Saturday, June 17, 2017

23rd of Sivan

This was a very special Shabbat because yesterday on the Jewish calendar was the 23rd of Sivan, and SS's dad's yarhzeit.  His 23rd one, in fact (a neighbor told Shalom Shachne that the date was a significant one since the 23rd of Sivan is when, according to the Purim story, Esther and Mordechai sent out the letters telling the Jews they could defend themselves against Achashveros' unbreakable decree against them).

Shalom Shachne made a siyyum yesterday on Megillah.  Here is what he said, and may it all have been for an ilui neshama for Irwin, Yitzchak ben Shalom Shachne, who we miss very much:
Today is the 23rd yahrzeit for my father, יזחק בן שלום שכנא (Yitzchak ben Shalom Shachne), and last week was the first yahrzeit for my aunt, his only sibling, שמחה שרה בת שלום שכנא (Simcha Sarah bat Shalom Shachne).   

First off, I want to thank Mr. Shlomo Meyer for encouraging me to start learning a daf a day, giving me the suggestion to start with מסכת מגילה.  And of course I want to thank my family for all their love and encouragement, and giving me time for learning.

My father passed away suddenly, at the not very old age of 63.  He was playing tennis, which he loved to do, and had a fatal heart attack.  He had always told us that if he could choose how to die, this would be one of the ways he would choose.  My father never seemed particularly afraid of death and was a bit irreverent about it.  His nickname was “Goldie”, and he once told my step-mother that he wanted the epitaph on his tomb stone to say “Here lies Goldie growing moldy”.  Needless to say, we didn’t write that.

When the Rabbi was giving the eulogy for my father, he said that my father reminded him of כלב בן יפונה.  My father was never afraid to speak out, even against a whole group of people.  The board of directors of the synagogue were trying to remove the Rabbi from his position, and my father was one of the few voices speaking up for the Rabbi.  This trait frequently got him into trouble with college administrations, in his early career as a physics professor.   He learned to temper this in his later life as a businessman, where he learned the value of getting along.  But he was always a courageous and idealistic person.

Although he was not a very religious man, he put on Tefillin every day.  He started after my bar mitzvah.  I believe he started because I asked him, why should I put on Tefillin, when he doesn’t.  So he started doing it every day from that time for the rest of his life.   When he passed away, I made a resolution that I would put on Tefillin every day also, and also to say Kaddish for him 3 times a day for the whole year.   This was one of the major forces which made me into a בעל תשובה.

Now for the siyum.  In addition to covering the הלכות of purim and קריאת מגילה, the mesechet covers many laws of קריאת התורה and how we split the parshiot during the year.  A quick הלכה that I learned which surprised me was brought in the mishha on דף ח’: א:  

אין בין ספרים לתפילין ומזוזות אלא שספרים נכתבים בכל לשון ותפילין ומזוזות אינן נכתבין אלא אשורית. רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר אף בספרים לא התירו שיכתבו אלא יוונית

The הלכה goes according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, who says that a Sefer Torah can be written in Greek.  The reason for this given by the Gemara, is the ברכה given by נח to יפת,

יפת אלהים ליפת וישכן באהלי שם

And in fact, Rambam brings this down as halakhah in הלכות תפילין ומזוזה:

והתירו בספרים לכתבן אף ביווני בלבד. וכבר נשתקע יווני מן העולם ונשתבש ואבד לפיכך אין כותבין היום שלשתן אלא אשורי.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Credit to Her Profession and Her Country

The other day in ulpan, our teacher told us about an amazing story that I'd like to share with you.  This nurse is truly a credit both to the profession of nursing and to the State of Israel.  Kol HaKavod, Ula Ostrowski-Zak, and may the injured mother and baby make full recoveries.

Baby of seriously injured Palestinian mother nursed by Jewish nurse
A couple from Hebron was involved in a car accident, the mother was seriously injured and the father killed; pediatric nurse Ula Ostrowski-Zak at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital volunteers to tend to their nine-month-old.
During an entire shift in the pediatric emergency room at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, nurse Ula Ostrowski-Zak nursed a nine-month-old Palestinian baby from Hebron whose mother was seriously injured and his father killed in a car accident.

"His aunts were surprised that a Jew agreed to breastfeed him, but I told them that every mother would do it," she said.

On Friday, Yaman's parents collided head-on with an armored bus on Route 60. The father was killed on the spot and the mother, who was not wearing a seatbelt, sustained a serious head injury.

Nurse Ostrowski-Zak with baby Yaman
Nurse Ostrowski-Zak with baby Yaman

The baby, who was lightly injured, was taken to the emergency room, but there was no one to feed him and he refused to eat from a bottle. For seven hours, until Ostrowski-Zak arrived, he didn't eat a thing and cried incessantly. His aunts were helpless.

"They asked me if I could help them find someone who would breastfeed the baby," said Ostrowski-Zak. "As a nursing mother, I didn't hesitate and suggested that I do it myself."

Thus, between caring for one child and another, the nurse fed the baby. "I fed him five times," she said. "His aunts embraced me and thanked me. They were really surprised and told me that no Jewish women would agree to nurse a Palestinian baby they did not know."

Toward the end of the shift, the question arose who would breastfeed the baby when Ula went home. The nurse posted to the Facebook group of nursing mothers titled La Leche League, and was amazed by the reactions.

"Within two hours I received more than a thousand likes and responses from women who volunteered to help, women who were willing to travel even from Haifa to breastfeed him. In between, I continued to try to expose the child to the bottle but without success," she said.

The baby's mother is still in serious condition. The baby is expected to be discharged from the hospital and will be staying at his grandparents' home in Hebron, where his aunt will continue to breastfeed him.,7340,L-4971345,00.html

Friday, June 2, 2017

Chana's Back!

She flew in the day before Shavuot and, oh, it's good to have her back.

She did an amazing job packing up her dorm room (her two roommates left before her and it's always hard being the last one out the door) and we send our huge thanks to Cousins Jen and Shmulie who drove in to pick up the things she was leaving in NY.  Despite this, she still shlepped home an insane amount of stuff, including a bunch of things we shipped her from Amazon.  It was truly comical to see how much she stuffed into her checked bag (oops, overweight charge), carry-on (good thing they didn't weigh that, too) and her "personal item" (which, truly, was more of a second carry-on).

Penina and Ilana had the next day off school for erev Shavuos, and it's a good thing, since the three of them stayed up together far past my bed time.  It's a whole new world having these "big kids" around!

Welcome home, Chana!  Hope you have a really wonderful summer here!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Just What I Needed

As you can probably imagine, it being late spring in the Middle East, the inside of our car, little Jazzy, has been getting quite warm when she sits parked.  It's worst while I go to ulpan, as there is no shade in the parking lot, so Jazzy roasts in the sun for 4.5 hours while I slave away at grammar inside.

So, sensibly, I've been looking for a sun shade.  And while I understand that it is totally normal here *not* to have a car, I still found it surprising how hard it's been to find a sun shade.  I actually made it to "very large supermarket" the other day.  I know they have them at the back of the store, but, "very large supermarket" is also known for it's "very long lines", so I ran to get the few items I could only get there and went to wait in line (I have yet to see an Express lane here).  "Besides", I thought, "how hard can it be to find a sun shade?  This can't be the *only* place".  Or was it?!

Yesterday, I had to fill a prescription and decided to do it during the morning break from ulpan  (or "recess" as Ilana once called it :)).  "Why not do it on the way home?", you might ask. Ah, that's because of afternoon siesta time--our HMO is closed from 1-4 every day (that has taken some getting used to....Although it's slightly off-set by the fact that it's open until 7 pm).  As I was zooming into the mercaz hoping the line wouldn't be too long and I wouldn't be too late getting back to ulpan, I discovered that the police officers waiting outside their cruiser at the entrance to the mercaz were motioning me to pull over.  I was SO sure that my driving had been impeccably legal that I almost wasn't even worried, but, really, I think it's impossible to *not* be stressed when pulled over by the police.  The officer unsmilingly asked for my license and car registration and after taking them back to his police car for a few moments, returned with....a bag of "police bling", including a bunch of stickers and key chains.

And a sun shade :)

"I thought there was a problem!" I told him (in Hebrew).  He gave a little smile and sent me on my way (which made me think of the end of our new favorite music video [with thanks to Annabelle for sending it to us]):

Wishing everyone a wonderful Shavuot and a big mazal tov to our dear friend Tsipora from Boston who just got engaged.  Wishing you and Daniel a lifetime of happiness, Po!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Big Week for Israel

Small week for our family, but big week for Israel!

Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Kotel.  I heard jokes such as:
"Trump put a note in the Kotel.  He was asking Gd if He needed help with anything"


"Trump paused and looked up at the top of the Wall as he approached it.  He was seeing whether he should call in his architect about moving the whole thing to the border with Mexico"

Mrs. Trump won rave reviews for who she *didn't* hold hands with (her husband) and who she *did* (First Lady Nechama Rivlin, whose other hand held her portable oxygen).

But the really big news around here was the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and that Israel came into control of the Old City during the 1967 Six Day War.   Amazing to me, who has only known the Kotel to have the huge, beautiful plaza before it, to think of a time so near in history when houses were built right up the Wall....that for the 19 years from when Israel was established until 1967, Jews were FORBIDDEN from entering the Old City at all..... that the closest people could come was to go to the Armon HaNetziv neighborhood and rent a pair of binoculars to *see* to the Old City.  We are so, so fortunate....

An incredibly popular photo these days is a "then and now" photo of the "3 Soldiers" standing at the Wall.  I found a great article that interviews them and the photographer

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy La'D B'Omer

What's that you say--you never heard of celebrating "La'D" B'Omer, only "La'G" B'Omer, on the 33rd day of counting the Omer going from Pesach to Shavuot?  Well, this year brought an interesting twist.  Since La'G started right when Shabbat ended this week, the Rabbanut in Israel pushed off the celebrations until the next day, La'D, so that there would be no Shabbat violations with people preparing their bonfires during Shabbat.  But then there was a sizable religious contingent who felt that this was not necessary, since their followers would not violate Shabbat in their preparations and starting later at night would suffice (I read that the big bonfires in Meron were not lit until 2 a.m.).  10 Jews, 11 opinions, again--Penina's school had off one day and Ilana's school the other!

In the part of town that's mostly Traditional/Modern Orthodox, my friend who lives there told me it was totally quiet Saturday night, with everyone waiting until Sunday night.  In the *very* religious neighborhood next to it, bonfires were lit only on Saturday night.  Here, in our lovely "mixed" neighborhood, we got a two day Yontif with fires both nights ;).  I'm glad that tonight we'll be able to sleep with the windows open again!

La'D Sameach!!!!

Penina's photo of one of the many medurot across from our house

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Run, Run, Run!

We have another entry in the "New Experiences" category!

When Batsheva was visiting for Purim, I started jogging with her.  She's a pretty accomplished runner and she was a terrific person to get started with--she knew exactly what I should do to get started (she got me doing interval training with 5 or 10 minutes of running and then 30 seconds or 1 minute of walking.  Using this method was great, as it meant I did not keel over due to lack of oxygen.  Big thanks to our friend Lev who made an interval timer app that was quite a help).  It was also so neat to have *her* be the teacher and the one giving encouragement and praise.  I see we are entering a whole new level of family life.

So I was (somewhat) ready when one of the local libraries announced their yearly road race, which is their major fundraiser (like most libraries here, it's private.  But that's another blog post).   Signing up online was a total hoot.  The site announced that it was "powered by Google translate".  We'll use the word "power" loosely here, because it first told me that my age category was "Old" (in another 12 years I'll be in the "Veteran" category, which sounds much more pleasant) and then sternly admonished that "no one is allowed to use another person's chest during the race" :)

Ilana and I signed up together.  She was AMAZING and ran the 2K race in only 17 minutes, with really minimal training (we were trying to figure out if she ran with me three times or was it four, but, whatever it was, it was not much).
at the end.  whew!

I signed up for the 5K, which was the only longer option (not that I could have done more yet, anyway.  I had only run 5k once, last week, when I was starting to panic about being ready for the race).  It was really amazing to participate.  I had the idea that there would be about 50 people running on the sidewalks.  When we picked up our race packets, I found out that 900 people were signed up, major streets would be closed and there would be water stations along the way--so professional!  It was so cool to be running in this crowd of people where men were wearing yarmulkes, women were wearing skirts and had their hair covered, and some of the guards who were posted at the intersections were learning religious texts (it's like double guarding since they help cover the spiritual aspect while they stand there with their guns!)

The race started at 7:15 p.m. and the beauty of running at sunset through this area was indescribable.  We went on a street that seemed like the edge of the city--just a drop-off down the side and the mountains so close and so beautiful.  Amazing.  (The downside of being "nestled among the Judean Hills", though, is that it's always "uphill, both ways" around here).

I spent the first bit of the race just being overwhelmed with gratitude that I was there and able to do it.  Being so thankful that I had gotten past my endless series of spinal fusions when I was a teenager and my knee surgery when Ilana was young (which was following a sports injury and had me worried I would never be able to do anything physical again).....And using niece Cloe's mantra (from when she was three) of "I'm strong, I'm healthy, I can do this, I can do this" ;)

As someone who spent many years screaming until I was hoarse while cheering runners on at the Boston Marathon, it was really sweet to get my own tiny taste of receiving that support, including a few people who knew me by name and a group of girls who screamed, "Go, Penina's Mom" which I loved.  The BEST part was, not surprisingly, the end.  While we had been watching the 2k runners come back, Penina had admonished me to chill out in my cheering and clapping--I was being WAY not cool.  It was the sweetest thing to run over the finish line and have her and Ilana screaming at the top of their lungs.

We're hoping that next year, all three of us will run the 5k together ;)

Uncle Sydney's Visit

On Sunday we got to see Uncle Sydney.  What a treat! He came on a United Jewish Appeal mission with his neighbors and very good friends, Sylvia and Irving, and his assistant, Michelle.  We have met Sylvia and Irving many times over the years, and, once we moved to Boston, we always talked about their niece, Devora M, who lives in Boston.  Over time, each time they asked, our answers progressed from, "I think we know them", to "Yes, we know them and they're so nice" on and on over the years until this time when I said, "I told Devora that we would be seeing you today and she said it was good that we were switching family members, as Chana was spending Shabbos at their house!"

The trip they were on sounded really incredible.  For example, President Rivlin, Natan Sharansky and Jerusalem Mayor Barkat spoke privately with their group!  The schedule was jam-packed from morning to night and we were all totally impressed with Uncle Sydney, who turned 94 this week (!), for going on the trip (and that he is still deeply involved with his business.  And that he's planning on going to Venice, Jamaica and Hawaii over the rest of the year).  When I explained to my ulpan class why I had missed the day, one woman sagely noted that "90 is the new 40" ;)

Uncle Sydney looked good (Baruch Hashem).  It has, of course, been hard on him since Aunt Sunny died (they were married for 68 years.  68 years!) and I really admire him for coming on this trip.  He said that the first time he ever went to Israel was just a few months after the Six Day War.  "Whose idea was that?" I asked.  "I don't remember" he answered.  Then, a moment later, "it must have been Sunny's idea".  I agreed.  She was such an adventurous person who lived life fully (I discovered this obituary which is a spot-on description).  It was especially appropriate to see Uncle Sydney this week as yesterday marked 11 months since her death and SS stopped saying kaddish for her.....

Wanting to give Uncle Sydney a "taste of home", I kept at the geshnitna-making experiment.  Chellie gave me some very good technical input (I had divided the dough into half and she told me to divide into fourths) and I plowed through drawers until I found the lemon zester Barbara once gave me and found that the addition of some good lemon zest (per the recipe) really added a lot.  It was great having Sylvia there when Uncle Sydney opened the geshnitna.  She said that she remembered Aunt Sunny serving geshnitna when they played bridge together, and that *she* was touched that we had made it.

We had a long list of possible things to do, but ended up just going to lunch at the hotel and talking for hours.  We didn't get home until 9 pm!

Come back and visit again, Uncle Sydney!!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Day....After Day....After Day.....

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, was last week.....Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, was yesterday, and it segued right into Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day, today.....

My poor ulpan teacher felt like she had so much to cover and such little time to do it in.  We spent some time translating parts of the Proclamation of Independence and she told us how the signers had to run around to the local cafes and borrow chairs (here is a GREAT description of that time.  The details of that night are absolutely unbelievable).  To think of Ben Gurion announcing the creation of Israel knowing without a doubt that it would mean an immediate war....

In the community center where I attend ulpan, they set up a table and backdrop covered in black saying, in yellow, yizkor and a group of six yarhzeit candles (one for each of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust) and, separately, one candle [Holocaust Day here is noted on the day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and I assume the separate candle was to note that]).  As we moved closer to this week, photos and biographies of fallen soldiers and people killed in terror attacks were added to the display, and, finally, Israeli flags.  It was kind of a balagan, but that seems to appropriately give over the mash-up of feelings during this week.

Nationwide one minute siren on Yom HaShoah.....Another siren at night on Yom HaZikaron (we were finishing dinner and had all forgotten that one was coming, leading to a few moments of panic).....Siren again (two minutes this time) during the day of Yom HaZikaron.  If you haven't seen the videos of people stopping on the highway and standing next to their cars, I suggest looking one up.  It's amazing.  A friend told us that she was on the bus coming back from Jerusalem when the siren went off and the bus driver stopped and stood as did almost every other person on the bus (like everything here, it's "10 Jews, 11 Opinions" and there is pretty much *nothing* that everyone does).

Ulpan took us to a Yom HaZikaron program at a nearby boys' school.  As a chardal school--chareidi-dati leumi--they try to find the middle ground of being both strongly religious and supporting the State of Israel.  Not so easy, but they did a good job.   The principal recited Kel Malei Rachamim and finished just as the siren started.  Very moving....

After Ani Ma'amin, the students had a color guard flag performance (see what I mean about trying to find that middle ground?).

Penina, Ilana and I watched the live-stream of the big ceremony at Har Herzl last night, concluding Yom HaZikaron and starting Yom HaAtzmaut (as the Times of Israel puts it, the timing "ensures that the elation of independence is never far removed from an awareness of its cost").   Rita (super famous Iranian-Israeli singer) sang the song I hate to love, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, while wearing a dress that had an enormous circular train that a whole light show was displayed on.  It was pretty spectacular!

We saw fireworks last night, and, today, had a blissful day off.  Without Sundays, the only days off tend to be when a major Holiday is starting that evening.  It was great to just have a "regular" day off.  We learned our lesson from last year and didn't try to go anywhere (worst traffic day of the year).  Our day was super mellow--we baked for the Lone Soldiers Barbeque, had a BBQ ourselves, played cards, read books and I finished off the day by trying to make the heirloom family recipe "Geshnitna" in advance of Uncle Sydney's (!!!!) visit here Sunday (still working on the geshnitna, despite getting tech support from Chellie.  Let's just say that, from the sample I nibbled on, you can tell I married in to the family....)

I leave you with a few photos Penina took that made us both smile (oops, the nail polish better go before school starts again tomorrow)
at the burger restaurant....

flag was a gift from my parents when we made aliyah

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pesach 2017

**disclaimer: I know that my readership comes from across the religious spectrum (not just the Jewish spectrum!), so, without my taking tons of time to hyperlink everything in case you want to find out more about it, etc, how about we do a "Ramona".  One of my favorite children's book characters, when she is in elementary school tries to be like her father and read the evening paper (Beverly Cleary just dated herself with that reference more than when Ribsy the dog eats horse meat....).  The scene goes something like, "Ramona read that zzzzz was going to vote on the amendment to zzzzzz".  So, folks, if you come across an unfamiliar concept, just be like Ramona, say "zzzzz" and keep on going :)  (Extra points to someone who can correct the errors in my remembering the scene.  I'm counting on you here, Kelly!)**
Pesach was really, really lovely.  Some random thoughts:

--overall, I couldn't believe how EASY it was for me to figure out which products were kosher for Passover and which weren't.  Totally different from last year, thankfully.  I even helped an Israeli guy who looked like he was going to cry trying to figure out if the cottage cheese he wanted to buy was okay (because the possible designations are: kosher for passover, kosher for passover only for those who eat kitniyot, kosher for passover without any worry of kitniot [I really think they should make a different designation because last year, I assumed that anything with the word kitniot on it was not for us] and kosher for passover as long as it's bought before erev Pesach.)

--loved seeing some stores that had everything labeled.  Like the pharmacy that had every product labeled, including all the shampoo shelves (can't benefit from anything containing chametz, even if you're not going to eat it)

--having a car made me so much more tuned-in (of course) to things like cleaning the car.  My friend went to get her car cleaned a few weeks before Pesach, on a Tuesday.  They told her a price and she said that it was much higher than her sister had paid just the day before.  "Ah, but today is Rosh Chodesh.  Now we're so close to the holiday that we have to charge more"! 

--walking around on Pesach, Shalom Shachne and I at the same time noted that every car parked on the street was so clean and shiny.  He said that he had actually had a brief thought of, "wow, a lot of people have bought new cars recently", until he realized that it was just that they were all cleaned during the same time period.

--I waited in SUCH a line to get my car cleaned, except all I could do was smile since most people were not overtly religious.  What a country that "everyone" cleans their car before Pesach!  When I finally inched to the front of the line, I asked if I could get the lower, normal rate since my car was already quite clean (ah, the joys of NOT commuting to/from school and work.  In the US, my car was basically a large pile of crumbs from Trader Joe's snack foods with some wheels holding the whole thing up).  The guy agreed that my car was quite clean, but, alas, told me everyone was paying the same price these days.  Oh well.

In "other-than-car" news: 
--when we finally returned to ulpan yesterday, I was a little surprised to hear how everyone's family loved having only one Seder.  We all still miss the second Seder, although I am not complaining at how much less work it was in the kitchen to only have one.  And how nice it was to have another day of Chol Hamoed

--Great trip we went on was to "Invitation to Silence", known locally as "The Deaf Museum".  Really a fascinating experience and our (deaf) tour guide was very interesting.  I see why this is rated 5 stars on TripAdvisor.  The trip meshed especially nicely for Chana, who is taking a sign language class now (although ASL and Hebrew sign language are different).

--for the last Yontif day, our old friend from Philadelphia, Elisha, visited with his daughter Shira.  We became friends with Elisha something like 23 years ago and we became religious at the same time.  Our kids last saw each other when they came from Philly for Chana's bat mitzvah seven years ago (ie. they've all changed a lot since then!), but they made an instant and strong connection and had a great time together.  There is truly nothing like an old friend.....Hoping they come back in the summer so that Anabel and I can see each other, too. 

--Chana is leaving Sunday ;(.  But it's been great having her around :).  Now we all just need to figure out what she's doing next year.  She will be in college in the US, but we're not sure if she'll stay where she is or transfer to a secular college.  b''H, she got into some really good ones.  Now we just need to figure out living situations and finances and, overall, where the best place for her is.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Harry B-day- 11th Birthday Party for Ilana")

Hi everyone- Chana here!

The Goldbergs of number 7 Yavne street were proud to say that they were perfectly normal thank you very much. Well..."perfectly normal" may be a little but of a stretch. You know what? Lets just get straight to the story.

On Friday we celebrated a very special occasion- a child discovering her true magical heritage- aka Ilana's 11th birthday. As you may or may not know, in the Harry Potter series Harry discovers he's a wizard and receives a letter inviting him to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on his 11th birthday.

All children obsessed with Harry Potter anxiously await this birthday, hoping that they too will receive an owl with their own Hogwarts letter. Sadly, most are disappointed and have to come to grips with being a mere Muggle (I personally am still waiting for my letter, but that's neither here nor there).

Our family has had to grapple with three non-magical children so far, but on Ilana's birthday everything changed and we can now proudly announce that: "You're a wizard, Ilana!" (said in Hagrid's voice).

On that sunny morning, Ilana came downstairs and was greeted with an owl carrying a mysterious envelope.

In true wizard fashion it was addressed to: "Ms. Ilana Goldberg. The second bedroom on the second floor".

Upon opening it, she discovered an.....ACCEPTANCE LETTER TO HOGWARTS!!!! It also had a class schedule, a list of supplies she would need for the coming school year, and a map of the school.

Upon further inspection, Ilana discovered that platform 9 and 3/4 was conveniently located just a few steps away (in fact, it was where our front door had previously been- but that's magic for you!).

The Gryffindor common room (complete with a portrait of the Fat Lady and a password required to enter),

the Great Hall (set with a welcome feast containing assorted treats from Honeydukes),

and the Forbidden Forest and Whomping Willow (which was totally off limits to students of course!) all rounded out the magical experience.

Unfortunately, upon entering the bathroom, Ilana discovered that "The Chamber Has Been Opened". Fortunately, there was a portal to the Ministry of Magic nearby.

Round glasses  and lightening bolt scars were given to all (Voldemort was very busy designating many "chosen-ones". or it might have been face-paint. same dif).  Ilana then stopped by Olivanders wand shop, and picked up a wand which would be necessary for the magical year of learning ahead of her.

And received her broomstick--a Nimbus 2006

When Ilana entered the Great Hall, she was called up to the sorting hat to find out which house she would be in. Although the Sorting Hat had a hard time making a decision it finally pronounced: "GRYFFINDOR", in a ringing voice. The hall erupted in cheers, and candies sent straight from Hogsmeade (including jelly slugs, Bertie Botts every flavor beans, fizzing wizzbees, and candy golden snitches) were distributed to all in celebration.

the feast included spring rolls, which we heard were a favorite of  the "ickle firsties"

Headmaster Albus Dumbledore rose to address the students, the candles hanging over the tables of the great hall glinted in the starry night ceiling: "As I welcome you all back for another year of learning and hijinks," he began, "I would like to take extra care to thank a few of our extraordinarily dedicated staff members."

"Miss Penina Goldberg", he continued, "for your hard working in creating the magical world that we have gathered in today, I would like to award 50 points to Gryffindor."

"But Professor", piped up a snide voice from the audience, "staff members can't win points for their houses. That's not fair!"

"Quiet Malfoy," snapped Dumbledore, "nobody asked your opinion anyway!".
"Anyways," he continued, once more beaming at the audience, "I would also like to thank professors Ellen and Shalom Shachne and award them 50 points to Ravenclaw and Gryffindor respectively."

The hall once more erupted in cheers, students jumped onto the tables clapping and stamping their feet. Dumbledore raised his hand for silence. "Lastly," he said, eyes twinkling over his half-moon glasses, "thank you to Miss Ilana Goldberg for growing up into such a wonderful 11 year old- the person you are becoming is truly someone magical."

Ilana smiled around at the fellow students and teachers at Hogwarts who were like her family (or maybe they actually were her family. It would explain why they had gone to all that trouble to make her a Harry Potter party).  She couldn't wait to find out what her next day at Hogwarts would bring.

note: we got a lot of these great party ideas from:

Chana's Here! And Pesach is Coming!

Chana arrived veeery late Thursday and it's so great to have her back ("Penina!  Chana!  Go to bed already--it's 2 in the morning!").

Ulpan and schools let out for Pesach break at the end of last week, so we've had all this week to get ready for Pesach.  By this point, although we are officially "turning over" our kitchen to be Pesachdig today, we're all of the mindset of "Enough already!  We're ready.  Bring it on!"

Chag Kasher V'Sameach to everyone!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Batsheva's Visit :)

Batsheva was here for about 2 1/2 weeks and we had such a nice visit.  Although much of the visit was filled with mundane things (like work, as she can do her job as a software developer remotely, she worked full-time while she was here) we got a fair amount of visit-y things in, too.

We took a hike and saw so many of the flowers in bloom.....

 Went to the Biblical Museum on Natural History  (one of the only things to do locally that does not involve going to the mall or going on a hike).  In a "like father, like daughter" moment, Batsheva also found out she had an affinity for the big snake.

Amusingly, there was a group of senior women in the museum at the same time, and many of them wanted photos of Batsheva holding the snake and them right up close to it :).  Sort of, well, like I am in the photo ("umm, no thanks, I'm fine without holding it...I'll just show how brave I am from right over here").

We had a really great time meeting up with our old homeschooling buddies Fern and Daniel (homeschoolers all over New England are waving 'hi' now!)  for breakfast at a new French cafe in Jerusalem.  Discovered that Batsheva and I are a great match to share a breakfast because I had no interest in the chocolate croissant and she had mild-but-reasonable interest in the incredible cheeses.

During our foray to Jerusalem, I also learned how to (legally) park on the sidewalk!  (By the way, that is not my car.  I parked better than that).  And we helped out a young man who was moving into the nearby Lone Soldier's Home and needed a ride for him and his luggage (funny story: when we picked him up in the Old City, where he was moving out of his yeshiva, I looked at him and said, "We might have a problem, because when the Home asked for a ride for you, they said you only had one suitcase, and I'm not sure I can fit you and three suitcases in to my tiny car with three of us in it".  He was non-fazed [good for a future solider!], sat down and had his friends put the duffel bags on top of him ["it's less than an hour.  No problem"])

We had karaoke night with Batsheva playing our new favorite instrument, the Otamatone .  Can't wait until the one she got Ilana for her upcoming birthday gets here.  That thing is a hoot!

And, overall, ate a lot, laughed a lot, and enjoyed just being together.

Batsheva took all the photos in today's blog post.  Thank you, Batsheva, and come back soooon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trip North

We drover 2 1/2 hours north after Shabbat ended and stayed overnight in Tzfat (the most multiply-spelled word I have ever encountered.  According to the "Encyclopedia of Tzfat",  the city also goes by: Safed, Safet, Tsfat, Tzefat, Tsefat, Safes, Tsfas, Tzfas, Tzefas, Tsefas, Zfas, Zfat, Zefad, Zefas, and Zefat!  We had a lovely morning wandering around the city, seeing the many art shops

and eating a wonderful breakfast ("you should post on TripAdvisor, Mommy.  Something like, "I had to drag my kids here because they thought the food would be 'too healthy' and everyone loved it and we can't wait to eat there again") and planning a return trip so we can have more time in the future to explore.

Then, off to the Kibbutz!  It's kind of hard to believe that we've been here 1 1/2 years and this is the first trip to visit all the cousins on the Kibbutz.  In fact, it's my first trip here since Batsheva and Chana were little.  (Cousins Gil and Nitzan, and Gil's father Eitan are the ones we are closest to, and we have met them on each Israel trip and several times since making aliyah, but this was the first time seeing all of the extended family [not all of whom made it into the group photo]).

Eitan took us on a long and wonderful tour of the kibbutz ("Gil, we'll come to your house after the tour.  How long do you think a kibbutz tour with Eitan will take?"  "With him, it could be two hours or it could be 12 hours...")  I've been on at least two Eitan tours of the kibbutz and still saw many things I had never noticed/understood before, including my favorite: the kibbutz museum, 

ELEPHANTS once roamed where the kibbutz currently is?!
We went back to cousin Eli and Ariella's house to chat with the cousins (me to my ulpan teacher the next day, "and I did really well speaking in Hebrew.  I spoke more Hebrew than I ever did on the kibbutz before!  Umm, okay, the last time I was there was 18 years ago, so let's hope I don't need that much time to progress before my next visit there....")
the foundations of an ancient wine press were found in the spot where Eli and Ariella's house was planned to be built.  So the house is closer to the road and the backyard is this awesome archaeological find!
 Gi took us on a tour of nearby fields

Ilana found porcupine quills
 and up to his favorite viewing spot at the top of a mountain

Off to dinner with Nitzan and cousin Tslil and then the 3 hour drive home.  Can't believe how much we packed into 28 hours!