Waiting

Supposedly a woman can have subconscious hang-ups that keep her from going into labor.

At first we had bats, and I was not going to be up and around the house all night in labor while there were bats flying around…

And then we stayed at friends’ houses for two nights while they got rid of the bats…

And then it was Tish’a B’av, which was my due date, but I was not going to have the baby on Tish’a B’av…

And then a couple of days later I started having contractions and got excited…

And then the contractions didn’t turn into labor…

And then it was Shabbat…

And then the contractions still didn’t turn into labor…

And now I am out of possible subconscious reasons I’m not in labor yet.

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Protests in Haifa

It’s been pretty interesting to follow news that’s specifically related to Haifa. It’s a small enough city that I’m more or less familiar with pretty much all of the neighborhoods.

These pictures are from our old neighborhood, actually the other end of it (Ziv center)

ziv protest 1

Israel needs national honor

ziv protest 2

Israel will not give in to Obama

Photos taken by our friend Ashley Overholser.

Nave Shaanan is one of the quieter neighborhoods of Haifa, and I assume the protest was relatively peaceful because people just don’t get as riled up about America as they do about the Arabs. In contrast, there was a protest in the Carmel (the “happening” part of Haifa) that turned violent, and people were yelling ugly things about the Arabs. I won’t post those videos. It was too upsetting and I made Jeff turn it off.

Here is a link to a broadcast about another protest in Haifa, this one from the Israeli-Arab Christians. (For those who have been to Haifa, the “UNESCO Square” referred to in the broadcast is the traffic circle at the foot of the Bahai Gardens. It’s part of the Christian quarter.) It’s worth a watch because Israeli-Arab Christians don’t get a lot of press in America, and it’s worth a reminder that not all Arabs are Muslim. (Some people they interviewed objected to being described as Arab rather than Israeli, but I wonder if they would have the same objection when Israel wasn’t in the middle of a war.)

Hebrew really is for Israel

So how is it going with keeping up Rafi’s Hebrew, not to mention my own?

Both of us find that Hebrew just doesn’t roll off our tongues like it used to. Most of the reason is that the events of the day take place in English, so it doesn’t come naturally to switch to Hebrew to discuss them. We’ve had the most success when we do an action and talk about what we’re doing in Hebrew (like running the dishwasher or getting our umbrellas). Also, Captain Underpants in Hebrew.

Here’s an excerpt from a comment I posted to the blog Becoming Sarah about raising bilingual children:

We chose a different solution for a similar problem, and like you, we don’t know how it will play out. A month ago we moved from Israel back to America. Our 4.5 year old is biliingual in Hebrew and English although his level of Hebrew expression has never been on par with his English. We actually opted for full time kindergarten in the fall (he’s a little young, but there is a pre-K cohort in the class), specifically to get him into a program with a Hebrew component, however beginner it may be. There are so few Hebrew speakers in our part of the country that I can’t marshal enough resources on my own (there are other factors too).

It may turn out to be a mistake because a full day of school will suck up all the time he has for Hebrew activities that I could do with him that actually meet his level. Or, it could be a wonderful thing because it’s a small school and they can be flexible to give him what he needs during the school day. There’s a new headmaster this year, so we’re not sure what to expect.

When you speak to Charlotte in French, does she answer you in French? My main problem is that my son learned all of his Hebrew in Israel, where his main exposure to English for a year and a half was in the home. As a result, he just can’t speak to me in Hebrew (though his English is very sophisticated with only minor word-order errors); the prior conditioning is too strong. If we are talking about a Hebrew book or song, he’ll speak to me in Hebrew, but then it’s back to English. We have a new baby on the way and maybe if I speak to the new baby in Hebrew, it will become more of a “home” language than it currently is.

When I wrote that comment, I was feeling very pessimistic–you can tell because I used the word “can’t.” Today started off a little better with Hebrew songs in the car and the aforementioned conversations about the dishwasher and umbrellas, during which Rafi actually spoke a full sentence of Hebrew to me.

Rafi is in camp until noon every day for the next two weeks. Last week he was in a full-day camp and I really didn’t have time for any activities with him, but it should be feasible now. The two things we do during the long afternoons are go to places where there will be kids to play with (which is as it should be) and chores (which are unavoidable). I am thinking about doing collaborative journaling in Hebrew with Rafi, an activity that we’ve previously done in English with success, and it has enough structure that it should work. We’re also slowly meeting Hebrew speakers in the area. There aren’t many, but they’re coming out of the woodwork. It’s up to me, though, to figure out what to “do” with them.

I’m 38 weeks pregnant and therefore trying to be forgiving toward myself for not having the mental and physical energy to do everything I want to do.

Operation Trash Reduction, Phase I

For Phase I of Operation Trash Reduction, we signed up for a curbside composting service called Garbage to Garden. They provide you with a plastic bucket with a tight-fitting lid, pick it up from your curb on trash day, and leave a clean bucket in its place. You can get free compost in return, which we don’t have much use for, oh well. 

The great thing about Garbage to Garden is that they will take any organic waste, including bones, meat, compostable plates–all the things you can’t put in home compost. The household waste goes to a great big commercial operation that processes waste from the fishing and farm industries. Anytime I get the “yuck” reaction to all the “garbage” I’m putting in my compost, all I have to do is think, “fish guts and cow manure,” and it’s all good!

I worked out how much it costs ($14/month) vs. how much in trash bags it saves us ($2/week), and our net cost for composting is a little more than $1 a week. We’ll break even or come out ahead on weeks when we have a lot of guests and/or have to use paper plates. Plus, it’s free after the first month if you volunteer, which I plan on doing, at least sometimes.

Even if I’m not able to volunteer, there are some side benefits we get for our $1/week other than fuzzy feelings about helping the environment. For example, our trash bags are much less gross, so it’s much less unpleasant for Jeff to tie them up and take them out, and he doesn’t have to worry about them leaking either. We don’t even have to wash the compost bucket ourselves.

I also discovered a surprising emotional benefit. Oddly, having a little container on the counter to collect food waste makes a place feel like home to me. I know it’s unusual, but you would feel that way too if the only times in your life you didn’t compost were when you lived in temporary places. This apartment will probably be temporary too, so every little bit helps.

I think I can safely declare Phase I of Operation Trash Reduction a success.

Phase II, still in the planning stages, is cloth diapering. Be forewarned.

Cultural Attitudes toward Trash

I didn’t think about it until returning to America, but there’s a huge difference between how the Israeli and American cultures handle garbage.

I was thinking about this recently because in Portland (as well as in some of the surrounding towns), all trash has to be put out in official trash bags that cost about $2 each. It adds up fast if you’re wasteful. It’s partly a tax and partly a method of encouraging people to reduce their trash. I have to admit it works. So I got to thinking about differences in how Israel and America handle trash removal.

In most places in America, there are strict rules about how you put out trash. You might not pay by the bag like in Portland, but the point is that you have to follow the rules or you risk a fine. While curbside trash pickup may be a public service, the trash itself is your private property until the moment the truck picks it up.

In contrast, trash in Israel is pretty much a free-for-all. There are big dumpsters right out on the sidewalk, one for about every two apartment buildings, and you can put as much as you like in them. (Recycling bins are available but not convenient.) Or next to them. Trash, according to the Israeli definition, consists of anything that you have put in public areas for the public services to clean up.

Who owns the trash (the individual or the public sector) while it is in limbo sounds like a small difference, but it has big implications. First, like anything in the public sector, trash can easily get covered by the Somebody Else’s Problem invisibility shield. In a nice neighborhood it’s usually okay because people make an effort to put trash where it belongs and keep the streets clean (except for dog poop). Our neighborhood in Haifa was relatively litter-free…only relatively. On the other hand, Israelis are notorious for leaving public parks littered with trash after they leave, and I mean totally disgusting–I have personally witnessed this several times. Who cares–it’s Somebody Else’s Problem and you don’t have to look at it in the meantime because you’re leaving the park.

Another implication is that the public sector just doesn’t work very well. If you’ve ever tried to call a public office in Israel to prepare for a visit, you know that the odds are no better than 50-50 that you will get a useful answer that actually saves you a trip or allows you to conduct your business more efficiently. (I once heard a man complain to the municipality, very calmly, that he had followed the instructions on the form exactly and brought all the documents it said he would need. The clerk’s response was, “It’s impossible to list everything you need on the form!” Really, I am not exaggerating.) Chances are also 50-50 that you will get someone who actually cares about your problem.

The same goes for trash pickup. The people who work in public services in Israel don’t care if people over-stuff a full dumpster, letting cats in and smells out, instead of walking 50 meters to one that isn’t full. Why would they care? It’s not their problem if you don’t like it, and it’s certainly not your problem because it’s a public street. All you can do is ignore it and wait for the next trash pickup, which mercifully is never more than a few days away, and be grateful you don’t live in a part of town where people really don’t care and will just leave their trash all over the place instead of hanging it neatly off the edge of the full dumpster.

Jeff and I sometimes bemoan the tyranny of nit-picky rules in America (e.g. no alcohol purchases on Sunday mornings), but I think rules about trash are probably a good thing. Enforcing those rules means that you have to have someone who owns the trash. It doesn’t stop people from littering when nobody is looking, but it helps create a culture where people think of trash as their responsibility rather than someone else’s problem.

Not being there

Since we left Israel, things have really heated up. By now I’m sure all of my readers read about the kidnapped and murdered Israeli boys and the revenge that was so horrific I don’t even want to type the words and see them on my screen and think about the mental image.

Hamas shot rockets at Tel Aviv, and what is even more worrying, further north, all the way to Hadera and Zichron Yaakov, in the southern foothills of the Carmel mountain range. I say “more worrying” not only because they fell relatively close to Haifa but because this is an unprecedented reach from Gaza. The rocket fire is still going on.

Am I glad to be back in America during this crisis? Yes and no. Yes because I can feel relieved that I don’t have to worry about hearing the siren at any time and having to run to a shelter. In Haifa you get a minute warning. In Tel Aviv you get a minute and a half. If the rockets are coming from Gaza rather than Lebanon or Syria, I guess you would get a minute and 45 seconds warning in Haifa rather than a minute. Yay. Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepts many of the rockets before they fall, but it doesn’t catch all of them.

At the same time I’m not glad to be back in America. Sometimes you hear worse news when you’re following it from afar because you hear the worst news from the whole country, rather than feeling the atmosphere in one single place. (That might not be a bad thing because you can easily have a false sense of security if you’re not paying attention and locally it’s quiet. Would I even be blogging about this if I were still in Haifa? Maybe only to reassure people that we’re okay. I didn’t blog about the crisis with Syria and the threat of gas attacks.) I can judge the mood in Haifa a bit by the emails that go out to the neighborhood list that I’m still subscribed to. A major event was canceled right after they found the kidnapped boys’ bodies. Other than that, chatter is going on as normal. No rockets have hit Haifa. I’m not sure the sirens have even gone off.

Still, judging by the way the situation is still escalating, I’m worried that the rocket attacks could lead to worse, and so I end with a prayer for the sons and daughters to whom we said, “May your army service pass in peace.”