29 September 2008

[ʃaˈna toˈva] ! שנה טובה

Big transitions! On Tuesday, it rained for the first time since I've been in Israel. Wednesday was the last day of Ulpan, on Thursday we took our final Hebrew exams, Friday I started moving into my new apartment, yesterday I finally got my apartment keys before hopping on a bus to Tel Aviv and a train to Binyamina, where my uncle and aunt picked me up and drove me to their house in Zichron Ya'akov. Tonight we're driving to my uncle's wife's sister's house for a huge dinner, to celebrate the eve of the 5769th anniversary of the day that God created Man.

I hate to sound like an Aliyah recruiter, but I have to admit that the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashana have never felt as special out there in the diaspora as they do here. It's like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's all rolled up in one, except that it's surprisingly uncommericialized, and it's Jewish. The media's buzzing with retrospectives and excitement about the future, the roads are clogged with cars headed to family reunions, the supermarkets are stocked with holiday food like pomogranates and honey cakes, and everyone greets everyone with well-wishes for the new year. ("A sweet and rainy year!" is one I've heard more than once.)

I've had a mix of very good and very bad luck leading into the holiday. The good news is that I'm getting to celebrate with both sides of the family. I'm having dinner with my mom's family tonight, which means I'm missing my dad's family's R.H. Eve dinner in Mode'in (near Jerusalem). But tomorrow, on the first day of Rosh Hashana, my uncle's driving me to Jerusalem to visit his father (my grandfather) — and then I'll spend the rest of the holiday with my dad's side of the family. A stunt like that would normally be impossible to pull off, since public transportation doesn't run during the holiday. (Classic.)

Another really cool detail in this plan is that I'll get to see both a religious and a secular take on the holiday. My aunt's sister, who's hosting tonight's dinner, is a formerly-secular now-Orthodox Jew (i.e. חוזרת בתשובה). So tonight we'll be ushering in the new year by The Book, with candles and kiddush and prayers and everything, whereas tomorrow's dinner will be more mainstream Israeli. Other than gefilte fish, I'm not really sure what to expect from either one.

The bad news is that I managed to hit my first serious bout of food poisoning just as I got on the bus to Zichron yesterday. So I arrived here a few pounds lighter, trembling a little, whereas my breakfast, lunch, and previous night's dinner didn't make it as far as Binyamina. My aunt graciously sent me to bed early with a mug of boullion-chicken-soup. (Chicken soup for stomachaches must be an American thing, cause my aunt was puzzled by the idea. "Really? Whatever you want, but I'd never eat that stuff. You know it has no nutritional value, right?") I woke up in the wee hours, when my digestive system decided to side with her, against me and the soup. "Don't worry, metuka," said Noam, on the phone from Jerusalem. "Your body is getting rid of all the bad stuff in preparation for the new year. Next year you'll feel much better." "Next year," I said, "we'll sit on the porch and count the migrating birds." "Isn't it great to talk about next year, knowing that it starts tomorrow?"

Anyway, ה'תשס"ט hasn't rolled in yet, and I'm already feeling much better. Today, I've been taking it easy, trying to get rehydrated. This Israeli household, like every other, is equipped with Wissotzky tea to the exception of any other brand. But I have to admit — Wissotzky Bedouin Chai? With soy milk? Delicious.

26 September 2008

You know...

If I had one wish that I could wish this High-Holiday season, it would be for all the children in the Land of Israel — Palestinean or Israeli, Sephardic or Ashkenazi, Druze, Mormon or Brezlov — to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

But if I had two wishes I could make this High-Holiday season, the first would be for all the children to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace. And the second would be for public transportation on Saturday.

22 September 2008

There was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem a few minutes ago, near the old city. I have nothing clever or interesting to say about it. I just wanted to let you know that I'm fine.

19 September 2008

The big shot of the Babylon-Jerusalem Axis

My grandmother is blasting Barbara Streisand. Apparently love will be the gift you give yourself? Not earplugs?

My grandmother has been sharing her house with me for almost two months now, and it should surprise no one that our 58-year generation-gap is sometimes difficult to bridge. Some days I come home and find that the political analysis playing in the kitchen is competing with news on television, commercial jingles from the bathroom, and nostalgic Israeli tunes wafting out of my grandmother's bedroom. "Are you hungry?" she shouts over the noise, beaming and extending a spoonful of beige.

So I've been surreptitiously turning off radios when she leaves the room, and she's been surreptitiously folding my clothes while I'm away at school. It's not really a solution, but it's a perfectly good band-aid.

[By the way, as I type this, my grandmother tells me that she's going downstairs to visit a neighbor. Excuse me while I shut off the Barbara Streisand CD and throw it out the window.]

For now — Baya's back home, and Barbara Steisand's back at full volume, struggling to be heard over the news.

I'm going to Zichron.

18 September 2008

Faux Amis Friday

Welcome to the latest issue of Duckrabbit in Jerusalem, the blog where we wonder what's going on with רוני, who is Just Too Busy To Tell Us! Today's episode is about faux amis, and it goes out to everyone who's been putting up with my unresponsiveness to emails, facebook messages and wall posts. Soon I'll move to an apartment with internet, and things will be better! Until then... faux amis.

Faux amis means "false friends" in French. That's what I hope people don't conclude about me when I exercise poor internet ettiquette! Heh. Faux amis also means "words in different languages that sound like they should have the same meaning, but don't." Second-language learners find faux amis everywhere. They help us stay awake during language classes.

Hebrew and Engish have a surprisingly long chain of faux amis threaded through the pronouns. An American rabbi wrote a cutesy Abbott-and-Costello tribute about it:
Abbott: הוא is he.
Costello: Who is he?
Abbott: Precisely.
Until someone pointed those out to me, I never noticed them, and I still don't think they sound that much alike. Anyway, there are a lot of crazier faux amis for advanced Hebrew-learners to giggle about in Ulpan. Ahem:
  • Nylons (ניילטנים) are the plastic bags you get from the grocery store.
  • Purée (פירה) is mashed potatoes.
  • Bagel (בייגלה) means bagel, but it also means pretzel.
  • Philadelphia (פילדלפיה) means Philadelphia, but it's also the generic name for cream cheese.
  • A trapeze (טרפז) is a trapezoid.
  • An American exam (מבחן אמריקני) is a multiple-choice test.
  • A close (קלוז) is a fill-in-the-blank exercise.
  • Your lose (לו"ז) is your schedule.
  • A sniff (סניף) is an outlet of a business.
  • A filipina (פיליפינה) may be someone from the Phillipines, or she might just be anyone whose job it is to take care of old people. [!עיין ערך גיזאנות]
  • Sponge (ספונג'ה) is the name of the job where you clean other people's houses.
  • Mommy (מאמי) and boobie (בובי) are terms of endearment.
  • The vestigal structure attached to the end of your colon is called your appendicitis (אפנדציטיס). If it gets infected, you have appendetzit (אפנדציט).
  • Sylvester (סילבסטר) is the name of the holiday you celebrate on December 31st. ("New Year's Eve" is the name of the holiday we'll celebrate on September 29th.)
And finally...
  • Rashomon (רשומון) is the name of an important Japanese movie, but it's also the Hebrew word for "blog."
I've collected some more, too, but
From Jerusalem, Israel, I'm Duckrabbit and this has been Faux Amis Friday. Come back next week for reduplicative onomotopoetics! (And possibly news from my exciting life?) Same bat time, same bat rashomon.

08 September 2008

Chocolate milk in a plastic bag

Instead of running to catch the bus this morning, Yahm and I hopped into the grocery store and got ourselves some Israeli staples. As we waited the next bus to crawl up the hill, I drank my first-ever shoko besakit. This, לכאורה, makes my life complete.