Israel as an ally, a friendly port halfway around the world from American shores. When the war began, the allies started their bombing raids on Iraq. I was happy that Saddam was going to get his. It was night in Israel and we all went to sleep in the designated plastic-covered window security room, not knowing what tomorrow would bring. I kept the radio on and it was now announced that a code word on the radio in addition to the outdoor sirens was Nahash Tzeffa (Viper snake). Lo and behold, at about 2 AM – not even the light of next day yet – we heard multiple alarms. Oh my G-d. It’s real! As Nena’s song “99 Red Balloons” says, “this is it boys, this is war!” Hurry! Get up! Put the cloth across the doorway airspace. Shut the shutters. Turn on the lights. Get out the boxes with the gas masks. Have them ready. Wait for the radio announcement to open the seals over the boxes with the gas masks. Call down to the neighbors and make sure they got out of bed. Ten minutes passed by, and I heard Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home two soft and distant thuds. It did not sound like anything I have ever heard before. Where did the thuds happen? I could not look out the shuttered window. The radio crackled: NahashTzeffa, NahashTzeffa, this is not a drill, open up your mask kits and put them on. Seven scuds just landed all over Israel including Haifa. Special armored vehicles just donated from Germany are checking the damage sites to determine if the missiles have chemical warheads. I open the seal on the mask kits and made sure my family did the same. My neighbor below was a little slow in closing the blinds. Since we lived on the Carmel Mountain above the Haifa Bay, we had a panoramic view all the way to the Lebanon border. He witnessed Scuds landing on a large shopping mall on the coast that was only just built and another two Scuds landed in the sea. He called us by phone from his downstairs apartment to notify us it’s for real. He didn’t dare leave his plastic security room either so we communicated by phone. The mall, Lev Hamifratz, Heart of the Haifa Bay, was later nicknamed “Scud Mall” and became a tourist destination with before and after photographs proudly displayed on the walls. Talk about the Israeli way to turn a negative into a positive! Saddam was aiming for the large Haifa oil refinery next to the mall. He missed, but only by a half mile or so. Not bad for an inaccurate Scud missile coming all the way from Iraq. It’s unsettling to imagine what damage he could have done even if the missile did hit the refinery grounds. On the news, the adults were told to put the gas masks on even before the children so that we could help them. Limor was a baby that had a very loud colicky scream, but as our first miracle of the Gulf War, Limor became suddenly quiet in the Mamat (the neonatal gas protection chamber). She quit crying and acted as if she liked the closed space. I took off a sealer used to keep the charcoal in the filters fresh then I put on the mask myself. Outside and above in the sky, I heard what must have been dozens and dozens of jet fighters fly overhead towards Jordan on the way to Iraq for retaliation. “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War Suddenly, I was hit by a strong stench of something that smelled like ammonia. Was it coming from inside the mask, or was it coming from the room? I was trapped, for I could not take off the mask to hunt down the source of the stench. Was I breathing in gas? Since I did not shave my beard, did I have a poor gas mask seal? Does poison gas have an ammonia smell? How did the gas get into the sealed room so fast? If this is real gas, I would have little time to act. Wearing my gas mask, I checked the windows and found them unbroken. Adrenaline pumping, I cursed the whole idea of the sealed room. Saddam could shoot two missiles at once – one to break the windows, and one to launch the poison gas. What a waste of time! I glanced at Limor, safe and sound in the closed-off mamat, and asked my wife and daughter Shanee if they smelled ammonia. You could talk with the mask on. They did not smell anything. I was the only one! What was I going to do? The smell was real and I was breathing it, and I use to have asthma. I began to worry that this would trigger an asthma attack while I am wearing the mask. I was supposed to be the leader of the sealed room. What if it really was poison gas? What else could it be? I had to survive, didn’t I? There was a syringe in the gas mask kit with epinephrine used to accelerate the body’s immune system in case of poison. Unfortunately, there was no attachment for testing room air. I rifled through the kit and found instructions on how to inject yourself but the instructions were written in Hebrew only with a few visuals. I spoke Hebrew well, but these were not common day-to-day Hebrew words, so I had to improvise. I looked at the syringe and it had one color on top and another on the bottom, one side green, and the other red. When you press on one of the sides, the needle is suppose to eject out into your thick thigh muscle. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home It was a fifty-fifty shot, but I had to survive to help my family. I held the syringe up high, thumb on one end and brought it down briskly into my thigh. Fifty-fifty, green or red…and I got the wrong fifty. A sharp and serious needle shot right through my thumb, somehow missing the bone. Pain coursed through my hand as some of the epinephrine blasted through my thumb muscle, kicking my heartbeat into hyperactive mode for what would become a good few hours. I ripped off the mask and breathed the dreaded room air, it was better than choking to death. Israel was at war for less than 20 minutes, and I was already a casualty, a causality of self induced chemicals, and a statistic. The bright red blood dripping from my thumb was my red badge of courage. Unfortunately, there were about 20 deaths in the Gulf War, with only one as a result of a direct rocket hit. It was sadly from friendly fire from an exploding Patriot Missile that crashed into a house. The other casualties ended up being from stress and gas mask related injuries. People did not follow the instructions to take off the new mask sealer before wearing their masks and choked to death. Others died from the injections due to the shock to the body. I was lucky then that I muddled up the injection, sending a smaller dose into my body via my thumb instead of my thigh. Finally, years later, I would find out that the ammonia smell in the mask was a cleaning agent for sterilizing any masks that were used and not new. There was no warning about the smell. In my hose hold only my mask was previously used. The Israeli fighters were already over Jordan when they were called back to base. The Scuds then were fitted with conventional warheads. It turned out that Saddam did have chemical weapons with the ability to deliver them by Scuds, but he never did use them. He still kept us guessing the whole war, even up to the very last missile barrage. He saved that option in case he was going to be captured. The brave infamous Arab leader, found hiding in a rat hole after the second “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War Gulf War, never used his card to attack Israel, the so-called “Zionist Enemy”. In the end, we saw that Saddam was more interested in surviving than in “burning half of Israel”. Each Israeli family that strapped gas masks on that first night, was braver than he was. America eventually sent Patriot missiles to Israel so that Israel would feel secure and not retaliate, which would threaten the cohesion of the allied coalition. This maneuver would allow America to build a coalition against Iraq that included other Arab nations – even with Syria, which was technically at war with Israel. The Patriot missiles were set up on mountain tops and by the Tel-Aviv coast. One of these missile posts set up on the Carmel Mountain ridge outside Haifa University was a five minute ride from my home. Manned with joint American and Israeli crews, it was the first time Israel allowed foreign troops, American soldiers, in defense of Israel on her soil. I passed by a missile battery on my way to work in Tel-Aviv. By a twist of fate, my father worked for a company called Anderson Laboratories just outside Hartford, Connecticut that was involved in the manufacturing of the Patriot missile. My Dad told me by phone that the Patriot missile is a very good system that will lend us protection. That conversation gave me a sort of peace of mind and a false sense of security. The missiles were more effective against fighter jets than Scuds, but thankfully Saddam did not know that. I wondered how my father felt speaking to his son far off in a foreign land and at war, having a conversation like this. About 40 missiles in 19 different volleys fell only during the nights in a period of a month. That’s because the Iraqis were afraid the American air force would detect the missile launchers, so we were told. During the day, I traveled from Haifa to my workplace in Tel-Aviv. The war was still raging, and I had to take my master thesis oral. I completed a study comparing the sleep waves in the EEG of a comatose patient to normal sleep, which I entitled “Density Spectral Array, Evoked Potentials, and Temperature Rhythms in the Prognosis of The Comatose Patient.”The exam, by hospital neurosurgeons, Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home would be early in the morning at the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa. Driving from my house in Nesher, and out in the open, was a very uncomfortable feeling. I had my traveling gas mask kit with me, and wore a long sleeve shirt and jacket in case of a chemical attack. It was 6: AM and the morning news came on. It always started with the well-known Jewish prayer: Shema Yisrael, Hashem Eloheynu, Hashem Ehchad. “Hear Oh Israel the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one.” This prayer, brought down through the ages from the Bible, is said when awakening in the morning, before bed, and before death. I recited the Shema that morning driving to the medical center, praying that I would be able to complete my degree. When I arrived, I found it surreal that inside the labs, it was business as usual for the doctors. They did not even ask me how I was holding up; it was naturally expected that I would put on a face of doing just fine. In the midst of that bizarre calm, I passed the exam. The research I conducted on coma and sleep later won the International Carskadon Award for Excellence in Sleep Research by a technologist. I guess that good things do come out of hard places, if they only knew. At the biofeedback lab, we used relaxation techniques to help people suffering from anxiety to prepare to wear their masks when the alarms may sound. School-age children would bring in their parents to the clinic to have them instructed on how to put on the masks. One night, a Scud missile collided with Patriot right above Ramat-Chen, bringing about the friendly fire casualty mentioned earlier while damaging the biofeedback lab. A television news crew raced to the scene and also visited the biofeedback lab to report on the psychological terror and counter-psychology measures of the biofeedback lab! Sometimes, fate knocks when you least expect it. On site, the news crew filmed me using biofeedback relaxation machines for the Ramat-Chen anxiety patients. The news story came on late that same night. I was to be on Israeli television! Most people were now staying home nights and watching the high-quality programs Israeli TV was just now providing. The movie The Deep was to “I Am Not A Hero!” - The Gulf War follow the nightly news with the alluring, bikini-clad Jacqueline Bisset. Needless to say, a lot of people were looking forward to that night’s film. As fate would have it, my segment would end up having quite a large audience since it was the last news feature introduced just before the station screened The Deep. The Israeli anchorman boomed about a new psychological “secret weapon” being introduced to fight a psychological war: it was biofeedback. I was now using the “secret weapon” in a psychological war, teaching people to control their anxieties. The next day, every person I met, mentioned seeing my segment on the news. Once the war concluded, a documentary named Nahash Tzeffa (Viper Snake) was compiled of the news stories of the war, and my news segment made the final cut. Psychologists were considered the heroes of this psychological warfare, and I was the TV example used for a new secret weapon, biofeedback. Zichron Legal - Chapter one Building in Israel To be honest, Israel was the only place I wanted to own my first home. Expecting to move there, I had not bought expensive furniture or anything else I could not carry on my back. My motto for purchasing had been “if you can’t carry it with you!” I eventually want to be a “landed gentry,” but in Israel, and had a vision of planting citrus trees in my own yard. We did not have orange and lemon trees where I grew up in New England, but we could get imported Jaffa oranges at the local grocers. It made me feel as if something was missing living in a cold climate. In Hebrew school, we use to donate money to the Keren Kayemit LeYisrael (KKL) otherwise known as the Jewish National Fund (JNF) by dropping coins in their blue charity can. It was – and still is – a tradition in the Jewish community to give tzedakah (charity) through planting trees in Israel, and funds from these tzedakah projects went to plant forests, develop parks, build dams, and maintain water aqueducts. I received a certificate with my English and Hebrew names on it, stating that my money planted a tree at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Forest in Jerusalem. I hung that certificate proudly in my bedroom; it was a humble symbol of we also could play a small role in building Israel. After the Gulf War, I needed to move from my first home in Nesher, a town located on the far side of Haifa, to be closer to Tel-Aviv because I was now working in Tel-Aviv as a biofeedback Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home practitioner and had to commute almost two hours to work each day. I originally looked at homes to purchase in Binyamina, and the first place that seemed perfect was a brand new house a block away from the Binyamina train station. From there, I could walk to the station and take the scenic ride to Tel-Aviv, 50 minutes away, and my spouse would be only 30 minutes from downtown Haifa where she worked, so it was in an ideal spot somewhere in between. Moreover, the home was in the process of being built on a farm with tall pecan trees, and pecan pie was my mom’s favorite. She could make her own when she visited baking fresh pecan pie with pecans picked in our yard. I thought the pecan trees must be a good sign, so I came from Haifa to meet the builder at his home, in Binyamina, right across the street from the house he was selling. If the builder himself will be my neighbor, I reasoned, he would not dare build a bad house, right? I met him early the next morning since he had to travel to other building projects in the south of the country. We sat on his porch overlooking the property and talked price. Just then, a group of about forty people in the adjacent yard congregated outside the house, right under my soon-to-be kitchen window, chanted Christian prayers, and then dispersed to work in the fields. Apparently they were “Templers”, an uninformed nickname given by some locals for the commune of traditional Christians living in the Zichron Yacov, Binyamina area. I looked up the “Templers” and understood they were Crusaders. Were they descendants, I wondered? Is that why they were called Templers? Appearance wise, they were mostly blond, clean cut, and well dressed in European fashion, but in Israel they looked like foreigners. In time, I found out that the Templers were Protestant, Christian, and German supporters of Israel called Beth-El (House of G-d) and founded by Emma Berger. After they first arrived in Israel as temporary residents, they were given a legal resident Kibbutz status by then-Interior Minister Avraham Poraz. One of their ways of raising money was to hold a Bible course a few Zichron Legal - Chapter one Building in Israel times a year where participants work in the morning in their kibbutz orchards. Beth-El eventually built a factory in Zichron Yacov where they make filtration systems for protection against biological and chemical warfare, and they received media attention during the first Gulf War when their systems were being used in Israeli bunkers and security rooms. These filtration systems became mandatory for schools and hospitals after the Gulf War when Scud missiles poten tially fitted with chemical warheads were fired at Israel. Despite the good causes the so-named Templers supported, there was no way I was going to purchase a home with people praying right under my future kitchen window during my quiet breakfast coffee out in the country. Fortunately, an even more promising new place to call home was right next door to Binyamina in the cozy town of Zichron Yacov. Zichron, as she is known to all, is between Haifa and Tel-Aviv and not far from the coastal highway for easy travel access. She is a popular bedside town for commuters traveling amongst the major cities nearby. Thanks to these unique qualities, Zichron has quite the diverse community for an old historic Israeli town. On the one hand, Zichron is populated by old-time farmers and settlers who work in the wineries and vineyards. I would jokingly tell friends I lived in Napa Valley, California because of the Carmel and Binyamina wine industry surrounding me. Walk down Zichron’s main street on a weekday, and you would mainly greet old-timers, many of whom come from families that have lived in Zichron since the time of the Ottoman Empire. Walk the same street on a Friday night, on the other hand, and you will find a totally different crowd of city folk having dinner along the streets’ open-air restaurants. Walk on Sabbath, and the town is swamped with tourists. Between the early founders and newer town folk, Zichron attracted many artists and practitioners of natural medicine. Zichron Yacov had a good old small town school system to boot. The children were treated with much love, as if they were the homegrown produce. From the bonds the teachers and students forged in Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home those schools, anyone could tell which home was the principal’s and where your children’s teachers lived just by walking down the street. “Small Town Israel,” I would call it. The proof of that close-knit community feel was in the pudding from the moment we first heard about Zichron: An old downstairs neighbor from Nesher of ours who moved to Zichron Yacov made us aware of the new housing developments, hoping that we would buy a duplex in with him and be his neighbor again. We ended up moving into a different home nearby, yet still kept in touch. All the houses had white stucco walls with red roofs rested on red and yellow earth, hamra. Pitted against the clear blue sky overlooking the blue Mediterranean ocean and green poplars in the yard, I use to call this picturesque view “the red roofs of Zichron”. I painted a series of pastel paintings on this theme which appear in the art book I published “Creative Painting for the Young Artist.” So, in 1996, I bought my second home in Israel in ZichronYacov directly from the builder. Both of my Israeli homes were bought new and straight off the blueprint. That’s how Israelis did it at the time. Small town Israel had a housing shortage and it was first come, first serve. It seemed unusual to me to buy a home on paper I could not see, much less step foot in. However, after seeing an example of other similar homes the builder already built close by, I signed the contract in November 1995, and the home was ready by June 1996. A neighbor from our development asked me if I hired an engineer to supervise the building stages. I had not even considered or known about this option seeing as how the house was brand new and still under warranty. Yet, within a couple of months of buying our lovely home, there was a noticeable wet spot above the home’s entrance and below the second floor bathroom. The round spot seemed to morph and get bigger with time, then dry up only to reappear again. The rainy season did not yet begin, so it was not from the rain. Eventually, I found out it was a water leak beneath one of the two-tiled bathroom floors. Since the water needed a way to Zichron Legal - Chapter one Building in Israel escape, it did, right to the outside wall over the entrance to the house. When I first saw the spot and showed it to the builder, he did not know where the leak was coming from. He wasn’t even certain that it was a leak and felt the drainage pipes were sound. He surmised that it might be from moist sand left under the floor tiles which did not completely dry. If that was so, the spot then was not from sewage. He wanted us to wait a few months until after the summer when the sealed sand would have a chance to dry. If it proved to be a leak, he said, he would have to tear up the whole floor or walls to find it. Following what he suggested, I waited a year for the wall to dry, but unfortunately the stain got worse, not better. A horizontal crack with brown and green coloring now ran between the two bathroom windows, almost like moss growing on a tree. Was it sewage growing green stuff ? It had to be a leak, not some wet sand I thought, but from which bathroom? The builder’s assistant returned a year later and decided to turn the house into an archaeological dig. He broke three floor tiles in each adjacent upstairs bathroom and found no signs of a leak or broken pipes. He put a piece of toilet paper over the pipes but found no drip leak and said the sand was still wet. He asked us once more to wait another year for the sand to dry. Understanding that the house was still under warranty, I waited another year. Over time, the wet spot got even worse, festering and oozing like an open wound. Unhappy, I approached the builder again and explained that I would have no recourse but to take legal action if he didn’t fix the leak right over the entrance to not only my home, but also my office. It was bad enough to have something grotesque mire my home, but to have such a black eye on my place of business was unendurable. Still, suing the builder was the last thing I wanted to do because he came from a kibbutz just a few minutes away, and I wanted to make friends in my new town, not enemies. To my amazement, the assistant was quick to retort, “If you sue us, so what? I will just sue the sub-contractors in return. I will Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home send someone to paint over the ugly stain (not leak) tomorrow that should solve the problem.” No one showed up to do anything the next day and I did not receive an explanation either. By now it was clear that nagging the builder any further would be pointless. Just when I needed it, I then noticed an article in the local newspaper by one of the top Israeli building engineers who also happened to live in Zichron Yacov. I consulted with him immediately about the leak, and he informed me that locating the leak itself was unnecessary. Instead, he advised I order a thorough inspection of the entire house. Any construction infractions discovered, including the leak, and the builder could be sued. He added, “There are always code infractions. I’ve never lost a case. Do you have the blueprints of the house?” Evidently the builders knew about these infractions but expected to be made responsible in only a fraction of the houses built. It paid off in the long run. I handed the blue prints over, and before you could say, “I told you so,” he concludes that the stairs are clearly in violation of code. To him, the stairs stuck out like a sore thumb; he explained to me that the distances between each step are too far apart to be considered safe. I, family members, and guests have already taken a dangerous fall on those stone steps. Now I understood why. Next, he points to the security room. Every Israeli household is built with a reinforced concrete security room in case of war or terror incident. The room, however, and unbeknownst to me, was not intended to double as a laundry room. The engineer flagged the washer and drier and strongly advised that they be moved, all the while noting that the security room itself was too small. Much to my dismay, the stairs and security room snafus were but the tip of the iceberg. On site inspection, the engineer found no less than twenty-three building code violations with an estimated damage of $20,000! Without hesitation, the engineer recommended a lawyer he works with, and we ended up suing the builder together. Was this a partnership? Naturally, the builder protested in court Zichron Legal - Chapter one Building in Israel that the engineer’s assessment of the property was faulty, alleging that there were no deficiencies in his building or plan. To settle the case, the court requested that the builder have a reputable engineer of his own investigate the property. He did, and with bitter irony for his defense, his engineer found the same mistakes as mine did, plus a few more! In the face of the now overwhelming evidence in my favor, though, the case was not closed so easily. The builder’s engineer professed that the damages were only $5,000. Due to the discrepancy in damage costs in the engineer reports, the court apparently had no choice but to appoint their own engineer to examine the house at our expense, at least until someone wins the case and the other pays. It all sounded simple, yet this unfortunately did not work like clockwork, for the time spent in between each engineer’s report and each court date that followed stretched from months to years. At long last, when the court engineer finally arrived for his moment in court, he found the same building deficiencies as both the previous engineers and added more infractions of his own to the docket. I thought my case was in the bag...and then the court engineer decided to estimate the damages at $12,500. A comfortable compromise between the two other engineers estimates. I asked myself “Is this a science or a business?” Alas, the story of Zichron Legal only gets better. The wet spot continued to mutate as the judge deliberating my case announced that he was being transferred, and stepped down. The final verdict would have to be made by his replacement, and another new court date was given six months later. Terrific this gives more time delay for the builder. After reviewing the case, the new judge requested one more clarification from the court engineer, to which he attests the need for additional payment from us due to the extra time he will have to invest. What should have been another week to file the additional report took another nine months to receive the additional testimony from the court engineer. The new judge then called for Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home the case to reconvene in nine months because she was now taking her sabbatical out of the country. To me this begged the question, what happened to due process? The suit had taken a total of five years so far, never mind the two years I had waited for the leak to dry. In the meantime, I meet the assistant building manager in a Zichron hard ware store that builders and homeowners frequented. In the middle of the store, the manager ridicules me and says out loud that I have no way in heaven I am going to win the case. Now that the engineer site inspections were completed, I called in a plumber to find the leak. Earlier, I was afraid to fix the leak before the case was resolved in case I still needed proof for court, but by now there was already a report documented from the court’s own engineer. It was wise for me to wait to repair the leak since the leak was still there when the court engineer came, but now, enough was enough. Just as the builder had concluded, the plumber told me he would have to tear down all the walls to find the source of the leak. It felt like the same old story again until the plumber continued, telling me his intuition pointed him to inspect the area around the toilet a little more closely than the builder had. Hopeful, I turned the plumber loose, and he found the leak on the very first shot! He broke the same three ceramic tiles in the floor around the toilet seat as the builder did so long ago and spotted the leak immediately from a small slit and cracked water pipe that actually lead from the sink, not the toilet. I was delighted. The outer wall dried up in a matter of weeks. I added the plumber bill to the lawsuit, and the judge then finally asked the builder to take responsibility for the damages. Feeling as if he had been betrayed, the builder scoffed, protesting that he should not be held responsible for full payment and that I should have come to terms with him and let him fix the problem. My lawyer calmly reminded him that he already had several chances to do so and was not successful, and that was why I was carrying out this lawsuit in the first place. By now, my lawyer continued, my client would rather Zichron Legal - Chapter one Building in Israel have the money for damages and fix the problems himself or just keep the money reflecting the devaluation of the property. At this, the judge encouraged us to compromise before she made a decision, sublimely echoing Israel’s own principle that compromise is the best way to resolve conflict. Seeing as how this principle was indeed a rule I lived my own personal life by, I decided I could live with the court engineer’s assessment of the damages. I wanted to get this done with and reduce the stress in my life. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder why the court didn’t start the case using the court engineer. Was this the court’s way of supporting the building engineers’ consulting profession? The verdict was in and the builder did what he said he would do and sued his own architect for some of the code deficiencies. The house architect and builder together paid us the 12,500$. The judge addressed the lawyers, the builder, and the architect after the settlement. She was academically explaining to them the virtues of having business insurance and compromise. She told the builder, who was not too happy about the decision, to accept this as a cost of doing business and to move on with it. “Professionals have business mistakes and losses and it is to be expected. That is why we have insurance. Take this judgment in stride and make sure you have builders insurance from now on”. The now angry builder protested that the decision was unfair to him because the owners did not let him into the house to fix the problems. He was talking about me. Standing right there in the pews and hearing this, after I waited six years to win a decision, I finally spoke up echoing my own lawyers words. “My Honor, he had three years initially to make corrections and did not succeed, what is he complaining about?”The judge turns to my lawyer and asks her, “Who is this guy addressing me?” She responds “The plaintiff, who just won the settlement.” My Israel A-List: Having Funin Israel Joy and happiness are natural human desires that we all strive for. Regardless of the depressing news, Israelis know how to have lots of fun. The following is my A-list suggestions of ways to have fun in Israel: 1) Go snorkeling/spear-fishing in the Mediterranean Sea Located all along Israel’s western border, the Mediterranean Sea is warm most of the year and it is crystal clear. You can see the bottom when it is quiet, except on windy days when the sand is swirled around. The water also is not as salty as the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean fish are delicious to eat. Spear fishing was a fun sport for me because I got to observe the different color fish from below the surface and swim after them. Even if the fish were too fast to catch it was great exercise though. Anyways it beat surface fishing when you did not even know if the fish were where you cast your line. 2) Hang out at a café or club in Caesarea or anywhere on the beach One open-air restaurant that I especially liked was right on the ocean at Caesarea, located near the ancient Roman aqueduct. After a hot day at work, nothing beats the soft mist of waves splashing just a few feet away amidst cool and refreshing night air. One can Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home easily kick back, relax and watch the gorgeous sunset in the west over the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Stretching along the shore to the beginning of the Carmel Mountain is the Roman aqueduct. If you look east from Caesarea, you can make out the red roofed houses of Zichron Yacov perched on top the mountain. I always surmised that the Romans knew where to pick the best places to live. I personally had a lot of fun making a series of pastel paintings of the endless vantage points of the aqueduct and shoreline. While admiring the view all around on a calming afternoon, young men may even be lucky enough to take in a swimsuit fashion shoot. The Roman aqueduct at Caesarea is a renowned backdrop for photographing Israeli bikini models, posing between the arches with the sea and palm trees behind them. 3) Investigate the national museums If you are traveling to Israel and are interested in learning more about its history which spanned ancient history, you can’t possibly afford to miss touring the museums around the country. You can see Egyptian statues, Roman glass, ancient Greek and Israelite coins, signet rings, weapons used in the time of the Bible, oil lamps, sarcophaguses, ancient ships dug up from the Mediterranean and Galilee seas, mosaics, skeletons of cavemen, mummies and even fertility statues. Among the best museums that I appreciated are the Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem; in Tel Aviv, the Beth-Hatefutsoth Museum of the Jewish Diaspora at the University of Tel Aviv, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. In Haifa are the Hecht Museum of Antiquities at Haifa University and the Maritime Museum. 4) Explore the old city of Jerusalem It almost goes without saying that the rich blend of culture and people you will find within the sun-baked lime stone paths of the My Israel A-List: Having Fun in Israel old city of Jerusalem is like none other on the planet. Every inch of this city is filled to the brim with exotic aromas, spices, coffee shops, artisan shops, underground caverns, ancient burial chambers, old waterways, cisterns, and more. Panoramic vistas that are the envy of the world are carved out around centuries-old places of worship, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter, the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter, the Convent of the Olive Tree in the Armenian Quarter, and the Western Wall (or “Kotel”) in the Jewish Quarter. At the crossroads of the Four Quarters and all around the city, you will find Hassidic Jews mingled with secular Jews, male and female army guards, tourists from every corner of the Earth, all kinds of priests leading religious processions, Arab merchants, all bubbling in one vibrant hustle and bustle. 5) Shop at malls For me, Rananim the mall in Ra’anana was my hangout. Oddly enough, great coffee shops are in the malls if you like espresso. There is Azrielli mall in Tel-Aviv and the North Tel-Aviv mall near the Tel-Aviv University and of course “Scud Mall” in Haifa. Very little differentiates the Israeli malls from the ones in the USA except the “Made In Israel” label; but there are also favorite American franchises in them too like Burger King, McDonalds, and Sabarro’s. 6) Drive around the countryside Despite how tiny it may be Israel is a strong agricultural country perfectly capable of exporting food. Kibbutzim with their fields and livestock can be seen from the major highways, and the flora growing all over Israel is spectacular to say the least. If you are an artist who likes to paint flowers, you could not be happier here; colorful flower- beds adorn the countryside as far as the eye can see. There are plenty of vineyards, olive trees, strawberry fields, orange trees, date palms, fig trees, red poppies, and yellow sunflowers. Bananas, wrapped in protective blue plastic to shield against wind and disease, complete the Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home palette. My favorite route was from Zichron Yacov through Binyamina on the Pardes Hannah road to Amikum (“my people arise”). There was a nice restaurant/ pub with a beautiful view of the Amikum valley in which I would order cholent, a traditional Sabbath meal of hot bean and meat casserole only sold on the weekends there. I called the area around Amikum “God’s country.” I drove around literally hundreds of times and even used the area as a backdrop for a relaxation video I produced, entitled “Meditative Sights and Sounds of Natural Israel.” 7) Visit Zichron Yacov: Rothschild Park and “Wine Street” Named after the Baron Edmund de Rothschild, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remembers the 17.5 acre park in Zichron Yacov fondly as one the world’s most beautiful and serene parks. “As someone who grew up in nearby Binyamina,” he once said, “I remember this garden. In my view, this was – and remains – the finest park in the world. I do not know of any other park that has been so successfully and carefully maintained over the years.” With a medicinal plants garden in the heart of the park, a rather unique fragrance fills the air. There are broad lawns, palm trees, and colorful seasonal flowers. The cascading garden and rose garden is legendary. In summer, public concerts are held at the park’s amphitheatre. From the park you have a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Next door in Zichron Yacov, the Baron founded the Carmel Mizrahi Winery, which was the first kosher winery in Israel since 1885. The main street of Zichron Yacov is named Derech Ha’yayin, or “Wine Street,” after the major industry the town is known for. Today, wines from Israel consistently win international awards with wine creations of their own. A far cry from the sweet wines used for only sacramental purposes that kosher wines were once exclusively known for. Other wineries have arisen in the area and proudly share their craft through educational tours offered year-round. I myself enjoyed an excellent and educational tour at the fabled Carmel Mizrahi Winery when I first arrived in Zichron Yacov. Years later I My Israel A-List: Having Fun in Israel brought my nephew Jeremy, who visited Israel through the Birthright Israel educational tour program, on a personalized tour of the Tishbi Estate Winery in the next town over of Binyamina. On Derech Ha’yayin, there is an annual grape harvesting festival, and vendors from around the area host wine tastings, sell their wares, and feature music and entertainment from the local talent. I was able to purchase wines from Zichron Yacov and Binyamina at the Spirits store just up the street where I lived. 8) Navigate through fortresses and parks of the Crusades It is well known that the Crusaders perceived Israel – which they designated to be the land from Turkey through the Sinai – as the Kingdom of God and waged several wars to “cleanse the land” of any who dared disagree with their vision of the Holy Land. After some 200 years, they were expelled from the Holy Land leaving behind intricate fortresses and churches on prime real estate in their wake. Travelers to Israel can tour within Acre, Achziv, Antipas, Atlit, Beaufort, Bethlehem, Caesarea, Dor, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Mont- fort, Nazareth, Nimrod, and Tiberias. I often wonder what a Crusader would think now if he knew that the Israelites were in control of a good part of their Holy Land. I successfully painted a pastel painting of the Antipas Fortress, now a park at the source of the Yarkon River, a major river bordering on Tel-Aviv. On one trip, I climbed to the top of the Montfort Fortress (mountain fort) in the upper Galilee, not far from the town of Nahariya. Montfort is also the name of an Israeli wine named after it. What I liked about these fortresses was that they resembled European castles you might find in an old medieval painting. Some of the forts house museums like the ones in Acre and Caesarea; others are ruined and just part of the landscape. All are fun to hike around and explore. 9) Mill around in Park Rannana Park Rannana has almost everything you need in a park for fam ily fun. Here you can find yet another expansive flower garden, a Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home large lake you can walk around, a waterfall and ducks, and even a gondola ride. There is an amphitheatre frequented by Israeli Klezmer music bands, (think Fiddler on the Roof music) skateboard rinks, large playground, and a zoo. Warning, when visiting the zoo stand clear of the llama, I didn’t and he (she?) sneezed all over me. Luck ily the restrooms were right across so I could wash myself quickly. The restaurant in the park by the manmade lake, Gam Café, is one of the best in Israel. A play on words, Gam means pond and also means “also”; thus the “Also Café” or the “Pond café”. Every meal I had there was perfect, as was the service. Gam Café is a popular place to meet for meetings and group affairs with plenty of available parking, not too far from Tel-Aviv, and there always was action going on. Across the restaurant you can find an art gallery that hosts great exhibits (if it is still there today). 10) Cruise around the Kineret the Sea of Galilee also known as Lake Tiberius A most breathtaking view by far is the view going down from the western mountains to the city of Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee situated at the head of the Jordan River. Stop there for a swim at the many water parks around the lake. Tiberius is where I had my first taste of St. Peter’s fish popular now in the USA and known as tilapia. Old Crusader churches and walled towers can still be seen in the town. You can take a thirty minute ferry from the dock at Tiberius to the fish restaurant at kibbutz Ein-Gev across the lake, another place I had a scrumptious fish dinner. 11) Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) Celebrations Since this is the only country to regain independence after 2000 years of exile, there has to be some major celebrations to honor that great achievement upon its anniversary each year; and I’m not talking just fireworks. Like the United States, Israel came about through struggle, and so Yom Ha’atzmaut festivities are a cross between the My Israel A-List: Having Fun in Israel 4th of July and Veterans Day. Each town competes to get the most popular entertainers it can, and town mayors are measured by how well their community attracts these performers and visitors. Even during austerity, the celebrations were elaborate. At night, the whole town gets together for one big party, like a family affair. It is the only time of the year you can actually see all your neighbors. There is a big stage set up in the park and school children from all the classes perform Israeli folk dances. On this day, your kid is a star. One year, Zichron Yacov, a town predating the state of Israel, had a tractor procession with the town elders and their families commemorating their 100th birthday on Independence Day. In various locations across the country, the Israeli Air Force per forms numerous fly-overs and paratroopers make pinpoint landings on the beaches. One Yom Ha’atzmaut I especially enjoyed was when the Lavie, the first wholly Israeli-manufactured jet fighter, had a maiden flight. This elaborate demonstration of the latest in Israeli technology was a bold response to countries that wanted to embargo weap ons to Israel or use weapons deliveries as political leverage. It flew right over me and I only could get a photo of her underside. In the long run, the Lavie was unfortunately scraped as being too expensive, but the act of showcasing the sleek prototype to the proud public on that day sent the true message of self determination and independence. Military and defense bases are open to the public across the country. The navy openly displays its missile boats and submarines, the army displays their tanks, and military police display their counter terrorism devices. 12) Eilat Eilat can be described as a bit like Coney Island and Miami Beach all in one. It is a favorite spot to get away from it all. Being located in the southern most part of Israel it is a warm vacation spot during the winters. In the Negev desert next to the Sinai, Eilat is ideal for jeep and nature trails. On the Red Sea coast, there are yachts hosting Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home pleasure boat rides and underwater diving at the coral reef. Eilat is also a magnet for tourists from north European and Scandinavian countries during their winters, sometimes preferable to Greece or Turkey, which are cooler. The water temperatures range between 20 and 26 °C. Just entering the Red Sea only knee deep in water, you can observe colorful and unusual tropical Eilat fish. If you do not want to get wet and still want to see the fish, there is The Coral World Underwater Observatory. Collecting stamps when I was a child, I was captivated by a batch of Israeli stamps commemorating these corals. Eilat also serves as an escape in other terms; Israe lis from Tel-Aviv flocked there in droves when the Scuds from Iraq where landing. To get to Eilat, I took a small plane out from TelAviv’s Sde-Dov airport which is about the size of two football fields, it is that small. The flight from Tel- Aviv to Eilat only took about 40 minutes and flew over Jerusalem where I could see the Domed Rock and the walled city from the air. For first timers, a tour bus ride from Tel-Aviv to Eilat is recommended. You can get a glimpse of the Negev desert while stopping at some archeological landmarks on the way. For one, the oldest copper mines in the world, the Timna copper mines at the Timna Valley Park just north of Eilat. The famous turquoise Eilat Stone used in Israeli jewelry comes from this area. At the Timna Park, there are ancient inscriptions and old mining shafts, a copper smelting furnace and a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Hathor. You should pass the Masada fortress and the Dead Sea along the way. Greek Salad = Salat Yevanee They say you know a language when you understand her jokes. I say you are recognized as a people when others learn your language. To be recognized as a people is crucial for many Israelis. Every archaeological excavation that unearths an ancient Israelite artifact is an occasion for celebration and a news item. For me, I understood that Israel has become a recognized people by other nations too when on a trip to Rhodes, Greece. In the Mediterranean, Greece is actually Israel’s closest neighbor to the west after Cyprus, so it is not unusual for Israelis to feel at home while on a vacation on a beautiful Greek Island – in fact, the expression “go west, young man” to an Israeli would suggest a trip to Greece. It is a great getaway to escape the craziness of Israel for a while. With just about an hour’s flight away, I traveled to the eastern most Greek isle of Rhodes during the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth (Tabernacles). Rhodes is one of the most beautiful places that I have visited, boasting a rich history along with one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Once, a towering statue straddled the harbor, the Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed by an earthquake in 237 B.C. The geography of Rhodes is also rather unique for a Greek island; its south shore looks over the Mediterranean Sea while its north shore rests in Adriatic Sea, and you can seeTurkey right off the northern coastline. If you wanted to, you could sail straight over to Turkey by ferry in about an hour. Explore deeper in the island and you will find the well-preserved medieval Palace of the Grand Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Master of the Knights of Rhodes, a Hospitaler crusader palace built within the old town walls at the beginning of the 13th century by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. Dig deeper still and you will discover the Kahal Shalom, the oldest synagogue in Greece. The beaches surrounding all of these sites are beautiful and pristine clean. I remember sitting on the beach looking at the unique shaped stones, spotted several geometric markings and lines on the sea stones, and couldn’t help but wonder if this was how the early Greeks first started pondering about geometry by sitting here and studying the differ ent shaped lines seen on flat sand pebbles. I later visited a gorgeous aquarium nearby where the mullet, sea bream, wrasse, sea turtles, tuna, and urchins all looked so similar to the fish off Israeli shores. Not too far a drive away from the Rhodes city rests the Valley of the Butterflies, where you can watch thousands of butterflies hatch. During August, butterflies of the genus Panaxia species Quadripunctaria Poda overwhelm the valley in order to reproduce. Being neighbors, I found that Greece and Israel have much in common. There may be more to the deep bond between these two neighbors than simply being close to each other. Israel and parts of Greece were all part of the Ottoman Empire at one time, and at one point in history, Alexander the Great conquered Israel. In food, both countries use a lot of olive oil and goat dairy products, cook the same fish dishes, and devour the same oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits. While excited about eating famous Greek dishes in Greece like Greek salad, I did not expect to find out that the Greek salad in Israel actually tasted better than the salad I had in Greece because Israel does have delicious firm tomatoes that are second to none. However, I did not eat everywhere so that’s an unofficial statement. The official colors of Greece also happen to match the official colors of Israel. If you were stopped by the police for speeding, you could think you are in Israel by the uniforms. I was even able to use my Israeli driver’s license to drive in Greece and did not need a special temporary license that I needed for my Greek Salad = Salat Yevanee trips to the USA. The scenery, the fauna, and the music too are all intertwined. As I was discovering all these intriguing similarities between Greece and Israel, I even started to believe Greek and Hebrew were sibling languages. In the course of my first breakfast at the hotel, the waiter asked me in Hebrew what I wanted to eat. I was astonished. Was he speaking Hebrew with a Greek accent, or was it authentic Greek that somehow sounded just like Hebrew? Do Hebrew and Greek share similar phrases? Perhaps since Alexander the Great conquered Israel, the Greeks learned to speak Hebrew…or maybe the Hebrews learned Greek. Did the two languages somehow become a mixture of each other? At the time I did not think much of it at all – I just wanted to tour the island. My daughter Shanee and I then drove to the beach in Lindos, 45 kilometers southwest from Rhodes. The beach was next to an archeological ruin much like Masada, with an acropolis seated on a flat mountain top that could only be reached by donkeys. When we reached the beach, a Greek renting out umbrellas approaches us and asks in proper Hebrew, “Do you want to rent a beach umbrella?” Now, the word “umbrella” (mitria) is not an easy Hebrew word -- he had to be speaking in Hebrew. So, I answered in Hebrew, “No thanks, we are just here for a few moments and will not be entering the water, unfortunately.” He understood. Well, that is two Greeks on the same day speaking Hebrew, and I hardly met anyone else. The next day we went souvenir shopping in Rhodes city. Shanee and I walked into a random T-shirt shop to get something for Limor, and as I am browsing around, the owner asks me in perfect Hebrew where I am from. Stunned again, I felt I had to get to the root of this so I asked him in Hebrew if he was Jewish. He chuckled, almost as if he gets this question all the time, and told me he is a Greek from Rhodes. If that is so, I asked him, how do you know Hebrew so well? He then informed me that he studied Hebrew in an international Ulpan in Netanya, Israel a few years back. “Being in the Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home tourist business,” he said with a grin, “I and others from the island went to Israel to learn Hebrew because we have so many Israeli tourists.” But of course! Greek and Hebrew were obviously not the same language, and I thought I knew that well enough…but that is not the point of what I learned and became so proud of that day. The Greeks were welcoming me in my own language, as they probably welcomed other tourists in their languages. They recognized me as a tourist from Israel. For me, that moment defined and reaffirmed Zionism, the Jewish dream of having a normal functioning homeland. Over time, the people of Israel resurrected the ancient Hebrew language so successfully that people in other countries have actually made the effort to learn the language in order to reap rewards from conducting trade with Israel. Golda Meir herself once simply defined peace between Israel and Egypt as being able to go shopping in Cairo; normalcy. As they say, money talks, but if that isn’t the sort of normalcy the early Zionists dreamed of, what is? …and then there are things that didn’t exactly “make the grade” The following is a short collection of stories that happened to me that do not exactly “make the grade”, yet I would be remiss in not mentioning. It is what it is. The point of the following stories is that Israel, like human nature, is not perfect, and only by revealing some of the weaknesses can we help to correct them, or avoid them. Thankfully, it is relatively not that long; I have lived a sheltered life. 1) One meal for the price of two On one of my fact-finding trips to Israel as a tourist during December 1979 through January 1980, I entered a restaurant in the Yemenite quarter of Tel-Aviv with a lady friend from my group. The waiter asked us what we wanted. We ordered one large platter and were going to split it. The waiter brought out pitas, humus, pickles, olives, and salads with two large platters, each large enough for two more people. We told the waiter we only wanted one meal to share. He argued that he heard two meals and did not offer to return the plate to the kitchen. When he brought the bill he charged extra for the salads and pitas without notifying us. I guess tourists were fair game. Usually, Middle-Eastern restaurants do not charge extra for pita and salads and they are included with the meal, as rice and noodles count in oriental restaurants, or chips and salsa do in Mexican restaurants. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home 2) Take me out to the ballgame…and two lumps please When in Rome do as the Romans do. I went to a soccer game on an unusually hot day. Vendors were selling soft drinks on ice. I paid for a fruit punch drink and the young vendor gave it to me in a glass, not a disposable cup. After I gulped the drink, I saw that he rinsed my glass in a large water bucket with other glasses in which he did not change the water. That night, I developed two lumps on my neck, swollen glands. I went to the Meyer Hospital in Kfar Sava and told them what happened. They gave me an anti- biotic. The mumps went away. 3) The Elevator Lady Entering a building in downtown Haifa for an appointment, I get into an elevator with an elderly lady whose occupation was to deliver, on a large metal tray, hot drinks for a coffee/tea break. She enters first and presses the third floor button. I then press the second floor button. She looks at me with a smirk and starts to scold me. “Oy, Yoy, Yoy; How dare you press the second floor button when you see I have to get to the third floor. Couldn’t you wait? I was here before you.” 4) Not everyone succeeds at everything Living on the top floor of a fourteen-story apartment in Nesher, Haifa, one sunny day I was awakened at 7:20 to a large blast. It sounded like a Katusha from Lebanon had landed near the exterior of our building. I jumped out of the bed to look out the window with a view towards the northern border and saw smoke and debris flying all around. In a moment, where I was just sleeping, a large nailed wooden panel from above my bed’s head came crashing down onto the bed like a guillotine. I missed being decapitated by three seconds. It’s true, the damage was real. We were hit by a Katusha. I run to the elevator to leave the smoking building. It’s banged up and smoky, water is spraying all over the place. Instead I have to …and then there are things that didn’t exactly “make the grade” run down the fourteen flights (there was no thirteenth floor) to the ground floor. I see the residents with only their pajamas on, and a pack of cigarettes in their hands. They only had time to take their most valued possession with them, their cigarettes. We were lucky; no one was in the elevator during the explosion. It had just unloaded people to catch the bus. The police arrived and two people are found mildly hurt; a student and an ex-tank commander who returned from the Lebanon war without a scratch. In the end, it was not a Katusha. It turns out that the wounded student just broke up with his girl friend and was depressed. He put on the gas burner in his room on the seventh floor and tried, unsuccessfully, to asphyxiate himself. A neighbor, the ex-tank commander, smelled gas in his adjacent room and thought he had a gas leak. He lit a match to investigate, and boom, the explosion. I observed firsthand how cigarettes are very addictive and all consuming. 5) The hitchhikers In Israel, it was common in my day to give rides to soldiers hitch hiking. The hitchhikers would point their thumb down indicating they want a ride in contrast to thumbs up waving I was used to in the USA. On one of my mother’s early visits she got to meet some Israeli soldiers first hand. No big task, we picked up three soldiers hitchhiking right outside Haifa at the Yagur Junction for soldiers going to duty up north. She got to chat with them and tell them she was from America. The only problem was that it was a rainy day. When the soldiers disembarked, I noticed their boots were full of mud. The rugs in my new car were stained. The things we did for the IDF. 6) The miracle of the fisherman Often, I would go spear-fishing at a beautiful beach named Tentura on the coast west of Zichron Yacov. Tentura is a very popular beach resort and is staffed with lifeguards. Israel does not have large islands; however, there are a few small reef islands off the coast in Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home this area that you can wade to in a couple minutes during low tide. These mini islands are popular with fisherman and bathers. One time though, on a quiet weekday when the sea was also quiet and inviting, I decided to go to a more southern island a bit away from the main beach. I had heard that there were larger fish like grouper hanging around the rocks there. I did not venture out there in the past be cause the channel between the beach and the island was frequented by fishing boats and did not want to be in their way. On this day, the fishing boat traffic was quiet as most fishermen went out early that morning before the hot sun rose. I decided to walk across the channel as it was low tide. Hoisting my gear above my head I brought my spear gun, water bottle, towel, and flippers. The water reached up to my chest. As I am wading, I am absorbing the beautiful view and thinking about the nice size fish I am going to catch and how I am going to cook them. When on shore, you can notice a darker groove midway in the channel where the boats usually traveled to the open sea; sand kicked up by the boat bottoms. Reaching that groove in about a two minutes wade and before I knew what was happening, the water was over my head, my feet were no longer planted on the sand, and I was being swept out to sea by a strong current. I knew I was in real danger but was too dumbfounded to be scared. No one was there to see me or save me. None of the fisherman, bathers, or life guards was around at this secluded point. I was alone. I could not fight the exceptionally strong currents without tiring. Suddenly, I had a flash of the news that each year unwitting bathers and tourists drown at Israeli beaches due to the unsuspecting strong currents and undertows. I now remembered the warnings; “go swimming with a buddy”. Thinking that if I was taken to sea, it would be a long and scary swim to shore, I might manage swimming on my back. I also thought that that only happens in movies. There was little time now, I had to decide what I was going to do fast. Remembering a movie I just saw where a cat burglar shoots a strung arrow to the next rooftop and pulls himself to the other building, I shot my spear into the …and then there are things that didn’t exactly “make the grade” sand bank along the channel. It reached and I was able to pull myself out of the current by the attached rope. Proof, miracles can and do happen in the land of the Bible. 7) Craps is not just a game of dice. Occasionally, we are new at doing things and learn the lessons of life the hard way. My newly built home in Zichron Yacov came with top soil but no grass; moving in, I had to put my own lawn. I wanted to fertilize the lawn, but did not exactly know the best method. Villagers from a neighboring agricultural town, knowing there was a lot of new building in Zichron Yacov, were driving down the streets selling bags of cow manure out of their truck. I guess the adage, “waste not, want not” would fit in well here. I stopped the truck and asked them to have a look at my small lawn. The driver told me he would take care of it. I said, “Okay, give me what you think I need for my lawn.” By the time I walked around back to my yard about four workers quickly unloaded ten duffel size bags of cow manure on my small lawn. I literally was ankle deep in cow manure and it smelled. The villager said that is what I needed and charged me for the ten bags. I was in shock. I did not want a fight with five farmers as I was outnumbered, so I paid them. The place just stunk and the neighbors were giving me funny faces to say the least. From the smell of things, my small yard probably needed a half bag. Just when you think things can’t get worse, it rained. The piles of manure were now rivers of gooey glob. All my neighbors too now had fresh fertilizer. I took a lot of crap that day. 8) The mystery of the long haired student. When I was a child, my father would cut my hair and save money. He did a decent good job at it and had a set of electric clippers and attachments. He also clipped his own hair and would ask for my help to reach the blind spots. From that experience, I learned to cut my own hair as well and can count the times I ever entered a barbershop Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home on my fingers. As another stream of income, I gave haircuts to students throughout high school and college. So, in Israel, expecting to do what it takes to get by, I took a three-month course to learn how to cut woman’s hair. Working in the health field in Israel using a system of socialized medicine, I found that I could not really pay the bills. Israelis had no problem in accepting that I had a number of jobs at different ends of the spectrum. Later, while earning my master degree in medical sciences, I took a position through the student union as the universities hair stylist. I was given a room on campus rent free and had many happy customers because I was inexpensive, on campus, and experienced. After all, I was a child barber protégé. I guess I also liked the idea of being my own boss, if only part time. One atypical client stood out in my memory. He entered the shop with the longest straight hair on a man that I have seen, all the way down to his belly button. I greet him and ask what cut he wants. He says “a butch haircut, cut it all off.”Taken aback, I ask him again even two more times to make sure. He says, “Yes, I am sure, cut it all off.” OK, I give him a marine’s butch and he pays me; “to each his own”. A year later, the same student enters again with his hair down to his navel. “Cut it all off again” he requests. I then realized that he only gets a haircut once annually. That is taking saving money on haircuts to the extreme. What if all my customers were that way? 9) The cost of a complimentary Turkish coffee. I entered a printing shop in Haifa’s lower city to bind my thesis. The owner welcomed me with Turkish coffee and we chatted a full ten minutes. He seemed to be a really nice guy. Once I was relaxed and we “were friends” he told me the price for the binding. It wasn’t cheap. Too bad the coffee did not come with bread and butter as I would have understood that I was being “buttered up” for price shock. The point here is that if you don’t want to “pay the price”you have to ask for prices up front. Driving in Israel The first time I drove anything was when my father took me to an arcade where there were electric bumper cars that banged into each other. In point of fact, my father drove because I could not reach the pedals. As anyone who has ever ridden bumper cars knows, the whole idea is to ram into as many other drivers as much as you can and as hard as you can. Ironically, my father had it all backwards. “The idea of the ride is to avoid being hit,” he instructed me. “Like in France (where he served in the US army in the 1950’s), there are no traffic signals. You need to avoid the other driver.” Naturally, even as a kid I thought this was ridiculous. Where’s the fun in that? They’re protected with rubber siding and called bumper cars for a reason, after all. Once I could drive on my own, I soon had to do battle with the mean streets of New York City. Drive the posted speed limit on the FDR highway, and cars will ride your bumper, cut you off, and pass you out. Needless to say, driving in the Big Apple was not a relaxing or pleasurable experience. Until moving abroad, I had little knowledge of the driving habits of people outside the USA. At age twelve, the family took a trip to Montreal, Canada to see the World’s Fair. We’d soon find out that navigating up and through Montreal proved to be a real challenge. At one point, we got completely lost in the old city and pulled over to ask for directions (these were the pre- GPS days). Luck was not on our side, though, for a French Canadian then pointed us down a road with his finger outstretched and sent us Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home down a one-way street in the wrong direction! Either something got lost in the translation or he resented non French speaking tourists. Little did I know how that first experience with driving was but a glimpse of how people handle themselves on the real streets. Some people who grew up with that free-for-all mentality of bumper cars never grow out of that mindset. In my very first week living in New Jersey, my Israeli friend invited me to a nightclub and we went in his car. In a flash, he flew down the highway like a rocket ship at warp speed, tailgating and honking at any drivers in his way and passing on the right. When the car finally came to a stop, I was white as a ghost. Frantic, I wondered…do all Israelis drive like that? Who knew that when I later moved to Israel that I would answer that question firsthand. From the start, I knew something was wrong with the Israeli way of driving when I was able to transfer my USA license without any kind of course or test. The full culture shock of driving in Israel did not actually happen until I left the country later on to take a trip to Switzerland, however. There, I traveled to the stunningly beautiful city of Lucerne straight from the airport in Zurich. As I drove around Lake Lucerne, the road split outside the Palace Luzerne Hotel where the Haldenstrasse road meets the Gesegnetnattestrasse. Map in hand, I had to determine which way to turn to continue around the lake. There was no one on the road behind me when I stopped midway in the street just before the intersection. After scouring the map for a few moments, I had not found my bearings yet, and a number of cars pulled right up behind me. I started getting a bit edgy, expecting the honking to begin as they had no way of knowing I am a disoriented tourist…but the honk ing never came. In fact, the other drivers behind me were so quiet; I didn’t even notice how many cars there now waiting for me. Looking in the rear view mirror, I put my blinkers on so they can pass me and waited for them to pass before I would continue. In Israel, a significant number of drivers do not wait to pass you – instead, you have to wait for them to finish passing you. I was so used to watching out for Driving in Israel this that I didn’t budge, fearing that if I did, a car trying to pass me would crash into me. I waited. No one moved. Then it dawned on me: the Swiss drivers were waiting politely, patiently for me to make my move first, even if they had to wait. Some more cars now lined up. Still, no one passed me, no one honked, and no one flashed any headlights. No one tried to own the road. I was in front and they gave me the courtesy of the right of way. For some reason, Israeli drivers (and I generalize) do not respect the notion of having “the right of way.” I do not want to lump all Israelis into this generality, but truth be told, the local traffic authorities themselves came to the same conclusion within a few years since I made aliyah. While the roads themselves may not be that great everywhere in the country, the authorities soon realized that local driving habits were the real culprit. Somewhere along the line, common courtesy in driver’s and the notions of having the right of way and about avoiding tailgating or speeding was lost in the average Israeli’s education or general psyche. This is an issue in Israel because each year road accidents take more lives than security issues and terrorism. Ironically, despite how driving around Israel might prove to be a nerve-racking experience, a biofeedback client of mine with post traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) who once told me he was nervous all the time chose to use driving as a way to relax and forget his problems. The same happened to be true for my dad, a Holocaust survivor; driving for him was his own therapy. The problem for that PTSD client was that if he became tired, he was too anxious to stop and rest, even if it was a long trip. He asked me to help him slow down and relax. Since Israel is a nation with many security issues in which the majority of men and women experienced a war, the percentage of the population that suffers from PTSD is higher than the norm and this does affect driving habits. It has been no secret that road accidents took more lives in Israel than any other issue of national security. Some say the poor roads are to blame since they are not wide enough, pointing out that there Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home are typically three-lane highways in America while Israel has just two-lane traffic. Others argue that drivers have an especially hard time passing slower construction trucks constantly on the road, especially when going uphill. Still more attribute the high number of accidents to the abundance of new Olim from different countries on the roads, each with his or her own idea of how to drive. When Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was elected in 1992, he immediately took action to improve the roads and soon armies of yellow tractors were widening roads everywhere. He was confident that taking this measure to keep the streets safe would work, but it had little effect on accident statistics. It was a shock, a black hole in the equation. Was it really the road conditions that were the blame for so many accidents, or was it the behavior of the Israeli driver after all? I myself was the victim of an auto accident right in front of the police station on the Zichron Yacov -Haifa road across from the garage at kibbutz Ma’ayan Tzvi. The bus stop to Haifa where I would drop my wife off was after a hill. I left the stop and had to turn around back to Zichron Yacov. I drove a bit north and stopped in the road to make a left turn to enter the garage grounds. My left blinkers were on, waiting for the oncoming traffic to pass before I could turn. In my rearview mirror, I saw a car speeding over the hill, and instead of stopping or slowing down, he passed me on the right driving on the dirt shoulder instead. Although he cleared me Okay, a second car speeding behind and tailgating that car did not have enough time to see me, and BAM! He rear-ended me and sent my Mazda 300 across the dividing line right into the next lane and oncoming traffic. Luckily, the oncoming traffic had just passed, so I was not bashed a second time. Nonetheless, my brakes were damaged, I lost control, and I slammed into a ditch on the other side of the road. The driver that hit me got out, wearing a navy officer’s uniform. Many naval officers lived in Zichron Yacov and traveled north to the navy bases in Haifa bay. Incredulously, trying to avoid blame, Driving in Israel he screams, “what are you doing just sitting on the road like that?” He did not ask me how I was or even check to see if I was hurt. I could not believe it. “I am going to call the police,” he scoffed next, “you caused an accident.” What a sick joke – we were right outside a police station and a police cruiser just came out on his way to a patrol. Fortunately, my wife was still at the bus stop and witnessed everything with another person, who soon came over to the driver and screamed back, “is this your own private road?” Stepping out of his cruiser, the police officer rapped the naval officer, telling him that I had every right to be on the road as he did. We then looked at my Mazda, which was completely totaled except for the driver’s seat. If anyone else had been in the car at the time, it would not have been a pretty sight. Since he tried to pin the blame on me, I sued the naval officer for emotional damages even though I was mostly shaken but not permanently hurt. Yet, I now, as a routine practice, check my rear view mirror more than I would have normally. This would now go on his insurance record. Suing an Israeli officer was not something I expected to do when coming to Israel, but if this somehow made Israel a safer country for drivers, it was my duty. He should be setting a positive example, I thought. While some people have no respect for others and drive like they own the road, intelligent drivers live by one key expression advertised on Israeli television: “Don’t be right – be smart.” Drive defensively. Working in Israel: A Prelude Remember this concept: multiple streams of income. This concept is a major secret to the Israeli’s ability to survive in a hard economy and to make it rich in a thriving economy. In Israel, a small economy with a high defense budget, there has always been economic chaos, with periods of more and less chaos sprinkled here and there. There is no such thing as job security; you never know when you are going to lose your job. Even Israel’s top officials could tell you that; just look at how often Israelis have held elections throughout their recent history. In contrast, Americans have enjoyed a relatively stable economy most years since 1929 and thus have become used to the idea of having some form of job security. This economic stability has arguably made Americans too complacent. Then, in the economic crunch of 2006-2009, things changed in the United States. During this time I heard an unfortunate American worker interviewed on the news say after his company closed, “I had been working for 20 years and I was just fired. This job is all I know. I have been working at this since high school. What am I going to do?” The Israelis I knew would never say this; they already know when they receive a job that it might not last and that there are not that many options in the same field, since Israel is such a small country. To protect themselves financially, many Israelis know to make sure to maintain another stream of income at any given time and a flexibility in the jobs they take. Sure, America has been through economic stressors like the Great Depression and Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home various wars and consequently Americans also resorted to finding multiple streams of income, but this practice is more of an elective in “the land of the free” as it is a necessity in the “holy land”. So how does one establish multiple streams of income? On one hand, you need to focus and develop a niche’. On the other hand, in order to move up the corporate ladder, you must develop your skills. Balancing these two tactics requires everyone to make his or her own careful decisions. If you are on a fixed income working for someone in an unstable economy, however, time is not a luxury for such decision-making. You cannot trust that your place of employment will weather the storm and leave your future wholeheartedly in the hands of anyone but yourself. Time is money, as they say, and so you must spend your own time wisely to ensure your own financial security. “Be prepared” as the boy scouts would say. How does one develop a niche’? One method is to develop a practical product (or series of products, if you can) that has useful applications to everyday life in a tight economy. Tchotchkes, a Yiddish word for knickknacks or trinkets which enrich our life and my parents would often collect, are not that plentiful in the tangible seeking Israeli markets. A neighbor of mine made her living from a niche’ of artistic knickknacks; wondering how she had customers, I visited an open house sale to find that each item indeed had a specific and dedicated purpose. There were no large ornamental plates or anything of the sort made with the sole purpose of shelf decorations. Instead, her house was littered with her brand of dishes, cups, ashtrays, and eyeglass holders. Everything had a practical purpose in addition to their artistic beauty. At her next house sale, she sold virtually everything I saw that day. In contrast, I once tried to arrange a sale of paintings made by local artists and myself. Despite the high quality of the artwork and advertisements in the local newspaper, not one painting was sold. I learned then from my neighbor that the secret to supporting yourself also lies in creating an exclusive Working in Israel: A Prelude product or service – something in which competition will be limited, yet something simple enough to explain and advertise to one’s po tential consumers. Her practical pottery not only fit this mold, but also one that fosters a customer base that continually comes back for more, thereby sustaining her business over the long term. Keeping practicality in mind, the act of harnessing a niche’ and the act of developing one’s other set of skills in the workplace both are supported by the same basic principles. If you are passionate about a field of work, better yet your work is also your hobby, start by educating yourself about your chosen area of focus. Neglecting to get back to the basics will leave you building on a poor foundation. Research your subject and study that subject as much as you can. Learn to ask questions, and don’t be shy of asking different people different questions. Today you can even join a business network. At first, you might not even know where to start, what questions to ask, or who to ask, but the simplest question will yield an answer that will lead to the next question and answer. If you find yourself stuck somehow in your efforts, have patience, have staying power. Allow yourself to start anew if necessary. In the workplace, when applying for a new position, try not to accept starting with a low salary. Start the negotiation with as high a salary as you are determined you are worth or just do not take the job. It is easier to find a job that suits you best with a bit more searching than enter a position that you might not be properly compensated for. You are in a better position to negotiate at this juncture than after you begin working, for once you have invested your time and resources at a new job, it will be too late to renegotiate a new salary, and the employer, more experienced at hiring, knows this. Beyond developing a solid relationship with one’s clients or workplace, ultimate peace of mind lies in seeking a method of passive income. Someone like an accountant, insurance agent, or massage therapist may establish a series of clients that return for business for Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home years on end, thus guaranteeing continuous income. Better yet is the source of income that flows freely on its own, passive income. This may sound naïve or impossible of me to suggest, yet that is precisely how the creative artist makes his or her living. Once an artist develops a desirable piece of work, he or she may receive royalties, ideally to the point of earning a living even while asleep or on vacation. Working in Israel: My Way, Self Employment For me, it was time to do my own thing and move on. I would call the Center for Psychophysiology, Peak Performance, and Learning Strategies in Zichron Yacov a service made-in-Israel. After discovering that when working for others I was not able to achieve my full creative potential, I decided to become self-employed, but I needed that little extra push. One of the physicians I worked with previously who greatly respected my work suggested that it was time I made my own kiosk or storefront. Once again, it was someone’s suggestion and observation that triggered a set of events that made me change my life’s work and goals. I myself had no definite plan, but was ready to jump at an opportunity. It was actually easy to set up a business immediately – all you needed was the capital. Living in a democracy has its advantages; I heard that it may take even months in other countries to enter into a private business. When I look back, I am happy I took the risk to go out on my own. When I did begin to be self-employed, I had no idea where it was going to lead. Only by being involved in the process did I find out what I can accomplish and what I wanted to achieve. 164 165 The dentist and Murphy’s Law I believe in doing things the right way. On the day I was ready to start receiving biofeedback patients in my home office I ordered home insurance and business insurance, but it would take another day to come into effect. Up till now I had not even one complaint or misfortune with a single client at the medical center. Starting anew, it would take time to purchase comfortable furniture for the clients to sit in. Instead, I purchased a set of industry hard plastic patio table and chairs from a well-known and established Israeli plastics company. The salesman told me that the chairs are very sturdy and could be used for heavy-duty sitting. The chairs came with a lifetime guarantee. In the meantime, a dentist neighbor brought his wife as a client for stress related high blood pressure. While giving a biofeedback session to his wife, the heavyset dentist husband was leaning back in the plastic chairs with just two of the back chair legs touching the ground. To my embarrassment, all four chair legs cracked at once from the weight. The chair seat gave way, and the doctor crashed to the floor landing on his backside between four newly raised dismembered sharp plastic spikes that were the chair legs a moment ago. Luckily, he was not impaled. My very first private client on my very first self employed day almost got killed in my home, and I without homeowner’s insurance coverage. This was a case of Murphy’s Law. Ironically, his wife was successful in reducing her blood pressure. This never happened again, of course. The Centre for Biofeedback, Self-Regulation, and StudyStrategies Following are excerpts from an interview I gave about my experiences in helping students with learning challenges using a combina tion of biofeedback, natural techniques for relaxed concentration, and accelerated learning strategies. I have been working with natural treatments for ADHD, test anxiety and dyslexia over the last 15 years and began treating children with ADHD quite unexpectedly in 1991. Being a biofeedback therapist as part of an anxiety clinic in Tel Aviv, I had absolutely no experience in helping children but was doing quite well with adults suffering from stress disorders and teenagers who had test anxiety and social phobias. The biofeedback clinic had just opened and each type of patient was a new experience. With my medical- technological training in electro- neuro-diagnostics (END) and sleep/ wake disorders, I was more use to clients with neurological and psycho- physiological disorders. A child psychologist working with me wanted to try using biofeedback on children with ADHD. At the time there was no medical treatment for this poorly understood syndrome. The only remedy I knew of was Ritalin although reports about EEG (electroencephalogram) biofeedback and research with a Neuro-biofeedback protocol were just coming out. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home After starting to treat a handful of children with biofeedback, the psychologist moved and had to leave the unit; I had to take over his patients. All I knew then about ADHD was from a television program that showed a hyperactive child literally jump off the walls and I worried about what this child would do to my biofeedback equipment! I had absolutely no knowledge of learning disorders either. I mention this lack of knowledge for a reason for I had to begin treating ADHD without a prior predisposition to what was written in the literature. I had to see for myself what worked, and fast. Using what I knew in helping anxiety disorders, at first I used EMG (testing muscle tension) with relaxation techniques, then over time found that GSR (electrodermal resistance, sweat gland activity from the palms) was better and easier to use. At the time, EMG biofeedback studies on ADHD were not conclusive, there were no studies of GSR biofeedback for ADHD, and only EEG showed promise for training for relaxed concentration but took as many as 40 sessions to achieve results, an expensive proposition for Israeli parents. On my very first ADHD patient I performed a regular biofeedback stress baseline for anxiety. That is, I hooked the child up to galvanic skin resistance (GSR) sensors, muscle and peripheral temperature monitors, but not EEG. I had to start to treat ADHD with what I knew and that is how to treat stress and anxiety. I was lucky. My very first patient’s baseline EMG (electromyogram or muscle tension) showed that the more she sat quietly the EMG gained in amplitude. That is, sitting quietly was a tense experience for her. I tried relaxation training and she improved her baseline in just 6 sessions and subsequently began to do better both at home and in school. This was not supposed to happen. Biofeedback in ADHD was supposed to be a stubborn neurological problem that takes some 40 sessions to treat using an EEG biofeedback protocol. In my readings at the time, a number of avenues were being pursued in the treatment of ADHD. Some of these were nutritional, sensory integration, guided imagery, art therapy, natural meditation, The Centre for Biofeedback, Self-Regulation, and Study Strategies yoga, Bach flower remedies, homeopathy, chiropractic, and the use of aromatic oils. In biofeedback, animated computer games were now being introduced and I thought I could use each natural method and observe its effectiveness on the physiological monitors. If only I could develop an integrated and holistic approach and match the method to each child individually. One of the first things that I found was that the GSR was physiologically labile in ADHD children, especially when that had to sit still with their eyes closed, that holding a soft or smooth stone could influence the GSR to become stable, indicating a condition of relaxed concentration was achieved. Who would ever expect that this piece of nature would be so relaxing? However, it is. I got this idea from the worry stones and beads of the Middle East that Arabs can be seen massaging within their hands. Why can’t Jason ace an exam? A little history is in order of why I decided to help children with learning challenges. My clients have been pleasantly surprised by my ability to understand their problem well enough to offer help that some of them have asked me if I had ADHD myself. They were equally amazed when I told them I did not. Nonetheless, I was able to identify with my clients’ needs. How? How was I able to do this without sharing their experience? At age nine, my father told me in a matter-of-fact way that I was not that smart. Actually, he called me “stupid,” just like that, and right in front of my younger sister too. I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. It was one of those moments that changed your life forever. I had brought home some math homework and could not understand a seemingly simple problem. My father, who was not a teacher by any means, sat with me at the kitchen table and tried to explain the answer. I still didn’t get it, yet my sister, three years younger with her chin barely poking above the kitchen table, did. From this, my father concluded that I did not have math smarts, and in those days, if you didn’t do well in math, your future was limited. Math was an unforgiving litmus test for being a good student. So, I was left helpless. My father was probably not aware of educational testing, or that there was much controversy in the way math was taught in America, or even if I was just not ready for math developmentally speaking, but it mattered not. Father knows best, even if he never took a class in parenting. You see, in those days, Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home things were either black or white. There were two categories of people: those that were born with the right stuff and those that weren’t. You were born with the genetic code to be a musician or an artist or a mathematician, or you weren’t. You were a natural leader or born follower, rich or poor, smart or stupid -- period, end of story. Yet it was not just my dad who saw the world that way. When I reached the seventh and eighth grades, I had a strict math teacher with wiry hair, a pointy nose, round spectacles, and a ruler in her hand. Strict teachers and math seemed to go together like bees and honey. She once went through the whole class and classified every student aloud based on their math grades. “Susan,” I remember her crackling as she walked down each row, “you are an A+ student, and you are so pretty as well. Jake, you are a C- type student and don’t try hard enough.” She then turned to me and declared, “Jason, you are a B student and you always will be a B student. Not a B+ and not a B- , but a B.” Forever, just a B student? At least her judgment was kinder than my father’s. As I was still young, impressionable, and defenseless, however, I naturally assumed their opinions of me were infallible – and why shouldn’t I? She was the teacher, he was my dad. It was years until a friend wisely remarked to me, “children are empty vessels, they are what you fill them up with.” It was not until my second year of college that I finally earned a grade of an A-, and in a hard science class at that. Anatomy and physiology was a subject I liked because I wanted to be a research scientist and work in the health field. I remember studying hours upon hours for the test. Out of a class of twenty, only three students received an A. So what changed? I never earned an A before college because I was so convinced that I could not. Up until then, it was simply an unobtainable goal, or so I thought thanks to my father and later my math teacher. Just like the cliché “why can’t Johnny read?” mine became “why can’t Jason ace an exam?” Why can’t Jason ace an exam? I have long wrestled with the thought of revealing what my father had said to me and how his words affected me through school. I never confided in him, my mother, or anyone else about this before. As I was developing this book, I debated for months on end if I should even mention it in this book – after all, I believe strongly in the concept of “honor thy father and thy mother.” However, I concluded that this incident was so basic to my life story that I had to tell of it. As I became an adult, I came to understand that my father loved me dearly, was very proud of me, and would have done anything for me to succeed. Having children for the first generation of Holocaust survivors was such an important statement of survival. Having learned this, there is one more story to tell in my father’s memory of what he did for me that more accurately defined who he really was. It was during a bad New England winter blizzard. I came home from a train trip to New York with a classmate. My dad came to the train station in downtown Hartford to pick me up. My friend had no way of getting home and did not have a father of his own. He lived twenty minutes in another direction. That meant a twenty minute drive from our home in this nasty weather. Naïve, I asked my dad to take him home. Braving the blizzard, he drove for over an hour like a hero and got us all home safely. I did not know how dangerous it was to drive in an icy blizzard until I had to do it myself. From my father, I learned that we are all not perfect – even parents, myself included. I also learned to turn negatives into positives, to embrace negative situations so that I might figure out their positive side, their silver linings, and pass it on. That was how, as a student who once perceived learning subjects like math as impractical, I was able to identify with those clients that had similar or even greater challenges to learning than I once did. That was how I ended up counseling learning strategies to other students who did not reach their classroom potential – to help them define their own Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home destinies, no matter what their parents’ or teachers’ perceptions of them were. It became my duty to advocate for them so they could learn to advocate for themselves. I put this commitment into print through the first book I published titled Being in Control, in which I outlined several natural techniques young students can learn to use independently to increase their creativity and potential for success in school. There is a section on how to succeed in math. Sometimes, I wished that I could have gone to someone like myself when I was a young student. Israel: The Land of Miracles Upon a visit to Israel by a high Russian dignitary just at the end of the Communist regime, he commented something like this, “Israel is the land of milk and honey indeed, yet in Russia we have no milk and we have no honey.” That’s when I understood that Israel now had items of substance to offer the world. Honestly, it was a miracle. Being able to help so many children of all ages with learning challenges was an uphill battle. Hundreds were helped, and by natural means. At first, it was not easy to convince physicians to send me clients with ADHD instead of trying stimulants as a first course. After all, ADHD was supposed to be a neurological developmental disorder that should be treated with medication as some studies indeed showed medication worked. It was the easy way out; I was convinced. Who needs an active and involved natural solution when you could passively take a simple pill? It is relatively easy to tell a parent their child has ADHD by filling out a standard ADHD questionnaire. In contrast, digging deep to develop natural techniques that a child diagnosed with ADHD may comply with was the hard part. A natural approach meant work, on my side and theirs –, rather than simply having teachers pass the problem to psychologists, who then pass the problem to the neurologists. The family would have to accept an active part in the child’s wellbeing. It meant work for me as well, because I myself would have to become a student again at age forty. I would have to literally go back to school, study, and take tests, to understand the Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home problems the students had and, with their guidance, reveal those hidden natural solutions. The miracle here is that I did reveal many solutions. Why? I was deeply passionate about this issue. If I succeeded in helping a failing student earn top grades independently, then I could prove to myself that my math teacher was wrong about me. While I did not fail in school and was a good student, I did not get the best grades either. I wanted to prove that for me and learning challenged students both, it was a standard system of teaching that was not all encompassing that was the culprit. The key strategies to earning higher grades involved learning how to learn and learning how learning is fun, versus rote learning, parroting whatever an instructor says, and the numbing fear of failure for failing an exam. We now know that a person has multiple intelligences, not just one all-encompassing form of intelligence. Therefore, each individual’s ability to learn requires multiple ways of presenting information, utilizing kinesthetic, visual, and auditory modalities that some of us take for granted today. I always felt the educational system that I went through as a kid made big mistakes with my own education, even to the point where going to school made me feel bad, damaging my sense of self. I soon found out that I was not alone. Recent awareness of the pervasiveness of math phobia and test anxiety attest to that, and one can only imagine the harm done to the average kid if he or she has these stressors every day in school, year after year after year. As I began to conduct my own investigations, I was hardly surprised to observe that conditions like test anxiety physically manifested themselves in any number of symptoms ranging from an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, cold hands, muscle tension, asthma attacks, stuttering, or conversely, fatigue coupled with depression and anxiety. From this analysis, I cannot subscribe to the notion that the intense academic competition imposed in schools is healthy for the average child. Instead, I believe fervently that “no child should Israel: The Land of Miracles be left behind” and that everyone should have the right to the education they themselves needed, but free of stress. One of the most emotional days I ever experienced was when I had to perform an EEG exam in the ICU on a young and beautiful college student who strangled herself to death as a result of school pressure. I could only wish that I had met her before, and would have had a chance to intervene. And so, the time for taking the easy way out in education was over. It was time for change, and that change’s label would be “The Being in Control Method, Made in Israel.” On A Bright Sunny Day A poem to Jason from Mor, 5th grade, Winter 2000 On a bright sunny day, I went to a biofeedback class. I learned how to relax, and how to integrate in the classroom. Most importantly, I learned to do the exercises. I learned how to write nicely and on the lines. I also learned how to warm my hands and feet and be relaxed all the time. I am now at peace with myself. I get along with the other children in the class. For now, I have to implement all that I have learned. The case of the fifth grader who whispered When I think back on the many children that completed my Being in Control program, three clients and the challenges they faced stick out in my mind as key examples that reflect the power of my program. The first student, Channa, came from an ultra-orthodox Jewish girl’s school and was in 5th grade. Her father, an official in the school, was a great person who made his child’s education paramount, and he helped see to it that there was no lack of remedial help for his child within the school. Despite all this support, Channa’s problem with learning perplexed the teachers, and so her special case made it to my clinic. Channa was a quiet and sweet-looking young girl, but very bashful. Immediately, I became aware that Channa only speaks in quiet whispers. Her father told me that her psychological evaluations did not show that she had ADD, yet he suspected there was something wrong with her concentration. Even though she was a good student, he felt Channa did not reach her potential in some of her courses. This turned out to be a common complaint of parents that sought out my help: the child was studious, attentive, and bright, but “did not reach their potential” – a code phrase for not having the grades their parents thought their children deserved or could achieve. When I first met her, Channa barely talked to me and did not answer any of my questions. Instead, she spoke through her father. Being ultra-orthodox, she probably did not have much, if any, opportunity to speak to men Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home outside her family. Partly from this experience, I found that using a slightly passive approach in biofeedback via graphic and video programs was necessary where practitioner-client interaction was lacking. For Channa, I went through relaxation and concentration exercises for a couple of sessions, talking very little and letting the programs show the way. Soon, Channa brought one of her teachers with her to observe, and the teacher told me there was already a marked improvement in Channa’s general class participation since she began working with me. Then, in the following session, Channa brought her sister, whom I let experience the program together with Channa – a practice that I maintain whenever siblings pay a visit. I couldn’t help but notice then that when Channa talked to her sister, she didn’t whisper. These sessions, in turn, served as evidence that as a student’s general well-being improves, that student will feel better about him or herself. Building this self-confidence led to increased class participation. After these early sessions, I began to instruct Channa in building accelerated learning skills and study strategies. When starting speed-reading and reading retention skills, I had Channa bring one of her favorite books to me to read from. I wanted to check both how many words per minute Channa read and how much she could comprehend from that text. Channa chose a siddur, or Jewish ritual prayer book, with her. The Orthodox Jews pray three times a day, so it comes as no surprise that the prayers become ingrained in their children from a very early age. She read the prayers aloud just fine. Good! I then wanted Channa to read from a children’s fairy tale book, which was something she was less familiar with. Suddenly, she began to whisper again, so much so that I could hardly hear her. Her dad, present for each session, intervened and asked Channa to speak up louder. She read the passage again, and to my chagrin, she could not read the words correctly. I had Channa pick up the siddur again and read from it, this time letter by letter. Much to our wonder, she made several errors again, even though we just heard her recite the same prayers so beautifully just moments ago! The case of the fifth grader who whispered What was wrong with this picture, I wondered? Then it came to me. I asked her father if he was aware that Channa had difficulty reading. He answered an emphatic “NO!” How could this be? Previously, she read the prayers well enough, but when asked to decode the prayer word for word, letter by letter, she could barely read the first sentence. She must not have read the words the first time around, I surmised, but rather she had remembered the prayers by heart. What Channa was doing was relying on her memory to compensate for her not being able to read well. She did not appear to struggle to the point of potentially having dyslexia, but perhaps she just might have had some concentration problems when she was acquiring reading skills in the earlier grades and at some point started to lag behind. To make up for this shortcoming, she used her memory to get by so her teachers and parents would not notice. As Channa progressed into the older grades, however, she hit a dead end with this strategy as her reading skills were now being tested. That is why Channa was whispering. Her mumbling was her attempt to camouflage her weakness. As a result, no one suspected that she did not know how to read, but instead were left wondering why Channa did not speak up in class. Her teachers and her parents readily identified problematic symptoms of Channa’s behavior, yet they masked the true obstacle in Channa’s ability to learn. Children are, and perhaps always have been, under growing pressure from their parents and school to excel and succeed. Anything less is construed as an embarrassment. Channa was anything but dumb, though – after all, who would ever think that a young fifth grader like her could have everyone fooled, and for so long? In Channa’s case, I recalled well-known set videos in Israel that taught reading skills and the alphabet from scratch. I had her father get Channa a set to bring Channa back to the basics and with enough practice and guidance, Channa soon learned how to read just as well as her peers. The case of the tank mechanic who had tank phobia This case could have fit in quite well in the annals of the famous detectives Colombo, Quincy, or Sherlock Holmes. Alas, they were not in Israel to solve it, so the Israeli Defense Forces called me. I received a visit from an Israel Merkava (chariot) tank mechanic named Shlomi who was stationed at a tank base. Shlomi’s story was that while he was working on a tank one day, he fainted without warn ing and fell off the top off the tank, head first. Luckily for him, he fell into the arms of his agile assistant. Soon after this episode, after his physical injuries had healed, Shlomi returned to work at the tank base, but immediately became paralyzed; he did not feel able to continue his work. It seemed absurd. Shlomi had been a true professional at repairing tanks for the past 10 years, and he was so good at it that he had completed a very special and expensive army course in tank maintenance assigned only to a worthy few that was worth thousands of shekels. In spite of all this, when he came back to work that day, he was suddenly frozen and powerless. Puzzled, his officer in command was now resigned to assign Shlomi to do office work until he recuperated. Shlomi continued to receive the best in medical care and psychological support the army could give, yet he still could not bring himself to return to work. Worst of all, he did not know why. He feared for his position, but mysteriously feared being on a tank just Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home the same. His commanding officer was at a loss. It was then that the IDF family counseling office sent Shlomi to my clinic for some relaxation and biofeedback. I hooked Shlomi up to my biofeedback physiological monitors and soon unveiled from the results that Shlomi was under a tremendous amount of stress. I could tell Shlomi was not faking because of the numerous indicators of stress that showed up in the data I recorded on him. I suspected that Shlomi might be suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or some sort of acute phobia to tanks. Perhaps Shlomi just needed to quit the army and receive worker’s compensation to help diminish his level of stress. I proposed this possibility to him, and he outright refused, reassuring me that he loves the army and wants to return to work on the tanks, but for some reason he just cannot find the way back. Something changed and somehow he was not the same person as he was before the accident. As Shlomi became stabilized and able to relax after a few sessions with me, I hooked him up to a galvanic skin resistance (GSR) graph, which is similar to a lie detector. Surprisingly, when I mentioned the word “tank,” the GSR did not detect any sign of stress. He continued to impress upon me that he really did love tanks. Initially, the IDF graciously permitted Shlomi to hold as many sessions with me as he felt necessary. After the 8th session, though, Shlomi came to me, wrapped in hysterics, and told me that there is now pressure at the base to replace him. They need a chief mechanic, and they could only give him so much longer to get back into shape, or they would have to discharge him. Sensing his desperation, I decided to try a technique I used in other trauma cases that involved having the patient form a visual representation of the problem at hand, along with its potential remedy. As I explained to Shlomoi, suppose the problem was that someone is suffering from a headache that just won’t go away. In this exercise, this person may draw a hammer banging his or her head, and then draw a pillow placed between the hammer and his or her head to absorb the blows. Shlomi imme- The case of the tank mechanic who had tank phobia diately understood and began to draw in front of me. He drew him self standing in the middle of a field, helpless, with eight imposing rectangular tanks enclosing on him from all directions. I imagined that Shlomi was on a tank base ten floors underground in a huge silo that its opening is painted on the surface like a lake for camouflage just as is in the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice”. Imagining being trapped in this secret base scenario and seeing how Shlomi was surrounded even caused me to get goose bumps. From the visual representation exercise, it appeared that Shlomi had developed some form of claustrophobia after the fall. This was getting strange. He fell off the tank and hurt himself, yet it was still the tanks, not the fall, that presented the problem. Again, I asked Shlomi if he wanted out of the corps, and he flatly refused, restating his desire to get better soon so he could continue with his work. Frustrated at this exchange, Shlomi felt that not only didn’t I understand his problem, but also that it must be impossible for me to conceptualize what was impeding him without being where it all began. He concluded that I must come with him to the base so I can understand what he could not explain in words. After a two-hour ride together, we arrived at the scene of the crime. At the base, we met up with his commanding officer. Shlomi’s superior looked like a youngster, another one of the many young boys growing up fast in the reality that is Israel. We chat about Shlomi. The commander told me that they are counting on me to help Shlomi return to service, having tried everything else. In his confidence, I inquired about any conflicts between Shlomi and the staff, or about any noticeable family problems Shlomi might be having at home that might have an impact on his ability to work. The commander shook his head, recounting how he even offered Shlomi an all-expense-paid vacation to go for a week with his wife on a cruise. The commander went to laud Shlomi’s service, attesting that Shlomi was a model soldier who loved the army and the tank corps. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home I thanked the commander for his feedback, and we moved on together to meet his crew. His crew was all nice and dedicated guys. There, I met the worker that caught Shlomi on the day he fell. He points out that Shlomi was not feeling well that day, and he saw Shlomi falter just before he fell. I thanked him for the new clue. Shlomi then brought me to his office and took me a few yards across the way to the tank pound, where he showed me a Merkava tank that he worked on and fixed. At that, Shlomi let me take a photo of him next to the tank. Perplexed by his actions, I challenged him, suggesting that he had expressed a fear of being around tanks. He insisted that he did not fear the tanks per se, and then he nervously pointed to another location nearby. “It’s working on the tanks in THAT PLACE over there that scares me!”he proclaimed. With visible anxiety, he led me over to the site, at which I reminded him of the relaxation exercises we could use should he felt too sick to continue. I expected him to lead me into some secret entrance to a domed building or elevator shaft, but instead, Shlomi drives me just one minute away to the tank depot where he was working the day he fell. We come to an open air location where there are just a few tanks parked behind a simple earth embankment. “This is it!” he cried. “This is the spot where I fell! Thanks Jason, you did it! I could not return here without you!” “I did it? Where – here? What’s here?” I looked in disbelief at what appeared to be an almost empty parking lot. “This is what you are afraid of ? You got to be kidding!” There had to be more to the story than some deserted lot. We went back to another meeting with the commander before I returned home, and he hurriedly asked if there was any hope that Shlomi will get back to work one day. Confident, I reassured him that I was on the case. I set up a follow-up meeting with Shlomi to dig deeper into his past to figure out what exactly happened that fateful day. I prodded Shlomi. What was your routine? The case of the tank mechanic who had tank phobia Why did you get dizzy? Do you have high blood pressure? Were you dehydrated? Did you slip? I asked Shlomi to recount again what happened the whole day. Shlomi, “there was to be an inspection on that day, I had to prepare a checklist of things that had to be done.” This was to be his first major inspection since he recently completed the course and was subsequently promoted. Evidently, he now had more responsibilities and stress. This made him anxious. I asked Shlomi if he ever had any problems with performance or test anxiety in the past. There it was, with his new position came new responsibilities, inspections were being conducted, all of which now required paperwork on top of his regular mechanic duties. Focusing on the inspection that day is what made him stressed out and that’s what made him faint. From that day, fear of failing the inspection was the root of avoidance behavior for the tank depot. I related his scenario to that of a student who pulls the fire alarm on the day of the final exam. At first glance this student seems to be a troublemaking prankster, but in reality he or she would rather be thrown out of school as a prankster than have to admit to not being what he or she perceives as being smart or prepared for class. Only Shlomi did not want to be thrown out of the army. I advised Shlomi not to worry any more, for his case could be managed. I proposed that he call his commander and suggest having his assistant help with the paperwork at the next inspection. With this, it took some time, but Shlomi eventually returned to his former job successfully, and I saved the IDF a lot of money in training expenses. If in some way Israel was a safer place because of what I did, I was happy. The case of the alchemist Dov was an attractive, tall and blue-eyed 17-year-old Sabra with gingi (reddish) hair who could have easily been a male model if he wanted to. He approached me with what seemed like a simple question: “Can I go to college next year?” An American guidance counselor he was working with had told him that there were now colleges in the USA that catered to students with learning disabilities. Dov would otherwise not have considered attending college. If there ever was someone who did not look like they had a learning disability, it was Dov (proof that looks don’t really tell). I asked Dov why didn’t he just try applying to college in Israel, and he told me that he had not lived in Israel for many years, but instead actually grew up in Africa. English was as much his language as Hebrew. His father had a business there since Dov was young and had only recently returned to Israel. His mother, who once came to a session with Dov, wore the most beautiful African blue diamond you could ever expect to set eyes upon. Business must have been good. “Then what’s the problem, Dov? Why wouldn’t you succeed in college?” He raises his head and says, “I never read a whole book in my life and no one can tell me why!” I stare at Dov in disbelief. I never met a student who said anything like that before. Dov wondered aloud if he could still make it to college or if it would be a waste of time. He then asked me if I could solve his reading problem, keeping in mind that college starts in the USA after the summer. I saw myself in Dov’s earnest eyes when he Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home made this plea. Both of us were immigrants at one time or another; Dov immigrated to Africa, and I to Israel. I couldn’t help but reflect then on how moving effects schooling. In my case, I had to take college level classes where the language spoken was not my native tongue. One of my other clients told me how he had moved from location to location as many as seven times before even completing high school. Unfortunately for him, his father couldn’t comprehend how these constant moves might have an impact on his son’s success in school. I asked Dov to read for me while checking his psycho-physiological parameters for stress and relaxed concentration. Interestingly enough, Dov showed no signs of being under psycho-physiological stress when he attempted to read, unlike what I would expect in clients with test anxiety, ADHD, dyslexia, and the like. Conversely, Dov would fixate on a word, sub-vocalize, and repeatedly skip back to where he began reading. I recognized this behavior as regression, which in fact is a common error to make for those who struggle with reading. In this case, regression occurs following each time the subject spends an inordinate amount of time struggling with a challenging word. After focusing on that single word for so long, the subject ends up losing his or her place on the page, sometimes falling back whole sentences. No wonder why Dov never finished a book in his life to date! Fortunately, Dov found about my work. I assured him that adjusting his problems with reading would be possible, even if he had to begin college in just a few months. All he had to do was learn some techniques in speed reading, build up his vocabulary, and use biofeedback to relax and improve his overall ability to concentrate. Building a stronger personal vocabulary was particularly essential for Dov, for it was apparent that as he was fixating on individual words and struggling with interpreting them in the context of a passage. He was expending all kinds of energy in understanding the words he saw and that yielded little or no lasting reward because his vocabulary memory bank was low. Instead, if he recognized the word quickly, he would absorb it and spend as little time needed to read it The case of the alchemist or regress on the word. With speed reading techniques, Dov learned to differentiate important words to a subject matter from the less important words and bypass them. Like throwing wheat into the air and have the chaff blown away. This in turn reduces increases read ing speed as you have fewer words to read. By the fifteenth session, Dov had a surprise for me. He completed his first book ever: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Behold, a young lad who had just read his first book ever at age seventeen! After this success, Dov felt like he was ready for college. I could not have been happier to have had the opportunity to help him make it all happen. Following his completion of our sessions, I couldn’t help but wonder about his book of choice. Why The Alchemist, I had to ask? Why not something popular like The Hobbit or Harry Potter? He merely replied that it was interesting and that I should give it a try someday. I was intrigued. While I wish he had told me more, having him give a book report after reading just his first book ever was probably a little too much to ask. Four years after helping Dov, I started to write this very book, and I still could not help but wonder why he chose The Alchemist out of the million books there are out there in the world. I looked it up on and found a video of the author himself, Paulo Coelho, thanking his readers for twenty years of support for making his book a success all around the world. If he only knew what I knew about Dov, I thought. After reading the reviews, it dawned on me why Dov chose to read this book first. For The Alchemist is about a boy leaving Spain to follow his dream and see the world, even though the boy fully understands that his journey will entail some suffering. The book is about self-empowerment and finding treasure within, turning negatives into positives along your journey to find your true self. The book is full of adventure, comic charm, wisdom, and it reads like a fairy tale all in just 167 pages. To this day, I sometimes wonder if Dov ever wrote Mr. Coelho a letter telling him how much The Alchemist made a difference in his life. Lessons learned close to home Unfortunately, my family and I lived through the rough period of suicide bombers. It troubles me greatly to reflect on the time when a neighbor’s daughter who lived across the street from us had been killed in a senseless bus bombing as she was traveling home from college. She was best friends with the older sister of my daughter Limor’s best friend. The neighbor was also the cousin of one of my friends. Needless to say, it hit close to home and to the heart. No matter what anyone says today about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how much support Palestinians might have for a homeland, I distinctly remember the bravado and satisfaction Palestinians declared in finding a “new type of weapon” that can finally sew fear into Israelis. This terrible new weapon, the suicide bomber, was a double-edge sword, however. Like Kamikaze fighter pilots from Japan in World War II, the young suicide bombers physically ravaged their targets, yet they ruined their own families as well through their twisted explosive sacrifice. The growing use of these suicide bombers changed our lives forever, as innocent civilians – adults and children alike – were now suddenly thrust onto the front line. The war was no longer on the borders but in your backyard and across the street. How do you send your children out to play when you cannot even protect yourself ? Suicide bombers could attack at any moment at the local grocery store down the street, right on your street – on any street at any time, it didn’t matter. They did it all in the name of religion, of Jihad, all-out war. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home One of the first incidents of the opening salvo of the years-long Intifada happened not far from my home at a bus stop across from the train station in Binyamina. Just a half hour before the explosion happened, I had picked up my wife at the train station, returning from work in Haifa. People died in the blink of an eye. I feared the psychological effect this would have on my young daughters. Limor had only just turned twelve years old at the time. I soon learned that day that as parents, we are not the only influence in our children’s lives; there is the school, friends, and neighbors. Limor discovered news of the bombing from her school, which was only two miles away from the train station. I still cannot believe how she came right up to me and reported the whole catastrophe so coolly: “Dad, there was a bombing in Binyamina. People saw the bomber walk around Zichron Yacov first. He did not explode himself in Zichron because he wanted to explode in a place where there were more people.” What more can I say? War has its own lessons. Turning the page on the Holocaust In 2008, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany made an historic visit to Israel. She exclaimed that a new chapter has been opened in the relationship between Germany and Israel, declaring that Germany had an “historical responsibility” to Israel the victim. Despite the passage of time, German youth could not distance themselves from the national guilt of their fathers’ past. Still, this did not mean there could never be a positive future between the affected parties. Before Mrs. Merkel visited Israel, I paid a visit of my own to Germany. In 2005, I decided to travel to Frankfurt, Germany on a business trip to the international book fair the Bookmeister. The Bookmeister is the largest book fair in Europe for publishers to find European and American distributors. A British distributor of educational books contacted me and asked me if I would be at the fair. I had not planned on it, but then it occurred to me that if I went to Germany to meet him, it would help my endeavors to promote my publications to the European audience. Since I had just published two books, this visit would be the logical Israeli business thing to do. Nevertheless, this was no small decision for me. My father’s family was mostly decimated in the Holocaust. Being a second- generation survivor of the Holocaust, I had to deal with my own feelings and concerns about the relationship between Germans and Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Jews and prepare myself emotionally for the visit. In my thoughts, I visualized Germans as people who wore black uniforms, marched in a goosestep, and were in just as many World War II Hollywood movies as the Indians were in cowboy movies. I would occasionally think about how my first encounter with a real German would unfold. What would I say on my first encounter? Would I be vindictive? How would I feel? Would I feel like a loser whose family was murdered – a victim in a viscous crime? Possibly, would I feel the true grit of the next generation Jew, an American/Israeli Jew, an ally of modern day Germany? On second thought, should I just say I am an American and not even mention the fact that I am Jewish? Did Germans still secretly hate Jews, or do they dislike Americans even more? Do they support Palestinian terrorism from behind the veil, hoping they achieved their own “final solution?” Or, were the Germans were actually in awe of Israelis, the mighty victors over Arab armies in a six-day blitzkrieg in 1967. Perhaps they now regard them as military equals of the Wehrmacht, and different than their cousins the European Jew? Considering these possibilities, I recalled that I technically did end up in Germany by fluke with my family a few years before the book fair. When stopping over for a weeklong trip to Switzerland on our way to the USA from Israel, I traveled to the Swiss-German border to visit the beautiful Rhinefalls waterfalls. On the German side of the falls, I saw a large dominating mansion overlooking the river and thought about the story of Moses who could only see Israel from afar, but did not enter. Unlike Moses, however, I had no intention of crossing this river Jordan. Instantly the image of what this house must have looked like during wartime popped into my head. Why is such a large house still standing? Didn’t the Allies bomb everything? Did this house have any part in the war? Germany is so close, taking over Switzerland would have been a cakewalk, why didn’t she? Or were they indeed collaborators? Turning the page on the Holocaust After visiting the falls, we had to catch our plane in a few hours in Zurich Airport. I took a different scenic route back that appeared to also be a shortcut. The road went winding along the German border, reminding me of how small Israel is, always close to a border. Coming from Connecticut, I never saw other borders of countries, just other states. Unlike in Connecticut, though, it was not unusual for Israelis on drives to accidentally take a wrong turn and end up in an unwelcoming Palestinian village, sometimes to vanish. There are army roadblocks to warn you here and there, but if you’re driving fast and not paying attention, you took that grave risk. Soon enough, I see a sign with a black eagle on a bright yellow background. I recognize it from stamps I collected; it’s the German national eagle. Startled, I spotted two guards right past the sign with sub machine guns and a guard tower behind them, German soldiers. I dared not turn back and look like I was running away, thinking, you can get shot for that. Where the heck did I make a wrong turn? I was following the same road all along. Do I need a visa? Will I be stopped for entering Germany illegally somehow and miss my flight? As I approached, not knowing what to do, the guards approached and asked where I am going in English. Calmly, I tell them I am heading for the airport in Zurich. To my amazement, the guards merely look in my car, smile, wave me on, and wish me a nice trip. Soon enough, the road entered back to Swiss territory. I checked the map again and sure enough the road did cross into German territory for about a kilometer or two. I survived, I was on German soil. Perhaps that fluke had been a practice run and phobic desensitization for the real test to come. Flying to the Bookmeister fair, I arrived in Frankfurt airport and hitched a cab. Making small talk, the inquisitive taxi driver asked me in English where I am from. This is it, I thought – the moment of truth! I said I am an American living in Israel. He would not dare harm an American, would he? Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home To that, the young cab driver smiled with a wide grin and said something I would have not expected in my wildest dreams. “Oh, I wish the Jewish people were still living in Frankfurt. The Jews brought culture, helped the economy, and the philanthropies. They did good things.” I could only wish my father, who passed away just shy of a few years, was still around to hear that one. The cab driver continued: “Today we are being overwhelmed by having a population of which 18% are Muslims.” At this, I did not know if he expected me to feel empathy for his predicament. In a sense, the misguided notion of the “Jewish problem” in Germany now became a Muslim problem. I felt sorry for him talking to me about Muslims that way. After all, were not the Jews the Muslims of Frankfurt just a generation ago? I wondered what he would have said to a visiting Muslim passenger about life in Frankfurt. Nevertheless, I smiled, paid the fare with a tip, and bid him Shalom. Divorce, Israeli Style My life in Israel was rife with ups and downs. In the chaotic and exciting world of living in Israel, there was never a dull moment, and my life in Israel was a reflection of that. Living in a Jewish homeland was a complete and all-encompassing life. Only in Israel can a Jewish person have true self-determination. That’s the way I felt then, and still do. Going through a Jewish divorce in Israel is a testament to that mentality of self-determination. While I do not want to get into detail about my divorce – this book is not meant to be a tell-all – I do want to pass along some lessons I learned about divorce, Israeli style. As I write this, Madonna’s divorce is in the news. According to the tabloids, Madonna’s relationship with kabala, or Jewish mysticism, was a bone of contention between her and her English husband. She had changed since her marriage and now adopted religious beliefs different from her husband’s. Times change, and so do people, but some spouses don’t manage change well. Madonna, moved from the USA to England, yet she wants to bring her children back to the States to be educated. Needless to say, her marriage is complex and international. Just the same, my marriage was complex and international, something I was not well prepared for. When people from different countries marry one another, numerous questions arise, such as what would happen if one party requests to go back to their other homeland. If you become separated, Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home a major part of your support system disappears. In my case, that major part of my support system was my ex-wife’s large family. I cultivated a relationship with them during my 18 years of marriage to her, yet once we separated that relationship disappeared, partly my fault. But you learn that in any divorce, it takes two. You again become a stranger in a strange land and start to miss and appreciate your own family whom are living abroad. If you happened to marry and settle outside of your homeland, as I did, separating also leaves you enclosed behind language barriers. When married, my ex took care of many documents and helped translate them for me. Al though I was fluent in Hebrew, I had a difficult time understanding the fifteen page divorce documents in the Hebrew legalese and there was no English version. You need more than a college degree for that. I made several mistakes because of it. You think you understand what is being explained, but slight nuances that may get lost in translation by lawyers with the best intentions can make large differences. My lawyer spoke English well enough, but there was no guarantee I could understand the judge’s quick verbiage. Regardless that English is an official language in Israel along with Arabic and Hebrew, my future life and the lives of my children were being decided by how well I spoke the Hebrew language. I became so tired trying to figure out exactly what was being said, I agreed to things not in my own best interest just to get a rest. In Israel specifically, you have to go through a civil divorce in addition to a religious divorce ceremony, so in essence you have to go through your divorce twice over. If that wasn’t bad enough, in the religious divorce ceremony, the husband has to hand his wife the divorce documents in front of rabbinical witnesses. The Rabbis make the ceremony long on purpose by tradition to give the husband and wife one last chance at reconciliation. We had to sit in the hall of the Rabbinate building for a few hours before the divorce decree was ready. For many modern women, the religious divorce ceremony feels degrading. By Jewish law it is the husband who serves the wife the divorce papers. Divorce, Israeli Style As I was losing contact with some of our married friends and family, I was making new friends, all of whom seemed to be in the process of getting divorced themselves. Soon acquaintances around me were asking me about my divorce. How does divorce mediation work? How much does divorce cost? What happens with your living arrangements during your divorce period? Who’s my divorce lawyer? It seemed that out of habit of experience, I had become the local divorce expert. Allow me to offer this advice: if you ever meet someone going through a divorce, it’s better to say that you are sympathetic or understand rather than say “I am sorry about your divorce.” Secondly, if you are the one going through a divorce, you must keep your integrity, no matter how rocky your situation becomes. During some rough periods, I had a vision of myself as a white knight riding with blazing silver armor, a large white shield, and a shining broadsword, arrows whizzing at me from all around. I held fast to that image in my mind at all times. That armor and that shield protected my integrity and my body. It would get me through. I originally thought that I could divorce as friends, yet to do that, again it takes two. You can have the best intentions, yet in a twist, it’s just like a marriage – it still takes two to make it work. Alas, an amicable divorce was not in the cards for me. When I told my accountant that I was about to divorce, she remarked how she did not know anyone whose divorce ended well. I didn’t believe her, I was in denial. She told me of one woman on her street getting divorced and who hired a very good lawyer. After she won the case, three other wives on that same street took the same lawyer and won their cases. A funny example of “Small Town Israel,” and proof that divorce is contagious, I thought. I went to that lawyer for a consultation and she confirmed this notorious record, yet it was a coincidence; none of the women were aware that they shared the same counsel. I chose not to have her represent me because she focused too much on the financial aspects of the divorce settlement. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Maybe I made a mistake. I was far more interested in how my relationship with my children would unfold. There is but one divorce incident I will mention because the lesson I learned from it was so powerful. I left my house, and found an apartment even before the divorce settlement was completed. After a few months passed since the divorce papers were filed, the judge decided that I had to start paying child allowance retroactively. These new charges amounted to a few thousand dollars, and I had to pay it within a month. In court I did not exactly understand what was happening and would have told my lawyer I did not have the cash to pay right now. I knew that once there was a settlement, I would receive net monies from the sale of the house. My ex wife though, would eventually purchase our home from me and would owe me about $100,000. I had not known this yet in court. At the same time, I also had lawyer’s fees to contend with, and my independent business suffered from the time I had to divert to the divorce process. Because of all that, I came up short for that month to pay the money the court said I had to pay for child support. It was unexpected as I was hoping for a mediated divorce, which my contribution was already $2,500 but did not work and a new lawyer’s fee was an additional $5,000. I used up my meager savings. Since I could not pay the amount of retroactive child support immediately, my wife’s lawyer put a lean on my accounts, thinking I must have had the money. I now owed my ex-wife $4,000 in back child support, to be paid immediately, while in contrast she would eventually owe me $80,000 dollars when the divorce was completed. A loophole in the logic of it and her layer placed at least two leans on me. The first few arrows had struck my armor. I did not know what a lean was, much less what it entailed. All my life I worked hard and always paid my bills. Now that I was separated and waiting for a divorce settlement, I was ill prepared for the new economic limbo that would befall me. Going from a joint economic partnership where expenses were shared to the economic hardship of facing all Divorce, Israeli Style those expenses alone was overbearing. Debtors smelled a wounded corpse, and lenders shied away from me like the plague. In reality, I had plenty of assets value in my home, but that was now tied up until the settlement. I was paper rich but dirt poor. My home, in which I put most of my equity in all my married life, and thus did not have much in savings except in locked pensions, was now out of my hands until it was sold or settled. To add insult to injury, my bank, that I had been a loyal customer at for twenty-one years would not give me a loan to pay the child support because I had no untied collateral. I also learned then that I was a high risk because of that lean placed on me. Beguiled, I tightened my grip on my shield, only to have more arrows come at me to strike another low blow impossible to anticipate. An associate I shared an office with and received referrals from for my livelihood informed me she had already taken a consultation job in a local school, and thus I should expect a large decrease in patient referrals. Then, just when I thought lightning could not strike twice, another major source of my referrals, a physician in charge of a local hospital child neurology clinic, became ill with cancer and went on indefinite medical leave. My cash flow now ran close to dry, my equity continued to be tied up, and expenses continued to pile up. It was in times like this when I wished I had a steady job. When we were together, my wife and I balanced each other out; she had the benefits of a steady job while I had the benefits of self-employment. Now, that balance was no longer. Furthermore, being self employed, I could not even receive un-employment. For the first time in my life, I was financially squeezed, functionally broke, and there seemed like no way out. What was I going to do? I did not even have any cash on me because I could not make bank withdrawals until I paid the child support and settled the lean. But I couldn’t settle the lean without the completion of the divorce and the sale of the house. How was I even going to pay the rent? From this experience I learned the valuable lesson of always making Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home sure you have hard cash on you in reserve in case of an emergency. Looking back, I am happy that I was able to experience being broke in such a dire situation. Life is the sum of its experiences, and this was a new and scary one I would not have afforded myself any other way. I looked forward to learning how to survive such an awful experience so I could teach others who have to deal with life’s challenges. I could have wired my mother and told her to send a few thousand dollars as it was an emergency, but that would have been an artificial “outside” solution. I was not about to take the easy way out. Just as I made every effort to work hard with my clients to motivate them to do the same in their own lives, I wanted to get out of this predicament all by myself. How was I going to turn this negative into a positive? At this point, I could not even afford to feed myself. The bills started to come in and the banks were sending them back. A great way to get rid of debt collectors, I thought. I turned to the free social services available in my town. They told me there is a distribution center where welfare food packages are distributed for the Sabbath every Friday afternoon. I was not about to miss this opportunity to pick myself up, so I went. I, a clean-cut, able-bodied man, needed a handout from city hall. It wasn’t really a handout, as I saw it though, considering the taxes I paid over the years. It was time for payback but I did not expect what came next. I was given six full bags of food and necessities, enough to last a month. In the bags were tuna cans, sardines, flour, cornflower, cooking oil, sugar, pasta, bread, milk, soda, jam, margarine, Sabbath candles, and a box of matches. My eyes were wet with tears. There I was, flat broke, carrying six boxes of food into my car, and I was overwhelmed with nothing but pride for my town, caring for its own in the crunch. The food was not exactly the healthiest, but I did not plan to eat this way forever. Eventually, I pressed my divorce lawyer to give me a loan to pay the child support. She would get back the money when she closed the settlement; after all I was a well known mini celebrity Divorce, Israeli Style client. In time, things worked out, my shield and armor held up. My ex-wife purchased the home from me as I had wished. For the kid’s sake I gave her a price that was well below the market value, although still much more than the price she was originally willing to pay. Since she worked in a bank, they helped her with refinancing the mortgage. In the settlement, the fees I owed were deducted from the fees owed to me, which was something her lawyer should have done without the need for a lean. I could have taken retribution against her lawyer for that, but wanted nothing more than my freedom. In the end, freedom had a price and had to be fought for, but it was worth every shekel. Still, if I could do the marriage all over again, I would have had us enroll in some kind of communications course. People are required to complete a course for a driving license, not for marriage. It should be a requirement. It would have taken less time, sweat, and effort than the divorce did. Yankee Zichron - only in Israel Life went on after the divorce, but I had to adjust. It was time to make do with less income. At least I was no longer in debt, but also there was no longer a combined salary of husband and wife to survive on. Now there was child support to pay. This is when not having an immediate family and support system made a large difference. I cherished my work with enlightening the lives of students who struggled with learning. Remaining in small town Zichron Yacov, though, meant that I would have a limited well to tap for clientele. There were more people on single blocks in Tel-Aviv than in the whole town of Zichron Yacov. Still, I did not enjoy the thought of moving from Zichron. Zichron had been my home for ten years now, and living there meant staying close to my daughters. Zichron was also that sort of special place that if you told someone you lived there, they thought you were privileged royalty, or in any case lucky. Many Israelis only dreamed of living in Zichron’s beautiful historic wine country with its colorful people and with both its pristine beaches and the major cities just around the corner. I did retain some clientele that were willing to travel to see me from afar, but tapping those reserves alone was just not enough. When you are living on one steady salary and one from a private business, you make out fine, but trying to live on an unsteady independently engineered income while having to make steady payments was a challenge. I hoped that articles about my work appearing then in major magazines would bring a slew of new clients. I preferred magazine Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home articles over newspapers because newspapers sit around in offices for only a few days while people save magazines for years, yet either way, this method of promoting yourself wore thin at a rapid pace. You cannot camp on the editor’s front doorstep and have the magazine feature you in issue after issue, or you will soon become old news. I did notice that some business people were adept at reinventing the wheel, constantly prattling on about new developments just to get exposure, but going through these motions demand some real capital, and naturally, there was no guarantee. I did try it for a while, but the risk hardly met the reward, so this tactic was not for me. I was now confronted with some business choices. Should I shift my focus and offer other types of services to further multiply my streams of income? Should I move to the Tel-Aviv area in the hopes of attracting more clients in the busy city? Or, should I pursue another degree in counseling, thereby expanding my area of expertise and credibility? My passion for teaching techniques in boosting one’s creativity called to mind my passion for painting in pastels. I decided then to lead art workshops, sometimes in the parks, and sometimes at the homes of agreeable clients. That was fun, but people were not willing to pay significant amounts to learn how to paint. I thought that odd because of all the pleasure painting and art appreciation can give. One of my favorite places to hold these art workshops was at the beautiful Baron De Rothschild Park in Zichron, Yacov, which I also used as the serene backdrop for many scenes in the videos I made to teach natural relaxation techniques. Once, while painting a majestic olive tree by the picnic tables in an isolated and quiet end of the park, a busload of teenagers on a school trip disembarked. They were all Arab students, shouting and having a jolly time. To my disdain, one of the students noticed me and started walking over. He said something in Arabic and about ten to fifteen students all began walking my way. Ordinarily, this event would not be worth noting, but this was during the first week of the second Palestinian Yankee Zichron - only in Israel Intifada uprising, a period of bloody civil unrest when there was no telling if the next innocent looking stranger passing by would turn into another suicide bomber already known for blowing themselves up in coffee houses, restaurants, and discos. In a show of sympathy and support for their Palestinian cousins, some Israeli-Arab towns blocked roads and threw stones at police and passing cars on the very first day of the uprising. Demonstrators were killed and emotions were now running high. I looked around and noticed the park was completely empty. I felt uneasy. I never carried a weapon, though most able-bodied Israelis did. All I could think of then was all the media hysteria, all the newspapers sounding off sirens of dread with fears of an Arab revolution. The local Arab Israeli population regularly denies and resents such suspicion, themselves volunteering for army service and claiming good citizenship. Yet, with the Intifada fanning flames all around us, who could blame the papers? The group of students was now closing in, totally surrounding me. I solemnly accepted that I might be the next terrorist victim and put on a brave face. In Israel, going about your business is the way you had to live if you wanted to survive. You knew that you could be blown up at any time, yet the moment you allow that fear to control you was the moment you stopped living. I was resigned that now was the time for me to meet my maker. One of the students, not realizing I am uptight, asks me what I am painting. I answered “that olive tree over there” while my mind’s eye flashed across stories of how terrorists were also known to ask you what time it is before they killed you, just to toy with you like a cat toys with a mouse before it becomes supper. Another student asks if they could watch, and I went along with it. One of the Arab youngsters then complimented me, saying “it’s a very nice painting.” Then, their teacher called them back, and they run along to tour the park. Relaxed again, I thought about what President Roosevelt said: “You have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home I started to look at other health-related business ideas and was introduced to the concept of building a “passive income,” which would be a way to offer my services 24/7. This idea of a passive income was being pitched as preparing for retirement, to have an income as you are getting older and less able to work actively. For me, this option meant finding a way to distribute the techniques I developed through the Internet or online. I decided then to create books and videos for publication through my publishing house, Rainbow Cloud, and distribute them online via, which operates around the clock. That is, even a dark cloud can have a rainbow and a bright future, remember, a rainbow appeared after the flood in the Bible story of Noah’s Ark. Another avenue I tried was in joining a business networking group called Business Networking International (BNI), which I nicknamed business networking Israel. BNI chapters were mushrooming throughout the country. The new concept was the giver- receives, if you give referrals to your fellow networkers, they will give you referrals in return. The meetings were held early in the morning at 7:00 once a week. Many did not like this time slot, but the idea was that if you came to a 7am meeting, you were a serious businessperson. Only one person from each profession was allowed to join a local chapter, and I thought this would present a problem for me because I had multiple streams of income. As it turned out, I received an award for being a chief source of many referrals to our group. Through my work in helping students, I built trust with many parents from all kinds of backgrounds, and they became my references for other services offered by the BNI members. Of course, you never know where and how a referral might come from. There is no greater power in advertisement than word of mouth. An Israeli chiropractor joined the group who had studied his trade somewhere in Texas before returning to Israel. During a trade fair in Zichron, I met a tourist from Texas, and we got to talking. I was always happy to talk to visiting Americans, get the latest Yankee Zichron - only in Israel news from home, and ask questions of what Americans are currently thinking about what is happening in Israel. I told him I worked in alternative medicine, and he asked me if I knew a good English- speaking chiropractor in the area who could fix his bad elbow, which he showed me. When I mentioned the name of the chiropractor from BNI, the tourist was astounded – it was the same chiropractor he had back in Texas! It is a small world indeed. The referrals from BNI helped, but they too were not enough to keep me afloat. Zichron was just too small. Eventually I uncovered an opportunity to help with the translation of the local Hebrew language newspaper, Hagefen (The Grape Vine). I made friends with the editor, Shimon, who earlier had opted to write a couple of fantastic articles on my work introducing biofeedback and my services to the area. Shimon, his own man, was invited to interview me when I first moved to Zichron Yacov. He came wearing a T-shirt and barefoot, his way of expressing Kacha Ze, or “it is what it is”. This was deceiving. He wrote a beautiful four-side piece on my approach to helping students with learning challenges, and he told me I had the record for the largest article in his newspaper. That was his way of showing how much he supported new enterprise to Zichron as well as help for learning disabilities. As it turns out, the subject was very close to his heart. So now, while walking on Derech Ha’yayin (the wine route), Zichron’s main street, I bumped into Shimon once again. I loved that about Small Town Zichron – you could bump into the people you know at any time, and often just at the right moment. I brought up the idea of adding an English summary to the paper, knowing that there were now many born and bred Anglo-Saxons living around the area. He liked the idea and considered that if he added an English part to his paper, he could attract advertisements from the growing English-speaking community in the area. That conversation gave birth to a new summary section in the paper entitled Yankee, Zichron, a title inspired from the movie Yankee, Pasha. Sitting in his newspaper office in his house, he would read Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home aloud in Hebrew what he wanted translated, and I went at it. The first edition of Yankee, Zichron featured highlights of an interview with the mayor of Zichron. I now had the power of the press at my fingertips, so I thought; but, Shimon was smart enough not to let me interject my politics into the news, just translate his ideas. Yet, who knows, maybe my own column on special education was in the works next. At this time, Shimon made an observation about me that I would always appreciate deeply. He said he admired my grit in trying to do the things needed to be done to make my stay in Israel. “True Grit” and I thought I was just being creative. I was working very hard just to survive, yet I continued to pursue the labor of love, living in Israel. After only a few months, though, I met with a new obstacle in my path. Shimon decided there were not enough advertisements coming in from the Anglo community to justify his new publishing costs. If I wanted Yankee, Zichron to continue, I would have to help him find advertising clients myself. This was not a bad offer by any means, for I saw it as a chance to be a partner with him through The Yankee, Zichron. Here an Israeli newspaper editor is giving me a two-page portion on a silver platter to write in English, and all I had to do was get advertisements to support it. Alas, my heart was in helping students naturally. There are only so many things a person can do in a day. At least now, my résumé can boast that I was once a newspaper mogul; only in Israel. An Artist in Search of his Mentor: A story about roots and tolerance In Creative Painting for the Young Artist, a book I conceived about devel oping one’s artistic expression, one of the suggestions I give is to find a mentor to emulate. Unpredictably, my mentor became my artist grandfather, Jozef Alster. Jozef was liberated by the US army from the Buchenwald concentration camp, only to die a few days later from pneumonia, and right before my father had a chance to reunite with him. All through my childhood, I longed to know him, and one day I finally did. A beautiful painting of a ruined medieval castle hung above my father’s bed. The yellow stoned castle looked mystical and was perched high above a crest on a towering green mountain, easily a backdrop to some Dungeons and Dragons game. I wondered if the castle was real or from fantasy, like something out of a Brothers’ Grimm fairy tale. In the corner, it was signed “J. Alster.” I asked my father who “J. Alster” was, and he told me that it was his father, Jozef Alster, which happened to be where my Hebrew namesake came from. I questioned, who exactly is the fellow I have the honor to be named after and where was he hiding? I never met him. If he isn’t around then so- be -it I suppose. But how did the painting get here, above my father’s bed? And come to think of it, if this painting was the work of one of my family, then why can’t I paint like this? I knew I had problems drawing a straight line properly. Why doesn’t he come Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home and offer to teach me how to draw and paint? All these questions were quite intriguing for a young lad just running out to play. I asked my father where he was born, and he told me he came from the city of Wodavitza, Poland – the same city where the Polish Pope came from. I was amazed. I asked my father if he met the Pope as a boy, and he answered, “Yes, I must have. It was a small town. I must have bumped into him walking on the street or playing soccer in the park.” The castle in the painting must be in Poland, I surmised. My father brought me along to visit his Aunt Sara in Crown Heights, New York. I was psyched to make this trip, thinking maybe my granddad would be there too. Sure enough, paintings from my grandfather adorned her walls, and a real large one hung behind the dining table, right behind me when I sat down to eat. Sadly, my grandfather was nowhere to be found. I asked my father how my aunt got the paintings from grandfather. The story began, Jozef Alster sold Aunt Sarah the paintings in Germany, and that’s how they were saved. Aunt Sarah then gave a few of these precious paintings to my father when he arrived in the USA. Unfortunately, I was told, grandfather is no longer around, (but at that point in my life, my father did not reveal the exact reason why.) This was confusing to me then, as I was just a young lad. Apparently now I have an aunt from Germany, a father from Poland, and a grandfather from both Germany and Poland. Before the war, as the stories would begin, all the others moved to Germany from Poland to have a better life, but were forced back to Poland when the Reich gained power. My aunt’s family immigrated to the USA from Germany before the war, as Albert Einstein did, and brought the paintings they acquired from my grandfather. Thus his works of art were preserved. Yet, the mystery of the painting in my father’s room remained. Where then, was that castle my grandfather painted? Was it in Germany, Poland, or somewhere else entirely? Did it even exist? The rest of my family that I visited did not know for sure, but An Artist in Search of his Mentor: A story about roots and tolerance they did say he painted while vacationing somewhere in Germany. Germany then is the location. Either way, I felt it was a real pity and a real loss that my grandfather was not around to teach me to paint and draw. I could not even draw a straight line if my life depended on it. Then one day, when I was 22 years old, I was required to enroll in an art appreciation class in college. Showing some photos of ancient Egyptian art and then comparing them to Renaissance art, the professor said something that changed my life. He declared that art progressed with time, and that anyone – yes, anyone – could be an artist. I almost fell off my chair. Anyone can be an artist? Anyone could be taught to paint? I was under the impression then that you have to have been born with artistic talent. After that breakthrough, I signed up for an art instruction class, put out my first painting in 1977, and from that day led a life embellished with art. After twenty years of painting, visiting museums, and going to workshops, I have to say I produced and sold some quality artwork. I was so proud of what I was able to create and of my newfound confidence in this ability, I wanted to share it with anyone else who struggled as I did to make this possible, and thus Creative Painting for the Young Artist was born. In this book, I describe how to build one’s ability to express oneself creatively through art amongst examples of my art throughout the years, mostly consisting of pastel paintings of various scenes in Israel. As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, one of the main highlights in my book is to encourage new artists to find a mentor. I wanted my grandfather to be my mentor somehow, so as a memorial to him, I featured one of his paintings in the book. Seeking to determine if the painting was from a professional or a layman I gave the painting my personal critique. My grandfather’s work was a shining example how a true artist would use composition, perspective, focal and vanishing points, visual movement, and how to detail the area of interest. It was through this book that I Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home at last met my mentor, my dear grandfather, and brought him back to life. After publishing this tribute, I still could not help but wonder if I will ever discover where the castle painting was from. The Internet was now available to use as a resource. As far as I could tell, there were no paintings from Jozef Alster for sale or display on the net. Through Internet sites on the castles of Germany, I scoured for the skyline of that castle. Eventually I discovered, with stunning irony, a building called Alster Tower. According to the reference I found, this tower served as a playhouse but did not look like the castle Jozef painted. Its design resembled that of a defense tower similar to those on the Alster River in Germany near Hamburg, yet despite this military overtone, Alster Tower reportedly was intended for the entertainment of guests. Did my grandfather paint a tower after one of the towers on the Alster River in Hamburg? Or, better yet, knowing that he came originally from Poland, did my grandfather actually assume the German name “Alster” and signed his paintings so? If this was true somehow, could it be that he used this tactic to avoid expulsion from Germany as a Polish Jewish migrant? I later found out that Alster is indeed a German name, but it was also used in Austria where my grandfather served during the First World War. “Alster” signified the magpie bird, a symbol of Austria. According to my research, Austria ruled parts of Poland before the Polish declared independence. Henceforth, Polish Jews like my grandfather really could have had a German name as Alster, and did. Living in Israel in 2005, I planned to take a vacation with a Russian lady friend. She wanted to see the snow like in Russia, and I wanted a cool vacation from hot Israel. She wanted to have a companion who spoke English, feeling as though she could not navigate well in Germany with solely her native Russian or Hebrew. Since I had been to Switzerland and Frankfurt, Germany already, I suggested beautiful Bavaria, Germany. Close to the border with An Artist in Search of his Mentor: A story about roots and tolerance Switzerland and the Alps, Bavaria was teeming with castles there like the Neuschwanstein of Sleeping Beauty Disneyland fame. I was comfortable with visiting Germany by this point – the war was certainly over by now – and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I will see the castle my granddad painted there. As I had predicted, Bavaria was just beautiful. The hills covered in snow, lakes, streams, and woodlands reminded me of wintry Vermont or New Hampshire. Maybe that is why my dad settled in New England – it reminded him of home somehow. We had a grand time touring the old Bavarian towns on the so-called “Romance Trail.” There were castles there all right, but not that ruined castle my grandfather depicted. We stayed at a hotel just under the Neuschwanstein, and I sat out on the porch at night. The sky was clear and the castle was all lit up with flickering stars in the distance. The next day, we awoke to a Bavarian breakfast. We made plans to head back north and make some stops at the different towns along the way to Munich. I peered out the window and saw some snow flurries dusting over the blizzard that crept up overnight. We checked out and headed to clean off the car, which was parked out in the open. I had not driven in winter weather in quite some time, and after seeing all this, I wondered if we would even be able to make it out of the parking lot. Sure enough, our massive rented German Mercedes could not make it up the incline from the parking lot to the road. It was unbelievable. Again and again, our German juggernaut kept sliding back down the driveway. It was no match for the snow and ice without snow tires or proper chains. Being stuck in Bavaria was not too awful, but we did want to press on. I never imagined that I would be stranded in the Bavarian snow with a German car. It was under these circumstances that I would meet with my second genuine German. Hans was a handsome young man whose parents owned the hotel. When I met him, I couldn’t help but think to myself, Hans is such a stereotypical German name. I was surprised it Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home was still being used. With blond hair, blue eyes, and a quiet demeanor, he seemed like the poster child for the Hitler youth. He knew I was from Israel too, since we had registered our home addresses at the hotel and showed them our passports too. Hans’s mom had been out shoveling snow, and seeing that we were stranded, called Hans and told him to please help us. He tried for about a full 30 minutes to put on the snow chains on the tires for us. We did receive snow chains for the rental car at the airport in Munich, but as Murphy’s Law would have it, they turned out to be the wrong size. Hans told us he would have to drive us into town and get a new pair from the dealer, so we traveled five miles into town, got the right chains, and he spent another half hour in the snow strapping them on. With the new chains, we were able to make it up the incline to the road and the main roads were cleared. I wanted to give Hans special thanks. I gave him a copy of my art book with the photo of the German castle in it. A little melodramatically, I looked him in the eyes and just came out and told him, “My last name is Alster. Alster is a German name.” Without giving it a second thought, I opened up to the page with my grandfather’s mysterious castle and showed it to him. “The castle in the book, my grandfather painted it. This is a Ger man castle. Enjoy.” Thinking about the significance of what I was telling him, that I have German roots and heritage too, even if I am Jewish. I felt like I was trying to explain to him that Germany too was a homeland, and the relationship between Jews and Germans under even the simplest conditions will always be weighted by history. That it is alright for Jews now to visit Germany – the war is finally over. If other Jews visit Bavaria, I would hope that they will stay at his family’s wonderful hotel and be more than welcomed. Hans’ act of helping me was one of the kindest things anyone has done for me. We got into the car and drove off. A few miles down the road the chains fell right off again. I left Germany without knowing where the castle was. In 2006, back in Zichron Yacov, Yom Ha’zikaron (Remembrance Day) had ar- An Artist in Search of his Mentor: A story about roots and tolerance rived and I was with my youngest daughter Limor. Reflecting on the Holocaust, “Dad,” she asked me, “what’s the story again of the painting that survived the Holocaust? How did it get to Israel?” I told her that I have tried researching the castle’s origins in any way that I could think of, and that the best results turned up from a topographical map search of Germany focused in the Rhine area, far from Bavaria. Intrigued, Limor suggested I use Google images, which was brand new at the time. We searched for the words castle, Germany, and Rhine together, and voila! The very first photo that shows up is Drachensfels castle. Eureka! 10-4, BINGO, Kunta Kinte, that’s it! The ruined walls, the colors of the scenery, the windows in the towers, the adjacent hill – it was a perfect match, conjured with my daughter’s idea right before my eyes; “Limor, you did it.” But, there are only two walls in the castle photo and three walls in the painting. Could it have been ruined during the war? That made no sense. If one wall was knocked off by a powerful blast, the chances are that the other walls would be damaged too. How come this ruined castle is in worse shape than the other castles in Germany, and still standing intact? Either the Allies saved the castles from destruction during the war, or someone bothered to renovate them quite well. If so, what happened to the third wall? If this was the same castle, had my grandfather merely taken some artistic license? We searched further and found “Drachensfels” meant “fallen dragon.” Dragons brought to mind dinosaurs, which brought to mind the premise of Jurassic Park, and I wondered if dinosaurs really could be resurrected through experiments with their DNA, perhaps I could somehow bring my granddad back to life as well so he could explain this great mystery. After all, why paint this castle out of all the castles in Germany? If I found its location, could I discover the position in which my grandfather created this painting? Above all, is there anything so special about it that the painting alone could not reveal? The painting itself was beginning to reveal her secrets. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home I pushed onward, looking up Drachensfels Castle and Google yielded me more clues: “Drachensfels Castle is the remnant of a proud castle of which today only the high tower is still seen. The hill and the castle enjoy tremendous popularity and is a popular tourist destination. The view from the 1050-ft.-high summit is considered one of the most famous on the Rhine. The former masters of the castle, the Counts of Drachensfels had a winged, fire-spitting dragon in their coat of arms. In the last century, the stone quarries jeopardized the hilltop and the tower. These had been continually extended until the Government stepped in, taking over the peak and safeguarding the ruins from any further danger.” Is my grandfather’s painting, like a time machine, witness to the damage from the quarry? The third castle wall is now gone. Out of all the things a caption might say, here under the image of the castle, “In the last century, the hilltop and the tower were jeopardized by the stone quarries.” Yet, here, it fits in like another piece to the puzzle. Interestingly, one of the reasons artists paint nature scenes is to capture beautiful scenery for remembrance before it is swept away by modernity. Was Jozef an artist like that? So, at last, I can make an educated guess as to why my grandfather painted this particular castle. It is popular in Germany as a tourist attraction and has a natural aura full of adventure stories and fantasy. Perhaps he might have thought he could sell it to one of the tourists just as I would with my own paintings of Israel. Whatever the truth, for me he survived the Holocaust through his art, and that he was certainly someone worthy of looking up to as a mentor. Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home During my sojourn to Israel, I fulfilled my wish for self-determination and self-actualization. I had built a home, raised a family, and crafted successful businesses beyond my wildest dreams. Israel had become my home. Even after the divorce occurred, I hardly considered returning to live in the USA with even the slightest pause until one day when I had a young client who was talking about emigration. She was an attractive girl who came to the sessions wearing a fashionable cowboy hat, large buckled leather belt, cowboy boots, and tight Levi jeans. A modern-day Sabra, she would feel right at home in a Texas rodeo except that she was a law student who needed help for passing her law board exam. This was her second attempt, and she said that if she did not pass the law boards this time around, she would move to England. Off-handedly, I asked her why she an Israeli Sabra would ever want to move to England and she answered, “everything goes wrong in Israel.” I was a little put off by this comment. Here was another flourishing youth, the hope of the future, telling me that she wants to emigrate with a passionate pessimism for Israel. I hardly agreed with her, but the more I began to think about it, I realized that things no longer felt right here to me either. Sure it was a troubled time in Israel with all the terrorism, the poor economy, the stifling bureaucracy, the rampant cronyism, and all the high taxes, but for the Jews, Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home it was still a place to call home, and just having a homeland after 2,000 years of Diaspora should have been enough. Things could be worse! My assuredness notwithstanding, this inevitably was the moment in which the first seed of the notion to return home to the USA was planted. I was still a staunch believer in the “Israel or bust” mentality. Israel is yours, for better or worse, just as G-d promised – you do not just get up and quit and leave her. At the same time, however, I started to mull over how Israel is indeed a small country, and the rest of the world does have much to offer beyond its borders. I knew there is no law stating that you have to live in just one place forever, and I was curious to see what the world had to offer me that Israel simply now could not. On top of this, I was not in the best of health in this period of my life beginning to feel tired and sluggish. I was sleeping for hours at a time, and I was starting to have medical issues all at once, as if my body’s defenses were simultaneously collapsing. My gums were red, my teeth were sore, and my back began to hurt with pain. Soon, I could barely walk without aching, bent over a bit. What scared me the most is that I was having chest pains, even though I was passing my cardiac stress test. With all of this, an average week now included visits to the doctor, acupuncturist, dentist, massage therapists, and my bed, for more and more sleeping. This caused medical expenses to compound and being a self- employed entrepreneur, social benefits, sick leave, and vacation time were all on me. To make matters more difficult, since I was renting I was not having the added benefit of a tax deduction of an office in the home. I had continued to branch out in my ongoing quest for finding and maintaining multiple streams of income as well as passive income, but now, my focus and my ultimate goals suffered. I had branched out into art sales, art workshops, selling natural meal replacement plans, and tutoring Israelis in English. I was having fun and fulfillment, but really, just one of these jobs should have been enough at a given time, however, I was trying to do them all at the same time. Sure, I was following my dreams and providing different Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home top quality services, but my customers started to become confused and perhaps unsettled by all the different hats I was wearing. Was I helping students with learning problems, a biofeedback practitioner, an artist, or a diet plan distributor? My network of business contacts and friends no longer knew how to describe me to potential customers. With this turn of events, I wrestled once more with the option to move to the Tel- Aviv area to boost my clientele and income, but I knew now that I no longer had the strength or resources to make it happen. At this juncture, I found myself considering returning home to the USA for the first time in decades, if only temporarily, if only to work a few years to cement my social security pension. I knew well enough that there was no guarantee finding employment to sustain myself, but if I did not take this opportunity now, I probably would not be able to take this chance again. My mother told me horror stories about the American economy, with people losing their jobs left and right and not finding employment even after a year. She told me that it was “real ugly,” but I could not believe her. I was convinced that that’s the America only she was talking about, and that it’s just not possible for “the land of the free” to be in such dire straits. But then again, I wasn’t there to witness what was happening with my own eyes. For me, the option to move to America for a few years and to work and return to Israel was always a fail-safe option. It was the “Israeli” thing to do. Israelis were commuting in ever increasing numbers to other countries for employment. A heart doctor with office hours in Italy, a florist with a distribution business in Romania and a dental surgeon that flew all the way to Alaska for a couple of months a year, alternative medicine students going to China. Going back to America had an added advantage that would allow me to spend more time with my sister and ill mother. The final decision to move back to the USA came from an unlikely and unexpected source. I was sitting and having dinner with my two daughters at an outdoor restaurant in Pardes Hanna, a small Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home orchard town twenty minutes from Zichron Yacov. The warm summer wind was blowing through the Cyprus trees. Both Shanee and Limor ordered chicken schnitzel, and I had hummus with pita. Eating hummus had now been my favorite vegetarian dish. They sensed that I was uneasy and asked me if anything was wrong. I guess it showed up on my drawn facial expressions and overall weak body. I had not told them before that I was considering moving back to the USA for a couple of years. It was a last resort in my mind, and I worried about how I would miss seeing my daughters if I took that route. I sighed and admitted to them that business was going through a bad period and that I am considering having to move to the Tel Aviv area. To my wonder, both kids suggested nonchalantly and in perfect unison that I consider moving back to the USA. “Dad, Israel is a tough place,” they chimed together, “and you’re not doing too well anymore. The language is hard. The people are hard. Go back to the States.” There it was, welcoming and un-welcoming; I could not believe my ears. My own children were telling me it is okay to leave Israel, to emigrate, to “go down” from Israel to return to America. Just as with the young sabra law student, it was now “in” to leave Israel. Didn’t they know that G-d gave this land to the Jews to settle? What became of their Zionism, or were they just concerned about me first? Yet, I was worried about them, and I worried about how I was supposed to give them a good life if I am not making ends meet anymore and becoming ill. I studied them again closely and realized that now, they were doing all right. They were grown up, had many friends had a nice home with their mother in the most beautiful town in Israel, and they had a large family to comfort them. With my children flourishing so I understood that it was I who needed to take care of me. Taking a deep breath, I told them that recently I had been thinking about going back to the USA, even if for only to work for a few years, but I told them I would not even think about going through with leaving unless they promised to visit with me each Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home year. They both promised they would do so, and they even looked forward to visiting on vacations. Right then it was settled. I was going back to the USA, eventually. Once I made the decision, a heavy burden lifted from my chest. My daughters had become adults and were ready to let me fly. There was still time, however, and I had work to be done. I had to develop a plan for the big move and then plan what I would do once I returned to the USA. I knew that I had developed a variety of natural techniques and methods of helping students succeed in school that I wanted to share with the world. To make a long story short, I decided that the best way to achieve this goal would be to produce my own movies to use as educational resources and publish them before I leave. I did not plan on moving for another six months, so it seemed like I would have just enough time to make this happen. I didn’t really know how to make a digital movie, but as I would tell my students when facing an obstacle like this, that is where determination comes in. It would have cost me over $5,000 for local professionals to get the job done, so I figured for that amount, I could pay myself and make this project my new job. With the help of the Internet and various how-to DVDs, I trained myself to make and edit movies using Windows Movie Maker 2. In that six month period, I set aside enough time to make these movies from the comfort of my apartment, and I put them up on Amazon. com under Rainbow Cloud Publications. The first movie was based on my book Being in Control and brought the techniques I described in the book to life. For instance, in addition to showing a seated yoga exercise, I performed a seated yoga exercise in the video. Next, there came a short film focused on improving penmanship, entitled “Anyone Can Improve Their Handwriting.” Following that came three more short films entitled “A Guide for GSR Biofeedback for the Natural ADHD Practitioner,” “Natural Sights and Sounds of Israel,” and “Relaxing with Meditative Sights and Sounds of Israel.” The first of these explained how I use a physiological biofeedback Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home variable, the GSR, to improve relaxed concentration. Each movie took me about a month to film and edit. I was now ready to enter a new chapter in my life. My work in Israel was coming to a temporary end, and it was a most rewarding period in my life. I was now a happy and content man. Come what may, I could leave a legacy. I arranged to buy tickets to the USA for the end of July, 2006 from a travel agent who was a member of the BNI business-networking group. After I ordered the tickets, unfortunately and unexpectedly, hostile activity broke out on the Lebanon border, foreshadowing what would be called the Lebanon War, version 2.0. The travel agent had a branch office in the north of Haifa, the Kryot, and at the next BNI meeting she told us of Katushas falling near her office. Things were so peaceful for a few good years since the army exited Lebanon – it was a real shame war would begin again. Some theorized that extremist Arabs did not want quiet with Israel intentionally because their political base was fed by conflict. Peace and quiet was bad for the business of terrorism, after all. Cobra gunships were now flying along the coast to the north and I could see them from my balcony overlooking the beach. It was surreal; yet another noisy war raged again, and it was getting deadlier day by day. The Saturday of the first week of hostilities I traveled north to a park on the Carmel Mountain range, next to Haifa University, which had a broad view of Lebanon. From the mountain peak, I could see most of the border, my old work place at the Technion, and where I use to live in Nesher. I felt an eerie quiet, and few cars were on the road. It was windy and about to rain. I half-expected to witness a Katusha fire right over the border from Lebanon and then witness the expected Israeli response. I wasn’t scared, for I never thought the Katushas could even reach Haifa, despite what recent news reports had to say. Hezbollah had newer Katushas from Iran, supposedly, but none were fired at that time. Would they dare attack a major Israeli city? No way! Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home I drove back home and continued to work on the videos. Two days later, Katushas did strike the modern and beautiful city of Haifa with deadly results. It was on the news. The main train station was hit, and at least eight railroad engineers were killed in the attack. This attack hit home for me in more ways than one. I lived in Haifa for ten years, and the mother of my children still worked there. The nerve of it! One Katusha struck on the Carmel Mountain next to the tourist cable cars station fence, and I recalled how my father was standing right at that spot 15 years earlier while taking a scenic tour of the city. I even took a snap shot. I expected then that there was going to be a stiff and quick response. There had to be. With this development, one third of the tiny country of Israel was now within new Katusha range. How are the people of Israel going to sleep at night? How could they possibly accept the idea of giving what little land they have for an insecure peace? To get out of range of the Katushas, civilians were now moving en masse as modern day refugees to the hotel in Zichron that I called home, Eden Inn. I first knew that there were new “guests” at the hotel because I had to suddenly wait in line to use the hotels few washing machines. For a moment, I paused to consider my position. Taking a flight from Israel, right during a war, would not look good for me. Only I knew I had ordered the ticket before it started. Would anyone think I was running away? On the other hand, did it matter what anyone thought? I also reflected on the cost of just two bombs. If the money was donated to my clinic, I could have supported my work, and stay in Israel awhile longer. I decided that I wasn’t going to let the Katushas stop my plans. I was a free man in my own homeland and wished to go on with my life, even if it was to leave. Well anyways, two weeks of the 4 week conflict had already passed. I was not going to allow Hezbollah to change my plans, and I sure as heck was not going to request of my Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home children to come with me either, unless they wanted too. Israel was their homeland; they were born in conflict and survived, and I was proud of them. This was my last act of defiance on Israeli soil. By sticking with my plan, I was also freeing up my room for a needy family from the northern border. And so it was. On a sunny July day, I boarded the plane for New York via Budapest. Aboard I had a window seat which had a clear view. I looked out of the window at Israel for the last time, and it reminded me of the view as I first came: the beautiful scenery, blue green and white splashing coast, tall green and brown palm trees, and red tiled roofs over white stucco homes. Somehow, instinctively, I knew Israel was going to take care of her own. In my heart of hearts, I said to myself: Am Yisrael Chai! “Let the people of Israel live on.” After the Lebanon conflict ended, school in Israel did not start. The teachers were on strike for about a half a year. Whatever business I had left for helping students with learning challenges would have had been dealt a hard blow. As a private businessman, I did not belong to a union. Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home: Day One My sister Audrey picked me up at the airport in New York. It was another three-hour ride to Hartford, Connecticut. I tell her I am exhausted, emotionally and physically, I needed a rest. I felt a deep connection now between my return to America and my father’s initial journey to this country. We were both refugees from a war and about to start another new life. Unlike in his time, however, I had the Internet, email, and a cell phone. Such technology is a great and a powerful ally to have in such pivotal times in one’s life. I could make computer-to-phone telephone calls to Israel the moment I arrived in America thanks to Skype, and I could still stay in touch with Israel through the Internet by keeping up with the latest news, television, and music. Best of all, I could even Google a satellite view of Zichron Yacov and peek at the beach at Tentura, where the current once almost swept me out to sea. I could view the hotel I lived in, Eden Inn, with a mountain view of the coast; the giant wine barrel at the foot of the snake road entering Zichron with the words “Welcome to Zichron Yacov;” and even eyeball the sun dial in the Baron De Rothschild Park that I used as a prop in one of my movies. I viewed the high school my kids attended and the arch at the entrance to the main street where I used to sit and drink Turkish coffee or espresso and give English lessons to a client. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home I joined Netflix and began to catch up on movies I missed, starting with a steady stream of westerns starring John Wayne, whom I widely regarded as one of America’s best and most successful actors. I used to watch westerns with my father long before I ever had an inkling of moving to Israel. He loved westerns and he loved America. Dad would say, “America is the best country in the world, the only one that treats animals as well as humans.” I wondered why he, an immigrant, liked westerns so much. What did cowboys have in common with a child from Eastern Europe? Maybe he identified with the drifting cowboy entering a western town or homestead, bustling freely through the wide open range. In that setting, anyone could have a chance to make it the American way. I watched the John Wayne movie War Wagon, costarring Kirk Douglas, who later starred in a movie about the Israeli War of Independence entitled Cast a Giant Shadow, in which John Wayne had a small cameo. John Wayne also played an American born of Irish immigrants who returned to his roots to live in Ireland in the movie The Quiet Man. The title song of War Wagon was sung by Ed Ames. As I looked up Ed Ames on YouTube to put some his songs on my playlist, I was linked to the theme song “This Land is mine” from the movie Exodus, sung by Pat Boone. Do all roads somehow lead to Israel, I thought? Listening anew to the words, I wondered if it captured what influenced me then to move to Israel: “This land is mine, this ancient land of mine, G-d gave this ancient land to me, I see a land where children can run free So take my hand and walk this golden land with me.” It was so simple then. The Bible said that G-d gave this ancient land to me, a Hebrew. That was before the plans to divide the land like the Two State Solution, the Road Map, the Alon Plan, Camp Leaving Home, Returning Home, Being Home: Day One David, the Oslo Agreement, the Annapolis agreements, the Saudi Plan and the Plan for Partition, the Syrian initiative. Everyone just knew, before some people decided to meddle with G-d’s plans, that G-d gave this land to the Israelites, to me, too. Even as a child learning the Bible I would wonder, why does G-d have to make a promise to the Jews for them to keep their land? No other country or people needed that promise. As I grew up, it became plain as day that the one country on Earth that G-d promised to his Israelite children is the one everyone is trying to partition or take. So maybe, just maybe, G-d knew what he was doing and made that promise anyways. “The Proof is in the Pudding” A month after arriving in the USA, I received this letter: Hello Jason, We will be displaying your book “Being in Control” at my son’s school’s science fair. I am interested in your theory about ADHD being part of a stress response. My son wants to test this theory for his science fair project. We have a temperature and GSR device and software. I was hoping someone on your ADHD Yahoo group (Natural- ADHD-Israel) could help us with setting up this experiment and properly measure the results.” I was thinking about getting 10 kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD and are on medicine (and who we think really have it) and 10 kids who do not have ADHD. I was thinking about using the following procedures: 1) Hooking each of the children to the GSR (galvanic skin re sponse) and thermometer and telling them to lay completely still in a relaxed position for 5 minutes. 2) The 10 with ADHD will have to agree not to have taken any meds that day (a Saturday). 3) They will be told to be still only breathing quietly for the 5 minutes. 4) Measure their temperature at the beginning and end of the five minutes. 5) Measure their GSR during the 5 minutes. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home 6) They will be given no instructions about relaxation. 7) We will measure the number of times the subject moves and fails to remain still. Our Hypothesis is that the test group will show an increased or stable response and the control group will show a decreased stress measure. The Rise and fall of the Bravo! I must say I was touched. Almighty Dollar Growing up in America, we did not really have to pay attention to international currencies, let alone understand them. I do remember my parents mentioning before a trip to Canada that the Canadian dollar can be bought for 70 cents American. Obviously, that meant that Americans are worth 30 cents to the dollar more than Canadians. A false sense of entitlement comes with that. I did not remember learning in school about foreign economies aside from learning the names of the coins used in foreign countries like the yen, peso, lire, franc, and pound. Economics seemed like just a subject for bankers and financial advisers to dwell upon. For the time, though, it made sense. Up until the 1960’s, America was a great country that, according to its own Hollywood, easily beat into submission other nations and won her wars. That bred the domineering mentality for the average American to say, who cares about other currencies anyways? They accept dollars almost everywhere anyway. After all, it was other currencies that were attached to the dollar rate. Having dollars meant not worrying about money, about inflation, about the exchange rate. At the time of my move to Israel, the Americans I knew took the dollar for granted. I dreaded having to bring a cal culator with me just to figure out what items on the counter at the supermarket would cost. I was elated when the calculator watch was 238 239 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home invented. I went through a couple of those my first year. Now there is a calculator on every cell phone. In stark contrast, Israelis were always making great strides to keep themselves well educated about what happened in the world around them. They focused intently on the shekel-to-dollar rate, for it had a great effect on day-to-day life. The exchange rate was even printed on the newspapers front page in attractive colors. With the dollar’s tradition of stability, long-term prices of homes and rents were calculated in dollars, not by the inflationary shekel. It was also vital to internalize that small countries like Israel depended more on international trade, exports, and tourism than world powers USA, and all of this daily activity demanded careful scrutiny of the daily currency rates. In trying to avoid the inflationary devaluation of the shekel, I had to get into the habit of limiting my exchanges of dollars to shekels in carefully monitored doses to pay bills so as not to lose my net capital to transfer fees and inflation. I learned to take advantage of the exchange rates and transfer money on days that the dollar was worth more, although in the long run it was a game that mainly the banks won. Just when I left Israel, the old faithful dollar began plummeting in value, marking the shekel -to- dollar rate at 4.25 shekels for each dollar; a year after that the dollar fell 25% further to 3.50 shekels for each dollar. By that time, that meant for each shekel I earned in Israel and brought it with me to the USA, I suddenly had a net gain of 25% in America, but it also meant that later for each dollar I earned in the USA and wanted to send to my children in Israel I suffered the same 25% in losses. In other words, for each hour I worked in the USA, I would now have to work another fifteen minutes if I was to send money I intended to send to Israel. Just my luck! Aside from the development with the exchange rates, one of the first questions I had when I came back was “what things are new to the USA that I have to know to become acclimated”. My sister’s husband Marty advised me that I needed a good credit rating. Okay, The Rise and fall of the Almighty Dollar I thought, how important can that be? Sure, you need a good credit rating to borrow money, but I did not plan on borrowing any right now. I used my own Visa credit card distributed through an Israeli bank and could borrow from there. I had no problem buying things in the USA and having it charged to my account in Israel regardless of the volatile exchange rate, and I had a good credit rating for my 23 years living in Israel. I brought my Israeli credit card with me not knowing if I could get a card so easily in the USA. I did not close my account for two years after moving to America, considering that if things did not work out or my daughters requested my presence, I would need that card. After that, I could then use my American Visa in Israel. To be perfectly honest, I had no concept of how much things had changed. It seemed that almost anything now was related to a credit score – even renting an apartment. It used to be that a month’s security was enough. I had to give a two-month security deposit instead of just one month’s worth. After a few more months, I wanted to purchase a car to get to work. I did not originally expect to buy a new car, but since the gas prices skyrocketed I learned that some newer cars like the Nissan Versa were optimal to snatch since they got more miles to the gallon, making these cars a better investment than other used cars over the long run. To make this happen, I needed a car loan. I had only worked a few months, but had luckily secured a good job in the diagnostic medical field at a top hospital. When I tried to get a car loan, I was refused by the car dealer, who himself advertised easy funding on TV. My own American bank, in which I held a joint savings account there with my mother for 30 years, also shot me down. I could not believe it. Mind you, I discovered that it was not because I had a poor credit rating, but because I had NO credit rating in the USA. For whatever reason, my Visa credit rating from Israel did not transfer to the USA. Therefore, I had to use my Israeli credit card to pay for a portion of the car and enter credit card debt in Israel, from the USA. Naturally, by the time I worked Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home this out, the worst-case scenario occurred: the dollar dropped even more just after I bought the car and stayed down. Just like that, my debt rose in shekels more than 25% to my dollar purchase. My $16,000 economy car now cost me $21,000, and that was before I even had to pay credit card interest rates of 8% in Israel. I managed to get most of the money for the car from the credit union where I worked, but because I did not have a credit history in America, I had to pay 11% interest instead of their advertised 6% for a car loan. What is the message of this story? The Boy Scouts motto, “Be Prepared” was less apropos than “Expect the Unexpected”. No matter how much you plan your imagined worst case scenario can’t depict what is really going to happen. Israel at 60 I arrived in the USA the last day of July, 2006 and in May, 2008 I went to an Israeli Independence Day celebration at the Hartford Jewish Community Center (JCC). This was to be my first contact with a function focusing on Israel held in America since returning. The JCC was just as much as a beautiful and thriving place as it was when I attended as a youngster. In those days, JCC membership was $75 a year. Now, it is $60 a month. Talk about change. In any case, I learned about the event from a billboard advertisement on Interstate Highway 84 outside Hartford. Israeli food, lectures, movies, a walkathon, and entertainment from a visiting Israeli singer were scheduled. I wanted to show solidarity with Israel, network, and maybe gain some material for this book. I was interested in how modern-day Israel was being perceived by the local community as compared to what I remembered before I left 23 years ago, I already felt the need to reminisce. Rami Kleinstein, the guest entertainer of honor, was being billed as the Israeli “Piano Man,” presumably as a nod to the American “Piano Man” Billy Joel, who was performing at the Mohegan Sun Arena at the time. His wife Rita is also one of the most famous Israeli singers. I saw Rita in person at my wife’s company picnic years ago and I happened to bump into them at a gas station in north Tel-Aviv. I recalled seeing him as he has filling up the tank of his SUV by himself as she leaned against the back seat window with her child in her arms. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home At the JCC’s “Israel at 60” celebration, there were tables filled with Rami Kleinstein records for sale, along with other Israeli performers. A booth nearby featured Israeli made jewelry. I showed the jeweler that I had a silver ring I bought in Israel that just so happened to be in the same style, hoping to start up a conversation in Hebrew. It worked. We spoke, and he told me he too now lives in Connecticut. A third table was packed with packaged Israeli foodstuffs, including PriGat peach juice nectar that I enjoyed, which came from the citrus fields of the kibbutz near Hadera, twenty minutes south of Zichron Yacov. I went once to their processing plant to network and bought a water bottle for drinking under the hot spring sun. The zatar herb and hyssop flavoring with sesame seeds was also for sale. In the Middle East, bread is dipped into zatar and olive oil instead of using butter, which was a delicious treat without cholesterol. I was reminded of the first time I visited Jerusalem, where local Palestinian-Arab youngsters would approach tourists with large, donut-shaped soft sesame rolls ready for dipping in salted zatar laid out on wooden push carts. Along with the artisan and food booths were booths promoting the local Jewish community. The synagogues, the Jewish Historical Society, the Hebrew Academy, the Hassidim Chabadniks, the Jewish Federation, and the JCC itself were all in attendance. There were young children singing and dancing to both Israeli and traditional Jewish songs and Hebrew day school kids walking around with large yellow shirts beaming with the slogan “Got Hebrew Day School?” with their backsides proudly proclaiming “I Do.” Even the mayor of West Hartford, the town in which the festivities was held, was present and said some welcoming words in good Hebrew. I do not know if he is Jewish, but West Hartford does have a large Jewish population. I guess I would vote for him if I lived in West Hartford just because he came to this event. There were also numerous West Hartford policemen on duty, which gave me a strange feeling because the last time I went to anything Israel-related, there were Israeli Israel at 60 troops on guard and I had my bags searched. My mom, on her visits to Israel, would bring a plastic see-through bag so she wouldn’t have to open it at each search. She could have patented that idea. At the fair’s hot food court you could order a falafel, genuine kebab and shawarma were also being served by an Israeli family. I went for the turkey shawarma with “S’chug”, a spicy hot ground green and red chili that is a favorite of mine. It has a different taste than Tabasco. The turkey shawarma was well, turkey; but instead of being traditionally barbecued on a rotating rotisserie or open charcoal flame (with layers of white lamb fat mentioned earlier), it was flat grilled with cooking oil. There were no tahini sesame sauce, or salads to add on freely as you wished; they added the salads for you. To me, it tasted like turkey chunks in pita. It just wasn’t what I was use to. It was, well, Americanized shawarma. Inside the JCC there was a large wall-length poster of a panoramic view of the ski resort on Mt. Hermon on the snow-capped Golan Heights in the north of Israel. I stood in front of the poster and pointed out to my new friend Gil that my daughter Shanee served in the Israeli army at an army post just past the ski lodge. It was the northernmost post in Israel. You could actually see the open road to the mountain summit, having no guard rails. I visited her there, and the ride was a bit intimidating. While talking about the picture, an elderly woman passed by and over heard me say that my daughter was in Israel. She asks, “When did she go there?” I playfully answer, “Miss, why do you assume that? She didn’t go there, she actually was born there.”Then she asks, “How did you like your trip there?” I explained to her that I had not gone “there” as a tourist, but that I had lived “there” for some time. Without a moment’s pause, she prodded further, asking me why I decided to come back to America. I really did not want to answer that at the moment to a stranger, so I answered with a question of my own, “well, why didn’t you ever move there?” I suppose looking back, that the Jewish people are naturally inquisitive, although perhaps a bit downright nosey at times. Now, I 245 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home just respond to that question “read the book,” recalling how Israelis I met for the first time would ask, “how much money do you earn?” The Anglo’s in Israel would always joke about that question. Other common questions, “Why did you come here to live? What’s wrong with America? “After hearing this question for the umpteenth time, wondering if there was something wrong with their school system, I prepared a good answer in return, “the girls in Israel are very pretty. That’s why I came.” Caught off guard by the answer, they agreed that Israel does of course have pretty women, and the conversation would end at that. What other tourists think On July 14, 2007, I had to call my bank in Israel. Due to the 6-hour time differential, I had to call at 5:30 in the morning before I had to leave for work. From my computer at home, for pennies a minute, I can call across the world. I called the bank because I still have an account in Israel, and I asked for a teller who remembers me. At the time, I was having problems with my Internet access password and was blocked from getting into my account, so I needed a new password. “Hi Penina, is now a good time to speak with you?” “Yes, state your business,” She answered curtly, as if she was busy and I had disturbed her. No please and thank you here. I told her that I needed her to fill me in with what’s happening with my account, especially concerning whether or not monies were deposited from my redeemed insurance pension. They were not deposited and I do not know why. Curtly again, she said, “OK, I will pass you over to Lital, she will give you a new password.” I hear her say in the background that I am okay; she knows me to be a client. She returns, saying, “by the way, what would you do if I was not here? You don’t have to ask for me every time.” “Every time”, what does she mean by every time? The last time I called the bank and spoke to her was months ago. Apropos, that same day, I noticed a news piece in the English language Israel newspaper Ha’aretz addressing this very type of attitude, entitled “What Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home tourists think of Israel.” Happily, most the reviews were good. However, one review of Israelis doing business came from a Female French banker. She said that differences arise from the “Israelis’ mentality as people [they are] less concerned with the familiar rules of courtesy, and communicate in a more intuitive and personal way.” In my opinion, there is no excuse for poor listening and communication skills – especially if you want to compete in this ever-linked and wired world. A few coaching classes given to the employees at that bank on communication skills would be welcomed. The Nothingness Today, July 15, 2007, I plan to go to Newport, Rhode Island for a trip with Gil. Yesterday, monies from my pension were supposed to be deposited into my bank account in Israel. Now living in America, I decided to redeem my Israel pension even though I would be penalized 35%. That is a lot of money, but now is a good time because the shekel is 25% more than the dollar. It evens out. Well, the monies from the pension did not transfer to the bank as I found out from the call to Penina. There is a law in Israel that after a request to redeem a fund is made, monies have to be transferred to you in a month. I already received a letter two and a half months previous ac knowledging my request to redeem and transfer my pension monies into my Israeli bank account. What is holding up the redemption? When the first month went by I called the insurance company. They said they make money transfers to clients only one day per month. So I waited till the designated day the following month. The representative on the phone did not know why it did not come through the first month and said she would leave an order that it will come in the end of the next month. Two weeks past the second month and as of yet, it has not been redeemed. I call my insurance agent in Israel who handled the redemption papers. He said the reason I have not seen the monies yet is that there were “holidays” in Israel so people are not working regular schedules. I am now uneasy. I want to go on this long awaited vacation with a peace of mind. Yet, no money has been put into my account. So I called the insurance company again. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home The insurance representative now adds that there was a delay because I was supposed to send a photo of my passport with the request to transfer the pension funds. I say “what! I already called when the money did not go into the account the first month and no one said anything about the photo. In addition, my insurance agent who did the paper work received my photos. He said he provided them.” In fact, another insurance redemption I made at the same time had already gone through without a hitch. They received the photos, sure enough. My question to you, “don’t you have a checklist to make sure you have all the paper work when the request was initially made?” Unfortunately, I am now assuming that these “accidental delays” are to the advantage of the companies holding onto the monies and subsequently have the usage of the monies for a few months more. My mind is working. Are they purposefully delaying when they can? Alternatively, do they not take seriously my request for my money and how it will affect my life? I would call this type of behavior “The Nothingness”. People letting you fall between the cracks. I head out to Newport, Rhode Island. A beautiful island where there are marinas, estates, museums, forts, art galleries, nightclubs, and on the docs fish restaurants. Loads of tourists make for a festive atmosphere, even if it was drizzling when we got there. I had just joked with my friend, “you know, I never heard of anyone famous from Newport”, when we pass a pub with a sign advertising that the Cowsills rock band are playing there that night. The Cowsills played one of the first songs I ever liked, “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things” and introduced me to Rock and Roll of the 60’s. I was in sixth grade when I heard it being played for the first time on a school bus ride on the way to a park for a Lag Ba’omer picnic, a Jewish historical day commemorated by outings and picnics. It turns out that the Cowsills grew up in Newport, and they came back to play in their home town a mix of rock songs from the 1960’s and 1970’s. We went to hear them. Someone mentioned to me that you know when you are getting older when you start to remember the old The Nothingness songs. We find a hotel two miles outside Newport. Its 100$ a night, that’s 100$ a night cheaper than in the center of Newport, a drop of 50$ a mile. We go to our room which anyways has a great view of a beach. The room has a musty smell to it. I tell the hotel manager. She says, “Oh, it is nothing, we are in a nature preserve and there are smells.” She did not offer to bring room spray. Actually, the nature preserve didn’t smell as bad as the room. I figure it was the moist carpeting. She probably did not want to invest in changing the carpets. The banister outside the room is chipping and not painted. There are dead flies with spider webs around the night lamp at our doors entrance and the lock gets jammed. It would have taken two seconds for the cleaning crew to brush that away, if they cared about their guests. That’s the nothingness. The nothingness is here as it is there, half across the world. When people are tired of their jobs, work without a passion or pride for their career, or have no work ethic, they are tainted with the nothingness like the mold in the room. Postscript, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel resigns, he is accused of graft. When people do not have leaders to look up too, to emulate, then the nothingness comes about and makes you just a bit more apathetic. I call the insurance company again when I get back from Newport; my money still has not been transferred. The receptionist looks up my case in the computer, each past conversation is listed. “Yes, your insurance agent sent another photo, but it seems that there was an original photo all along.” I knew that. I ask, “so why is there a delay?” She does not know as everything seems to be in order. The Olmert Affair: It starts at the top Unfortunately as I write this chapter, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was forced to resign from his post because of the ongoing police investigation into graft allegations. Now, in Israel, this story is nothing new. Actually, I found that there was an accepted culture of graft, not keeping to verbal agreements, working in the black market (Shuk Ha - Shachor), and avoiding taxes. I wish I could say this was only for a few people, but it was not. This culture of deceit is widespread and even rationalized. I never judged them by American standards because taxes in Israel are amongst the highest taxes in the world, so needless to say, there is much incentive to avoid them, and even protest them. Consequently, Israeli society feels it is paying enough of a high price for its security by sending their children into the army, so why pay taxes too? Hence, I use the term culture, and it starts from the top. From my American historical background, I would correlate this culture to the Boston Tea Party, when tea was thrown into the Boston Harbor to protest tea tax from England. “No taxation without representation” was the call. One might think that Ehud Olmert should be above this sort of thing and set an example as Prime Minister, but he too was part of this Israeli culture. He probably never expected to be a prime minister and thus become subject to the intense scrutiny that comes with that office, but lo and behold, this great responsibility came to him when his predecessor Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Ariel Sharon became ill in office. In a position like Prime Minister of Israel or the President of the United States, though, clinging to the mindset of “it’s okay as long as I never get caught” has serious ramifications. Even Ariel Sharon’s son served jail time for tax evasion, and anyone familiar with Israeli politics knows the list is long. To Israel’s credit, though, tax evasions are regularly uprooted, which makes for exciting news stories and wonderment why people will still try. Naturally through my time in Israel, I had much experience with this culture first hand, and one blatant incident I would like to share says it all. Once I started my private biofeedback clinic and became self-employed, I had to work with receipts for payment. A lady operating lecture workshops of interesting entrepreneurs invited me to give a lecture on my techniques. As we discussed compensation, she requested that I reduce my standard fare because she does not need a receipt, and that she will pay me in cash. Implicitly, the message was that if I do not make out an invoice, there is no record for taxes purposes. She is giving me a good price at “Uncle Moshe’s “expense. I tell her that I only work with receipts because I want to sleep nights. I always give a receipt and even heard that it is not unknown for the competition to lodge a complaint with the tax authorities if they find out. To this she blusters, “Everyone works without receipts – what’s your problem?” To prove her point, she then proceeded to rattle off the names of well-known Israeli professionals and therapists she invited and who worked for her without receipts. I made my case. That’s the type of advertisement I was not looking for. Always the curious student of psychology, I wondered where and at what age a culture of business practices might begin. Is it something you learn at home from your parents, in school, later in civilian life, or all of the above? A few incidents led me to believe that it can be acquired from an early age on. In one incident, I was outside my apartment complex in Nesher with a friend eyeing a used car for sale in the adjacent apartment parking lot. A boy no more The Olmert Affair: It starts at the top than eight years of age comes up to us and says that’s his father’s car. We asked him the usual – what’s the condition of the car, was it ever in an accident, and so on – and he answered everything to our satisfaction with a smile. He named a price, and we decided we are not interested in the car because it looks a bit old. In a flash, the boy admitted the car was in an accident and that his father’s price does not reflect that. Just for the fun of it, we poked him about lying to our faces, and to that he answered nonchalantly, “Well, it’s okay if we find a friar, a sucker – as long as we get the money.” Another time I came face-to-face with this evasive philosophy was when I put up a booth at a fair trying to sell semi-precious stones and jewelry from my friend’s gem store. I liked selling things since I was a kid, if I had not entered the behavioral medical field, I would have gladly worked in marketing. I was fond of gems because I used them for my natural relaxation techniques. One technique entailed holding a soft egg shaped stone in one hand while placing a hand on your stomach, following and listening to your breathing pattern, and reducing your respiration rate for a relaxing effect. Selling the jewelry was another stream of income I was trying to develop at the time, and a friend who owned a gift shop based on stones gave me stones on consignment. I carried mostly amethyst, crystals, agates, and soft soap stones. The fair was packed with children and a good number were attracted to the glitter of the stones. I nearly sold out of them. That’s when I noticed I mainly sold the gems in ten and twenty shekel denominations. It did not matter the worth or the markup of the product, as long as it was at these fixed prices, they would sell. Stones worth more could not sell even if I tried. It turned out that the parents gave their children spending money in denominations of the standard ten or twenty shekel bills, so that’s what they had at hand in their pockets. I had one last amethyst left and rounded off the price to ten shekels at the end of the evening. All the other stones were at twenty shekels or more and just this one now for ten shekels was left. A young boy of about nine years old Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home approaches the table and inquired what he could by for ten shekels, giving credence to my deduction. I show him the amethyst and tell him it’s the only one I have left. He stares at the stone as if it had some magical effect on him. He says it is pretty and he really, re ally, likes it, but he can’t buy it. He looks flustered because he does not have enough money to purchase the twenty-shekel stones either and the other kids already have their stones. Perplexed, I asked the lad why he didn’t just purchase the amethyst, its ten shekels and he has the coin. He confides in me and tells me he just can’t do it because his dad told him to always buy things on discount or forget it. When I told him the amethyst indeed was a bargain since it was just marked down from twelve shekels, the young lad purchased it with a wide grin, happy he was able to “afford the price” after all. Post Script and Eilat Fish In the autumn of 2007, there was a philatelic convention in Hartford, Connecticut. I went because I use to collect stamps as a kid. Both my parents collected stamps and got me interested. My mom would save postcards of friends traveling the world over, and my dad once had a valuable stamp collection in Europe, but German soldiers took it away from him when they invaded his home in Poland. Since moving to the USA, he continued his stamp-collecting hobby and purchased many stamps from around the world. He liked to collect stamps from Europe, especially from countries that did not exist anymore. He probably thought that would make them rare. My mom, on the other hand, collected the American commemoratives. Going over their collection, I learned about history, languages, coin of the realm, and geography. Both my mom and dad collected Israeli stamps and already I was struck by how beautiful they were, for a small country. I also remember seeing Israeli stamps at Hebrew school because some of my classmates collected them and traded them like baseball cards. The ones that stood out the most to me were the stamps of the tropical Eilat fish of the Red Sea coral reef. Maybe because they were exotic for someone use to swimming in Long Island Sound. I even received Israeli stamps as a gift from a Jewish neighbor whose home I was invited to for Sabbath meals. A square block made of four triangular stamps commemorated an archaeological find from biblical times in Tzipori, northern Israel. Known as the Mona Lisa of the Galilee, the image was of a Roman Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home woman’s face on a mosaic floor, and it became even more famous once a line of beauty products in Israel used this mosaic as a logo. Of course, when I lived in Israel I got to visit the mosaic at its location. At the entrance to the convention was an Israeli blue and white flag advertising an Israeli stamp dealer. I went there first. The dealer dealt with Judaica stamps as well as Israeli stamps. I brought some of my parent’s stamps with me to appraise and possibly sell a few, and I knew there were some old Israeli stamps mixed in. Sitting at the table before me was an elderly couple who wanted to purchase Israeli stamps for their grandson who was going to have a bar- mitzvah. Nice idea for a gift, I chuckled. The stamps I had with me I brought with me from Israel, and others were sent to me from my father by mail before he passed away. I left about half the collection with my daughters in the hopes that they would learn about the world through stamps as I did. Oddly enough, I was almost arrested once because of my dad’s stamps. When I returned to the USA from Israel, I made a stop at Budapest, Hungary for a three-day tour. At the airport, the customs officer asked me if I had anything to declare. I said I had nothing, yet he inspected my luggage anyway and saw the stamps I kept in a waterproof pouch. He pulled me over to the side and interrogated me about the contents of the pouch, and I told him it was just my father’s stamp collection. Bristling, he asks why I did not declare them, and I told him I am on the way to America and am just passing through. That only seemed to rattle him more, and he retorted, “So what? You are still entering Hungary!” I wondered if he resented that I was an American, thought I was smuggling, or just wanted a bribe. Hungary was once a communist country, and I began to sense I just might have a problem, but I knew better than to show any fear. He pressed me further, demanding to know how much the stamps are worth and if I plotted to sell any in Hungary. I supposed they actually were worth some money, but had no accurate idea of what Post Script and Eilat Fish that money that could be since I never had them appraised. Regardless, I calmly stated back to the guard that they are not worth much and that they had sentimental value, being that they were from my late father’s collection. He waits a long moment looking at me, and I suspected once more that he was perhaps merely waiting for a bribe, but I had no experience in handling bribes so I did not offer one. I did once witness something like this when I went to another previous Russian satellite country of Bulgaria, and the airport police wanted a tourist to surrender his Marlboro cigarettes. Just like in the corny TV shows about the Cold War, I put some conviction in my voice and repeat, “I am a tourist, and I am going to America.” He finally opted then to let me pass, maybe at last figuring I was just a small fry. Hey, I was coming from Israel, after all. At the convention, I show the stamps to the dealer, still in that same rainproof pouch, and told him they are from 40-50 years ago. Many from countries heralded from the old British Empire and no longer existed and a collection from Ethiopia. I have no idea why my father collected stamps from Ethiopia. The stamp dealer zipped through them, shrugged, and muttered how they weren’t anything special or worth his money. My jaw dropped. I almost was arrested for these! Taking note of my reaction, the dealer left me with some words of wisdom that I heard once before from a coin collector: “If you did not pay a significant sum of money for them to begin with, they are probably not worth much.” Discouraged, I hunted for a second opinion and found an international stamp dealer trading in stamps from both Israel and from the Palestine Authority (PA). I ask if I can see the Palestinian stamps, and he cheered me on, noting how they were selling fast since they were going out of print. No kidding, I thought, considering how the PA had splintered since the Hamas revolt. Here was the first time I laid eyes on stamps from the PA, which offices were only about two hours away from where I once lived, and I was taken aback by their beauty. We were neighbors in a sense, yet we lived in very different Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home worlds apart. I wondered, being neighbors and in a technical peace agreement, if any of the Palestinian stamps had acknowledged their Israeli neighbors. Some of the stamps commemorated Yassir Arafat, the late PA chairman, visiting different dignitaries. He was always visiting a dignitary to try and gain support for a Palestinian state. The more pleasing stamps commemorated Christian holy sites like Bethlehem and the Christian holidays. I then considered to whom were the mostly Moslem Palestinians trying to sell their wares, bearing in mind that Christians made up the majority in many parts of the world. The prettiest stamps were of the flowers, trees, fruits, and birds of the area, of what they called Palestine, and I was struck by how strange I felt looking at them. These were the same flowers, trees, fruits and birds of Israel – my Israel – I felt cheated in some way. Were these two different nations living on the same land, one trying to usurp the other or commit identity theft? Or, were these two interrelated peoples sharing the same land and glorifying her common bounty? The answer came with the last stamp I saw from the batch. It bore both the Israeli and Palestine flags poised behind the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin alongside Yassir Arafat and shaking hands. That famous handshake took place in front of President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn following the Oslo peace agreement. For me, this stamp answered another question most Israelis have: do the Palestinians recognize Israel? I would have to assume that if the Israeli flag is on one of the PA stamps, then they do, or they at least intended to back when the stamp was issued. I went ahead and bought some of those Palestinian stamps, although I could not get any first issues since they had sold out. These stamps inspired me to make a collection in which Arab stamps commemorate – or at least recognize in some fashion – Israeli culture, and vice versa. I already had purchased Israeli stamps commemorating Arab culture that I knew existed before coming to the convention, so it seemed like the perfect idea. At the basic level, every Post Script and Eilat Fish Israeli stamp has the words “Israel Post” in three official languages: Hebrew, English and Arabic. I went back to the first Israeli stamp dealer and asked if he had Israeli stamps with an Arab motif and was disappointed to hear him say an emphatic “no!” I then asked him if he by any chance had Palestine Authority stamps, thinking maybe I could get a first issue from him. He glared at me and sharply shook his head, and I realized perhaps I hit a nerve. In that I noticed another change that came over me by living in Israel. I had experienced living and working with Arabs as neighbors and respected them as people, even if they had a different and conflicting political agenda than mine. When I returned home, I searched for Israeli-Arab stamps online and found that Israel did commemorate Arab culture with a stamp in 1971 of the historic El Jazzar Mosque in Acre. There was also a “land of three religions” stamp with a picture of a mosque and also a Dome of the Rock stamp in 1981. In addition, there was a stamp commemorating the late King Hussein of Jordan who signed a peace treaty with Israel. But then, my surfing for stamps came across this bothersome warning: “Beware, if you want to visit an Arab country, make sure you don’t have an Israeli stamp in your passport.” The Separatist and theKosher Complex After Barack Obama was elected, there was a survey cast yet again to determine who the most popular American president was. Abraham Lincoln has won the poll, but for me, the president that claimed second best was the one I looked up to the most ever since I visited the Touro synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. There, displayed on the synagogue wall, I read the letter George Washington wrote to the diminutive, yet significant Jewish community of Newport in 1790. In part, it read: May the children of the Stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy. For George Washington, the pursuit of happiness was for all citizens. Freedom of religion and good will were a fundamental American right and value. Still, my mother (G-d rest her soul) would always say “it’s hard to be a Jew” as if it were one of her favorite expressions. This was her conviction, even in her last days when she was ill with pancreatic cancer. This traditionally Jewish and proud woman was laid up in a Catholic hospital for a month, her room adorned with a crucifix above the door. The illness was Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home one type of suffering, but for her, this was another. In spite of it, her rabbi visited before the Sabbath and together they lit the Sabbath candles; my daughter Shanee came from Israel to help take care of her and reminisce together about her grandmother’s many visits. My sister’s family visited regularly and held a Passover Seder right in her room. Many of her Jewish friends who visited almost daily couldn’t help but drum up the fact that she was in a Catholic hospital, though, and they would joke about the cross and make wisecracks about covering it up somehow. The medical care at the hospital was OK, don’t get me wrong, but still, having a crucifix in her room was too much of a cross to bear. For my mom, she was right to chime “it’s hard to be a Jew,” but for me, I met her circumstances with indifference. Maybe this is a Catholic hospital indeed, but there was no denying they gave great care to all peoples without prejudice. To me, the cross was not an imposition of, but rather a testament to their faith, flowing with inspiration for being in the care giving enterprise. It was their guiding light, and I saw no slight in that; holiness is in all peoples. On the other hand, I could see how having the crucifix prominently displayed in my mother’s hospital room was a violation of her pursuit of happi ness and freedom of religion, even in these final days of her life. Either way, she did not really have a choice in the matter. Food for thought on this matter, though, I do have to say I can’t remember any Jewish-run hospitals having a menorah or some other comparable symbol of Judaism in each room, not even in Israel. Well maybe a Mezuzah. As an adult, my position on Judaism overall is that Judaism is traditionally and characteristically separatist by history, nature, and makeup. Separatist because in Jewish history, Jews set themselves apart from each other based on each other’s interpretation of their own faith. Other peoples separated themselves from the Jews for a wide variety of reasons, and likewise certain groups of Jews chose to separate themselves from other peoples. Staunchly traditional Jews The Separatist and the Kosher Complex will not deny that last point, either. Despite this behavior in Jewish culture, eating out with friends and colleagues is a major part of social life and networking. Even food can have the power to unite or to divide, in part due to one’s observance of the laws of kashrut. The Israeli army, to their credit, serves only kosher food. This way, traditional and secular Jews as well as gentiles pledging service to their country can eat at the same table and be united in the defense of the country. Many Jews who do not keep kosher, but come from a traditional family, will keep a kosher home so that their family members may visit and have something to eat in the same house. This can even reach extremes when a parent is secular and a child becomes an Orthodox Jew. I know of situations where the parents have had to use disposable utensils and have the food taken directly out of an unopened box so their closest “relative” will feel comfortable eating in the same home. The dilemma of kashrut struck me when I was a youngster of about 13 or 14 years of age. It happened on a New England summer day bike ride with three of my non-Jewish neighbors, Bill, Nelson, and Raymond. We rode from the north end of Hartford about twenty miles or so and back to the old and mysterious Revolutionary War prison transformed from a copper mine, Newgate Prison. I rode forty miles that day, and it was one of my childhood defining moments where teenage friends bonded; a band of brothers we were. On the way back home, we stopped at a Diner for lunch. My friends all ordered hamburgers. I loved hamburgers, but being from a kosher home, I searched the scant menu for the tuna fish sandwich. In the days before healthy eating became popular, tuna fish wasn’t exactly a man’s food per se, but it was kosher. Curious, my friend Nelson, a French Catholic, asks me why I wasn’t joining in with the burger run, and I told him I only eat kosher. He thought I fell from the moon and wanted to help. “Come on, be a man,” he chided. “Eat a hamburger, not that tuna baloney.” Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Unintentional puns aside, I put on a brave face, shrugged off my friends who were all older than me by a year or more, and ordered the tuna. I was being a non-conformist, and that was not really my nature at the time. Still, I was standing up to my right to be equal but different. Even though my mother raised me in a kosher home, she never really taught me how to handle that dilemma. Then it hit me: I had known these guys since we were six years old, and I had never eaten at a restaurant with them or shared a pepperoni pizza with them, even though they had offered me to share theirs, many, many times. I felt like I was somehow not being their best friend, yet they still accepted me. When I considered moving to Israel, I would think of that mo ment in the Diner and realize that another clear benefit to making the move was that there would be plenty of kosher eateries. Eating out with friends would no longer pose a problem. Nowadays, of course, vegetarian eating is in, and fish is popular. I could also order the veggie burger. In search of my genre’ “When you shall seek, a teacher will be come.” On Netflix, you can choose a movie by genre’. I find a movie about a traditional and religious Jew who visits Poland with his wife and grown sons, “Hiding and seeking: Faith and tolerance after the Holocaust” (2003). It is portrayed as a story about bonding between father and sons. This was interesting to me, the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, because the family ventures to find a Polish family that risked their lives to help the father’s father and uncle survive the Holocaust. The children go reluctantly and one son even jokes; to them this is a big waste of time. The story is unique and different because there is controversy in the Jewish community for the alleged role Poles played in the Holocaust, even accusing them of collaborating with the Germans during WWII to send Jews to the concentration camps. My father, who spoke Polish fluently, felt so betrayed by his homeland that he would not speak in Polish if he met a Polish born person from that period, even in America. He said, “I do not want to give them the satisfaction of them hearing their own native tongue.” What surprised me was that his disdain for the Polish born Poles was even more than for the Germans because he believed the Polish people sold out their own neighbors. My dad felt that they were collaborators. Yet, my dad still had his roots to his homeland’s culture buying Polish food, listening to Polkas, and collecting Polish stamps. On this sentiment, which matched my own father’s, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel being raised in Poland, was quoted as saying in an interview a Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home statement to the effect that the Polish people are born anti-Semitic. The actual blanket statement was too strong to repeat here, but received media attention when stated at the time of a disagreement on the level of respect the concentration camps were given officially in Poland after the Communist regime quit there. As a youth I had no way of verifying these sentiments on my own, and as a descendant of a Holocaust survivor from Poland and Germany, I was brought up on a dose of defeatism, pain, and anger, balanced by Israeli vic tories- against her Arab neighbors, and quagmires. Today, Israeli school children visit Poland’s concentration camps, not without controversy either. My daughter, Limor, visited Poland when she was in high school and I supported her wishes in going, even paying for the ticket. In September 2003, there was a fly over the Auschwitz concentration camp by three Israeli F-15 war jets piloted by descendants of Holocaust survivors with the Star of David “seen clearly from the ground” as noted in the Israeli press. A high ranking Israeli officer I met that was there that day told me it was one of the most memorable moments in his life. The relation with Poland, so far away to me, is somewhat rekindled there in Israel, and with my own children. Back to the movie; in addition to seeking out the heroic Polish family and wanting to thank them, the father has another motive and agenda. He hopes to teach his children something about the gentile world. In one of the stories, the brothers told of the Polish farmer’s bravery in hiding the uncles together under a hay stack. The Germans came searching after a neighbor became suspicious and alerted them. Thankfully, the German soldiers did not find them. Funny, my father told me something similar. He too hid in a hay stack in a barn after escaping German soldiers. While searching for my dad with a pitchfork, they came close but did not find him either. Dad was nicked with the pitchfork but did not scream. He humbly showed the scar on his finger to prove it. Existence can be so fragile, if my father did scream you would not be reading this story today. In search of my genre’ The father in the movie went to make amends and pay a long overdue tribute to the Polish family that saved his own father and uncle. He was feeling himself uncomfortable that his father never tried to call Poland after the war to say thank you for saving them. A dramatic scene in the movie shows the Orthodox wife standing in a burned out synagogue and saying a prayer of remembrance for the destruction. Suffering, remembrance, and pain, the “hard to be a Jew theme” portrayed. Regrettably, I learned in life that the Jews don’t have a monopoly on pain and suffering? It’s not hard just to be Jewish; it’s hard to be a human being. In an analogous setting, seeing the ruined synagogue reminded me of a destroyed Crusader castle I stood in, in Israel, the Montfort. These were the ruins, suffering and pain of the Crusaders, whose dream was their self-determination in their Holy Land. Seeing things from another’s viewpoint has always been a principle of mine. Better late than never, the movie ends with an Israeli political delegate of Polish heritage honoring the Polish family with an Israel ceremonial title, “righteous among the nations” rewarded for saving the Jewish brothers who immigrated to America. A different reality, the Polish family is now the pride of the small village and a symbol of reconciliation between two peoples. Instead of portraying the negatives of the Holocaust, the movie accentuated a positive lesson and that reconciliation can happen. This hit home, I found my genre’, happy endings. The Business of War On September 11th, 2001, I was sitting in front of my television in Israel with my mother, who was on another of her annual visits. Already in the afternoon in Israel, the CNN news channel began to show pictures of a jetliner that “accidentally” hit one of the Twin Towers. When I saw the jet hit, I Immediately sensed this is no ac cident, it has the fingerprints of a Middle East brand of terrorism. Terror of this grand a scale on American soil was unheard of in the land of opportunity – heck, “terrorism” was hardly in the nation’s standard vocabulary. Living in Israel unfortunately gives you a sixth sense about what was an accident and what was a terrorist attack, and that sixth sense led me to believe that this was no accident. It was just too implausible that a pilot could “accidentally” hit the tower, as the visibly shaken CNN anchor tried to articulate. I knew that international terrorism is not conventional war, but the business of war, trying to influence policy. Terrorism is a warped version of Hollywood, producing, directing, filming and selling videos and media of the most gruesome events conceivable, and in a blithe light, both the victim and the terrorist are customers. When the dust cleared, the initial feeling in Israel then was that maybe now the world would understand what Israel has been going through for years on end. Perhaps at last, the world would now unite and denounce terrorism. In the end, the terrorists were the last to expect America to respond the way she did, almost as how the Japanese were left dumbstruck by America’s vengeance for the attack on Pearl Harbor. September 11, 2008 I call my insurance broker in Israel for about the tenth time concerning my pension redemption check. “What’s the problem already? It has been since May that I requested to redeem my insurance policy. What? You tried to reach them yesterday but there was no public reception just on that day, yesterday. You will try again in another few days when you visit the office? I need the money already. Please help me here. I have debts to pay off.” I’m feeling gloomy. Terrorism has different forms. I call the broker again a week later. He did not answer his phone. He might have known it was me calling. I try again. “Hi! Why didn’t you get back to me by phone or email as you said you would last week?” Broker, “I have had no word yet from the company. It is hard to reach the exact department needed for dealing with your case. The company you are trying to redeem your policy from is especially hard to deal with these days.” I ask, “Why? Are they having money problems now like the rest of the insurance companies? Is the money lost?” Broker - “No, your money is secure. I will try to reach them again.” I try to call the company again directly. It is about five minutes to their closing time and Sarit answers the phone. “Hi Sarit, I already spoke to Hodaya, Rachael, Lital, Shirim, etc., etc. etc. I am still having a problem. According to a letter from Pri from your office, you still need from me a Teudat Zehut (identity card) photo, and a tax form. However, I am no longer employed in Israel and I already sent a Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home letter to you as requested stating to have any taxes withheld up front.” I told her that I already sent a copy of my identity papers, again. However, I did not send the attached part that states I am married because I am now divorced. I did not go to the interior ministry to change it before I left the country. “Do you need the divorce papers to prove I am divorced?” Sarit, “No, I just need the identity card for your identification.”Then she says, “Yes, we received a letter having your taxes withheld. However, we need it requested on OUR company form.”Therefore, that is what went wrong all along. Everything was sent properly to the broker and agency all along. Only, it had to be on the insurance companies own forms. I request, “Can you send the form to me by email and I will sign.” Sarit, “Yes.” I ask, “Do I need the agent to be involved?” Sarit,” No.” She promptly sends the email and I receive it moments later, from half way around the world. I have no idea yet how that works? The document comes in Hebrew, but it comes all backwards in Gmail. I cannot read it. Oh shucks. Wait, it opens in Adobe writer. There is a God. I call my agent again. “Hi- I just got through to the agency. They wanted their own company forms filled, didn’t you know this?” Agent, “Why no I did not! I never heard of it! It is very strange indeed. Just this company works that way.” I call to check if the documents have arrived. The operator answers, “The documents have arrived. Where do you want us to send the check? Will you come to the company to pick it up?” A long pause, then, “What do you mean by pick it up? I live in the USA.” The receptionist then says, “Okay, when will you be back in Israel? Can you have someone come and get the check?” I now ask, “What’s wrong with a bank transfer like the rest of the normal world?”The answer, “We do not do bank transfers, only checks.” The “nothingness” is now evolving into the never ending story. So I call my bank. I want to double check if bank transfers from insurance companies are the norm or not. “Hello, Yaffa? Can I have funds from the insurance company transferred to my account?” September 11, 2008 Yaffa, “There should be no problem. Just send me the info and we will have a lady here take care of it. By the way, looking at your account, a short term savings plan you have with us has been sold to another company.” I ask in wonderment, “Was sold, to whom?” Yaffa, “To the same insurance company you are inquiring about.” I call the insurance company again, this time Sivan answers the phone. “Yes, we received the original document as requested, but we still did not receive an original copy of the insurance policy annual statement we send out to our clients this year.” Now I am getting really frustrated. I ask to talk to the supervisor, NOW! “Why” she asks? “Just send the policy and you will receive your money. Isn’t that what you want”? “No, it isn’t! Your company caused me damages. Check it out. It is recorded in my previous telephone conversations. All the times I called, they said the paperwork is OK. I just need to send the full copy of my identity papers AND just fill it out the redemption request on your company forms. Nothing was ever said about sending the original policy statement in. Do you know how much interest at the bank I have paid over these six months in over draft? I now request compensation is paid with my redemption.” After a full five minutes wait, the supervisor, Hila, comes to the line. She explains, “There are two offices in the insurance company. One works with the agents and one with the clients.The redemption forms asked for from an agent are different from what is requested from the client. In addition, the agency that was doing the redeeming for you was not the agency that you bought the policy from.” I told Hila that I transferred all my policies to the present company when I started to have them represent my insurance needs. She says, “Yes, I have the transfer request. But it has a different company name on it.” Indeed she was right. I explain, “The Company changed its name when it dissolved its partnership. I never assumed that would affect me. Here is the agent’s telephone number.” She agreed to check it out, but alas, did not. “I will send in the original annual statement too. Do I then need to do anything else?” Hila, wanting to resolve Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home the case answers, “Nothing else is needed, I will take care of it and we will transfer the money to your agent so he can deposit it in your bank.” Thanks and Shalom. After a few days Hila sends me another email. “In order to complete the redemption of the policy we need you to send a letter from your employer that you are no longer employed there.” Great, I have been self employed for ten years or so, I write back. Hila, “You can write a letter from yourself the employer, to yourself the employee, saying that you do not work for yourself any longer.” The letter is accepted. Another Day for a Post ZionistAmerican Israeli An Israeli Army expression: “There are no bad soldiers – only bad officers.” October 29, 2008. Remember Hila, the manager at the insurance company handling my pension redemption. A month previously she said everything is OK, I do not have to do anything more for the pension check to be released. By now, we have about fifteen emails between. She is requesting that I contact her. Company policy, she can’t phone me long distance, very frugal. She writes, “In order to release the check, she needs a signed document with my Israeli identity card attached, saying that I agree that my insurance agent can take the check to have it placed in my Israeli bank account. The never ending story has just become the never, never, never, ending story. But what is going on in my head is this? First, I do not blame Hila even though she is the manager. I know that Israel is a bureaucratic nightmare, an example given. I also know that Hila must have lived through the worst years of the Intifada with suicide bombers and served in the army too. It’s not easy being a Jew but being an Israeli is even harder. So I am going to give her some more slack in redeeming the pension. November 5Th, 2008, Barak Obama wins the election. I receive another email from the insurance company. “The check is ready.” Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home I do not find peace of mind. It was like pulling teeth. I am satisfied that the toothache is over, but did not like the drilling. Wait, did not they say in an earlier conversation that checks are only prepared on the 22Th and 30Th of the month. “When there is a will, there is a way.” My insurance agent calls, “What is your bank account number again so I can deposit your check?” I give it to him, number 1234567 (not the real number). A day later I get an email, “We deposited your money into account 2312567, we hope everything is in order now.” I want to scream, the agent deposited the money in the wrong account! Another drastic phone call! “Nope, we put the money in your account; we only made a mistake in the email. Let us know if we can be of any more service to you.” Thanks, but no thanks. Epilogue: The Passover Seder When and how does an artist know when the painting they are painting is done? There are a couple of methods to making this call, and they happen to be very similar for completing a book. For one, your intuition may just tell you it’s done. Or, you no longer find yourself inspired by the work, and thus find yourself unmotivated or unwilling to continue adding content. You may take up the option to put the work down for awhile and come back to it later with new insight and knowledge for resolving snags. But, if you return and continue to feel the same way, perhaps it’s time to polish that project up and start another anew. I have debated much about when to end this book searching for just the right way to go about finding that proper ending. What I thought would take six months actually took three years. Most of this book was written in eight months, but then newer ideas would come and older memories that had to be retold resurfaced. I started telling people I had written a book on my life in Israel and it would be ready in a few months. I figured that if I made it a public announcement, it would be so, but as I write this epilogue, I have to admit that was over a year ago. I was still enjoying memories that this project conjured up, and I wanted to remember more and write more. To truly help bring the project to a close, I began to read chapters to friends. I really felt I accomplished something when a friend let me read the chapters to him for a second time. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home So at last, the time came. I laid out the ultimatum for myself that any more stories would have to wait for a sequel, and that’s that. The process of ending the book had begun, but how long it would take and how the process would turn out remained a mystery. I decided to meet with my nephew Jeremy Yanofsky, who by now graduated with an English major in college, and I asked him to help me to edit this book. I chose to ask Jeremy to help me in particular not just because of his expertise in writing and not just because he was my nephew, but also because I surmised that he may have some unique insight into the relationships I had between myself, Israel, and the USA, specifically because he had the opportunity to visit Israel via the Taglit-Birthright Israel program. According to their webpage, Birthright has provided gifts of first time educational trips to Israel so as to “strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry” and to strengthen the “participant’s personal Jewish identity.” After partaking in this trip, Jeremy happened to take advantage and visit me when I still lived in Zichron Yacov, making him a bit more familiar with the subject at hand. The opportune moment for completing the story ironically arrived on the night of the Passover Seder, April 2009, during which Jews around the world spent the evening commemorating freedom and redemption from bondage. My sister Audrey, Jeremy’s Mom, invited me to her house for this Seder, where we all read passages from the Haggadah, retelling the story of how the Israelites were led from bondage and Egypt by Moses at the behest of the Lord. As the story goes, the Israelites leave havoc behind and wander in the Sinai wilderness on their way to entering the Promised Land. On my way to my sister’s home, I stop in a local wine and spirits store, and I find it stocked with kosher wines from Israel, Spain, Italy, France, New York and California. I picked up a few bottles, one of them containing dry white wine but in a green bottle. At the counter, a woman asks me if I was buying green wine, and I told her it was regular white wine in a green bottle shipped in from Israel. She Epilogue: The Passover Seder asked me if it was any good, to which I replied of course – I lived in Israeli wine country for ten years, I should know. I felt like a good will ambassador for Israel. Audrey invited seventeen friends along to her house, most of which I had become acquainted with by this time. From the conversations around the Seder plate, I gathered that some of these people wanted their children to go to Israel like my nephew did. Some were planning to go, but did not yet. Others did not have any plans to ever go, but wished they did. Several said they are going to go when the time is right, but remorsefully settled on the idea that they probably won’t. One person even happened to be brought as a child from Israel to live here in America. This Seder was on the second night of Passover. In Israel, Jewish celebrations and observances like the Passover Seder last only one night, but out in the world of the Diaspora, the age-old custom of extending certain holidays with an added night to ensure that the timing of one’s observance of the holiday properly aligned with the timing of the holiday in the Promised Land was still in practice. While this practice may have been necessary in post-Biblical times, it just seems like an obsolete concept in the age of the Internet, especially to someone who has celebrated these occasions right in Israel just fine without adding that extra evening. The day began with frost on the ground. I mention this because Israel is sunny this time of year and the depictions of the stories of Passover in my sister’s Haggadah are all bright and sunny. There are palm trees and a warm, blue, Nile with people wading in the waters to extract the baby Moses from his reed basket. The pyramids and sand dunes bask in the sun. Egyptians and Israelites pose in light cotton clothes, wearing hats for shade, working in the fields to reap a hay harvest to use in making bricks for Egyptian buildings. Gazing at these pictures in the Haggadah, I wondered if I was drawn to that part of the world to get away from the cold New England winters. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Glancing at the news that day, I read that President Barack Obama was having a Passover Seder in the White House, marking the first ever for an American president. Of course, editorials in the Jewish newspapers were ripe with “See, we told you so, Obama is good for the Jews.” Listening to the reading of the Haggadah around our Seder table of how the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt and how they longed to be free, I couldn’t help but wonder about the universality of the message of longing for freedom. What reaction would President Obama hold regarding the story? I would presume that he could not help but consider the parallels to black slavery, bondage, and redemption in America’s history and perhaps compare Moses to Abraham Lincoln. Was Obama now going to be a black Moses of sorts, redeeming America from her economic and social troubles? Are we going to a new promised future and a new promised land? Much remained uncertain about the future of America and Israel alike that night, but in reading the Haggadah with my family, I was certain of at least one truth in my life. I no longer felt like the son of a refugee, or a minority citizen, or a fish out of its aquarium, I felt free and content. I was able to follow my dream. This year, Jews were invited to a genuine kosher for Passover White House dinner through the front door. The Jewish people now had a homeland under an Israeli sun; and with it a thriving culture to be proud of, a strong army, strong allies, and a beautiful lady model on the front page of Sports Illustrated. As the traditional conclusion of the Haggadah meets its readers with the blessing “next year in Jerusalem,” so may this blessing come true for you someday. Appendix Dry Bones is an American in Israel’s best friend; a cartoon political satire by Yaakov Kirschen. Dry Bones has joined the internet age with his own Blog, Check it out for some of the funniest cartoons on Israel. My popular Israeli Expression list Old time Jews will claim that some famous Yiddish expressions just cannot be translated; they mean more than just the words. Expressions like these encompass a history of emotion, mood, and culture, all with deep positive or negative connotations, like artifacts housed in a time capsule. So too with Israeli expressions including those that aren’t Israeli in origin. 1) “Ahalan Ve-sahalan”: The Israeli slang of the Arabic “Come and go in peace.” 2) “Insha’Allah”: An Arabic phrase for “may it happen” or “may it be the will of G-d.” Upon departing from a friend and saying “may we meet again,” your friend will answer “Insha’Allah.” 3) “Ein le Eretz Aherat”: “I have no other country.” This expression comes from a Hebrew song that professes that even though Israel is small and has many problems, I have no other place to go, so I will make the best of it. For readers in the United States, think of it as a nicer way of saying, “Well, this is America – take it or leave it.” Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home 4) “Petzhutzah”: an explosion or a bombshell, a beautiful girl. The workers union did not accept the offer and negotiations had a blowout, or a petzhutzah. Alternatively, the model is a real petzhutzah – a bombshell of a beauty. 5) “Al teheyea tzodek, teheyea hacham”: Don’t always look to be justified – instead be smart. This expression is a personal favorite of mine, derived from a commercial telling drivers not to fight over the right of way. Don’t rush through a green light at an intersection if another driver is going through the same intersection with a red light – instead, be smart and avoid an accident. Let the other person go first anyways. 6) “Le’chaim”: to life. This expression is used as a toast with wine, as well as the more informal “chin, chin” or “here, here!” “To life, to life, le’chaim” is also the name of a song in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, and a Yiddish version was sung by Julie Andrews in the movie “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” 7) “Mabruk”: Israeli slang from Arabic for “mazal tov,” which literally means “good luck,” but can also mean “good for you” or “congratulations.” 8) “Falafel”: a promotion When an Israeli officer is promoted, he or she is given a curved clover insignia, resembling the round fried chickpea treat. 9) “Be’te’avon”: Much like the French “bon appetite,” this expression is offered before meals in the hopes that you enjoy what you eat. 10) “With the food comes the appetite”: This expression is said to people who say they are not hungry when offered a meal. An Israeli said it to me, it might be universal. Appendix 11) “Basar lavan”: white meat. This expression is used on menus as a euphemism to designate food based on pork products, which are not eaten by those who observe kashrut, or Jewish dietary law. As pork is lighter in color, it is called white meat, thus avoiding even the mention of the word pork or pig. 12) “Chik Chok”: to do something in a flash, or a quick count of “one, two, and three.” For instance, “I mustered up a meal chik, chok.” 13) “Yashar, Yashar”: straight ahead. This expression is what you might hear if you ask for directions in Israel, even if your destination is miles away. 14) “Shesh Besh”: Arabic name for the board game backgammon This expression is also slang for “wish me luck,” like when throwing dice. 15) “Ha-kol yehiye beseder”: it’s going to be Okay. “Yehiye Tov”: it’s going to turn out fine. This pair of expressions and commonly used by Israelis to explain why something that looks or seems bleak will turn out okay. Similar to, “the sun will shine tomorrow.” 16) “We will get over this too.” Navor gam et ze. A soothing statement used by media during the first Gulf War while Scuds were landing in Israel. This notion was often used in conjunction with Nietzsche’s “whatever doesn’t break you makes you stronger.” 17) “He speaks to G-d”: Mocking people of position who act on their without advice. When someone in power takes matters into their own hands, people would use this expression to say, “It’s OK – he (or she) is getting orders directly from G-d.” Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home 18) “Kacha Ze b’Aretz”: the way of the land This expression is used to explain mishaps with Israeli bureaucracy to foreigners or new immigrants, as in “that’s the way it is in our land.” For instance, when asking a question for which there is no proper answer, like “Why are taxes so high?”You might hear in return, “Kacha Ze b’Aretz.” 19) “Ze ma’ sheyesh”: that’s all there is; take it or leave it 20) “Ba’al-agan”: a disorganized mess For instance, a cluttered children’s room is one big ba’al-agan. Or, a horrible trip abroad was a big ba’al-agan. 21) “Ani Hayity kodem”: “I was here before you!” This expression is most used to regain your place in a line when someone else cut in. It is also used as a sense of entitlement. Older settlers in Israel, for- instance, might use this logic to explain to newer citizens why they feel they deserve more rights and access to government funds and housing. 22) “If it doesn’t fit by force-then use some more force.” 23) “The efes fashla factor”: zero mistakes allowed This is a phrase I coined to express my own observation that some people seem afraid of making mistakes. If any Israeli I met ever did goof up on something, he or she would hardly admit to it. This goes against the notion of learning from mistakes by trial and error. This expression can tie in with the saying that “Israel’s first defeat in war will be her last.” Simply put – no mistakes allowed. While this mentality serves as a means of survival for most Israelis, it may make socializing with foreigners who don’t share this philosophy tricky. 24) “Isra- bluff ” (similar to fool’s gold: Sound like Isra-Card the Israeli credit card company. Used when some Israeli company tries to claim they are more than they really are or bluff the public into purchasing a product that looks and seems more than it really is. Appendix 25) “The nothingness”: describes one’s laziness and/or indifference This is an expression I coined to describe someone who does not fulfill their responsibilities. I use this especially when a bank teller or government agent has you return a few times because they say you need additional documents. 26) “Friar”: a sucker or a fool This is a popular term used by Israelis searching hard for a good bargain in a store, but not for the reason you might think. Israelis take care to seek out the biggest bang for their buck not to save money as much as to save face. No one wants to “be a friar.” It is sort of a way to show the likes of P.T. Barnum that in Israel, a sucker is not born every minute. 27) “Kfotz lee”: “jump me” “Jump me” is a nicer way of saying “eat your heart out,” This expression was used in a popular commercial when someone jumps into the pool holding a cell phone at a hotel in Eilat and says to his fellow workers “jump me – I’m going on vacation!” 28) “He who sits closer to the plate is better fed.” One of the secretaries at the University I worked at made this interesting remark to me when explaining why one employee received a bonus and another did not. 29) “He fell (was positioned) in between the chairs.” In other words, he will not get his due to bureaucratic mismanagement. This expression recalls getting left out a game of musical chairs when failing to sit in a chair before children stop singing “Pop Goes the Weasel.” 30) “I have to go beat up my workers.” I overheard an Israeli building project manager say this about his Palestinian construction workers during the first Intifada insurrection. 31) “Can’t the Jews and Arabs just get along and make peace already?” A simple statement for a very complex situation, this falls under the category of wishful thinking. 32) “Lidfok ba’shulchan”: to bang on the table An Israeli lawyer might say, “I will bang on the table until I win the case.” This is to say, “If I don’t get my way, I will make a commotion.” Appendix My Israel Songs and Movies A1- List No doubt about it. Israel music is great. With a mix of musicians from all around the world, you get the best. My favorite songs along with their rough translations. 1) Oshik Levi - Ze Me’cvar. 2) Shalom Chanoch -Because Man Is Like ATree InThe Field. 3) Riki Gal- Here I opened A Window. 4) The Idan Raichel Project. Mima’amakim, from the depths. 5) Netanela- We Have Not Spoken Yet Of Love. 6) Netanela - Be a Friend, Be a Brother. 7) Riki Gal - Electricity Flows From Your Hands 8) Arik Einstein - I Peeled an Orange. 9) Netanela - The Dove Song. 10) Gazes, She Will Never Know. 11) Esther Shamir- In The Lowest Place in Tel Aviv. 12) Lea Shabat - Only Life Takes Me. 13) Matti Caspi - I Did Not Know You Would Leave Me. 14) Matti Caspi - No Peace and Quiet 15) Norit Gilron- You Are Here Missing From Me 16) Esther Ofarim-Song of the Wayfarer. 17) Coreen Elal - When It’s Deep. 18) Gingiot- Lelot Klelolot 19) Gingiot-L.A. (An amazing melody). 20) Arik Einstein - San Francisco. 21) Shlomi Yadov - Now Is The Time. 22) Yossi Banai - Out Of Love. 23) Gidi Gov - A Love Song for the Sea. 24) Yael Levi- Don’t Buy Me A Rose. 25) Chava Alberstein - London 26) Elephant- Seder Yom. The day. 27) Sashi Keshet - Pincus Hakaton. Pincus the small. 28) Harela Bar- Rak Beagadot, Only in fairy tales. Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Appendix Appendix My Movie A+List 1) The Syrian Bride 2) You Don’t Mess With the Zohan 3) James’s Journey To Jerusalem 4) Israel: A Nation Is Born 5) Walk on Water 6) The Band’s Visit 7) Modern Warfare: The Six Day War 8) Exodus Revealed 9) Hiding and Seeking 10) Beaufort 11) Lemon Popsicle 12) Operation Thunderbolt 13) Sallah 14) Fiddler On The Roof 15) Turn Left at the End of the World 16) Out of Spain (with President Yitzhak Navon) Jason Alster in a Sleep Research Lab 290 291 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Appendix Appendix Selling off the goods before the trip. Visiting King David’s Tower, Jerusalem 1980. 292 293 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Appendix Appendix Shanee on a Merkava Tank Israel Independence Day. Park and guard tower. 294 295 Leaving Home, Going Home, Returning Home Appendix Appendix Dad visiting Haifa, a Katusha landed on this spot. Mom baking sabbath challah with Shanee. The view from my house and the Mediterranean Sea, Zichron Yacov, Israel. 296 297