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Thursday, July 7, 2005

#129 Thirty-Five Years

I will be in the NY area the second half of July and will be available to speak to groups and the media. Then, G-d willing, I’ll be accompanying the August 2nd Nefesh B'Nefesh flight home.

Musings #129
July 7, 2005
30th of Sivan, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz

Thirty-Five Years

Yes, it’s hard to believe, but thirty-five years ago we were packing our meager possessions to bring to Israel on aliyah. My husband and I had just gotten married, and we sublet an apartment from a young couple that was working in a Jewish camp.

Our life as a young American-Jewish couple was not only short, it had no real meaning. Literally we were just waiting for our boat to leave port. That was in 1970. It’s hard to realize how much Israel has changed since then. Yes, we sailed on a boat for almost two weeks, until we docked at Haifa Port, after Shabbat on the fifth of September 1970. We were among the four hundred American Jews making aliyah, the largest amount of American Jews to arrive at the same time until the first Nefesh B’Nefesh flight over thirty years later. Please correct me if I’m wrong. At least that’s what I’ve understood from the news accounts.

The Israel that received us was so different, far and removed from the New York we had just left. Materially and convenience-wise it was another generation, another world. For example there weren’t enough telephone lines, and a year’s wait was considered good and efficient. My cousin and her family who made aliyah four years after us had to wait over five years for a line.

Many families were still grateful for small electric refrigerators, the size I remembered from American motels. These were an improvement over the “ice boxes” still used in the post-independence 1950’s. A neighbor, my age, who grew up in Jerusalem, tells of having freshly “shechted,” slaughtered, chickens during three day holidays, because it there was no refrigeration. Her mother would salt and soak (according to Jewish Law) and then cook the freshly slaughtered chicken for the holiday meals. In 1970, it much was easier, though I had to be very organized cooking on my two “burner” hotplate. I saw many family kitchens with no more than that and an oven that looked more like a large toaster oven. Delicious cakes were baked in “sirei pele,” “wonder pots.” They are special baking pans for baking on top of the stove. Learning how to bake in them was one of the fun challenges for olim chadashim, new immigrants in my day. My friend, Sybil, is famous for her cookbook, “The Wonders of a Wonder Pot.”

Most travel was by bus; very few people had private cars. And those who did knew that their cars could be called up for military service. Yes, the army didn’t have enough vehicles; so cars did “milu’im,” reserve duty.

Plastic bags were almost unheard of. Going vegetable shopping in the
shuk, or open market, was a very different experience. Paper napkins were rare and hardly worth the decorative effect. And I don’t even want to start describing the toilet paper. We bought yellow cheese by the weight, and only when the shopkeeper saw me did he cut it on clean white paper. When I wasn’t around he placed the cheese on newspaper, the cheapest and most plentiful wrapping paper available at that time.

Less than a year after our arrival, I learned about Israeli baby care. Newborns were swathed in diapers and receiving blankets of various sizes. Neither pins nor rubber pants were used on tiny babies. Luckily my mother brought a full layette from New York. Two years ago when my first grandchild was born, I told my mother that we’d shop here, where baby clothes are now better and reasonably priced.

Yes, things have changed. And we’ve changed, too. Materially things are better, but Israel has lost its innocence and confidence. That charismatic chutzpah is harder to find. Nowadays you can only find it in some yishuvim, and it’s strongest in those lofty hilltop communities, the ones that American President Bush and other busybodies feel threatened by. I guess that they don’t like the spark of Zionism, of pure Judaism, because they can’t control those under its spell.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t made aliyah thirty-five years ago. It was the most natural thing for us. We came without ever saying maybe, without ever thinking it an experiment, without any backup plans to return to America “if.” It’s our home. No regrets.

I sincerely hope that this season’s olim chadashim will be as satisfied and joyful with their lives as Israelis as we are.

Batya Medad, Shiloh
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tmeishar: said...

Wow, that was beautiful, it gives tremendous chizuk to me as a hopeful future olah. I am so happy I found this blog.

Batya said...

Thank, visit again, please.