The time has come...

I'm leaving this blog behind.
Starting a new one.

"Where's the new one?" you ask.

Inquire within... shirat (dot) hasirena (at) gmail (dot) com
I may not tell you though...don't be offended.

Was getting too stuffy.
Love you all.

Peace out.
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    accomplished accomplished

Driving in Israel, Part I

Cross-posted from Zabaj.

I feel like driving in Israel deserves its own series. Why? Well because anytime you get on the road, either as a driver or as a passenger, you're basically playing a game of Russian Roulette. Seriously. I feel like people say that about driving in New York too...but believe me when I tell you that driving in Israel is worse than anything you can imagine.

Anyway...I was smart enough to sort out the driver's license business when I first moved to this country. I did a little lesson and took a little test and that was that. I knew I wouldn't be driving anytime soon but I wanted to go ahead and get it out of the way. Finally, about two years after my arrival, I've been blessed with a car. A brand new car. Like many Israelis, I have leased a car through my's one of the perks of working in high tech. I've been lucky.

The first few days, I drove very timidly and cautiously and I was a friar. We've had that lesson on Zabaj before...what is a friar? A friar is someone who gets taken advantage of...the polite person or the quiet person...yeah...we get walked all over in this country. I had to quickly learn to assert myself on the roads. And I became very observant of all the mess that happens and all the really stressed out people behind the wheels of cars.

How can everyone be so stressed out?'s much like the escalator situation in this country. There just isn't any urban planning. Everything is kind of thrown together. In America, you have all the up escalators grouped together so you can just go up and up and up without really pushing your way through crowds of people. Likewise with the down escalators.

In Israel...the up escalators and the down escalators are all clumped together so that whether you're going up or down, you inevitably have to FIGHT traffic on each level to get to the next escalator. It makes absolutely no sense. And this is all besides the fact that people like to congregate and hover right on the entrance to every single escalator. For no reason. They just stand there and talk with old friends...completely blocking all traffic. Totally oblivious.

That's how the roads are. The exit lanes onto major highways run parallel to the entrance lanes so everyone who is trying to get onto the highway has to merge with everyone trying to get OFF the highway. And it's a long stretch of just utter chaos where everyone has to be extremely forceful and basically push people out of the way with their cars. It's stressful for no reason. Where are the urban planners?

I feel like a great part of why everyone drives so insanely is because the way the roads are constructed make us insane. And I've found myself doing some insane things lately too! Like totally tailgating the car in front of me at high speeds because I know that if I am able to see his wheels touching the pavement, the guy to my right or to my left will suddenly decide he HAS to be in my front of me. It's every man for himself out there...

Urban planners? Anyone? Anyone?
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    frustrated frustrated
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Living a double life...

Let's talk about how funny America is.
Why? Because I can.
Because I have an entirely different blog discussing how funny Israel I want to take a moment in this one and talk about America.

Americans get really defensive when anyone talks smack about their great country. I never really got angry when I was a resident of the country. I'm still a citizen, kids. I didn't denounce my allegiance. I just became a citizen of another country at the same time. I have dual citizenship...dual love. I love and hate different things about both countries and feel blessed that I had the choice to move around as I wished. And I could still return to America if I really wanted to. For now...I don't want to.

I found myself at a sidewalk cafe (not like the cafes in Tel Aviv but it worked out ok for us) with one of my bestest girl friends. We shared laughter and stories over bottles of cool wine on a hot evening. We hadn't seen each other in nearly a year and a half...since my last visit to the States. With us, though, it's always like no time has passed. We just pick up where we left off...with a bottle of wine and a lot of laughing.

At some point, we were joined by random men who teased us with cigarettes and southern accents. He boldly proclaimed that I was attractive to him because I was only in town for 2 weeks. Ballsy. Borderline creepy. My girl ended up telling him he lacked confidence and we watched him lose his shit right there at the table. It went from bad to worse. Suddenly I was a horrible person for leaving America and choosing to live in a different country. I ended up tuning him out and marveled at how quickly and ferociously he attempted to cover up that lack of confidence. I don't miss that about American boys.

Israeli boys are honest and upfront and don't play games. Sometimes they come on too strong. Sometimes they invade your personal space. But for some weird reason, it's not nearly as offensive as your typical "American stud." I'm generalizing here...obviously there are plenty of nice American boys and get your panties out of a wad. I don't want hate mail about this.

I also found the grocery store gross. I've been known to wander the small stores here in Israel and complain about the lack of selection...the lack of choice...the lack of STUFF I MUST HAVE. But when I wandered around the Tajh-ma Teeter, as we affectionately call it, I realized that my little neighborhood grocery store here in Tel Aviv is much better suited to me now. I don't need 80,000 choices of toilet paper or canned tuna. I don't need rows and rows of cereal. I don't need 400,000 different yogurts. The yogurt selection here is just fine.

And what about this?

This was at the entrance to the grocery store. It's know...wipe down the grocery cart before you shop. It made me laugh. Americans seem so worried about germs. Americans seem worried about lots of things...

Like the airport security thing.
I stood in the longest, craziest security line ever and was forced to watch a looped video about putting liquids into a plastic baggie...each container less than 3 oz...the baggie must be yay big and a certain brand...must be zippered and not squeezed toothpaste tubes...on and on and on and on...

...over and over and over and over...

And there was even a lady handing these little baggies out for the people in line. I didn't even bother to pack any toiletries in my carry-on. I knew I would mess it up or something so I just put it all in my checked bag.

I chuckled to myself in a sick way though...when I reached the front of the line and no one asked me if I'd packed my own bags or where I'd been or where my bags had been. No one even really looked at me. They were so much more concerned with what was inside my little carry-on bag. As though a bomber would just waltz in with a bomb in his or her carry-on. I mentioned the situation to a co-worker today here in Israel and his reply was..."Of course. Americans are focused on the bomb -- not the bomber."

So much truth in that. It scared me a little and made me sad. I like being asked 20 questions when I'm checking in here in Israel. I like having to open my bag when I go into a restaurant here. I like that soldiers wander the streets with their guns. I like having to open my trunk every time I want to park in a parking deck. I feel safe here.

I don't so much feel safe in large crowded buildings in America where no one looks at you or checks you out...until it's too late.

And then I thought about how fucked up my life here really is. I drive on the 443 which takes me through two check points each way to and from work. Check points being little stations where soldiers sit and check each and every car that passes through...and every so often, a car will be directed to pull over for further inspection. The primary check isn't like where they stop you and check you just have to drive slowly and nod and smile at them. I have an Israeli license plate so I haven't had any problems yet.

Even worse than that is the actual road. They had to build high walls along the road because people used to sit up on the rooftops and shoot at cars. Yeah. It weirds me out if I think about it too I don't. The part of the road in between the two check points is actually considered part of the West Bank. There's a sign to Ramallah along the way. Yeah. I try not to think about that too much either. It's just such a quick way to Jerusalem. The traffic on Highway 1 is unbearable.

Such is life.

But I'm back here in Israel. Back to my daily grind. Back to the commute and the friends and the heat. The beach. The car. The roads and crazy drivers. Back to check points and security guards. Back to memories that creep up on me at random moments.

I'm happy to be back.
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    tired tired

Packing up...

I'm leaving my parents' home in the morning. I'm flying out west and meeting up with SS for a visit. My parents and brother will meet me out there on Friday morning and then we have a big family weekend with the folks on my mom's side. It will be really really fantastic to see mom's family is so massive that we're rarely all together in one place. Even this weekend, it won't be ALL of us but it will be a lot of us. And I haven't seen any of them in over two years. I'm looking forward to it.

It's weird being in America.
Everything is so organized.
And so big.
And the vegetables have no taste.
And the air isn't as thick or salty.
And Southern folk are tiring for me -- the Keds and the handbags and tennis outfits. The ladies of leisure run rampant. The lip gloss and perfectly placed hair.
It exhausts me.
I don't miss that part of America.

I do miss the friends.
The ones who know me through and through and love me anyway.
I don't have to try or prove anything anymore.
We just hang.
I miss that comfort.

It's such a weird position to be in...I fly in for a week here or 10 days there. More experienced olim (people who've moved to Israel) always talk about how the first visit back to the US, people would come from near and far to see them. And every visit after that...the numbers dwindled. Both because they told less people of their arrival and because it's just tiring to travel these days.

I can see that.
I didn't tell everyone I was coming.
It was too much.
I didn't want to upset anyone who couldn't come in.
I knew this visit would be jam-packed with crap.

This entry is kind of my bags strewn across the floor. I'm not sure what the point is...of this entry. Maybe just to say that America exhausts me. Not because I don't like it or want to make fun of it or point out all the flaws (which I do with great pleasure most of the time) but because there are too many roots here for me. And it's hard and exhausting to think about how I spent so many years nurturing those roots...and now they'll begin to fade out. Years and distance really do a number on relationships.

And I wonder if I'll even find that stability again.
I sure as hell don't have it in Israel quite yet.
I know the "real" Israelis still look at me curiously...why the hell did that girl leave America to come to Israel? When will she ever speak Hebrew? Why is she wearing those pants?

That kind of thing.
I still stick out.
But I stick out in America too...I'm not quite American or Southern or East Coast. I'm just kind of weird here.
And I'm weird there.
It's kind of funny and exciting.
I've created a new version of myself on a different continent.

G-d I miss the roots though.
This trip has been so weird.
Part of me wanted to just pack up and run start again least I'd have love. But love ain't enough apparently. I'm stubborn and have a vision of my life ahead of me...and the love is a good base but I need more. I need the Jewish babies and the connection to Israel and all that good stuff.
But the pangs are still does one continually walk away from something so good? It's almost criminal. We should all BE so lucky. And I am...and I keep walking away...because...

Because of what?
Because of Israel?
Because of my restlessness?
Because of that Holy Land?
Because of what?
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I miss...

I am missing my home.
The love/hate relationship I have with her.
I was a little nervous I'd come here and not miss her at all...I'd gotten to a point of utter frustration just before I left.
But alas...I miss her.

I miss Israel.
My home.
Despite all the funny crap.
She's like a relative...I didn't choose her...I just ended up with her. And sometimes I want to cuss her out...but there's this deep, unending love inside of me.

Funny though...I still attach him to her.
In weird convaluded ways...I find myself missing them together.
I wonder if I'll ever be able to sever that connection.

There's just so much love here.
Despite all the bullshit and pain and struggle.
I still have love.
For Israel.
For him.
For the past, the present and for my future.

I'll be reunited with her in a week.
With him...probably never...
I'm ok with both of those.
I'm going to be here where I present...and enjoy every single minute I've got with my family and my friends...

And the nachos...
And the mint chocolate chip ice cream...

And I can dream of those things I miss...
And it'll be real for me there...
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    tired tired

מוש שלי

Mosh Ben Ari performed in Kikar Rabin the other night...for free. I get home so late from work these days and I'm always so I kind of just assumed I wouldn't make it. We parked the car at 7:30 and I called YK to see how the crowd was. His performance was scheduled for 9 and if the crowd was unbearable, I wasn't going to bother heading down. She happily told me that she had a table towards the front and that it wasn't crowded at all. I picked up the pace and headed to my apartment to drop off my bag before heading down to the square.

I arrived and made my way through the crowd to find YK and her friend. They really DID have a table sort of near the front and I was suddenly happy I'd hurried.

We sat and chatted and LL showed up. And then Mosh. And his wonderfulness. Nothing will ever beat the very first time I saw him perform but I swear I'll never get tired of it. Each time that I've seen him perform, I've always wondered if he'd play ועוד יום because it's only my most favorite song ever. Besides the fact that if LE and I were to have had a song, that would be it...besides's just a most beautiful melody. And it was one of the first songs I translated. I remember sitting on the floor with YC and playing it over and over again so he could hear each word and help me understand the song.

Anyway, he's never performed it when I've seen him. It's a duet with a woman. And he's never had a woman up there to perform it with. So after singing a few songs on his own...when he announced that Din Din Aviv would be joining him on stage, I kind of had this feeling that I'd finally see him perform my song live. She is adorable and wonderful and I love to watch her perform. She gets really "into" it -- and you can tell she's really part of each word and note she sings. I saw her a few times on TV and she performed at the Yom HaZikaron ceremony last month. He gave her the spotlight and she sang her song מוכרת לי מפעם. I happily sang along and swayed with the crowd.

And then Mosh joined her. And I heard the first few notes of my song. And the tears just came out. I didn't really expect that reaction. I've been doing amazingly well lately -- not really thinking about him but working on myself and doing the things I need to do. The other day, the secretary at my job came over and started telling me this story about how she went to a dance class and the teacher was familiar to her. And she used the feminine form of the word "teacher" so I knew it wasn't him...but as she told her story, I was waiting for her to connect it to him...because otherwise she wouldn't be mentioning the story to me at all. And my heart was racing and I was thinking about how ridiculous it was that I couldn't even hear a story about dancers without panicking a little...or without having my heart hurt a little. The end of the story was that the teacher was on THIS season of the TV show that he was on. And I kind of just smiled...uncomfortable-like. I was really disappointed in my physical reaction to her words. I didn't realize that my heart would jump into my throat like that. But it did.

And so I watched the performance. And I cried. And I'm actually not really sure if I was crying because it's our song...or because it's just so beautiful. Or maybe I'm just dramatic and cry too much. Or maybe it was all of that.

But I stood the middle of thousands of people...and I cried and sang and took it all in. And it was nearly perfect.

And as the performance wound down...he sang familiar songs and new songs...and just hearing his voice all around me made me warm. Well...his voice and the fact that they crammed thousands of dancing Israelis inside a tent in May made me warm. He exited the stage and we cheered for an encore. What it a Mosh Ben Ari concert without "V'eich sh'lo" ??

And out he came...and he sang it. And I joined in with the crowd. And as we all sang together...I looked around and for the first time, I actually felt part of that crowd. I knew all those words...the song reminds me of distant memories...just like all the Israelis in that tent. I smiled and felt proud of myself and kept on singing.

I think it was just what I needed.
Just what I remind me why I'm here.
That perhaps I moved to Israel to be with LE...and maybe it's not the best reason to move your life around the world. Especially considering it didn't work out...

But I made aliyah because I love Israel. I love the lemonana and I love Mosh Ben Ari. I love the Tel Aviv beach and the cafe culture. I love cafe hafuch and shnitzel...but not at the same time ;) I love fresh baked challah and the calmness of Shabbat -- even in the heart of the city. I love the park by my apartment and the "arsim" blaring bad trance music from their cars. I love hearing broken Hebrew everywhere and realizing that we're all immigrants and I love the kiosks where you can buy everything from beer to toilet paper to a portable grill. I love the way Israelis jump around with HUGE smiles and call it "dancing." I love the low-waisted jeans and t-shirts with sequins.

I love being here.
Despite the hard things.
Despite the culture shock.
Despite the constant uphill battle.

Thanks for the reminder, Mosh.


Today was Yom HaZikaron. Israel's Memorial Day.
It's not like in America where Memorial Day means a day off work to have a BBQ with friends and drink on a sail boat. That's how I remember Memorial Day. A long weekend. A lot of alcohol. Meat on a grill. People happy to have a day off. Big sales at the local mall.

It's weird to think about it now.
Kind of sickening to me.

I can't imagine why any country would observe a holiday in any way other than the way Israel does it. And I never felt connected to it as much as I did this first Memorial Day where I actually have someone to think about. Someone who lost his life...fighting in a war so that I could live here in peace. It makes my stomach hurt.

It's hard to explain to someone who has never been in Israel to witness the siren. In this crazy country where people are always in a hurry and everyone is always talking to everyone else. We all stop. Literally. Stop in our tracks. And we remember.

I remember last year when I heard the siren go off for Yom HaShoah. I was alone in my apartment and I went out onto my balcony and watched the people in the street. I cried a bit and then shared my thoughts with another new immigrant who happened to be online when the siren finished. There's something indescribable about being here in Israel when that siren goes off. We sound it for Holocaust Remembrance day (which was last week) and again for Memorial Day.

And it always made me cry.
Much like Israel's national anthem always made me cry...even when I heard it as a small child...before I knew what the words meant.

And I thought about that.
Last night.
When I heard the sirens and stood in silence with thousands of people in the middle of Rabin Square in the center of Tel Aviv.
I thought about how I never cried when I heard the US national anthem.
But I always cried for Israel.
I remember being in 3rd or 4th grade and singing the anthem in Sunday School. I got choked up and looked around to see that no one else in my class was really feeling emotional. I wasn't even sure where Israel was on a map...and I may not have even known WHAT I was singing...that it was a national anthem at all. But I fought back tears.

And now they flow freely.
With the sirens.
At the anthem.
Every. Single. Time.

And it's so weird to think about this past year.
Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) started this evening. Last year on this night, I ran into you for the first time since I'd gotten to Israel. And you smiled. And I smiled. And a full calendar year later...all I have is the memory of your beautiful face.

I miss you, Ben.
All I've thought about is you.
And last night I cried for you.
And I felt comfort as I stood there amongst the thousands.
Because I knew that everyone around me was remembering you.
And the rest of them.
Everyone who has order that we can Israel.

And I cried again for you today.
And I'll remember you forever.

May their memories be for a blessing.

This video puts a face with each name of each soldier who fell in the war last summer...including my friend, Ben (סמ"ר בן סלע ז"ל).

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Feeling reflective...

I've been reading my old journal entries lately.
The old ones. Not like from the beginning but from around my aliyah.
Actually...I did start at the beginning and read through my move to Tel Aviv about a year ago. That's what I've been up to lately...reading my own stuff.

And I'm a little embarrassed and sad.
About what?
About all of that crap.
I can't believe how unstable I was.
I mean...I know it's kind of a big move to come here and do this on your own.
But it's a little insane just how unstable I was.
And poor LE. I'm feeling a lot of guilt about it now.
All the neediness.
The poor guy had never had a girlfriend before and here I was...the most unstable, crazy, insane girl ever. And I couldn't even speak Hebrew.
Who the hell could put up with that for more than 10 minutes!?
I could barely put up with READING about it.

I like to think that I'm much more stable now and not as needy...and getting my stuff done on my own...and making my own life on my own path and standing on my feet.

And then I have little setbacks.
Like today when I wanted to make a doctor's appointment and ended up making a zillion calls and crying in the middle because the Hebrew was overwhelming.

20 months in.
I should be better at this than I am.
It's embarrassing.

But then good things happen like when HK remarked at my Hebrew today when she overheard me answer a phone call.

"You're level of fluency has improved so much!" she said.

And she has never been one to flood me with compliments on my Hebrew so I kind of took it in and thought about it.

But automated telephone menus are guaranteed to make me cry.
And people who yell on the phone or at me when I say "Mah zeh omer?" (as if to say, "What do you mean by that?") in response to something they've said. As if speaking louder is going to make me understand quicker. I don't need you to yell at me...I just need you to say the same thing in dumber words.

Because I feel dumb most of the time.
And I wonder how much of myself I really AM here.

A new friend the other night remarked that she couldn't tell if I liked her or not. She took my quiet observation mode as being totally unentertained.

And the truth of the matter is that she's awesome and happy and carefree and I feel like we'd be friends in any situation I'd experienced in the US. Not that I don't love the friends I've made here but would we have met and hung out in our former lives?

But it's different with her. She's got pizazz and I've been missing my pizazz lately.
I don't know where it went.
But I think it's directly connected to the level of stupidity that I feel on a day to day basis. I'm trying to pretend I'm not totally illiterate or unable to make phone calls to strangers. I'm trying to pretend that I'm not still a little neurotic about new bus rides or running errands by myself. You know...easy shit like going to the post office or making deposits at the bank.

I'm forcing myself to do more shit on my own because I think it's sad and embarrassing.
And I need to be in control of my life.
And I need to become myself.

And it frustrates me.
Because as much as I DESIRE to be known and to be loved here...I'm really ashamed most of the time. I don't want to say the wrong thing or do something so crazy that someone new will look at me and toss me aside. I can't afford it.

It's scary and hard.
And maybe it's a passing thing.
And I can look at those entries and KNOW with 100% certainty that I've accomplished so much in the last year and a half. I know I have learned so much and adjusted so much. And I think it's great to look back and see how far I've come.

But then I turn around and face forward...and the climb seems so unattainable sometimes.
Like who the hell am I kidding?
Sometimes it feels like his parents were right...maybe I always WILL be a burden to my partner. Maybe I'm not worth the time or investment. Maybe he was right to leave me. I was selfish and demanding...and completely alone.

And maybe he just stayed with me out of guilt.
And maybe when he's in love again, he'll think about me and be like, "Yeah. What the hell was I thinking!? That girl was insane! This is so much easier and better."

Because it kind of IS easier and better to be with someone who already has her shit together and can handle automated telephone menus...and doesn't throw away the mail before reading it because you know, I can't really read it anyway.

Who wouldn't choose to be with someone who isn't so broken and fucked up?
Someone who fled the easy life and chose to struggle and keep from drowning here?

So which do I do?
Look back and smile at all I've accomplished?
Or face forward and cry at the thought of climbing the mountain ahead?
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    דויד ברוזה: יהיה טוב