It was only a matter of time, inyan shel zman, until the summer vacation - hahofesh hagadol - came around and with it complaints by parents of the onesh hagadol (literally, the big punishment, but perhaps best translated as the long breakdown).
I'm looking forward to taking a break and being with my son without worrying so much about what time he needs to go to sleep or get up in the morning. Nonetheless, two months are a very long time for working parents when only the kids have time on their hands. And summertime living might be easy, but it's not free. This is the time of year to appreciate why the Hebrew differentiates between hofshi (free) from the word freedom and hinam in the sense of free of charge (hinam ein kesef).
Most Israeli parents rely on summer camp (kaytana) to amuse their younger offspring for at least some of the l-o-n-g vacation. There are summer camps based on almost every theme - from aviation to zoology - they all offer a great experience and a free T-shirt (hultza hinam). All you have to do is hand over close to NIS 2,000 and the shirt, which will be too small before the summer is out, can grace your child and laundry box on alternate days.
We all have our childhood memories - zichronot yaldut - and many of the best ones come from the long summer days. Summer nights - "leylot hakayitz" - is a concept in its own right.
Israeli kids have certain advantages compared to the children where I grew up in London where, as someone once put it, you save for a rainy day and it usually arrives during your vacation.
Apart from the sunshine (shemesh), Israelis can also take the sea (yam) for granted. With the Mediterranean (hayam hatichon) never too far away (unless you're in the far South and closer to the Red Sea - yam suf), you can always find a beach (hof) to visit. Finding space on the beach, of course, is a different matter. And a word of advice to tourists and newcomers: Stick to authorized beaches (hofim muchrazim), they might be more crowded but they are safer.
Yediot Aharonot recently reported that Netanya, once the preserve of English-speakers, now has so many French-speaking residents and tourists that the lifeguards (matzilim) have been given a course in the language. It is being likened to the Riviera - with matkot, that special Israeli game of beach paddles which creates a thwacking sound as much a part of the beach experience as the sound of the waves (galim).
I spent many childhood summers on French beaches on what we called "bucket-and-spade" holidays. Those were the innocent days before we knew how dangerous it was to sunbathe (lehishtazef) - or as it is known around here, to do beten-gav (stomach-back). Now we put on sunscreen (krem hagana) and worry about skin cancer and Vitamin D levels (but, relax, you're on vacation).
At the beach, you might be able to stay out of the sun and out of the water, but I bet you can't keep the sand (hol) out of your bags. It's as futile as trying to build a sand castle (armon hol) that won't be destroyed by the tide (ge'ut).
Still, that's part and parcel of seaside package deals (havilot nofesh). As one wag put it, "The alternative to a vacation is to stay home and tip every third person you see."
We all need to take a bit of time off to recharge our batteries - even if it entails a lot of work before and afterward. Just as there are no free meals (ein aruhot hinam), you know you will always pay for a vacation. And as I have pointed out before, the meaning of the words "time" and "free" changes during holidays. Many events advertise "free entrance" (knisa hofshit) knowing it's might not cost people to get in, but no one is going to get out without spending money as well as time.
All summer activities in Israel come with the recommendation "Bring a hat (kova), water (mayim) and a good mood (matzav ruah tov)." The last component is not to be underestimated. Set off in a good mood and providence and cognitive dissonance will take care of the rest - or in the words of Naomi Shemer: "Hakol, hakol, ani yachol ki zeh hahofesh hagadol" - "I can do anything because it's the summer vacation."