A typical blessing that an oleh receives is “May you have a klitah kalah (an easy absorption).” While most of our time here in Israel has been amidst a nationwide lockdown, we certainly have had our fair share of adjustments.
Our first adjustment was to our new Israeli oven, which quickly became the bane of my existence. Israeli apartments typically have electric ovens that are nothing like the gas ovens I was used to back in New York. First, unlike typical gas ovens, they have two separate knobs – one knob that controls the temperature and another that ostensibly controls the various settings for the oven.
The only problem is that instead of indicating “bake,” “broil” or other recognizable functions, this second knob is surrounded by a confounding series of single or double straight, squiggly, or zigzagged lines.
Our first night in Israel, all I wanted to do was eat the homemade food provided to us by our community. However, try as I might, I could not get the oven to work. Lights turned on, fans whirled, but regardless of what setting I chose, the oven did not get hot. While I am no engineer, my husband is one, and even with the help of Google, he couldn’t get the oven to work. Thankfully, even cold, the shnitzel was delicious.
The next day, I reached out to a Modi’in mom who determined that we had somehow locked our oven. Thanks to her guidance, we located a picture of a key on an unnoticed part of the oven screen and, moments later, our oven was finally hot.
However, even then, I could not manage to figure out the different oven settings. Some dishes burnt to a crisp while the insides remained entirely raw. Others dishes simply refused to bake at all and remained a liquidy mush. I began to suspect that the reason Israelis fry so much of their food is that no one can figure out how to use their oven.
Finally, in desperation on erev Pesach, I video-called an Israeli friend. I flipped my screen to face the knob and demanded that she decipher the functions for me. While she could not actually explain the meanings of the pictures, she pointed out the function her mom uses (two squiggly lines and a picture of a fan). Apparently, it was the magic combination as, following her guidance, we now enjoy edible home-cooked food.
An adjustment I’ve readily embraced is finally having our own washing machine. Living for years in American apartments with either no laundry machine, or a shared laundry room, we had gotten used to planning our weekends around doing laundry. Here, my husband leisurely does at least one load a day (to be fair, the machines are small).
The one part that I have not totally come around to is the lack of dryers. Dryers are seen as an unnecessary luxury to most in Israel where there is warm weather most of the year and electricity is expensive. While I cringe at hanging my laundry in public, my son has quickly embraced it as a new game. He eagerly volunteers to play what amounts to a real life tetris game, figuring out how best to arrange the laundry to get all the clothing to properly hang on the lines.
Perhaps my most difficult adjustment has been to our “neighbors.” While our apartment was vacant before our move to Israel, a couple of stray cats took up residence on our front patio. When the cats first noticed us, they scattered quickly when they saw us looking in their direction.
However, one cat (whom my son has named Catcho) has determined that we do not pose a threat, and has settled into the cushioned patio chairs as his home. Even as we open the door to the patio to go outside, he eyes us for a moment or two before begrudgingly leaving.
Though not much of an animal person, we have learned to respect each other’s space. While outside, my family sits strictly on the non-cushioned seats and leaves Catcho’s cushioned home alone. Catcho, in turn, eats his meals in someone else’s yard and returns only once we are safely indoors. Good fences are said to make good neighbors, and I guess good patio furniture can do the same.
Looking back at the past two months, I am proud of the adjustments we’ve made and the successes we’ve achieved. As coronavirus restrictions begin to lift and “normal” Israeli life slowly begins to resume, I know we face much greater challenges in our absorption – apartment hunting, looking for new schools, and job searches, to name a few. But I am hopeful as always that in time we will unlock these achievements as well.
Maybe one day I will even understand how my oven really works.