March 10, 2019

I wonder who dug the hole under the fence so I could climb under and through into my favorite place to be — here, surrounded by wilderness.

I know that this is forbidden land because there’s an Air Force airport somewhere.  But I’ve never gone close enough to see anything but birds, bushes, trees, flowers, and stuff.

But now it’s winter, and I’ve brought my new ice skates.  There’s lots of icy places to skate here.

The air was crisp.  I put my skates on and tingled with delight — and apprehension.  I really didn’t know how to skate!

Ah, a fleeting moment of joy gliding on a short patch of ice — and then suddenly one leg sunk down and down and down.

Is this what they mean by the word, “marsh?”  Yep, I pulled out a leg encrusted in mud.

Messy, but no damage done that couldn’t be washed off.  It only made me more ready to try again.

The next time, I brought my baby skis and slid and slipped and fell down what surely was a mountain to me.

Years later, showing this wonderland for the first time to my granddaughter, I paid homage to this still remarkable untouched piece of wildness on the other side of the hole under that fence where I first fell in love with nature.

January 26, 2019

I heard the seagulls calling to me and I followed them to Laguna Beach.  They led me to little children giddily running across the sand to splash their toes in the sea.  How can it be both cloudy and sunny at the same time?  It was an aesthetic combination.  I shared some pizza with a seagull.

The sea both beckoned, and said “Stay away.  This is my territory.”

As the seagulls swirled about, a group of kayakers paddled out to make a circle in the sea.  It looked more like a class than a paddle out to honor the death of a surfer.  But, just in case, on a large rock in the sea close by, the many birds stood quietly in respect.  Then, one by one in a very straight line, each kayak paddled to another spot where they stopped once again.

Was it the sun, the grass, some blossoming plants?  They all became my enemy on this otherwise perfect warm and sunshiny day.  A massive allergy attack made me miserable.  A handkerchief held against my nose that had turned into a faucet blocked the expansive view where a pseudo traffic sign on the cliff read rightly, “Infinity Clearance.”

The sun shimmered in a path on the sea top.  That always makes me think of trying to walk across the sea to … where?  The horizon?  Another country?  Outer space?

In the company of seagulls, hummingbirds quenched their thirst in the flowers that beckon to them.  I read recently that flowers know when the birds are near.  Nature is much more clever than humans can imagine.

Sneeze, sneeze, sneeze, sneeze.  Damn, damn, damn, damn — the double edged sword of so many things that can both thrill us and make us miserable.

Gotta move.

After drenching 2 handkerchiefs, I suspected that my allergy wouldn’t follow me into a building.

I went to the Laguna Art Museum.  I knew they were planning a talk that evening and I thought I could hang out there while looking at the new exhibits.

Turns out that there was only one small exhibit available for viewing because they are gearing up for their annual auction to raise money for the museum.

The small exhibit had a  corner where I could sit on the floor and listen to the video while waiting to see if my nose would stop torturing me.

I had time before the evening lecture to walk out again to the beach to watch the sunset – I have grown old, but watching a sunset never grows old.  I knew the perfect place to watch the sun dip behind Catalina Island down to the sea.

The clouds that had been there during the day had dispersed except for one area around the ball of the sun.  They lent an artistic touch of dark sweeping lines that I imagined as Chinese calligraphy.

A small crowd of people had gathered there, including a special touch at sunset — a guitar player quietly accompanying the dipping of the sun.  The addition of music enhanced the spirit of the setting sun as a lone seagull turned a gentle gold color as it flew past the sun.


December 10, 2018

I wait every year for my favorite show of the year — CNN Heroes.  I stand and clap as each one is featured and honored.  This year, filled as it is with more conflict than comfort in our world societies, I was somewhat desperate to feel awe and inspiration once again for these “ordinary people,”  who give of themselves  wholeheartedly to bring comfort, caring, and respect to so many.

Their causes are spread across an impressive array of countries and needs.  Their drive and dedication is not limited by money, age, or education.  But at the core of their motivation is something that seems to be endangered in our present human race — empathy.  It’s a small word really, but yet so complex to feel in depth.  It’s not easy to be truly empathetic.  And it takes more than creativity to turn empathy into action.  It takes courage that doesn’t quit.

The breadth and depth of the heroes was wide and deep — tiny home communities for homeless veterans, a shelter in Peru for children and their families who required long term medical treatment far from home,  access to expensive bionic equipment for those who had lost their mobility, a peaceful place to heal for women who had been through the hell of sex trafficking.  I felt a special connection to the 88 year old woman who had set up an online ESL program that enabled immigrants to earn U.S. citizenship.  One continuing thread was how the heroes were quick to  turn the attention away from their own hard work to that of the people they were helping.

One of my favorite parts is always the Young Wonders who have set up incredible programs at amazingly young ages.  There was a young boy who started making lunches for homeless people, brought together a group of kids to help make the sandwiches, and then carried them out to the streets and handed a bag of healthy food to anyone who looked needy.  Not only was there food and a friendly smiling face handing them out, but the bags were hand-decorated with happy sayings and cute pictures to add that something extra that showed caring.  Another child started a program that gives birthday parties with all the trimmings for children with disabilities.

There was a follow-up on what some of the previous Young Wonders are doing years after they received their awards.  They did not stray from their early desire to help and are now serving ever larger needy populations with a wider range of services.

I fell in love with Bali for the first time in 1989.  A local resident I got to know  foresaw that plastic bags were a potential danger to that beautiful, fragile place.  Many years later, two sisters in Bali saw the same danger  strewn in front of their eyes everywhere.  These Young Wonders started Bye Bye Plastic Bags and have found ways to encourage the local people not to use plastic bags.  They do constant clean up  wherever they find discarded plastic bags.  They also have devised a simple system to block mostly plastic refuse that clogs up the small rivers.  And, they have established a small community of women in one village to get paid for making bags from recycled materials.  They didn’t stop to worry “What’s the use of doing something on such a small scale?”

As someone who spent time as a social worker in difficult life situations, and lived in third world poverty, I feel a particularly strong admiration for the CNN heroes.

So, I say again with deep gratitude, Hooray for Do-Gooders.  May they forever find ways to sustain their kindness to others.


December 4, 2018
Ah, yes, why is California burning up?  It makes sense because the majority of today’s humans have no natural sense of nature.  The Indians knew that periodic partial burning of brush, debris, and over crowded areas was healthy to nature and humans alike.  And they practiced it.  But, then came the white humans who have no sense of nature and its needs.  And they came in larger and larger numbers to California because they love warm weather and beautiful sights.
And so the human population of California expanded even after the gold ran out.  California’s gold became its beauty and gentle weather.  With no sense of mother nature’s needs, or their own inextricable connection to nature, they came, and came, and came.  They built houses where houses should never have been built.  They made sure for many years that every little spark or small fire was suppressed immediately because they needed to protect “their” property.
Grass and garden lovers that they were, they planted water hungry plants and trees in areas of very low rainfall.  To feed those thirsty plants, they captured water that should have run all the way into the waiting oceans.  Green lawns and huge trees grew where nature hadn’t intended as it wrung dry the rivers that were valiantly attempting to meet the ocean.  The rivers and ground water dried up as the trees and green grass grew.
While that was happening in southern California, the greedy humans of the world busily squeezed all of earth’s natural energy resources like there was no tomorrow.  And now, with global warming, that legacy may become all too true for our planet.
Five straight years of drought in southern California tried to bring attention to what humans were doing to the earth.  With no rain from the skies, and uncomfortably rising summer and fall temperatures, southern California half-heartedly and grudgingly made a few concessions to adding some wind power and solar power and grey water, and waited for the rain to return.  There was one brief year of celebration when snow returned in large amounts, (see, global warning is a hoax) once again filling reservoirs.  People delighted in the abundance of water again and returned to their wasteful water wasting ways.  Too bad about all the flooding that followed the rains and washed down huge areas of mud no longer held in by root systems of the trees that had burned.
And now we have arrived at a point in the world that the short-lived human species has not had to deal with during its existence.  Yes, there have been other times when our planet became too hot or too cold for human comfort, but that was before humans populated our planet.
I used to worry a lot about nature.  But, one day, it somehow became clear to me that nature would eventually survive.  It was humans that would have to adapt, or go extinct.
True, we have learned how to send people to the moon, how to kill cancer, how to design foods and babies more to our liking.  The hubris with which humans believe they can conquer all things is endless, and sometimes even endearing.
Are human nature and mother nature compatible?  Nature is running out of patience to show humans the error of their ways.  There’s a good reason why we call her Mother Nature.
November 12, 2018

I was born a conservationist without knowing why.  Among other groups, I joined Sierra Club and Zero Population Growth because I worried that we humans would destroy nature.    At some point in my life, and for reasons more instinctive than knowledge based, I shifted to understanding that nature would somehow manage to survive, and that we humans could not become smart enough to save our species.  So be it.

I loved the word “Earthroots” from the first time I heard it at a Kelp Festival in Laguna Beach.  It just sounded so right.  I slurped the delicious soup that people from Earthroots had brought to the Festival, and I learned about the variety of programs and places that Earthroots teaches.

Envisioned and founded by Jodi Levine-Wright, Earthroots Field School offers “classes, workshops and lectures year round for toddlers, homeschoolers, teens, adults, private and public schools, scout groups and summer camps. Outdoor classrooms include local organic farms, gardens, wilderness parks, green kitchens, beaches, and creeks. These programs are an exploration of our natural world and extends into our connection with all things.”

The actual home of Earthroots is picturesquely nestled in 39 acres of Big Oak Canyon.  It is not only surrounded by Cleveland National Forest, but has a natural creek whose pure water runs through it the whole year.  I was able to see this incredible piece of nature for myself when I joined a group of volunteers for an afternoon.   I have seen other parts of the Field School’s land through various videos on their website at

I felt such a strong connection to Earthroots Field School and the type of knowledge it is passing on to younger generations that I decided to support Earthroots through including it in my trust.  While there are many worthwhile conservation organizations, Earthroots appealed to me because it is local, relatively small, and teaches a connection to nature that is far wider and deeper than others.  Optimistically, it has a 200 year plan.

I had fallen in love with Bali from the first time I visited it in 1989.  There was something about both the nature and the culture of the island that made me love it.  When I returned to Bali the last time in 2010, I arranged to visit a new school called the Green School, then only one year old.  I knew I was seeing something I would have loved to attend as a student.

The Green School is an international school with buildings made of bamboo that let in more light and air than you would believe possible.   The students, gathered internationally, learn in a totally different way than any other school I ever saw.  Best of all, they learn to respect nature.  That was such a welcome departure to me from the age-old reliance on conquering nature, bending it to the needs of humans who feel somehow superior to nature.  In these days of climate change caused by the overpopulation and wastefulness of humans, there is either denial, or a vague belief that humans will find technologies to neutralize the damage to our earth.

Raised by parents who only went outdoors when indoors was not continuous,  I found my own love of nature, and connection to it perhaps through Girl Scout camps, and undoubtedly to what  was to a child a huge amount of land in back of where I grew up and played.  It was actually a buffer zone between our houses and an airport, but to me, it was a vast untouched wilderness where I could wander and wonder to my heart’s content.  And it did indeed forever capture my heart.

At the age when I think of what legacy I am leaving behind, I first of all think of the high hill in Santa Barbara where I walked and talked to the hills and promised them I would fight as best I could to keep them from being destroyed in a planned housing development.  The Planning Commission listened to me and turned down the development in about 1980.  My name appears nowhere after all these years, but now, 38 years later, that hill still stands unmolested and even remarkably unchanged as Elings Park after other conservationists were able to finish what I had begun.



October 21, 2018

Since I am now breathing with the trees each evening as I walk my neighborhood, Carl Sagan’s words in his book, “Cosmos,” take on more meaning (p. 33).  It is not only exercise.  It is calming, joyful, and meaningful.

“Human beings grew up in forests; we have a natural affinity for them.  How lovely a tree is, straining toward the sky.  Its leaves harvest sunlight to photosynthesize, so trees compete by shadowing their neighbors.  If you look closely you can often see two trees pushing and shoving with languid grace.  Trees are great and beautiful machines, powered by sunlight, taking in water from  the ground and carbon dioxide from the air, converting these materials into food for their use and ours.  The plant uses the carbohydrates it makes as an energy source to go about its planty business.  And we animals, who are ultimately parasites on the plants, steal the carbohydrates so we can go about our business.  In eating the plants we combine the carbohydrates with oxygen dissolved in our blood because of our penchant for breathing air, and so extract the energy that makes us go.  In the process we exhale carbon dioxide, which the plants then recycle to make more carbohydrates.  What a marvelous cooperative arrangement — plants and animals each inhaling the other’s exhalations, a kind of planet-wide mutual mouth-to-stoma resuscitation, the entire elegant cycle powered by a star 150 million kilometers away.

…An oak tree and I are made of the same stuff.  If you go far enough back, we have a common ancestor.”

October 9, 2018

It is two months now since I was hospitalized for a heart attack.  Since I did not accept the cardiologist’s recommendation for treatment (angioplasty, stent, plus 5 strong Big Pharma drugs for the rest of my life), I wasn’t given much hope for living much longer.   A few weeks later, when I went to a cardio rehab clinic for advice about exercising and registered 250 for the top blood pressure number even before I started exercising, I was told I was in stroke territory.

And so I hastened even faster to get all my ducks in a row.   I thought I had already taken care of such details, but it turned out that I had to go into high gear to put together a trust instead of the will I had written a year ago, plus give my relatives more information about how to find this and that, and take care of numerous details.

I have been a determined exerciser for many years in spite of not always being enthusiastic about it.  So, I decided to keep up gentle exercising of my own making.  Being a night owl, I chose to walk my gated community’s quiet neighborhood streets after most had gone to bed.

I knew that trees breathe too, taking in what humans exhale, and vice versa.  Although our southern California mostly dry climate was never right for water-thirsty trees, plants, and grass, our community has been growing and watering a woods all around us for more than 50 years.  The trees are tall and strong.  An hour of walking and breathing among them at night is both calming and joyous.

I have also attended two monthly meetings of the Death Cafe, something available in many communities, including Laguna Beach.  It is free to those who want to come together to discuss dying.  While there are some who come regularly, there are always newcomers.  Rather than a therapy group, it is a discussion group led by a facilitator with no particular agenda.

There are various views toward dying expressed by the people who attend, as well as those who just come to listen.  Since I have personally decided to let nature take its course, I talked about the pink POLST  papers (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).  This is a legal paper of the patient’s wishes, and is more inclusive than the advanced directive people put in wills and trusts.  It includes 4 sections — Resuscitation or No Resuscitation; Medical Interventions for full treatment, selective treatment, comfort-focused treatment; Nutrition (long term artificial nutrition, trial period of artificial nutrition, and no artificial means of nutrition); and information and signatures of a physician or nurse practitioner, and the name and phone number of the person named as Power of Attorney or Health Care Agent.

Doctors, nurses, and paramedics have been trained to save lives, but this POLST paper puts the power of decision into the patient’s wishes.   And I applaud having the legal right to having my wishes followed.

Another goal I accomplished was updating and modernizing my website while continuing my blog.  I want my website and blog to continue after me, and so I have hired my web designer to look after it and paid the host, Lunarpages, for 5 more years.  Welcome to all readers!

Hoping to test out heaven, I stayed overnight in a place as close to heaven as I could imagine.   In one way or another, my life has always intertwined with oceans.  So, I stayed overnight at the Beachcomber Inn in San Clemente.  Because this dates back to 1948 before San Clemente became crowded and cluttered, its location is open and roomy with an unobstructed view of the ocean from each of the 12 rooms.

Instead of doing the many things I thought I would do there, I never tired of just looking at the ocean, watching and listening to the crashing waves, and appreciating everything I could about the ever changing clouds and blue vastness of the sky above, and the salty water  my ashes will follow one day.




September 21, 2018

I love life, but I believe in dying.  Most of my relatives have died of heart attacks, and most of them died before they even knew they were dying.  And so, I also strongly suspected my heart would be my joy, and cause my death.

Without any warning, I had a heart attack on August 6th.  Unlike most of my relatives, I survived.  However, I had decided long ago to follow my nature girl ways to accept what my heart told me.  Then, living in a retirement community for 19 years has shown me a wide range of ways to treat death among people who have already lived the majority of their lives.

When I have thought of the meaning of life, I have usually been comforted by believing that I am connected to mother nature.  And that means I must die.

I can consider death the enemy and fight it with every ounce of strength and modern medicine I can.  Or, I can recognize that I am a mortal with parts that will wear out naturally.

I considered my heart attack as the beginning of a slippery slope that I have seen followed by many in Laguna Woods Village who manage to reach extreme ages.  Perhaps 109 is the oldest in our Village who still faithfully exercises 6 days a week.  But there is a 108 year old who still comes regularly.  And a 107 year old, then many in their early 100’s.  90’s are barely considered old.  Longevity has become a goal that, with the help of modern medicine and robotic parts, many people are reaching.  And I do believe there may even come a time to choose immortality.

I have friends who overcome one event that might kill them, and then another, and another until their quality of life has been destroyed.  Some I know stay alive because their spouses won’t let them die.

I made the decision to take the non-medical route.  That’s a hard decision for many of my friends to accept.  I have found myself having to defend that decision over and over.  But, as my body weakens, my resolve to accept my natural fate doesn’t.

And so I have signed a POLST pink paper that clearly states I do not wish to be resuscitated, or given any form of nutrition if I have a stroke, and no artificial means be taken to prolong my life.  The Palliative Care people at the hospital have been extremely helpful and supportive.  I’m wearing a Medic Alert bracelet that my father once wore.  Only mine says scratched on the back, Do Not Resuscitate.  And I attended a local Death Cafe at a local senior center where I was able to exchange thoughts with other people who have death, and how to deal with it, on their minds.

My son died of AIDS in 2003.  That was the time when the medication given for AIDS made their lives even more miserable than just the AIDS.  The first time he died, a friend was with him.  Even though the friend knew it was not my almost 35 year old son’s wish to be resuscitated, he called the paramedics.  My son was not grateful.  And six weeks after that, when he died again, he had printed out a large sign that was next to his body that said Do Not Resuscitate.  When there was no hope, and his life was agony, there was no purpose for staying alive.

Some deaths are indeed tragic, but mine won’t be.  I look upon my 75 years as wonderful, fulfilling, adventurous, and well lived.  I am extremely grateful for the health I had, some of which was earned by years of dedication to exercising in many forms.  And I have had a very large portion of good luck in  my life.

My ashes, accompanied by a small amount of my son’s ashes, will be spread in the sea after I die.  The idea of continuing my world wide travels through the connecting seas appeals to me.

My writing continues through the books I’ve written, and many other ways I have wanted to express my thoughts and ideas.  Many are here in this website that has been updated and modernized recently.  If there is a wish for a legacy, or for contact with others, it is through my writing that it will survive.

I have arranged for the web designer who worked with me to re-do this website to monitor until 2024.  So, do keep reading and sending your comments to share.

And just maybe I’ll be able to add more blogs after this one.


September 20, 2018

Thirty four years after the airlifts of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980’s, the younger ones are Israeli born, and, most helpfully, native Hebrew speakers.  That has helped somewhat to equalize their potential for education and a good job — but only somewhat.

The ESRA volunteer program hooked me up in 2018 with a 26 year old Ethiopian young man who participated in a special program in Netanya, Israel.  He was one of several Ethiopian college students who received a free apartment while going to a local college studying for a degree.  In exchange for the free housing, he had a small group of perhaps 4 elementary school kids that he mentored during the week.  Mainly Ethiopian and Russian immigrants live in the same neighborhood with him and were his students in the small groups.

The elementary school students are selected by school social workers who choose children who are serious about learning, but need extra help.  The college mentor serves many functions in the lives of the elementary school students, especially as a role model.   Since there are several such groups in the same neighborhood, the college students also work together to provide activities and support for the younger ones.  Happily, the program is successful for both the college students and the younger ones.

Since army service is compulsory in Israel starting with 3 years after high school, the college students begin college at an older age.  Having extra lessons in English meant adding more responsibilities to an already full week for my student.  In February every year, the college students go through a grueling month of exams.  At that point, my student had to quit his English lessons.

But, getting to know him briefly for a month helped me to see the promising side of Ethiopians born in Israel who are native Hebrew speakers and have a drive to get a college education.

And so I moved on to individually tutoring four 6th grade students at the neighborhood elementary school.  This school was predominantly Ethiopians and Russian immigrants.  That’s where I saw the harsher side of life in the Ethiopian Jewish community.

Generally, the Ethiopian communities in Israel are mired in poverty.  They do receive help from the Israeli government and various helping groups like ESRA, but the older generations came from an agricultural third world country.  They are hard workers, but mostly unskilled for good jobs in Israel.

When one of the teachers learned I had been in Israel in the early days of the Ethiopian Jews in Israel, she asked me, “What were they like?”  I immediately recalled the gentle, patient, sweet people I had known then.

Sadly, those were not the words I would use today to describe the elementary school where I volunteered.  What I saw in the school was continuing bedlam, with students running through the halls, lots of yelling between the students and with the staff, and aggressive hitting that required constantly breaking up fights.

How different was this school from most other schools in Israel?  I admit that I haven’t spent much time in elementary schools in any country, but I did teach Israeli Arab students in the 1980s who were enthusiastic and well behaved students.  I recently spoke with a friend of mine who still works in the Israeli Arab school system and he says that is still the way it is.

However, I know that some Israeli schools of today can also be quite aggressive, unhappy places of physical bullying.  I actually attended a court hearing on behalf of a 13 year old Romanian new immigrant who was so badly beaten at his school by 6 classmates that he was hospitalized for more than 2 weeks.  That got press attention.

The sixth graders I tutored at the school for my last 6 weeks in Netanya were well behaved.  Three were Russian, and one was Ethiopian.  While two of them had low level English, the other two had somehow magically learned English on their own as a third language (Russian, Hebrew, and English) and were quite interesting to teach.

And so, I left Israel with a mixed picture of how the Ethiopian Jews have adjusted to being literally catapulted  from a third world Ethiopian, all black country, into a dynamically changing Jewish homeland.

As expected, the older Ethiopians have had trouble coping with a new world to them that included racism, while the younger native born in Israel are making their way into the Israeli society.  They are tech savvy and have more possibilities for their futures.  Although I saw very few groups of mixed Ethiopians and other Israelis, I did see a few.  And I even saw a few mixed racial couples.  A precious few Ethiopians are in high positions in the Israeli government.

I am sure of one thing — the Ethiopian Jews are in Israel to stay.  They have a large, strong family system.  They have been Jewish for centuries, suffered persecution because of being Jewish, but clung to their Jewishness.  They belong in Israel and are recognized as equal citizens.  And, while there is racism, the Israeli police don’t shoot them and incarcerate them.  And they are respected for their skills as soldiers.

If I ever return to Israel, I can be reasonably sure that the Israeli Ethiopians will continue to make progress integrating into Israeli society.  And I will remember those 42 Ethiopian teens I had been a house mother to in an Israeli boarding school through their early transition to Israel in 1984.

As a very exciting postscript to all the newspaper clippings and other material  a friend had faithfully sent me from Israeli newspapers between 1989 to the present, I was able to donate them to an archive that is being established in Israel in a new center that will be dedicated to Ethiopian Jewry.  Hooray!!

September 18, 2018

While Seated by the Mediterranean Sea

It is Shabbat when a quietness settles over the whole country of Israel and Israelis take a deep breath.  I was sitting on a bench enjoying a view I have made sure to look out upon as frequently as I can.

A young man walking a baby carriage got closer and closer to a gorgeous overlook of the Mediterranean Sea.  He was talking excitedly to the baby inside the carriage.  He was saying in Hebrew, “We’re almost there, we’re almost there” while the baby gurgled back, reflecting her father’s excitement.  “We have arrived!  Look.”  He lifted a bundled baby up high so she could see the sea.  And then, with the baby cradled carefully in his arms, he walked on the path pointing out this and that for his daughter to see.

A Perfect Pair

There is a religious man who lives in the house behind my house in Netanya.  On Shabbat, I can hear snatches of loud sing song prayers he fills his home with after he returns from services at the nearby temple.   A bird on the roof is inspired by his song, and joyfully accompanies him.

On the Train

While I was seated on a train, I noticed a solider sitting opposite me.  All soldiers must keep their rifles with them.  His rifle was slung casually across his lap.  Like most people on the train, he was looking intently into his phone.  But, instead of reading what was there, he was looking carefully at his hair along his forehead.  And, ever so slightly, he was pushing it into the style he wanted.  He was, after all, only a young man who had to do a soldier’s job as do all young men and women in Israel.

You Look Like You Need Help

After 14 hours on a plane, I finally arrived in Israel.  But I then needed to take a train to Tel Aviv to switch to a train to Netanya where an Airbnb awaited me.

An animated young lady had helped me find the right train to Tel Aviv, but she wasn’t going to Netanya.  I was on my own as I struggled with lifting my suitcase onto another train before a kind young man offered to lift my suitcase onto the train.   With my backpack on, I stood by my suitcase and caught the eye of an elderly lady sitting in a row of seats some distance away.

She said in accented English, “You look like you need help.”  Gratefully, I told her I needed to get off at the correct stop for Netanya.  She located a young soldier who wasn’t getting off where I needed, but promised she would take me off the train at the appropriate place.  And she did.

I had been somewhat fluent in Hebrew 30 years earlier when I left Israel.  But, my Hebrew didn’t return with me.  So, I was again a foreigner who spoke a foreign language.  the old lady gently scolded me while reminding me, “If you need help in Israel, just ask.  People here will help you.”

And, in spite of being known for being rude and in a hurry, it is true that Israelis will genuinely try to help whenever they can.

I thought of some bus experiences of many years ago when getting on a bus was a difficult experience.  (It still is.)  One day, I had pushed and shoved my way onto a bus and found a seat.  Next to me sat an old lady who looked at me disapprovingly.  “Where is your sweater?  It’s cold out today.”

And then there was the day I had really struggled to get onto a bus and find a seat.  When I got up to exit the bus with my coat over my arm, the change I had forgotten in my coat pocket pinged noisily onto the floor of the bus.  The same people who had pushed and shoved me while getting onto the bus were now reaching down to pick up my change while shouting, “rayga, rayga” to the driver (which means wait a minute).

And best of all are the times that everyone on the bus joins in with his or her opinion as to which is the best stop to get off to reach a destination, sometimes overruling the advice of the bus driver.  I saw this again this visit when a Taiwanese tourist was trying to get to a new hotel and the bus driver directed him to get off at the wrong stop.  Fortunately, we bus riders got him to exactly where he needed to be.

Facebook Groups for Immigrants

One reality of living in Israel is that there are many difficulties immigrants face.  One big reason for that is that Israelis who grow up in Israel and do army service develop connections and support groups that soften the way.

With social media, Facebook has become a wider source of immigrants making contacts with other immigrants.  These are closed groups that you need to apply to be in.   I joined “Keep Olim (immigrants) in Israel,” and “Keep Olim 50 Plus in Israel.”

Although a lot of griping goes on its pages about hardships and inexplicable and infuriating quirks of life in Israel, there is also important information to be gleaned.  There is optimism to cling to as well from immigrants who persevered and are genuinely happy and content to be in Israel.

There are those immigrants who come from countries they cannot return to, and countries, like the U.S., that they can return to.  And especially considering the difficulties of learning Hebrew well, and a very high cost of living, life in many other countries is still easier than life in Israel.

And, although the right of return remains an option for every Jew, immigrants are no longer needed in the same way they were during the developing years of Israel.  But there is still meaning in “coming home to Israel.”

Cats All Around

I have no idea why the population of cats in Netanya, and probably other places in Israel is so high.  They are wild, good-looking, somehow well fed — and everywhere.  They don’t want to be picked up and petted, taken to live in a human’s home, or played with.  Cats are independent and these cats keep their distance.  If the cats gather near outdoor restaurants, the patrons talk about how healthy and fine looking they are.  I haven’t heard anyone complain about the cats everywhere.

Gourmet Ice Cream

There is one kind of ice cream store in the Arab Israeli city of Shefaram that has been known for its unique flavors the owners created.  It’s still really yummy.

But, now in every part of Israel, colorful sculpted mounds of gourmet ice ream are available.  It’s an artist’s delight, and ice cream lovers don’t even blink at the expense (just under $5 for the tiniest little cup).

There is a new hotel ice cream shop not far from where I live that I usually visit weekly on Saturday (Shabbat) to indulge.  On one Shabbat, there was an unusually large crowd of adults and children congregating in the ice cream shop.  The clerks behind the counter are very well trained to keep calm when being pressured by customers who gather closely and demand their ice cream.

Israelis are not fond of lines.  So, regardless of the age, it’s usually a group of impatient people exclaiming that they were there first.

I made my stand next to a boy about 9 years old who was there with his dad.  He looked at me suspiciously and said in Hebrew (which I understood), “I’m next.”  His face looked rather mean.  I said in Hebrew, “I know.  I’m just standing here waiting.”  Realizing he wasn’t going to have to fight me for his place, his face softened.  Both he and his father proceeded to get small tastes of several flavors before they made their big decisions. Other grown ups were demanding their right to be next.

I found it rather amusing because my very first roommate in Israel 35 years ago had taught me the words in Hebrew with the appropriate stern look, “There’s a line here.”

Purim in the Air, and Everywhere

It’s nice to be in a whole country that celebrates Jewish holidays.  In fact, Purim is one of the few happy Jewish holidays.  It is a time to masquerade as anyone or anything you wish to be.  There was definitely Purim in the air at the mostly Ethiopian grammar School where I was a volunteer teacher.

I went to our school’s party today and was impressed by the variety of costumes and made up faces of the students cavorting to the music blasting out of huge speakers in the playground.

All the teachers wore costumes too.  I wore a butterfly mask that I  decorated by scraping away black to reveal myriad colors and designs.

I sat my old body down to appreciate the ease with which the young children danced, jumped, fell down, and bounced back up.

And then a young Ethiopian Spiderman, who couldn’t quite figure out which teacher I was, came closer and closer to stare through the eyeholes of my mask.  But I had sunglasses on, so all he could see was his own reflection.

Afterward, I went to thank the principal for inviting me to the party.  She was very appropriately dressed as Superwoman.  Outside her office was a teacher I hadn’t met before.  As I came closer, she mimicked horror at the creature I was.  “No, no” I said.  “I’m a beautiful butterfly, not a scary creature.”  Whether or not she understood my English, I don’t know.  But she embraced me with a wonderful, warm hug.

Israel’s just that kind of place you don’t know what to expect next.



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