Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Shalom Kita Aleph

You're off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!
-Dr. Seuss

It was only a few years ago that my oldest child began ‘kita aleph’ – or grade one, as we called it in the Old Country.

Kita is Hebrew for both ‘grade’ and ‘class’, and instead of numbers (one, two, three), in Israel, the grades are counted in letters (aleph, bet, gimel).
Entering kita aleph is a big deal here. In many schools, the little ones are welcomed in grandiose ceremonies organized by the bigger kids; the mayor makes a surprise visit to some school to say hello; and there are signs all over the country saying "Shalom, Kita Aleph!" 

The kids are excited - for a day or two at least - until they get tired of waking up early, of sitting, of standing, of getting dressed in clean clothes, of not being able to watch Sam the Fireman whenever they want. 

More traumatized, of course, are the parents. They know for a fact that it's all downhill after kindergarten. 

A few days before my oldest entered kita aleph, we were given a typed list of items that she needed for the first day of school. 
At the top of the list was the word kalmar (קלמר). 
I stared blankly at the page. At that point, I had been in Israel about 6 or 7 years; my Hebrew was passable, though not great, and I could generally navigate in most daily situations. 
But I had never seen the word kalmar before. Of course, I had never had a kid enter kita aleph before, and I myself had never been in kita aleph. I had been in grade one. And in grade one, we didn't have a kalmar

The kid's father didn't know what a kalmar was either. Apparently, engineers don't need kalmarim (pl) for their work. 
I looked in a dictionary but it wasn't listed. I was beginning to panic. Kita aleph was starting in a few days and already I was failing out. 

I finally discovered what it was by seeing an ad in the newspaper selling back-to-school items. 

Fast-forward a few years, and my grandson is starting kita aleph. I asked him, "do you have a kalmar?" 

The kid's kalmar has Sam the Fireman on it. 

I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the word in English. 

Lots of things are different this time around. 

My Hebrew is better and my English is worse. 

The teachers used to be older than me. Now they aren't. I went to pick up my grandson's school books before school started.  I had been at the Bar Mitzvah of the bearded teacher who was responsible for distributing the books. The beard had touches of grey in it.

Today, the kids all have phones. They are on the list of required school supplies, way before a kalmar. When my oldest began kita aleph, we barely had a phone in the house

These days, instead of meeting friends in the playground with a supply of bamba, we meet on Facebook, whatsapp, and, sometimes, the bathroom at work. I drink a lot more coffee. Sometimes, the coffee is even hot. 

There are also 7,285 different kinds of coffee available today in the HolyLand. 


It's a whole different world out there, a whole different country too. But that's ok, because I'm a whole different person. I'm no longer a person floundering in a strange place. Today, I'm a person with roots; with a past and a future in our Land. 

Shalom kita aleph
May you be blessed to learn so that you love your Heritage, your Land, and your People, in peace. 


yocheved golani said...

I used to wear a necklace of asimonim when I went to class, in case I needed to make a phone call. Remember those public phones? Orange blocks of confusion. Nobody knew where to place the asimon in a slot that always needed another asimon if you wanted to finish the sentence you'd started to say. Some days I felt like a Mama bird feeding her babies. More! MORE! Anyway, here's something to leave yo and your readers laughing more. Anita Renfrow nailed motherhood and school.

Unknown said...

Matt Polani said...

Love it!!!

Netivotgirl said...

As usual my dear Reesa, I laughed loudly at this wonderful blog!! PLEASE KEEP WRITING!! (BTW, I love your serious posts no less!)