We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, October 23. 2005
Guest Author: Aliyah Diary, No. 1
For the next few weeks, and hopefully longer, we will post guest author Nathan Szajnberg M.D. each Tuesday, a medical pal and the son of an Auschwitz survivor, who moved to Israel from California two months ago and is doing his "aliyah" - the long path to becoming an Israeli citizen. I hope he makes his diary into a book, and I hope we can post a good bit of it here, first. It is casually written and not edited yet.
Aliyah 10-7: Fri.
Moishek calls and agrees that I can go back to work on fridays when I
am free. Dugri, (to the point), when he calls, he asks if the work
might not be too strenuous; I respond that as a teen, I read AD
Gordon, the 50-some European shop keeper who made aliyah and insisted
how important it was to work the land. And he did. He believed that
the land not only is redeemed by labor, but also redeems us. This,
Moishek accepts but with a joke, after I say that such honest work is
healthy. In Hebrew he says, "Work is healthy, which is why only the
sick work." My non-capitalistic leanings (such as they are) came
early. Around this time of year, when my father and I were in shul
and I was perhaps nine, I noticed one fellow, tallit-wrapped, during
the ashamnu, bagadnu. This prayer over rosh Hashanah/yom kippur, is a
recitation of all our sins, in alphabetic order, during which we are
to strike our hearts with each beat of the word. I turn to my father
about the man whose body is wrapped in a large black and white striped
tallit (like a death shroud, it seems), because this man is beating
his chest so hard, it resounds through the shul. I ask my father why
the guy is pounding himself so hard with each sin. My dad looks up,
pauses, looks down at me and answers, "He's businessman."
Moishek will pick me up with the other laborers (who i am guessing
are Filipino, Thai, maybe Arab) in the a.m. The pick up is near
Netanya, so when i transfer my ulpan there in Nov., he will get me on
the way to Tel Mon.
Now, I must adios, as Myron is waiting for me to walk to shul.
Will get back to Herzl (the cab driver) and David, the British chap.
PS. My first haircut as a new oleh at Moshe's in the King David. He
was so delighted to do this. He even charges me a bit less than the
price listed in English.
In Myron's family's apt. in Rehavia. Walked through lovely park to cut
to Emek Refa'im (valley of ghosts), the main core of the German
Colony, then crossed the unused train tracks to attend beit kenesset
in Baka, a neighborhood of narrow roads clotted with playing children,
lined by stone walls. On "Railroad" way, lives Estee Galili, my
colleague at Hadassah, on the German side of the tracks, so to speak.
Now, to David, the bus soldier. On the way up from Tel Aviv, he has
overheard my series of conversations, mostly in English, bemoaning the
travails of the past day to Joy, the social worker in Nefesh B Nefesh.
I have therefore revealed that I am a greener, more politely, an oleh
hadash who is more hadash, "new," ra'anana, "fresh" than oleh. (On
this pelephone, I create an invisible bubble around me that does not
exist, a bubble of privacy.)
He starts with, "welcome to aliyah." In English, with a British
accent. To my left, sitting window side (I on the aisle, my legs
astride my Hartmann luggage), in army uniform, unusually well-pressed,
he looks to be 28, perhaps 30. I later learn he is 21. A small black
kippah I notice as he turns away briefly to show me that we have
already passed shar hagay, the narrow slot to enter Jerusalem's rising
road. What I think is a war memorial , as it looks like abstract
artillery, is art; a bit further on he shows me some memorials: beat
up hulks of old jeeps, sheltered by overgrowing shrubs and trees.
David V. came in Jan 2003 and quickly entered the army. He is in the
division connected with relations with other armies: to get back
bodies from Lebanon; the affair in Heathrow with the Israeli general,
who might have been arrested because an Israeli lawyer has filed in
England to have him labeled for crimes against humanity. Such
negotiations. He is the only child and suspects that his parents will
move from England. The why's he begins to answer before I ask. Why
aliyah he doesn't try to answer fully. He is in bnei akiva, the
religious Zionist youth group, and still works with them. Why now is
easier. He chose to come before his studies, so that he would go
through the army and then go into university as an Israeli, hoping to
become a part of the culture rapidly. And it's working. Hebrew only in
the army from 8 am to 11 pm and you learn quickly, or get hungry, for
instance. He is now loving being here, although the first few months
were dicey. He chose to live in the Anglo Jerusalem community at the
beginning, before army, so that he would have periodic breaks,
unnecessary now. Attended Ulpan Etzion, even though most students had
advanced degrees; somehow got into it and spoke well of it; a place
for serious learning. The women here seem to like his
English-thickened Hebrew. He gives me his card; asks me to call after
he finishes his officer's training in Nov. Suggests that I go to the
army recruitment center in Jer and volunteer as a physician, as docs
are needed. He seems not put off by my advanced years.
Then, through the chore of getting into the new bus station at Jer.
First, the crowds, more orderly than usual, all offloading, then into
one of two entrances. The usual body-scanner, but now with people
spilling coins, dropping phones, keys, sometimes into the tray, and
other times on the ground. The beautiful Ethiopian woman, her hair
braided, is remarkably patient, even pleasant with some crotchety old
folks. I smile and wish her shabbat shalom, to which she takes notice.
Then to the luggage scanner. These guys look bored. Then enter the
building, only to exit shortly. I cross Yaffe street (that runs from
the Yaffe gate of the Old City, down from Jerusalem, to .... Yaffe on
the seashore). I get into a cab to hunt for an open bank Leumi on a
Friday. He thinks I say something else, so Leumi of an gov't office,
then hears correctly and is avid for the hunt, if possible to snare a
bank before 1230 (and it is now 1215). bank hapoalim (worker's bank)
closes at noon, but he doesn't know about leumi (national bank). He
wears a kippah, has the soft khet of some Mizrahi Jews and begins to
talk to me about g'matria. Which, if you don't know, is the art of
adding up the value of hebrew letters of a word (as the letters are
also numbers) and exploring the meaning of the numbers. Some of this
he does so quickly that I -- trying to remember for you, perched
awkwardly on the extended handle of my valise, which I didn't have
time to retract -- reach for my ball point and take notes on my palm.
think better of it (as the sweat would erode the letters) and write
first on my hypothenar eminence, moving up to the back of my hand.
Herzl, his name, says it is better to pray to god than not. Why? We
all die. At the end of life if there is nothing, then nothing lost
with prayer; if there is something, heaven, afterlife, even gehenna,
then better to have prayed and lived a good life than not. Now, the
613 laws are sensible and easy. 248 of them are the positive ones: do
this, do that ; things one would want to do anyhow to be a decent
fellow, so what's to lose. And (Myron later teaches me) these are the
number of bones in man's' body. The remaining 365 (nu, the number is
obvious) are the negative ones: thou shalt not have any other god
before me; thou shalt not kill; not commit adultery. These are things
a good person would not do in any case, so no problem following these.
For instance, and, here, as we take a sharp left (just at a baseball
field on the right and some early Safdie buildings to the left) and
ascend a narrow road where I vaguely recall my beloved hebrew teacher,
Yael, brought me to an extraordinary yet tiny felafel-faria, he
explains and demonstrates the "thou shalt not" eat of a live animal.
He has looked into the rear view for most of his conversation, but for
this moment, as he gestures with his right hand as if reaching for the
leg of a mutton and devouring it, he turns to me. Even if you tear
off the leg and briefly sear it over an open flame, if the animal is
still writhing by the roadside, you should not eat the leg. Of this,
he convinces me. I think of my father's old love of steak tartar; but
assure myself that the rest of the old horse (or cow) was surely
well-dead by the time the fresh, raw, ground meat was sitting atop a
rye bread, peppered.
He comments that the moslems and christians need only follow the
seven laws of Noah, and recites a few of these, such as do not kill,
do not steal. I comment that this seems easier, but he snags this
midair and fires back a fast ball, that this is not true. Then stops
himself. Asks, "You're Jewish no?" (" Yes." "And then some," I think
to myself.) He lights up, kisses his right hand and reaches up to god
(Herzl, I sincerely believe, does not have to reach up too high to
touch god; seems to have a comfortably close relationship, a fond
friendship with the fellow), saying "Thank god." And is off
continuing. He explains that following these seven laws is more
difficult, altho I don't quite get the gist of this. He makes an aside
of the law against stealing for non-Jews, he knows some Jews engage in
this, and engage with gusto, but shrugs with a what-can-you-do.
Lesson continues. Torah, adds up to what? (I don't know my number
equivalents in Hebrew, so he continues). Tet, vav, resh, heh, makes
611. Why 611, and not 613? Why shouldn't Torah add up to all the laws?
Ahah, because of the 613 laws, Moses carried down 611; God delivered
the first two directly to the children of israel (and all the Jewish
souls-to-be thought to be crowded around Sinai): I am your god; you
shall have no other god. So, 611 and the two big ones make 613.
There comes more, as we approach a bank. Herzl tells me to jump out,
check if its open. I leave luggage, computer and such in the Skoda;
see employees within and no response to my knocks. Back in the car,
we are almost at Myron's family house. Herzl, not yet done, switches
off the meter and with enthusiasm overfills my cup. Asks my name and I
give him my birth name, Naftali Moshe, at which he beams, two
wonderful blessed names.
And with his smile, and his blessing, I am off for shabbat.
Copyright N. Szajnberg, MD, 2005
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