Ellis Shuman

Water Envy

A dry Israeli goes goggle-eyed at the waterfalls, rainfall, and toilets of upstate New York and Canada.

My wife and I just took a trip down memory lane. Well, actually they were her memories, not mine, but after being married for 35 years, I guess I have adopted them as well.

My wife grew up in Ithaca, New York, and for over three decades she has longed to take me to her old stomping grounds so that I could understand her roots. Somehow she was not very impressed when we visited Sioux City, Iowa, where I had lived until age fifteen before making aliyah. “Ithaca is much more beautiful,” she told me repeatedly. “And there are so many waterfalls.”

When I think of waterfalls, I think of Ein Gedi and Nahal Arugot. The waterfall there, at the end of a desert hike, is not that big or impressive, but still it’s great to get wet and cool off in the small pond. Little did I know how beautiful waterfalls could be.

We traveled to the States for a family wedding and to meet up with good friends. And we took a detour with our rented car to Ithaca, for the long-awaited reunion with the town where my wife had grown up.

Besides seeing her home at 620 North Tioga Street, where mail was waiting for her father after 42 years, and her old grade school, which has since been rebuilt, we did sightseeing on the campus of Cornell University and visited the waterfalls.

Ithaca Falls. Buttermilk Falls. Treman Falls. Taughannock Falls. It took me several attempts to learn how to pronounce the name of these last falls, which are the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies. So much water, running freely over the rocks. If Israel just had a portion of this water we would never have to worry about the level of the Kinneret again.

It rained a lot while we were in the States and even our friends stated that the amount of rainfall was unusual for them. Rain in June? Every day I checked the weather forecast so that I could plan our excursions. Back home in Israel there’s no need to do this. The next rainfall is predicted for sometime in October.

All the New York waterfalls seemed huge to me, but then we went to the biggest waterfalls in North America. We visited Niagara Falls, staying on the Canadian side of the border. We viewed fireworks over the lit-up falls at night and rode the Maid of the Mist to them the next day. “You will get wet,” they warned us. It was a pleasure to get wet!

Speaking of Niagara, I must conclude my observations of water in America with a note about the toilets. As all Israelis know, niagara is the local term for the toilet tanks. Here, there is a very limited amount of water waiting in the bowl for bathroom visitors. What’s up with American toilets? Why is there so much water there, swirling like a frothy whirlpool when you flush?

I envy those who get to enjoy the stunning waterfalls and the abundant rainfall on hot summer days. But now, back home in Israel, I’m glad to see only a small amount of water in my toilet bowl.

About the Author
Ellis Shuman made aliya to Jerusalem as a teenager, served in the IDF, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on Moshav Neve Ilan. Ellis is the author of ‘The Burgas Affair’ – a crime thriller set in Israel and Bulgaria; ‘Valley of Thracians’ - a suspense novel set in Bulgaria; and 'The Virtual Kibbutz' - a collection of short stories. His writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, Israel Insider, and on a wide range of Internet websites. Ellis lived with his wife for two years in Bulgaria, and blogs regularly about Israel, Bulgaria, books, and writing.