The day before the official start of Passover, I jokingly posted on my Facebook status update, “For the first time in my life, I actually feel semi-comfortable saying the phrase ‘Chag Sameach.” Ha. Ha.
Those were the days. Back when I had the long holiday (extended even longer for families with school children) to look forward to. Short day trips, or tiyulim as we call them here, were on the agenda. I was energized and simply grateful that all of us were healthy enough (finally!) to get in the car and drive to the beach or the Dead Sea or the Upper Galilee.
But similar to how any American parent feels on the first weekday of the New Year, I was practically pushing my kids out the door this morning, their first day back at school after almost three weeks at home; focused mostly on my middle guy, who is the most school resistant right now. I did everything I could to make sure he would go without desperately clinging to my leg and screaming, “No!!!!” at the top of his lungs.
“You want to wear your fancy Purim crown to school? Sure! Why not. Go ahead.”
“You want your toast cut up in one inch squares this morning. No problem.”
“You want to brush your teeth with chocolate spread? Can’t hurt too much.”
My face looked chipper and bright, but inside I was holding my breath, squeezing my innards, and praying.
“Please just go to school. Please. Just. Go. To. School.”
In the weeks before Passover break, I talked to people about their vacation plans. One friend sent her oldest daughter back to the States for two weeks. Another family went back to England for the entire time. A few others rented out their homes on Hannaton or swapped with families for apartments in the city. Considering this was our first long break since making Aliyah, and also considering the new job I’ve recently started, I thought we’d have plenty to do, see, and enjoy without scheduling an actual vacation. Particularly since we live in the North, and people actually pay good money to vacation here.
And, boy, did we have plenty to do and see…but I can’t say we enjoyed it as much as I had hoped.
My husband and I sure did try. We put on our Griswald family smiles and pumped the kids up each time we got in our tiny Ford Focus. But inevitably, each car ride was a precursor to poked eyes, pulled hair, or crying. No one cared about the farm animals I pointed to out the windows; or the beautiful lush scenery on the drive up towards Kiryat Shemona; or the ruins; or the dramatic cliffs above the Kinneret. Our road trip saving grace is the DVD player, which makes me sad, frustrated, and enormously relieved all at the same time.
It wasn’t all bad, not at all. We lucked out with a gorgeous beach day with friends in Netanya. We made our own matzah over a bonfire like good wandering Jews. We happened upon the craziest playground ever which kept all three of my kids active and engaged in something other than pinching each other. While the kids napped in the back seat, my husband and I managed to have a few conversations with no interruptions. And, best of all, we saw a lot of the Northern part of the country during the time of year when it’s at its peak of magnificence.
And while today I am praying for my kids’ healthy and easy return to school, I know that once I get caught up in the routine of work, I’ll soon be longing for vacation again.
Lucky for us, I won’t have long to wait.
As my friend said to me yesterday on the playground when I asked “Do things return to normal now that we are ‘achrei hachagim?’”
“What are you talking about?” he responded. “We’re nowhere near finished. Next, we have Yom Hazikaron, Yom Hatzmaut, Lag BaOmer. The elementary-aged kids have stopped learning anything in school by now. It’s practically summer here.”
Multiply our Passover break times five and add about 25 degrees Farenheit and you’ve got Israeli summer.
Perhaps, Passover is a gentle ease-in for new olim…and initiation and a wake up call.
Wake up. Figure out the summer camp situation here. Maher. Maher. (Quickly!)
Jen Maidenberg is is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/. She originally posted this column on her blog on Jan. 28, 20111.