Sunday, November 14, 2010

Only in Israel

I know-- I hate when people say that, but seriously-- tell me when the last time was something like this happened to you.  (Really -- tell me!  I bet it was funny!!)
I went into the shop at Sachne to buy a coffee.  The guy told me where the sugar was.  I asked if he had "sucrazit" (sweet n low).  As he was handing it to me he said, "Lo ta-im li v'lo ozer l'ishti." (It doesn't taste good to me and it doesn't help my wife!) 
Some of you have been asking how the B'nei Akiva weekend extravaganze was and what we thought of it.  I've been meaning to write, but things got busy with the arrival of most of our furniture, and unpacking into it.  I want to write about that too, but by next week we will have all of our furniture, so I wanted to wait till then.  I can give you the preview (approved for all audiences):  It is AWESOME!!!!  It's mostly the kids' bedroom furniture.  Also our bed and the kitchen "peninsula" (not an island, as it attaches the counter with the short leg of an L, or as we say in Hebrew, the short leg of a "resh."  The kids' beds are SOOOO COOOOL!!!!  I'll try to send pix next time. 
About B'nei Akiva-- it was really amazing.  Our kids were slow to get into it when we first moved here.  Shai is very protective of his down time, of which there isn't much (outside of school, between Beit Yeladim-- the "children's house" and B'nei Akiva,  they've got the kids programmed round the clock).  Friday morning is their only day to stay in in the morning, and Shai refuses to give that up.  Abaye is slow to get into most social things, and he is also very particular, so when he did start going, he used to come home for the"boring parts" which I didn't think would fly with them, but I figured I'd let them handle that.  But when things got in gear for the big "hodesh irgun," they all really got into it (Tali too).  They all worked so hard, and what they produced was unbelievable impressive! 
On Shabbat after kiddush, they gave us a tour of the miklat where they set up what was literally a museum.  We kne wthey had been painting walls all month, but I didn't realize they were creating beautifully detailed murals!  Each age group had an exhibit, and in the end there was a contest bewteen them.  The walls were first covered in paper, and then murals over top.
The theme of the month, worldwide, was "aliyah."  Each age group focused on a different aspect of aliyah. One group was about aliyah to the Torah.  One was about aliyah from within (still not quite sure what that meant, but it sounds spiritual!).  But the overwhelming theme was about people moving to Israel.  Everyone kept joking that it was all about us!   The kids all thought it was cool that we were living what they were learning about. 
Then Saturday night there was a big marching and yelling ceremony around the kibbut, which ended in a parking lot, where they named the group a year ahead of Tali.  See, I never knew this, but when kids reach that age (9th grade), their group receives a name that will be unique to them forever.  If you meet someone and they were in B'nei Akiva, you could ask them what "tribe" and they would tell you, and from that you could know if they were 45 or 73 or 95 years old.  Then you can hoot with excitement if you happen to meet someone from your very own tribe!!  So they named the tribe "Na'aleh" (from the roo of aliyah, meaning "let's go up!"), and of course they had it spelled out on this humungous flammable thing that spelled the name out in giant letters of fire.  Then everyone did loud cheers for their groups (also part of the competition), and then we went to the dining hall for the plays.
Each age group had a play based on their own theme, that they wrote, practiced and performed.  A few of you expressed concern about Abaye's protrayal of a drunk Russian (the stereotyping), and from what Rivital described, her play had a lot to do with making fun of "arsim" (which, Israelis correct me if I am not translating this right, is like "geeks."  Or maybe it's like "aggies" if you are from Houston). 
I was getting nervous about a repeat of our horrible experience when Rivital and Shai studied in the Old City of Jerusalem (5 years ago) and they had a big end of the year extravaganza (sorry to those of you who know this story already). Each class had its own song and production.  The first graders began with the Midrash when G-d goes to all the other nations, offering them the Torah.  One nation asks what's in it, G-d says "don't kill" and they say they don't want it.  The next nation asks what's in it and they say, (um... I forget, don't lie, maybe?) and they say they don't want it.  Then G-d asks another nation and they don't want it b/c it says "Don't steal.".  Finally G-d offers the Torah to the Jews, and they say "We'll take it!  Now tell us what it says!"  (Would we have really taken it if we knew we couldn't eat lobster?!  I guess we'll never know).  But anyway, so there is this peppy Hassidic rock song that makes a modern version of the Midrash.  In the first verse, G-d goes to the Russians and asks them if they want the Torah.  In the show, a group of little first graders were dressed up as Russians.  They ask, What does it say?  There's one G-d.  No thanks.  We don't believe in G-d.  Then they go to the Americans (picture kids dressed as Americans), and the Americans ask what it says and G-d says Honor your mother.  The Americans say that no, they only do that once a year on Mother's Day.  Finally, in the song,  they go to the Arabs (which kids are dressed like) and ask what it says and G-d says Don't steal and they say no thanks(!)  We were so appauled and mortified that they did this at our kids' school!  And that a first year old class spent weeks practicing this and drumming this idea into their heads!!  And that they were blasting it out in the courtyard of the Old City, where many passersby and Arab neighbors could hear!
But here, at the B'nei Akiva thing, my neighbor had reassured me that the point at the end would be about looking past the stereotypes, so I held my judgment.  After weeks of hard work, and a final week of late nights (for which they didn't have homework all week!), there we were witting and watching the show.  It was so impressive from scenery to organization to preparation. 
To be honest, Ross and I had a lot of trouble understanding most of what was going on (between the Hebrew and the sound system and the kids), but we got to see the script too.  In Abaye's play, there was a guy just moving to Israel, and he was walking around, meeting all different people along the way.  Each portrayed a different stereotype-- the French were all talking about fashion and some other group was focused on food.  Or maybe that was also the French.  When I saw Abaye stagger out on stage drinking "beer" I was nervous.  The kid making aliyah asked him what the Russians contributed to Israel, and he slurred, "Vodka vodka vodka!"  I could have melted out of my seat, I was so mortified.  But then the kid asked what else they brought, and he said, "Security!  Also malls! gardens! parks! pubs! and so much more!"  Rivital's play was similar in that it made fun of "arsim" only to show in the end how everyone helped each other to get along.  The "arsim" spend all their time on the computer, but they end up facingbooking with an elderly woman who teaches them about Hannah Senesh and how she founded kibbutzim and did so many other amazing things, convincing them that there is more to life than computers. 
Do the morals justify the steroetyping?  Hard to tell.  I don't know if it would meet American standards of political correctness, but definitely the point was about getting past the stereotypes and getting along.  And people around here are really amazing about getting along and enjoying differences, so I think they're doing a good job.  There is a really diverse population here-- no religiously so much, but ethnically.  And the kids really seem to get along amazingly well.  We heard so many nightmares about Americans being treated badly in school when they make aliyah.  But none of my kids seem to have experienced any of that.  People think it's cool that they are from America.  It may be cause it's such a small place that everybody has to get along.  Like when we lived in Vancouver and our kids went to the little Orthodox school there, and someone (Hannah Ungar maybe?) told us that there aren't any cliques there, and she said it's because there are so few kids that they all need eachother or they wouldn't have any friends.  Here, the school is big, but everyone is from a smaller kibbutz.  Ours is probably the smallest.  Each of the kids has just one, two or three kids of their gender in their class on kibbutz.  So they all play together and they play with kids of different ages.  And fortunately, it just so happens that the kids (at least the ones our kids bring around) are adorable cute!
Anyway, so in summary, the B'nei Akiva extravaganza was very fun and impressive.  Our friend Maddy (hi Maddy!... she told me she's been awaiting this update to hear what I thought) was one of the judges.  In fact, she comes from a family that was less religious and not involved in B'nei Akiva, but somehow she got involved, and that's what got her hooked and brought her to Israel, and she remembers the madness of chodesh irgun from back then!  And I don't know how old she is (and if I did I wouldn't tell you), but just to give you an idea, she has kids with kids!  (But by looking at her, you'd think she must have had them at 15.  Though perhaps I shouldn't tell you that either...).  But anyway, so this is a long standing tradition of sleepless nights, hard work, and lots of yelling!   So she was one of the judges, and I tried to bribe her with silly bands, but it didn't work (she said her students give her silly bands all the time).  But then again maybe it did, because Abaye's group won the competition!  (More yelling!!)
So there you have it.  Hope you enjoyed.  More after our furniture, if not before....
All the best,

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