Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lots of Buzz about this New Blogger

Gila has started posting about her experience of being seriously injured in a suicide bombing near Machane Yehuda (Jerusalem) several years ago. She was an olah chadasha (new immigrant) at the time. She has been getting alot of (well deserved) attention for her clever recall of the event.

I've been thinking about what I could do to get more attention over here in the blogosphere. (Getting blown up is not an option). I'll have to find a way to spice up my posts (no, I won't be putting those old pictures up!).

Anyway go read My Shrapnel. You'll laugh. You'll cry. And you'll see what life in Israel is like at its worst, and at its best.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Mother Told Me Every Pot Has A Cover

Except lately. Have you noticed that many pots these days are made with glass covers. What's up with that?

When I went on my pre-Aliyah shopping spree, I bought many new pots. Good ones, that weren't cheap. I still had most of my pots from when we got married, and they needed replacing. I chose not to buy those "sets", because now after running a kitchen for so many years, I know which types and sizes of pots and pans I use most, and they are not necessarily the ones included in the sets. Most of the new pots had glass lids, but I didn't think much of it (they don't call me "Swifty" for nothin'). Did I mention the pots weren't cheap?

Anyway when we got here, my sister-in-law had bought us a couple of CHEAP pots to tide us over until the lift came. With glass lids. In no time at all, I dropped one of the lids, and--surprise, surprise--it shattered into a million pieces. But hey a "kaparah" as they say--not the worst thing in the world. (And it was a cheap pot anyway). I tossed the pot because it no longer was useful to me.

Fast forward to yesterday. I love my new pots, they are heavy duty and wash easily. You know where this is going. Orli, my youngest, decided she need to bake something for her English class. She wanted to do it all by herself, and I was happy to oblige. As she was getting out a bowl--yup--she dropped a lid of one of the (not cheap) pots. It shattered to a million pieces.

This is where time stood still for a moment. She looked up at me, her face crumpling. I looked at her, completely annoyed, she saw that and started to cry. "I'm so sorry, mommy", she said. "Get me the broom", I ordered.

How many times have you had moments like this with your children? With every fiber of my being I just wanted to let her have it. But when she came back with the broom, looking so forlorn, different words came out of me. "Orli", I said, "it's just a pot. Remember I dropped a lid that broke when we first moved here? Accidents happen."

Her face transformed. The look of relief and love I saw there made me feel so good. Or as Orli herself said, "We [had] a moment".

It really is just a pot. And she is a child. Pot---child....pot---child. I know I made the right choice.

Now I know that my mother was wrong. And I'm going to keep this lidless pot for a long, long time.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Winter finally arrives...and other news...

Ah, well, we need the rain. Just when I thought my winter coat would stay boxed forever, it started. Until Tu B'shvat, (the holiday celebrating the trees) it's been positively balmy. Since then it's been raining on and off. But today we are seeing the worst of it. It has been steadily raining and over the past few hours it has been a downpour. And now I spotted this in my backyard:

Nope, not snow. But hail. Noisy hail, and lots of it.

But in Jerusalem the snowflakes have started to fall. That's all anyone has been talking about. It's been on talk radio--the predictions, the preparation, the general excitement. Isaac is working from home tomorrow (I'm glad--those roads to Maale Adumim, where he works are not great).

The other big news is the Winograd Report, coming out tomorrow. This is the committee investigating the war in Lebanon last summer--why it failed and who was responsible. You'd think Olmert would be nervous, but he's not. He's not planning on quitting or anything. Why would he take any responsibility anyway? He didn't actually fight the war...and now he's working so hard with our enemies, I mean partners to ensure an everlasting peace.

Sigh. Now that I'm starting to understand the news over here, I'm thinking I was better off not knowing what was going on.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I can....

Aidel Maidel has challenged her readers to do the "I can" exercise. This involves taking 15 minutes to make a list of things you can do. Do it without editing yourself. Mom in Israel already did one--but I'll read it later--don't want to be influenced!

Okay, 15 minutes, here goes:

1. I can write.
2. I can write poorly, and I can write well.
3. I can blog.
4. I can comment on many, many blogs.
5. I can spend hours reading blogs and commenting on them.
6. I can cook really good food for Shabbat.
7. I can burn that food on this Israeli oven that doesn't work quite right and still be cheerful.
8. But I can also sometimes get really frustrated with stuff like that.
9. I can swim many laps (100 the last time I swam).
10. I can speak Hebrew!
11. I can speak Spanish.
12. I can speak Yiddish.
13. I can be ready for Shabbat 3 hours before it starts (if I'm very focused and organized).
14. I can get Shabbat ready in an hour if I have to.
15. I can drive almost anywhere in Israel, including Jerusalem, without GPS, I might add.
16. I can read a book, the entire Jerusalem Post, and parts of the Yediot over one Shabbat.
17. When the internet is down over here, I can fix it.
18. I can comfort my children when they are upset.
19. I can make people laugh.
20. I can give great massages.
21. I can receive great massages.
22. I can stay in touch with friends and family in the US.
23. I can lock my keys in my car (three times, now!).
24. I can have a a re-union with people I havn't seen in 20 years, in my home, with dinner prepared after waiting for two hours for the guy to come open my car door.
25. I can pay $30.00 everytime I lock the keys in the car.
26. I can pray every day.
27. I can pay my bills (Thank G-d).
28. I can take long walks in my new city and discover things I didn't know.
29. I can plan a bat-mitzvah in a new country.
30. I can order things on the internet and ask friends and family to bring them when they come.
31. I can crochet kippot.
32. I can eat almost anything.
33. I can cook for many, many people.
34. I can make new friends.
35. I can laugh very hard.
36. I can laugh very, very hard with my husband.
37. I can also be very, very angry with him.
38. I can kiss my children every night before they go to sleep.

Okay, my 15 minutes are up.

What can you do?

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Hunt, Part I

I sent an e-mail to the owner of our apartment last week asking her what her intentions were. We only signed a one-year lease, and I was pretty sure that she wouldn't want to extend it but wanted to confirm. We would be very happy to have another year here. We feel like we need more time to get our bearings. And the dollar is currently pretty weak. (For those of you in the US who don't follow these things, the dollar is currently valued at 3.7ish shekel. When we arrived in September it was at 4 shekel. So our dollars that we have safely tucked away in the US are buying much less than they did a few months ago. And it's hard to predict if and how much lower the dollar will go.) In any case, we have been informed that the owner does plan on returning in August.

So we have to find a new place.

We now have decisions to make. Do we rent again? Do we buy? And if so, where?

We live in a neighborhood called Buchman. Actually, we live sort of on the outskirts of the neighborhood. Others who live more in the neighborhood probably think we are in a bad location. And maybe if we had younger kids we would feel that way to. But our kids are old enough to pretty much get most places in the neighborhood independently. We have a beautiful park right downstairs. Although we never use it, the bus stops down the block. We love the location.

Buchman is lovely, with beautiful homes and apartments. It is new. It is very American, and known as the "American ghetto". Americans come, and are willing to pay certain prices to live on certain blocks. And soon those prices become outrageous. Ridiculously so.

We are seriously considering moving to the neighborhood adjacent to Buchman. It is an older, more established, more centrally located neighborhood. And the houses and apartments cost significantly less. There are plenty of Anglos, but the neighborhood isn't dominated by them. The kids know that we are thinking about it and are not thrilled. They want to stay in Buchman, where they have friends.

But it is still within walking distance to Buchman. And they do have friends in Givaat C as well, they just haven't necessarily cultivated those friendships as much.

On the one hand, I feel guilty because I've moved them across the world, and now I want to move them to another neighborhood. On the other hand, its not like I'm moving them out of Modiin altogether. I won't do that to them, even though I think I was a little naive about how much housing would cost over here in Buchman. Buchman now rivals Chashmonaim, and Woodmere, in terms of the cost of housing.

I didn't move to Israel to be a slave to a mortgage. Again. This time I want to buy something within our means, and that means we are priced out of Buchman.

Unless we decide to rent indefinitely. (Although rentals have also increased a great deal here).

We are now starting to educate ourselves about buying a home in Israel. We are starting to look--to see what is out there, how much it costs. We are also starting to learn about mortgages in Israel.

The last time we bought a home in the Five Towns (it was also the first time), we jumped right in. Now we are older and well, maybe not wiser, but a bit more experienced.

If you're interested, I'll keep you posted on the process.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

26 Years Later...

As many of you know I spent the year after high school on the Hachsharat Bnei Akiva program on Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak. It was a program that got no respect, because it wasn't a yeshiva. But out of 20 participants, 8 are now living in Israel.

That's 40%. (Until September it was 35%) Not bad at all.

Although it wasn't full time learning, it was full time exposure to a unique way of Israeli life. There are far less kibbutzim now than there were then due to privatization and industrialization. But the kibbutz in general and (Be'erot Yitzchak in specific) made huge contributions (and sacrifices) so that the state of Israel would be established. On kibbutz, through my mishpacha Aaron (z"l) and Sarah HaLevi, I learned about the battles leading up to the 1948 War of Independence. Aaron was in the Palmach and was always pleased to tell me stories of the battles he fought. He fought in the the Negev and recalled the old Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak, which fell to the Egyptians. Many of his friends and comrades also fell in those battles. He and others later went on to re-establish Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak a stone's throw from the city of Petach Tikvah.

But enough with the history lesson. My point is that I learned a great deal that year on kibbutz. I learned about how modern day Israel rose from the ashes of the holocaust; I walked and hiked the length and breadth of this country; I learned why this land is so central to all our beliefs; I learned how to work and be responsible (well, I started to learn that anyway); and I learned how to milk a cow.

It was a program that involved community service, learning, working and getting to know Israel in a way that the existing Yeshiva programs didn't. The program definitely wasn't perfect and had its issues, but it was a unique and creative way of making our Judaism meaningful and establishing our love of Israel.

I can't speak for the others, but the program had a profound influence on me. But it must have affected at least 40% of the others. And my hunch is that it affected even those still living in the states.

So last night we had a reunion of sorts. We got together at our home here in Modiin. Two of those living here couldn't make it, but Rebecca was in from the states and came with her husband. Our madricha, Rachel and our bus driver, Asher, nahag par excellence, came. He himself is a child of the War of Independence--his father died trying to defend the original Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak.

We spent the evening looking at Jerry's albums and recalling good times. We laughed alot and asked about who did what with whom and when. (Ahh, but we were a tame group. Really we were.)

Eight of us are now living here, scattered throughout Israel, including Beit Shemesh, Oranit, Kibbutz Merav, Kibbutz Ein Tzurim, Maale Adumim, Moshav Gamliel (at least I think that's where Sharon lives), and of course, the City of the Maccabees. It was amazing to see these people that I went through so much with. We're all (just a little) older, wiser. We're dealing with aging parents, sometimes difficult children, health issues, divorce, financial issues and the whole gamut of things that you deal with in your 40's that you don't even know exist when you're 18.

It was good to start re-establishing those relationships again last night. It felt good to be welcomed. It felt good to remember and be remembered.

I hope we do it again soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Don't drop in on a Wednesday....(or if you do, call first)

Over at Mom-in-Israel's blog, I've been reading about keeping house. I had so much to say, I decided to post something myself on the subject.

In the states, I worked full-time and had a CLEANING LADY. Once a week on Friday's. I loved those first moments when I walked into my house on Friday afternoons. The house was at its peak of cleanliness. Everything was in its place, and the house had that clean "I've just been scrubbed down" smell.

But I had the audacity to complain about my cleaning lady. I said, "She's okay, but she doesn't clean the WAY I WOULD!"

Now that I don't work and AM the CLEANING LADY, I know exactly the way I clean. And it's not pretty.

First, let me state that I am a clean person. I bathe daily. I hate clutter and throw things out as soon as I see them sitting around (ask Isaac). I believe if you buy something new, throw the old things out, or give 'em away, otherwise your house becomes a fire hazard.

But there is ALOT to do. Dust accumulates very quickly, did you know that? And laundry always needs to be done. And dishes. And putting stuff away. And again, DUST.

So what I do is I do a major cleaning on Friday. I just like it that the house is in order for Shabbat. Let's not get crazy here, by 'major cleaning' I mean dusting and washing the floor (Israeli style--with a squeegee). And then I do other things as they come up. Okay, well not the second they come up. But eventually I get to them. For example, the fridge or the microwave or the ceiling fans.

So the major cleaning is done on Friday, and then I "maintain" until Tuesday. Do I have to explain maintain? It means I straighten up, maybe even sweep the floor, put things away. By Wednesday morning, though, I'm thinking, Friday's around the corner. And so I let the place go to pot. And wait for Friday.

I find this method to work for me, sort of. There are times I look around and am vaguely uneasy because things are lying around. But I squelch that feeling. And its easy to, in this first year of Aliyah, with so many other emotions running through me. There are times I think of going back to work just to get a CLEANING LADY. Or I want to call Margaret, Soma or Preya and beg for their forgiveness that I thought their cleaning was not up to snuff.

On the positive side, the situation has forced me to demand more of the girls and they now have--what's that?--responsibilities on the homefront, including the cleaning of the bathrooms, window washing (mainly to get Ozzy's paw prints off the sliding doors), and of course, their own rooms.

But I will forever miss those women.

I do have a housekeeping question, about my nemesis, DUST. The bed in my room is nearly impossible to move. I know that under the bed, there must be 2 inches of dust. But I kind of feel that if I don't disturb it, it can't harm me. If I try to clean it, I will stir it up and breath it in, and before you know I will have developed some weird kind of pulmonary problem. So I leave the dust under the bed alone.

Good strategy?

Shabbat Shalom, and go thank your CLEANING LADIES today!

Friday, January 4, 2008

I love Ozzy

When I was a child, I was afraid of dogs. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I grew up, there were many strays, and Mazi (my constant companion) and I would say a special pasuk whenever we saw one of these dogs, feeling confident that it would protect us from harm. (I remember the pasuk, but am not sure its right, so I won't repeat it here, until I can find it). Still I was once charged by a stray dog (don't remember if I had the chance to say the pasuk or not) and this traumatized me. It was many years before I realized the difference between a stray, and a dog owned and loved by a human.

I never thought I would actually own a dog. In the early days, very few orthodox people owned dogs, and in Chassidish Wiliamsburg especially. To this day I am wary of dogs not on a leash (you really don't see to many strays around these days). But my arm was twisted and Isaac brought our sheltie, Ozzy, home at a time when our family really needed it. Ozzy has become part of the fabric of our family. Sometimes I wonder how I can feel so much for an animal, but the truth is, he gives us so much. If you are not the owner of a pet it's hard to understand this--I never did before Ozzy came into our lives. But people who own pets know what that unconditional love for you feels like, and how it can unite and heal a family in so many ways.

This morning I woke up early determined not to have a stressful Friday getting ready for Shabbat. Just after I put the potato kugel in the oven I heard a boom and a women shrieking. I went out on the mirpeset and saw her standing with her dog. I called out to her and asked if she needed something, and she screamed, "please a cell phone!" I ran inside, threw on something over my pajamas, grabbed the phone and clicked on Dr. Arik, our vet, as I ran outside to her. By this time, her dog, a white lab, was laying on its side. I gave the woman the phone. As she called the vet, I leaned over the dog, and was shocked as I watched life leave this beautiful creature. I had never seen anything like this. One split second, and dog went from breathing to not. I knew immediately that calling the vet was useless. The woman's back was turned to the dog. Dr. Arik did not answer the phone and she grunted in frustration. She then called her husband and told him to come quickly. She handed me the phone and and then looked down at her dog. I closed my eyes because I did not want to see her heart break. She bent down, and she knew. It was impossible not to. The women dropped her face into her hands and began to sob. I was speechless, and in tears myself. "I'm sorry", she said, "I know it's only a dog". "No", I whispered. "I have a dog. I know what this means." She slumped down and and asked me, "What will I tell my children?" I couldn't answer her. Then, "Thank you. You don't have to stay, my husband will be here soon." I didn't say anything, but of course, I wasn't going to leave her there alone. A few minutes later her husband pulled up. He looked at the dog, and at his wife and sighed. He tried to console her, but she was in to much pain.

I went back home, and watched from the window as her husband emptied the trunk of the car, and then wrapped the dog in a sheet and put him inside.

As the car pulled away, I wondered at the capacity of humans to love animals, and was thankful that I have learned to open my heart and let Ozzy in.

Ozzy looked up at me, tail wagging, waiting expectantly for some attention.

And I gave it to him.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Just Wondering...

I know the perspective of the news in America is totally different than over here. Over there I was a total news and pop culture junkie. Over here its much harder for me. I try to stay on top of things, and slowly I'm learning. But the recent murder of two off-duty soldiers hiking near their home in Hebron, is being talked about over here and I'm wondering if and how much it was covered in the US.

These two young men were in elite units and decided to go hiking with a friend, a young woman. They were shot by members of Fatah, the "good guys", the ones we are going to have a lasting peace with (Please read that last sentence with sarcasm!). Even though they were mortally injured they managed to shoot back at the terrorists, thus saving the life of their friend before succumbing to their own injuries.

Many are saying they had no business hiking where it is so obviously dangerous. Others are saying, "Don't we have the right to hike the width and breadth of our land?"

Are they saying anything in the states about all this? And what do you think?

The soldier's names were Cpl. Ahikam Amihai (20) and Sgt. David Ruben (21).


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Is the honeymoon over?

Another rough few days for me. I'm missing everyone back in America so much. Achingly so. And I constantly worry about the girls. It's hard for them, being in a new country. I so desparately want them to be happy.

At ulpan, we talk alot about our acclimation to our new home. In hebrew, of course. And it seems that most of us are feeling this way at this stage of our Aliyah. When you arrive here, you really are on a high. That Nefesh B'Nefesh flight is really something special, even though it was a bit anti-climactic for me. And then the excitement of getting to know your new town, and figuring out how things work here, of meeting new people carries you along. But at some point, and I guess post-Chanukah seems right, you feel like you've been here a while, and it should be getting easier. And the fact that its not makes you feel discouraged.

Ulpan is amazing. Of course, for its goal of teaching us Hebrew. But also, being in a room with people who are going through similar experiences as you and having similar emotions really makes you feel better about what you are feeling; and those people are so kind and supportive.

It's weird how for a few days I could be in such a funk, and then one morning wake up, feel better and more positive. I think the people at Ulpan have a great deal to do with that.