I marvel at certain times at the utter Israeliness of my four kids, all Jerusalem born.
I marvel at the self-assurance and naturalness of their Jewishness. The way they don’t feel the need to apologize or explain, as I – Diaspora born and raised – often did.
I marvel at their ability to stand up for themselves. The way they can shout back at a shopkeeper – or tell off a bus driver – almost instinctively, without blinking an eye.
I marvel at, but am nevertheless concerned by, their fearlessness. The way they are willing to travel all over the country, and the world, with confidence and without fear of terror or anything else.
My daughter is currently tooling around in Georgia – the country, not the Coca-Cola capital – but after the recent attack in Bulgaria, her grandfather understandably questioned the wisdom of her travel itinerary.
My response: You can’t expect the kids to live their lives afraid to go anywhere. The next day the atrocity in Colorado took place, not that far from where my parents raised me.
Point tragically made.
I marvel at my kid’s friendships, and how they lend things to one another without blinking an eye.
“Nice shirt,” I said to my youngest the other day. “Where’d you get it.”
“It’s Uri’s, I borrowed it,” he said.
“Nice shorts,” I followed, feeling charitable.
“Do you need money for clothes,” I asked, wondering why he was pillaging his friend’s closet. “What’s Uri wearing?”
I don’t remember as a kid being so free with my possessions. I had a good buddy, let’s call him Ronnie Kleiner, whose behavior set the tone early on for my circle of friends’ idea of sharing.
Wherever we would go – to a movie, the golf course, on a double date – he would bring three pieces of sucking candy: two for him and one for me. And that was the extent of what my friends and I lent each other. We didn’t enjoy that level of friendship whereby my pants were his, or his shirt was mine. Had I ever lent him anything of value, I would have asked him first to sign a contract. That’s just the way we were – and I liked Ronnie.
This level of friendship has also given birth to what my kids call kombinot (combinations), another term for what was known when I arrived here long ago as protexia. That’s right, protexia, the mythical and legendary “Vitamin P” that most immigrants sorely lack when they arrive. Protexia – that informal network of friends scatted throughout the land able to help when needed: an uncle in the National Insurance Institute, an army buddy at Hadassah Hospital, a neighbor’s kid working at vehicle registration.
I’ve been here 30 years, have met a few folks during that period, but really still don’t know how – or am entirely comfortable with – leveraging protexia.
My kids, however, have no such compunctions. My 16- and 18-year-old boys have more kombinot then I could dream of. And it helps them weather the summer months, a tough time for teenagers looking for things to do – too old for day camp, too young for a serious job.
I remember as a teen that there were two ways to bag a summer job – either apply for it out of the blue, meaning forget it, or get your parents to find you something.
But my kids are different. They too already realized that if they apply for a job without protexia they probably won’t get it, and they also know I won’t be landing them any positions at The Jerusalem Post. So they opted for a third way – kombinot. It worked.
Skippy has been working almost throughout this summer vacation, all through kombinot. His friend knows another friend who has an uncle who needs some kids to sell food at a job fair.
Another friend has a neighbor building a new house who needs someone to sleep over and guard the work tools. An ex-teacher needs bodies to help him move houses. A classmate’s father needs help picking produce on a moshav. It’s all kombinot, so much now that he is sending overflow jobs to his younger brother. My son, the kombinot dispatcher.
But it is not all work. I recently also marveled at how the boys chose to spend their summer free time. At the beginning of the summer their Bnei Akiva chapter organized a weeklong, sleepover camp in our neighborhood for Ilan, the Israeli Foundation for Handicapped Children that assists physically impaired kids suffering from a variety of neuromuscular disorders.
For seven days my two teenage boys – whom I can’t even get to make their beds – were, together with their friends, totally responsible for some 30 severely handicapped teenagers. They entertained them, sang with them, laughed with them, fed them, bathed them and even took them to the restroom.
For a week they created a camp that included everything from going to Superland to flying over the country in small planes – all with money they themselves raised during the year by singing on the Ben Yehuda mall.
I never did anything like that as a kid; I was too busy sucking on the single piece of candy Ronnie Kleiner gave me at the golf course. So I was impressed both by their dedication and their ability to pull this all off.
Granted, it wasn’t 100 percent altruism – they were hanging out with their friends around the clock and having a good time as well. But what impressed me was the way they chose to have a good time: sleeping a week on the floor at a neighborhood school, and working like dogs to show the Ilan charges a good time.
My youngest son brought home for Shabbat lunch the boy for whom he was responsible. There we were – the family; my son’s friend, a child of Ethiopian immigrants, who partnered with my boy to help the Ilan kid; and the Ilan kid himself, an Arab teenager from the Western Galilee – all of us sitting around the table eating cholent. Not exactly – we ate cholent, while the Ilan lad sufficed with rice and halla.
Surveying the scene, I could only think – rather annoyed – about those who call us Apartheid Israel. Oh, and all this transpired in the Ma’aleh Adumim “settlement.”
When I mentioned my irritated thoughts later in the day to the boys, they just shrugged unfazed, and went on doing what they were doing – their “couldn’t care less” attitude giving me yet another reason to marvel.