Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm totally stealing these pictures from...


His blog has the most up-to-the-minute news I've seen on the web. I have no idea how he does it. I hope he's not mad that I'm totally ripping these off. I just thought there may be a reader or two who didn't see them.

Taking Cover from a Gazan Rocket in Ashkelon

This is one mean looking dude. I'm glad he's not out to get me.

Actually, this last picture reminds me of this.

And now back to our scheduled war.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Second post of the day...or how I spent my Chanuka vacation

We've been having a pretty low-key Chanuka here at Casa Baila. But today we decided to mosey on into Jerusalem to see the candlelighting at the Kotel.

I always love the approach down to the kotel, that first sighting. We got there with perfect timing, at dusk, just as the candles were about to be lit.

No, this is not the official Kotel Chanukiya. It's the Chanukiya that's lit up on the side of the Kotel--not sure whose menora it is, probably a Yeshiva.

The Kotel Chanukiya after it was lit.

Here's Rav Shlomo Amar giving a bracha after candlelighting. When he was done, he got off the podium and was treated like a rock star. People were pushing and shoving to shake his hand and touch him. Of course, we're talking about the men. We women just watched.

Anyhoo, after his security detail shooed people away, HaRav Amar lead the Maariv, the evening prayer. I was thrilled to get this shot of him saying the Shema:

I know, I should have been following his prayers, but I couldn't resist the photo op. After the picture was taken though, I settled down to what was a very emotional and inspiring Tefilat Maariv.

The evening wasn't over yet. After we left the Kotel, we walked back through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Menorahs were lit everywhere, casting a beautiful glow against the white stone of that ancient city.

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday as much as I did.

Israel unleashes its strength....and the world reacts as expected

Surprise, surprise.

Disproportionate response. Sure. For how long must Israel allow unprovoked attacks on its people before it reacts?

Where do you live? Woodmere? Teaneck? San Diego? If kassam rockets were being launched daily from say, Westchester or San Francisco would you not want, no demand some kind of government protection and reaction? If Mexico started throwing missiles into Dallas, how many years do you think the US should show "restraint" for? One? Five? EIGHT YEARS???

I don't understand the reaction of the media, but I'm not surprised by it. I saw an interview on Sky News (nauseating) where a Hamas henchman, when questioned about the kassam rockets being tossed into Israel, actually stated, "oh those missiles don't really do any harm". Right. Your missiles don't do any harm.

We want peace. We do. In 1948, we would have happily accepted the UN partition plan which split the land into two states. The plan was wholly rejected by the Arabs, who vowed to push us into the sea. Thus began Israel's Independance War, a war still being fought with blood and tears. We have made huge concessions (Gush Katif, anyone?)since then, only to be provoked again and again. I've said it before: Israel is strong, we just need to be allowed to use our strength to protect and defend our people.

May G-d protect our soldiers and give our leaders the strength of character to do the right thing.

BTW, Jameel is live-blogging the Gaza Incursion and is doing an excellent job of it. For updated information go check him out.


Friday, December 26, 2008

I know I'm a day late, but over here its called Chag Hamolad

Molad, meaning, birth, so it's translated as the "Holiday of the Birth". I don't really have much to say about it, just to wish a good one to those of you who do celebrate. You do know, of course, that this is the place where it all started and there is plenty for you to see here that involves Christian history. So to all my friends that celebrate, you can come visit and see all those sites, and I'd be happy to show other sites as well. I know this sounds crazy, but Israel is a fun country!

It's kinda weird being here and not feeling a "Christmas season". I read somewhere (should have kept the source) about an American Christian family living in Jerusalem; the father talked about how strange it felt to not be the dominant culture. From my point of view it feels good to be the dominant culture.

Last year, my first here in Israel, I was surprised to see this here in my hometown of Modi'in. This year I was less surprised when I took a tiyul down to Tsomet Bilu for some shopping and I saw this:

Yep, it's the "alte zeide mit di roite bekeshe"--please! I'm from Chassidishe Williamsburg, read it the right way!*

In any case, Happy Holidays to all, whatever you're celebrating.

* (Yiddish for the old grandfather in the red coat, which is what some people call Mr. Claus).

Note: I just heard about a terrible accident at a chabad event in the Five Towns, where we used to live. It seems that a driver lost control of his vehicle, which careened into a room where Chabad was holding its Chanukah party. Apparently, there were a number of injuries, some of them critical. My heart goes out to the injured and their families and I will include a special prayer when I light candles, in a few minutes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Three books, three reviews

Do you think most bloggers are readers at heart? We've got to be, since we spend so much time reading other people's stories on the internet. Recently, two blogger friends have been talking about what they've been reading and I've decided to follow suit.

I have always been a reader. As a child, my mother would take us to the Williamsburg Public Library every Friday, where we were allowed to take out ten books. Those ten books were returned the next Friday, because well, I read 'em all. I used to be accused of just skimming the books, but if that's the case why do I still remember some of them? I went through all the series, including the Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children, Bobbsey Twins, Little House, the Eddie/Betsy books (Carolyn Haywood?), the Betsy and Tacy books. I also read non-series books. One of my favorite childhood books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Loved that one.

My beloved childhood library. How I loved this place.

I continued reading into adulthood. I could polish off one or two books a week, sometimes more before Blogger, Facebook and all the lists I belong to came into my life. Now I do read less, but still in surges. When I start a book, I have to finish it. I wake up in the middle of the night and read by the bathroom light. I read when I get home from work. I used to nurse my babies and read at the same time, which made for some interesting aches. And my favorite time to read, shabbat.

Here's what I've been reading lately and what I think about these books. Obviously, these are my own humble opinions. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves, or to comment. (Many thanks to my librarian friend, CK, for providing two out of the three books; I hope you come visit again soon!)

First up is Testimony by Anita Shreve. I find her to be a consistently good storyteller, although she has had some misses. In America, I often listened to the audio versions of her books. (Light on Snow is not to be missed for it's beautiful narration). Testimony, it seems to me, may have been inspired by the case of the Duke University students accused of raping a woman when things got out of hand at a party that involved alchohol. Shreve's novel takes place in a New England Boarding School. The novel opens with a bang, as the headmaster of the school is watching a video sent to him of three upper classman engaging in drunken sexual behavior with a younger (underage) student. The first chapter is necessarily graphic in its description. The rest of the novel is told through the eyes of many characters (about twenty!), including all the students involved, some of the parents, teachers, townspeople, media people and friends. The story that unfolds is suspenseful, disturbing and very, very sad. It ultimately tells the story of how one moment in time can have a devastingly ripple effect throughout an entire community. It deals with issues of alcohol and teenagers, as well as teenage sexuality. There is a a bit of a twist to the story and Ms. Shreve is masterful at weaving all the different voices together. I highly recommend this one.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is a novel "loosely" based on the life of Laura Bush. Alice Lindgren was a democrat-leaning woman who had been involved in a car accident that killed a young man when she was 17. She was a former school teacher and a librarian when she met the "Dubya" character, Charles Blackwell. I always wonder about the words "loosely based". Sittenfeld treats the First Lady character very well, but her husband is treated as a funny, loveable buffoon, without a job whose main concern seems to be his legacy. (One of the more amusing lines in the book is the description of the president passing wind; the Commander-In-Chief loves it that his secret service agents crack up at the leader of the free world "tooting his own horn"). At the end of the novel, the author describes how tortured the First Lady is by her husband's policies. Maybe Alice felt that way, but I'm not so sure Laura Bush does. The story is an entertaining one, though it may annoy you a bit if you're a republican.

Finally, the third book is Rashi's Daughters Book II: Miriam by Maggie Anton. Talk about "loosely based". Look, I like to read. I like to feel what the past was like by someone who has done research into a particular era in history. I'm not even talking about the plot here, I'm talking about how people of that era ate, drank, cooked, interacted, worked, what they wore, how they socialized. And for all of that the book was interesting. But for the author to have me believe that Rashi's son-in-law was a homosexual and that all he ever thought about (but never acted upon) was his homosexuality is to me, appalling. The author's justification: while there is no evidence that he was, well, he could have been. And Moshe Rabbenu could have eaten pig's feet. I feel that when a book like this is written, it is done through the prism of our times: where anything and everything goes, where a novel has to have a "hook" that will help sell it. I did not find this aspect of the character believable, and since the entire novel was based on it,well, it was hard to finish the book. I wonder what's in store for the third daughter.

What have you been reading? What did you read as a kid? Enquiring minds want to know.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow expected in my old neck of the woods

On Fridays, while getting ready for Shabbat, I sometimes listen to WCBS-AM Radio. This was an all-news station I used to listen to in New York. Today, it was all about the snow headed your way. For a moment, I felt nostalgic. Aww, I miss the snow, I thought.

And then came the traffic reports, school closings and train delays. I recalled navigating the LIE and Cross Island Expressway in the snow, on a Friday where Shabbat starts so early. I remembered worrying about freezing pipes and leaking basements.

And I thought, I'm okay with no snow.*

I don't think you're getting this much snow!

*Today's weather in Modi'in:

22 °C / 71.6 °F
Humidity: 11. %
Light W Wind
Chance of rain: 0 %
High Clouds

Shabbat Shalom!

This is something worth eating meat for at 10 a.m: Stuffed Zucchini

I got this recipe from the Jerusalem Post. It's easy, but it does have several steps. It is a complete meal, though; you don't have to make any side dishes to go with it.

As I have very strict standards, I always taste my food to make sure it is up to the level of perfection my family has come to expect from me. Which is how I found myself eating a meat dish at 10 a.m. this morning. You'll all be happy to know this dish passed my test.

Here's the recipe:

12 medium zucchini


500 gram chicken
1 large grated onion
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup rice
1 pinch lemon salt
1 tsp hawaiij (middle eastern spice; Pereg makes it, you can get it in Gourmet Glatt)
salt and pepper


3 tbs oil
1 large chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1 cup diced apricots
6 fresh ripe tomatoes, grated coarsely
lemon, juice and zest
1 heaping tbs sugar
1 tsp hawaiij
salt and pepper
2-3 ups clear chicken soup or stock

Scoop out the zucchini, saving the guts. Mix all the ingredients for the filling and lightly fill the zuchinis; set aside.

Saute the onion and garlic, then add the rest of the ingredients until the chicken soup. Bring to a boil. Spread the zuccini pulp over the sauce and then place the stuffed zucchinis in the sauce. Place the covers near the zucchinis, not on them. Pour in the chicken soup and cook until they look like they are done. Voila!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Writer's block

I don't know why I can't seem to put pen to paper, or keys to screen lately. I have some posts saved but all are superficial (a recipe, and some stuff about Ozzy the Wonder Dog). There's lots of stuff going on here and I feel a kind of nervous energy that overtakes me everytime I sit down to write.

I met a blog friend who is fast becoming a real-life friend last week. It was fun to compare notes with Ruti Mizrachi. She is a very inspiring woman with so much faith, and a fascinating story to tell. I was going to write a long post about our meeting, but I can't seem to get up the energy, and well, she beat me to it over here. She basically said everything I had wanted to say, so you can click on over there if you're interested in what happens when great blogger minds get together (so what if we couldn't figure out how to get the computer fired up at the internet cafe).

In any case, I plan on keeping up the posting even if it's short, dumb stuff. Bear with me while I work through this. Hopefully it's a short phase.

In the meantime Haveil Havalim is up at Jack's place and JPix is up at Mom's.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Where did the word "meme" come from anyway?

I got tagged by Leo, which was awfully sweet. What is it about memes and blogs? You don't see them for months, even years and then all of a sudden they're all over the place. I just did one a few posts ago. I don't think I'm going to do any more memes after this one. I'd rather you get to know me slowly, by reading my thoughts. It's more natural, and more fun for me that way.

But here goes this one:

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago:

1) Adoring three little girls ages 1, 2 and 5.
2) Working at HASC in Woodmere, NY.
3) Freaking out alot of the time.
4) Lots of gardening.
5) Starting to become very active in the sisterhood of our synagogue.

5 Things on my to-do list today:

1) Get a good night's sleep.
2) Print out pictures stored in my camera and computer; back them up as well.
3) Make some doctor's appointments.
4) Call NBN to have them help me organize a way for olim to get grandfathered in as therapists under the new licensing laws for speech therapists, OTs, and PTs here in Israel.
5) Learn how to identify and edit run-on sentences.

5 snacks I love:

1) Pizza.
2) Pizza.
3) Pizza.
4) Pizza
5) Pizza.

5 Things I'd do if I were a millionaire:

1) I would try-try-try to live within my means.
2) I'd put money away for the kids.
3) Give a chunk of it to Chai Lifeline.
4) Travel.
5) Invest wisely. (These days that means keeping it all under my mattress).

5 places I have lived:

1) Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
2) Kibbutz Be'erot Yitzchak, Israel.
3) Midwood, Brooklyn.
4) Cedarhurst, Long Island, New York.
5) Modi'in, Israel.

5 jobs I have had:

1) Worked in the kitchen at Camp Moshava. (FUN!!!)
2) Call girl.
3) Camp counselor.
4) Customer service at a Jewelry place on 47th Street, NYC.
5) Speech language pathologist.

And there you have it.

I'm going to be bold and BREAK THE CHAIN. I am not tagging anyone. Just don't feel like it. You can all thank me in the comment section.

Good night.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I have alot on my mind

But I'm not going to go into all of that here. At least not yet.

I do have one thing that's been nagging at me. I'm wondering how all you technologically advanced creatures handle this.

I've always prided myself on my photo albums. Since high school, I've developed pictures and put them in albums and wrote an index on those pictures. I did this all the way up to the summer of 2007, even developing pictures from my digital camera, which I finally got in 2006.

I love these albums and take comfort in the fact that someday my children and grandchildren (G-d willing) will show them to me in an effort to keep me stimulated in some way. Hopefully, this will not be in a nursing home. I think I would very much enjoy the albums at an advanced age of, say, 105.

But the albums have stopped filling up. My pictures are now stored on Snapfish, on Facebook and I probably have about 800 shots on the memory card of the camera itself. It will cost me a bundle to develop hard copies of these pictures and take me weeks to sort them and put them away.

What are you guys doing? Does anyone have and show real pictures anymore?

Just curious.

And by the way Haveil Havalim is up at Batya's. She has included a huge amount of articles about everything going on, including the Mumbai terrorist attack. So much to read, so little time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Skywatch Friday: Modi'in, Israel

My friends Leora and Ilana-Davita usually post beautiful pictures for Skywatch and other photo blogs. I somehow never get around to posting pictures, but last Friday I was able to photograph something in the sky that always has the power to make people stop and look. Some say that a rainbow is a sign from G-d that the world has become evil enough to be destroyed. After the great flood, G-d made a brit, a covenant with Noah that He will never again bring a flood great enough to destroy the entire world; he shows us the rainbow as a sign of this covenant instead. I saw this rainbow over my city, Modiin, last Friday, just as I was reading reports of dead bodies being found in the Chabad House in Mumbai, India. It was in a way, a comfort to see that perfect arc of color. Yes, it seemed to say, the world can be an evil place, but still, I am here, making my presence known.

According to Jewish tradition, when one sees a rainbow, the following blessing is said:

Praised are you our God, Sovereign of the world, Who remembers the covenant, who keeps the promise, and fulfills His word.