37 Hours

8:30am – A Jerusalem moment

I am on the bus and an older gentleman with a cane got on with his wife. His wife sits down first on a seat facing the back and as he arranges himself to sit down the bus jerks forward and he loses his balance.  Two women on either side of the aisle catch him, each one catches an arm.  He finds his footing and sits down. Everyone chuckles a bit.

The story should really end there. I notice it not because of the kindness of strangers, but because he is wearing a knitted kippa, the woman on his left is a religious woman with a head covering and the woman on his right is a Muslim with a hijab (her ears are covered and the ear pieces of her glasses sit outside her hijab).

This is Jerusalem.

9:00am – 10:00am – Acupuncture

I love going to acupuncture. Everything that was out of balance gets rebalanced.

I have two big deadlines, one today and one tomorrow morning, and a balancing session takes my stress level down.



I planned to be home an hour ago.  I’ll just put the 2 hours into the project due today and get that off my plate so I can focus on the one due tomorrow.


Send. That was not 2 hours.

I’m hungry and I need to change gears. I think I’ll watch one of my funny Korean dramas and laugh a little while eating.



Korean drama turned into some YouTube surfing and now I have to really get started. It will be a late night, but I should be done in 5 hours, maybe 6.


I’m just going to close my eyes for 20 minutes. I’m setting the alarm.


Wha-huh! Glerg. Merf.


Oops. Ok. Focus. This should only take 3 more hours, maybe less.


Potty break. Flush. Oh, I forgot that they were shutting off the water for repairs tonight. Do I have water? I want to make some tea. Will I dehydrate before the water gets turned back on?



Why? Why is this so long?


From 2:20am to 8:00am the space-time continuum folded in on itself and I was in a perpetual loop – but calm and relaxed. Time continued to move forward at varying speeds.


Send.  Yes, it’s on time! Exhale.


Stephen Hawking died. Did I fold the space-time continuum so hard last night that Stephen Hawking died?

Oh, shoot. Mom went to Asia today and I didn’t call. She crossed the International Date Line, so is she in tomorrow or yesterday? I think she went to the future.

The US changed its clocks to Daylight Savings Time this week, but Israel doesn’t do it until next week! Ha, ha! We still have the hour that the US lost! And yet, I feel like I already lost that hour sometime in the night …

After waking from sleep-mode, my computer clock thinks it’s April 19, 2018. Even my computer is time traveling!

(Sure, you might say that these are just a bunch of random coincidences or a case of selective attention, but maybe these are clues!)


I’m giving a massage this afternoon. The truth is that I find it really relaxing and I’m happy to do it.


Out to dinner. Asian fusion ramyun and beer. Peanut butter dessert and tea.


I’m streaming NCIS: Los Angeles. They are rescuing Hetty from Viet Nam. I wonder how Mom is doing.

*Fade to black before I find out how the episode ends*


I’m extremely busy with my work projects and I was going to just go on hiatus this week.

And then –

Jerusalem Marathon!

It’s my favorite day of the year! I love the fact that the city shuts down for fun things. There were 35,000 people who came from all around the world to run up and down the hills of Jerusalem in what is considered to be one of the hardest marathons in the world.

This year the Jaffa Gate station was a bit more tame than previous years, but it’s still so inspiring to see people pushing themselves onward and striving to be just a little better than they were before.

Here is a 4-minute video from the Jaffa Gate observation station. Enjoy!


Philosophical Purim

Purim is not my holiday. I’m not a fan of dressing up, partying all night, or drinking until “you can’t tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman.” No matter how I feel about it, Israel goes bananas over Purim. Think Halloween on steroids.

NeighborsMy neighbors were featured as the first picture in the article (Wonder Woman is missing)

Another photo

Source: Times of Israel

In recent years, I’ve seen a more philosophical interpretation of Purim. Some women talk about the strength of women in the story. The Jews are saved by Esther because she was in the right place at the right time. Some bring up Vashti who said “no” to the king (creating the opportunity for Esther) and her courage to disobey the patriarchy.

Another philosophical conversation turns around the fact that God is never mentioned in the story. Things coincidentally happen, but the name of God is never uttered. Is God behind the scenes or is the story a series of convenient coincidences? Well, you can answer that for yourself.

This year Purim and Dad’s secular yahrzeit fell on the same day. I’d like to think that Dad is still with us in some way and is part of our stories. We may not talk about him every day, but as long as he is remembered, he still exists for us.

I watch a lot of Korean dramas and Koreans mark the anniversary of the death of a loved one with a ceremony that includes the person’s favorite foods. I like that. Dad didn’t eat a lot and nothing really stands out as his favorite (Steak? Vanilla wafers? Greasy spoon diner food?) Dad liked to play poker, so in his memory, here’s a Royal Flush.


Wedding croppedThe early chapters of our story (I’m the kid)



I saw Black Panther last night in IMAX 3D. I love a superhero movie! With no spoilers, I can tell you that this movie is for EVERYONE. The message is simple:

Be who you are.
Remember where you came from.
And, most importantly, be a light unto the nations.

There is plenty of digital ink out there about what this movie means, how important it is in society right now, how empowering it is, and how universal the appeal is. It is all of those things and more. Instead of a trailer, here’s a little featurette about the warriors of Wakanda.

When I left the theater I was struck by the popularity of superhero movies in recent years and I was reminded that during the Great Depression people in the US went to movies and listened to radio plays to keep their spirits up. Through the years since then, people have turned to these kinds of hero stories when the world seemed to be a dark and scary place.

Joseph Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey pattern in many of humanity’s stories and many people have translated his thoughts into a self-actualizing phenomenon to show people that they can be the hero in their own stories.

Today the world is again (or still?) in crisis: corrupt politicians, lack of leadership, economic instability, refugees, war or threats of war. As I typed that list, I realized that these crises could be in any country. I was thinking about Israel, but it might just as easily be anywhere else.  So it’s no wonder that I would rather sit in a darkened movie theater and be inspired by a hero who reminds us that courage is defined by your ability to go forward even after you fall and even if you are afraid.

Today’s superheroes are often imperfect. Long gone are the days of good is good and evil is evil. Black Panther is a great example of this. The beloved father and the ancestors made a huge mistake and it is the villain who points it out and tries to right the wrong. The hero is heroic because he accepts the lesson and moves forward in a positive way.

It’s not that the real world is lacking heroes. We see them every day. They are the quiet ones standing between danger and innocents under attack. They are first responders who go toward danger and keep calm when chaos is all around. They are people who see something and say something. They are the ones who give a word of encouragement to someone who needs it. They are the people who lift others up to join in success. They are the helpers and the givers. And yes, they are also imperfect.

Hero seems like a weighty title, but it doesn’t have to be. If we can all be heroes in our own stories, then perhaps we can also take a page from the superhero movies coming out these days: the world is in crisis and it’s up to us to save it.

Use your gifts to make the world around you better.
If your gift is very powerful, use it to do great good.
Every day you can choose to do good.
And remember, no one expects perfection.


There is no debate about guns in Israel

When people visit Israel they see 18-year-old soldiers carrying M-16s casually slung over their shoulders. They see guards at supermarkets – checking you when you go in, not when you go out. Metal detectors are everywhere. I work at a museum. There are both guards and a metal detector. You see armed guards on public transit. You also see private citizens with pistols tucked into their waistbands (most often covered with an untucked shirt).

You might think that Israel is a heavily armed society. And you would be totally wrong.

One statistic stood out to me this week: the number of privately owned small firearms per 100 residents by country. The US has 101 guns per 100 residents. Israel has 7.3. The number 2 country with 58.2 guns per 100 people is Serbia. No matter what the margin of error might be, it is an astronomical difference.


After the tragic school shooting in Florida this week, I had a few conversations about gun ownership. Israelis across the board cannot believe how easy it is to get a gun in the US. Here are a few things I found out:*

  • Israelis do not have the right to own a firearm
  • Israelis must request a license for gun. In order to qualify, you have to prove a need for a gun based on your job or where you live
  • If you have served in the army, you are eligible for a gun license at 21. If you have not served in the army, the age is raised to 27
  • If you prove the need and you pass the medical and psychological exams, you are sent to an expert who determines what kind of gun suits you
  • You are required to take a gun safety course
  • One license = one gun
  • You have to go to a shooting range at least every six months to keep up your shooting skills
  • You have to renew your license every three years
  • Soldiers in basic training are forbidden from leaving their gun anywhere. It has to been on their person at all times (even while sleeping, I’ve been told). The consequences of losing a weapon include serving time in military jail
  • Soldiers in the reserves may be able to lock up their gun and leave it at home, but they need it to be under two locks (for example, a locked cabinet in a locked room; I don’t think the front door counts). This rule may also apply for personal gun ownership too

Israel has soldiers and guards to protect against terrorism, not crime. Israel has low rates of personal crime (as I’ve mentioned before) and in general Israelis feel safe. We depend on our army – filled with the sons and daughters of everyone we know – to protect us against threats to our national security.

Yesterday, Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, suggested that the US should follow Israel’s lead in preventing mass shootings. Putting in more guards might create more jobs, but I can confidently say that it is unlikely the US would impose any of the restrictions Israelis have on gun ownership.

Israel is a country of approximately 8.5 million people. It’s small, but we still have plenty of problems to deal with and debates every day on how best to handle any given situation. Personal gun ownership is not even on the radar.

*Please leave a comment if anything I’ve written here is inaccurate.

Expat life and aliyah-versary

I can honestly say that the four and a half months traveling around Europe and the Middle East with my then husband was one of the best times of my life. On the flight home from Egypt, I nearly kissed the ground in Minneapolis and I wanted to hug everyone I met who spoke with that glorious Midwestern accent. But that feeling faded fast. Upon returning home to small-town Washington, I sank into a depression. Suddenly I was waking up in the same room every day seeing the same things and experiencing everything in English in an easy and familiar way.

One of the gifts from my mother is finding a way to be proactive and analyzing feelings to figure out what to do about them. So I went to the library and started researching how to live abroad. I decided that I would do whatever it took to live an expat life. I didn’t know where and I didn’t know when, but this was something that I would make happen.


Could it be a lion in Zion?


On the kibbutz, I met a guy from Uruguay. I barely knew where Uruguay was, but I could safely say it was in South America. I had nothing in common with him other than the fact that we were both Jews participating in a Hebrew immersion course in Israel. It was nearly Passover and somehow we had a deep, animated conversation about matza balls. His grandmother and my mother made them exactly the same: they were lead balls that sank in the soup and sat in your stomach for days. And suddenly I understood what the notion of a Jewish People means in the sense of a shared history, traditions, and culture. Meeting Jews in the US still allows us to connect as Americans. But what do I know about Uruguay? I was connected to this stranger in a way that I could never connect with strangers in the US. There a friendship starts at zero and builds. With this guy, we already started at two and grew from there.

I had found the place, Israel the ancestral homeland of the Jews. The when was sooner than I expected. I turned my life upside-down and was living in Israel ten months after this matza ball moment.




Moving to Israel is called “making aliyah” in English. The verb in Hebrew is “to go up” (l’allot). Sixteen years ago this week, I made aliyah. Many people who come to Israel look back on their lives here and conclude that they’ve “made a life” here and they have been uplifted. They usually mean that they found their soulmate, got married, had kids, bought a home, and became part of Israel in some way.

That traditional path didn’t work out for me in the US and it hasn’t work out for me here. And yet, I still choose to be in Israel because I ran to Israel, not away from the US.

Here I was able to discover myself and define who I am. It’s been a slow process. It was only a few years ago that I gathered the courage to go to Thailand to learn Thai massage. I was 42 and apparently finally had the answer to life, the universe, and everything. I came home, quit my stable job (that was draining my life energy), and became a massage therapist and copy editor. I wouldn’t have even thought to enter the field of copy editing if I hadn’t lived in Israel. Even when I have exhausting days and stress myself over deadlines, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What has been uplifting to me in Israel is giving myself permission to live an expat life and exploring what it means to me to be part of the Jewish People. And the most uplifting thing – my true aliyah – is my journey of self-discovery.


Looking back at far how I’ve come already

Center of the Universe

In my first year of graduate school, I lived in a house in town rather than on campus. We didn’t have cable and for some reason we couldn’t pick up local stations, but the Canadian stations came in clearly. I started watching the news from Canada and I noticed something that really surprised me: the 30-minute evening news spent 20-25 minutes on world news and 5-10 minutes on local news. (The other thing that surprised my poor puritanical ears was the use of the F-word in primetime, but that’s another story.)

My point is that somehow it took until I was 22 years old to really understand that there was a big wide world out there where things happen. It’s not like I lived a sheltered life. I’d traveled internationally with my family. I knew who the prime minister of Israel was. Many of my mom’s friends were from another country (like we were). It had just never really sunk in that there might actually be something happening outside the US. I mean, isn’t the US the Center of the Universe? (And isn’t its capital the neighborhood of Fremont?)


But now I live in a different center of universe. Although sometimes when I travel it is made abundantly clear to me that a lot of people couldn’t care less about Jerusalem and some have never even heard of it.


By Heinrich Bünting – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=698773

Given my recent posts, it may surprise you, dear reader, to know that I did not listen to a single word of the State of the Union speech. Honestly, it hardly made a ripple in the Israeli news. Over here we were dealing with something else entirely and my attention swerved from one center of the universe to another.

This week’s headlines in Israel were about Poland. On the eve of international Holocaust Remembrance Day the Polish Senate passed a law criminalizing any mention of the Polish nation as complicit in or as perpetrators of the Holocaust. It’s not clear to me how they plan on imposing this law internationally and how it will affect the vocabulary allowed to historians (the problematic phrase is “Polish death camps” or statements implying the nation of Poland was complicit) and it’s a backhanded insult to Israel and Jews around the world.


Israeli 11th and 12th graders go to Poland for their class trip and visit concentration camps, say prayers over the dead, rebury remains, and remember the atrocities that were committed on Polish soil. Outside of Israel, thousands of people participate in the March of the Living trips to honor their lost family members and show that they survived. Will this law mean that if anyone says the phrase “Polish death camps” during the trip, they might be liable for a fine or up to 3 years imprisonment?

There is no doubt that there were Poles who rescued and protected Jews – Yad Vashem has documented proof – but there were plenty who did not. The question for me is: why is there is a need to criminalize any mention of Poland as a perpetrator? You can argue, debate, and present facts and witnesses. Why threaten jail?

Israel is angry about this law. Schools and Jewish groups are reconsidering their Poland trips. Poland is scrambling, but it doesn’t look like they’ll back down on the law.

Here’s a thought: Maybe this diplomatic wrinkle will give Jews the opportunity to reevaluate the purpose of Poland trips. The world and Jews especially should never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the extinguished souls should be remembered forever. But maybe it’s time to also balance the history of victimhood and survivor guilt that color a large part of Jewish identity with the drive toward a future of strength and unapologetically doing good in the world (start-up nation, center of R&D in technology and medicine, etc.). If Israel is a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Holocaust, maybe all Jews would be better served with the more universal idea that while we will always remember where we came from, we can and must allow ourselves to fly and reach for the stars.