You may have heard that Israel is a poor country.
But one thing we have plenty of here in Israel is sun.
Almost every day, almost all year 'round (except when my sister decided to come for 2 weeks last December).
This is cool for many reasons:
- Hanging laundry outside, where it can dry in hours
- Saving tons of energy with solar water heaters
- Planning outdoor events 10 months of the year without worrying about rain
As my son said when he was here, the boundaries between indoors and outdoors are just more pourous here. Our "porch" window opens up and suddenly we are outside. When air conditioning isn't running, people leave their doors open and come and go as they like.
But there is a dark side to all this sun.
The sun is powerful.
You don’t want to mess with the power of the sun.
The same sun that guarantees that all your whites will come off the line whiter than white also guarantees that your reds, oranges and pinks will fade to pink, in less than 24 hours in some cases.
Oh, and it will kill you, like it kills up to 480 Israelis every year.
In my family, my mother has a running joke when kids lick the dessert plates. She says, "that plate used to have flowers on it." Implying that it was used so much, for such tasty treats, that the flowers were simply licked off.
Well, this towel used to have flowers on it.
(I know, you can sort of see the flowers here, due to some miracle of lighting and camera magic; in real life, they are barely visible. Also, the clothespin on the left is purple.)
And that shirt... it used to be my daughter's favourite orange shirt. Now it's kind of a faded peachy pink. With a dark square in the middle of the front where I hung a napkin to dry on top of it, blocking out the sun.
Oh, yeah, and you see that collection of broken clothespins?
We are not especially hard on clothespins, but the sun is. And after a couple of months of hanging outside with the UV beating down on them all day long... they just shatter. I reach out to take down the laundry, and the clothespins crumble like zweiback.
Think of what it’s doing to our skin.
I don’t know about you but I have – as they say – a history. Reason for concern. Melanoma apparently likes my people, and it could come looking for me. Yet I admit, I am a reluctant convert to sunscreen… reluctant as in, I haven’t quite gotten around to using it regularly yet. Yes, I’m ashamed.
I do insist that the kids wear hats when they go out, but still. We all have more of a tan than we should.
We should be worried.
And by “we” I mean, us pale-skinned Ashkenazi olim types and northern Europeans.
Skin cancer rates here in Israel are second-highest in the world. Up to 480 Israelis die each year of melanoma, with Americans and Europeans are at the highest risk (it is much less common among Arabs). The rate is going up, especially of the more aggressive and dangerous type.
Many people think of Israel as a dangerous country. Though the sun isn’t necessarily what they’re thinking about, far more Israelis have died over the last 10 years from skin cancer than from terrorism and war put together*.
Something grim to think about. As my father always said, “You don’t have to thank me.”
Ironically, just as the sunny season is ending, but even the welcome clouds of autumn drawing near, even tilted slightly farther away from the sun, those UV rays can still get through.
How will you keep yourself and your family safe? If you’re here already, what do you do to stay safe? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Tzivia / צִיבְיָה