The tree outside my window that grew from a discarded plum pit has bloomed—suddenly, it seems. This, and the appearance of some strange critters, is the surest sign that spring is here.
INVASION OF DRAGONS AND POWER RANGERS
Two scary characters knocked on our door yesterday morning. One, dressed in blue and silver, was brandishing a sword; the other, breathing fire, threatened to devour us. The Power Ranger and the dragon, who had come from next door to show off their costumes, were headed for Purim parties in their kindergarten and nursery school.
Purim is the best holiday of the year. I never miss the reading of the Scroll of Esther—a Persian story with a Byzantine plot, full of intrigue, danger, reversals, and sex. I love to hoot and whistle and stamp my feet along with all the kids each time the name of the Jews’ nemesis Haman (Boo! Feh! Humbug!) is mentioned.
Purim (officially a one-day holiday, celebrated a day late in walled cities like Jerusalem) goes on for about a week in Israel, at least judging by the number of days you can see kids in costume. As far as I’m concerned, it could last a whole month!
POST-PURIM HYSTERIA, AN ISRAELI SYNDROME
I would like Purim to last longer, but there is a powerful reason it can’t, at least in Israel. After Purim, there are only four weeks until Passover, four weeks in which every part of the house must be scrubbed, polished, or blow-torched.
Passover, after all, is the holiday on which we eschew leavened bread and chew only matza. And before we can indulge in eating matza, the house must be rid of every last crumb of bread, cookies, breakfast cereal, or any other foodstuff that has crept into pockets, drawers, and corners.
My mother was religiously observant and she was no slouch as a housekeeper, but she lived in California and her Passover cleaning was nothing compared to the madness here. Laundries and dry cleaners work overtime. Supermarkets do their best business of the year on cleaning products. And the pre-holiday frenzy provides work one month a year for teenagers in yeshivas (religious seminaries).
Some rabbis have declared that there is no religious requirement for such compulsive cleaning, but it seems that the sound of the vacuum cleaners and scrub brushes has drowned out their words.
NEW MEDICAL SCHOOL TO OPEN IN SAFED
Though Israel’s fifth medical school doesn’t have a permanent campus, it is to open this fall with 130 students, the daily Ha’aretz reports. The school, under the auspices of the Ramat Gan-based Bar-Ilan University, will open in temporary quarters in Safed, a city in Galilee, where land has been set aside for the campus but construction could take five years. The school is offering scholarships to students in exchange for several years’ work in Galilee hospitals.
In August 2009, Israel’s Health Ministry warned of a severe shortage of doctors and nurses, especially anesthesiologists and surgeons. According to the ministry, as reported on ynet.com, there had been an 8% drop in the number of doctors since 2000 and a 40% drop in the number of nurses.
One reason for the shortage is the drop in immigration. Many of Israel’s medical staffers were trained in the former Soviet Union and immigrated in the decade following the USSR’s collapse in 1989, but immigration has tapered off.
One plan in 2010 for meeting the shortfall was to bring 20 anesthesiologists and surgeons from Soviet Georgia to do their residencies in Israel. Meanwhile, however, a Tel Aviv hospital’s plan to provide residencies for British and Cypriot medical students has aroused criticism from Israel’s medical schools on the grounds that this will reduce opportunities for local medical students.
Text and photo copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photo may be used without written permission of the author.