Thursday, December 27, 2007

So, here's the thing....

I don't want my kids to read this blog anymore. I just find that I have to censor myself to much. It's not that I want to write about them, but I don't necessarily want them reading everything about me. (Girls, don't take that personally--I love you, but a mom's got to have some space, you know?) But what do I do? Do any of you out there know if there is a way to switch addresses without them knowing?

I'm happy with the way this blog has been progressing (except for the part of having to censor myself) and am enjoying the comments I've been getting--I don't want to start from scratch. And I kinda like my blog's name and my URL.

I'd appreciate any ideas. (And I don't mean from my kids :) )

In other news, I'm pleased to report that Isaac is working. He started after Chanukah. So he leaves every morning and comes back at night. And I miss him. Now I have to remember to tell him things. Life has become rushed again. We are very grateful.

And I'm looking forward to that first paycheck!

Monday, December 24, 2007

But yet, Gilad Schalit

Over at the Jerusalem Post, it's being reported that Hamas will agree to release Gilad Schalit, in exchange for 500 Palestinians being held by Israel, and for Israel to cease fire.

"Hamas wants the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit to be part of a package that would include, among other things, a mutual cease-fire with Israel and guarantees that Israel will not target Hamas leaders, sources close to Hamas said Sunday.

The sources said Hamas also wanted the package to include the reopening of the border crossings in the Gaza Strip and an end to international sanctions that have been in effect since Hamas came to power in January 2006."

Excuse me???? A cease fire from Israel??? Should I state the obvious??? Kassam rockets are raining down daily on Sderot and neighboring areas. That's every day. What the hell else are we supposed to do? Continue to allow it to happen? Continue to work from a position of weakness? What exactly is Hamas guaranteeing?

But yet, Gilad Schalit.

I want him home.

And the others, of course.

This morning, on my way to Mega, I was listening to a talk show (in Hebrew, she says with pride). The first person interviewed said that when you release Palestinian prisoners you need to look at who you are releasing; are you releasing the old, the infirm, the ones you are pretty sure will not murder more Israelis? This guy said there is a difference between releasing a 30-year-old terrorist, and a 60-year-old terrorist. Which is of course, laughable. I mean, isn't that age discrimination? What, a 60-year-old can't commit [mass] murder? How old is Osama Bin Ladin? Not exactly a spring chicken, and he seems spry enough to murder.

Didn't we used to have a policy of no negotiating with terrorists? But then they changed that to not releasing terrorists with "blood on their hands". And now....

Then the host of this radio program interviewed a former chayal [soldier] who had been seriously injured by a terrorist attack years ago. The chayal said, "Blood on your hands is blood on your hands". He went on to point out that if we release these prisoners now, we may get Gilad Schalit back. Of course his parents and all of Israel will rejoice. But at what price? What do we tell the parents of future victims whose children die at the hands of these terrorists we are imminently releasing?

And I live here now. This is real to me. Freed terrorists allowed to plot more killings just doesn't sit right with me.

That is the struggle of this country. Every soldier, every Jew so precious. Gilad suffers now. But we have to worry about the future as well. When we negotiate with murderers we are negotiating from a position of weakness. We are always paying a price for everything we do.

But yet, Gilad Schalit....

Friday, December 21, 2007

I took my driver's test this morning....

I think I did okay. That woman didn't look mortally wounded...And with the excellent insurance coverage in this country, fixing her face shouldn't cost her anything.

The test-giver was very serious, no conversation except for the requisite turn right, turn left. I could swear I saw him cutting me off on the 443 the other day. Naaah. I'm sure he always signals (or puts on his vinkerim as they are called in this country).

And I won't know if I passed or failed until later today. I guess my case needs to be conferenced before he tells me.

One more thing before I go: Every Thursday night or Friday we always see young chayalim (soldiers) getting out of cars and buses, with their knapsack slung over one shoulder and their gun slung over the other. I just saw a soldier bound eagerly up the steps to his apartment. I am always so happy that they are getting a well deserved "Shabbat Chofshit" (weekend off). I know they are being welcomed by their loved ones with much joy. These kids fill me with such pride and love--and I know you all join me in my prayer that they will always return home safe and sound.

See this woman's blog for a beautifully told tale of her son's army service.

Shabbat Shalom!


Our driving instructor, Ofer (a quintisential Israeli), who is also our neighbor just knocked on our door. He greeted us with, "Mazal Tov!". So we passed our tests, both Isaac and I. And then Ofer, with the Ray-Ban shades and diamond earring in his ear wished us a Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Survivor--Israeli Style

There has been much publicity about the Israeli "Survivor" which premiered tonight on Arutz 10. It is very much based on Mark Burnett's popular (or used to be, anyway) reality show. The girls and I watched it together tonight. They liked Survivor in America, and I figured it would be a fun thing to watch here, even though its in Hebrew. And it was fun. It was exactly like the American version--the music, the logo, the scheming; even the host sounded remarkably like his American counterpart (forgot his name).

What most struck me was the team that was going to tribal council (where a member of the tribe would be voted off). The council happened to be taking place on a Friday night. Before they left for the council, one of the members got up and said, "You know I am not religious, but every Friday night I have "kabalat Shabbat" with my family. I would like to do it here as well, and whoever wants to, can join me." With that said, he lifted up his canteen, and made a full kiddush over the water inside it, and then proceeded to make "Hamotzi" over the bread. Not only did this affect me, but it affected many members of the tribe as well. One of them said, "No matter which "tribe" I belong to on this show, we are all "yehudim", and we have our special traditions. I was proud to celebrate Shabbat with my fellow Jews".

I have no comment that can beat that.

A Week of Firsts, or My Post-Chanukah Post

A while back I posted about doing everything for the last time in my old town of Cedarhurst. That was really tough. It was so sad and hard for me that I'm not going to link to that post. This is a much happier entry, about our first Chanukah and all the other "firsts" I had this week.

Our first Chanukah as Israeli citizens! We are living in Modiin, land of the Macabis themselves. There is evidence of their lives all over our town, from mikvahs, to olive presses (what would an ancient site be without an olive press?) to a Beit Knesset that was used by the Chashmonaim. There was a Friday night tefilla there that we would have attended had it not been pouring.

Right before Chanukah, I decided to get Isaac one of those outdoor Chanukiyot (menorahs), otherwise known as Yerushalmi Chanukiyot. I couldn't find any in Modiin, so I decided to head over to Kiryat Sefer. I had never been there. Kiryat Sefer is a charedi (ultra-orthodox) community not to far from here. They are famous for selling Ungar's frozen gefilte fish loaves, which you can't get at Mega. Just kidding, they are probably famous for other things as well, but well, for me its comforting to know that I can always get my hands on some frozen gefilte fish loaves anytime the urge to spend $12.00 hits me! But I digress. Now I had never been to Kiryat Sefer and had always assumed I would go there for the first time with a friend who would show me the ropes. But I really wanted that Chanukiyah, and knew they probably had it. So I bravely drove the two miles and was rewarded for my efforts:

It felt good seeing these lights twinkling all over the city.

That night, the first, Isaac's family came over and we had Latkes and Sufganiyot. Let's try this shot (not a picture, one of my kids actually videod the sufganiyot; click on the arrow):

Notice there are no "ribat chalav" donuts--that's because they were all eaten. This is what I have to say about sufganiyot:
1. I hate them, even the "caramel" ones.
2. The root word of 'sufganiya' is ס פ ג; this means 'absorb' as in oil, and transfat. So to my friend SZ, don't be to upset that you missed 'em this year.

On our first day of Chanukah, we went to Tel-Aviv to meet my sister-in-law at a mall to see the movie "Enchanted". It was our first time on the Israel Railroad. We rode in a double decker car (of course on top!)

Definitely not the Long Island RailRoad!

Riding the railroad was fun. All the automated instructions are in Hebrew and English, except for the part about watching the gap between the platform and the train. For some reason they only say that part in Hebrew. Maybe they don't like Americanos???? Or English speakers?

The movie was great. Very Disney. Go see it--and take the kids, its a family movie. The theater was huge, with big comfy seats (like business class on El-Al, not that I would know, I'm not one of those people who ever gets the upgrade).

At the mall we saw this:

The man bending over is a magician. There were dreidels and sufganiyot everywhere, and we didn't see Santa anywhere. Commercialism yes, Santa no. Apparently he's only allowed in the supermarkets.

At the mall, I bought my first pair of shoes in Israel:

Yup, my girls think they are totally hot. And guess what? Shoes are expensive here.

On Shabbat Chanukah, I achieved another signicant milestone I made my first roast. Meat here is very complicated. Buying it, not making it. But I'll save that for another post.

Another first: Seeing the Chanukiya at the Kotel. Unfortunately we were not there for candlelighting.

Finally, our first vacation as Israelis. How different from our road trips in the states (even though we loved seeing America and travelling her roads). First of all, no need to plan meals and shlep food. Just pack the string bikinis and Isaac's speedo and we're off to the races! The most we had to do was check that the Eilat restaurants we were eating in had a teudat kashrut. Isaac went to minyan in the morning, which was packed.

And of course the hotel celebrated Chanukah right along with us.

Here are some other highlights of our first Israeli vacation:

Nope, we never ran into a camel.

We stopped at Machtesh Ramon, Israel's "Grand Canyon". Truly beautiful. We'll have to go back to spend more time there.

This is the Taba Crossing, our border with Egypt. Maybe I shouldn't post it--it may be top secret.

Orienting the Egyptians as to where they are when they cross the Taba Border.

One of the highlights of the trip was snorkeling on Coral Beach. We saw the most beautiful, colorful fish, hundreds of them, swimming right under our noses. That was a first for me, but hopefully I'll get to experience that again. A tip: don't waste money on the aquarium, just go snorkeling.

Our last first of the week, hopefully not to be repeated; Isaac cut his shin on coral and had to be taken to the ER, where he received 21 stitches, poor guy. He was barely in the water when it happenned, and then had to leave. Thank G-d he is fine. He would love to tell you every gory detail, but as I've said before, he needs to get his own blog. He wanted me to post some pictures of his leg but for G-d's sake this is a family blog!

Well, that about wraps it up, folks. Come join me next Chanukah, and I'll be sure to show you a good time--or at least an olive press or two!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Shabbat Shalom!

I've been working on my Chanukah post, but its just not ready and Shabbat is starting in 15 minutes. So I promise I will post it tomorrow night. I just didn't want it to be sloppy.

In the meantime have a great Shabbat. And check again tomorrow night or Sunday.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Chanuka Events

Orli, my ten-year-old has more time than usual on her hands, what with Chanuka vacation and all. She decided she wants to contribute to my blog, so without further ado, here goes:

This is orli

Chanuka is going to be crazy so I'm writing down our events..................

night 1 my grandma and aunt came and I got a cool Israeli FOX sweatshirt and pink leg warmers-they're so cool!

night 2 we went to see the movie Enchanted (highly recommended)in Tel Aviv with my aunt, tali, liat, my mom and then went 4 pizza with my dad and grandma

night 3 we're going to a party in Bait Shemesh at Marta's, my mom's friend

night 4 4 Shabbat we're having my aunt and grandma over and since I have the hi-riser I have 2 give up my bed and sleep on top of tali's bunk bed.

night 5 we're going 2 Ra'annana 4 a party with the cousins

night 6 we're going 2 Eilat--FUN!!!!!!!

night 7 we'll still be in Eilat

night 8 still Eilat


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Front Page Headlines in Israel Today...

It was all over the news today that an elementary school in Petach Tikvah accepted four Ethiopian students into their school, but separated them from the other students. The four young girls had a separate classroom, with a separate teacher, and supposedly had recess at a different time than the rest of the school (this last fact was denied by the school). You can read more about it here. I'm not surprised by this at all. Israel hasn't really heard of "separate but equal is inherently unequal".

Besides the obvious discrimination, my first thought was, "Four kids in a class? Why aren't more parents clamoring to get their kids into that class?!?" My two kids in elementary school have 40 kids in their class. Class not grade. Each. Talk about culture shock. It's a good thing they spend most of their time in ulpan. Anyway, now that everyone's gotten wind of the antics of this school, these kids will probably get the same education like the rest of the kids in that school. For better or worse....


Stay tuned for my Chanukah post, coming soon--I'll let you all know how that caramel sufganiya was.....

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...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Can't think of a title for this post, if you think of one and I like it, maybe I'll use it

Well, this Shabbat was not as eventful as our last Shabbat was, but it did have a significant milestone: it was the first time we had people over for lunch. Actually, Liat had invited two friends from camp who are here for the year and I thought that since I was cooking for two extra, I might as well cook for 11 more....!....Of course, except for the cooking, I'm a very lazy hostess and did not think through the fact that we needed 18 chairs, and at the last minute I had to scrounge around for paper goods and plastic silverware since no way in hell I was going to wash all those dishes. In the end, everything worked out. The food was good, and the company even better. My friend brought her two week old baby, who is delicious and it was a noisy, hectic and fun afternoon. It is so great having a park right downstairs, the kids spent alot of time there. If anyone wants my corn salad recipe or the recipe for mukmara, let me know. They were a hit! The okra, not so much.

For those of you who have been asking about Isaac's job search: it's moving along. He always seems to find more leads and contacts, and one of these days, something will come through. Oddly enough, I'm not feeling nervous about this. I really believe that something good will come soon, Be'ezrat Hashem. But I'll keep you posted, and anyone with contacts in the hi-tech industry, feel free to drop me a line (I just posted my e-mail to the right of the page, on the top).

And now for some more pictures:

This is Ozzy after he just came back from a run in the park. He got his two toys and plopped down next to them. Come on, altogether now: AWWWWWW....

Now, check out the size of this mango:

I know, it's freakin' HUGE! It reminds me of when the meraglim brought back the fruit from Eretz Yisrael and had to carry the grapes on poles because they were so big. I mean, I know mangoes are not one of the shiva minim, but still. If you're not so impressed, I took a comparison picture with a regular-sized apple:
I'm telling you this mango could feed a whole platoon! Now I don't care for mangoes, so I did not eat this particular fruit, but Isaac and the kids said it was yummy....

Tomorrow for ulpan (I made level Gimmel!) I have to give a speech (in Hebrew, duh) on any topic. I chose the topic of "My Modiin" (City of the future, city of my future). I'll let you know how it turns out...

Oh, and one more thing: As I was cleaning out my wallet I found a gift card from Target for $13.00. First person to visit me gets it (but you have to ask for it, or I won't remember...)

Shavua Tov...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Told You There Would Be Ups and Downs!

Sigh. I know, I know. School is tough. It's really tough for some kids and it's always tough for all kids who have to learn a new language. And somehow feel successful at the same time.

Really tough.

Three daughters. Three different learning styles, and different needs. All struggling in their own way, but each is

I interrupt the previous post to tell you about my Shabbat in Revava...

This past Shabbat we were invited to my cousin's son's bar mitzvah in Revava. Revava is a yishuv in the Shomron. There are about 150 families living there, including my two cousins. When My cousin heard we were making Aliyah in September, she called me to tell me that of course we would be invited and that we had to come as the whole family would be there.

Some background: This part of the family is from my father's side. As adults my father and his siblings (two brothers and two sisters) all left Argentina. Two brothers and one sister made Aliyah (43 years ago) and my father and the other sister came to America. His parents, my Bobbeh and Zeideh A"H, also made Aliyah at the time.

The family grew. My father's sister in Israel had 5 children, a son and four daughters. I did not grow up knowing my Israeli cousins. Times then were primitive in terms of communication. My father kept in touch with his parents via those blue airmail fold-up envelopes (how he looked forward to those letters written in Yiddish from my grandfather!). Phone calls were rare. We knew our cousins through pictures, and loved their exotic, Hebrew-sounding names. The first time I met them was when I went to Israel for the year after high school. I wouldn't say we got close, but I did get to know them and my Israeli aunts and uncles. Over the years we didn't really stay in touch, except when I visited Israel, or they came to America. But I did hear about them getting married, having babies. Two of my cousins live in Raanana, two live in Revava, and one cousin bought a house in Chispin, a yishuv in the Golan. I knew that once I made Aliyah I would forge a relationship with all these people. I would get to know them and their families. So I was thrilled to be able to go to Revava and attend this bar mitzvah, my first family simcha in Israel.

My cousins have all married and B"AH my aunt and uncle have 19 grandchildren. My cousin who hosted the bar mitzvah just had a baby girl two months ago. We arrived in Revava at 2 P.M. Erev Shabbat. My cousin had planned a welcome party for all her guests which was just family, both her side and her husband's side. She has a beautiful front yard where the reception was held. A keyboard player and good food contributed to the light atmosphere. It was a beautiful, breezy day and from the house we had a view of the surrounding mountains and the neighboring yishuvim and Arab villages. After a little socializing, Shlomi, the bar-mitzvah's boys father asked everyone to gather round so he could speak. Keep in mind,he is my cousin by marriage, and I had never met him before. The first thing he said, (in Hebrew, of course), was, "Before I start, I would like to mention that we have very special guests. Our cousins, Isaac and Baila and their three daughters just made Aliyah from the states. We are so happy they are here with us..." Immediately the musician spontaneously started playing ושבו בנים לגבולם and everyone started singing and clapping. There was genuine joy in their faces. The girls were so embarrassed, and I felt so....validated.

There were moments like that throughout Shabbat. We were embraced and enveloped by my cousins. I finally got to know their spouses, and their children. (Yes, I know all 19 names and which kid belongs to which cousin). The bar mitzvah itself was beautiful. Good meals, Divrei Torah, Zemirot and lots of laughter. Shlomi is Temani, which added another flavor to the event. Tali and Orli made friends with their second cousins. Liat told me she loved the idea of living on a Yishuv like this. This place is very different from a place like Chashmonaim. It's isolated, and very quiet. The people who live there, for the most part live there for ideological reasons, some might even say radical. Several of the men carried M-16 rifles with them throughout Shabbat. Liat asked me about the implications of carrying weapons on Shabbat, and we talked about that for a while.

I'm not a political person, so I'm not going to discuss the politics of living in a place like this. What I will say, is that when I see a Jew carrying a weapon in our land, I feel pride. I think about the Holocaust that occurred only sixty years ago, and the paralysis that we felt in the face of so many humiliations. We learned our bitter lesson back then. No nation is going to protect us; we must protect ourselves.

As Shabbat came to a close, we sat in the moadon (hall, lounge) of the Yishuv, eating Seudat Shlishit and watching the sun set behind the mountains. The air in the Shomron has a chill to it that we do not yet feel in Modiin. Winter is coming...and I am looking forward to seeing my family again very soon...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shmitta for Dummies

Like me.

When I first realized that we were making Aliyah just in time for shmitta, I was excited. I felt this was a good siman (like being asked to bring a Sefer Torah home from America) for our Aliyah. Here is a mitzvah that we could participate in that we would never have been able to in America. Just by the fact that we live and breathe in G-d's Holy Land.

Well, uh right.

When we got here we were inundated with different opinions of how to truly observe the laws of shmitta. And of course, everyone feels that their way is the right way. Shocking, I know. And the "differences of opinion" regarding the various heterim, are enough to make the Gourmet Glatt debacle of last year look like a walk in the park.

I was hearing all sorts of things from no watering of the grass, to having to throw all my fruits and veggies away in a separate garbage can and letting them rot for ten days before they can be disposed of. Then I hear that certain fruits and vegetables can only be brought if they are produced by non-Jews, but that due to different methods of irrigation, people get hepatitis from them.


I had just about decided that we were just was not going to eat any fruits and vegetables all year. Now those of you who know me that if stopped eating vegetables tomorrow, I'd be totally fine. (Well, except for onions [sauteed], mushrooms [preferably sauteed with the onions], and gosh, I'd sure miss the tomatoe sauce on my pizza. And what about the potatoes in all those tasty borecas that are available here in every bakery and supermarket?) But I'd miss the fruit, and besides, this really wasn't a practical solution.

What to do? My technique of, "he's buying his fruit and vegetables over here and he looks pretty relig, so this must be okay" just wasn't sitting well with me. When I heard that Rav Gideon Weitzman, of Modiin was going to give a shiur on Shmitta in English, I decided to go, albeit with trepidation. I was nervous to hear of everything I was doing wrong, and of having a really stinky garbage can sitting in my kitchen.

It turns out there is so much misinformation on this issue. I think this is especially true of new olim who have never had the obligation of this mitzvah. I feel much better after hearing him speak.

Here are some of the myths I heard, and what I believe the Rav said: (**see disclaimer below)

Myth: You can't water your grass the entire year. You have to just let it die.
What the Rav said: You can water your grass to keep it alive, you just shouldn't do stuff to improve on the way it is. If you were watering your grass everyday, water it 3x a week. But you don't have to let it die. We have some brown patches on our grass, and we can't do anything about those until after shmitta (like I was running to fix that....) but otherwise we can maintain the lawn we have.

Myth: You can't eat any of the fruit growing on your property, or you can eat the fruit but only one at a time, or you can't give the fruit to your friends.
What the Rav said: Not only can you eat the fruit growing on your property, but it is actually a mitzvah to eat it because it has "kedushat shvi'it"; that is to say it is fruit grown in Eretz Yisrael proper during the seventh year. I think some of us misunderstand the halacha, because we are technically supposed to let the land lay fallow, and let the poor people come and get the produce of the land. And we are. But the Rav said that that doesn't mean we can't eat our own produce. And letting people come and take your fruit (which was what was done way back when) doesn't mean we can't put some limits on that (e.g. everyone can come and get it between the hours of 1 and 4). As for giving your produce to friends, this can be done as long as its not a "commercial quantity". And obviously you can't charge your friends for your tomoatoes.

Myth: You have to throw out all your the things that are left over from your fruits and veggies in a separate garbage can and let it stay there for days until its completely rotted.
What the Rav said: You have to dispose only of edible fruit and veggies that have the Kedushat Shevi'it in a more respectful manner than you would normally throw away garbage. You dispose of it in a separate bag and at the end of the day (when it is inedible) you can permanently dispose of it. In other words because the fruit has the Kedushat Shevi'it (it was grown on holy ground during the very special shmitta year), you should dispose of it differently, acknowledging the fruit of our land, that G-d blesses us with. And this is only for the portions that are edible, so it does not apply, according to the Rav, to the leftovers on the table, or to potatoe or bananna peels and the like.

What about buying fruits and vegetables? This discussion got considerably more complicated. There was a great deal of discussion regarding the major leniencies, especially Heter Mechirah and Otzar Beit Din. Both have their drawbacks, and according to what I understood both are actually loopholes, which we Jews really are good at finding, are we not? In any case, the Rav did feel that using the Heter Mechirah is a perfectly acceptable solution, as is Otzar Beit Din. (He explained with regard to Heter Mechira that the produce is what's sold to Non-Jews, not the actual land).

So in our house we are generally using the Heter Mechirah, but we have also joined Otzar Ha'aretz (which does seem to have growing pains [get it--growing pains])so that we have the opportunity to eat produce that has Kedushat Shvi'it.

I have always thought that G-d gave us the Torah so that we should enjoy His Great World within certain boundaries; I don't believe he gave it to us to make our lives more difficult. Sometimes I think we Jews do that to ourselves--I'm not really sure for what purpose. Will it really give me more brownie points in the world to come if I let my grass die and allow my house to become infested with fruit flies???

**oh, and here's my disclaimer. As my father always says, "I'm a simple Jew". Many of you reading this are probably so much more learned than I am. I am not saying "this is how it should be done"; I'm saying this is how my family is doing it. And remember, I am writing about what I perceived Rav Weitzman to say, so don't blame this pious man for any errors I may have made.

But still, how blessed are we that we get to participate in this great mitzvah?

By the way, the Yovel can't be celebrated until all Jews are living in Eretz Yisrael...

And one more thing: you are all invited to my garden and take lemons, olives, pomegranites and plums any time of day or night. Just ring the bell to say hello first.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This spoke to my heart

I saw an excerpt of this incredible post by Gila Kanal on Jameel and then found the entire piece on SerandEz. It spoke to my heart, and there is no way I could ever express this the way this young woman did. I decided to republish it here, even though some of you may have already seen it on the other blogs.

Wake Up!
by Gila Kanal

On the night of September 9th, 2003, a 20-year old bride anxiously awaited the coming morning. It was the night before her wedding and she counted down the minutes until she would stand under her chupah and become the wife of a man she loved with all her neshama. Her father had just returned from New York on a medical conference and the two of them decided to go out for a heart-to-heart talk on this incredible night. They made their way to Cafe Hillel on Emek Refaim. As she entered the restaurant, her father sensed that something wasn't right. He noticed a man entering the Cafe right after his daughter did, and then the panic set in. He ran in to get his daughter out, but it was too late. The blast went off and Dr. Applebaum was killed instantly. The bride remained in critical condition. I remember when the call came in from my best friend. "Naavah is in a coma. Her father is dead. Tomorrow is her wedding and she doesn't even know her father is dead."

Naavah Applebaum died that same night. Her wedding day became her funeral.

This experience left me in a state of shock. I remember a few nights after Naavah's funeral I called my Abba in a fit of hysterics. I cried, "Abba, I know what my tafkid is in Olam HaZeh." My father calmly answered, "Yes shefile'? What is that?" "I want to die Al Kidush HaShem" I sobbed. My father is a man of never ending patience, wisdom, and compassion. He took a deep breath and said, "Gila, I think I have something even harder for you." "What do you mean?" I asked. "What could possibly be harder then that?" "Try living Al Kidush HaShem", my father replied.

As many of you know, I am fighting. I am fighting with all my heart and soul to live in Israel. I have chosen a profession that I have heard is good in Israel, I have applied to schools that are only in Israel, and I do not date men who do not see a future in Israel. Recently people have been asking me, "Why. Why Israel?" Why have I chosen to plant my seeds and my roots so firmly in this country? There are the obvious reasons: Israel is my Home. It is a Mitzvah to live here. G-d promised us this land. And on and on... But that is not why I am writing this letter. Over the past few months dozens upon dozens of people have asked me, "Gila, why are you making Aliyah"?

It was then that it hit me. The fact that we are asking that question is a perfect illustration of where our generation stands today. No one asks, "Gila, why are you dating? Why are you so desperately searching for your soul mate?" It is understood that I am half a person and I am looking for my other half to complete me. There was a time, not too long ago, when Israel too was a Given. There was a time not too long ago, when people breathed, ate, and slept with the word "Tzion" on their lips. There was a time when the world held its breath as the votes were counted, 33 for, 13 against, and 10 abstentions, and on November 29th, 1947, the UN voted for a Jewish State. There was a time when we, as a nation, understood that the State of Israel was an absolute necessity, and we would never survive another Holocaust without her.

Those times are over. Am Yisrael has entered a new era. It has suddenly occurred to me that the battle we are fighting is harder then any other battle that has been fought in the history of the Jewish people. I am part of the first generation to be born into a world where the State of Israel is now officially taken for granted. I cannot think of anything harder. How do you teach someone to appreciate something they have always had? How often do we look down at our legs and think, "Wow! Thank G-d I have these things!!! Moving would be pretty hard without them!" How often do you feel your pulse and shiver with excitement that you are living and your heart is beating? If we can manage to forget the most essential parts of our bodies how can we be expected to remember the less essential parts of our lives? Israel is a necessity that we have waited 2000 years for. Close your eyes and imagine the world without her. Do we even remember what that means anymore? We are so lost. We have entered the generation where we actually ask the question, "Why are you making Aliyah?"

'Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim'

We have truly forgotten. 60 years ago on a cold November day, she became Ours. 60 years ago. Do you realize how recently that is? 40 years ago we got back the old city of Jerusalem. These things happened in our parents' lifetimes!!! We are talking about the year 1967! This is recent history. Since as far back as we can remember, the world has been dying for Israel. Since the establishments of the Aliyot to Israel, the settlers have been sweating, working, and fighting for her. Since the second the State was established and the Arabs attacked when Israel was a mere SECONDS old, we have lost thousands of neshamot bleeding, battling, and dying for this land.

Yet, through all this, we have forgotten. We have forgotten what it feels like to live in a world without a home. We have forgotten what it feels like to be a nation without a land. We have forgotten what it feels like to long for something we are missing. We have come to take it all for granted. Now suddenly, all the bleeding has stopped. The weapons have been put down. We no longer feel like Israel is fighting for her very existence. We have stopped dying. But, in my opinion, the Real Fight has just begun. Am Yisrael, listen very carefully. We are the first generation dedicated with the task of LIVING for Israel. We are the very first generation granted the luxury of going to a disco for Israel, sitting in a cafe for Am Yisrael, and having children for Midinat Yisrael. We are the first generation to have the ability to forget and take her existence for granted. I cannot think of a harder battle. We have forgotten a world without Israel. We have forgotten what it feels like to scream, "If I forget Yershalayim... let my right hand be cut off" with a passion and intensity that can only be felt by those who DON'T HAVE YERUSHALAYIM! We have forgotten what it means to say, "L'Shana HaBah B'Yerushalayim" and truly wonder if we will ever get to see her golden stones in our lifetime.

That, my friends, is why I have decided to make Aliyah. Because, for whatever reason, I do not want to forget. I am deeply aware that this Land, Country, Soil, and Earth, were fought for in order for ME to continue that fight by living here, and I never want to forget that. Every time I walk through Sha'ar Tzion and see the stones riddled with bullet holes, a lump forms in my throat as I realize how many soldiers have died so I can walk through the streets. We live in a very scary time. We live in a world where what we have actually gotten what we have been praying for for 2000 years and yet we cannot see it. We live in a world where our Dream has truly come true, yet we continue to sleep. Someone recently told me that a person can be so caught up in his/her life, that their absolute perfect b'sheret can stand right in front of them and they will never see him/her. Imagine the frustration and pain when someone realizes that they were too blind to see that their soul mate stood 2 inches from their face and they lost him forever. Imagine if your deepest fantasy came true, yet you were too busy dreaming about it to even notice it had become a reality.

Israel's existence is not set in stone. A few miles away there is a man who lives to destroy us. He has missiles pointed at the heart of this country and will stop at nothing to wipe her off the map. We live among nations whose goal is to push us into the sea. We thrive on the back of a world that resents our mere presence. Yet through all this, we are Here. We are Alive. We are Home. Open your Eyes! Am Yisrael WAKE UP!! We have a HOME! We are BACK!! Where are you!? Israel is at war, only this time the enemy no longer comes from without. It comes from within. We truly are our greatest enemy. The doors to our salvation have been thrown open, yet no one seems to be running. I am deeply confident that if we choose this moment to finally stand together and live for Am Yisarel, Torat Yisrael, and Midinat Yisrael there would be nothing that could stop us. We are no longer fighting against guns and cannons. We are now fighting the world of materialism, comfort, and ease. We are fighting Ourselves.

Let me make this very clear. I am NOT writing this letter to tell the world to make Aliyah. Everyone has their own lives and I have NO RIGHT to EVER tell anyone that their life is here. I understand that Israel is NOT for everyone. I am writing this letter to beg you to not forget. I am writing this letter to plead with you to continue to appreciate, support, protect, and defend Israel. I am writing this letter to wake up the world to the reality that our Dream has come true, but we will all miss it if we continue to sleep! I am writing this letter to remind the world of a time without Israel and how easy it is to go back to that reality if we do not Live for her now. I am writing this letter because people asked me 'Why?' and I thought I should answer.

'Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim'

I shiver because I realize we may already have... 4 years ago, on a warm night in September, a young bride was torn to pieces. Her body was left a bloody mangled mess on the streets of Baka. She died so we can Live. Please do not make her death be in vain. As I type this, there are countless soldiers putting their lives on the line so we can have the freedom to live for this country. There is truly only one way to repay them. Live for Israel. After all those who have died Al Kidush HaShem it is time we started Living. I am begging each and every one of you to remember the world without a Home. For 2000 years we cried for her. Am Yisrael, WE HAVE HER. SHE IS OURS. FIGHT FOR HER! LIVE FOR HER! We cannot lose her again! After all those years of praying, yearning, hoping, and dreaming, the prayers have been answered and the dreams have come true! WAKE UP!! Stop Dreaming!!! She is OURS!! We don't need to dream anymore. This is Reality. This is Life. It is time we started Living.

B'Zchut Aliyat Neshamot of all the people who have died fighting, living, and yearning for Am Israel, Torat Yisrael, and Midinat Yisrael,

Am Yisrael please Wake Up...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What I did on my Sukkot Vacation

Okay here are a couple of pictures from our Sukkot experiences. On Friday, the first day of Chol Hamoed, Isaac and I were invited on a private tour of Ir David by a new friend who is Director of something-or-other over there. She did this in honor of her husband's birthday. We had access to places not yet open to the public. The kids were not invited, so they slept in, and called only every half hour or so to complain about each other or to ask when we would be home. The tour was amazing and took the better part of the day, so it was completely selfish of us to go and leave the kids at home. My poor deprived children. The guilt is just killing me. This is a picture from the top of Ir David, past Shaar Ashpa (Dung Gate--where you enter to go directly to the Kotel). If you look closely, you'll see a blimp, which captivated us as it flew over the Old City. There's something you don't see everyday. Of course, this had nothing to do with Ir David.
On the tour, we were shown parts of what was actually the castle of David Hamelech, King David. Can you guess what this is a picture of?

They have recently discovered the road leading up to the Beit Hamikdash that the people of Israel were "oleh regel" on. It was amazing--we stood on this "road" on Sukkot--one of the Shalosh Regalim. I stood on the same spot that my ancestors did as they walked to the Holy Temple. On Sukkot. There were holes in the floor, and my friend, our guide explained that when the Romans captured Jerusaem, many Jews fled to the sewers. When the Romans realized this, they broke through the streets to the underground to smoke the Jews out. Under the roads archeologists have found food, ancient coins, writings. Imagine, even under those conditions, the Jews held out hope that they would survive the destruction...and we did. And now we are back here, constantly finding the connections between the present, and the past. Go to Ir David and feel that feeling, feel that connection...

On Sunday, the Iriyah (city government) of Modiin offered olim a heavily discounted trip to Neot Kedumim, a nature reserve 10 minutes from the modiin. It is a unique nature reserve that focuses on plants from the Tanach. This being Sukkot, our tour focused on the Arba Minim. They also had a display of different Sukkahs, which ones are permitted and which are not.

Etrogim growing at Neot Kedumim. All of the other pictures at NK have us in them, and I'm still undecided about posting pictures of us (that clearly show our faces).

On Monday, our lift arrived. It was so overwhelming to go from (almost feeling) settled to boxes everywhere. We couldn't see our floor. But I had invited my aunt and uncles and my Israeli cousins and their chilren, plus Isaac's family--all in all about 20 adults and to-many-kids-to-count (BAH)--to a Sukkah party in honor of Liat's birthday and I didn't want to cancel. That motivated us to sort through the boxes quickly, and by Tuesday, things were significantly better, although I do have several more boxes to go through. It was a really nice party, and so good to see my cousins.

Birthday cake for Liat at our Sukkot party.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I Started Ulpan Today....

and was surprised that the test they gave me wasn't easy shmeasy. I mean, I know my hebrew's not great, but I can hold a conversation. I did fine on the assessment (they were testing for what level we were on). But when the teacher told us that this test was on the level of those who finished Ulpan Aleph, well I kind of lost my smugness. I thought it looked like a level gimmel at least. Oh well. In a couple of days I'll find out what level they assigned me to. I'm glad to finally be starting ulpan. It will lend some structure to my days.

On a totally different topic, let me see a show of hands from all those of you who have thrown out tiny little pieces of paper that were left on the table, in the bathroom, on the floor, crumpled up, with perhaps a few digits and/or letters scrawled on it, only to find out that this piece of what-looked-like-garbage housed an extremely critical piece of information that is now lost forever and will profoundly affect our lives. Huh? Huh?

On another totally different topic, let me introduce to a new feature I am adding tonight: the blogroll. It should be to your right. These are other blogs I read. Some of them are so entertaining, brilliantly witty and just plain fun. Others are more poignant. Many of these blogs write about their aliyah experiences, all so similar yet so diffent. Once again, click and go. But remember, they do become addictive, and may even make you want to start your own blog. (And thanks to bec for helping me figure out how to set up the blogroll....)

Saturday, October 6, 2007


Okay, so I have 2 sets of pictures--of the apartment pre and post-lift, and some of our Sukkot trips (which were limited due to the lift coming). I'll start with the apartment:

This is our communications center, the hub of the apartment. It's where we have our American line, our Israeli line, and our computers. It's where most of this blog is written, and where many, many arguments take place vis-a-vis whose turn it is to get on the computer, or use the American line.

This is our kitchen, where all those delicious meals are planned and prepared so lovingly for my family.

And this is the Israeli oven I so lovingly and patiently use to prepare those wholesome, nutritious meals. And my family is so grateful...why, they praise me all the time for being the kind of mom I am!

This is our kitchen after our lift arrived. Can you say "nervous breakdown"?

This is my dryer. I know it looks suspiciously different than the dryers most of you are used to. I was pretty horrified when I saw it. But, it is surprisingly efficient and I actually enjoy putting the clothes on it. They dry in minutes in the hot Middle Eastern sun. And the other dryer, (the one with the motor, and plug and all) should be arriving any day now.

This is our sukkah. Well, actually, its not ours as our lift did not arrive until chol hamoed. (The lift got to go to Greece). This sukkah was generously lent to us by the Blocks. And because it wasn't ours, Isaac actually took the sukkah down the day after sukkot, and didn't wait until Chanukah like he usually does.

This is part of our backyard. The picture does it no justice. It is beautiful. We have a lemon tree, an olive tree and half a pomegranite tree. The backyard moves to a sideyard which extends to a beautiful large porch. In fact, the outdoor part of this apartment is probably the best part of this living space.

This is Isaac on our beautiful mirpeset, which is much bigger than what we are showing. No, he is not talking to his bookie.
Here's Ozzy in the side yard. This is what he told me to tell you all in his perfect dog-barking hebrew. I'll quote him exactly: "Hi everyone. First of all I want you all to know how much I miss you, especially my three Mets fans pals on Hemlock (its hard to find newspapers here with yankees or mets people here so I just poop outside). Second of all, especially for all you dogs out there, don't let anyone out there tell you that aliyah is hard. It's a piece of cake. Sure all those boxes make me nervous, but there's less of 'em every day. And there are no squirrels here, but there are an abundance of cats! And the garbage truck comes daily!!! It's so easy to make friends here--no one cares what kind of collar you wear or if your parents are from a mixed marriage (not that mine are, of course, but I'm just saying). So, in case you were worried, I'm letting you know that I'm very happy here. And though maybe its a teensy-weensy bit harder for mom and abba and the girls, I think they're doing okay too. And I may just start my own blog, and give mom some competition. Talk to you all soon. Woof!"

This basically concludes the tour of the apartment. I do hope you come see it in person someday soon. I'd love to give you a personal tour...

I'll leave you all with just one more picture of our front door:

We're home...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lori, this one's for you....

I know all of you in the states are still celebrating yom tov. For us the chagim are officially over. Hakafot were....okay. It's kind of hard to sit in shul, with very few friendly faces. That's why today I decided to go to the women's tefillah a few blocks from the house. I knew a friend of mine would be going and I wanted to have a friend in shul....

Here's how I feel about women's tefilla groups: I think that if they are done within the framework of halacha (and this one was), why not? These are women who want to be more connected to their Judaism, and feel something lacking in our traditional davening. They want to participate more, and to serve Hashem, B'simcha. I won't judge them. I think its great. My davening, especially b'tzibur (in public, in shul) is sorely lacking, and I respect these women for wanting more out of their spiritual lives. These women were inspiring. They were not hippy-looking, vegan-eating, kumbaya-singing women. These were seemingly normal, well-educated, well-dressed women who wanted a hands-on tefilah. One woman I knew because her daughter and Orli are in school together chanted Beraishit. She has a beatiful voice, and I asked her where she learned how to lain. She said that Beraishit was her bat mitzvah parsha, so she volunteers every year to lain it at this minyan. This group is only held at Simchat Torah and for Megillat Ester. There is always talk (from what I heard) of doing it monthly, but lining up enough women to participate (actually learn and do the laining, give divrei Torah--of which there a few at davening--etc.) is always a challenge. I don't think I'd be interested in participating monthly, but I'd attend the Simchat Torah minyan again. Otherwise Simchat Torah is a holiday for men--watching them dance, waiting for them to get their aliyahs so they can make kiddush so we can eat....