Friday, October 20, 2017

Library Life

I don't think I've ever written about the library situation here, but as they are just reopening after being closed for the Holidays, library life has certainly been on my mind.

While I have heard that public libraries do exist in Israel, there are not any near us.  Therefore, we belong to three separate private libraries.  Each one has a yearly membership fee and also a limit on how many books may be checked out at a time.  The biggest library, for example, charges about $25 for a yearly membership that allows us to take out 5 books at a time.  We have two memberships :).  The big library reminds me a lot of the Winthrop Public Library children's room--very small, but with a nice feel to it.  Which makes it feel a little odd when I'm in there and turn the corner of a display shelf and come face-to-face with shelves in Amharic (the neighborhood has a large Ethiopian presence).  The whole library is about evenly divided between books in Hebrew, English and Amharic!

The smaller library, which is much closer to us, has books mostly in Hebrew and English.  It's open one morning a week for two hours, and then 3 afternoons a week for two hours.  Definitely not your average US public library!  The books there tend to be older and well-worn, and I have had many frustrated thoughts about all the boxes of books we gave away before making aliyah and how our donations could have truly made a difference to the library here (and we had extra space on our lift, too).....

The last library is right near our house and is housed in a synagogue.  Unlike the other two, this one only contains Jewish-themed books (lucky for us there is a thriving business publishing Jewish fiction) and is open only one morning and one evening a week.  This library has been closed since Rosh Hashanah and just opened again last night!

We also use Overdrive (which allows reading US library books online) to help supplement our reading.  Together, we manage to cobble together what to read, but it is a big change from the US, when we would go to the library Friday afternoon and return with 40 or more books.  May it be our biggest problem, right?!

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

High Holidays

Rosh Hashanah is the only two day yontif in Israel and, thus, can be the only one that goes into Shabbos and makes the rare Israeli three day yontif.  This year, was a three-day-er.  Thankfully (for I find the food prep for long holidays difficult, as I lack the suburban luxuries I had back in the Old Country--a second fridge, second freezer and counter space for a warmer so that I can leave the stove on and cook over the holiday), we were invited out for three of the seven meals, but we hosted our maximum of 12 people for the other meals--a nice mix of buddies and new olim.

Our shul davens neitz, so we had the additional challenge of waking up super early, since shul started at 5:45 a.m.  As an early riser, it worked fine for me, and I loved being out and about so early.  There are many plants that only bloom at night and the air smelled absolutely incredible and very different from how it smells two hours later, when we're usually leaving the house.

The air was also filled with the sounds of children blowing toy shofars.  One day on the phone, I told Chana to hold on because I was outside and our 4 year-old neighbor was tooting too loudly on her shofar for me to hear her. ;)

Most amusing moment of the "10 Days of Repentence" between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: when Penina walked out of a routine appointment at Hadassah Medical Center and was accosted by a medical clown who immediately started doing kaparos over her head with a RUBBER CHICKEN! Sure beats live chickens, in our opinion ;).  (By the way, medical clowns are all the rage in Israel.  Penina even saw an ad on the back of a bus encouraging people to take courses to become medical clowns.  I see a future for Cousins Eli and Sela here!)

Chana came home from college in NY early the morning Yom Kippur started.  I got to discover that there is zero traffic between our house and the airport at 3 a.m. erev Yom Kippur.  Not that I was particularly worried about it.   By arriving at that time, she was able to spend her birthday with us!  Happy Birthday, Chana!!!!!

If it's possible to say that one had a great time on Yom Kippur, then I'd like to say that.  The davening was very meaningful and had lots of good singalong moments, we had great seats in our tiny shul (we were not near either the bathroom or the entrance door, which is hard to do in our very small and very crowded women's section), and it was so good to have Chana back.....

Preparations for Sukkot are supposed to start right after Yom Kippur, and, indeed, while we were still finishing our bagels, sounds of drills and hammers were drifting over from neighbors who eat quicker and also clearly have a lot of energy after fasting.

Two days ago, I saw a sign announcing "two bochurim available to build your sukkah".  As I read the sign, my eyes moved a few inches higher and saw a neighbor's "sleeping sukkah"  and the wheels started turning.  12 hours later, two creative 15 year olds (I was a little worried when I saw how young they were: "have you guys done this before???  Don't hurt yourselves!") had (with immense creativity because the way Shalom Shachne and they originally thought to build it didn't work, and he told them to just forget it.  But they kept at it!) helped make us the happy owners of a little sukkah on the balcony of our second floor.  Now the sukkah on the first floor will only be for eating and the upstairs one for sleeping.  The inevitable complaints of "but I liked getting to lie down and rest between meal courses" will hopefully resolve themselves ;)

The girls and I went out at 11 last night to check out the scene in the mercaz.  TONS of vendors selling lulav and etrog (there are pop-up stands everywhere around the city.  I was walking home from ulpan the other day and suddenly smelled this powerful citron smell.  Turns out that behind the small wall I was walking by a young man had set up a table to sell lulav and etrog). 
We got some exuberant decorations (I prefer not to use the words "slightly tacky") and even got some clothes shopping in because vendors of all kinds were open crazy late.

Wishing everyone a Chag Sameach and to our friends and family outside Israel who are about to have a three-day yontif both this week and next, my hat is off to you.  Good luck and may you really enjoy being "in the flow" of extended holiday time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

It Rained!

For the past few mornings, it's been very overcast.  In Boston, I would definitely say rain was moving in.  But here, alas, it's early in the season (we didn' and nothing happened.

Driving the kids to school today, there was a lot of talk about how "it looks like it's going to rain" and, actually did!

I even put the wipers on for about four times ("Okay, kids--get ready!  Something we all haven't seen since March--the wipers on!)

And it got wonderfully cool and the air smelled so good (Question: "When is something negative really positive?" Answer: "When negative ions make the air smell so good after it rains!").  I was so looking forward to getting home and jogging in the great weather.  Oh well, the morning rain was shorter than my morning commute and it was partly cloudy and warm by the time I got home.  But those ten minutes sure felt good.

PS: "Famous Rabbi" (not sure those two words go together), Rav Shalom Arush, author of "Garden of Emunah" spoke at Penina's school yesterday.  Coooool!

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Shalom Shachne's Guide to Household Pests - Israel Edition

From Shalom Shachne:

As in every other facet of Israel, things are different than what we are used to in USA.  This includes the varieties of household pests.  Some of those are more familiar to Americans, for example, the ubiquitous pigeons roosting on roofs and balconies of all the houses in our neighborhood.  However, nothing we had in Massachusetts compares to a quiet, yet always unexpected house guest: the lizard.  Or more specifically, the gecko.

Geckos, are kind of cute, although a bit eery, due to their very large eyes.  And when they unexpectedly run across the floor of your house, your initial thought is that you just saw a centipede out of the corner of your eye.  However, once you focus on the little critter, you realize that all the legs you thought you saw are really just a set of four moving really fast.

Hemidactylus mabouia (i.e. gecko) courtesy of Wikipedia

I've tried to convince the girls that having a lizard in the house is actually kind of cool.  (When I was a kid, I always wanted to have various types of lizards as pets.  And actually, our former housemates, Howard and Paul Savin who had the bedroom next mine in our house in West Windsor NJ, had a family of garter snakes as pets in a terrarium in their room.)  But my best efforts are to no avail, and inevitably there is a lot of screaming when a gecko is unexpectedly encountered inside the house.

To their credit, the girls feel a lot more sympathy for these guys when they are outdoors.  We recently had one take up residence in the archway outside our front door.  I haven't seen her in a while, but she used to come out night and hang upside down in the archway.  The girls got kind of used to her, and we nicknamed her Lizzie, in honor of Miss Frizzle's lizard mascot (in the Magic School Bus series).  Penina especially got attached to Lizzie, and we used to open the door at night to watch her crawl around upside down.

In an effort to further increase Penina's good feelings toward our reptilian friends, one night as we were watching Lizzie, I told Penina:  "You know lizards are really good, because they eat bugs".  (And probably the only thing that makes my daughters scream more than lizards are bugs: moths, beetles, what have you.)  Sure enough, no sooner had the words come out, when an innocent little moth fluttered down on the archway to bask in the glow of the outdoor light bulb.  And, as following the script perfectly, Lizzie, made a quick lurch toward the moth and swallowed it whole before our very eyes.  Point made...

Our story begins a few weeks ago, when poor Ilana, feeling very over tired, was making her way upstairs to bed, when she let out a blood curdling scream.  I ran out of my office (working at night as usual) to find out what happened.  Through the sobs, I made out the words "centipede" and immediately suspected one of our little gecko friends.  After a few minute stake-out, my suspicions were confirmed, when I saw a tiny gecko, not much bigger than top joint of my index finger, scurrying around on the landing.

It was fruitless for me to continue trying to convince Ilana that she should not be scared of such a tiny creature.  (And a very cool lizard type of tiny creature at that!).  And despite marshaling my best arguments, all 3 girls were now huddled on the sofas refusing to let their feet touch the floor until our lizard problem was solved. 

So I had to somehow catch it and remove it from the house.  (For those of you who have been in our house, you know that I do not like to kill any pest, and always do my best to catch them alive and release them back to the "wild".)   But this little fella was really fast, and I wasn't sure how to get him. 

So we turned to that great solver all problems, the Internet.  Chana Googled how to catch a lizard, and turned up the sage advice to try to entice to run into a box.  We happened to just have an empty box of Ortega Taco Shells handy in the kitchen.  (Disclaimer: no money was received for product placement in this blog post.)  So I put the empty taco shell box near the tiny gecko, who was otherwise trapped against the wall under the bookcase on the landing.

Much to my amazement, the little fella was completely cooperative.  After a short moment of indecision, he scurried into the box, and waited there patiently while I ran around trying to find something to seal the open end of the box.  I transported him safely out the front door, and he was eventually convinced to run out of the box to freedom.

Sensing a good system here, I saved the taco box in my office for future episodes.  Score another win for the Internet.

A few nights ago, (Thursday night to be exact), I was working in my office when I saw out of the corner of my eye, what looked like a centipede running across the floor of my office.  (At this point you are all trained to understand that centipede is what people of slow reflexes and vision see when a gecko is in the house.)   Since my office is filled with all sorts of delightful devices and stray possessions (including a set of barbells left to me by a former employee), I didn't have any illusions that it would be easy to do a repeat performance.

However, I set my trusty taco box by the back of the bookshelf where I last saw my friend dart.  This gecko was a bit bigger than the last one, about the length of my middle finger, and I was also concerned he might put up more of a fight.  After a few minutes lackluster chasing around the office, I decided to let bygones be bygones, and get back to work, while my gecko friend did whatever he had to do.   After a few hours, I didn't see him any more, and I optimistically thought that perhaps he had gone back out of the house the same way he had gotten in.

Motzei Shabbos, while Ellen was cleaning the Shabbos dishes and I was in my office learning Daf Yomi, I heard a yelp from Ellen saying that she saw a (you guessed it), centipede.  I called out to let her know it was just a lizard, not to worry.  Sure enough, she confirmed the lizard hypothesis shortly afterward.

A few hours later, after everyone had gone to bed, while I was finishing up in the living room.  I saw the gecko (same one from my office on Thursday.  I'm sure of it), proudly standing in the middle of the living room, as if he owned the place.  I rushed to do battle with my trusty taco box, however, similar to my office, the living room also has lots of juicy places to hide, where a determined little lizard can squeeze into a small space out of reach of the humane but equally determined opponent.

This time there was no cooperative traipsing into the taco box, and despite my skillful placement of the taco box by each of his hideouts, the little bugger instead ran from one place to the next with impunity.   Finally, he made a serious blunder, running to hide by my sefarim bookshelf, behind the twin owls floor statue.  Here everything was flush against the wall.  "Ho-ho, I've got you!", I thought.  However, he again evaded the taco box, and made another dash for it.  However, making a "V" of my feet (heels together, toes out), I trapped him as if in a very short taco box, shaped like a pair of shoes.

At this point I wasn't sure what to do, and was contemplating just plucking him up into my hands.  However, he made the first move, and decided for whatever reason to climb onto the side of my shoe.  I had a brief moment of panic as I imagined him running up my leg inside my pants.  But, thank G-d, he seemed well contented just to cling to the side of my foot.

Sensing imminent victory, I began gingerly walking to the front door, being careful not to put my foot down in such a way as to crush Mr. Gecko.  I walked as quickly as possibly, given my gecko-burdened food.  It seemed like time was of the essence, since at any moment, I was sure he would leap off and we would begin the chase around the living room again.  I got to the front door, which one of my daughters had considerately triple-locked especially to add more time for the lizard to escape, and thankfully made it out the door before he realized what was happening.

After going down two steps, Mr. Gecko decided he had hitched a ride long enough, jumped off, waved goodbye (I think) and was off into the night.
or maybe he's just hanging out on the ceiling right outside our door?!

I have more to say on the subject, but I've just seen a cicada dart across the floor of my office, so I'm going to be otherwise occupied.

שבוע טוב
Shavua Tov
(Have a good week!)


Friday, September 8, 2017

The Incredible, Changeable....Living Room

It doesn't slice, dice or help prep dinner, but it does accommodate a larger number of people than we usually can.

Here is what our living/dining room usually looks like:

This setup is fine, except when we are more than eight people for Shabbos meals.  Which is almost all the time, since we try to have guests for both dinner and lunch (we try to have a balance between people we are already friends with and new folks

After a meal when we opened the table and put all the kids on the side near the sliding glass door and told them to crawl under the table if they wanted to get out ("not ideal" is really an understatement, although the kids were all 9 and under [i.e. so they thought it was really cool that they had permission to crawl under the table]), Penina came up with the genius idea to try to move the living room around.   And it worked! Everything fits exactly when we move it around (i.e. we are very happy the living room club chair is not 2 inches wider, or it wouldn't fit).

First thing: the shtender (to stand and learn at) goes into the office, as does the ottoman.

Second step: all chairs to the side and club chair in interim mode.  We can't move the table with the club chair in its usual spot (have I mentioned it's a bit of a tight squeeze here?!)

All done!  Now we can fit ten to twelve seats for Shabbos!  The club chair is to the side in what we refer to as "the reading nook" (during the week it holds Shalom Shachne's dining room chair that is now up against the sliding glass door).  The nook is cozy and out of the direct line of the air conditioner (the largest sofa is right under the a/c and usually requires a blanket if one plans to sit there for more than a few minutes).

Now if I can only get the same expandable model in the kitchen ;)

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Back in the Swing of Things

It's been an interesting week getting back in the swing of things here.  Being away has seemed to turn back my way of looking at things to more like it was when we first arrived (and a very happy two year aliyah-versary to us!).

For example, I walk around and can't get over how GOOD it smells here, due to the large amounts of herbs that are planted by the roadsides.  I'm walking to the mercaz and suddenly, pow, the smell of fresh sage washes over me!

It took us almost four days, but we're unpacked, we finally have a restocked refrigerator, all the glass recycling has been dropped off (that's a different post, but let's just say that those of you who can curbside recycle your glass are VERY lucky), almost all the crazy overdue library books have been dropped off with many mea culpas.....And, the big news in these parts--Ilana and Penina have started back at school (thankfully, I get until Monday for ulpan)

Schools have been starting slowly over the past few weeks--yeshivos started two weeks ago and Bais Yaakov schools started Wednesday, but today was the big day, with over 2.5 million kids in Israel starting back at school.  The traffic (such as it is, it doesn't hold a candle at ALL to Storrow Drive in rush hour) was bad today, as it seemed that every parent with a car wanted to drive their kids today (as one of those parents, I don't fault anyone else for the same attitude).  Wishing all kids everyone a year full of learning, fun, friendship and, of course, tasty snacks!

I had an interesting experience last night going to a vort.  My friend Moshe from ulpan, who is a great-grandfather many times over, called the day before to tell me his granddaughter had gotten engaged earlier that day and there would be an engagement part Thursday night (the timing is not an "only in Israel" thing, it's common in religious circles.  The couple will almost surely be married within 3-4 months).  I was very happy to go give a "mazal tov" to him.  When I arrived, I realized I had a slight problem--the party was in a synagogue social hall (i.e. much bigger than in someone's house) and there was a keyboardist (i.e. it was really loud and my friend is a senior citizen, in case that wasn't clear from the fact that he's a great-grandfather) AND there was a mechitza separating the men's and women's side of the event (ie. so I couldn't just go over and offer my congratulations) AND Moshe uses a wheelchair and was facing the other direction.  Doh!  Luckily, one woman I knew who was attending pointed out the kallah and her mother so I could introduce myself and say mazal tov to *them*.  The mother kindly got someone to go over to Moshe, explain the situation and turn him around so I could wave :).  It's another chavaya (experience)!

Monday, August 28, 2017

And, At Last, We're HERE ;)

We had a wonderful, amazing, incredible trip, but, boy, it is SO great to be back home!!!!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Guest Post by Cousin Sela!

Hi everyone- Sela here!

My Israeli experience has been amazing so far (I'm here in camp for the summer), but this has been the cherry on top of the ice cream!

The amazing weekend began with going bowling (where I totally got crushed by Ilana and Penina)

 and then eating my first Katzefet ice cream! (very much recommended for those who have not tried it).
After that Penina and Ilana gave me a tour of the mercaz and got me a tasty Israeli ice coffee (by the way I am not an ice coffee person but I have to say, it was pretty good!).

After I took a short power nap (camp is fun but tiring...), we all went to the Stalactite caves a few minutes away. We got to walk through and look at the beautiful stalactites hanging from the ceiling and growing from the floor up.

 "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo" said the Juliet stalactite to the Romeo stalactite.
Wow was that an experience!

Friday night was so nice starting with an insprining Kabalat Shabbat in shul, followed by a fun d'var torah filled meal with dairy lasagna for dinner! Mom and Abba did you hear this?? Lasagna on a Friday night!! For those who don't know me so well- I am made out of pasta. It is my favorite food of all time.

After dinner PB and Ilana showed me to the ultimate see-saw (probably not the smartest idea after we just ate lots of yummy food...) where we bounced each other up and down. Shabbat only got better when we had tacos for lunch! (Boy do I love vegetarians). Two super nice families also joined us for the meal! It was a blast. Catching up on some sleep and chilling with my cousins really was such an awesome off shabbat! I could not have asked for more!

Thank you for sharing your beautiful home with me and showing me around Beit Shemesh and adding to my amazing Israeli experience!

A special thank you to Penina who gave up her bed and a whole night's sleep by sleeping on a cot that was too small for her.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Chelm....We Live in Chelm"

That's the best quote I've heard in the ongoing "saga of the wild dogs", Chelm being the prototypical "city of fools" in Jewish folklore from Eastern Europe (I just had a flashback to my Folklore and Folklife days at Penn....).

As a "glass half full" kind of person, I hate to write anything negative about my new home country, but, as we're now approaching two years here, I think it's okay to  (occasionally) peep out from behind my rose-colored glasses.  It also feels appropriate that my first post since Ed's death is not a "happy happy" one.

When we arrived two years ago, we occasionally heard that there had been some wild dog sightings on the main street that our house overlooks.  Never having seen a dog there, I actually laughed it off the first time one of Penina's friends told her about it, and chalked it up to teenage hyperbole.  Within the last year, however, there have been more and more sightings, until, about six months ago, the dogs started (with great regularity) attacking and biting people.  Although the dogs are now wandering all over, our neighborhood has been an epicenter of the attacks, as we are at the very edge of the city.  Wild dogs feed largely off of garbage.  Our neighborhood's garbage cans being the closest restaurant for the hungry dogs, we have seen them a LOT.  We've each encountered them at one time or another (Chana had the scariest moment when she was walking on the stairs and encountered a pack of them.  Thankfully, they left her alone).  They are especially active on Shabbos as there are no cars to bother them.

The city has tried many things over the past months, including sending the city vet out with a tranquilizer gun so she can capture them and bring them to a shelter.  This has not worked out very well, as in the time it takes the tranquilizers to work, the dogs go off and hide, she oftentimes can't find them, the dogs wake up with a hangover and all goes back to as it was.  About six dogs were captured and sent to a shelter, where they were eventually euthanized, as wild dogs can't be rehabilitated for adoption.   The city also tried putting up traps, but they were broken by those who support freeing the wild dogs (clearly, these are people who either don't live here, or never leave their houses)

Recently, the city announced that they had approval from the Minister of Agriculture to have hunters kill the wild dogs.  The Mayor gave his approval to continue and then went out of town, leaving the Deputy Mayor to deal with it.  The city vet (who truly has seemed to work hard on this issue but may have been having a passive/aggressive moment.  Or maybe it was what she legally needed to do.  It's unclear) announced on Facebook something like "all dogs should be kept inside tonight, as hunters will be shooting on sight any dogs seen between 3-7 a.m.".  It spread like wildfire through social media (I got it forwarded on every single Israeli Whatsapp group I'm on) and prompted (as they hyperbole goes) "busloads of green-haired vegetarians from Tel Aviv to come to the city to protest".  Truthfully, that night, *I* saw neither wild dogs nor vegetarian activists around.  Too bad, because I would have been happy to invite them (the vegetarians, not the wild dogs) in for something to eat and to try to have a civilized conversation (the best the activists seem to come up with is saying that "they'd take a bullet" for the dogs, but, y'know, that doesn't really help the situation on the ground here OR they offer the solution that the dogs should be captured, spayed/neutered and then released, which also doesn't really help the situation, as we will still have roving packs of wild dogs until the current generation dies out).

Meanwhile, the Deputy Mayor decided he'd rather not be the fall guy, and put the whole thing on hold until the Mayor returned. Also meanwhile, Sara Netanyahu posted an impassioned plea on her husband's Facebook page (i.e. the Prime Minister's official FB page) asking that Beit Shemesh not harm the dogs and saying that "there must be a better answer".  And further meanwhile, the activists brought a suit to the Supreme Court (which does not operate at all like the US one, if you can't tell that by the fact that a case brought there was heard almost immediately).

--The Supreme Court put a stay on the shootings.
--The Mayor returned and fired the Vet.
--Some residents got extremely peeved and started contacting the Mayor on his cell phone.
--The Mayor re-hired the Vet
--The dogs are still doing as they please, including biting another neighbor of ours numerous times on the leg when she got off a late-night bus in the empty mercaz.

Chelm--we may, indeed, live in Chelm.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Passing of a Good Soul

From Shalom Shachne:

Thank you for helping us with your prayers and Tehillim.  With everyone's help we completed ספר תהילים twice in the past 5 days.  Ed was נפטר today, early yesterday morning.  May his soul be elevated in the merit of all the prayers and tehillim said on his behalf.

Ed was kind, generous, decent, intelligent, good humored, and always a pleasure to visit with.  While he was still working full-time, Ed was able to indulge in his love of history, earning a master's degree in History at Rutgers.   I want to share this story by one of his grandsons: "I was just remembering when we got your new computer and you were Skype-ing Margaret for the first time, and invited Grandpa to come say hi. He looked right into the camera, said "What hath Gd wrought?" and walked away. We all looked at each other puzzled, but I had just written my 7th grade history report on Samuel Morse, and knew that was the first message ever sent by telegraph. I went over to Grandpa, told him I was onto him, and he simply grinned mischievously. He was full of subtle surprises."

We will miss him very much. It was a real joy for us when he and Barbara visited with us in Israel earlier this year. I'll never forget the huge smile he had when we were at the Kotel on Bar Mitzvah day. He stood speechless, and smiling watching all the boys being escorted by musicians and drummers. It was a great day and a great visit.  

May his נשמה have an עליה בזכות כל התהילים והתפילות and may his memory always be for a blessing.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


We celebrated the end of the school year (way to go, gang!) with an overnight trip to Jerusalem.  I'm not sure I can give over the feeling I get when I'm driving on the highway and the signs start listing "Jerusalem" as a destination.  It's amazing.  It's crazy.  It's unbelievable that I'm driving on this beautiful HIGHWAY and I'm going to get off and be in the Holy City.  Makes my stomach flip-flop every time (and I really hope I don't lose that feeling as we're here longer).

We went to the Underground Prisoners' Musuem (I ignored the wisecracks about how I was starting our vacation on a high note), which, although not a "fun" place to visit, was quite interesting.  Deciding that we were also celebrating our "Aliyah-Versary" a month early, we went to Agas V'Tapuah, the restaurant we ate at the night we made aliyah, before touring the really incredible Jerusalem Light Festival and, of course, visiting the Kotel (if you are: Yehuda ben Sarah, Batsheva bat Yenta, Chana bat Perel, or Raizel Tzivia bat Chana Breindel, please know that we davened for you)

We've been (finally) reconnecting with some old friends we haven't yet seen since making aliyah.  Our friend Shlomo Avraham came for Shabbos a few weeks ago.  I haven't seen him in 18 years, although Shalom Shachne had seen him throughout the years on his trips to Israel.  We met Shlomo Avraham through our friend Zehava.  So sweet to reconnect with him after all this time.  He remains as gentle a soul as ever.

This past Shabbos, our old Malden buddy Yeuda Leib came to us.  It was very interesting to hear what his life has been like in the 8 years since he made aliyah, and to hear about his upbringing and how he got to where he is today (learning in a Yeshiva!).  Sorry we forgot to take photos.....I always think, in the pre-Shabbos bedlam, that I'll remember after Shabbos, but then that never seems to happen either.

We also said "farewell" to our neighbors who are making yerida and going back to the US.  They were here for three years, so at least they gave it a good shot.  We had them over for dinner a few hours before their plane left, so they just ended up hanging out here until they left.  Their furniture had gone on a lift a few weeks before, and, walking through their empty house, we all talked of memories of arriving here with nothing and having just a suitcase and an air mattress....We'll miss them and wish them luck in their new community.

Today, we're having a Malden Reunion with Eliana coming, and Michelle, Dan and the "Fab Four" (so glad we're getting to see them when they only arrived a few days ago for their summer visit).  Really looking forward to seeing everyone!

Last night, Temima from NY (see halfway down [and this is cool that I've been blogging long enough to reference previous WeMadeAliyah posts!]) came to visit while staying with her parents for a few weeks.  She has a really interesting perspective on life in Israel, having spent her life pretty much split between here and the US.  It was just so great to hang out with her again!
note the Winthrop July 4th 2017 t-shirts that my Mom sent ;)

I would like to thank everyone who has said tehilim for SS's stepfather Ed, Yehuda ben Sarah.  Your tehilim are still needed.

Friday, June 30, 2017

End of the Year

It's been a big, busy time as Penina and Ilana finish their second year of school here.   (Last night found Chana and Penina arguing over who got the first turn to read Penina's summer Hebrew reading book-of-choice.  As the minor squabbling went on, Penina turned to me and said, "I bet this is a big dream of yours come true--your kids fighting over who gets to read a book in Hebrew".  I will say that it made me awfully glad that "Diary of Wimpy Kid" comes in Hebrew!)

Penina finished 1 1/2 weeks ago and has been very busy catching up on missed sleep since then :).  She came home from her last day with a certificate given to the student who made the most progress and worked really hard.  As a sucker for hard work, seeing that made me cry.  So proud of her.

Ilana finishes today and I end this round of ulpan on Tuesday. We fixed that scheduling disaster by my only going until break time on the days that we have things planned to do.  We went to Ashdod beach the other day, and Shalom Shachne and Ilana joined us on Sunday for our first trip to the Israel Museum.  I think we need another five or so hours there to really see everything there, but it was a good start!

The girls had their dance recital last week and it was amazing, b''H.  The women who run their dance school worked so hard to have a show that was interesting and full of good things to watch and listen to.   Ilana's Jazz class danced LIVE to singer Shaindel Antelis (if you are a teenage frum girl, you probably just squealed right now)!

Penina's Jazz class had a "Galactic" theme, and Chana and I showed up early to help with the groovy makeup

Ilana will be attending the camp that her school is running and Penina is gearing up for a daytime arts camp.  For now, though, it just feels nice to be at the time of year when, although it's busy, it's all suffused with that happy End-of-Year feeling.


Please join us in saying tehilim for Shalom Shachne's stepfather Ed, Yehuda ben Sarah, who is quite ill....

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 ;)