Life Lessons in the Land of Israel



My hair is completely grey and since moving to Israel I’ve taken to coloring my frizzy strands every six weeks.  In Winnipeg where the living was more laid back, I may have been inclined to go au natural, but it’s not common to see a lot of salt and pepper headed people walking the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.  Come to think of it, most anything grey is in short supply here.

If I had to describe myself using color, I would have to say that an equal amount of black and white blended together portrays me best. My preference for dressing is a pair of dark pants with a light shade top,  my favorite chocolate chip cookie is neither too crunchy nor too soft and I like to drink my coffee lukewarm.

The fact that I’m neither a “nishta here nor nishta there” girl is the result of conditioning.  In all things political, my grandparents and parents were staunchly liberal, but when it came to things like religion or discipline, my upbringing was entirely conservative. Our family’s economic standing was squarely middle-class and both my Mom and Dad preached and practiced moderation in everything from meal planning to the mid-size cars that they drove.

In birth order I was the second child sandwiched between an older and younger brother and I was neither the most nor the least popular amongst my group of friends.  I scored smack in the fiftieth percentile in standardized testing and I was always positioned to dance in the center of the middle line for the annual ballet recital. Just like in the storybook Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I was not exposed to too much of this or too much of that, but rather a healthy dose of mmmm, just right.

Grey characterized my upbringing and became a primary rather than a secondary color on my personal palette as I merged into adulthood and began to form my worldview.  I have been known to curse my moderate tendencies on many an occasion though, as I am prone to forget what it is that I truly believe in and where it is that I draw the line.  Those that recognize my propensity for being able to see both sides of an argument know that if they grandstand long enough and shout loud enough I’m likely to cave and give into demands that would make even the most unskilled negotiator  appear proficient

I’ve made my way East and am finding that here, sunny skies dominate the days with desert like darkness at night and notwithstanding a brief appearance during a poor excuse for winter,  grey clouds are a rarity.  When it storms in Israel, boy does it pour with crashing thunder and bolts of lightening that make a Saskatchewan Prairie storm seem nerdy.  When it’s hot, oh man is it hot. You feel like you carry a sauna with you like Fred Flinstone and his waist height yaba daba do car. And, much like the weather, there is a tendency toward the extreme with that comfortable and noncommittal middle ground difficult to find.

One Saturday I can be found with a tam on my head sitting in the scarcely populated womens section of an orthodox synagogue and the week following I am attending a reform service in the local kindergarten in my finest jeans.  My driving to shul one week and walking there the next leaves many locals confused as to my spiritual standing.  The majority of Israelis tend to be either religious or secular and consequently I continue in my search here for a gathering place reminiscent of my conservative Jewish roots.

Opinions are as plentiful in this land as olives and you’d be hard pressed to find a Sabra who would tell you they are unsure of where you can find the best hummus or what the solution is to the Israeli/Palestinian problem.  If I stop to ask an Israeli for directions they will never reply, gee I’m not sure.  I’ve ended up frazzled and late far too often because someone insisted they knew exactly where I should go even when they actually had no clue.

With extreme viewpoints surrounding me, I’ve come to fancy my somewhat indecisive, yet balanced being.  With my mind kept ajar, I’m able to absorb divergent thoughts and opinions and have the luxury of changing my mind without too much anguish. Although being middle of the road puts me on the median, sometimes unable to decide with whom to hitch a ride; those driving North or those heading South. It does keep me clear of collisions though.

I was at the health food store last week scouting out my favorite hair- coloring product.  The clerk, eager to assist in my selection, felt strongly that I should opt for a darker tone. My not surprising choice of Light Chestnut was received with an expression smacking of disapproval, however, with utter confidence Light Chestnut is what I bought.  I can’t quite decide if the clerk realized that I was looking to cover up my grey and not get rid of it completely.




About the Author
I'm a third generation Canadian who has gone way out of my comfort zone to make Israel home. I'm presently writing a book, a collection of experiences that will dare others to trade the cozy and familiar for a place filled with opportunities and life lessons to be learned.