Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Beginning of a New Beginning

On December 12 2008, I arrived in Israel with my family. My wife had lived between Israel and America her entire life, My daughter and I have never been out of America before. this adventure was intended to do several things like, bring my family closer to my mother in law (without her help, support and love we never could have had this adventure), bring me out of my shell, let me see another part of this world, and to inspire me.
well it all happened and it didn't. well For one I suffer from mild social phobia (self diagnosed) and being in a country where I don't understand the culture, or speak the language is hard. I have experienced a different part of the world, although it wasn't in that glamorous touristy sort of way, it was more of a gritty in your face scratch bite and beg sort of way. I have also been inspired although it has been in dream like sort of way which has resulted in no solid tangible art of any significance. one of the major obstacles to my goals for this adventure is that my family and I have this annoying habit of eating and sleeping under a roof.
well my first job here was in a hotel working as a housekeeper the resort town of Eilat. I had swore to myself that after leaving the MGM grand that I would never work in a hotel ever again. I dreaded every day of that job, because I was forced into interacting with new people everyday, about half of them had a superiority complex and the other half were really cool. I was also barely able to keep up with the work. Cleaning at a record pace is a skill that I do not possess.
I left that job to be a freelance handyman/daddy, while my wife brought home the "real money". soon after that we made the decision to move to the big city of Be'er Sheva, where we currently live. I work for a contractor who does remodeling and large scale handyman work. I love this job and my boss, but it leaves me little time or energy to be creative, and like most jobs in Israel for someone like me with little marketable skill and limited ability to speak in Hebrew it pays very little (about the equivalent of $6 per hour)
That's Really the nice short version of a long tough story.

So after about one and a half years I made the trip to Jerusalem, which is less than a 2 hour bus ride from our home in Be'er Sheva. It is a major attraction for the three major religions in the world:
a) Christians
b) Jews
c) Muslims
but I am a
d) None of the above who still loves God
so I found it beautiful w/ little spiritual significance. Upon entering the city it had the feeling of a ski resort town during the summer, w/ beautiful mountains and way to much traffic. Our first stop was the Holocaust Memorial. it is a beautiful complex surrounded by forest built to remind us how some men can be made to do evil things out of fear hate and ignorance. I made it through the slithering passages of the triangular passages of the museum having only mild emotions of sadness anger and amazement. But when I got to one of the final display cases which contained a bib, white with a red border slightly torn and tattered and a little bit bigger than modern bibs I have seen, I cried with some of the deepest sorrow that I have ever felt. The story of the bib was short. It had belonged to a two year old girl named Hadassah. she was deported to a camp w/ her father and was murdered immediately upon arrival. Her father survived and returned to their home after being liberated when the war was over, where he found the bib. I felt such deep sorrow after reading that story. I love my beautiful two and a half year old Zoey. The next day I made a realization. I remembered that Hadassah was the real name of Queen Esther, and Zoey's Hebrew name is Esther. Did I tell you that I love my Zoey. Next stop after a cab ride w/ a hustler who was desperate for us to charter a ride to Bethlehem in his cab, was the Old City. This was what I wanted to see, but we had only 2 hours to see it and hadn't eaten lunch yet. So we had a quick lunch. The menu said it was shuarma, but I jokingly called it squirrel curry. It was the best squirrel curry I have ever had (and it was pretty good as shuarma to). with 1 and a half hours left we wandered a bit and then quickly found the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is one of the candidates for the burial place of Jesus. it was comfortably packed with devoted catholics lighting their candles and praying and a few curious tourists like myself. I felt a little awkward at first at first snapping pictures but soon found that the devoted followers were doing it, so I quickly got comfortable but remained respectful. Some how I was able to hand hold exposures as slow as 1/30 or maybe even slower, without even trying. next stop was the Western Wall. We left the church and headed in the general direction of The Wall. along the way we were invited into many shops "please come into my shop it is free to look" I was warned not to go into these shops because they may get angry when you just look. Soon we were greeted by a young Arab boy "where you going? The Wall? come" he guided us expertly to the last turn where I quickly gave him five shekels before he could ask for it. The Wall was quite large and beautiful but smaller than I expected. 3/4 was designated for men and the rest for women. (as I write this in my notebook I am holding back tears my plane just took off I am no longer on the ground in Israel) So after a quick look around I wrote a prayer on a small piece of paper, walked to the wall and prayed for about 5 minutes, placed my prayer in a small crack in the wall and walked away backwards. Next we took a quick stroll through the Muslim quarter and out the gate. just outside the city we boarded a bus bound for the bus station. What I expected to be a 15 minute ride turned out to be a little over an hour with out air conditioning, and a full bus. Once we got to the station we cleared security and waited a few minutes for the bus and stood in the funnell (Israelis don't stand in line, at least not to get on a bus)

fast forward to May 12 2010

So its a week later and I am on the first of three planes that will take me to Las Vegas. But lets rewind just a bit to my adventure getting on this plane. I entered the airport and placed my bags in the first x ray where I new that my checked bags might throw up a red flag because I had packed some tools, which they did. So they sent me across to have my bags checked. So the nice girls doing the searching check my bags,visually and for explosive residue, and I figure I'll be off in no time, but for some reason they call over a senior officer, a rather large middle eastern man (couldn't guess his race) comes over and asks me a couple of routine questions, then drops the big rather irrelevant one on me. How well do you speak Arabic? Well I explain to him that I don't speak any (after a year and a half I don't even speak enough Hebrew to get by). He then gives me a look of disbelief and pulls out a copy of the Quran that I had brought with because I collect religious books. I told him about the collecting, then he asks me why I don't have any Jewish books with me. I told him that I hadn't gotten around to buying any. Well If I were him I wouldn't believe me either it sound fishy, but I was telling the truth. But still after a quick strip search I was on my way. just kidding. He eventually realized that I was not a threat and after I thanked his team for keeping me safe I headed to the ticket counter where I discovered the security officers still had my tickets and passport. Back to security where they helped me re-search my bags to find the papers that they had on the other side of their counter all of that time. One good thing that came of the second search was that I was able to point out to the big scary officer was that I indeed did have a travel sized Jewish prayer book. Well I finished my trip after another standard security check in Israel, a special check by the Germans, delays caused by volcanic ash, the longest passport control line I have ever seen, the shortest customs check that I never imagined, and one more standard security check by the Americans. Now I just have to face up to 6 months without my wife and daughter, while I create a new life for us back in America.

But more about that later.

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