Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Swearing in the Rain

Raindrops keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red
Crying's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining
-Burt Bacharach / Hal David 

...grant us abundant water.
For You Lord, our God, are Causer of the wind to blow and of the rain to fall
For a blessing and not for a curse. Amen
For life and not for death. Amen
For plenty and not for scarcity. 
-Jewish prayer for rain

For as long as I can remember, I have been a staunch and unwavering Zionist. I firmly believe in the Jewish right of self-determination, to settle, develop, and protect the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel.

Growing up, my heroes were Theodore Herzl and David Ben-Gurion. 
And, of course, Ari Ben-Canaan. In fact, in was Ari who convinced me to make my life in Israel, and live among heroes. 

I've remained a Zionist throughout all the wars and terrorist attacks, and despite the filthy politics, the overcrowded hospitals, and the packed buses. 
I've been undeterred by the rudeness of government clerks, by the difficulties in language, or by noisy neighbors. 
Strikes, double parking, talking in movie theatres, and watching shoppers squeeze challah and open the cottage cheese container to sniff its freshness before purchasing has not shaken my support or made me regret my decision to raise my children in the Holy Land. 

The other day, my Israeli-born and raised daughter burst out of her room (quite a rare occurrence in itself) shouting 'it's raining!!', shoved shoes on her feet, a mask over her face, and ran outside, where she stood, face up, reveling in the coolness and novelty of rain in the desert. 

And this is where my Zionism comes crashing down. 

I hate rain. 

As a youngster in the Old Country, I experienced a lot of rain. It didn't really bother me then. Having wet hair freeze was a far bigger and more common problem then just having wet hair. 

That changed when I came to Israel. In my first winter as a volunteer on a kibbutz, I worked primarily outside. I don't remember the rain - lots of sun and wind, but not much rain. I guess I was still too thankful there was no snow to hate the rain. 
My, shall we say, distaste for rain seems to have begun when I was in University, in the center of the country. There, I remember, it rained a lot. 
Quite a lot. 
I think there was a full week where I didn't attend any classes at all because it was raining. Nobody expected me to go out in the rain, did they?  In the wet?? My shoes would get soggy. Luckily for me, my classmates did not hold by the same philosophy and would bemusedly hand over notes for lectures I missed (in exchange for either coffee or a bed to nap in for those who didn't live on campus). 

My roommates were not very happy I didn't take my turn to clean our dorm room because "it's raining!!! How can anyone wash the floor when it was raining? That's preposterous!!" 
I was serious then, though when I say it out loud today, I am beginning to understand their annoyance....

One time, one miserable rainy evening, I had to meet a friend in a place I was unfamiliar with. This was, obviously, long before cell phones and whatsapp, and sending 'locations'.  The bus driver left me in the middle of nowhere with vague directions ('it's over there' and waved his hand), and off I went in search of the right address. 

It was pouring. 
Coming down in buckets.
Raining the proverbial cats and dogs. 
Arks were sailing by. 
And I was walking alone in an unfamiliar area looking for a house that did not exist. 
Did I mention it was nighttime? and there were no streetlights. 

I wandered for about an hour looking for the house. I even knocked on doors asking for directions. Nobody knew anything. People did feel sorry for me and told me to go home. But I persevered. 
For naught. 
I never found the house.
It was then that my life-long aversion to rain was cemented firmly in place.  

But with this aversion comes immense guilt. 

Jewish prayers are filled with requests for rain because our Land is dependent on it. 
If rain doesn't fall in a timely manner, our rabbis will decree three fasts to pray for rain, and if it still doesn't fall, three more fasts. A drought is widely regarded as punishment for actions (or lack of actions).
We have little natural water supplies; a small lake or two, a few underwater aquifers, all of which are reliant on rainfall to be replenished. 
A popular national winter pastime is watching the level of the Kinneret rise (or fall). 
Israeli technology has made enormous strides in water usage, in desalination, in the treatment of brackish or grey water. Our knowhow is used around the world, battling desertification, water shortages, and agricultural challenges. We have deep respect for water sources - all of which are dependent on rainfall. In Israel, rain is, in essence, a matter of life or death. 
One can hardly be a passionate Zionist and, at the same time, dislike rain. 

I dislike rain. 

If I'm at work and it begins to rain, I frantically think of the laundry I left outside to dry now getting soaked and I will have to rewash it. If I'm at home, I have to GO OUTSIDE in the rain to bring in the laundry before it gets soaked and I have to rewash it. If I don't have any laundry drying then I think how I can't do laundry now until the rain stops. And why don't I simply use the dryer, you ask? Because it's raining. Don't bother me with your foolishness while it's raining.  

I think of the broom I left outside getting all wet. I imagine to myself that I will bring it into the house, forget it's wet, and try to sweep the living room where the grandkids ate cookies. I will get mud and leaves all over the floor. I imagine how much I will swear. I leave the broom outside to get wet. 
I swear anyway. 

I think of elderly people who are outside getting wet and I think of our holy soldiers standing in the rain guarding our Nation and our Land. Tears well up.  
I think of the feral cats and the homeless dogs who are searching for shelter and hope they aren't trying to get into my house. 
I think of the window I left open to air out the bedroom and dash to close it and find out it's too late. 
I think of all the chores that need to get done both inside and outside that aren't going to get done because it's raining for heaven sakes!!!
I think of new swear words. 

I feel treasonous, hypocritical, a traitor to the cause.
I tell myself that I will go and plant a tree to prove that I'm a good Zionist. 

It rains, my daughter skips happily along, splashing in puddles, face upturned, while I stay inside using up all my swear words and very glad that I live in a desert. 
Of course, I'm going to have to go out and plant a whole forest of trees to make up for this. 
But after it rains. 



David J. said...

This is why I never visit in December...

Batya said...

It would be a lie to say that I love the rain, but living here in Israel I've learned to treasure it, every drop of water. Now at my advanced, eeks, age I can't handle cold. I've even worn waterproof hiking boots to a wedding. I must stay warm and dry, to my feet, with gloves on and a scarf around my neck.
Remember that the sun is out, even when hidden by rain clouds and lightening.

rutimizrachi said...

I treasure your sense of humor, your honesty, your humility. Thank you for writing wonderful prose!