When you live in Israel, you grab your moments of joy wherever and whenever you can. Because if you don’t – you might not survive.
I’m exaggerating of course. On the contrary, Israel is a pretty nice place to live. I know we have wars and terrorist incidents; enemies surround us and the whole world seems against us at times (too many times). But the truth is people know how to live here – and rather than sit around and kvetch about all the problems, they’re out there enjoying life. Looking at my wisteria bush the other day and seeing the very first bloom since we planted it seven years ago, I was overwhelmed with joy. I never had a wisteria bush bloom in my New York days. OK, so it’s not all sweet-smelling, lilac-colored flowers everyday. Some days you want to punch the clerk in the post office. (I hate that we even have to go to the post office, but come the 15th of every other month, it’s time to pay the value-added tax.) And when you wait on line in the supermarket and someone pushes ahead of you because she has only three items compared to your seven, you do a “Huh, are you kidding me?” But let’s not consider those moments of intense aggravation.
Let’s consider the Arab butcher who answers your question about how to say chicken leg in Hebrew – “Pulkeh!” Or the Russian taxi driver who offers to give you a list of local business- es that use his service and can benefit from yours. Or the telephone operator, who instead of giving you the telephone number you’re asking for, gives you advice along with it. And then there’s the weather. Do you have any idea how fabulous it is to sit at an outdoor cafe in the Caesarea harbor in January, enjoying fresh grilled fish accompanied by a side dish of bright, warm sunshine? To know that eight months out of the year, you’ll be more or less guaranteed a rain-free day, day after day? And when it does rain, more often than not you will experience a rainbow right after? How about the unique serene silence of a Friday afternoon when no one stirs because everyone is taking a pre-Shabbat nap? Or the experience of people wishing you a Shabbat shalom the way they once said, “Have a good day” in the United States – and they mean it.
And the comedy – the cynical satirical shows that shine on television! These people are loaded with self-deprecating humor – about themselves, their leaders, their enemies (real and imagined). Imagine every stereotype you can think of about an Israeli – and know that an Israeli has already thought about it and made fun of it. So I’m going to really enjoy this new wisteria blossom. Because it is a sign for me that everything here is just fine.
Anne Kleinberg, author of Menopause in Manhattan and several cookbooks, left a cushy life in Manhattan to begin a new one in Israel. Now she’s opened a boutique bed and breakfast in her home on the golf course in Caesarea. For details, visit www.annekleinberg.com and http://www.casacaesarea.com.