I am a little tired of prefacing blog posts with excuses and explanations of my lack of posting.
Today, I am only posting a recent piece in the Jerusalem Post Blog by Varda Epstein, to explain my absence… more of my long and wandering thoughts on this life-changing experience in future blog posts…
Count the Stars: Finding a Glimmer in the Darkness
In the wake of the heavy pain that gripped the Gush Etzion community, a novel sort of summer stock group was founded by Sharon Katz
under the artistic direction of Toby Klein Greenwald
, both of Efrat. Raise Your Spirits (RYS), would produce musical theatre by and for women only. And 13 years on, the brave little theatre troupe is still putting on shows for women who come from all over the country to get a dose of theatre for the soul. The troupe is currently in production with Count the Stars, the Journey of Avraham and Sara
, set to premiere on December 3, 2014.It seemed onlyappropriate then, for me to interview the two principles of this show,AvitalMacales (Avraham) and Rachel Moore (Sara), the two “stars” who feature in Stars, an original musical written by Katz andMacales, and directed by Klein Greenwald. I thought the best way to explain this feisty theatre troupe would be to have the actors speak for themselves. As it happens, I had an in: this is my second time around as a cast member of anRYS production. So I hadAvital and Rachel come by and we had a nice long chat.I want you to get a real feel for what this is, so get yourself a nice hot cup of tea, sit back and relax, and get to know these two women who are bringing their own brand of light to the fore, to banish the darkness and raise the spirits of their sisters.
Rachel Moore, left, and Avital Macales
VE: Avital, how did you end up in the performing arts?
AM: I come from a musical family. Music was always a part of my home. But as a teenager, I was shy and quiet, and not many in my grade knew who I was and I didn’t know who I was. Also, this was in the 90s, and there still weren’t many artistic megamot [high-school majors], so there was nothing I could do in theatre at school.
Then when I got to my senior year we put on The Sound of Music. I auditioned and thought, “Maybe I’ll have a chance to be Leisl.” ( Far right, Sharon Katz, left Deena Lawi)
I was cast as Maria.
I decided to keep my role a secret from my mother until she sat there in the audience on opening night and realized it was me on stage. I kept the rehearsals a secret all that time and during the rehearsals I was developing into the real Avital. I began coming out of my shell, and that was the beginning of the rest of my life. The beginning of who Avital is today.
VE: Rachel, how about you? What’s your background in the performing arts?
RM: I started singing when I was about eight. I sang in my shul choir, and at a young age was apprenticed to the cantor, a woman. I started private lessons when I was twelve, thinking I would go into chazzanut. I was lucky to have as my teacher,Elizabeth Coss, a soprano at the Metropolitan Opera and a big advocate for classical training. She was friends with Pavarotti. I was twelve, mind you, and I said, “Whatever you do, do not make me sound like an opera singer.” (Laughs)
So I sang wherever I could; whatever musical theatre came my way, whatever choirs I could find; but mostly I focused on private lessons for over fifteen years – until my fifth child was born. I continued to study privately in Boston, Montreal and eventually in Israel.
I was in high school when my family moved to Boston, so I was able to participate in theBoston University Theatre Conservatory summer program. Many of the participants are professionals with agents and budding careers. It’s a very intense program where you are treated like a professional (child) actor and the staff is brutally honest – it was great training.
Some time after graduating university I began the process of making Aliyah. I came on a pilot trip and auditioned for singing teachers. I was fortunate to find Judi Axelrod and moved to Jerusalem to work with her and to prepare for entry to conservatory.
I became more religious and at one point Judi said, “You’re preparing to audition for conservatory and I think you can make it if this is what you decide to do, but I want you to think about whether this is still what you want.
“If you study opera, you will have to leave Israel, Shabbat will always hurt your career, and you’ll be lucky if you can have two kids, because that’s the life of an opera singer.”
Rachel Moore with daughter Shira and Avital Macales
So I took a deep breath and made the decision not to go to conservatory. It was a big moment for me to decide this would be a hobby and not a vocation after so many years. And then I basically stopped singing altogether when my fifth child was born. I didn’t realize I would be taking a decade-long break from music and theatre!
Other than, of course, watching.
And… it’s been amazing for me. Amazing to be back! I didn’t realize how much I would miss it. It was part of a different chapter of my life. It’s life-changing to have it back.
VE: Avital, what about the kol isha issue, the prohibition against men hearing women—other than close family members—sing?
AM: I came from a circle where it was a complete given. It was completely natural to me to sing in front of women only. In recent years, I began to better understand the complexity of [Kol Isha], and I challenged myself more about whether or not I wanted to get out there and perform in front of mixed audiences. I wanted to see where my boundaries were, as my understanding grew. After much thought I came to the decision that I’m still going to sing only in front of women and my personal reason is… Gosh, this is where it gets a bit tough… There’s a certain intimacy that I want to bring to the stage. I want to be completely intimate with my audience, and I don’t want anything to block that. I just want to be completely open, and I feel completely open in front of an all-women’s audience.
VE: What does RYS mean to you?
AM: RYS is unique in my eyes because while there are now quite a few theatres for women who put on musicals, RYS is one of the only ones who put on biblical musicals. It seems that as you go more to the right on the spectrum, religiously, there is less of a tendency to adapt a biblical story into a play because it is almost taboo to give righteous biblical characters a face, and to give a psychological and emotional interpretation to the biblical text. So RYS is one of the few who does that, and at the same time has clear boundaries based on Halacha and takes into consideration the geist of the target audience.
Cast members Racheli Ettinger and sister Chaya Lapidot
VE: Rachel, what is the scope of your part? So much dialogue, a lot of staging to memorize. I mean, how many pages is it? How many hours?
RM: Every word and every line and every thing that’s asked of me is a gift. Every single one, so I’m not really looking at it as this huge heap of how am I ever going to get all of that, but rather, I don’t know if I’m ever going to do this again.
So I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether I can learn it all. I spend time worrying that I can do justice to the other people, who have worked so hard and have learned so much and are so amazing and have been doing this for ten years, twelve years, and I’m just coming in, that I feel like I owe it to them.
To be performing in this show together with both of my daughters (Michal Moore, Ishmael, and Shira Moore, Yitzchak) is the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I never imagined it possible to have a theater experience that was such a supportive, kind, generous, holy group of people. It is like a dream.
The cast of Count the Stars
VE: What’s next for Rachel Moore?
RM: I hope I am blessed with lots more opportunities to perform. I don’t know where, but I will not be on a ten-year hiatus ever again. That will not happen.
VE: Avital, how did you end up in the RYS theatre troupe?
AM: It was very unpopular for religious girls in my circle to consider the performing arts in general, so it wasn’t an option for me. But after I finished high school I met a girl from Efrat in sherut leumi (national service), and she said, “We have a women’s theatre.”
And I didn’t even know where Efrat was. But she said, “You must come audition for ‘Ruth.’”
With some encouragement from my mother, I had just begun my studies with Nomi Teplow of Ginot Shomron. She’s wonderful.
So I did audition, but I thought, why am I auditioning? I live in Rehovot, what am I going to do with this play in Gush Etzion? I don’t even know how to get there.
But I went anyway, I got in, and the rest is history.
And all I knew was that there was something bigger than me that was making me willing to endure all this sacrifice that I was making. Wanting to be on that stage, on the Raise Your Spirits stage, was bigger than I could understand. In fact, if we rewind a little bit, the first Raise Your Spirits show that I saw – and frankly, the only one I saw, because after that I was IN the shows – was “Noah.”
At the end of that show that evening, RYS director Toby Klein Greenwald invited everyone onstage to speak to the actors, so I went over and I said hello to Noah and “his” wife Naama, when this strange voice came into my head out of nowhere, and said, “This is going to be your stage one day.”
Younger cast members have girly-girl fun in between rehearsing their scenes
VE: So what was it like, writing a musical?
AM: More than any solo, more than any lead role, creating this musical has been the epitome of so many things that I love, in one project. I love Tanach (bible), emotions, writing. I love composing, singing, and drama, and I got to do everything in one project.
There was a learning process, a lot of learning. We read any book we could get our hands on, looked at any website we could find. We learned, studied, thought, and analyzed. We spoke to scholars. We did all these things until we had our artistic idea, because you could take the same story and do it 70 different ways. So we had to choose our way.
And I found that I was putting my own stamp on Avraham’s story, because it could be told in many different ways, but that this would be my own journey that I’m going through in this particular period: the journey of singlehood.
Avraham wants to become a father. Avraham and Sara want to become parents on a universal level. They start a new nation, but they also want to become parents because they’re human beings and they want to have a child. They want to nurture, give. I want to become the head of a family too.
After I began co-writing this show, I started looking up at the skies whenever I despaired. I was searching for stars.
I’m looking for my stars.
There was a night I went with my family to payashiva calltoRacheli Frankel, the mother of one of the three boys who were kidnapped and killed. It was a dark night and there were no stars and I just wanted one star. I just wanted one star to glimmer and to… there’s a line in the show, “We searched for a glimmer to console us,” and there was not a single glimmer in the sky.So Avraham’s story of counting stars is my story and the Jewish people’s story, of just finding glimmers here and there: reminders thatHashem is here, “I’m here. You may not always see me. You may be in a dark time, but I’m here.”VE: And now you’ve co-written Stars. You’ve watched this thing grow from a glimmer to something real.
AM: Yes! It was all about the connection between my heart and my mind. As if my heart and mind connected and then flew forward.
And I want to write at least a hundred more musicals, a thousand more musicals!
I want to inspire people.
COUNT THE STARS – The Journey of Avraham and Sara
Opens December 3
Gush Etzion Community Center
For more information:http://www.raiseyourspirits.org/count-the-stars.html
(All photos, Bati Katz. Poster design, Chana Singer)
Click here to see the original at the Jerusalem Post
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Everyone I know that has a blog, or uses any social media at all, seems to have had a lot to say in recent weeks about the horrible tragedy(ies) of the past few weeks. I have been keeping quite quiet (yes me, quiet). I haven’t felt that there was anything that hasn’t been said by lots of other people. And the truth is that I have been so heartbroken and sad that there has been little room for me to think or feel anything else. There isn’t much to say about that other than “I am heartbroken and sad”, which I did.
Having a chayal boded (a “lone soldier”) living with us helped me feel like I was taking care of my own little corner of the IDF. Helping in our own way. That will be a topic for another post, at another time.
Everyone around me here in Gush Etzion has been helping in their own way, heroically, going so above and beyond. They did because Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali were all of our boys… but they also did because that’s what people here do. It is one of the many reasons we are just blessed to be where we are. I wrote a dvar Torah for work this week, but I have decided to share it here too. This is what I finally have to say…..
Some thoughts on Parshat Balak:
What a difficult week it has been for Am Yisrael. When I sit down to prepare this week’s email, I am immediately struck by just how full of hope we all were just one week ago.
For the past several days it has been difficult at times to work, concentrate, move on with business as usual. As some of you know, I spend a fair amount of time on “social media”. As a result, one of the hardest part of contending with this tragedy, for me, has been the amount of hate expressed around the world. Two “bad guys” committing an inhuman criminal act was made far worse by the apparent dismissal by some and outright celebration by others.
But our one constant as a nation is always the study of Torah, and as Meryl Lee Avraham [my colleague, mentor, teacher and friend] expressed so beautifully last week, “It is amazing how every week when we read the parsha, we can find relevance and insights to what is currently happening.”
In this week’s parsha, Balak, King Balak from the kingdom of Moav petitions the grand wizard Bilam from the kingdom of Midian to curse the Jews. Balak has seen the Jews’ military success as they have forged their way to Israel. He is worried about our numbers, and has seen that military acumen is not going to be a successful way to stop Am Yisrael. He asks Bilam to curse the Jewish people.
It makes sense; since Moshe’s relationship with G-d is clearly helping Am Yisrael, certainly a different Navi should be able to counter that better than swords and arrows. Bilam makes it very clear from the beginning that he can only say what Hashem tells him to. He brings sacrifices to G-d, but instead of curses, only blessings spill forth from Bilam. After several attempts to change location (maybe they need to find Moshe’s “magic mountaintop”?) it is clear this just isn’t going to work. “Mevarechecha Baruch v’orerecha arur”, “Blessed are they who bless you, Accursed they who curse you.” (Bamidbar 24:9) is Bilam’s reminder in his blessing, to the promise made to Avraham by G-d.
Almost the entire parsha is taken up with this strange story which seems to be about our enemies, not us, and a thwarted attempt to foil our entry into Eretz Yisrael through a spiritual plot, rather than a military one. However, the end of our parsha begins a different narrative. It describes the inappropriate relations that the Israelite men were having with Moabite women. It what seems like an abrupt change of subject, that begins with “So, while this was going on [with the non-Jews] and the Israelites were in the place called Shittim, they started being inappropriate with the women of Moav. And these Moabite women enticed them to join in some Baal Peor worship, which made Hashem very, very angry – “Yachar Af”, incensed.
The result of this was a plague in which 24,000 Israelites died!
Not only is this particular chapter added on after a long, fluid narrative, but the rest of the story of their relations with the Moabites continues immediately after in next week’s parsha, Pinchas.
So why is it here? Why not just tell the next story… next?
The Midianites and Moabites aren’t really allies, but they form an alliance of sorts in an attempt to destroy Am Yisrael. We are told a great deal, in detail, about the Ancient non-Jewish world’s perception that they cannot destroy us militarily. That our real power comes from our bond with Hashem. So it is there that they will try to undermine us, and bring us to our knees. It specifically states that Balak’s concern was our size, our numbers: “…they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land.” (Bamidbar 22:6). Balak’s efforts, through Bilam don’t work. He can’t cut down our numbers. He cannot get the greatest spiritual guru of the age to curse the Jews. Hashem just won’t let it happen.
… And still, a few lines later, Hashem strikes down 25,000 of our men? How can that be?
The answer, was that the only way for us as a people to be cursed was to bring it upon ourselves. No nation can come from the outside and truly address the “Jewish problem”, or find a successful “final solution”. Military might won’t work, spiritual leadership won’t work. No tactic can help an outside people or force destroy the Jews. We all know that this has been proven out over thousands of years. Certainly not for lack of trying!
The reason it is so important for the parsha to include the plague at Shittim, the licentious behavior of the Jews, and its disastrous consequence is to remind us that we are not invulnerable. We are our own worst enemy. The non-Jews cannot curse us no matter how hard we try… but if we stray from Hashem’s ways, become comfortable and are “romanced” by the world’s peoples, cultures and religions, we won’t maintain Hashem’s protection. They can’t take it away from us; we can take it away from ourselves.
The past few weeks have been so trying, such a strain. We maintained such hope. Everywhere around me the people of Gush Etzion have been looking for every opportunity to do more mitzvoth to merit the safe return of our boys. There have been extra shiurim, gatherings to say tehillim, chessed drives, and more, all in the merit of Gil-Ad, Naftali and Eyal. At times it has felt like the support for the terrorists involved was shockingly overwhelming. Worse, the silence and apathy from much of the Western world felt isolating. The reminder that there are so many people out there who still want to curse us, to bring us down, to drive us out, added great insult to injury.
But we came together as a people, clinging not only to each other, but to Hashem’s ways. It is in the studying of Torah (to prepare this) that I have found the most solace in a most difficult week, and it is in the studying of Torah that we will guarantee ourselves Hashem’s ongoing protection.
We couldn’t do enough to save those boys’ lives. But we know the warning encased in the last narrative of our parsha. We do not run into the arms of a different people, seeking approval and connection there. We respond to the greater attempt to once again address the “Jewish problem” by crying out to – and clinging to – Hashem.
May the tremendous Achdut, unity, and swelling of mitzvoth that were there the result of this terrible tragedy remain an indelible imprint to bring blessing to the memories of Eyal, Naftali and Gil-ad, z’l. – Shabbat Shalom.
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I have had some interest from Kveller to possibly blog there. Which is a big honor. Since I currently don’t have time to blog here, I assume taking that on just now would be a supremely bad idea. It’s nice to be asked… maybe one day. Kveller asked me to submit a sample piece, perhaps on how the 8th child is different.
The answer is, of course, that they are all different. Bringing a baby home to no children is just as unique a circumstance as bringing home a baby to four children (under the age of 5) or bringing home a baby to a house full of pre-teens that talk back and lecture you. I didn’t say they were all the same, I said they are all consistently unique.
… But when it is baby #8, one stark difference is that Ima is only sitting down now that he is 4 months old (!!!) (coincidentally when I should be Pesach cleaning and not procrastinating) to finally explain the baby’s name, Yehuda Chaim.
Rav Chaim Lifshitz, z”l, was a tzaddik, and an important Rav and teacher in my husband’s life. He passed away last year. He was a brilliant man, studied directly with Piaget, and was a renowned handwriting analyst who had questions sent to him from around the world. He was also the father of our Rav, about whom I have written here. I never met him personally, which is quite sad. But he read our handwriting while we were dating and was astonishingly accurate in terms of how and why we would be a good match and what our primary challenge would be if we got married.
I am blessed that the majority of our small family’s members that would have a baby named for them have been memorialized by family already, or are alive and well. Remembering Rav Lifshitz in this way was important to my husband, so this is what we did. We were honored to have his son, our Rav, present at the brit milah to talk about his father and his amazing qualities.
I knew I was having a Chanukah baby, and a boy. I still didn’t think Matityahu was a good idea. Looooots of name for a very tiny person.
Yehuda was also a Maccabee, and that was one reason I thought of naming this little boy Yehuda. And that was before I knew he would be a headstrong and fierce fighter even during pregnancy and delivery.
The real reason I was set on Yehuda comes from Leah’s words in the Torah when her 4th son is born. She says “HaPaam Odeh Li Et Hashem” (Parashat Vayetze). It says directly in the Torah that this is the reason she named him Yehuda. Rashi explains to us that Leah knew that Yaacov was to have 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes, and therefore the future of Israel. She also knew Yaacov had 4 wives. Doing the math (apparently Leah was taught math ) she reasoned that her fourth son meant she got more than her “fair share” of Yaacov’s legacy.
I don’t think Leah felt like she got much of any fair share in the marriage/love department. But when it came to having kids, she recognized blessing – the special blessing that feels like it goes beyond destiny, or logic, or even-handedness by the creator. Just a blessing. So his name expressed her gratitude.
In some irrational recesses of my brain and heart, I used to feel at many times that I was blessed with easy fertility and a stepson and such a house-full of children as some time of “consolation” for the twelve hard years I had to be exiled from Israel and living in New Jersey.
No, I am not comparing Leah’s “My husband meant to marry my sister not me and now I have to live with him adoring her as his new wife” hard to my “Stuck in suburbia with a Target 10 minutes away” hard. Everyone’s hard is different, and for me, twelve years forced to live outside of Israel because of a decision my husband’s ex wife made was hard.
We finally came home, returned to Israel, and chose to settle in our favorite place outside of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, which is the hills of Judea, “Harei Yehuda“. This place means so much to me. The hills of “Yehuda” are an ever present gift outside my window, one I appreciate ten-fold precisely because of the time I couldn’t be here.
After being blessed with our return, I feel “dayenu moments”, as we refer to them, every single week, if not every day. Singular moments that in and of themselves would each be enough to say “dayenu” – to make all of the struggles of aliyah – twice – totally worth it, just for that one moment.
So when we finally made it home, and the kids are finally settling into life here, and I can finally feel like we are really here, really home…. Hashem blessed us with another healthy, happy baby. And he feels like that “extra portion” that was just a gift from Hashem. Of course they are all gifts. Yet, at 41, with a full house, my youngest already 5 1/2 and a busy, heaping full plate of noise and hugs and love and mess and holy holy chaos… “Hapam Odeh li at Hashem”.
This time is just “Thank you”… hence, the name “Yehuda“.
The Judean Hills, or “Harei Yehuda”
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We are finishing up the storm of the century here in Neve Daniel, our little mountain in the Judean Hills (Har HaBloggerim)… it has been one more experience of many that is a window into how true community can transform a place, and transform people. The trading of goods, offers of heaters, and of all kinds of help of all kinds shows the power of this place as people see each other’s problems as their own and opportunities for chessed.
The coordinator of youth programs in Neve Daniel has been advertising that she has a cadre of teens ready and willing to help today. Someone organized some Torah learning for kids this afternoon, the librarian decided to open up for the bored, and those who managed to get out by car today have offered rides to others before leaving the yishuv.
As the social being and true extrovert that I am, all of this community sharing is like a dream for me. At the same time, as a part of any community, you invite upon yourself to share in the pain and loss of others, just as much as their happiness. Just as others share in your problems, their sadness becomes yours.
Like most of us, I am a part of different communities, like circles on a Venn Diagram of my life. One is my beloved mountain here… but another is my [Jewish] blogging community.
Both communities have been rocked by the loss of Stella Frankl, wife of our own Yarden of both Neve Daniel and of his blog “Crossing the Yarden.” It hurts all of us, and many of us have written about his loss – and his heroism.
So it makes the pain even worse to learn of Phyllis Sommer’s loss of Superman Sam. Of the world‘s loss of Superman Sam. Phyllis, you have shared your life with us on line, and you have shared your families struggle and pain. And now we share your pain, too. Phyllis and I have never met, nor do we have that much in common. But through her blog her heartache hurts me too; her Sam has touched my heart, her loss is shared, and her tears are mine.
It would be so much easier if bloggers could drop off a cup of sugar or update a fellow writer on the roads or electricity, like a neighborhood community in a snowstorm can.
But what we can do is spread the word and pay tribute to those loved ones so dearly missed. Please visit Phyllis’ blog and lend your support however you can.
Baruch Dayan Haemet, and Goodbye, Superman Sam.
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Our special community of Neve Daniel lost an amazing, unique, kind, wonderful tzadeket of a person today, while she was still only a young mother.
The cancer that took her life was aggressive and everyone here watched a fight that was nothing short of miraculous. It is hard to describe an entire community in mourning; an entire neighborhood grieving and sad. It is remarkable to see this family hugged and held up by that same entire community and even more so to see how much they are aware of it and grateful for it, even in their dark, dark hour.
I was blessed to get to know Stella’s incredible journey and story before moving here, through the Jewish blogging community, and her husband, Yarden’s blog. I davened for her with my students in New Jersey, and her struggles transformed my 8 year old daughter into someone who understand real davening, with someone specific in mind, with real intention.
But as newcomers to the yishuv, the loss is hardly as personal one for me as it is for her closest, dearest friends that live here. And I defer to them.
Please read Cheri and Romi’s moving words about Stella here
Please say thank you to someone today. Tell someone you love them today. Do something that makes you feel like a “rock star”… and think of Stella, z’l.
It was an honor to know you.
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I once had the honor of enjoying a shiur by Rabbi Shimon Green from Jerusalem who was visiting New Jersey. He said that everyone has “that person”; ” That person that drives you up a wall, that you simply cannot stand. That every little thing they do is so annoying it is like fingers on the blackboard – just for you…. but don’t worry he went on; you are undoubtedly that person to someone else!”
I burst out in the laughter of surprise and recognition. I am a second wife who has been dealing with a first wife, who hates my guts, for many years. Enough said, but far be it from me to assume I am only “that person” to her. I may be that person to a lot more people.
I also think, however, that the flip side is true. Many of us have “that person” that has made some huge, life-changing impact on our lives.
And quite often, I believe that “those people – ” the angels that appear as humans to us – don’t think of their own actions or behavior as anything much at all. Just as the people who seem to have no raison d’etre other than annoying us often aren’t even considering us for one instant, those that have a hugely positive impact on our lives aren’t trying to change us, or our lives, or even inspire us. They are just living.
My now 8-year old daughter had to go through the difficult process of aliyah only 15 months ago. She went from a small school, 5 minutes from home, where the staff were also members of her shul and community, were her Ima’s friends, gave her hugs, and were her extended family, to a huge public school with 30+ kids in a class, over 200 to a grade, and not a lot of personal interactions between individual students and staff…. all in a new language, of course.
Idit is one of the secretaries in the office, and I very much doubt that she realizes just how much she is “that person” for my daughter.
Shira began last year surprising Idit with hugs. While it certainly wasn’t the norm in her big Israeli public school, it was definitely my daughter’s norm from New Jersey. Idit responded with cookies. She didn’t realize that we don’t give our children cookies, except on Shabbat. It was most definitely the way to my daughter’s heart, as well as the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
The cookies have stopped, but the daily hellos – and hugs – have remained. Shira knows she has a friend, a go-to person, a safe harbor in the storm that is aliyah.
I had to drop off a forgotten assignment this week, and since I couldn’t find Shira, I gave it to Idit who assured me that she and Shira would find each other before the next class. She called me in before I could leave to tell me how much she loves my spunky daughter. She also wanted to add that Shira often comes to the office during recess, or stays inside, saying that she doesn’t know who to play with.
One of the hardest parts of aliyah is getting past kids being friendly to really making friends. (It’s true for the adults making aliyah too – a different blog post…) Idit suggested that I send Shira to school with a toy from home for the playground or something new that she can share with friends – or potential friends – that will both give her something to do and attract her peers. What a simple, easy idea. The next day Shira went to school with some sidewalk chalk in her bag and I am already hearing reports of improvement in her social life at school.
The teachers are busy, dealing with 30+ kids throughout the day, and they are not assigned to monitor the playground every day. When they do, they are literally watching hundreds of children. They are watching out for fights and violence (I am not confident they even catch most of that) but certainly are not on the lookout for the lone immigrant child that quietly opted to stay inside. Idit noticed. And her quiet, quick word to me was all that it took to bring a little more sunshine into my daughter’s life.
I will continue to try to convey to Idit how much more of an impact on my daughter she is having than she realizes, and I hope there is a point in her life where she comes to understand that by doing what must be a relatively thankless office job in a public school, she is meriting being an angel on earth for at least one little girl, and by extension her family.
… So what does that mean for me? It means yet one more reminder that I need to live my own life consciously, trying to be “that person” in the lives of others, rather than “that [other] person”….
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Welcome to the August 9, 2013 edition of jewish-israel blog carnival aka havel havalim .
The Jewish blog carnival is a weekly digest of several Jewish blogs from around Israel and the world. Please feel free to join us and submit your blog posts. Make sure to comment at each of these wonderful sites, and tell them I sent you! To be a host, you can contact us at the blog carnival index page, and/or join us on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/283537885020583/
Since my last blog post my family and I have reached our 1 year aliyah anniversary. I had expected this to be commemorated with a meaningful and reflective blog post. While I still hope to write one about being in year two, the reality is that every single one of us has been too busy LIVING life in Israel to stop and do much celebrating, reflecting – or blogging. This is a tremendous mark of aliyah success in my book, and while I am sorry for the lack of blog, I am happy about the reason.
I participated today in a wonderful Elul tradition on my yishuv. A diverse group of women get together Shabbat afternoon, Rosh Chodesh Elul, for singing, food, and words of Torah and inspiration for the month. One participant, Yael of Yaelle Yells… Softly* mentioned that she enters Elul with trepidation but her father, z’l, always did so with excitement. (*This is Neve Daniel, after all, “Har Habloggerim”….. )
What about you? Do you enter this month feeling fear? Excitement? Or both? I am feeling the weight of my very heavy to do list – work, school supplies, bus schedules… and spiritual cheshbon.
Whatever your feeling about the month, Chodesh Tov and enjoy all of these posts:
If you have never checked it out before, take a peek at Jewels of Elul, a project where different writers / bloggers contribute for and about Elul. This recent post “Elul 4: Choose, Don’t Refuse” is from my friend and all-around brilliant superwoman, Yael Untermann.
Ima on and off the Bima, tries to blog all of Elul… a better blogger/woman than I. Her first post in the series is Blog Elul 1, “Prepare”
Esav Exposed gives us some insights into one of Tommy Wallers teachers in an ongoing effort to expose Christian Missionaries proseltysing specifically to Jews in Who Are Tommy Wallers Teachers Part 1
Jacob Richman of Good News from Israel bring us his own digest of cool stuff to help us prepare this Elul in Educational Resources, Cool Videos, Games and Greeting Cards for Rosh Hashanah.
… Good News from Israel also posted his photo album from Jerusalem’s current Model Train Exhibit. I would love to make it over there, but am at least going to share the pics with my kids.
Sharon of the Real Jerusalem Streets blogs to say Thank you, Women of the Wall. Regardless of personal feelings or opinions on this controversial issue, I am so happy to hear that she has had a positive experience!!!
My Parnasa tell us How to Make a Million Blogging for Times of Israel. One could argue that the Haveil Havalim Carnival is for those looking for the non-TOI blogs, so what do you think?
Batya of Shiloh Musings has brought us a variety of different kinds of posts, in
Loni Books presents Making Challah posted at Small Thoughts, saying, “I’m a college student by day, a writer by night. I love to write about those small moments that inspire me all day long.”
… Before I leave, I would like to ask all of our readers to make a quick stop off at Crossing the Yarden, and leave a little note, blessing, prayer, or token of love for Yarden and his “Rock Star”. Just tell him how many of us are out there with their amazing family in our thoughts and prayers. Thanks.
I hope this is an inspiring and uplifting Elul for you, and that you blog about it!
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of jewish-israel blog carnival aka havel ha using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
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I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog since I decided to move across the world with six kids. Then deciding that taking a job outside of the house, albeit half-time, sort of put the nail in the blog coffin.
I am making some changes in my life over the next few months and hope that with some much-needed balance will come some specks of time for writing. Stay tuned.
Someone I do not know, who has never commented here, made a kind comment about my blog. But he also said that he would love to hear my journey, not just stories. And he is right. I haven’t done that. Mostly because I have yet to ever feel like I have “arrived” anywhere on the journey. I feel like it is hard to tell the story when I am still in the middle of it. That is how a blog works, though, isn’t it? So I have to do that, and am making the commitment to it right now.
Today, however, is not the day I am going to tell you my journey. I have written much about my love affair with Israel, with the intense joy that I feel about being here. And I do feel it – every single day. I get emotional and grateful on a simple drive to work, looking out at the Judean Hills. I don’t see a checkpoint and rush hour traffic. I see the land of my forefathers; I really do. And I hope the naive rose glasses remain there for a long time to come.
But this week? I am sorry. It has just been…. well NOT FUN. Actually, it has been more like a month of health issues all up, down and around my family and I have honestly HAD ENOUGH. I am officially, here and now, crying uncle. Like, we really, really could use a break.
My daughter has some horrible stomach thing that won’t die with the many antibiotics she has taken. We have been to emergency rooms, I have fought with attendings, ordered tests, been completely let down by specialists, and am left with a daughter missing school, tired and frustrated while we keep poking around in the dark for a solution. *
My son has asthma, and Lag Bomer in Israel is not exactly the very best holiday for an asthmatic. For those of you that don’t know, the national tradition is to light bonfires and stay up late, breathing in the smoke and eating nasty hot dogs and marshmallows, while reports of fire damage come in from around the nation.
Even if I had made my son stay home from the “everyone-is-doing-it-I-get-to-stay-up-late-and-bond-with-my-peers-over-a-bonfire” experience his very first year here, the smoke from the entire country would have caused his flare-up anyway. He hacks, he cries, and I slowly go out of my mind.
My other son decided he had to go and break a toe.. we must have missed a day at the doctor’s office. He can get around, but was told no sports for three weeks. I am not sure which is worse for his overall mental and physical health; the broken toe or his being cooped up that long. I know which is worse for mine.
My dad has had a minor “thing”, and is now going for more tests. He is fine. He really is. Thank G-d. But the reality is that my parents are getting older and I now live 6,000 miles away. The worrying didn’t help him when I was a 6 hour drive away either, but it always felt like I could hop in a car and run over to see them. With this many kids and responsibilities that sounds funny even as I type it, but it felt like I could. He doesn’t need my care, energy and attention right now like my brood, but the additional worry and distraction just adds to the heap.
I am barely – just barely – making it with the work-aliyah-support the husband-raise-all-of-these-kids plates all spinning in the air.
These sick kids are like an angry bird that has swooped in to knock every single one of the plates out of the air.
I have friends, family, more family, and more dear friends coming to visit in May. I can’t wait. I want to show them how happy we are here. How settled we are in our new home. How well we are doing, and how I scaled the heights and have mastered starting over at 40…..
… I fear that they will arrive and instead all they will see is fallen and smashed plates that were once spinning…. in a heap all over the floor.
*Please don’t write in a comment suggesting something I ought to get my daughter tested for. I know you mean well. I have heard them all, and yes. We tested for that. I assure you.
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This edition of the Haveil Havelim is dedicated to those that have fallen or have been injured due to terror. In Boston, in Israel, in the world. When the world wakes up to global jihad as an international problem, perhaps we will finally stand up to evil and end the suffering.
I haven’t had the time to post my many thoughts and feelings about my first Yom Hazikaron back in Israel, my first Yom Haatzmaut back in Israel, and the rattling of my former home in Boston. I am fortunate that so many other wonderful bloggers have written their thoughts and I can share them with you in digest form.
Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week, jointly coordinated through our Facebook Group. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means”Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English,’vanity.’
What a roller-coaster week!!! If there was ever a time to remember to hold life precious, it would be now.
Boston Marathon Terror attack:
Batya looks at the horrific tragedy this week in Boston through her Israeli lens, positing that America is a “more frightening place”. Does it strike the world as odd that there are ‘settlers’ like us that feel that way? See if you agree and weigh in at What Was The Point of That Boston Marathon Bombing? over at Shiloh Musings.
Yaelle brings us her take on the Yom Hazikaron experience in Yom Hazikaron l’Chalelei Maarachot Yisrael… at Yaelle Yells… Softly
Having begun work recently as the Spokesperson at OneFamily Fund in Jerusalem, my experience of Yom Hazikaron has become very different, sharper, harder, and more real. I invite you to watch this very brief and extremely moving recap of the ceremony at OneFamily. It is a safe haven for bereaved children, who have a second home where they can share their loss openly. What a blessing for them…. and what a horribly difficult thing for the rest of us to hear.
It is because of that experience that I have learned so much more the truth in Batya‘s posit that “Time Doesn’t Heal” over at Me-Ander.
A late edition that’s worth the read: The Real Jerusalem Streets shows us in beautiful images the reality of Yom Hazikaron in Jerusalem….
One follows right after the other in the blog roll, as in life. Some love it, some hate it. I am surprised no one weighed in on just that.
… and Sharon once again captures the day on The Real Jerusalem Streets in Yom Haatzmaut Favorites in Jerusalem.
Batya connects Yom Haatzmaut to Shiloh’s local, important – and very long – history in Celebrate Israeli Independence Where We Had Our First Capital City, Shiloh! at Shiloh Musings.
First, let’s start with the Temple Mount. Always a great source if you are looking for some people to disagree about stuff:
Esser Agaroth shares a Palestinian article about a Jewish demonstration about the Temple Mount, in Palestinian Press Posts Pretty Pictures…Of Temple Mount Activists
… and follow us with a very insightful – and humorous – rant (forgive me for calling a spade a spade) on MK Miri Regev’s recent declaration to tour the Temple Mount, in Jewish Prayer on The Temple Mount. Sigh… I personally cannot wait until such a decision is no longer a “declaration”. Kudos, Esser Agaroth.
Then…. let’s move down below, to the Kotel, an equally generous spot for dissent and ill-will, while we offer up our holiest supplications to our Creator.
I had to include this post, because in addition to being a radical and often unheard point of view, I couldn’t agree with Leah Zakh Aharoni more in Times of Israel’s The Misogyny of the Women of the Wall.
The Torah Revolution is tired of the fighting too, and gives his own suggestion as to what we are all doing wrong, in Strange Coincidence.
I learn from Tomer Devorah that the missiles that rained down on Eilat may have been targeting a US military target in Missiles on Eilat. Chilling, and logical.
Why all of the interest by women in going out to daven in public if “Women Don’t go to Shul?” – Hadassah Levy generates some great discussion in her Times of Israel piece on Why Women Don’t Go to Shul. Don’t forget to read the comments and of course weigh in.
Tomer Devorah presents an interesting set of coincidences regarding explosions in Texas in Very Coincidental. It sounds like the makings of a great new Gabriel Allon novel. Are you reading, Daniel Silva??
Shlomo writes a Re-review of Siddur Nehalel BeShabbat in Thinking Torah: This post looks at how the siddur uses images to enhance the meaning of Psalm 92 – Mizmor shir l’yom haShabbat.
Two final thoughts:
If everyone reading this invited one blogger to submit to HH that hasn’t before (or hasn’t in a long time), we would all get to enjoy some new blogs and spread the Jewish-blogger-love. Why not send a brief email to a blogger you love right now? Or just a little fb post?
I also want to give a quick shout out to Trip’n Up’s Amy today, because, well, she could use it. Find a post she has written that you like and just leave a comment or a hello. Just stop by, and tell her that Ima2seven sent you. : )
Wishing everyone a happier, easier week than last. With no terror attacks, no memorial days, no strife and maybe, just maybe a little bit of seasonally appropriate sunshine!
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My family had lots of good news this week!
My daughter found a turtle. There has been a three-year campaign (at least) for a pet, that resulted in my finally declaring that if they found a turtle and it lived in the yard, they could keep it. So this find means not just an adorable (???) turtle named Sheldon in our midst, but a triumph over the parents that said “no” to pets. Very exciting.
Not Sheldon the Turtle, but similar.
I have two boys that have been accepted into a high-quality private school in Jerusalem, who have decided to commit to the longer commute and increased hours of Torah study. I am proud of them for deciding to take on the challenge. More than that, I am relieved for them because their acceptance in their current school has not been great, has caused them a lot of tears and frustration and has not helped their aliyah one bit. It is very hard to move at 11 years old, and it is also hard to accept new and different boys into your circle when you are 11 years old. The school itself starts in seventh grade, so the rest of the boys will be “new” as well, and I hope this will help.
I also have three boys (two of them are the same boys) that were accepted into a boys’ choir based in Jerusalem. They all love to sing, we love to let them, it will give them fantastic opportunities and experiences, help them make new friends, and involve three boys in one chug (after-school activity) – always a logistical plus.
The most important part for now about both the school and the choir is that word accepted. After feeling rejected socially by their peers for so much of the past six months, the three of them feel wanted, and we all need that.
I also am feeling a more “wanted”. I have accepted a part-time job that is challenging, exciting and rewarding. I hope to have more of an official “announcement” soon, when we finish finalizing the details at work. In the interim, I often come home feeling like I have done a little bit of good out there in the world. As I drive to work I get this ‘high'; the feeling of freedom and escape from mundane housework, the astonishing views on my commute that just feel like a daily gift from Hashem, and the knowledge that I am working in the Holy City of Jerusalem with ideas and people that make a difference just come together in a moment of endless gratitude.
My children are daily beginning to experience their first Purim in Israel. It is one of the moments in the year that olim internalize deeply, because it is so radically different than in the rest of the world.
There is much for us to be celebrating this Adar,
our first as a family in Israel.
It is hard to ignore that Adar is also a month of azkarot, memorial services. Purim is the story of the return of Amalek, and our triumph as a people over it – with Hashem’s help. Israel has suffered an inordinate number of terror attacks in the month of Adar. When people pause to remember, they realize that it was Adar when a terrorist killed eight young boys in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Adar when the Fogel family was torn apart, leaving those young children orphaned in a way that so clearly screamed “bloodlust”. Unfortunately the list goes on.
Fogel family, z”l, killed two years ago today.Boys murdered at Mercaz Harav yeshiva March 6, 2008.
As the Jewish calendar is cyclical, we know that Adar beckons Amalek back every single year. In our age, we triumph by simply going on, building our state, celebrating life and not death. But it is the modern day “ad lo yada” challenge for us to be b’simcha (joyful) not only over Mordechai but also Haman, and to rejoice in Adar, our month-long Purim-fest, while also attending memorial services.
Ad Lo Yada, celebrating on Purim until we don’t know the difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman.
I pray every day that in Adar this year Amalek doesn’t add any names to the list.
**If you would like to support Israel’s victims of terror financially you can do so by ordering mishloach manot for them or sending your matanot l’evyonim to them. If you want more information or ideas, please just leave a comment here, and I will respond.
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