Before I continue I would ask all of those people who feel compelled to send hate mail -- directly or indirectly -- to just take an entire bottle of valium before you go off the deep end. Then lick any remaining residue off the inside of the pill bottle and your fingers. I hope that will suffice because although you refuse to see it, I am doing you a great service. And if you continue reading and then think to yourselves: "Hmmmm, my kids already know all that stuff," then guess what? YOU ARE OBVIOUSLY NOT THE PEOPLE TO WHOM THIS MESSAGE IS DIRECTED.
Okay, so here are the final seven tips which many of my friends here, who totally got what I was saying in the previous post, wrote to tell me that I missed:
1. Have a shower before you arrive -- particularly if you are travelling in a pack. What the North American kids don't realize (not sure about the Europeans) is that hot water does not just arrive in the tap by holy decree here. It takes a lot of time to heat up enough water to get our own families clean for Shabbat and sometimes, particularly in the winter, some sacrificial members of our own peeps are sent to the Country Club to shower because we can't make hot water fast enough.
2. Unless the world unexpectedly schemes against you, make your Shabbat plans before the end of Tuesday. You have no idea how much simpler it is to host you when we have the necessary time to prepare. And we are so much happier to see you if we are not running around like chickens with our heads cut off because you called at the last minute. That said, if you have to call us last minute, we will do our best -- but that does not include bringing your five "essential" travelling companions. They are just going to have to manage their own last-minute crises. We are not Mother Theresa clones.
3. Don't get your mothers to call us to organize YOUR Shabbat plans. Once again, if you are old enough to spend a year abroad then you should be old enough to make your own plans. As one of my friends not so gently put it: "Man up." Pick up the phone, use your words, and try out your big-boy/girl legs. We don't bite and it is an emancipating moment for you.
4. If you want to visit for the chaggim -- Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur in particular -- you need to let us know wayyyyyyy in advance. Our shuls are packed to the rafters for the holidays and seats must be reserved and paid for well in advance. Yes, we pay for our High Holiday seats. In all fairness most kids probably don't know that, but their parents do!!!! Offer upfront to pay for your seat -- it's surely a better deal than it is out of Israel. And since your prayers aren't travelling long distance they arrive much quicker at their destination. In other words, it's money well spent.
5. Point 10 in my previous post mentioned bringing a dvar Torah since you are supposedly in Israel for Torah-learning purposes this year. However, someone wrote to me and took it a step further: Be prepared to make conversation at the table with the host family. It makes us feel like we aren't just the riff raff serving you; you might enjoy it. And if you are really chatty, we will enjoy it as well.
6. If you are going to bring a present -- and it's a nice idea -- don't pick up a stale, pre-packaged cake at the bus station on your way. Let's not kid ourselves -- no one is going to eat it and it is going to end up in the garbage while children in Syrian refugee camps continue to starve. You don't have to spend much because we know it adds up over the year, but as a rule of thumb, gifts should be thoughtful (or parents should do the thinking in advance and send some hostess gifts along with their kids). Or ... buy the stale cake and just send it directly to a Syrian refuge.
7. This one is very close to my own heart. If we agree to host you on a Shabbat that our child is home on leave from the army we are basically offering to share a rare and special time with you. Many people simply stop inviting guests during their children's army service. But if you find a host family who is still happy to have you while their soldier is home, do not dismiss what is being offered to you and make the most of the opportunity.
And with that, I am wrapping up Part 1 of the Gap Year Shabbat Visitor's Tip Sheet. For those whom I have further offended, I am sorry. Well, I'm a little sorry. This is, in fact, some very practical advice and you would be wise to accept it in the manner in which it was meant -- as a service to those of you who couldn't possibly understand what it is like to be on our end.
One final word. If any of you non-Israel-based parents out there host as many gap-year kids (or a reasonable facsimile) as frequently as is the norm here, please let me know. It is possible that I totally misjudged you. According to my calculations (I used a calculator), if you have four gap-kid guests a week, who all eat two meals with you, two weeks a month, 10 months a year, that is a minimum of 160 additional meals a year, excluding the guests you were planning on entertaining for your own selfish reasons! (Could the resident math Phd TL please confirm my logic and calculations.)