Back to stuff I left behind. I left behind style. I am talking XXLarges that fit me. I gave up good clothes. I am talking Syms, 35% Rayon; the smooth kind. I left behind the kind of clothes that you never have to iron. I like the clothes that I never have to iron which look non-ironed, too. But I gave up the kind of clothes that say on the tag ‘non-iron.’ I gave up quality clothes from China.
You can tell somebody’s year of Aliyah by the clothes they wear. You make aliyah and your wardrobe is set for the rest of your life. That is how you spot the different generations of Olim. Look along the streets for any Oleh: Polo symbol on shirt- 1985, Tommy Holfigger- 1996, Gerbo sign on uncomfortable part of jeans- 1993, shoulder pads- any year in the 1980s, ACDC shirt- 1979, IPod shuffle on sleeve- 2008, bellbottoms- 1971 or 2006, step in your hair- 1989, corduroy- hand-me-downs from any decade. Even when it comes to hair, people think that the way the left America is the way ‘cool’ is. Aliyah is a vortex of style. You leave America and you do not realize that there are changes. The guy has not had an upgrade in style since he left. He still thinks it is the ‘in thing’ to have a step. Poof in the front of the hair- 1983-88 girl. That is very confusing around Israel, because you see the Freichot, and you think the poof is a style around the world. It becomes more convincing and confusing when you get off the plane and you are in New York City, where people are representing every century since the dawn of time. You walk anywhere in Manhattan and your style still fits in.
You can ask Treibish, this Aliyah truth is most evident with suits. People may travel back for shirts and pants, but rarely does one buy a new suit in Israel. Israel is a once a year suit society. You do not need a another suit, unless you are getting married twice that year. Sit outside of any synagogue on a Friday night and you can see it. The guy walking with a double breasted suit, he made Aliyah in the 1980s. For the once a year, I am fine wearing my bar-mitzvah suit. I have had a growth spurt since, but I am fine with my sox showing.
Once we move to Israel, we are stuck. We cannot make it in any other society nowadays. We are stuck in the past. A generation of people lost in time. We could only make it in Israel. Sometimes we do buy new clothes, on the Entenmann’s purchase trip to the US. Even so, we have warped sense of this American style. And that style is in that permanent place in time, from the eternal day that we made Aliyah. I am not talking about the French and Sephardic communities who believe it is stylish to suffocate and choke yourself, while clothes stick to you. When I go back to America now, I still ask for checkered shirts. I made Aliyah in 2003 and checkered shirts were cool then, in the Latino communities. I even wear it with the bottom buttons unbuttoned and the undershirt showing, with a bandana. I have a friend who made aliyah in 1985 and he still goes to the Benetton looking for jean jackets.
There is a lot of love I have for America. I still love the people in America. I hope they love me. I will not lose that love. I have not given that up. The problem is the expected gifts love necessitates. I love, but I cannot afford the presents. Neither can I find the time to pick out gifts that love wants. I know that the little ones, the nephews and nieces I love, need gifts. My love is worthless, unless there is candy or something cool involved. I can give them money; though, I cannot afford the necessary cash which constitutes love. However, I can give coins, cool coins- because they are from a different country. Money is less of an issue if they cannot use it. Hebrew writing on a coin is almost as cool as a step. The issue with the foreign currency comes into play when they visit Israel. They tend to love me less when the rude shopkeepers tell them that 5 agurot pieces are obsolete. Look, I cannot tell you how to show the love. But I can tell you that you have to save up for it. You might meet somebody you will want to marry. That love consists of expected gifts like a home. If you are decent at art, or a child, you can make people stuff and call it love. Everybody will know you and your gifts suck, but they will say they love it.
Family is shallow and they need gifts. You may lose their love, because you are broke and cheap and not creative enough to figure out good gifts. Even so, you can always keep that love you have for them. That is what being an Israeli is all about- cheap love. Everybody else may piss on us, but we never piss back. To quote the Yogi Berra of Israel, Golda Meir, ‘We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making our sons killers.’ I think it was that. It might have been, ‘we will never forgive you for taking away the rights to the casino in Jericho.’ That is what we are called upon to do, be the upright at heart. No matter how hard it is, we cannot allow anybody to take away our love. Our money, they may take. You cannot give a good gift to an American kid who visits Israel, unless it is 50nis or more. But as an Oleh, they will not take away our love. They will not turn us into a money laundering animal, who has to kill the shopkeeper to pick out a neat challah cover, with Hebrew on it. Those little middle class blessed American children will not turn us into killers. We may not be able to afford the gifts, but we will not kill for them.
I think it is important to quote every quote that people have heard before. I do not want to shock people with any new Golda Meir quotes they might not have heard.
I am happy I gave up camp. Growing up in America, it was a good life. There was not much option for kosher food. That wasn’t fun. But we had popsicles, ice cream which tasted good, Tangy Taffy, and we had everything. It was easy. It was great. It was boring. I have no real childhood stories. I can tell you how much I hated the stuff my parents spent money on. Camp??? Why put me in environment with spoiled rich kids who have no adult supervision? There was a counselor, but he was 17 years old. He was a bigger yutz then the kids. He loved wedgies. You wouldn’t leave me with my older brothers who were 23, but a 17 year old who grew up in Long Island was responsible. These were rich kids who could afford stuff that could do damage, like hand soap. And they didn’t need it. They would have their parents send a package with more soap. These kids would get whatever they wanted sent to camp. A kid in my bunk forgot his house. His mom sent it. One day the sofa showed up. He put the sofa where my bed was supposed to be. He was allowed to do that, he had money. These kids were not held accountable for their actions. Their parents weren’t around. Scary camp stories you hear, the rich kid who never helped clean the bunk, those were the horror stories I lived.
Camps don’t exist in Israel, because Israeli parents love their children. There was Atlit, but that camp didn’t work out. There is not enough money to send children away for a month. American parents are willing to spend upwards of $10,000, just to get their kid out of the house for a month. Industries are based on parents not having to see their kin. It is amazing how much Americans are willing to invest to get rid of their children. College in the US is up to $50,000 a year, just because parents want their children out of the house. They want the kids away and universities get to take advantage of that. It is smarter to let your child do the army. At least they would have a job after they finish. Chances are that a soldier won’t end up moving back into the house; unlike your educated young man who learned mathematics in university and based on his advanced calculus calculations, he came to the conclusion that he can save money if he moves back home. After factoring in that he wasn’t able to find a job out of college, he concluded, based on integrals, that he would not be able to afford an apartment. Parents understand that they cannot expect their children to work, so they don’t push for the army. They hedge their bet of getting them out of the house by investing the $50,000 on college. Understood.
Now that your child is broke and back at home, why did you send him to camp? I hated camp, but I am pro having camps in Israel. Not for fun. It is just an idea to get the kids out of Jerusalem. I would pay for that. Just to have a few days of relaxation in our city. It can be a not fun, Syberian type camp. Just get them out. Maybe have a day where they can’t go to Burger’s Bar or New Deli.
My parents sent me to camp, so that they wouldn’t have to see me. It was a way to get rid of a kid for a couple of months. The camp was an extreme microcosm, kind of like a cult, and the kids all thought they were the greatest at everything. It was a cult of little messed up rich egos. We were good at basketball, because we played against other Jews. Camp is the worst part of the Jewish American Experience. Some children like it, I hated it. One day, I woke up and found my underwear on the flagpole. As a 12 year old it was a very awkward experience. ‘What country is that supposed to represent?’ With the stains, I was able to see something similar to the Star of David. It is disgusting. I don’t even know if they were mine. Mom wrote my name tag with a Sharpie and it rubbed off. Even this amount of humility could be more educational than the gulag.
My parents long term plan was Aliyah. I moved to Israel and they were safe. Just a bit of Zionism mixed into the education, and wallla, your child is in another country.
More stuff I gave up that was good:
I gave up space. Everything was big. I had my own room. In Israel everything is tiny. We had stores that were the size of Nahariah. Walmart, Kmart, Target, and other mart stores are a day trip. To go into a store and have everything is a life worth living. I would be able to go grocery shopping for apples, tomatoes and socks. There are times that I wanted to cook with clean socks, and Walmart allowed me that option. So what if they don’t pay there workers, if I am paying $1.99 for toothpaste, I am happy. I am rolling back to Walmart. You work at Walmart, shop there.
I gave up huge bags of potato chips. I buy a Misichipsim in Israel and everybody at the party gets half a Dorito. I always found the ‘serving size’ to be funny, and then I came to Israel and realized that is the size of the bag. The country doesn’t have room for full bags of chips. That is how small Israel is. Coke only comes in one and half liter bottles. My new homeland cannot find room for the extra half a liter. Everybody wants the two liters. And I am still paying more for the smaller size. I am paying them to my portion countrolling for me. I am spending extra money for people to be dieticians for me. Osem is getting paid extra money to make sure I do not eat too much. My parents are still on my case about weight, even in Israel. The country is here to make sure that they are doing the parents’ job for immigrants, to make sure they do not enjoy their snacks. I still want my big sizes. I want a lot. I want to be supersized. But my new country is making sure I will not be obese. Israel does not have enough room for me to be heavy. Israel doesn’t have room for overweight people. There is no room. That is why people are always pushing into you if you are in front of them on line. That is why everybody knocks into you at the Kotel. That is why you get a lower salary. I miss my space.
My room had a bed in it. In Israel you don’t see any beds. There are 10 children, but no beds. You see a closet, and then it turns into a Matruchka Babuchka of night time beds for the family. We have quantity, but no bulk.
My mom had a pantry. She had a makolet in her house. If there was a sale, she had room for it. Buy 100 Cheerios get one box free, she had it. In Israel, all I have is a drawer, I can buy a Cheerio for breakfast. The Bubie’s favorite store, The Christmas Tree Shop, had post Christmas Santa’s for sale; mom had room. Easter is over, chocolate covered eggs, love them. Kosher? Yes it had the ‘for sale’ sign, the symbol.
I gave up green. There were parks in my hometown. There was room for parks. Parks had flowers, fields, jungle gyms, courts, places to do stuff. It was a park. There were woods. Places you could do things and police would not catch you. The most amazing thing is there was grass. The only place with grass in Israel is the soccer/football stadium. Americans showed up to the Israeli baseball games because they heard there was a field. Nobody wanted to see the games. It was like watching grownups play little league baseball. The coach of your own team would head out to the mound to pitch. The only time you heard people cheering was ‘Look, there is grass.’ I gave up rain. I like rain. I love snow. A winter with snow. I hate cold. But I love cold with snow. It makes you feel like you don’t have to go to work. That is why Kodak started closing down, because nobody was showing up to work in the winter. In Israel, we find water underground. Water doesn’t fall, like in America. We pull the water.
I miss normal size toilet paper. Toilet paper comes in enormous, but that is embarrassing. I wanted to buy one role. I am one guy. I don’t have a community living in my house. I went grocery shopping. I forgot my car. I had to walk all the way up King George St. with 48 roles of toilet paper in my hand. People staring at me, ‘How often does David have to poop? Does he eat falafel every second?’
Bathrooms were huge. I could spend all day reading. The only thing that comes big in Israel is toilet paper. That doesn’t even help, because the bathroom is tiny and the door opens to the inside. There is no way to get fully in. If you are a contortionist, you might be able to maneuver half your body in. I can get a leg into my bathroom. It looks like I am sneaking in, stealing something from myself. I get stuck, with my foot on the toilet. I am calling 911, ‘I am stuck. It is the bathroom. I do not know how to get in…In America the doors open to the outside…I know it is a good idea. This way people can get in. The door also doesn’t need a piece cut out, which looks like the toilet itself…I was able to get my leg in. There is a shower right above the toilet…I like the idea too. Kill two birds with one stone…I have a lot of toilet paper. I can wipe my face…It is pretty dark in here. Where is the light switch? Why did you put it in the kitchen?’ They put the light switch in the kitchen, to my neighbors home. And being that I live in Jerusalem and my neighbors live in America, I have to wait till Passover to pee. I know that the emergency number in Israel is 100. I called them, but I figured 911 would show up first.
I miss bathrooms I could fit into. I miss room, and I miss an emergency service that comes late. I miss an emergency service that picks up when you are stuck. I miss an emergency service where people are sweet and they have a conversation with you.
Clothes would fit. I gave up my size. My size does not exist in Israel. It is not an XXL, it is an XXS. I am XXembarrased. I walk down the street and people know I have been eating American size bags of chips. They know I haven’t been portion controlled.
I gave up a lot of space for my stuff, but I still have my parents’ house in America. I have not given up my storage.
I gave up decorations that made sense. I am all for the Sukkot Christimas decorations. Once Christmas is over and it is on sale, that works for me.
I just want home design to make sense. I do not know why the outlet is eye level. The electric outlet should be close to the floor, where you can’t see it, and kids can touch it. The outlet should not be set up next to the painting. Wires are not home decoration, they should be hidden. I gave up wires that were not seen. I understand the concept of not fully finishing the house and leaving out a small corner to remember the destruction of the Temple, but this is not finished at all. This is a bad renovation job.
Where is the light switch to the kitchen? To the bedroom? To the garage? There is no garage. No space. And I am still trying to figure out where the light switch to the bathroom is.
I gave up neighbors I couldn’t see. I miss having neighbors that I never met. More than family, I miss those people. Here the neighbors hate me and I have to see them and their garbage, every day. Literally, their garbage outside my door. It is beautiful, that is community. See the positive. I should appreciate them cleaning their porch onto me. Waiting till I am passing, to push the water through the funnel. The neighbors still keep their distance. There is something positive to passive aggresive. It would be nice if I did get my newspaper I order. They deliver to the right building. It is for somebody in my building. I hope he at least reads it. I am paying for it. That is the beauty of a neighborhood.