Before I start this I should tell you, in case you didn't know, that pretty much the entire country celebrates Yom Ha'atzmaut with....mangol, baby. Loosely translated as "barbeque", it's entirely different from the kind of barbequing we did in America. Most of my suburban friends and I bought a gas barbeque as soon as we bought homes. We barbequed frequently from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and many of us even did so in the Fall and Winter. In Israel, all of that barbequing is concentrated into one day....today. And gas grills? Sure, they exist, but the real stuff looks like this:
We spent the day at the beach, eating sandwiches (I know, I know) and then came home and did our mangol on our mirpeset [porch]. We also decided to bring Ozzy to the beach for the first time ever. Here in Israel we always see dogs on the beach, chasing and retrieving balls in the surf and seeming to have a great time. Why not Ozzy? HAH. Our plan was to go to Chof Palmachim in the city of Rishon L'tzion. Since the opening of the new road (Route 431) from Modiin, Rishon is 20 minutes away--and it was, even today, one of the most traveled days of the year. As we passed parks and forests, we marveled at the sheer number of people out and about and....mangoling. When we got to the beach, we parked with no problem, but Ozzy freaked out at the loud music and the mass of humanity literally camped...everywhere. We decided to head for a part of the beach about a kilometer away that was not officially open--no lifeguards and not recommended. Just tell that to an Israeli. After parking the car, Ozzy reluctantly came with us. This part of the beach was plenty crowded, but not as...teeming as the other. It was....a tent city.
Families and extended families just set up shop, put up a tent or an awning, fired up the mangol and were good to go.
One family came with a huge speaker system hooked up to their car, so we had Israeli music for entertainment,
complete with karaoke and dancing. After we settled in, one jeep pulled up all the way to the water, effectively blocking our view. He backed up a bit, parked and proceeded to unload all of his paraphenalia.
Ah, well. These are my people, my nation!
Of course, the day would not have been complete without a man carrying a styrofoam box in his right arm and holding a cigarette in his left shouting "ARTIC!! HALLO!! ARTIC! LIMON, BAHNAHNAH!"(Artic are ice pops) and a flyover, courtesy of four el-al planes:
And Ozzy? After his initial trepidation, he got right into the swing of things. He even found a friend:
Hasn't this dog ever read "He's just not that into you?"
Here's Ozzy catchin' some rays.
And here he is really getting into the spirit of things:
Last year, in honor of my country's 60th birthday, I posted 60 things I love about Israel. This year, I thought about cheating by repeating the post and just adding a 61st thing, but decided against it. I know you've come to expect quality posts here and I didn't want to rip you guys off.
Tonight, Israel passed from mourning our dead to celebrating our freedom. Just like that. One hour it's all sad songs and interviews with relatives of the fallen on the radio and the next it's festive music and parties everywhere. It's hard to understand, but I always point out that over here we are used to (well, I'm getting used to) mourning and joy being intertwined into the fabric of our daily lives. It's just the way it is; we can't have one without the other.
Before we arrived, people both here and in the states warned us that Israel is a tough place to live. We came anyway, thinking we knew that, but the truth is, it's one thing to talk about "tough", and it's another to live in "tough". Things are tough here for varied reasons. Of course, there is always the threat of our surrounding enemies--the situation in this country is so volatile, you really never know when it will implode, despite the recent relative calm. Financially, more people seem to find it more difficult to make ends meet here. And finally, I think things are hard just because I'm so used to things being done differently. That's not to say it's better where I came from (some things are, some aren't), but it's just different. From mastering the language to figuring out the banking system--these are things that came naturally to me in the states. It's being a "greenhorn", if anyone remembers that expression. And sometimes I think I'm to old for that stuff.
And then there are other days. Days when I travel the land and feel my roots. Days when I see the words "Shabbat Shalom" displayed on an electronic street sign. Days when I hear my neighbor's toddler prattle on in Hebrew. Days when a war is fought and a nation, my nation, comes together.
There are three days a year when Israelis sing the national anthem, Hatikva, The Hope. The first two are on Yom HaShoah VeHaGvurah, Holocaust Day and Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day. The third one is sang at the end of Yom HaZikaron, on the eve of Yom Ha'atzmaut, Independence Day. Tonight, at our celebration here in Modi'in, thousands of residents sang in unison and it sounded like an anthem of hope, and of joy. As I sang, I felt that joy bubble within me. I watched my daughters sing it, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to them. I stood next to Isaac and new friends who are beginning to feel like old ones, and I knew within my soul why I am here, in spite of all the hardships.
This is the number of sacrifices our people have given so that we can have our own state.
IDF First Sergeant, Dvir Emanualuf from Givat Ze'ev, near Jerusalem, the first soldier to die defending his country and protecting his people during the recent Operation Cast Lead.
Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day began this evening. Take a moment to think about all of the soldiers and citizens who have given the ultimate, and their families who remain behind.
For them, Yom HaZikaron is everyday.
**This is an update of what I posted last year on Yom HaZikaron. Since that time Israel has been forced into a full-scale war with Hamas in Gaza and has lost an additional 133 soldiers and citizens in that war, and in numerous terrorist attacks.
Sigh. Sometimes I do feel like it's a "front" here at Casa Baila. Lately the kids have been bickering. ALOT. I know this behavior is normal, but its really been bad lately. They've been mean to each other. I really hate it; I want them to grow up close and I feel like if this continues or gets worse, it could really impact our future as a unified family. And I know I'm not reacting right. (Maybe that's a slight understatement). I feel like I've been doing something wrong here. How can I change this? Do your kids bicker? Any tips, anyone?
In other mom news I have to admit to some [additional] guilt. This morning before I woke up the kids I noticed that we were low on milk. And I wanted a bowl of cereal. Hmmm. So when they stumbled into the kitchen for breakfast I casually told them we're low on milk, can you have some yogurt or rice cakes for breakfast? And they did, without protest, even though they'd also prefer cereal. And now I'm enjoying my morning bowl of corn flakes. But, uh-oh. Let me go check something...whew, there is enough milk left (barely) for Isaac's morning cup-of-Joe.
My first memory even remotely related to the Holocaust was when I was in the fifth grade. I remember some one in my class saying nasty things about Germans, and I naively said, "Hey!! My grandmother's German!", thinking I was defending her honor. It was then that Chaya Gitty Fortgang said, in Yiddish, "Leider, leider", meaning something like "how sad for her." I had no idea why she felt sorry for my grandmother; the question lingered for quite some time.
I am not a child or grandchild of survivors, and as such did not grow up surrounded by memories as many of my friends did. The Holocaust became real to me in the ninth grade when the television mini-series, "Holocaust" was aired for the first time. Despite the terrifying nightmares I started to have, I could not stop watching the series. When it was over I was officially obsessed with anything Holocaust-related and began reading every book I could get my hands on. I also took the time to learn about how my family was affected. My maternal grandparents escaped Germany in the late thirties, but their families were decimated. My paternal grandparents, from Poland, also lost many of their family members.
The Holocaust is becoming further and further recessed into the pages of history, and Imore difficult for younger generations to feel a personal connection to. I pushed my kids tonight to attend the Modi'in Memorial Service, even though they will have ceremonies in their schools tomorrow. I want to burn this awful part of history into their psyche. I want them to remember those who were murdered and those who survived. I want them to remember the evil that existed then and that continues today. I want them to remember that at the time of the Holocaust there was no haven, no place a Jew could call home--a place he could return to if times became desperate.
This is an amazing video that I have been watching over and over again today. Susan Boyle is 47-year-old ordinary woman with an extraordinary G-d given talent. That a talent like hers has not been discovered until now boggles the mind.
Ms. Boyle entered "Britian's Got Talent" competition recently, with life-changing results. Watch Simon Cowell's [of American Idol fame] eyebrows pop up the minute this woman opens her mouth. Listen to the words of this song and let yourself be moved by the beauty of her voice singing it. Susan Boyle will no longer be an unknown, that's for sure.
For some reason You Tube would not allow me to embed the video directly, so I am giving you the link. Please click on it if you haven't already. You won't be sorry.
I found this link at a new blog I've been reading. Mish Weiss is another extraordinary woman with a different kind of extraordinary voice. She is quite ill right now and I pray that she gets to live out her dreams as well.
I spent much of the day leaving smug messages on friend's in the states voicemails about the fact that we were already eating bread and going out for pizza over here. Not really, but I thought about it.
What I did spend much of the day doing is baking Shlissel Challah. This is the challah that is baked for the Shabbat after Pesach. Tradition says that if you put the key ("shlissel" in Yiddish)to your front door in one of the challahs, it is a "segulah" [good omen?--trouble with an exact translation for that one] for parnasa, or income for the year.
I have a feeling lots of us will be baking challah this year.
Isaac and I are very blessed. After his company went belly-up in November, he [Thank G-d] recently began working again. But we have several friends and many acquaintances who are looking for work; we hope and pray that they will soon rejoin the work force as well.
And so this year I participate in this endeavor with a bit more contemplation.
May G-d continue to help us all earn our daily bread with dignity and pride.
(Now if only I could remember which challah has the key...)
What I love about Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of the holiday) is that we get a chance to explore our new country. The weather has been beautiful, hot, but not uncomfortably so, blue skies--perfect weather.
On Sunday we met some friends who were visiting from America. When they saw us, they immediately noticed that we were all wearing hats and carrying water bottles. None of them had hats, although they did have some water. In Israel you don't go anywhere without a hat, liters and liters of water and sunscreen. Remember that when you come for a visit.
Yeah, but the hat is supposed to be on the head.
Anyhoo, we went to a place known as "Churvat Midras", or the Midras Ruins. This is a fairly easy hiking route of about 2 kilometers a stone's throw from the city of Beit Shemesh. The ruins contain a series of caves and tunnels from the Bar-Kochba era, some underground burial chambers and a pyramid. It is a hike with beautiful views:
The kids (and some adults) had a great time crawling through underground tunnels and caves and barely complained on the ascent up to see the pyramids (okay, it was a "pyramid-like structure" that was probably a mausoleum.) All-in-all a good day.
Yesterday's hike was spectacular. My friend Marta found a posting on some internet list she belongs to by an Anglo-Israeli tour guide. It was advertised as "Whose beach is it anyway?". We hiked for about 4 kilometers along a path and then over sand dunes. We learned about the history of Tel Dor, where archeologists are finding civilization upon civilization who have been here in this land. I never get tired of hearing this stuff. Dor was a port city mentioned in Joshua, and and in Kings. It has been ruled by the (from memory, not necessarily in order) Canaanites, the Philistines, Phoenicians, Israelites, Persians, Greeks, Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Turks, the British......and now we are here. On the Tel (a Tel is a man-made mound created by the destruction of a civilization and the establishment of a new one on the ruins of the old one; they are all over this country) there are findings up through the Crusader era. What I thought as I reached the peak of the Tel and looked at the gorgeous views of the beach (thought by some to be the most beautiful beach in Israel) in front of me and Zichron Yaakov behind me was we must never take this land for granted. We are here today by G-d's Grace...
Much of the Tel Dor to Nachsholim hike is on a Nature Preserve, and therefore protected and maintained by the Israel Nature Authority. Some of the beaches are not and we saw people camping there...which looked like an excellent idea. Unfortunately we also alot of garbage, which thorougly saddens me. I can't say I'm the most environmentally minded person in the world, but I do try to leave a place I've camped or picnic-ed in the same condition as I when I got there, and maybe even a bit better. I wish everyone else would do the same.
Just another comment on Israeli's going on tiyulim (trips/hikes). These people have got to be the most resourceful people in the world. We sat down for lunch on a blanket on the sand and then I pulled out the matzoh, hard-boiled eggs, some tuna and a couple of cut-up vegetables. All over the beach, people were setting up homes! They set up protective shade from the sun, tables, chairs, pots full of food, including the requisite "ketzitzot" (patties in yummy sauces), "salatim" (salads), "shnitzel" (you should know what that is), for the sefardim, rice. I felt very inadequate indeed. A hard-boiled egg never tasted so pitiful....
Unfortunately, most of the pictures I took have my kids in them, and they do not want to be seen on the blog. And so I leave you with little proof as to how gorgeous the place is. You'll have to take my word for it; it's a great hike, with some fun rock-climbing and lots of history. If you'd like specifics feel free to e-mail me.
I'd love to hear what you did on your vacations....
Otherwise known as Birchat HaChamah. According to tradition and Wikipedia, this refers to a Jewish blessing that is recited in appreciation of the Sun once every twenty-eight years, when the vernal equinox as calculated by tradition falls on a Tuesday at sundown. It is said that this was the exact time the sun was created by G-d and happens once every 28 years. For it to happen on Eve of Passover supposedly happens once every thousand of years or something.
I really don't know much about astronomy. Okay, I know nothing at all about it. But for the past couple of days I've been tooling around the internet trying to figure this thing out. The vernal equinox (isn't that when you can balance an egg?) happens twice a year when the sun is exactly vertically lined up with the earth; that would herald the seasons of Spring (March 21/22) and Autumn (September 22/23). Today is April 8. It appears the equinox happened a couple of weeks ago. And how would we know the position of the sun when it was created anyway? Nobody was there, at least not 'til a few days later.
Healthy skepticism aside, the whole concept of this is intriguing to me. What I love most about being Jewish is the tradition of it all, that some of the things I do today were practised by my ancestors hundreds and thousands of years ago. Of course there are many daily, monthly, and yearly rituals. But a tradition that happens once every 28 years? It made me start wondering. Where was I 28 years ago? I was barely a toddler (okay that's a bald-faced lie, but many of you don't know exactly how old I am, so I can tell it; this is the internet, afterall). Truth is, I wasn't even aware that Birchat HaChamah existed until about a year ago when I saw people joining the group "I am attending Birchat HaChamah" on Facebook. And where will I be in 28 years from now? G-d willing, I'll still be living, breathing....but who knows?
And so I set my alarm for 5:20 a.m. There was going to be a communal tefilah in Modiin. I had no plans to attend that tefillah, but rather to go to Givaat HaTitorah, a hill in Modiin that is full of history and wildlife, where the views of the city are spectacular. Liat and Orli told me to wake them up, Tali said, "forget it". When the alarm buzzed, I turned over and thought about missing it....but got up. Liat joined me. Orli didn't. [When I told her she'd be 40 the next time it happens (G-d Willing!), she shot back "THIRTY-NINE!!!"].
So Liat and I set off.
It's a good thing we went to the hill and not to the communal tefillah--we wouldn't have found a spot!
Prayer on the hill. A private minyan, not the communal tefillah.
"עושה מעשה בראשית"--praising "He who performed the act of creation"
"I lift up my arms in supplication..."--no, wait, I think the guy's just taking a picture.
View of the crowd from the hill.
Liat's new Naot. Nothing to do with the occasion.
All-in-all a fun, hopefully more than once-in-a-lifetime experience. And now, I really should get the place ready for the Seder.
Actually two big, strapping men came to my house and cleaned my oven and fridge. Now these men are not professional cleaners, they are just looking to make a few extra shekel during the holiday season. So when they said they would clean my fridge and oven, they meant it.
They didn't touch the freezer. I don't think it was out of any kind of malice or laziness or they would have charged extra. I think it's because of that whole Venus-Mars thing: I didn't say clean the freezer, so why would they?
So I made Tali clean it....heh, heh. [Evil, I know].
At Shabbat lunch yesterday I gave everyone a pep talk. They would be home before Shabbat ended. And they would not be retiring to their individual pursuits after havdalah, they would await their orders, because it was time to.....[cue horror music] CLEAN THE KITCHEN....
Of course there was moaning and groaning, do you think I'm raising a bunch of saints? But after a bit everyone settled into their tasks, and for a few minutes there it was kind of nice, working together toward a common goal. For a few minutes anyway.
So things are coming along nicely and it looks like we may be ready to have our seder at its regularly scheduled time.