This Year In Kiryat Gat.

Maybe I tried to convince myself would mean tackling and expressing emotions that I wasn’t completely comfortable with. By ‘maybe’ I mean, this is the reason and by ‘wasn’t’ I mean, still am.

I’ll start my updated started back when Pesach began. I was already torn over my Host Family’s disappointment that I wasn’t going to their Sedar (they didn’t invite until less than a week before, so I figured they weren’t going to) and my nerves about going to my head English teacher’s childhood home.

I hadn’t even been home to meet a boyfriend’s family since 2008 and I never really hung out with any of my bosses outside of work before, let alone made myself a guest for two days and one night amongst her closest family.

The morning of the first day, I was so sick. My glands were swollen beneath my chin and ears, my chest was heavy and clogged, it was awful.

When my teacher didn’t phone me until four thirty, I spent hours panicking and thinking maybe she forgot about me, and then became relieved that I would just be able to rest and eat the giant pot of chicken soup I had cooked for myself.

She did phone though, and told me she would be there to pick me up in an hour with her family and when I told her I was sick, she said that I should still come, how often do you get to celebrate Passover in Israel? And Moroccan style to boot.

So I hurriedly packed my backpack, got dressed and did a quick and light makeup job (my boss would often comment that I should wear more makeup and do my hair more often).

As soon as I sat down next her husband in the passengers seat (she was in the back with her two children) I focused on her kids, a boy and a girl. They were adorable and very friendly.

I immediately felt slightly less nervous and her husband was very good at English and happy to keep up conversation in between making and answering very cheery and festive “Hag Sameach” phone calls.

Once we got to Kiryat Gat, I was fine. I sat on a chair in my boss’ kitchen and let her mother fuss over me and bring me NaNa tea. It wasn’t long before one of my boss’ cousins mosied up to the table, grabbed a handful of pistachios and opened a bottle of Arak. He poured me a shot without really asking. I smiled and threw it back, as my boss raised an eyebrow. I felt like I passed the first test. The anise flavor of Arak is good, fiery, like Raki from Turkey or Sambuca from Italy.

The sedar itself was really long and all in Hebrew, I didn’t feel like I fit in at all and my stomach was growling loudly through the prayers and Haggadah (I only recognized the four questions). As soon as we finished eating, I went up to sleep excusing myself and literally passing out with a tiredness I didn’t even know I had built up from being sick most likely. I felt bad for missing the end of the sedar but really was falling asleep at the table, my head felt like a ton of bricks on a weak and lilting neck.

The next day was much more memorable for me, a barbecue of Moroccan foods, almost all meat, some I didn’t want to identify for the parts of the animal they hailed from. The best memory of Passover for me in Israel, in its entirety is the afternoon in the grassy park by my boss’ childhood home. It was there that I taught her children, nieces, and nephews how to play kickball as the sun smiled upon us and Hassidic children hummed songs when swinging on the nearby tire swing.

I really loved what my boss told me that afternoon after I had exhausted every yoga pose and ballet move possible on the grass with the girls and finished licking up the last of my lemon popsicle.

She told me that I really have a gift for working with children and art.

We were able to laugh together about black sheeps of the family (everyone has them) and boy talk (women always seem ot bond over that stuff) in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t agree to come to her mother’s house that sunny day in Kiryat Gat.

It wasn’t the best Passover I’ve ever had, I couldn’t do that to my grandmother or my family but especially my grandmother, but it was a really wonderful and memorable one.

I followed my boss’ insistence to see a doctor when I got back home in Be’er Sheva and really feel lucky for the great Pesach and Pasach vacation from work that I was able to enjoy.



About the Author
Melissa Beiser has a bachelor's degree from SUNY New Paltz in English and creative writing. She hails from New York originally and recently relocated to Arizona with her family. Teaching English in Beersheba is her first experience living abroad.