Stefanella's Drive Thru

Israel, U.S., conflict, war, peace, humor, travel, romance, fashion, fun

The Globo-Life August 15, 2010

Years ago while sitting in a San Francisco cafe, I moaned to an Israeli friend: “I like being here but I miss Israel.  And when I’m in Israel the things that drive me crazy there make me want to come back to the States!  I’ve moved around so many times I feel like it’s time to make a decision about where to settle down but I just don’t know where that should be!”

My friend, bless her Zen-filled heart, replied calmly:  “Why?  Why not be a global citizen?  That’s the way I feel.  I’m  comfortable wherever I go.  Of course there are places I prefer to be but I’ve learned to relax, enjoy and take the best of what each place has to offer wherever I am.”

I didn’t get it.  My then-mindset dictated a MUST DECIDE attitude backed by conviction that loyalty to one-place-only indicated good sense.  Die hard locale fidelity was my internal dictator.

But this summer the meaning of her advice clicked.  And as the surreal nature of realizations go, it hit me head-on right in the middle of a two-step move to Toby Keith’s Trailerhood as I line danced with total strangers in a small Cincinnati working class neighborhood bar.

I spend summers in Cincinnati with my 8-year-old so that he can get to know his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, go to an English speaking summer camp and gain exposure to the multi-cultural experience of Israel versus the U.S. For me it’s a break from the intensity of Mid-East living and work and it’s also an opportunity to spend quality time with family and loved ones.

Thanks to Facebook, I started reconnecting with old Cincinnati friends each year, adding a dimension of fun and depth to our stays.

Over steamy cups of coffee and at dinners, parties, meetings, restaurant openings, Salsa on the Square, movie nights and art exhibits or during hours spent poolside, on shopping excursions and meeting new people via my old friends, I discovered I have arrived. I am globalized.

Because as I broke into a slight sweat alongside our a 60+ year-old line dance instructor Patty all decked out in her denim miniskirt and matching vest that I was reminded of Tel Aviv.  Saturday morning folk dance sessions along the Med pulsate to different strains but the Patty’s, Rex’s, Letta’s and Jimmy’s of Western Hills are alive and well inside the bodies of the Itziks, Chanas, Loolees and Shai’s of Israel.

As one friend shared the story of her beloved husband succumbing to cancer, another talked about Botox treatments, others spoke of job and financial woes,  methods for cutting costs in a flagging economy, choosing an education plan  for a 1st grader and facing the challenges of elder parent care, I realized I was physically in Cincinnati.  But I had lived all of these talks in Tel Aviv.  And Paris, London, Thailand and Singapore.

Vive la difference, I didn’t have to choose anymore.  I was having a damned good time with my global family and friends and rather than seeing the differences that separate us all, I was noticing the similarities forging our paths.

SO…..to my collaborating partners in crime – dear family, global friends, colleagues and an extra special someone held close to my heart:  Thank you for conspiring with me to make life richer, fuller, more meaningful and funner wherever I go

See you next year…..!

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Going to Bed Hungry September 1, 2009

This afternoon while my son & I were riding our bikes home from a celebratory ice cream shop outing to mark his 1st day of second grade, we came across a prodigious public statement/art installation in Central Tel Aviv that begged contemplation.

The entirety of Rabin Square, Tel Aviv’s largest inner city public space, had been set up with long banquet tables covered with simple white table cloths and set with glass white plates and silver cutlery.  White plastic chairs were placed at each setting.

There were, literally, thousands of place settings.

Ooh…Mass banquet! I thought but somehow knew that was wrong.

It took a minute of reckoning, eyeballing the overhead signage displayed behind the tables and ultimately chatting with the young people guarding the “installation” to understand what it was all about.

Israel is headed into The Jewish New Year holiday season in a few weeks which means family gatherings, dinners, office toasts, gift giving and general cheer.

Right around this time each holiday season LaTet (“Give) Humanitarian Organization goes into full swing food drive mode taking up food and monetary collections for those in Israel who won’t be feeling the cheer, at least not monetarily, at holiday time.

I’m accustomed to seeing the Latet people at the entrance to my supermarket handing out flyers asking for donations of baby formula, canned goods, rice and other food essentials.

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But the display on the square was a phenomenal means of sending a message.  The banner beyond the tables read:  “There are 200,000 people in Israel who won’t get enough to eat this holiday season. . .”  And the empty tables, the people manning the display disclosed, represent a mere 10th of what that number might look like were everyone to sit down together for a meal.

If you want to give, you can go by the display and make a donation, pick up an extra item or two at the supermarket and drop them into the receptacles on the way out or navigate to the Latet website for instructions on donating via SMS or pay per click.

And if you’re able to make it to the square, definitely go by and check it out.  It’s astonishing.

 

Going Global August 16, 2009

A few years ago when I was living in San Francisco, I shared an ongoing dilemma with an Israeli friend:

I feel torn between being here and living in Israel,” I told her.  “I don’t know where I should be.”

“Why do you have to decide?” she posed.  “Of course you choose a main locale for residence but as far as I’m concerned, the more comfortable you become inside your own skin the more comfortable you become wherever you are once you’ve lived in different places.  And that’s a great place to be.  You become a citizen of the world and you can find happiness wherever you go.

At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around that concept.  I felt I should make a decision and declare my loyalty on some level to one place or the other.  No in-between nonsense would do. And the concept of “global citizen” or feeling a sort of neutral happiness wherever I might be was way beyond my comprehension.

But, by jobe, I believe I finally got it.

For numerous reasons I won’t go into here & now, I returned to Israel four years ago after a decade hiatus in San Fran.  Since returning, however, each summer I travel with my son to Cincinnati so he (and I) can maintain ties with my family & he can retain his command of the English language and gain exposure to American culture.

My parents and two of my sibs live in “Nati” &  it’s where I grew up.  But when I left there after college – which included a 2-year overseas stint at Tel Aviv University –  I vowed never to return.  Bloody god forsaken conservative place that indicted its own Contemporary Arts Center for running the Mappelthorpe Exhibit (!) was how I viewed matters.  Not for me. Gateway to the North, indeed.  There would be no containing me THERE, thanks.  I longed for the enchanted promise of Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go.

But here I am, years later, turned completely around & feeling the warm glow of “global.”

This summer my son and I spent time in Cincinnati, took a side trip out to San Francisco and now we’re back in Tel Aviv.  And I can honestly say that in each place I found home.  Home in cultural events that included Opera and a World Piano Competition in Cincinnati, the MOMA in San Fran and upon returning to Tel Aviv, a visit to my local gallery to check out the latest exhibit.

I found home in culinary delights in Cincinnati’s trend spots: Bootsy’s for tapas,  Teller’s for rasberry vinaigrette over greens and goat cheese, my mom’s for home-cooked Indonesian chicken and a dear friend’s for backyard grilled Talapia wrapped in lettuce leaves.

I relaxed back into San Francisco food comfort with frighteningly potent margaritas served up at Puerto Alegre & generous, steaming bowls of traditional Vietnamese Pho.  And upon returning to Holy Land Central (aka Israel) I hit the supermarket on a Friday at 2 p.m. – total cold-water immersion into THIS local food culture.

Home, everywhere, is about the people.  I spent neery an idle moment in Cincy thanks to FB and reconnecting with old friends and loved ones who indulged me with tennis,  poolside lounging, movie outings, dinners, drinks and loads of engaging conversation.   Being back “Home” was an absolute treat and there are, by gosh and golly, wide swaths of WILD in Cincy.

In San Fran, I reconnected with my other sib and visited with friends and local merchants I hadn’t seen in years.  Particularly pleasant was sharing a vacation apartment in the city with friends who had flown in from Australia, Manhattan, Berlin and Serbia to be together. My son benefitted from reconnecting with children from his infant and toddler days.

Back in Tel Aviv less than a week, we’ve received separate invites to go snorkeling, camping, to overnight in the country and spend a weekend at a “mango tree resort”.  I am absolutely blessed.  No doubt about it.

I ran into that old Israeli friend last year.  She’s back in Tel Aviv and super busy with two young children and studies.  But she still has that positive outlook and cheerful disposition.  And she still maintains her status as a global citizen.

I believe I’ve joined her ranks.  Fine by me because feeling at home wherever I might be is a wonderful place to be.  But it’s also painful.  Leaving loved ones and engaging aspects of each culture behind isn’t easy.  But I’ll take it.  Because “living globally” far outweighs the absurd compulsion of having to declare loyalty or choose.

 

Pedestrian Beware! May 23, 2009

My backpack loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables, I exited Tel Aviv’s open-air Carmel Market & hopped on my bicycle.

Twenty-five minutes to get home, unload purchases, drink something cold and get to my son’s school in time for pick-up                   

ZING!

I zipped through traffic, weaving from sidewalk to street and back again in an effort to beat the clock.

REALLY not a smart thing to do anywhere but particularly in Israel where offensive driving and fatal traffic accidents are commonplace.

I saw the light turn red but decided to go for it anyway.  I know.  Tsk tsk tsk.  Bad cyclist.

I zipped into the crosswalk and in my peripheral vision sighted the portly, middle-aged male in bermuda shorts, tube socks and running shoes as he stepped off the curb.

I didn’t brake.  Bad bad cyclist.

The pedestrian hastily retreated to the sidewalk and in a thick Scottish accent protested loudly to his companion:

But the light is Green!”

And because I was zipping, I didn’t call out an apology.  I was already gone.

But internally I chuckled.

Yes it’s green. But this is Israel!  Must be a Tourist.  

Technically I guess it could’ve been Manhattan or London or San Fran or Cairo.  It’s sort of an urban thing but it doesn’t make it okay.

I know.  Irresponsible and selfish.

Bad bad bad cyclist.

 

Easter Greetings April 12, 2009

It’s Easter Sunday and I’ve been trolling the someecards site for clever greetings to mark the occasion.  I chose a few of my favorites & I’m linking here & here

To those celebrating:  Enjoy your holiday.

I was planning to head up to Jerusalem and walk the Via Dolorosa then go on into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to light a candle for those of you who couldn’t make it to Holy Land Central in person today.  But I changed my mind.

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Going to the beach and a movie instead.

Happy Easter Anyway!!

Your friend, Stef

 

Mid-West versus Mid-East January 29, 2009

Should I feel guilty that this video  is representational of my parents’/siblings’ current U.S. reality whilst I sit typing at my desk, balcony doors agape, warm winter sun streaming through, temps in the upper 60’s? (16 celsius)

I think not.  Mwahahaaaaaaa

 

Christmas in Holy Land Central December 23, 2008

Each year around this time, I’m blown away by the lack of Christmas in Holy Land Central (HLC).

It’s an outdated subject but this is where it all went down.  The manger. The star.  Bethlehem.  J.C.

And yet, for the most part, nothing here.  Nada.  No blinking lights or ornately decorated trees glimpsed through filmy curtains, no adverts, shopping rush, craze, plastic Santas ho-ho-ho’ing from rooftops, no carolers, egg nogg or office parties.

Growing up in the U.S., I was taught to hold Christmas in disdain.  It wasn’t “our religion“; it wasn’t fair that our holiday and our customs were so blatantly overlooked as Christmas hoopla gained the glory.  Sure, we got a few symbolic Hannuka songs at the annual Holiday Choir Concert but let’s face it:  Put Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl in a side-by-side taste test next to Handel’s Messiah and….well there you have it.

It’s quiet here in Tel Aviv.  And sparse.  Except for menorahs in storefronts glowing with candlelight after sundown.  Or the seasonal appearance of donuts in bakeries, supermarkets and corner kiosks.

I miss the glowy warmth, energy and decor that comes with Christmas season in the U.S.  I don’t, however, miss the commercialism or the pressure of gift buying  – You have to buy things for others even if you don’t keep “The Other Faith”.

But on an up note, there are always surprises to be found here in HLC around holiday time.  Like the rabbi who lit candles, recited blessings and sang Hannuka songs into a microphone at my local supermarket the other night for the benefit of after-work shoppers.  Or the “Chabad Hannuka Police”, as I affectionately refer to them, who stop into Tel Aviv restaurants and business venues to offer up candelabras and candles to anyone without.

It’s okay being here.  No trees is a good thing.  It’s not cool to cut down forests.  Eating donuts, on the other hand..

Happy Holidays to Everyone Everywhere.  May we all Feel the Warmth And Zest in the New Year.