Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Vacation

It's already begun for the two older ones; tomorrow is Orli's last day. Don't ask me why, but I felt the need to reiterate, re-emphasize and repeat some rules. I posted these in a very obvious place--the refridgerator door:


**You ate it--now put it away. Including the dish (but please wash that first).

**If it's yours, it should be in YOUR room. Get it out of any common areas, including the living room, dining room and kitchen.

**If you finished the frozen water, refill it. Same goes for ice cube trays.

**No feet on mommy's sheets. Offenders will be banned from the room.

**Feel free to clean something--ANYTHING--at any time.

And you feel free to add any other rules I might like.

Happy summer vacation to all--especially my girls. "magiah lahen"--they deserve it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and let's not forget Ed McMahon, or never speak ill of the dead

Listen, noone knows better than me (except CK, my celebrity-watching idol friend) about the trials and tribulations of these stars. They've been bankrupt, drug addicted, and most disturbingly accused of child molestation.

Michael Jackson, specifically, seemed the most damaged. He was a talented performer. I remember Motown's 25th Anniversary, where he performed Billie Jean and did his moonwalk for the first time. The country went crazy. He was everywhere during my college years. His fall from grace was sad, so much more now that he will be remembered as much for it as he will for his music. Kinda reminds of Elvis.

There's alot of nasty stuff being said about him out there. Personally, I feel the man is dead; whatever you think of him, why not leave it alone now?

These three were icons of my youth. More than missing them, their deaths make me nostalgic about certain periods of my life. Ah, well the sun rises, and sets, as my mother says.

Life goes on.

(I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, too).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The saddest anniversay

June 25, 2006.

Three years ago today, Gilad was captured.

I've blogged about this before over here and here.

I don't have much to add. Just that I get sick to my stomach when I think of it. And that I feel guilty that I don't think about it all the time. I go about my business; I laugh, cry, work, play, am kind, lose my temper, share and sometimes don't. But Gilad is not on my mind constantly. He is never far away. Living here, he can't be. There are signs and posters everywhere, t-shirts, snippets in the news and many people working hard to get him freed. But he is not there always.

Even though I can't think of him constantly, his captivity touches my heart, as it does the heart of all Israelis. We acknowledge these milestone days, and wait and hope. Personally speaking I am glad that I don't have to be the one to choose to bargain with terrorists--truly a deal with the devil.

May G-d grant your freedom speedily, Gilad. We are waiting.

A father awaits his son's freedom.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A rif-raf of random thoughts about work

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. End-of-year meetings with parents, end-of-year parties, report-writing and what-not. Next week we have a surprise something-or-other at work. It's a secret; all we were told is to leave the hours between 5 and 10 PM open on Tuesday night. Last year there was a guided tour of the Ramparts Walk on the Walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, followed by dinner at Cafe Rimon in the Mamilla Mall. Not to shabby. So I'm looking forward to this year's top secret event.

The end-of-year parties (for the kids, with moms invited) are amazing. These women (most of the gannenot [teachers] and their assistants are chareidi ["ultra-orthodox"]) could be professional party planners. No detail was missed from the costumes of the kids, to the video of them (very hi-tech), to the breakfast spread (beautifully presented, and yummy, of course). There is a hebrew word used, השקעה, hashkaah, which literally means investment. These women fling themselves into these projects, giving everything they have. It was truly impressive.

I've come a long way at work. My hebrew has improved to the point where I get very little correcting. I've made friends (mostly Anglo women like myself) and have become friendly with some of the chareidi women, although I wouldn't say we were friends. I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so their way of life is not completely foreign to me. Like in every group, there are many individual differences; some of these women are quite modern in their outlook ("He's their father, who else should watch the kids when I'm not here?") and others not ("It's his job to learn Torah, I can't ask him to watch the kids so I could _______"). I've learned the hard way not to discuss topics like Women's Tefillah Groups. Sex, on the other hand is sometimes okay to discuss.

A few days ago the menahelet [principal] pulled me aside. "Baila", she said, "For the upcoming parties, I would like you to dress as tzanua [modestly] as possible." I looked down at what I was wearing: sleeves to the elbow, skirt, well below the knee and--DING DING DING DING DING--open-toed sandals. "Sure." I mumbled. What else is there to say? I choose to work there, I have to follow their rules. Or at least try. (Last year I used to wear very short-sleeved shirts in the summer, but have not put those on this year. I feel uncomfortable. But open-toe sandals? I can't give those up).

We had a meeting with some parents to discuss the child's transition from our school to a regular school. The child is three-years-old, very bright with a motoric impairment of the legs. He is from a chassidish family. He will be attending a regular "cheder" (yeshiva) classroom in the Fall, with a "shadow". The chassidish father was extremely intelligent, asked good questions and made excellent observations; he made eye contact with all of us (women). When the shadow was brought in (for training), he was obviously very uncomfortable. His eyes were cast downward throughout the entire meeting. He also had good questions and comments, but he clearly was less comfortable. Again, two men from the same background, with seemingly different outlooks on behavior.

Well, I better leave now. Today I have reports to write. In Hebrew.

Piece of cake.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Productive blogging

Haveil Havalim is up at The Real Shaliach.

It's a great edition, but what really amused me is that he met his Kallah [fiance] because she started commenting on his blog.

And people say this whole blogging thing is a waste of time....

Mazal Tov!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Orli's bat mitzvah

Last night finally came. Orli has been counting down since Liat's bat mitzvah, almost four years ago. She was practically busting with excitement.

Orli's hair.

My feet. Heel spur killed me.

An uninvited guest.

This is what happens when you give your a kid the camera and tell her to be creative.

Here's my speech (Isaac's is in the car. If he brings it up, I'll post it, otherwise, trust me, it was nicely done). Feel free to skip it and scroll straight to dessert.

Orli, 12 years ago you came into this world and immediately made us feel like a complete family. Is it because you were our third daughter and needed to somehow gain our attention that you developed a fantastic sense of humor almost as soon as you could talk? Whatever the reason, Orli, you have kept us laughing for nearly 12 years. You've also evoked other emotions, but we won't go into those on your special day.

As Abba mentioned, when were here visiting several years ago, you chose the Pasuk כי אשב בחושך ה אור לי--"When I sit in darkness, G-d is my light"--to engrave on a necklace we were buying you. When I did a little search (Google, where else?), I found that the source for this Pasuk is in מיכה ז:ז [Micah, the prophet], but is added on in many Sefardic communities to Chana's prayer as an opening to their morning services.

As you may remember, Orli, Chana was the mother of Shmuel HaNavi (Samuel the Prophet), who gave her son to the service of G-d. When she brought Shmuel to Eli HaCohen she offered up a beautiful supplication exalting G-d and His Greatness for blessing her with a son. Your Pasuk, Orli, was aptly added onto Chana's praise. "When I sit in darkness, G-d is my light". What beautiful, comforting words.

I do not have the eloquence of Chana, Orli, but I can say this: G-d has sent you to us, our light. May you always be as luminous as you are today; May you always shine with laughter and humor and follow in his ways.


Party's over. :-)

Oh wait, I almost forgot. What would this post be without a picture of the girls?:

May we all celebrate many, many happy occasions!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The executioner in my living room

Today, as I was out running an errand, a couple came to our home to pick up a package from their son, who works with my mother in America.

I returned home to find an elderly, diminutive Yemenite couple trying to converse with my mother, who speaks no Hebrew. Everyone was relieved to see me, the translator. I was immediately captivated by the couple, both of who were warm and communicative. We made small talk for several minutes and I was charmed.

I am trying to remember how the subject came up, but all of a sudden the wife said to me, "הוא תלה את אייכמן" [Hoo talah et Eichmann--He hung Eichmann],and pointed at her husband.

"Excuse me?" I said. And she repeated what she said: "He hung Eichmann."

I raised my eyebrows and looked at him. He nodded affirmatively.

Eichmann's executioner was sitting in my living room.

For a moment I was speechless. How could this be? The man, Rav Shalom Nagar, began to speak. He told me that after Eichmann was convicted and sentenced to death, he was brought to the prison in Ramle, where Rav Nagar was one of the guards. He brought Eichmann his daily meals. I asked him, "Did Eichmann speak to you?" Rav Nagar told me, yes, he would say "Gracias"--thank you, in Spanish. Eichmann had heard that Rav Nagar was Sefardi, and thought he spoke Spanish. Rav Nagar told me that they couldn't communicate because of the language barrier, but he preferred it that way.

He continued with his story. (I'm paraphrasing here) "There were 22 men in my unit and my commander asked me to be the one to execute him. I refused. I was the only Sefardi in the unit, how could I be the one? The Ashkenazim were the ones that truly suffered because of him, some of them even had numbers on their arms and had lost all their family, I felt one of them should do the job. But all the 21 men wanted to do it, so my commander threw a lottery and my name was chosen. I then felt it was my destiny, that G-d had picked me. The day the execution took place was a secret. I arrived at the prison and they told me it was time. When I arrived in the [designated] place, the noose was already around Eichmann's neck, and at the appointed time I pulled the lever [for the floor to open]. It was very difficult. I then was the one to take his body to the oven, where it was burned; his ashes were later dropped into the ocean."

"You know," he said, "I later became a shochet (one who ritually slaughters animals for consumption). "I have slaughtered animal and human, but this human was not really human." He went on, "The Torah has commanded us, תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח, [you shall wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens--you shall not forget]. It was my priviledge to fulfill this mitzvah in its entirety..."

Since that time, Rav Nagar has become a religious man. A search on Google confirmed what he told us today in my living room. I also read an interview in which he spoke about the emotional and psychological effects of what he did.

As he spoke, chills ran up and down my spine. The infamous picture of Eichmann came to mind. Eichmann, the ultimate nazi, the "architect of the Holocaust"; murderer of millions of Jews.

On May 31, 1962, justice was served.

At the hands of this elderly, diminutive, Yemenite man sitting in my living room.

A copy of the newspaper clipping Rav Nagar gave us. The title means "The Hangman"; in quotes, near a photo of Nagar in 1962 "This is how I hung and burned Eichmann".

Friday, June 12, 2009

What do you think this means?

Mami arrived safe and sound. I hope she's having a good time. I've been working and getting ready for the bat mitzvah so touring hasn't been a priority. Next week we'll hopefully do more.

We did make it to the Kotel last night. I think I've mentioned that we get to the Kotel relatively often (wow, am I here long enough to say "several times a year"???)When we arrived, I was thrilled to see there was going to be a swearing-in ceremony for soldiers recently drafted. Not just any soldiers, but tzanchanim--paratroopers, one of the army's most elite unites. There were tons of adorable soldiers (and I say that only in the most motherly of ways) hanging around waiting for the ceremony to begin. Everything was set up, including their machine guns and tanachim (the complete bible, on which they will swear their allegiance to serve the people and State of Israel).

Usually, when we go to the Kotel, I spend a considerable amount of time at the wall itself. I often pray with my siddur (prayerbook) or just pray with my heart. Sometimes I just stand or sit there watching the other women praying and crying; I wonder about the pain in their hearts. I always end my visit by squeezing my way through to the wall where I leave a note, or just caress the ancients stones for a moment or two.

Last night I did none of that. I just stood and watched the soldiers getting ready. I didn't go down to the wall, I didn't even think about praying. I was just enthralled by the preparations; we didn't even have enough time to stay for the actual ceremony.

When my mom and kids came back up from the Kotel, it was time to go. They wondered if I was going down to the wall. "Nah", I said. "Next time". I totally didn't care.

What do you think that means?

Here's a little treat for you: one of those adorable soldiers

Shabbat Shalom!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mami's coming

As in my mother. Whom I haven't seen since September 3rd, 2007.

I made up her bed (of course she gets clean sheets, even if it's an off-week), did a special supermarket shop for her and am counting down the hours. The girls can't wait, and really, it's not because of the loot she's bringing. (A few weeks ago she told me she was going to try to come with only one piece of luggage. "Sure, mami", I said, stifling a giggle.)

As I was running errands today, I tried to figure out the last time I lived with my mother for three weeks straight. I was probably about 18. Now it's ten years later. (Hah!) I'm trying not to have to high expectations of the trip. I'm crazy about my mother, but we certainly have had our issues in the past. But I'm going to do my best to make this a special time for her and not to let the past impinge on the present. Hopefully. Fingers crossed (are Jews even allowed to say/do that?)

My father, unfortunately, can't make the trip. I will be thinking of him constantly in my mother's presence, and missing him. I'm hoping to see him soon.

Next week is Orli's bat-mitzvah. Posting may be spotty, or I may have much to say. We'll see.

In the meantime, Happy Mother's Day. To me and my mami.

Haveil Havalim is up at Esser Agaroth. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts on today's national drill

Today the siren signaling an emergency (e.g. incoming missiles) was sounded throughout the country as a drill. The powers that be want us to know where the nearest shelters are, to see if they are indeed ready for an emergency and in general to see what issues need to be rectified in case of a true national emergency.

[Of course, many areas of our country have recently gotten plenty of practise with this. I wonder if they were excused from today's exercise.]

I was at work today. My school started preparing for the drill last week, when I noticed bottled water being stocked in the "protected rooms". I joined the staff of a class of severely handicapped children to help get everyone to the "protected area" (not a room, but a space away from any windows). When I arrived in the classroom five minutes before the siren was scheduled, all the kids were ready in their chairs and standers. We were six adults with 7 children. The siren went off and we were all in the "area" in about 15 seconds. I sure hope that when the missiles do start flying in Central Israel (G-d willing, never) that whoever is sending them gives us enough notice to have the kids ready in their chairs and for enough staff members to be there. Because at any particular time, there are only two or three adults in the room, the kids are in and out of their chairs, sometimes attached to feeding and other tubes. Some of these kids are heavy and difficult to move. Others are extremely fragile and need to be moved very carefully.

Let's just say the real thing would take alot longer than 15 seconds.

I was surprised at how emotional I felt when the siren went off. I try not to think about it much, but the truth is that I live in a country that so many others want to destroy. And of late, our good buddy, Obama, seems to be getting ready to throw us under the bus so he could make nice with, well, with terrorists. I don't have a good feeling about that at all. Which made today's exercise feel important.

As I was ferrying my assigned child to the area, I glanced out the window. In the distance, I saw a woman running like crazy. She probably didn't know about the drill and was running for her life. My heart pounded just thinking about her terror.

Sigh. May these sirens forever only be drills.

Haveil Havalim #219 is up at Dov Bear.