Friday, July 31, 2009

Haveil Havalim #227... up at Jewschool, who hosts for the first time (and does a great job!)

I'll be hosting on August 9th, so sharpen your pencils.

Shabbat Shalom and a great weekend to all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tisha B'Av

Tisha B'Av (Fast of the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) speaks to me in a way no other day on the Jewish calendar does.

It is the day meant to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem and the beginning of the long exile of the Jewish people.

My father used to say in Yiddish "iz shver tzi zein a Yid"--it's hard to be a Jew. On Tisha B'Av I think about what our nation has been through since the exile began: we have been discriminated against and expelled, ghetto-ized and tortured. We have been burned at the stake and in our homes and synagogues. We have been starved and gassed.

As I read Eicha last night, I felt the oppression of the centuries.

צוד צדוני כצפר איבי חנם
צמתו בבור חיי וידו אבן בי
צפו מים על ראשי אמרתי נגזרתי

I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’ (Eichah, 52:2-4)

It really is hard to be a Jew.

Yet, today things are different. We are back in our homeland. And it's still hard to be a Jew, even here. The difference is that now we are Jews who can protect ourselves; we are Jews with guns and we stand ready to fight for our right to be here.

Eicha opens with these words in speaking about the desolation of Jerusalem:

איכה ישבה בדד העיר רבתי עם
היתה כאלמנה רבתי בגוים
שרתי במדינות היתה למס

How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave. (Eicha 1:1)

Ironic, these words. This is the Jerusalem of not so long ago, but not the Jerusalem of today. Jerusalem today is a vibrant, teeming city, full of life. Full of Jewish life.

Surely, the geula (redemption) has begun.

May G-d bless us and bring about the complete redemption so we may live in peace in our land amongst the nations.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I know you've all been waiting with bated breath... see how I'm going to celebrate the second anniversary of my first post to this blog. I'll tell you one thing, I'm not going to ruminate about blogging, since I just did that in my last post. I will say that I can't believe it's been two years! Where does the time go??? [to be read with my mother's intonation].

Instead of bringing you my favorite or most popular posts, I'd thought I'd turn things around a bit, and present you with my least favorite posts.

Actually, I changed my mind. I don't want to choose my least favorite posts. Their all my babies, even the bad ones [**gag**].

Instead, in honor of the occasion, I've decided to revamp my blogroll a bit, by creating a separate category for Modi'in bloggers. Of late, I've noticed there are a bunch of us and I've been poking around these blogs. One of them, Emah S. of Moving On Up has been on the blogroll for quite a while, but now I'm moving her to the new category (although Emah seems to have stopped blogging since she had her baby). All of these bloggers are olim (immigrants) like myself, but are different ages, from different places and each has their own unique perspective of what life in Modi'in is (or in the case of One Tired Ema, will be) like. I'd like to give a special mention to Aliyah-by-Accident. Her posts make me laugh out loud--we seem to have the same sense of humor. She is thinking of writing a parenting book called, "Don't bother me, I'm reading"--my book was going to be called, "Don't bother me, I'm on the computer". For making me laugh so often, ABA, I'm giving you a special award:

I'm also adding some blogs I check frequently, including Robin of Around the Island, Mrs. S. of Our Shiputzim, Hadassah of In the Pink, and A Living Nadneyda. Now I no longer have visit you guys through Leora or Ilana-Davita.

There, don't you think that's an appropriate way to celebrate this special occasion?

Thanks to everyone enquiring about my nephew and for all your thoughts and prayers. It turns out that Gavi had the dreaded Swine Flu and it lead to viral meningitis. He is getting back to himself now, and with G-d's help will be released from the hospital within a few days.

Shabbat Shalom and a great weekend to all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting personal....or not

I often think about what the function of this blog is. It started off as an Aliyah blog, a-dime-a-dozen, I know, and as a way to keep in touch with friends and family in the states. It's evolved, I think and now I believe it to be more of a place where I "shmooze", much of the time about my experiences as a new oleh. It's not exactly a journal. I've been keeping a handwritten journal since 1981. Actually, Mrs. Brandwein, my 12th grade English teacher had us keep a journal; I wished I'd kept those essays, although they could not have been very personal knowing that Mrs. B. was reading them.

I still keep a journal, but I rarely write in it. I suppose blogging has replaced that need. I've noticed that I do write in the journal everytime I have an arguement with Isaac. (Anyone reading the journal would think my marriage is in trouble or that I was deeply depressed, but if you look at the dates, you'll note the entries are few and far between).

Although blogging is a form of journaling, it's obviously not the same. I am not anonymous and therefore don't feel always comfortable expressing what I feel. I have a responsibility to respect my family's privacy. I do mention them and their antics, but usually in a humorous way. Yet I do think the blog loses something by not putting myself out there. So I try to find a balance, to make this place uniquely mine, a place where I can talk to you as if we were indeed "shmoozing". Much of the time it's lighthearted, because that's the way I am much of the time. But there are times when it just can't be.

My nephew Gavi, who has been competing in the Macabiah, has been hospitalized for Bacterial Meningitis. Thank G-d, he has been responding to anti-biotics, but he's pretty sick and of course we are all worried about him. We have been (really, Isaac and his sister) at his side throughout this ordeal and Gavi's mother just arrived from Venezuela.

When Isaac was called that Gavi was being rushed to the hospital, he rushed up to Haifa to be with him. At first we thought it was a case of the dreaded Swine Flu. When Isaac told me that Gavi was complaining of neck pain, I immediately asked if they were going to do a spinal tap to test for meningitis, but the doctors didn't think ,he was displaying the right symptons. A few hours later they changed their minds, did the procedure and came up with the diagnosis.

Now I have that pit in my stomach. Worried about Gavi, and selfishly worried that my own kids have been exposed. Liat had a weird bacterial thing before we made Aliyah that lead to ARDS and hospitalized her for seven weeks. This, a year after her recovery from Hodgkin's Disease. Two years later, I worry about her immune system, although follow-up visits to the doctor tell us she is fine, [TG-BAH].

I feel guilty that I'm worried about Liat when Gavi is so sick. I feel guilty that I am not as worried about Tali and Orli. I know I'm not being rational. Tali and Orli were the ones who had contact with Gavi as Liat was in camp when he came for Shabbat. And the disease is only contagious through exchange of fluid. At the hospital, visitors are told to put on masks only if they are coming close to Gavi, in case he sneezes or coughs. You can't get the disease by breathing the same air. Still the pit is there.

And the question: should I be sharing this? You may know me, but you don't really know Gavi. Would he be upset if he knew I was writing about this? Is this to personal?

I guess, if you're reading this, it means I've decided to hit the Publish Post button. And if you are reading, please think of and pray for the good health and speedy recovery of my nephew, Gavi, Gavriel ben Sara, גבריאל בן שרה, and of the many ill people in need of healing.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 20, 2009

No rush

Today, Orli innocently said to me, "Mommy, when are we going shopping for school supplies?"

After I was revived I cried, "WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY ORLI???"

Really, now. Her mentioning this is akin to talking about Pesach (the word makes me shudder) in February. Is it really necessary to bring up such unpleasant memories while we are on our Chofesh HaGadol [big vacation]? I'm still working, but I consider it a vacation if I don't have to drag three teens (well Orli's not a teen yet, but that's just splitting hairs) out of bed, prepare their lunches and (please pass the smelling salts) help them with homework.

To compound matters, this morning the nice DJ on the radio announced that it is "the end of the beginning of the chofesh hagadol". Who asked you, I muttered and quickly changed the station.

People, listen to me. There is no reason to rush life along--we'll all get to the end soon enough. No reason to start counting down to Christmas on Halloween, Pesach on Tu B'shvat and school in July. And so I announce to you that I will not start looking at knapsacks, spiral notebooks, pens, markers, and other assorted supplies before the fifteenth of August, at the earliest.

Do you hear that, Orli-imposter? Now give me back my child.

I now return to my regular vacation position.

Stop bothering me I'm still on vacation

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Go Venezuela!!!

No, I have not suddenly become a Chavista. I think Venezuela is in deep trouble because of its dictator and I wish Isaac's family would get the hell out of there. BUT I am very proud to root for my Venezuelan nephew Gavi who is competing in the 18th Maccabiah Games in several swimming categories. Gavi swims 5 hours a day as part of his training regimen. Five hours!!! Imagine having that kind of discipline at 16. I can barely muster up the discipline to get off the couch.

So I just wanted to wish Gavi and all his teammates lots of luck in these games. I'm glad they, and so many other Jews from all over the earth came to Israel to display their Jewish pride and talent for all the world to see.

Go Team!

Haveil Havalim is up at Jack's place.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Did you shower today? It's gonna cost you (that is, if you live in Israel)

In spite of today's little sprinkle here in Modi'in (that made me smile--rain in July!!), you'd have to be living under a rock to not be aware of Israel's extreme water shortage. The Kinneret, our major source of water, is apparently shrinking to the size of a dime while water consumption is increasing, and, well, as Michelle on Full House used to say "We're in trouble, Mister!"

To that end, the Knesset has just passed a new water tax. For the details you can hop on on over to Mom's Place. The tax was supposed to go into effect on July 1st, but there was some knesset last minute finagling so it goes into effect today. Basically, the tax penalizes you by 20 shekel for every cubic meter you go above the alloted amount.

I've never thought of us as a water wasteful family. We wash our dishes and brush our teeth the Israeli way (water doesn't run constantly), and try to take short showers. I assumed that the Israeli Water Authority was reasonable and that if we were above our alloted amount, it would be by a minimal amount.

Imagine my surprise shock horror when we find out that we use an average of 67 cm's per bill, more than 30 cm's over our limit, which would increase our bill by 600+ shekel per billing period (two months). Isaac and I immediately went into water conservation overdrive. Short showers have now become mandatory and include turning the water off during soaping up [not a problem now, but come winter....]; better yet the kids (me, too) have been forced encouraged to shower at the pool [a temporary solution; come Fall we will rarely be there--and I wouldn't be surprised if the pool starting charging for the showers anyway] and we cut down the watering of the owner's beautiful garden by half [but we have to be careful here--we are contractually responsible to maintain the garden.] I'm trying to cut down on laundry [may mean I'll have to do this less frequently]. We are also going to start instituting some of the tips I saw at Mom's site.

One water-saving measure we won't be instituting is the old adage, if it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down. I just can't do it.

But when I was leaving for work this morning and felt like I had to uhm, go, I thought, heck, I'll just wait 'til I get to work.

What are you doing to save water?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Watching Israeli Idol, otherwise known as כוכב נולד--A (Israeli) Star is Born

What can I say? I knew that sooner or later I'd watch this show. If you know me, you know that pop culture is something I enjoy uselessly filling my brain with; I'm trying to develop an understanding of the Israeli version of this so I can fill up my brain with more useless facts. Not so easy to do while trying to maintain the American part at the same time. After I read an article in the Jerusalem Post about Elchai Refuah, one of the contestants, I decided this was the season to get into this very popular show here in Israel. Here is what the official "Kochav Nolad" website has to say about Elchai:

אלחי נולד לפני 18 שנה בירושלים בתור ילד שני במשפחה של ארבעה ילדים. הוא סיים את לימודיו בישיבה התיכונית "חורב" ירושלים וכעת ממתין לגיוסו. הוא עדיין לא יודע באיזו יחידה הוא ישרת, אך אם לא יתקבל ללהקה צבאית הוא מעדיף לשרת ביחידה קרבית או מודיעין, כי יש לו חיבה לשפות זרות. אבל אל תחשבו שהוא לא עושה כלום עד הגיוס. אלחי מדריך בסניף של "בני עקיבא", מתנדב בעמותת "שלווה" וגם לומד במרכז למוסיקה בירושלים. אגב, הוא טרם מצא את בחירת ליבו

Elchai was 18 years ago in Jerusalem, the second of four children. He finished his high school studies in the "Chorev" Yeshiva and is currently waiting to be drafted. He still does not know in which unit he will serve; if he is not accepted to the army band he would prefer to serve in a combat unit or intelligence because he has a love of foreign languages. But don't think he's doing nothing until he is drafted. Elchai is a madrich (counselour) in his local Bnei Akiva branch, volunteers for the organization "Shalvah" and is studying at the Music Center of Jerusalem. By the way he has not yet found the love of his heart (Hey!! I'm just translating the stuff!)

So this kid is a graduate of a very highly respected boys yeshiva in Jerusalem. According to the JP article, Elchai asked the school administration about participating in the show. He states, "They were not enthusiastic, but they did not forbid my participation. If they had, I wouldn't have done it.They advised me not to lose my modesty, not to forget to put on tefillin. I felt it could be a glorification of God's name if a religious singer did well."

This is the seventh season of "Israeli Idol". I watched tonight's show--and was surprised to see not only Elchai, but another young man wearing a kipah. The other singer sang the hebrew version of Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence . Some may argue that this is not an appropriate venue for religious people. Go ahead, argue away. I enjoy watching people blessed with G-d-given talents realizing their dreams. And wearing their kipot while doing so.

The show itself is kind of cheesy. The judges consist of Dana International, Tzvika Pik and others I don't recognize, but the ones I mentioned are kinda scary looking (sorry to be mean about it). Definitely no Simon Cowell or even Paula Abdul here. Still, it was fun to watch. And for now my favorite contestant is safe, so I'll try to keep up with the show. Unfortunately, I have noone at work to discuss this with at the watercooler (I doubt my chareidi colleagues are into Idol) and noone in my family is willing to watch with me. So I guess I'll have to report every now and then to you, my not-so-captive audience.

What's that you say? Project Runway is coming to Israel? I am so there. I'll report back soon.

BTW, Haveil Havalim is up at How to be Israeli--a blog I really enjoyed getting to know.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A bit of a wake-up call

Today, I got a phone call from Orli at about 11 a.m. I don't usually see her in the morning, as she and Tali are usually sleeping when I leave. I leave them a "love note" and we check in with each other when they wake up.

"Mommy, a man came to the door and I opened it and he said he was working outside and he needed some water. So I gave him a water bottle and he said thank you and he left."

WHAT THE--????

"Orli", I said. "Go to the door right now and lock it. Lock the top lock as well."

I heard a note of panic in Orli's voice. "It is locked, mommy. We always keep the door locked when you're not home. Did I do something wrong? The man looked like he was going to pass out."

I sighed. My 12-year-old daughter who is sometimes so savvy, who knows way more about things than she should, is still so innocent. All she was trying to do was help someone in need.

When I got home I had a talk with the girls. Okay, maybe it was more a lecture. But they have to know that they can't just go opening the door to strangers, even in Israel. Perhaps even more so in Israel. In a way, I'm glad this happened, because it caused me to have this conversation with them.

If your kids are spending alot of time at home alone this summer, please don't forget to have this conversation with them.

Wishing all a safe summer.

PS Toby has done a great job with Haveil Havalim this week. Go check it out.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Today was a great day


Just 'cuz. (I'm about to make a short story long, so if you're really, really busy you may want to click away. Better yet turn off your computer or you'll never get anything done. Trust me, I know. But I digress.)

Anyhoo, I made my way to Mega today, to do my Big Weekly Supermarket Shopping. This was unusual for two reasons:

1. I normally do my Big Weekly Supermarket Shopping on Wednesdays, but this week did it on Tuesday because I want to take the kids to the beach tomorrow.

2. I normally do my Big Weekly Supermarket Shopping at Supersol, not Mega. But Mega is having their "bulim" (stamps) thingie. Where, if you collect enough stamps you get to buy something for a really good price. Tali asked me to shop there until I collect 60 bulim so she could buy a fairly decent digital camera for 249 shekel. That means I have to spend 6,000 shekel on groceries in about a month. Not likely, but a girl can hope. (If anyone out there has spare bulim, I'll take 'em).

But now I'm really digressing.

At the supermarket, I see a young guy (under 30?) talking to his wife on his cell phone (how did men ever manage the supermarket before cell phones?). "....Listen, honey", he was saying "I got regular carrots, they don't have baby carrots here..." He's new, I thought to myself.

As luck and an empty supermarket would have it, I was behind him in line. He seemed a little--inexperienced, shall we say?--at the cashier.

"Are you new here?", I asked him.

"Yes." He answered.

"Welcome!", I beamed at him. "When did you get here?"

"Today", he said. "We just arrived on the Nefesh B'Nefesh flight this morning."

I swear to G-d, tears welled up in my eyes. They are welling up now, as I type.

I told him that we came almost two years ago.

"Why did you choose Modiin?", he asked.

"Because of its central location and we had a couple of friends here and we wanted to move to a place where the prices of homes would skyrocket as soon as we got here and we would totally miss the boat on buying something. But we're very happy here."

"It's an adjustment, isn't it?"

I thought about my own Nefesh B'Nefesh flight, about the highs, the tears, the kids.

"It is an adjustment. But it's good."

"No baby carrots here in Israel."

I smiled, and agreed. "True. No baby carrots." (Hah! Wait 'til you try to push the shopping cart.)

Welcome to Israel, my friend. May the lack of baby carrots be the most difficult adjustment of your Aliyah.

And welcome to the other 229 olim (new immigrants) who joined him on this summer's first charter flight from the United States. I wish for you all an easy and successful Aliyah.

I better go now; I'm getting all choked up again.

(Now do you see why today was a great day?)