July 31 and August 1st – Goodbye Maccabiah Hello Family

Last night I had to say goodbye to the six teammates who I’ve lived with for the past three weeks.
That sucked. I can’t say enough about how awesome these people are, but I’m fully aware that they were anomalies in a sea of Jappy Maccabiah Games athletes.
Last night, after an interesting closing ceremony we decided to order delivery to my room (the party room). We ordered 3 large pizzas and 3 large cokes and stayed up till 4 am talking. This is the kind of group we have.
Nir, our valiant leader, started off the night by asking us all whether or not this trip strengthened our Jewish identity or our Zionism. It then developed into a conversation about cultural assimilation in the United States, how Judaism views homosexuality and why does the world hate Israel. We also talked about some stupid shit, but that was the beauty of our group. It was a group of good looking, intellectuals who knew how to have a great time.
Sadly, they all had to leave at 6 am for their flights back to the United States. We all hugged each other and said we’d stay in touch on Facebook (maybe have a reunion at Burning Man).
Ben (who’s staying for a few extra weeks) and I stayed in the hotel room together until about noon when I had to leave to catch a bus to Haifa. I took the two hour bus from Jerusalem to Haifa and surprisingly enough it wasn’t very complicated.
When I arrived in Haifa, it was a little difficult finding my relative Amir at the train station, but eventually we found each other. We had a great conversation in the car. After giving him a quick summary of the past few weeks, he started to tell me about his hobby. Fixing/refurbishing junky, rusty motorcycles into kickass, shiny motorcycles. I told him that I’ve always wanted the chance to drive one of his motorcycles, so once he heard I was interested we headed to his mechanic shop where I saw about a dozen AWESOME motorcycles. I’m not an automobile guy, meaning I don’t know much about motors. But when he told me about each of his motorcycles I couldn’t help but find it fascinating.
Some were more than 70 years old. The youngest bike was 40 years old. However once I told him that I wanted to ride one (by myself) he laughed in my face and asked me if I’d ever ridden one before. Sooo…that’s not gonna happen. I’ll have to cross that off my bucket list some other way lol. I think he expected me to ride with him, which is not what I had in mind. Which is a shame because I was really looking forward to it. I think I’m not gonna risk trying to convince him, because I don’t want to some off as rude since I’m staying in his home. Still. Damn.
We headed back to their home, which is gorgeous. Here’s the living room/kitchen area.
They cooked me a delicious dinner and I ate the first bites of food I had that day. Afterwards, they filled me full of deserts. Normally, I’m not a fan of Halva. But for some reason the Halva that he had was incredible. It didn’t taste like the stuff we get at Cecil’s deli. And as usual, drank coffee that put American coffee to shame. We just sat the three of us. Amir, Noga (his daughter) and I on the front steps of their house. One of the things I love about this place and my relatives here is how chill they are. The neighborhood is quiet and full of families.
Amir and I gave their dog (very old Golden Retriever) a walk and we saw the sunset. It was beautiful.
After three weeks of doing a shitty job of washing my clothes and blow drying them. I’ve finally been able to use a proper washing and drying machine!! YAY!!! I feel human again.
I’m gonna go to sleep because I have a long day tomorrow. I can’t wait to meet the rest of my family!
Oh and Peerly (my mom’s first cousin) told me that she was very impressed with my Hebrew. I can’t wait till she hears me when I’ve had more than 3 hours of sleep 🙂

I’m too lazy to create a new blog post for the new day (Aug 1st)
So I woke up this Thursday morning and noticed that I had forgotten to lower the shades in my room. Darn beautiful sun. I was still sleepy. Closed the shades. Slept a few more hours. Got up. Went downstairs. Noticed their cleaning lady. Pe’erly (my mom’s cousin) told me that because the cleaning lady is Arab (muslim) and celebrating Ramadan she would wait to start cooking the onions until she had left. I wouldn’t have even thought of that.
Anyway, I decided to head out on a run. Partially, to see the beautiful Moshav (Alonei Abba) and also because I wanted to find a store where I could get my family something nice. I had no luck in finding a store. I asked people and even though Google maps said there was a grocery store and winery online 1/2 km away…it was wrong. No worries. I’m gonna get something for them when I go back to Jerusalem. However, I definitely got the chance to see the beauty of Alonei Abba. So many young families, children and dogs. With the only “problem” being that people are reluctant to scoop up the dog shit. A fact that everyone in my family here finds hilarious 🙂
Then I had breakfast. Had a very chill morning. The wireless has been going in and out so I’ve been relatively cut off from the outside world, which I love. Weird I know. Mr. Technology loves living in a secluded village (20 minutes from the nearest store) without wifi. When Noga (my 21 year old “cousin”) told me that there is nothing to do here, her mother Pe’erly responded, “That’s not true. You can take long beautiful walks in the fields and through the mountains. And there’s an ancient well nearby.” Yes. I love that stuff.
I napped in the middle of the day for 2 hours, while they cooked beside me. I woke up to see a small 4 year old boy coming into the house (Noga’s nephew, so he’s my “nephew”). I realized that everyone else looked dressed up, quickly changed and came down. Immediately I noticed that Omer did not speak english at all. At first he was tentative about playing with me, even though I spoke Hebrew to him and told him who I was. He ducked his head under a chair. So I ducked my head under a chair. He poked his head up over the wood. So I poked my head up over the wood. Classic peek-a-boo. No need for translation. He burst into laughter. We did this for a few minutes and then I pretended to chase him. He loved that and couldn’t stop laughing. I was having fun, and of course it reminded me of playing with my 4 year old niece. When he ran away, I pretended I didn’t know where he was just like I do with Maya. Looking around where he isn’t and asking, “?איפה עומר’ (where’s Omer?). He was cracking up. He looked up at me pulled on my arm and said something along the lines of, “?אתה רוצה לשחק איתי”
(Do you want to play with me?)
Of course I said yes. We went to the toy room and played for 45 minutes. I really am still a little kid at heart. We played with his cars and throughout our entire play session we spoke solely in Hebrew. We played with Fireman Sam (a character from a kid’s TV show) and various other cars, some from the Pixar movie “Cars”. There were times when he would use a word that I didn’t know or should have known but didn’t remember. Like I didn’t know what the Hebrew word for fireman was. It’s not Aish Ish (Fire + Man) although that sounds funny. It’s כבאי.
fireman sam-1344926545
I also didn’t know what the word for slipping was. We would pretend we were slipping on the carpet and then fall together. He laughed so hard, especially when I told him that הרגלייום שלי כואבים (my legs hurt) and would wiggle them and fake moan in pain. He thought that was hysterical.
After that I had the chance to meet some of the rest of the family at dinner. Pe’erly’s son and his wife as well as Amir’s (Pe’erly’s husbands’) parents. I find it relatively trivial to relay the exact relation to me, because it’s so clear to me when I’m spending time with them that we are all family (just based on little eccentricities). Thus the exact biological correlation to me seems so irrelevant.
I spoke to them about my year and found that since they were more comfortable speaking Hebrew. We could have a conversation where they would speak Hebrew (I would understand their question) and answer in English (they would understand my English) etc. Don’t worry Babu, I also spoke Hebrew to them. The food was incredible. No surprise, it’s my family. Noga made the most beautiful cake. I was blown away by her baking skills. It looks like something that my family would have bought (we can cook, but baking…not so much).
Here’s a picture.
After we were stuffed we sat out on the steps and enjoyed the weather. They spoke in Hebrew to each other, I listened and would occasionally join in, but felt at peace just being a calm observer. Friends would come by with their pets and children and we’d talk to them and my family would introduce me.
I took a video of various pieces of the night that I piece together below. It contains the dinner. The time we spent outside. And the always relatable, parent reading a child a book to a child in order to calm them down. I tried to capture the feeling of being surrounded by Hebrew, sometimes with multiple conversations at the same time.
Here it is.
After the night was over and my family return to their homes, Noga asked me if I wanted to see a movie. I asked what movie and she said, “Now You See Me.” Cool! I was curious about the movie (my Dad’s a magician and I love magic) and agreed. We took her car and on the way we listened to Aidan Raichel (famous Israeli music artist) and talked. We got to the mall and stopped in front of the parking lot. A security guard asked Noga to open the trunk of her car. She complied. The security guard let us park. I’ve never felt more secure walking into a mall. It also made me realize how crappy the security at the Mall of America is. Every single car that went into this small mall had been checked for explosives. Then before we got into the mall we had someone check our bags/purses and run a metal detector over us. Noga asked me what I thought of all the security in Israel. I told her that the security in America is design to give us a false sense of security (extra steps like taking of shoes at the airport), whereas Israel’s security is meticulously designed and I feel safe because everywhere I go there are soldiers. She laughed when I said that and told me that most of the soldiers that I see aren’t combat soldiers and wouldn’t be of much help in a dangerous situation. She was right. But I still felt safer seeing so many soldiers around. I’m American. To me, a person in uniform means something different to an Israeli who lives in a country where every teenager wears a uniform at some point.
The movie was fun. We both agreed the ending was cliche and a little…stupid. I won’t spoil it, but basically the movie attempts to follow the magic theme and “fool” you, but fails. The twist is trite. She asked me if I wanted to go out to drink afterwards, I told her that I’m not a big fan of alcohol but would be open to grabbing some coffee and desert. We walked through the mall to a coffee shop called, “Aroma”. It’s an Israeli coffee chain, don’t tell anyone but I prefer Starbucks. I know it’s inferior coffee, but it’s my kind of over-sweetened, watered down coffee 🙂
We talked about a variety of things. She told me that on her Birthright trip (with the IDF) someone said that American culture has influenced Israel too much. I’m gonna get hate for this statement, but I don’t think there is an American culture. What’s influenced other countries is our prime exports, high quality entertainment and corporations (Google, Apple, Amazon etc). She told me that it means something that we can live thousands of miles away and still bond over the same TV shows we like (we’ve both seen every episode of the TV Show, “House” and share a crush on Hugh Laurie). I told her that I agree, but I wouldn’t consider that cultural assimilation, it’s just that’s what we’re best at. Maybe what your country is best at defines it’s culture. I hope not. I talked about the strength of Israel’s culture. I told her that if she asked me to name one soldier who’s died for our country or is serving in our army at the moment, I couldn’t name one. Is that bad? Maybe, but I think that’s probably the same for most Americans. Israel on the other hand is not that way at all. Veteran’s day is not just some day for Israelis. I don’t want this to come off as if I’m hating on America, but there are some clear differences that define the countries. This seems to make sense in my head at the moment (it’s 2:45 am), but this may be unintelligible by tomorrow lol.
She asked me what music I listened to. I told her that I listened to a little bit of everything. Classic rock, blues, soul, mo-town, country, jazz and rap. She asked me what kind of rap. That’s a hard question because I take my rap quite seriously. I’m assuming that she, like many women isn’t a fan of rap, but I’m hoping to play her some easily accessible conscious/backpacker rap in the coming days (Brother Ali, Atmosphere, Macklemore). As well as some blues, soul and indie rock.
It’s 3 am. I don’t know why I always stay up to write this stuff. Once I start I can’t stop I guess. Anyway I should sleep now. Night.