יום חמישי, 28 בנובמבר 2013

Nilton Santos, my father and me

I should've written this in Portuguese. But chose English so that my non-Portuguese speaker friends would be able to grasp the feeling of soccer, the passion that moves this whole industry/circus that this sport became. Last night, I got the news that Nilton Santos passed away in Rio de Janeiro, my hometown. From 1948 to 1964, Nilton defended Botafogo de Futebol e Regatas (O Glorioso - The Glorious). He was a defender, a left back, o beque esquerdo. The news of his death reached me in my bedroom in Israel, while I was preparing to move to a new apartment. And there, a little bit squeezed in between boxes and suitcases, I remembered my childhood, the days of supporting Botafogo, the Sunday afternoons of seeing Botafogo led by Tulio and Goncalves playing and making all its way to be Brazilian champion in 1995.

But wait there... Everyone knows that I support Fluminense! Yeah, I do. I PROUDLY support Fluminense Football Club, my passion in three colors. But what few people know is that I only started to be this fanatic supporter I am today in 1998. Before that I "supported" America FC, under the influence of my step-father. And, after that, I was a Botafogo fan for a real short while in an attempt to please my father who's a real Botafogo supported. My mother and her Vasco da Gama were never ever in the picture. Every now and then, I catch myself singing:

Botafogo, Botafogo
Campeão desde 1910
És herói em cada jogo
Por isso que tu és
E hás de ser
Nosso imenso prazer

These days are long gone and I don't think I still have my Botafogo jersey anymore. Obviously, my Fluminense jersey is right here in my closet and I even arrived to Israel wearing it under the several layers of fabric to protect me from that cold night of Febraury. But even though Botafogo is still important in my life, not only because my father, four sisters and three nephews still support the club (all due to daddy's influence), rather because I love soccer and I acknowledge the importance this club has in the history of Brazilian soccer.

They had Heleno de Freitas, Garrincha, Nilton, Didi, Jairzinho... And how not to mention Jefferson and Loco Abreu? But they had Heleno, the one all the women died for. Had Garrincha, that some say were better than Pele... And also, they had Nilton Santos, the most elegant defender who has ever played. We can argue that'll be better players, but Nilton Santos was from a time when you had respect for other team's players. And it's so rare now. I've seen few examples of honoring the rival recently. I can put on my list the French players Igor Djorkaieff and Marcel Desailly. Unfortunately, I have more examples of very thin professional ethics, just like when, during 2002 World Cup, Mexican players kicked the ball off the field to simply beat up Coby Jones, an American player that as it seems they hated. It'd have never happened in a squad led by Nilton. He'd take the ball from you, never would he leave you lying dead on the field as Martin Taylor did to Eduardo Silva.

By experience I can tell the difference of watching a match full of violence and one in which things get solved nice, professionally inside the four lines. Good soccer is beautiful to watch, it doesn't (ok, there are exceptions) matter who plays. And yesterday watching YouTube videos from past World Cups and Brazilian Championship, I remembered why that's my favorite sport. It brought me back to memory the matches I went to, the Fluminense vs Botafogo match I went with my father, the extreme joy that is seeing your club to win the national championship or any championship, the days I myself was defender (it deserves another post). But above all I thought that I saw players like Junior, Thiago Silva, Cafu, Lothar Matthaus, Thorsten Frings and the first things it comes to my mind when I remember them it's the same thing that comes to my mind when I think about Nilton Santos: your will of winning that match is never greater than the respect owed to the rival player. Nilton Santos: We all learned so much from him....

יום שני, 17 ביוני 2013

The Giant is no longer asleep

I was born in a city that many foreigners consider "exotic". Sorry! Sorry for disappointing you, but the city where I was born, grew up and lived most of my life is a normal, chaotic metropolis just like any other. But I must tell you that you have never seen so much rain in your life before you have seen a summer storm there. You have never seen beautiful beaches before you have been there. This amazing city is Rio de Janeiro. And today I am writing to express all my pride not only of Rio, but also my pride of Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and all the other cities throughout Brazil that chose to protest against the country's status quo.

It's not about 0,20 of the bus fare. It's about expressing how the Brazilian people is tired of what's going on in the country for years now. It's about the extremely high taxes, the ridiculous corruption that reaches all the country and almost everything there, the poor quality of public education and health services. Yes, it started due to the raise of 0,20 in the bus fare, but its roots lie much, much deeper in the Brazilian society. I was born in a country where nothing changed. I grew up in a country where people didn't protest on the streets, didn't strongly demand anything from their politicians. But the reality changed. Our giant is no longer asleep.

The country I left behind to pursue my dream of living in Eretz Israel is a work in progress. I can't express my love for all that cities. Despite my love for the Land of Israel which G'd promised to my people, to my forefathers, I keep Brazil in a very dear place in my heart. There, in Rio, I lived the most beautiful moments of my life. In Niteroi (RJ), I lived the best years of my life as a college student. In Sao Paulo, I dreamed higher and I must confess that despite I was born in Rio, I do love Sao Paulo. I didn't hide my joy and happiness when I saw people occupying Cinelandia (if you think that I didn't support the Occupy movements, you don't know me). The same feeling I got just recently when I saw Avenida Paulista (SP) packed with protesters, when Avenida Rio Branco was full of people wearing white shirts and protests spanned all over this giant country.

I'm proud of the changes in the mentality of Brayilian mentality. I'm proud of all my friends and the thousands and thousands of people who are out there on the streets, facing the strong repression from the police. What will change? It change  the idea of the Brazilian population as a herd of calm, pacific sheep. It makes clear to the citizens themselves that whenever they get together, whenever they make their voices heard, things will certainly change. The protests show that the idea of the brazilian citizen as passive onlooker of the ridiculous political situation is gone.

It's been some years that Brazil is changing. Economically the country changed a lot. Socially also. What should we expect then? I strongly oppose to the violent protests, I totally don't agree with protesters who destroy public places and buildings. But let's be honest... Who doesn't know the extremely violent attitudes of the police in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro? Who doesn't know how cruel the police in SP can be? It IS. It HAS ALWAYS BEEN. But people who live there show that old days of passivity are gone. And I'm eager to see the next chapter of this amazing and historical event.

יום שלישי, 23 באפריל 2013

Correction on previous post

Just correcting the previous post: as well said by my friend Daniel Barenbein, Yom HaZikaron also honors the fallen combatants in all of the wars fought in Eretz Israel, including the period before we had a regular army. 

I stand for them

So far one of the happiest days in my life is Yom HaAztmaut (Israeli Independence Day). However, it's preceded by the saddest day in Israel's History: Yom HaZikaron (lit. Rememberance Day). That's when we remember all the soldiers and police officers killed from 1948 until our days. On this day, a siren is sounded and, if you live is Israel, you happen to get used to this sound. Sirens are there either to announce when Shabat starts or that rockets are flying over our heads. But this one is different and also quite polemic, as most of other things in this country are.

Some religious people, who are against the State of Israel due to many different reasons, do not stand when Yom HaZikaron siren sounds. They have their own reasons for their attitude. And I'll not discuss here why people take such an attitude. What I'd like to share with you is why I stand and why I cry for people that I didn't even know. I don't pretty much care about what other people don't do. I care about what I feel it's right to do.

I think about the bereaved families, about the lives taken from more than 23,000 people. And I praise and thank them for all they did in their duty to protect my country. But also I ask for their forgiveness, since we couldn't do enough to keep them alive. In a certain sense, I feel indebted to them. And I would like to ask for their forgiveness that their families had to suffer such a pain that NO family should be exposed to, so that I would live safely in Israel.My question is if we are worthy of living on their merits. I'm not asking if we would die for the country. What I ask is, in fact, a little bit more complex. Are we meritorious to exist in the land where these people lived, died and are buried? Honestly, I have no final answer, but I tell you that I live my life trying to be.

Whenever the siren sounds, I stop whatever I'm doing and give them kavod (honor). I stood for them, for all of them. I stand for the ones who were religious and for those who weren't. Because they stood for all of us, Haredi, Dati Leumi, Conservative or Secular. They didn't choose which of us they would protect. How can we think we should select who we should honor? I don't care if a fallen IDF soldier didn't keep Shabat or ate pork with shrimp while drinking milk-shake. As observant Jew, I obviously feel sad. But I acknowledge that they were human beings that must be respected as such, regardless any political or religious bias.

On this day, I remember people like Dov Indig, whose Letters to Thalia were a very sweet reading; Esther Cailingold, who made Alyiah alone in 1946; Michael Levin, just a couple years older than me who is a hero in my generation; Yoni Netanyahu, whom I admire beyond anything words could express; Roi Klein, who jumped on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. I don't understand how someone would not be proud of them, how someone wouldn't want to honor people like these. I ask myself who these people do honor. Since they are unable to show gratitude to someone who died making sure that their lives would be safe, I doubt if they would honor anyone to whom they owe much less than their own lives. But once again... I can only be responsible for the things I do. And, on Yom HaZikaron, I remember their life stories and visit the graves at Har Herzl (Jerusalem Military Graveyard), weep and share their amazing deeds. That's how I'm able to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut so much, because I know that I'm doing my best to make their effort worthwhile.

יום ראשון, 7 באפריל 2013

The horses that bring us down

Pessach is that time of the year that requires preparation. Hardly ever we get to the Leil haSeder 'empty-handed'. Even if you're not religious you can't escape to its atmosphere. The whole country gets prepared to the chag. The pre-Pessach period comes with cleaning, changes in cashrut, changing in eating habits (I'm afraid that, in Israel, this only applies to the ashkenazim)... It doesn't matter if you like it or not, your life is changed by Pessach much more than by any other Jewish holiday.

But what is this holiday all about? Is it just to make housewives into paranoid cleaners? Is it just about different kashrut concerns, selling chametz, and, of course, eating matza? Did we leave Egypt millenia ago so that in the 21st century would only be worried if the toothpaste is casher lepessach and when we'll start to eat on the Leil HaSeder? I refused to believe it was this way. It simply didn't enter my mind that it could be so. That's why, while I was crazy about cleaning my house, selling the chametz and at the Seder itself, I tried to get the most of these experiences. So I'd learn from them lessons that would be important for me after Pessach was gone. 

Cleaning was the first step. And while I was getting rid of my chametz, I could see all the things that I thought were so important to me and I wouldn't be able to use them during Pessach. All of a sudden all the liquors, perfume and cosmetics I cared so much about would be sold during the holiday and returned to me only after it. Despite the fact that the leavened products are in a different area inside your own house, it's not yours anymore. Someone else owns all that things that being so dear to you, you had no courage to get rid of and still want to keep them for after the chag. Because you know that, regardless the uncertainty of life, after Pessach you'll definitely be dying for your good scotch, your fine perfume, etc... You don't even know what will be of your life after that seven days, but you're sure you'll need these things so much that's better keeping them for later. Many people don't realize how serious mechirat chametz (the selling of all leavened products owned by a Jew to a non-Jew) is. But truth is that if the goy to whom your shaliach sold your chametz decides to finish the sale and demands his property, he can. And then... bye bye to everything you saved for 'later'.

In a certain sense, our whole lives are like this. We run so much after so many things that most of times we can't even profit them all in our lifetime. We are always trying to keep more for later, when we have no idea of what 'later' really means. We care so much about things, we think we can't live without them. And one day HaShem shows that He's in charge, everything turns upside down and we are left without any of the things we used to praise and be so proud of. And guess what? Life goes on! And if you learn how to look at it with the correct lenses it can be even better. I can't help thinking that the real reason why we sell chametz is to show us that Someone Else is real owner of everything. You are just the keeper, the tenant. And after you are gone you'll be replaced by another person who'll be as attached to this world just like you have been before them.

This is just one of the lessons I learned during this very special period. During this week I'll try to share more of my own Pessach insights. 

יום שלישי, 19 במרץ 2013

I live in Asia. When did it happen?

I live in the worl's largest and most populous continent. I live squeezed between the Mediterranean sea, i.e. Atlantic Ocean, and the Red Sea, i.e. Indian Ocean. I know that the mountains of Lebanon are up north and the desert of Sinai is down South, despite I can't go to any of them. People often ask me: "at miHodu? ("are you from India?"). I only smile and politely answer 'no'. I live not far from Africa, also not far from Europe. But even though I live far away from the places of my childhood, teens, and early adulthood, because I live in Asia. 
When did it happen? I don't know. All I do know is that life changed abruptly and hands down I must confess that bringing life back to normality is much more difficult. Crossing the stormy sea was much easier than sailing on calm waters. For the first situation, you'd need tons of courage, audacity and clarity of mind to see what anyone has seen before. For the later, you need so much experience, patience and cold blood that the minimum mistake might sour everything. But I'm learning to lead the boat easily and I tell you... It takes too much strength.
But I live in the Middle East. Things are so unreal here. I speak a language spoken by maximum 9 million people on the globe. I write from right to left, see camels and sheeps along the roads, olive trees all over. The desert reminds me of how small I am. And the sea comes to show me the immensity that lies before my feet. Despite I live in the heart of the world I feel stranded on a crazy dream named Israel. I live in Asia and I don't even know when it happen, because it feels so much like home, that it seems i have ever been here and all the time when I wasn't here I was just finding my way HOME.

Beginning the day SMOOTHLY

By now, if there's anything all my roommates have learned about lving with me is that mornings are extremely difficult to me. Since very young, coming out of bed is a nightmare. My roommates have experienced even TWO hours of "snooze" time. And I have suffered because of this: threatens of pillow attacks from a roommate who used to sleep on a bunk bed. And nothing worked to take me out of my dreams during the morning.

So now I'm trying to make this moment a little bit less... let's say... traumatic? Stretching, green tea and a good smoothie help life to come back to this human being. I tried cold coffee on some days. But since I'm not pretty much used to drinking coffee, the quick increase in the caffeine levels on my blood always caused a sensation close to drug abuse. I REALLY felt stoned for the whole morning. So better not trying...

The smoothies worked perfectly though. Mainly in this pre-Pessach time, when you want to get rid of all oats , whey germ and granola you were storing at your kitchen. (And, since I'm ashkenazi, I also got rid of all kitinyot). In all this there was still one problem. Smoothies are wonderful with real yogurt, but I'm intolerant to lactose (affff...), then I had to apply extra amount of creativity. But now my two fav recipes are totally dairy-free. First I mix mango juice, vanilla soy milk, bananas, oats, honey and (if budget allows) strawberries.  For the second mix i use my own chocolate rice milk -I'm a very DIY person, vanilla extract, dates and pears.

A full glass of a good smoothie, a cup of green tea and some pomegranate don't make me happily ever after on mornings, but help things fall back into place in such early hours.

יום שלישי, 26 בפברואר 2013

It's not about you... That's all about people around you

For a long time, whenever I asked people to describe me, they'd quickly say: "Oh girl, you're inteligent." As much as I felt flattered by it, it was also kind of hard hearing to this. Does it mean that all I was, was just being a walking encyclopedia? I started to worry about what kind of person I might be... feeling-wise, let's say. I got quite unsatisfied that people would get to know me and leave with the impression that I was not much more than someone with much knowledge, but few more than that.  Than I decided to add a little bit more of a heart to all this brain-powered human being.

But how should I start? I had no idea! What would/should I do? I had no idea, but I knew that something was missing in my life. Then the Operation Pillar of Defense started. My country was under attack. Living in Jerusalem, you get much less of the stress than the people who live down south and by the border. But even tthough your life is affected and I felt it to be even more affected when Jerusalem itself was attacked. 'Miss Hildebrandt, what could you do?' The only things I really know how to do are: teaching, cooking and baking. Well, I dediced that it had to be enough to start with. If the only thing I knew how to do to help out other people was baking, then this was what I would be doing.

And I cannnot explain here how thankful I am for my decision! I started a volunteer project in which on a weekly basis (unless I really cannot) I bake around 20 medium-sized challot. Nowadays my friends know that I have a very important appointment on Thursday evenings. I stay up until late night baking. 'Now what, Miss Hildebrandt'?, you'll ask. 'You and many other people bake on Thrusday evening for Shabat.' Yes, I know it. But the reason I bake is because on Friday morning I take all these chalot to the Lone Soldier Center, here in Jerusalem, and they're given out to soldiers from all over the world who are in Israel to serve in the army. Their whole time is dedicated to keep my country safe and running. So I dedicate some of my time to make them happy.

The Brayilian poet Paulo Leminski once wrote that "The pain always knocks on our doors, but it only hurts if it's ours." In my case, I needed two visits to bomb shelters to realise that I could do more for the soldiers than just praying for them. And I'm really extremely happy to let you know that last Friday I baked around 80 to 90 Hamantaschen, that were delivered on Friday at the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center. I really hope that the soldiers were at least half as happy by eating the Hamantaschen as I was by baking them.

By the way, do you already know the amazing lifestory of Michael Levin and the Lone Soldier Center that received his name? Not yet? Check it out on http://lonesoldiercenter.com/

יום חמישי, 14 בפברואר 2013

Shana Rishona Ba'aretz - the impressions of my first year in Israel

On Feb. 14, 2012, I was stuck somewhere at Charles de Gaulle Airport, waiting for my plane to Tel Aviv to take off. Right there... At the moment... That was when I really made Alyiah. I'm still going through all the bureacracy of what the State of Israel defines as Alyiah. But in a certain aspect I am an Olah, someone who went up to the Holy Land of Israel. To me the Exile is over. And I knew it even when I was sitting there, in Paris, looking at the men davening Maariv in an aisle, before they'd get into the airplane. In a very misterious way, I knew that the flight from Rio to Paris was just normal stuff, but the connection Paris-Tel Aviv would change my life forever. And it did!

I'm still pretty much the same person though. I mean... How can you be the same after leave your hometown to rebuild your life in a land that is at once geographically so far away and emotionally so close? Tough question? I don't think so. There are some parts of you that need the exact environment to develop. They may remain for years there, with you, on a stand-by mode. But they'll only unfold when you give them the right conditions for it to grow. And, in essence, I was always a weird sort of an Israeli. And that's why I could never fit any other place and I've always felt that something was missing.

I have had the merit to live enough to experience something that so many people before me couldn't and still many of my contemporaries still cannot afford (and by afford I don't mean financially, or not only... I mean being away from family, friends, from the places where you grew up). It's not easy being at Home while you are away from your house. It's Divine to live in Israel, not magical. I don't try to say that from the moment you land at Ben Gurion Airpor it will click for you that this is your place. Much more probably you'll be introduced to the very (un)kind Israelis Customs Office agents. It's still kind mind-boggling how I'm finally at my Eternal Home, but because life's not perfect and it's not a Disney movie either, I still don't have a steady address and my family name isn't on any door or mailbox.

I also quite don't understand what made me so meritorious as to be here, and to make it through to the challenge that is to settle and to dwell on the Land that G'd swore to give to Avraham, Ytschak and Yaakov. But I tell you... I'm getting the best of it. Usually when we live longer than your forebearers had the chance to, you may take two different attitudes. Either you get worried that your time might be over soon or you start to wonder how much more you could accomplish and start to dedicate them all the things you now have time and opportunity to do that your ancestors didn't have in their lifetime. I'm neither that old nor can I remember of having any relative who died that young. But in a certain aspect I lived to see and to experience that too many of them would be just a dream. A jewish state? A viable/ sustainable jewish state? Take your time machine, go back in time, tell that the Jewish people finally went back to there land and built a country that is a jewel of the Middle East... You'll be arrested! And it'll not be because of your time travel. People simply won't believe what you are telling them.

Israel makes you to understand what faith really means. Otherwise, how would someone leave everything behind to get settled in a country that is as small as the state of New Jersey/USA, surrounded by bewildered enemies and where the cost of living make its citizens protest and occupy the streets (yes, the "Occupy 'anywhere'" movement started in Tel Aviv), and where people speak a lot, write and read also a lot "on the other hand". How could you explain the settlers at Judea And Samaria? And all the people, that just like me, dream with the day when Eretz Israel and the State of Israel will be the same thing and we will no more be accused of occupying what is ours by right. It's an astonishing level of faith in the promise that G'd made to Avraham that He would give all this land to Avraham's seed.

And the land is amazing. What? Wait... Am I trying to say that a small tiny country, where the desert covers 60% of its surface, is a-m-a-z-i-n-g? Did I go nuts? It's exactly what I tell you. Israel blossoms in so many ways that it's even unfair to say that the most impressive thing in this country is that we can produce food at the Negev desert (not to mention the incredible goods that were once produced in our settlements in Gaza).When Technion, up there in Haifa, produces high level technology, isn't it that Israel is blooming? When we rebuild our houses in Judea and Samaria, isn't it thriving? When Sderot endures even under constant rocket attack, isn't it that Israel is blooming? It involves a lot of hard work, struggle and personal strength to "exist" in this country. But we have a Higher Iron Dome and a another Rosh HaMemshalah bashamaim, that makes sure that everything down here goes smoothly crazy.  Israel is a reality that we have to build everyday. It's a country permanently under construction, that changes and moves forward. And it's simply wonderful to have the chance to be a part of it. Well, now you know how I feel after one year living in the LAND OF ISRAEL.

With His Help, next week: a little bit more about my chessed project (how do you translate "chessed project"? let's call it volunteer project). And all the story behind it. Stay tuned for more Israeli vibe.