Monday, June 30, 2008

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

I have been getting requests for pictures of Ozzy, our Wonder dog. Enquiring minds want to know how he is doing.

When we last left Ozzy, he had just had his famous haircut and looked like this. I don't know who was more traumatized by his new hairdo, him or us. Most people here thought we got a new dog.

The hair is not fully grown-in, but Ozzy is beginning to regain his former beauty:

Ozzy has informed us that he will, under no circumstances, return to that groomer again.

And who could blame him?

Haveil Havalim #171 is up at Ima's Place. She managed to put it together even though she's busy packing her kids up for camp. Go on over there and find some very entertaining blogs--but don't forget to keep coming back to my blog!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Cheater

I took my ulpan test today. Ulpan is over, and the government gives us tests, I guess to make sure that these state-funded institutions are doing their job, and for the students to work toward something. Our ulpan class started in October of last year with about 25 people. By the end of the year we had dwindled down to about fifteen. It was a good class, I learned much about why things are said they way they are. Having a linguistics background, I found it to be fascinating. Hebrew is a logical language. Really.

That being said, the test was, for me, not all that important. I know how far I've come with regard to the language, and that I have a long way to go. I didn't really study much for it, just reviewed "hufal and pual", which I never, ever learned in high school, just had a vague awareness of them (they are passive grammatical constructions for those of you who are still with me). It's fun to actually know how to use them....

At the test we were seated in such a way that made sure no one was right next to anyone. There was a chair between my fellow classmate and myself. There was a proctor at the exam, and it was like taking the NYS Regents. Test forms were handed out, we had to wait before we could start, and it was being timed. About thirty seconds into the test I hear, "Psst..."

I couldn't believe it. The woman next to me asked me what a word meant. I looked at her, then looked at the proctor. I felt like I was back in high school. What should I do?

Let me take a moment to tell you all that I am not a self-righteous person. I have scruples, but there have been times I have compromised them. I used to shoplift "Wacky Packages" from Max's Candy Store on Hooper Street in Williamsburg. (Don't tell my mom!!! But she's the one who wouldn't give me a quarter to buy them!) That stopped when I got caught and Max threw my friend and I out of the store and told us we were lucky he wasn't calling the police. (I was THIS close to being a jailbird). I have not lead an exemplary life. Sometimes I cheat at Sodoku--but only the very hard ones.

But G-d, I am--well it doesn't really matter how old I am. I am to old to say yes when I don't want to. I didn't want to help this woman out. I wanted to shout at her "GROW UP!!!!" This is not such an important test. It won't make a bit of a difference in her life (she is not looking for a job, and even if she was the test itself is not that important). Don't you want to know how you did without the benefit of the test? (It's not that satisfying completing a Sodoku puzzle that I had to cheat on to figure out.)

All I did was shrug. The woman doesn't speak a word of English and I couldn't have helped her anyhow. Of course, not the point. She then asked me to put my paper down on the chair so she could see it. I don't think so, lady. Finally, she gave up on me, put her Russian-English dictionary on the chair and freely looked up words there as needed. She also cheated off my paper. I wonder how she felt as she handed the test to the proctor. Did she feel a sense of accomplishment?

I just don't get it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yucking it up with Orli....

On a very long drive to Jerusalem today (will I ever NOT get lost in that city?) Orli informed me she would like to marry a man named "Schmell", and then name a daughter "Yafit",


she'd like to marry someone named "Moron" and then name a daughter "Yifat".


[***Note: When I told Orli I was going to put this on my blog, she told me she couldn't take credit for this; apparently her friends and her amuse themselves during much of the school day with this stuff.]

And check out Jameel's comment section for more discussion of amusing Israeli names.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bar Mitzvah in Shul

When I walked into shul this past Shabbat, I noticed right off that there was going to be a Bar Mitzvah. You could tell that the family were not "regulars" at the shul by the way they were dressed. The women were rightfully proud of their boy. All of the women huddled up by the mechitzah (partition separating men and women). Except for Savta, who quietly sat a few rows behind, watching the spectacle. Eventually someone noticed that Savta was sitting away from the group and went over to her to get her to come up front. In true Jewish Mother fashion, Savta insisted she was fine sitting where she was ("It's not so important I should see my grandson being called to the Torah"). Only when sixteen different women cajoled her did she sigh heavily and agree to take the prime seat....The women then proceeded to try to kill their men and boys by throwing hard candies every time someone moved. Isaac got beaned several times, and he has no padding on the top of his head, if you catch my drift. Still, the Bar Mitzvah boy did a great job, there was a nice Kiddush and a good time was had by all.

Which brings me to the subject of going to shul on Shabbat here in Israel.

In America, I usually went to shul on Shabbat. Actually, I intended to go to shul--I would mostly stop in for a cup of coffee at my friend Chedva, who lived across the street from the shul. I ended up meeting Isaac (none-to-pleased) at the end of davening. But still I was an active part of the shul--involved in the sisterhood and in shul committees. I knew most members of the shul, whether they were my peers, or older or younger than me. We also had a fairly close relationship with the Rabbi and his Rebbetzin. It was a real "community" feeling and I loved it.

In our neighborhood there are several minyanim. Isaac immediately decided he liked the minyan at the Yeshiva and started going there. Of course this is the minyan farthest from our home and up a mountain, lots of fun in desert heat. There is another minyan here, much closer to home (and no hills!), called the Ashkenazi Minyan, but really called the American Minyan. And you know why. It's a very nice minyan, and we know many people there. But Isaac doesn't want to daven in the same type of shul he davened in back in the states. He likes the Rav there and goes on Friday night, but he doesn't want it to be his regular place.

So the Yeshiva it is. I had not gone since the chagim (yes the one's in September). I didn't know anyone there and felt uncomfortable. It's extremely noisy. But I've recently begun to feel that if I never go, I'll never get to know anyone there. I need to see and be seen. For several weeks now, I've been going. People are starting to look familiar, and I discovered that I do know some people who attend. I even realized that my neighbor attends this minyan, and she offered to pick me up this week so we could climb the mountain together.

I was delighted to get to shul early enough to hear the Parsha (in Israel shul is over by 10:30 so this is a real accomplishment). Parshat Shelach is my favorite parsha, because it is the Parsha of the Meraglim (spies) who are sent on a reconnaissance mission and come back saying negative things about Eretz Yisrael. But Yehoshua Ben Nun and Calev Ben Yefuna defend the land saying, טובה הארץ מאד מאד , (the land is very, very good). I try to live by those words.

Try, but sometimes it's hard.

Many people here are so cynical and negative, even the ones who live here, who chose to live here. It scares me and creates self-doubt in me. I am sorry to say I am guilty (of being cynical and negative) myself. But I know that the spies committed a tremendous sin by speaking ill of G-d's land, and because of their sin, the Jewish people continued to wander the desert for forty years, and that generation did not merit crossing over to the land of Israel. It is hard to live here--for many, many reasons. But I try to remember, and this parsha reminds us, that the land is "very, very good". It is G-d given, and somehow I have to make it work in spite of all the obstacles...


Don't forget to check out this week's edition of HAVEIL HAVALIM, over at Soccer Dad. Many good links worth reading.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Haveil Havalim # 169.... up at Write Like She Talks.

Some great reading, go check it out.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ever notice how.....?

When one kid leaves the house for an extended period, the tone of the house changes?

Her presence is definitely missed. Sigh.

On the bright side, she had a very nice flight and I've already spoken to her four times today.

I love my "American line".

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

My daughter Liat leaves tomorrow night for America.

I have so many mixed feelings about this.

The adjustment to our new home has been the most difficult for her. She has told me she loves Israel, but that she just wishes her friends had made Aliya with her. (Don't we all wish that?) I don't question how her love for Israel has grown over the past year. I see her interest in what's going on here; she reads the paper and looks at the websites. I listen and try to answer her questions about things like Sderot, or the Merkaz HaRav terrorist attack.

But she's a teenager. And she had a very tight knit group of friends and a life in America that she loved. She has made a couple of friends here, but does not have that social network that she left behind in America. Many Shabatot she stays home and reads or comes with me on visits to my friends. She has also been unhappy in the school she's in, feeling it's not the right environment for her.

I'm nervous that Liat will spend time with her friends in America and really feel like she's missing alot over there and be depressed about coming home.

We can't not send her. A little background: a few days after her bat-mitzvah, Liat was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After four rounds of chemotherapy and 7 weeks of radiation, the disease went into remission. She also had another, more traumatic medical experience last year, which I don't have the strength to go into right now. Thank G-d, bah, she is healthy today. Because of her experiences, Liat is not your typical teenager. She is more serious and mature than your average 14-year-old. She has so much Emunah (faith) that I sometimes feel ashamed at my lack of it. After her diagnosis, our family got involved with Chai Lifeline, and Liat has spent the last two summers at Camp Simcha. This is an unbelievable organization who helped our family get through some very difficult times.

Liat is going back to Camp Simcha this summer and before camp starts, she will spend some time with family and friends.

I'm worried that maybe it's to soon for her to go back, since she doesn't have an established social circle here and will be depressed upon her return. But we could never deny her the weeks at Camp Simcha--they give her so much chizuk (emotional support).

But there is some hopeful news. She was very unhappy in the Ulpana that we had sent her to. It's a good school, but she wanted a more serious religious environment. So she found out about another school with an excellent reputation, and more religious. After much finagling (In Israel, I've learned "no" means try harder), the administration agreed to interview and test her and last week we were notified that she has been accepted. Liat has told me that she is excited to start in this new school.

At least she's coming back to something she's excited about.

And so, for better or worse, she is going. And I will miss her and worry about her every day. And hope and pray that she comes back okay, and that it will be a good year for her.

And that she doesn't spend all our money shopping...

(In many ways, she really is a typical teenager).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ready for my Close-Up...or Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Check out this idea for a new reality show, coming soon to an (Israeli) channel near you. A young oleh has decided that the immigration experience would make for great TV. The show is already in pre-production and will consist of four men and four women. The age criteria is 20-29, and these young people must be single. The contestants will face weekly challenges, and at the end of the show one of them will be crowned the "Ultimate Oleh" (snort!!), and will win an apartment facing Tel-Aviv's waterfront, a new car and a lucrative job. (This is a much better prize that what Naama won on the recent "Hisardut" .)

Before I read the article in the Jerusalem Post, I thought for a very brief moment about living daily with cameras following moi and moi family around as we muddled through our new lives. I imagined myself in a cute little outfit, every hair in place, preparing a real Israeli breakfast of salad, Shakshuka (eggs and tomatoes)and Gvina Levana (white cheese) as I looked out at the lemon tree growing in my garden. I imagined waking the (not so) little tykes up, as they excitedly jumped out of bed ready for the challenges of a new day of learning in a new language. I imagined myself kissing them and Isaac good-bye as they went off to school and he went off to his job in hi-tech (did you know that people in hi-tech make more money than doctors here in Israel?). Then the cameras would zoom in for a close-up on my content face as I set about doing laundry and preparing a nutritious lunch for the tykes, and of course a follow-up dinner. When said tykes return home, the cameras leave my luminous face (momentarily) for the children who excitedly tell me about their day and then we all sit down together as I very patiently help them and translate all of the work they had had that day. The children joyfully complete their homework and then call up their new Israeli friends to meet at the park where the cameras follow them as they engage in wholesome play, all in Hebrew of course. Then we all sit down to another nutritious, delicious meal as Rami the camera-man continues filming until it is time for showers, kisses good-night and bed time. All joyfully done, of course. With me still in my cute outfit.

Of course, we win the prize.

That was before I read the article, and realized that I miss (just barely!) the age criteria. Why, this is ageism! What, my life isn't as interesting as a young, single (presumably hot) oleh or olah? What are they, going to film them cavorting around at the beach or in the bars?? Harrumph! (Is that how you spell that?) I'll have you know there is plenty of drama and comedy in our household. There is even some cavorting, although I would never allow that to be filmed...

Of course, I would never allow my family to be filmed for millions of viewers to watch.

On the other hand, for some waterfront property in Tel-Aviv.....

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Pet Peeve

This one's a quickie.

I told you here about my adventures at the gym. Although the place is really expensive, I have to say we have been getting our money's worth. We go almost everyday and enjoy the beautiful outdoor pool.

I've been doing 20 to 40 laps every time I go.

But this is what I hate: When I do the crawl and put my head in the water, I usually like to take a deep breath when my head comes out of the water. Lately this deep breath is filled with SECOND-HAND SMOKE.

So I am doing something good for myself by swimming, but am counteracting this with breathing in poison. That's just great.

I complained to the manager who basically shrugged. She said that they can't stop people from smoking outdoors.

But I'm not sure that is true. Does anyone know where I can find out what exactly the law is with regard to smoking?

Because I hate the treadmill.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Yom Yerushalayim--Jerusalem Day

It really has been non-stop holidays here since, well, Purim. After Purim, there was Pesach, Yom HaShoah VeHaGevura, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha'atzmaut, Lag BaOmer, and now Yom Yerushalayim, followed by Shavuot next week.

This is a good thing for someone like me. I've been feeling a bit melancholy lately. Dare I say it? Missing "my people" back in the states. Don't get me wrong, I have "people" here, but, well....I guess what I want is for all "my people" back in the states to join me here in Israel. As in live here. Then life here would be, well, then it would be just perfect.


So along comes Yom Yerushalayim. Forty-one years ago Israeli paratroopers made their way to the most holy site of our people, and announced, "Har Habayit is in our hands!" Another miracle, another day of utter joy, of remembering this gift given to us in our time, the beginning of our ultimate redemption. And I am here to celebrate it.

Do you know how many times I've gone to visit Jerusalem since I got here? I stopped counting. Why do I go? To paraphrase what my friend Treppenwitz said earlier today, BECAUSE I CAN.

Chag Sameach!