Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sometimes it feels like I never left....


Hooters has just opened their doors in Natanya. (Did you think I was going to talk about Annapolis?????)

Also, everyone's favorite comedian, Jerry Seinfeld was here for a few days promoting his "Bee Movie". In just three days, he managed to meet the President, the Prime Minister, go to Yad Vashem, the Kotel, the Golan, and Massada. Oh, and he ate falafel. And made another gajillion dollars. You can check it out here.

And finally, this is what I found at the supermarket (Yup, at Mega):

In case you don't believe your eyes:

This country cracks me up!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jerusalem on the Table

On Sunday, I heard on the news that there was a high alert in Jerusalem, due to information that a suicide bomber was trying to infiltrate the city. All the schools went into immediate lockdown and I'm sure most people stuck close to home. After a few hours the alert was lifted, and everything returned to normal as it could be.

How did I feel? Uneasy. I truly believe that G-d is in control of everything, and what's meant to be, is meant to be. But with this "Peace Conference" in Annapolis looming, there is bound to be an increase in these incidents.

It's mind-boggling. Others have bargained so much, given away so much, but Jerusalem was always not negotiable. And now Olmert is in the states and talking about giving part of the city away.

About giving away our heart.

He does not have the support of the people. Yes, everyone here wants peace. They are tired of losing their sons and daughters to war, and to suicide bombers. But how can we give them everything, when they give nothing. They are not even willing to recognize our existence. We gave them Gush Katif on a silver platter. That has turned into an unmitigated disaster. Kassam rockets rain down daily on Sderot. Even some of the people who were behind that plan have acknowledged its failure.

So why do we think it will be better this time? And with Jerusalem no less? Are George Bush and Condoleeza Rice so concerned about their legacy that they are willing to sacrifice Israel for it? This is a conference of a bunch of terrorist, hooligan states, Abu Mazen (who has lost control of Gaza and has very tenuous control of the West Bank), and Israel. Why are we hanging out with these people?

We can't let Jerusalem be divided. We just can't. So I'm passing along this e-mail from Rabbi H. Billet at the Young Israel of Woodmere:

"If you wish your voice to be heard on behalf of an undivided Jerusalem ,log on to this website and follow the easy directions.It is all for free.Remember the religious issue aside, there is a serious security issue.If Israel leaves and the PA enters,they may be followed by Hamas as we know from the Gaza experience.I think everyone would agree that Kassam rockets or just bullets into parts of Jewish Jerusalem is intolerable.If the IDF withdraws from parts of East Jerusalem this scenario is unfortunately a real possibility.


And when you're done with that, pray.

Tis' the Season

Thanksgiving was thankfully quite eventful. We had a visit from our friends Carol and Stuart who were in for a few days. Carol is such a positive person and so proud of us--it made me feel good. Visits from our friends from the "alte heim" can be hard, because we all miss our friends so much. Liat saw a friend of hers on Friday and when they said good-bye, I think it was really hard for her. That's hard for me to watch....but I digress. For some reason it wasn't hard to say good-bye to Carol and Stuart (and their kids!). I think it's because of the way they yearn to be here too. They understand me...and next year, G-d willing they will have two kids in Israel, so I'm hoping for double the visits....

I wish I had taken a picture...

We did not celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional way this year. Many Americans here do have the turkey and trimmins' either on Thanksgiving itself or for Friday night dinner. I just didn't feel like going to the trouble. But I enjoyed the day, because of the visit, and also because many of our friends in America were home and we got to speak to them (gotta love that voip line).

So by now in America you are probably starting to hear all those carols and see all the decorations and are waiting in line at Toys R Us. Over here? The sufganiyot have been on display since the end of Sukkot. The Chanukiyot are everywhere and we've made lots of plans for Chanuka. There is an excitement in the air as people are planning parties, getaways, and me, well I'm planning the exact moment I will eat that caramel filled doughnut...

But I'm still humming "Santa got run over by a reindeer...." I just can't help it!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving 2007

Last night I went to a shiur with my friend Laura on Moshav Mevo Modiin--Rav Shlomo Carlbach's z"tl moshav. The shiur was given by Rabbi Lazer Brody, and anyone who has read his Trail to Tranquility, or his translation of , Garden of Emunah or visited his Lazer Beams Website knows what a special Rav this man is. Hearing him speak was amazing. He spoke on the inner meaning of Chanuka, and his basic premise was that Chanuka is a chag in which we show our gratitude to Hashem. He noted that the most basic tenet of Judaism is to be thankful to Hashem for everything that we have. This is why we are called "יהודים" (Yehudim)--from the לשון of להודות (root word of thanks).

Rabbi Brody said that if you are constantly thankful for what you have, Hashem will give you a reason to be thankful. He urged us to lead our lives B'simcha.

He meant all the time!

This is something that is so difficult to do. We all have so much to be thankful for, but usually we focus on the negatives in our lives, the things that are hard. And those things are always there. But we have to try to stop focusing on those things and to praise G-d for what we have....when we wake up the first thought in our mind, the first words on our lips are supposed to be Modeh Ani....

I think it was pure coincidence that Rav Brody spoke on this topic on this very special week in America (although he would say there are no coincidences, everything is pre-ordained by G-d). I will miss Thanksgiving, not because of the food (ahh, but how I love stuffing!), but because of the rituals and smells and flavors (and the day off!!!) that came with it. But in honor of that great American tradition, and of Rav Brody, I'll tell you what I am thankful for, and try to remember them with all the essense of my being....

I am thankful to G-d for my three beautiful girls, and that today, (BAH) they are healthy. Never will I take good health for granted. It is a blessing from G-d that we plead for above everything else.

I am thankful to G-d for the good health of Isaac, and myself, and our parents and families. May Hashem continue to grant this blessing forever.

I am thankful to G-d for the time I have with Isaac. Never have we spent this much extended time together, and I gotta tell you, even as we await that job, its been fun!

I am thankful to G-d that Isaac and I can provide our children with what they need, and even a little bit of what they want.

I am thankful that I live in an age of technology where I can stay in touch with all the people I love so much that still live in America.

I am thankful to G-d that I learned about what freedom means because I was raised in the United States of America. May G-d grant her leaders the wisdom to continue to make the correct choices, especially over the upcoming weeks.

I am thankful to G-d for the adjustment that my children are having here in Israel. Sometimes its up, sometimes not so much, but they are growing and learning from this experience, and I'm watching their love of the land grow before my eyes.

I am thankful to G-d for conquering the fear I have always had to take this step and come to His Holy Land.

And I am thankful to G-d for being here in His Holy Land, for learning the language of the Torah, for breathing daily the air of Kedushah, and for finding beauty at every turn.

Now you go think about everything you have to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Modiin Part I

I've decided to try to do a series to show you the city in which I now live. Modiin is only about ten years old. 25 years ago I walked to these hills from Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak. That's all that was here. Hills. Rocks. And of course, history.

Modiin has proudly called itself the "city of the future". It is Israel's first "planned city". Currently, there are about 70,000 residents. The plan is for the city to grow to 200,000. It's true it's a "planned city", but not all those plans are always so well thought out. There are problems in Modiin, just as there are in any other city. But I find it incredibly exciting to live in a place that is constantly changing. One day you see a pile of rocks and the next day you see a building going up. Or a playground, or a mall, or a Beit Knesset.

So for today, I'm going to show you random things I've photographed around the city. And then we'll see how this "series" of mine evolves.

These are the "Dimri Towers", under construction. I just thought watching this huge arch come to life is pretty cool. These towers are considered to be luxury buildings. Those smart South Africans bought a bunch of apartments as a group and reportedly got great deals.

These are some of the towers already completed, just to show what the end-product looks like.

This is "Mega" where I do most of my supermarket shopping. One of these days I will devote an entire post to grocery shopping Israeli style. For now I'll just tell you that this supermarket is big and modern. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Lately, Isaac and I have the luxury of walking in the mornings. We take Ozzy to Reut, which is a Yishuv that has become part of the city of Modiin. Reut is on the Border of Buchman (our neighborhood) and Buchman Darom (the neighborhood south of us; why they can't have their own name I don't know). There is a path along the perimeter of the Yishuv that Isaac and I walk. It is enclosed by a fence on one side, and the mountainside edge of the Yishuv on the other, so we let Isaac (I mean Ozzy) off the leash, which he just loves. Ozzy is in much better shape that either of us. He runs up those killer hills like nobody's business, and he usually does double what we do since he's constantly running back and forth.

There they go, my boys up the killer hill. This is the last big bad hill on our way home. I usually moan and groan all the way up.

This is the road that Isaac and I like to walk on. Check out how far out it winds. We usually walk it all the way to the end. The whole thing takes about an hour and a half. It's a pretty strenuous stretch of road. On our way from our house it is all down hill, and the on the way back, I huff and puff all the way up. But I need to do something to work off all those borecas!

I was going to show you more, but I'm getting tired, and Isaac keeps making suggestions. I suggest he get his own damn blog.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the series--coming I don't know when. But soon, I promise!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kadima, Bnei Akiva!

Some of you know that after high school I spent a year on Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak as part of the Hachshara Program of Bnei Akiva. It was an amazing, life-changing experience where we studied, worked on the kibbutz, hiked all over Israel and in general learned about what a life of Torah and Avodah should be. This year had a profound influence on me, and because of it I could never forget the pledge I had made to myself to make a life here in Israel.

Bnei Akiva in America is way different than here in Israel. It's small. When I was active in the movement as a madricha in Moshava and of Shevet Amiad, friends who were not involved in the "tnua" didn't quite understand it, and even thought of it as something not quite religious enough. But my B.A. friends were/are amazing people who had the courage to make Aliyah at very young ages and to raise their children here and live meaningful lives just by the fact that they are here. Many of them made Aliyah 18 or 20 years ago. Through that time I have managed to stay in touch with only a few of them, but many of them contacted me earlier this year when Liat was sick, and then again when we moved here in September. They are special people from a very special time in my life, and I am happy to try to re-establish friendships with them.

Bnei Akiva in Israel is huge. And popular, and respected. There are hundreds of sniffim (branches) all over the country and they meet every Shabbat and once during the week for activities and trips. The kids are grouped according to their grades, called "shvatim". Fourth through eighth grades have a specific shevet name for each grade, and starting in the ninth grade you get your own shevet name that stays with you for your whole life (I'm in Shevet Ariel, Isaac is in Shevet Golan--he was very active in Bnei Akiva in Venezuela). The month of Cheshvan is "Chodesh Irgun" in Bnei Akiva, essentially a month-long color war between the shvatim from 4th to 8th grade. The kids practise dance routines and paint their rooms at the snif. They go on trips, and go visit nursing homes. They are at snif almost every night and come home to tired to do homework (of course). This past Thursday night the shvatim had their performances. All of this culminates in "Shabbat Irgun". Tonight after Shabbat they had a "moving up" ceremony where all the shvatim moved up, and the ninth grade got their permanent name. This happened all over the country, not just in Modiin.

I have been encouraging the girls to become involved in Bnei Akiva. Many Americans here in Modiin do not join B.A., or the other youth groups. It is understandable, because it is noisy and unstructured, and all in Hebrew and it can be overwhelming, especially for new olim. But I feel that if they can become involved, it will help their klita (absorption) a great deal. Tali and Orli have participated in Chodesh Irgun (they have the paint-stained clothing to prove it), and have really enjoyed it. Liat does not seem to be interested, although I'm hoping that eventually she will also participate.

I went to the performances on Thursday night and to the naming ceremony tonight. Truly amazing. When I looked around, I was overcome. All these people out to support their children. To me its perfection. Religious people, loving and living in their land. There were over 900 kids in our snif (there are two sniffim in Modiin). N-i-n-e h-u-n-d-r-e-d! Boys and girls, together, but separate. (Don't get me started on how normal I think this is--many of the older "bogrim" (graduates) do get coupled off). Tonight, the ninth grade performed their "daglanut" (flag dance), waving the Israeli flag in all kinds of patterns and formations. And, of course, the ceremony ending in Yad Achim, (the anthem of Bnei Akiva), and Hatikva (will I ever get through that with dry eyes?) And then the naming of the new shevet, with fireworks, and lights and song and dance, and flag waving and, for me, pride in our youth, the future of Am Yisrael, B'eretz Yisrael, Al Pi Torat Yisrael.

In case you were wondering, the new shevet's name is Shevet Dvir. Mazal Tov!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Just what I needed, at the right time. My friend Marta and I decided to visit our friend Pearl who just had a baby girl two weeks ago. She lives on Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv which is up north in Emek Beit Shean. We decided to make a day of it. First we stopped off at Kibbutz Merav on Har Gilboa to drop something off. We took the scenic way up, which winded and twisted up to the top of the mountain. The view of valley of Beit Shean was magnificent. The only problem was that every so often we had to drive over these horrible grates which probably totally ruined Marta's car. Apparently those grates are there to prevent the cows from walking off the mountain. They simply can't walk across the grate. But how do the farmers know that the cows actually walk on the paved road? I know cows are probably not brilliant, but I would think they could just walk around the grates. Then we saw this at the side of the road:

Apparently this cow was smart enough not to be walking on the road. And then we noticed that this was a bull, not a cow. When he picked up his head and looked at us, I said, "uh-oh", and we high-tailed it over the grates (ouch!) and up the mountain.


On August 9, 2001, there was a terrorist attack on this road. A car was shot at at the top of the mountain and a 16-year-old girl, Aliza Malka, was murdered in the attack. This girl lived in the Beit Hayeled, which is a group home established by the kibbutz for children from troubled homes. These children live at the home and become part of the kibbutz family. Aliza's murder obviously had a profound effect on the kibbutz. At the top of the mountain, near the site of the attack, stands a monument in her memory. This sign was also erected after the attack:

Tefilat HaDerech, the prayer for the traveler is what you see as you leave the kibbutz. It makes an impact. You think about that young girl, struggling to make a life for herself through so many challenges and the opportunities being opened up for her because of this kibbutz and the devoted people who live there. And in one second all that hard work, all the struggle is snuffed out. For what?

The kibbutz, by the way, is becoming more and more privatized (and may be fully privatized by now, I'm not sure). They are selling private homes which looked spacious and beautiful. It is a breathtaking place to live. Shaul HaMelech (King Saul) was killed by the Phillistines on Har Gilboa, and as we drove up the mountain I once again remembered that I am living in the land of my history.

Marta and I then played tourist and went to see the Beit Shean National Park, where archaeologists have discovered 400 acres of the ancient city of Beit Shean. We saw the beautiful 7,000 seat theater, bathhouses, streets of ancient times. The history goes back to the fifth millennium BCE and it was so impressive.

That's Marta on the stage at the amphitheater. She's the tiny blip in green thinking she is a ballerina. I was all the way on top taking the picture. The theater was huge. How did they know how to build these things in those days?

Here's Marta adding nice contrast to the shot. I wanted her to climb to the top of one of the pillars for yet more visual interest, but she refused.

Finally we got to Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, where Pearl is living with her husband and two beautiful children. We spent the afternoon catching up with Pearl. As I sat on the porch of her home I looked over at the valley and the mountains of Jordan. You can practically reach out and touch Jordan from the kibbutz. Mind-boggling, I know.

All-in-all, it was an amazing day. I got to spend time with Marta and Pearl and really catch up with them. It's funny that we remained friends all these years across the ocean, but I really did not now much about their day-to-day life, but just heard about major events. And here we are. One day I'll post about how I was supposed to make Aliyah with Marta 15 years ago, but elected to stay back in the USA to see if anything would come of my developing relationship with Isaac.

I think she forgave me for that one on September 4Th....

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Bit of a Rough Week....

I haven't written much this past week, I guess because I'm trying to keep this blog positive...and I've been feeling a bit down. I'm trying to get to the bottom of it, to figure out what's going on. I think it may be a combination of a few things:

1. I know he's only been looking for three weeks, but I really, really want Isaac to be working. I feel like I can't establish any kind of routine without him giving me a cheery "good-bye!" in the morning.

2. Orli came home with nits.

3. Ozzy came home with fleas.

4. I did this for the second time.

5. The kid's ulpan schedule is yet again being revamped. And the ulpana (Liat's school) never calls me back.

6. I'm bored.

7. I miss my American routine so much. And my friends. There. I said it. It's out in the open. Maybe I'll feel better now.

Okay, so now I'll try to analyze all of this:

1. The job: He has interviews, and is working hard at following up on all his leads. I know it will happen soon, I just want it now.

2. Nits and lice are a fact of life here in Israel. And it's so much easier to deal with here than in the states. I've been combing her (and her sisters) daily and so far so good. Really not a big deal. But it is gross.

3. Poor Ozzy. But apparently the fleas are gone after one treatment. (And Ozzy is much more cooperative than Orli when it comes to picking the critters out--I know its totally disgusting) We met a really nice-looking vet who was very reassuring (and his office was much nicer and cleaner than ol' Dr. Woof's in Cedarhurst).

4. I've accepted that I'm a complete flake.

5. In spite of the annoying issues regarding ulpan (I won't bore you all with the details), my kids are doing okay. Socially, they are making friends. They smile and laugh a lot. Even Liat, my teenager. I would say more, but I'm into the Ayin Hora thing. Suffice it to say that my kids are doing well, and while the academic portion is extremely frustrating to me, they are happy.

6. I think this relates to the fact that I haven't been working since April. I'm busy running back and forth for the kids, and they get home much earlier here than they would have in the states. But there is down time. It's to soon to think about working. The kids are still not settled in their schools. I'm doing a lot of carpooling and math tutoring with them, and feel the need to be close to home. My Hebrew is okay, but do I dare go on an interview? I think I'd like to find something that I can do for a couple of hours a week, in an office where I can be social (and work, of course), maybe something simple like data entry or something. I don't know. I'll have to deal with this issue sooner or later. I don't quite know what I want to do over here. This is an area that I definitely need to explore.

7. This is the crux of things I guess. And I know it will take time. But I feel very shaky, like its all I can do to keep from crying. And maybe I need to allow myself that....

So that's it, I guess. When I was in America my heart was here. Now I'm here, is my heart in America? Will I always be torn? Or is it just a temporary thing?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Why do I keep doing this?

So I park in front of my apartment building, pick up all the papers on the seat, gather the school books in the back, look for my cell phone, and leave the car, making sure it is locked. Which it is. With the key still in the ignition. And the motor running.

Very funny.

But not really. This is the second time I've done this since we got here. I was actually afraid to tell Isaac. And yes, he was totally irritated with me. I mean, what kind of moron am I? When I called the rental company they informed me that it would cost $30.00 for the service call. "I know.", I sighed. Plus a full tank of gas, because it took two hours for the guy to come. At least I was home. The last time I had to wait with the car in a strange neighborhood.

So tell me why do I keep doing this? I know I have alot on my mind. But so does everyone else and they don't go locking themselves out of the car...Is there something wrong with me? How can I be so absentminded?

I feel really....lousy about it...