Thursday, April 10, 2008


July 2002

Today, at long last, I visited Rivka, my audiologist to receive my hearing aid. Did you know that hearing aids are actually programmed to match an individual’s hearing loss? It was news to me as well. Anyway, this takes a few minutes, and requires concentration, so I sat quietly in her office as she worked. As I waited, I found my attention drawn by a poster put out by one of the companies that manufactures hearing aids. The poster was comprised of pictures of happy people of all ages, engaged in a variety of activities, interspersed with pictures of hearing aids. Do not ask me how I knew, but I could tell that all of the people were American. It is hard to explain; there was just something so clean and wholesome about the people and the photo backgrounds that it was really self-evident.

For the first time, I found myself a bit homesick and longing for the good ol’ US of A. To be in a big country, far from enemies. I could live in the middle of the States, in Chicago, far from all borders, and not have that feeling that someone was going to attack me. If the US were invaded, it would take the invaders some time to get to Chicago, and the US would surely defeat them before they got too far. The only one with half a chance to get close would be Canada, and while they hold us in some disdain, I do not perceive them as being too much of an actual threat. I could go to the mall without anyone checking my bag and ride public transportation without checking every face (even those of the children) for a suspicious look. Just to relax, just a little. It would be so easy.

I sat in her office, and looked at all those nice faces, those happy, smiling, open faces of people who doubtless all lived in nice houses in the suburbs or perhaps even in small, friendly towns out in the Midwest…and I missed the security. I missed the feeling of feeling safe. Even after September 11th, you surely cannot know what it is like to live here. There I sat, a young-ish woman getting a hearing aid because my eardrums are shot to hell and my teeth hurt because my nerves are regenerating and my right eye gets tired and cuts out at about 9:30 every night and my body is covered with ugly scars and I am trying to get back to work but it is tough with all of the appointments and the paperwork and I want to find a job at a bigger firm and move up a bit and develop an actual career here but maybe I should stay put until the economy improves and who knows when that will be and the exchange rate has gone to hell in a hand basket and so my rent has gone up a couple hundred shekels already and after missing so much work because of the bombing who knows when I will be up for a raise again and I hope I can find another job in January and move to Tel Aviv but hey, man makes plans and God laughs and maybe I will be bombed again and so it really is not a good thing to plan too much.

I am stressed and I am tired and for the first time in my life, I really have a bit of a clue as to what foreigners perceive when they look at America and Americans. Here I am already so tired and dreaming of security and idealizing life in the United States…and I have only just started living in Israel. I am still two weeks shy of a year here.

Rivka finished programming the hearing aid. “Okay, let me show you how to use it”. I tore my eyes away from the poster, listened carefully to the instructions, booked a follow-up appointment and stuck the hearing aid in my bag and went to my home, in Jerusalem, in Israel.

I chose this home, with all that it entails. I do not regret it, but sometimes I wish that it, or I, could just all go away for a while.

First, a caveat…. This piece is historical; it was written in July 2002. As of today:
1) My hearing is better, but still not great. I also look completely normal. I see my scars, but you would not.
2) I have a good job at one of the big accounting firms
3) The job comes complete with a very respectable salary
4) The economy is (tfu tfu tfu) doing well
5) I live in Tel Aviv

Of course, each step to this point was laced with panic…but that is another story, or at least a separate post.

Second, this seems to be a good point to give a public thank-you to my bosses of that time, Zvi Marsh and Shea Klein, who not only held my job for me, but who continued to give me raises on schedule, without any consideration to the fact that I was barely in the office for four months. May G-d be as kind to you as you were kind to me.


treppenwitz said...

"I could live in the middle of the States, in Chicago, far from all borders, and not have that feeling that someone was going to attack me."

Your dismissing Canada as a threat might be a bit short-sighted. Canada has proven to be fairly easy for terrorist to get in and out of, and the US Canadian border is porous, to say the least. Chicago, IMHO is far more at risk for a mega-attack than the coasts.

But that is arguing over how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin. The truth is (as you well know) that nothing can prevent a well-planned terror attack against a free society.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Watch the TV series JERICHO... you will never feel safe again....

Seriously, it's an excellent series. But you have to watch it from the beginning.

Ahuva said...

I remember being in Jerusalem and feeling so incredibly safe because there were soldiers literally on every corner (this was near the old city around 2002) and they searched my purse everywhere. I remember a guard at a restaurant who was keeping an eye on this one woman because (I think) her high heels could have been used as a weapon. I remember leaving the guy I was with standing outside while I went into a dress shop. He was really happy that a soldier came up to him and asked him questions about why he was standing around on the sidewalk holding boxes. We both went back to the States raving about the wonderful Israeli security.

I guess my point is that maybe every society feels safe if you don't know better... and maybe no place feels really safe once you do.

Batya said...

I'm glad you're still here.

In recent years, there are American soldiers in combat fatigues in Penn Station, NYC. Ironically, or typically male/American, whatever, they're in jungle camoflauge (spelling?), which makes them stand out, like...

the dame said...

I don't think most Americans can begin to understand what people endure in many other countries. No matter how one might argue the susceptibility of a free society to terrorism - it simply isn't the same.

I am an American. First generation, but still - I have lived here my entire life. In the days after 9/11, one thing that struck me was that - in addition to the fear - people were so uniformly shocked and indignant. My generation has never known an attack on American soil of that magnitude. The idea that it was possible had never truly occurred to them.

I am, as always, impressed by how insightful you are. To sit there feeling that sense of missing the security (and a higher level of security here IS very real in part because there is simply so much ground to cover. Even aside from what security measures exist - statistically your chances are better in an enormous world power with such a huge population and so much land. Like you said - if an invading force starts at the coast, you'd have plenty of warning in Chicago.) and then to be able, in that moment, to sit back and realize what you are feeling - and have sudden insight into the way people who have lived their entire life with this threat must see the U.S.

I've never seen it illustrated more simply.

kleine Maus said...

I intend to read Blood and Rage-A Cultural History of Terrorism written by Michael Burleigh

vedaal said...

a 'security' note from Japan

here is an interesting Japanese technique for protection against stalking:

vedaal said...


url got cut off, ;-((

here it is again, this time on three lines:

just copy them into the browser without any spaces between them

marshymallow said...

I've never had to deal with that insecurity personally, only second hand. Many of my relatives and close friends have been in the military. It's odd staying back stateside, and complaining about cafeteria food with them, all the while knowing that when you go back to class they're going back to a warzone. Thanks for letting me see it from your perspective.

Baila said...

Living in NY, after 9/11 we were all very afraid. The fear has since receded, but that day was the impetus (sp?) for many people to move to Israel.

If I'm going to wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop, I may as well do it here (in Israel) than anywhere else.

That being said, many of us living and loving it here still have pangs of homesickness for our former lives. How could we not? The USA is great place to live--its just not our place...

Maryam said...

You are so funny...I loved the Chicago bit. Quite a few people seem to take you very literally here.

PS So glad about your scars. So glad.

PPS I want to link you on my blog but haven't because I am always touched by your humor but then think you might be offended if I labeled you under funny blogs. I know your blog is much more than just funny. But it is your humor for me that throws all your other sadnesses and truths into high relief.

Anonymous said...

I feel the same as're one of the funniest people I've found on teh intarwebs (TM), but at the same time it'd obviously be wrong to describe this as a 'funny' site.

If I had to describe you I'd have to use words that you'd probably object to, such as 'courageous'.

But with you being a complete self-effacing pain in the ass though, I'll have to drop the compliments and just tell you that although being an only child has its advantages, if I had a choice I'd have a sister and she'd be just like you.

God bless you, hun.

Rob F (Forgot my Google password. Again. Sorry!)

kleine Maus said...



Wol gauris tink ik yn in dream oan letter:
hoe sil it komme, hoe sil't mei my gean?
Rêd ik it op? Wurdt alles krekt wat better?
Krij'k lang om let noch myn fertsjinne lean?

Dan stoarje'k dreamend oer it wide wetter
en geandewei sjoch'k dêr in wrâld ûntstean,
dêr't ik my as apartling en ketter
net mear te klaaien hoech yn kâlde klean.

'k Sjoch yn de fiere fraaie fiergesichten,
in greate leechte yn my rint wer fol,
myn djippe delten wurde hege hichten.

Want ik betink: miskien wurdt dit myn rol?
Ik langje nei dat eilân sûnder plichten,
dêr mei ik wêze wa't ik wêze wol.

Eize de Boer

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

I love this post. I think the questions about whether Chicago is or isn't within range of a terror attack are academic. In general, Americans live with a much bigger safety net--economic, geographic--than Israelis.

The months after September 11 were an exception. People were, rightfully in my opinion, shaken to the core and felt really vulnerable.

But with the exception of those of us who lived in NY and DC, that vulnerability was totally vicarious. I went to a conference on biological weapons in New Mexico maybe 6 months after 9/11, and I remember someone saying to me, "We are so vulnerable here on Indian reservations because any potential terrorist KNOWS that our health care system is worse than the rest of the country, and so we would be a perfect place to attack."

Uh, yeah, whatever. I'm sure the weakness of the Reservation health care system is high on the threat mapping charts in the camps of Afghanistan.

The point in my rambling here is just to say that the vulnerability is so much more immediate and personal here in Israel, and the pics of smiling families in large houses must have been a sharp reminder of that difference.

Mia said...

Coincidentally, I noticed quite a few ads for hearing aids in the weekend papers. One of the ads that caught my eye, had a traditional old timey familiy sitting around a large table. "Want to hear at the Seder?" (or "Want to hear all right?" same wording) and I wondered if you were going to write something about hearing aids, since you mentioned them in one of your pervious posts.
Anyway, when I first came here I felt very insecure, I kept thinking enemies (I didn't know the term terrorists then) were going to come out of somewhere and shoot at us or capture us or something. This was after growing up in Texas and not being left unattended by an adult until I was 14. And probably because of hearing all of the courage and honor stories we heard about Israel.
Then about a year later I was given an Uzi and an M15, and I felt much safer.