How Are We Doing?

November 18th, 2012

We are doing great. Now you don’t have to read the rest of the post.

I haven’t been able to update this blog in so very long. Unable to be reflective on our aliyah process long enough to write about it, I have been caught up in the living of our new busy life. And it’s a great problem to have.

And I really didn’t want my return to blogging to be another “here is my perspective of war in Israel as an American living here” post. There are lots of people that can try to make real for you their personal experience of a bomb shelter, the disruption of daily life, and the reality that it isn’t just southern Israel anymore. You don’t need me for that.

The truth is that bloggers have been writing in English about the heart-wrenching reality that is life in Southern Israel at Hamas’ expense. And they haven’t been trying to tell the world for three days; they have been writing about it for the last decade, since we traded Gaza “for peace”, while the world has largely ignored the ongoing assaults.

But today I got a message from a dear friend that started with ” Worried sick over here about you guys.” And it makes me sad and a bit aghast that my friends and relatives in the US should be suffering over my reality so much more than I am. I am reading the status updates and posts of my friends who live only a block away, and they also seem far more distressed than I feel.

This is partly because they are indignant with the injustice of the situation we are currently facing, and many of them have had to living with that indignation for a decade already. It is partly because the siren or the situation is scarier for them, or because they have the good fortune to compare current reality to years of relative calm and quiet.

It is partly because I am still in the honeymoon phase of our aliyah, and I know it. I admit it. 

Even so; I feel great, I really do.

First of all, when I left Israel for twelve years, I did so after a series of 18 bus bombings, horrible suicide bomber attacks and then the second intifada.  I didn’t adjust to a decade of relative calm.

Second, I have watched with sickness from afar the horrible – deadly – decision for Israel to leave the Gaza Strip, and have wrung my hands at the inability to help as Israel has suffered showers of rockets in the south. I waited, and waited, and waited to be here part of the communal problem/solution/family/support system/whatever.

I feel triumphant that we are FINALLY doing something about it. We are going after the leadership of Hamas; the bad guys who are oppressing their own people at least as much as they are building a machine to destroy Israel.  I feel exhilarated to be here and not far away; part of the Zionist response, part of the banding together, part of the offers of help, part of saying tehillim for our soldiers, part of the collective national cry of “enough is enough is enough; I can’t go on, I can’t go on….!

I stood last night as my children participated in the induction ceremony for their Zionist youth group (Bnei Akiva). Children of all ages were standing outside singing “Ani Maamin”  - I believe – and Hatikvah at the top of their lungs. This is our response to barbarians trying to annihilate our presence in the Middle East, to erase our place in history. It does not make me feel scared, it makes me feel brave and proud. 

I understand the important need of the Public Relations Team that is the Jewish People to explain to the world that this is self defense on Israel’s part. That includes explaining just how many rockets Hamas is sending, and has sent. That they have killed three innocent people and injured scores more. It IS important; we didn’t bring this upon ourselves, and whatever we are doing is so, so much less than what is deserved. We are destroying an infrastructure of evil, and crippling a terrorist organization. Not retaliating in measure by any means, or taking revenge.

But the story many are perhaps reluctant to share is that we are kicking some very serious bad-guy butt. We have taken out some serious Hamas leadership, a win for Israel, and for “The Force” that is all that is Good in the world. We are not only shooting down LOTS of their precious arms that they are blessedly using up, but doing so in great numbers with no harm to anyone. We are taking out weapons caches and factories. They are more interested in a cease fire than we are after only three days – and with good reason. Hamas’ “destroy Israel forever machine” will hopefully never be the same.

I don’t feel afraid. I felt far, far more fear when Israel sat back, let the situation get worse and worse, and did nothing. I felt far worse when we waited for rhetoric in the West to express support, and tried “negotiations” – or even worse, cessations in building in my precious West Bank. All of which produced an increase in violent bravado that brought us to our current reality.

More than anything, I felt more fear when we lived in a place where I didn’t usually know who or what was evil. Who to trust and who had my back. I felt more fear with my children at the playground in NJ without an adult than I feel every waking minute in Israel today.

As for my daily reality? I went into our shelter room on Friday night when we had a siren. It is set up like a den, and we hung out in there for a very un-dramatic five minutes. I have since gone on with my routine, trying to be sensitive to neighbors who may have husbands called up for reserve duty. This routine includes an early morning run to the local grocery story here in the West Bank, where my excellent customer service was almost exclusively from the Arab employees there. A security stop on the road home with lots of “racial profiling” – good news for me. A trip to the health clinic to deal with a child’s allergic reaction, teaching a class, laughing with friends, seeing the very, very sad end to my mother in law’s visit, and enjoying a fabulous afternoon in the park.

As I helped my four year old out of an olive tree whose very existence celebrates the resettling of Jews in the ancient Jewish area of Efrat (in the West Bank), I looked up at the gorgeous blue sky and the sunny, breezy balmy day, and thought with sadness for a moment that Jews in southern Israel may not be able to be outside in the park enjoying the beautiful sunshine. And my children told me how sad it was their their “friends back home” (in NJ) have only now gotten back power, (“and isn’t it sad?”) Homes were destroyed, those poor people!

I live in a place where the people who live around my country hate me. I live in a place where our final borders and status is still an open question whose answer will not come quickly or easily. I live in a place where my enemies are not concealed, and where the source of my security is in the hands of brothers and sisters and our Creator, the Parent to us all together. Where the problems are OUR problems, and therefore I can be part of the solution.

Pray for Israel, help Israel… but do NOT worry about me, and do not feel sorry for me. Help me cheer on the only country of the Jews as we finally stand up to evil and say NO MORE.

How are we doing? This is how we are doing:

 

 

 and   and

Stranger in a strange land…

September 4th, 2012

The only feeling stranger than being a new immigrant here, is being a “new” immigrant  the second time around.

The Israeli term for a citizen that has returned from living abroad is a toshav hozer. Because my husband and I both made aliyah, we are toshavim chozrim, or returning citizens now. However the term usually suggests those born and raised in Israel who choose to live elsewhere for some extended amount of time.

We were olim, we are olim, and in many ways I still feel like an immigrant. Other times this does not feel like aliyah at all, it feels like returning home. How strange to be chetzi chetzi - half and half, right in the middle.

Interestingly, our apartment here in our blissful corner of the Judean Hills is also chetzi chetzi; halfway between the top and the bottom of our apartment complex, and just about halfway between the top and bottom of the whole yishuv.

Yesterday I conquered many minor tasks on my aliyah to do list. I was able to (finally) secure kupat cholim, national health coverage, for my family. This has been my number one priority and has taken many office visits in Jerusalem, lots of paperwork, lots of money and many forms and conversations  – all in Hebrew. I also was able to get a doctor’s exam taken care of as a prerequisite for renewing my Israeli license. Once at the licensing office, I pushed my way past two agressive Israeli Arabs in order to maintain my rightful place in line, and was able to negotiate renewing my my license without having to be retested!  I made my way home from Jerusalem without a car and successful navigated a “tremp” along with the rest of the natives.

So while feeling quite triumphant and Israeli, I returned home to children who were distraught and dumbfounded by being left out and treated aggressively in school. I went to help my son with his homework, encountering expressions I have never heard, and then read my daughter’s note from school that explains that her class will be going on a field trip next week – from 7:30 pm to 2:30 in the morning! What???? After getting over the culture shock of this, I realized that we don’t even have a flashlight, or any of the other equipment listed on the school note.

Most of my children were out of the house at a special program just for new olim that is sponsored completely by the municipality here. They are getting help as new immigrants to adjust and feel welcome and supported. (Hence my ability to blog!) At the same time, my youngest is riding a bike outside with a friend who only speaks Hebrew. They have gotten to know each other well enough in Gan (preschool) that he begged to come over.

We went out to Back To School Night at my 2nd grader’s school in the evening. I understood every word the teachers said, but couldn’t tell what the subject were on the weekly class schedule. I took offense at something a teacher said, but after discussing it with her, I realized that I likely simply misunderstood her meaning because of my immigrant Hebrew. While other parents scribbled in the forms they were asked to fill out, I brought ours home. I won’t need a translator, but I will have to sit with them and figure out what they are asking me.

And of course the parents knew each other, caught up on their summer and talked about their kids with the ease of returning families. We, on the other hand, made an emergency meeting with the teacher who is concerned with my daughter’s angst and struggles with adjusting.

So which are we? I didn’t expect to feel any more Israeli than I do, nor did I expect to feel any less of a new immigrant than I do. Yet despite my trying to maintain realistic expectations, it feels so very, very odd and disconcerting to be neither one or the other. This gives me a new appreciation for people who write of being from two races, or two religions. Does one fit in both worlds, or neither? At times it feels like the former, at times, the latter.

In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter. Not only will my self-definition continually change, but others will always perceive me and my identity as olah/toshav hozer/American/Israeli through their own lenses.

*************

But this does make me mindful of the transition that is the teshuvah of Elul. Our month is not supposed to merely be one of “being on our best behavior”, but rather it is supposed to be a month of house-cleaning our hearts, minds and souls in a transformative manner. We ask to be forgiven our transgressions because we have striven to be different people than the ones who committed the sins in the first place. We return to the land of our soul, returning home, but different.

And this is the story of this strange phase we are in, in this Land – we have returned home….. but different.

 

Moving is nuts….

June 26th, 2012

I have to be out of my house by Friday. My aliyah date isn’t until July 22nd, but we won’t be here. We are going back to my parents’ house/summer getaway/magical place on Cape Cod first.

Uprooting your life to move with school-aged children is honestly crazy. Finding a way to say goodbye to your close friends and family is crazy. Finding a way to say “goodbye” to my stepson as he leaves for college and finding a way to tell him we are still his parents and love him but will be six thousand miles away? Definitely crazy.

Love makes us do a lot of crazy things, and my love for the land and the people of Israel are worth it. But right now in the middleof the storm of crazy I am spending a lot of time trying to have faith and hold on tight.

This move feels a lot like giving birth. And we are getting close. I think I am in the ninth-month-with-braxton-hicks phase right now, and when I was pregnant, that made me pretty crazy too.

Just as then, I know what will come in the end is all worth it.

….But if anyone wants to borrow some stir-crazy, bored, emotionally strained children for a few days, just let me know. :  )

 

UPDATE:   WE HAVE A WINNER!

Congratulations to Rachel Wilgoren on winning our Summer House Natural Soaps Gift Pack! I will contact you directly to get you your prize, and to facilitate you selecting the scents of your choice. Thank you to all those that entered… I hope you are savoring your summers and your magical places while we still can.

thee bar gift box

This is what she won.

Please say a little prayer for my parents and everyone else in dangerous areas like Cape Cod during the upcoming Hurricane. Thank you. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook and Orthodox Judaism

August 10th, 2011

facebook churbanMargelit Hoffman of  Shmuel Hoffman’s Blog wrote  a very honest and thought provoking article for Mavenmall.com called “The Facebook Churban”. In it, she explains why her family is removing the internet from their home. They are Torah observant Jews who work on the internet. It is their livelihood. She has done a fabulous job of articulating the powers of good vs. the dangers. This move will have serious ramifications on their daily routine and what reads to be significant inconveniences. Yet they are removing it anyway.

I agree with just about every word she has to say. At the same time, I am not getting rid of my facebook account, or the internet in my house.  I feel really good about my remaining focused on using them both for good, and trying to only utilize the blessings of technology for kiddush Hashem. Maybe I am just “not there yet”, maybe my working from a Starbucks is just too unrealistic. Maybe I have an easier time shutting them off and down – I would like to think I do.

Where her post hits closest to home is on the matters of disconnecting from family members and bitul zman (an inappropriate waste of one of Hashem’s greatest gifts to us, time.) If I am going to be honest with myself and truly put G-d in the center all of the time, then I need to do a serious “cheshbon hamachshev, v’machshevot” (accounting of my computer, and my thoughts) about my use of the internet and social media, and perhaps make more guidelines and restrictions for myself. It is as much of a danger from my droid as it is from my laptop, if not more so. And that isn’t dependent upon internet in my home. That depends on me.  I have left her article up on my laptop, nagging me to reread it and make the personal assessments necessary. Which means getting off of all of the other stuff in cyberspace and really focusing on it!

I don’t think it is an accident that Tisha B’Av comes about a month before Elul. The process of teshuva has begun, and before we know it, the time of cheshbon hanefesh will be here. I know for  me this year, my relationship to my computer, my email, my blessed and beloved social network and the internet will be at the forefront. Stay tuned.

What do you do to avoid hillul Hashem and bitul zman in your house from the internet????

We are trying something new this year. We are away for an entire month. Every year we spend some time up near my parents’ house by the beach. When my  children were younger we came for a week, then ten days. Last year it was over two weeks.

As anyone with a large family will tell you, once you are packing for two weeks, another two makes very little difference. We are fortunate that my parents generously rented us a house. There is just no way we would have been able to spend the month living with my parents.  I want them to still love my children – and me – by the end of the month!

I am looking forward to getting settled and being able to stay that way, even if for a little while. Having said that, family vacation doesn’t generally feel like much of a vacation for me.

I have also upped the ante by deciding that this is the time and place for potty training! (That’s a  post for another time.)  This year I am adding to the challenges of being with my relatives, hosting other guests, trying to give the kids routine, limitations in kosher food and the sand, sand, sand. I also have to continue to work from home while away.

Still, with all of this going on, the biggest challenge for me while away is not finding time to myself.  Who is used to that anyway? So far I have logged one hour of blissful reading ALONE in the sun, and a whole fifteen minutes on the beach walking with my husband while the children circled and hovered.

What is harder is finding my relationship with Hashem here. The beach in New England is relaxing and beautiful, clean and charming, with p0lite tourists and locals. But there isn’t a Jewish community, people to enjoy Shabbat with, etc.  Our second day here my husband and two sons walked 4.5 miles each way to to a Chabad minyan without carrying even a water bottle. While my husband may want to try it again, the twins won’t, and I am not so keen on spending Shabbat until 3:30 with six kids by myself.

Finding G-d in the gloriousness of the ocean views isn’t too hard in a spiritual sense, but carving out time for rituals, davening and Torah is a bigger challenge here. Dressing the way I do sticks out A LOT. I have already had to answer “kippah questions”. Maybe this year, the first with no babies in the family, I may just find the right religious balance.

As for beach adventures so far, I missed the giant spider crab with her babies yesterday that my kids found, so I have no good photo of it for you. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

 

 

 

I want to apologize first for not posting this in time for it to be relevant in Israel. I seem to be customarily behind in everything again this year.

I am preparing for Shabbos and cleaning for Pesach at the same time, which is actually convenient and productive. But it leads me to try and find a balance between getting ready for Pesach while still really making Shabbos Kodesh

We spend weeks focused on the preparation for Pesach, whether it is shopping, cleaning or simply swapping recipes. At the same time, we need to remember that Shabbat is here and it has its own holy essence that we cannot skip (pass?) over because we are so focused on what lies ahead.

As Rabbi Tatz writes in “Living Inspired“: “There are many ideas in Shabbos, but perhaps the most basic is that it represents an end-point, the tachlis of a process. The week is a period of working, building; Shabbos is the cessation of that building, which brings home the significance and sense of achievement that building has generated. It is not simply rest, inactivity. It is the celebration of the work which has been completed. Whenever the Torah mentions Shabbos it first mentions six days of work – the idea is that Shabboss occurs only after,because of, the work.”

Shabbat is not just a rest stop in the many-step process of Pesach preparation. It is an end in and of itself to the intense work most of us have been doing this week.

I hope that you can try and be in the moment this Shabbat and celebrate its own holiness and essence. I hope you can impart that to your kids. I hope you can feel even just a little sadness as Shabbat departs Saturday night, and not just relief that you can  get back to what needs to be done before Monday night. I am mostly hoping this for myself, as I know it is going to be a challenge.

My plan is to light the candles and do my best to shut the “to do” list out of my brain completely. While I know we can use the time to learn about and discuss Pesach, I plan to davka spend time with the children on this week’s parsha and on Shabbos itself.

I am not saying we need to divorce ourselves from the time of year. We don’t call this Shabbat HaGadol for nothing.  Interestingly, there are a lot of different opinions as to why it has this name. I am pretty sure it isn’t because of the “gadol” menu and elaborate set -up this particular Shabbat!

The Shibolei Haleket writes about the custom for a lengthy sermon to the kahal this week: “The customary lengthy Shabbat HaGadol speech makes the Shabbat feel long, drawn out, and ‘gadol’.”  Do we want it to feel drawn out to force ourselves to stay in the moment, or does it feel drawn out because we want to get to Pesach?

And if we need to feel that anxiousness, then let it be for our redemption from exile and slavery and NOT anxiousness to get on with the cooking and cleaning!

May you have a focused and meaningful Shabbat Shalom…..

My “old friend” wrote a lengthy comment in response to my post last week, and I have decided to share it with you as a guest post:

I think friendship the way you have described it is what it truly should be: a laboratory where we get to try out each other’s ideas and see how they fit, volleying them back and forth to see how they can grow and take on a life and meaning that is at least clear to us both, and perhaps also, even although not necessarily, acceptable;). I too value that about our friendship, and always enjoy the sharpening that comes to my mind when I have to articulate things that have become nebulous through non-speech. The following is some “word soup” to continue the conversation and to perhaps sharpen the distinctions between our positions. I have always believed that I am responsible for doing those things that I wish or believe need to be done, and therefore that I must do them. Whether those things are making sure my children have the best options for growth and learning, or whether the Torah is dispensed and dispersed in the world in optimal ways.

This is why I spent most of my children’s young years as a housewife and mother, cooking and baking nourishing dishes to eat and working at and with the schools in which they learned. I never actually thought of myself as chaining myself to a stove, nor did I see that as part of Orthodox Judaism. It did mean that my career and personal development took a different route, even perhaps a bit of a detour, and that I added different types of experiences and skill sets to my already eclectic resume. Now that they are grown and out of the house, I continue to cook and bake most of my own foods, for the nutritional value that provides me, again not because of some gender role or some external force, but because these are choices I make, based on my needs and understanding of what is available and what I wish to put in my body. To a certain extent I feel the same way about my understanding of Halakha and Torah. It is not so much an issue of “trust”ing male sages, rather understanding how they arrived at their conclusions, and whether those conclusions are still valid in a world where both men and women share the burden and the partnership in raising, educating and growing our children, and whether they are still valid for me in my world. In a world like this, perhaps the rules that Ima2Seven sees as playing out for her are not really applicable. It is perhaps convenient, and even pleasurable or correct for her family, for her and for her husband to be to be doing the tasks they do, but does that make it the case for every Orthodox Jewish couple?.

In my experience of learning, many of the “rules and regulations” that appear in our legal corpus are the result of attempts to formalize case law into formulas that can be generalized. The problem with doing this is that there will always be exceptions to rules like these, that case law would have provided for but legal formulations cannot. A difference between me and Ima2Seven is that she prefers to give these questions, when they arise to her Rabbi, I prefer to learn the sources and find out the options for myself.

This is my way of initiating a healing of those “parts of the body that are afflicted”, for myself.  I do not believe that this is “uprooting”, rather casting new and relevant light and perspective on laws that need to be seen. Understand please, I do not believe that I will be able to solve these issues, not even for myself. I wish to understand some of the sources of what i perceive to be difficulties. I do however believe that that is the first step in the dialog, of men and women with the Torah and the Halakha that will hopefully lead to the healing without uprooting that we all wish to see.

Even though Ima2Seven declares her “sexist” position, I think that she herself would have a tough time accepting the original rules that go along with it. We fought long and hard so that women could vote, get equal pay for equal positions, could speak or perform in public and many other advantages that will allow her daughters to reach at least the same heights of knowledge and independence as those reached by her sons. To disallow that in the religious context, is to me the worst of the logical outgrowths of her position, since at some point, for some of these young women, one of the only options left them might be to leave the religious fold altogether, in order to find intellectual satisfaction, or suitable partners with whom to connect, because we have not shown our young men and women how to navigate these very complex yet intriguing waters.

I told you she is a “hachama”; what do you think?

A different Menorah…

December 12th, 2010

I have had a very frustrating month unable to upload photos. This is only one of many excuses reasons I have not been blogging for so long.

I know, I know: Chanukah is over. For most of you, I would imagine that it is already out of your mind. As my big return, shouldn’t I post something timely and relevant? Probably.

But I really wanted to put up this post, and I can finally do so with photos, so please bear with me, dear readers (all two of you that haven’t given up on me.)

My almost 11-year old daughter came to me about a month before Chanukah declaring that she wanted to make a completely unique menorah this year, as a project – and as a surprise for the family – with just me.

I haven’t had time to blog because I am adjusting to worki

ng full-time, and not adjusting well so far. I don’t have time to breathe, and I certainly don’t have time for special projects! But I have to have time for my daughter…. so we came up with a project together.

Homeshuling’s Amy Meltzer let me know it isn’t all th

at unique… but it is creative, and pretty, and was not a lot of cutti

ng and gluing or creatively molding or shaping, all of which I don’t do very well.

Daughter decided we weren’t going to buy anything; the challenge was to use what was in the house. SO, this is what we did:

We washed and saved jars from food with relatively similar heights and wide nec

ks. Then, we glued the together, like this:

Jars glued together

Next, we filled them with water. In order to make them the same height, I had to eyeball the water to get the levels the same, since the jars are different. (In order for the menorah to be kosher, the candles have to be the same height.)

Then dear daughter had a great time adding food coloring to each jar to create a variety of colors… we had agreed earlier that the shamash would get to be purple.

Jars filled with water

Then we added the tealights.  Despite my husband’s worries to the contrary, they floated beautifully, and didn’t sink once throughout the holiday.

It isn’t a very compact solution, but we had a lot of fun, and the colors looked beautiful. We did reuse materials in our house, and we had our mother-daughter time.

lit menorah

I know it is late, but perhaps this can be filed away for next year…I hope you had a Chanukah holiday full of lights, latkes, love, freedom and family, music and matanot (gifts.)

…I also hope to get to starting blogging again more frequently than once a month.

Neglect

October 30th, 2010

I have neglected this blog for a very long time. I am doubtful that there are any of you left still checking in, my once-faithful readers.

I agreed to take on more work this fall. I love the work, but my new timetable does not leave me any time for blogging. It doesn’t leave me any time for dishes, laundry, cleaning… or even sanity, either. I am working on correcting that, and I will keep you posted. Forgive the pun. In the meantime, this blog is just part of this long neglected list.

I am able to post now because I decided to neglect a portion of my family and take off for Massachusetts this weekend.  Driving all day Friday meant neglecting my work for the most part as well.  I am in Cape Cod,  by my parents with two of  my children. The men are all at home alone, no doubt playing endless amounts of baseball, eating raw meat and leaving socks all over the house.

I am attending – and co-presenting at – LimmudBoston, a conference on Jewish education.  This is to pursue a love of mine that is a cause I believe in deeply, but is not directly related to my family or my career. I am working with two other fantastic women on the creation of an Early Childhood Jewish Music curriculum. I will have to write a separate post to fully explain, but the gist is that little children can learn about music, and can do so with Jewish music.

I got up here after a week of insane intensity; of non-stop running. My children spent the week letting me know I was neglecting them, running to meetings, charity events and appointments all week.  I was supposed to drive to the conference this evening… and I neglected to do so, writing this post instead.

Something happened on Friday when I finally stopped. Just simply stopped. Having someone else make and serve the Shabbat food, not running after my kids all weekend, curling up with a book, I just  slowed down. I guess I couldn’t rev back up this evening enough to drive 90 minutes in the dark and I put it off until tomorrow.

The conference is an indulgence, albeit an important one. I believe this curriculum needs to be created, and that eventually someone with money will be convinced as well, and that it will happen. Sitting with so few responsibilities feels medicinal, but indulgent as well.

Since starting to work full-time, I cannot say that I have yet struck the appropriate balance between all of my activities, responsibilities and self-maintenance, but I know that this weekend is a very long overdue correction of major neglect… of the latter.

I was all set to publish this (brief) post, and was blessedly interrupted by a small child urine emergency, involving a quick change of bedding as well as comfort and kisses very late at night. So, I no longer need to worry about any guilt at all over a) being here (to deal with it) instead of in Boston at the conference, or b) neglecting my parenting * other responsibilities  so I can sit and blog…. at least until the next time.