Thursday, July 31, 2008

I have brown legs!!!

I read two posts this week that had to do with Aliyah; both were very encouraging to me.

The first one describes the "Five Stages of Aliyah" (is that like the Five Stages of Mourning??), which include Euphoria (we all know how long that one lasts), Panic, Depression, Adaptation and finally, Acculturation. Going through these stages can take some of us years. For myself, I can safely that the euphoric stage has long since passed, and that I am often stuck in the panic and depression stages. Every now and then I get a glimmer of adaptation. I'm not sure acculturation will ever happen. In any case, I was happy to read this piece because it showed me that what I am feeling is pretty normal.

The other post discussed Attitude. I particularly liked this comment, posted by Rafi G.:

"attitude is the greatest necessity. I remember when I was in yeshiva, someone sat down at my table at breakfast and poured himself a bowl of cereal. he then ate it while complaining the whole time that the cornflakes were not crunchy enough."

That comment made me smile, because it brought back the memory of me handing the kids the Telma (Israeli) brand of corn flakes when we first got here. I had decided to buy it instead of the Kellog's brand, which was readily available, but cost ten shekel more. My kids tasted the cereal and announced, "Wow, these corn flakes are much crunchier than the ones in America!"

So even on the days when I'm in the throes of Stages Two and Three, I try to maintain that Positive Attitude, especially for the kids. I know why we are here; I knew it wouldn't be easy. Still, I believe I am where I belong.

As for the title to this post: this morning, as I stepped out of the car, I looked down on my feet, and was puzzled by my dirty feet so soon after I had showered. When I reached down to rub the dirt off, I realized that my feet weren't dirty, they were tanned! It's that mideast sun hard at work. I, who normally have the whitest legs in town, am now being held up by a tan.

Now that was a totally unexpected benefit of living here...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


In the Beit Shean Valley of Israel, where the heat permeates every pore...(I know it's DRY HEAT, but 106 degrees, even DRY, is still hot-as-hell)...there is relief.

Three natural pools come together, part of the Amal River, with the water an azure blue hard to describe, or resist, its temperature a constant 28 degrees centigrade.

A lush landscape of palm trees swaying in the quiet breeze greets you and entreats you to slow down and embrace its beauty.

Garden, rock, water and sky meet at Sachneh, also known as Gan Hashloshah.

This is paradise on earth.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I get a Mazal Tov!

I'm taking myself out to dinner and buying myself a really expensive present.

After all, I just celebrated the first anniversary of my first blog post.

And they said I couldn't do it.

Actually, no one said that, except me in my own head.

I was introduced to the world of blogging by my friend Carol, who told me to read Orthomom. Through her, I found many other blogs, some of which are no longer published. I spent a good deal of time reading through archives--hours in front of the computer. My television watching plummeted. After about six months of reading, I started wondering if I should start my own blog. But I wasn't sure what I was going to say.

When we decided to make Aliyah, I decided to blog about it. Original, I know. Still, I figured that since I am the only me, no one else would have exactly the same experience as I was having. In that sense it would be original. I was writing it as a way of letting my people back in the states know what I was going through. The blog was never intended to be a diary of my life, but rather a reflection of what I am going through over here. I wanted it to have humor, but also honesty and even sadness where that was appropriate.

I was surprised (and pleased) when I started to get comments from people I didn't know, and then from some of my favorite bloggers. It feels good to have others enjoy what you are writing. It's a bit weird to consider someone you haven't ever met a friend, isn't it? But somehow you do establish a sort of virtual community with fellow bloggers. Through their blogs, and sometimes offline, I feel like I've gotten to know Leora, Jack, Jameel,, Gila, RivkA,, Mom,, Raizy, Bahn-gay,, RR, and of course the brilliant Trep and Robert J. Avrech.

Blogging has become very important to me. My family would say I am addicted to it, but I know I can stop anytime I want to :D. I sometimes regret not being anonymous, because then I could really get to the nitty-gritty of what I'm feeling, or post really personal things about the kids and the (very rare) arguments I have with Isaac. Maybe I will start a blog about My Dark Side. But then you guys would never know it was me...

What's really exciting is that I hopefully will get to actually meet some of my fellow bloggers very soon. Nefesh B'Nefesh actually stole my idea. I've always thought we should have a mass meeting of bloggers, but since I'm not a big organization, I hadn't the foggiest idea of how to put it together. But NBN, of course, figured it out and is sponsoring a Blogger's Convention in Jerusalem on August 20. It's going to be a bit like internet dating, meeting all these people in person.

And they'll be meeting me! I better get back to the pool...

Here's to many more years of blogging, making friends, and new beginnings....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

When a friend goes back...

It was bound to happen. Not everyone who makes Aliyah finds what they are looking for here in this very special place. People do go back, for many, many different reasons.

My friend is going back in a few weeks. I met her through another friend shortly after we arrived. She was (and still is) warm and welcoming and generous. Her daughters and mine have become very close. This has not been an easy decision for this family, but it is right for them.

I know over the years this will happen. I am hoping that as time goes on I will become more entrenched in this new life of mine and that it won't bring up these feelings of....I'm not sure what it is I'm feeling, but it is a certain discomfort.

I suppose the end of a dream comes with baggage. You dream of it, think it is right for you, work toward it and then when you achieve it, you find it isn't exactly what you wished for. That's life-changing.

But for my friends, there are other dreams to think about now. I wish them ease in their transition and all the best always. They will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rules Were Made to be Broken

I'm back from up North. It was an amazing, exhausting trip. I am pretty pleased with myself. I planned the entire trip, including the itinerary and places to stay. I enjoyed showing everyone what I find so beautiful and fascinating about Israel and I am mulling over taking a course to be a tour guide here in Israel, which is, as I understand it, a pretty rigorous course. I'll have to look into it some more.

Eight of us went on this trip. Mazi managed to used some "protectzia" to snag us a fairly good deal on a mini-van. Of course, it was a mini, mini-van, which sat 7 comfortably, 8 not-so-comfortably and 8-with-luggage--well that was almost impossible, but we managed to shtup it all in.

The eight included Isaac, myself, Mazi and five young ladies (her two nieces and my three girls) aged 11,12,13, 14 and [just about] 15. (Poor Isaac was really outnumbered, but thankfully he's used to it. He insisted on doing all the driving--and always got the best seat in the car). Before we embarked on our journey, we had fun creating a list of rules. This was a true collaborative efforts amongst the females:

1. No asking if we're there yet
2. No saying you have to pee
3. No being annoying
4. No passing gas
5. No saying the word, "mommy" (Guess who contributed that rule)
6. No saying "I'm hungry"
7. No space-hogging
8. No complaining you have to pee 5 minutes after the bathroom stop ["but I didn't need to go then!"]
9. ABSOLUTELY No whining
10. No losing things and then realizing that you lost it after we left the area
11. If crocs are dusty, Mommy must wash them [Orli can't stand it when her crocs get dirty]
12. No singing if you're over the age of 15 [this rule was created for kids are mortified when I sing]

Did instituting these rules work?

Read the title....

More on our trip in posts to come, including pictures....

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gone Fishin'.

We're going up North for a few days with Mazi and Co. We're planning on going to Sachneh and Tiberias, and to do alot of hiking here. We plan on returning south via the coast, starting here and maybe making some stops here and here. We'll see how it all unfolds. Hopefully I'll have some nice photos to post after the trip.

In the meantime, check out Haveil Havalim #174 for some great reading.

PS: Can you guess where the unidentified "here" picture is? Extra points if you don't live in Israel.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weak. Humiliated.

That's how I feel about the prisoner exchange today. We got the bodies of two heroes of Israel. They got a brutal murderer. And so much more.

Last night before I went to sleep, I prayed for a miracle. If only our soldiers were alive. I knew the chances were slim, but as I said, I prayed for a miracle.

In spite of the title of this post, I believe Israel is strong. We are capable. But our government is afraid of the army's strength, which is why we lost Lebanon II. Treppenwitz and Seraphic Secret describe this so much better than I ever could.

I am glad the Goldwasser and Regev families will be able to mourn their loved ones properly, but I am sad for how this whole situation has unfolded.

May the families of these soldiers be comforted among the mourners of Israel.

Friday, July 11, 2008

About the Tomato Sauce Thingie....

When I first got here (has it already been ten months???), I could not find a simple can of tomato sauce. You know, like Hunt's. It turns out you can't find plain ol' tomato sauce in a can here. Sure, they have all kinds of canned tomatos and tomato purees, but I have yet to see a can of sauce. They do sell the stuff that comes in a jar--like marinara sauce. That costs about 15 shekel, and has more calories and fat than the simple stuff. What is also available is tons and tons of tomato paste, which I didn't really know what to do with, aside from putting a tablespoon in a sauce I make. I gave up trying to find traditional tomato sauce--one of the things I've had to make peace with living here.

But maybe I don't have to.

Last Shabbat, I invited Mazi and her nieces to spent Shabbat at our home. Of course, I invited her mother as well. I love her mother, but I have to admit I had an ulterior motive: she is one of the best cooks on the planet. Mazi's mom was born in Iraq and then emigrated to Israel as a young girl. And I knew that if I invited her to my home, she would have none of the old Ashkenazic standards--well maybe my matzoh balls are acceptable, but really she looks upon Ashkenazic cooking with a sort of disdain. I grew up on her food. Yes, I am the granddaughter of Polish and German Jews and as a kid, I knew exactly what Majedera, Lachim Ajin, Yapra (I think that's how you say it), Kube (YUM!!) and a host of other traditional Sefardic foods were. And don't tell my mom (again?) but I used to eat rice and beans on Pesach. They were religious, and if they could eat it, why couldn't I???

Mazi and her mom arrived here in Modiin about 3:00. By 4 PM, the soup for the Kube was up, the fish was being sauteed, and the sauce for the fish was cooking.

And then I learned something: all that tomato paste? Israelis make sauce out of it by adding some water. DUHHHH!!! As I watched this woman cook, I asked lots of questions. Of course, there are no recipes, but just watching her was a huge help. She made "schug"--basically a Sefardic hot sauce hot enough to clean your sinuses out for the rest of your life. This week, I decided to attempt it myself:

Of course, I tasted it! And it came out really good, almost as good as the original.

If you'd like to try it, here's the recipe:

3 heaping TBS of tomato paste

Mix that with enough water to make it more like a "sauce" consistency (I added about 3/4 of a cup)

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

A handful of cilantro, chopped

A pinch of salt

Hot pepper flakes to your liking (I added about 2 teaspoons--we like it HOT!!!!)

Be prepared for some smoke to come out of your ears!

Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pool Etiquette

[In the unlikely event that any of you have a Hebrew blog, would you please translate this so that this can be disseminated among the Hebrew-speaking-only population. Because I honestly don't think they know this.]

These are the basic tenets:

1. Lap Lanes: thus named, because they are reserved for, well, people doing LAPS.

["Doing laps" means that the swimmer will be swimming back and forth across the length of the pool. He or she will do this 5, 10, 50 or 200 times. The swimmer may use a variety of strokes or may just do one stroke. But he or she will go back-and-forth, back-and-forth until said swimmer decides it is enough and stops. Of course it's dull, what did you think exercise was, a walk in the park?]

2. The LAP LANES ARE RESERVED FOR PEOPLE DOING LAPS. [Oh, did I already say that?] It is not reserved for people wanting to stand against the wall. Like the lady today standing by the far wall, so I had to move slightly from the right to the left where the swimmer in the other lane kicked me so hard she would have broken a rib had I not been so well padded. Or the man who stands at the far end of the lane with his white belly protruding so far out that every time I get to the end of the lane I have an irresistible urge to poke my finger in his fleshy dough-like belly, just like that Pillsbury Doughboy Commercial.

GET OUT OF THE LANES, PEOPLE. There is plenty of other pool wall space for you to hang around in. Or better yet, visit the cafe.

3. When you are doing laps you always stay to the right, and in this way you go round and round, always staying to the right. This avoids crashes and more rib-kicks.

4. I don't mind sharing the lanes with kids, but they have to be swimming, not playing Marco Polo. If you're a parent who frequents a pool, can you remind the kids that the LAP LANES ARE RESERVED FOR THE PEOPLE DOING LAPS. If you don't know what "doing laps" means, see #1.

Feel free to post this notice at all public and private pools, and to translate to Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, French, Arabic etc. I promise not to sue for plagiarism.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programing.

Haveil Havalim #172 is up at Daled Amos. You can read it even if you're young.

Friday, July 4, 2008


May you continue to be strong and proud and free.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Too Close for Comfort

By now you've all heard about the maniac who steamrolled his way through Jerusalem with the sole purposes of murdering Jews. My friend Jameel was on it, both literally, and then on his blog, almost as soon as it happened. I was oblivious to the events until I got a panicked call from Mazi. She said, "Baila, something happened here and people are running. People are taking out their guns." Then she said, "There's a tractor here, and people are saying it crushed cars and flipped over a bus." In the background I heard sirens and general chaos.

She had been on her way to Modiin to meet us, and then we were going to drive together to a water park. She had called me a bit earlier to tell me she was running late, and then again to tell me how annoyed she was that she missed the bus to the Tachana Merkazit (Central Bus Station).

Now as she was on the phone and I was turning to the computer and TV to find out what was going on, it became clear to me that there was a reason she and her nieces were late this morning.

Needless to say, we did not make it to the water park. It took her two hours to get out of Jerusalem. She finally made it to Tel-Aviv, where I picked her and the girls up. We spent a couple of hours at the beach, but our thoughts kept returning to the pigua (terrorist attack).

Three dead, scores injured. And one friend and her two young nieces thankfully late for their day of fun in the sun.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Having a lie-in today...or is it lay-in or maybe lye-in

Besides learning Hebrew here in the Holy Land, I am also learning English. You heard read me right. Over the past ten months, I have had the pleasure of meeting and making friends with Brits, Australians and South Africans. I've learned (the hard way) that not all English speakers are Americans and should be referred to as Anglos. I have learned that the B's, A's, and S.A.'s have a New York/New Jersey (or America/Canada) type of rivalry with each of the others. While each one has made fun of the way the other one speaks when talking to me privately, but they all agree that Americans have completely butchered their beloved language.

They're just jealous.

(At first I thought they all sounded alike. They were pretty insulted at that. Now I pretty much can identify the different accents.)

And by the way, the Brits still are carrying a grudge that we have our independence. I believe they still refer to the American Revolution as the Great Catastrophe over there across the pond.

Anyhoo, the point of this post is my lay-in (if you are British, please tell me how you spell that). In America we call that "sleeping in" or "sleeping late". Today is the first day of the "Chofesh HaGadol" [big vacation], and the summer stretches out before us. I am very afraid. In America, the kids have a few days between camp and school and then are off, either to sleep away camp or day camp, which means they are occupied from 8 AM to 4:30 PM. I went to work, ran errands, and when they came home we went to the pool until it was time for dinner and bed. Over here, they are to old for the day camps. Orli will be going away for two weeks, but Tali opted not to go. For the first few weeks we will keep busy with Mazi (more on that another time), but still, I am very afraid of the hours that are unplanned.

In any case, everyone (except Isaac) is having a lay-in today. I am always an early riser so I slept 'til 7, which for me is late.

I'm going to make my list of things to accomplish today, and go do them...

Hoping we all have a wonderful summer!