It’s the little things.
You’d think that the big things like a different language and a different culture would bother me. Of course they do, and I’m not going to pretend they don’t. But I’ve had contact with Israelis my whole life, so those are things I expected and prepared for.
It’s the little things that I didn’t expect that bother me the most. Like going to the grocery store and not having anyone to bag groceries, anywhere. Like not having hot water on demand on cloudy days (which have been unusually frequent this winter). Like not being able to buy kale and collards at the store. (I got so excited by a box of what looked like generic cooking greens, but it turned out to be plain old spinach, and not too fresh either.)
There are other things I can’t get here that drive me nuts: good sponges, dishpans, 409, and good stain remover. As far as the dishpans go, maybe I haven’t found the right store yet, but I’m fairly certain that the others cannot be had.
For sure there are positives too. Produce is extremely cheap and plentiful, even if the selection is different from America. I can get kosher meat in the supermarket (although I’ve been scared off by stories of unsafe food handling). Spices especially are very cheap and are often sold in open bins, even in the mall (not only in the shuk, which is what I expected), which makes shopping very enjoyable. The area we are living in is terrific: lots of mom and pop shops within walking distance, as well as parks and synagogues.
The people are outgoing (which is the flip side of pushy). We spent Shabbat with several American couples, and in comparison they seemed very reserved.
I just miss the familiar look of America, or I guess the Midwest and the Northeast. When I visited San Diego, I was a bit disconcerted by the fact that all the trees, plants, and houses looked different, and I have the same feeling here. You just get used to the world looking a certain way.
Rafi is adjusting marvelously. He is enamored by the toilets with big flushes and little flushes and the fact that the sun makes hot water. “Thank you, sun!” he says. “Thank you for making hot water! We don’t need to turn on the ‘lectricity!” He loves shwarma, pineapple yogurt, and of course pomegranates.
Another unexpected positive is that Rafi is potty trained now! A combination of better weather and more relaxed attitudes here about urinating in public did the trick. He still has the occasional accident, but he tells us when he needs to go now, which is a major breakthrough.
Tu B’shevat is coming and I want to go somewhere to see almond trees blooming. We have a coloring book of Jewish holidays that Jeff’s brother got for Rafi, and the picture for Tu B’shevat shows people planting trees in the rain holding umbrellas. It’s pretty accurate. Today the sun shone for the first time in a week, so I hung laundry out the window and felt very Israeli. (Our dryer is pretty inefficient, but at least we have one, which is more than most people have. It’s not considered worth the expense.) It is pretty cool, though, to be in a climate that is in sync with Jewish holidays and liturgy. I said “mashiv haruach umorid hagashem” during the Amidah and for once felt connected with reality.