Living in Israel has been a constant learning experience. It seems that whenever I start to feel that we’ve settled in our new home, something shifts just slightly that reminds me that our family has not yet earned olim vatikim (“established olim”) status and there is still much for us to learn.
And more often than not, it seems that we need to learn the hard way.
For example, we thought we had mastered the Israeli heat. We have been strict to ensure that everyone always wears a hat and applies sunscreen before leaving the house. I also pack bottles of ice water for each member of the family and bring along shlushim (slurpy ices) for the kids to savor while we walk. And of course, we keep our home well air conditioned for a quick cool down after our time outside.
But then the heat wave arrived. To be fair, even for native-born Israelis, the heat last week was unusually high. For the first time in recorded history, Israel experienced six straight days with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Walking outside, you literally felt your skin roasting in the sun.
The heat was so bad that despite the concerns for coronavirus exposure, the Health Ministry lifted the requirement to wear masks in schools and public domains. Other than walking my son to and from school, I essentially kept strictly indoors with the air conditioning blasting.
The only problem was that everyone else in Modi’in was doing the same thing. With about two hours until Shabbos, we were finishing up our Shabbos preparations. My son and I were sponga-ing the floor while the last of our food was trying valiantly to cook in the oven. (Side note: Thanks to all my Israeli readers who reached out with advice on how to properly use my oven. Keep the feedback coming; I know I have much to learn!)
And then, suddenly, our lights shut off and we heard the fans of our air conditioning slowing down and then stopping. We stood there for a moment unsure of what was happening. Then, all too soon, it became clear. The power was out.
At first, we assumed that we had blown a fuse with all the electric items we had going. I ran across the hall to our neighbors to see if they still had power or could otherwise help us figure out how to turn ours back on. But even as I stood knocking at their door, my Modi’in WhatsApp groups began buzzing with alerts. Apparently, the power outage was not limited to our apartment – or even our neighborhood. It spanned across several neighborhoods in Modi’in.
Neighbors congregated in the building hallway to commiserate. Apparently, like cats on patios, power outages are a common part of life here in Israel – especially in the summer. It was an inconvenience for my neighbors – but one they were all prepared for. They had backup battery-powered lights as well as battery-powered fans.
They had contacts in various neighborhoods from whom they could borrow working ovens to finish cooking their food. They knew which way their light switches needed to be turned so that when the electricity resumed, they wouldn’t be stuck with bedroom lights on or bathroom lights off. In short, they were prepared. We, on the other hand, were not.
Our neighbors were quick to help us. They offered us food for Shabbos (invites are still not allowed here in Israel) and an extra battery-powered light. They also reassured us that the electricity would inevitably return. It would just take a bit of savlanut – every Israeli’s favorite word for the never-ending patience that is needed to make it here in Israel.
As I stood there in the hallway, still reeling from the circumstances, the electricity, thank G-d, turned back on. We may have only been without cool air for half an hour, but it was long enough to teach me my newest lesson for living in Israel: Always be prepared to lose electricity.
In addition to a long list of delectable dairy Shavuos treats, my shopping list this week is filled with non-perishable and odd hardware items. I am determined that when I’m through shopping, I will be wholly prepared for whatever unexpected events may come my way next or – at the very least – for the next blackout. In the meantime, one more lesson learned. Countless more, I’m sure, to go.