Ever since Ruth Gledhill of the Times posted a blog on Richard Dawkins and his best-selling book which denies the existence of God http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2006/10/creating_a_stir.html, coinciding with the time at the end of the festival of Succot, when people in synagogues all over the world pray for rain http://www.ou.org/chagim/shmini-simchat/geshem.htm - it just hasn't stopped here in Haifa, usually in-between bouts of sunshine so warm that you can actually pop down to the sea and go swimming (if you are lucky).
And by rain, I mean rain, not drizzle, not bits and bobs, not dull, but furious. I can safely say that I have not know a month like it, not in Manchester, not never, not nowhere. The thunder and lightening just spark into your flat, shaking its walls and hammering on the roof of the computer room, which is probably inadequate by British standards, leading you remind yourself that this is Mount Carmel, where Elijah showed the prophets of Baal a thing or two http://www.padfield.com/2000/elijah.html and not the north of England.
Funnily enough, they don't tell you about these rains when you are planning to make aliyah. In fact, they are hutzpadik enough to cite the sun and warmth as reasons for coming - not that they were for me - I actually preferred English weather, but this is something else.
Coupled with the rain is the cold - I was advised not to bring coats and jumpers to Israel, but am glad I did: it is freezing in the flat. I expected it to be cold in January, so haven't yet got around to buying a heater. But if it carries on like this, I will have to get one in the very near future.
Of course, in the large scheme of things, this rain is extremely good for Israel. They have many years of drought and this surely makes up for it. But what I find really funny is that apparently these are just the first rains, known as moreh, i.e. 'the gentle rain from heaven', which comes immediately after Succot http://www.padfield.com/2000/elijah.html. The word also means 'teacher'. Some also call it yoreh http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=the+first+rains%2C+yoreh&meta, relating to both arrow, direction and the Torah. The real downpours are apparently not usually with us till January.
Often there is a lull in between, during November and early December, around Chanukah time http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Chanukah&meta=. I hope this is the case, because I would still like to go swimming if the weather allows.
Funnily enough, I don't remember experiencing this type of weather when, twenty-five years ago, we lived in Jerusalem for eight months: it always seemed to be boiling by day, even in winter, and suddenly cold at 4.00 pm. But someone I met over the weekend told me that although it is dry in Jerusalem at present, it is much colder than Haifa. And my daughter in Tel Aviv told me that it has poured and been stormy there too.
Fuaz the carpenter (he always states 'Hi, this is Fuaz the carpenter' when he rings me beforehand) has just arrived with the wood for the first of the book shelves he is going to put up this week. Just as well, because at the moment the books are still in boxes and at least if it rains all the time in the next few weeks, I will have my work cut out stocking the shelves with them.
Fuaz really is sweet: he assured me that because of Eid, he would now be coming next Sunday instead, but in fact rang up a few minutes ago to make sure I was in and brought everything he will need to put the whole thing together.
Haifa is built around curves, which means you never know what to expect and that is definitely true of the people as well.
Never a dull moment!
Yesterday, I met Dr. Nissim Dana, formerly government minister in charge of minority religions in Israel. http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=Dr.+Nissim+Dana&meta= He gave me a copy of his paper (written in German) in which he cited the passages from the Koran which state that Israel is the home of the Jewish people. This has not gone down well with Israel's enemies, but it's all there in Surah 7: 137 and Sura 17: 104. Dr. Dana went on to say that both the PLO and the Hamas charter ignored the verses in the Koran in which the land of Israel is promised only to the Jews.
Then I had a lovely Shabbat meal at one of my French friends, together with a Japanese PhD student, studying Co-existence at Haifa University (he speaks very good Hebrew) and three other people, origin South America. The mixture of languages was really hilarious.
Last night was extremely stormy, with red lightening practically coming into the bedroom through the balcony. Today was decidedly colder and also stormy. I had a visitor who hails from Salford. A bit of home from home. Especially when he wanted tea with two sugars and I couldn't find the tea at first.
We had a bit of a joint groan at the rudeness experienced here. It is one of the most obvious culture shocks and there is no getting away from it. I wonder if it is to do with the language, which is terribly abrupt, possibly because of its tiny vocabulary. We also went on about the driving, although I did note that people stop at pedestrian crossings. But then we talked about what is good here: the fact that it is safe to walk the streets at night, on your own (even small children), the fact that Israelis opened their homes to northerners during the war (why didn't the government pay for this, he wanted to know). And, ironically, the lack of Islamofascism.
He also had a look at my printer and I think he has got it working now. I went on with my translation from Hebrew. May I say, Brian O'Doherty, whoever you are, your name is not easy to fathom in the Hebrew http://www.societyofcontrol.com/whitecube/insidewc2.htm: it took me quite a long time to work out that your first name was not to do with creation, but actually the same name as my husband!
I cannot believe it: the BBC has posted my rather critical comment about their lack of impartiality towards Israel and the Middle East here on their editors web slot.
Mine is number 108. I wonder if they answer my query and if I will ever find out (from them) the contact details of their Jerusalem Bureau. Really, sometimes they are harder to access than Fort Knox.
And no, I do not think Israel is perfect - far from it - but I would rather live here than in any other country in the Middle East and I suspect that secretly most of them would too. I mean, how long would they get away with liberal views in Israel's neighbouring countries?
Otherwise, it's thundering and lightening in Haifa now. I have never ever known weather like it, and changeable too. In this respect, it reminds me of England. Morning a glorious swim in Haifa Bay and evening, the apartment shaking from the hail-storm and me seriously considering taking out winter woollies. Don't remember Jerusalem ever being like this in October. My friend in nearby Zikhron Yaakov has not experienced rain this evening, for instance.
However, I would like to say to all those who think that the BBC is a total and utter disgrace, that there are one or two fine people who work there and I have met them, but I do wish more of them worked in Middle East reporting, that is all. And I do wish that some of the Jewish people who run the BBC gave a thought to their co-religionists, whether in Europe or in Israel, who are in danger of attack every time people like Orla Guerin or Barbara Plett open their mouths, simply because the BBC is held in such high regard and is respected in most parts of the world.
Truly, however, 'a great miracle happened here'. http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=%27A+great+miracle+happened+here%27&meta=
Had an appointment with Marcia, who lives near me, at 10.30 today to help her get through to the French Embassy and ask them about their environment policy, from which she thinks Israel could learn a thing or two.
So, in order to have a morning swim, I caught the 146 bus just outside the house (through the gan) at around 9.00 and bumped into one of my American friends just coming into the bus station. She lives right on the beach, lucky thing.
Hardly anyone was there, but the beach was calm and the water had cooled down considerably. Apart from me, only Russians were swimming. I bumped into one I had met the previous week in the sea and told her I was learning Russian. She used to be a gynaecologist in Russia: here she is a care-helper in an old-people's home.
The bus got me back for 10.15, so that I could reach Marcia in time.
Marcia is an American has been here since 1951 and has a lovely, spacious ground-floor flat in the street next to mine, with a garden. She is very keen on ecology and gave me Russian bread, home-made jam and real coffee. Her husband used to be Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Technion and she is now a great-grandmother. She is also the national Hadassah-Israel environment spokesperson.
The French Embassy was not as I expected. First of all, there was no reply - only some supermarket-type music. Then, when I explained the question to the woman who eventually answered, she was extremely rude. I mentioned sweetly therefore that I had an internet blog (just in case she didn't know what a blog was, I told her it was a diary on the internet) and was then immediately and abruptly passed over to the Press Office. They then transferred me to come sort of French Chamber of Commerce based in Tel Aviv and Sophie, who spoke Hebrew and English fluently, as well as French, was kindness itself. But then she has dual nationality and is Jewish.
The previous French ambassador to the UK is reported to have stated publicly that in his view Israel was 'that shitty little country' http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=French+Ambassador%3A+%27that+shitty+little+country%27&meta=. Sounds to me as if the French embassy in Tel Aviv shares his views.
Because Marcia told me at the end that the reason she had wanted a French speaker to phone was that when she had tried contacting the French Embassy herself, she had been treated like ....
Because, whatever Israel is: rude, argumentative,direct, in-your-face, over-the-top, it is also generous, brilliant and caring. And Haifa and Haifans are particularly special and do not need this rudeness from the country which supposedly invented diplomacy.
Anyway, what we learned from this encounter is that France is experimenting with bio-degradable products, such as potatoes, to replace plastic, particularly bags in supermarkets and that this experiment has started already.
This is exactly the type of thing that Hadassah-Israel is interested in and it would be nice if the French acknowledged that even Jewish Anglos (even those who are Israeli, perish the thought) can learn a thing or two from them and might promote their progress in this sphere, if they would let us.
Then I met with the President of Hadassah-Israel, Haifa Chapter, to discuss an article I am writing about aliyah for a newspaper back in the UK and was absolutely amazed to learn from her about all the good work and fund-raising this organisation is doing both locally and in Israel generally.
And to think that one month after arriving here, I was asked to join its Board and become Chair of Education, starting in January 2007. But more about that when it happens.
Vive la France!