“This is your seventh baby? This one is going to just pop right out, you will see…”
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that over the past few months.
My youngest is 5 1/2 – which means it has been a while since I have been pregnant. I was younger, fitter, and while I had my hands much more full with a house full of little ones, I also had more energy.
This pregnancy was harder. Much harder…… but it was nothing compared to the labor/delivery.
None of my other deliveries were easy, but they were pretty straightforward. I have shared with just about any woman who will listen that I proudly delivered twins without an epidural or surgery at 40 weeks – and 6.5 and 8 pounds.
This labor was more than a day, on no sleep, with a “failure to progress”. I was spared a c-section, but at the price of tremendous amounts of strain on my body, the likes of which I have just never experienced.
… I don’t know if it is my age, the hormones, the difficult labor, the very full house or a grand combination of them all, but this time post-partum hit me BIG TIME.
I found myself just crying for what seemed like no good reason. I felt overwhelmed, and mostly I resented every single person that tried to check in with me, asked me what I was doing, expected me to be chipper, friendly, happy, open or affectionate. Including my own children.
“Can’t they see I am trying to recover?”
“What is wrong with them? Why are they calling me? ”
“How can they possibly ask me for a hug.”
“Just stopped by? Seriously?”
More than anything else, my moodiness, touchiness and lack of ability to be a charming friend and hostess to others seemed to be met with consternation at best, horror at worst, rather than compassion.
I am in week two now, and what an amazing difference a week makes! My milk is flowing, my child is occasionally sleeping for a whole couple of hours not in someone’s arms. I am no longer taking pain medication round the clock, feeling achy and weak the minute it starts to wear off. I can put on my own shoes. There is a rush of relief that the Shalom Zachor and the Brit are both over. The trauma of the birth doesn’t come to me in flashes like it did last week. Neither do the unexplained bouts of tears. I am able to smile when someone walks in the door, and you might, just might occasionally find me answering the telephone.
The help, advice and meals I have received have been just amazing.I think that religious Jews who have a community that takes turns at lifecycle events being there for each other, are the luckiest people on earth. And I count myself as one of the most blessed because I live in Neve Daniel. The love and support expressed from around the world has been so touching, so wonderful.
The most positive experience has been the communal celebration of this birth by our neighborhood, family and friends.
Why write such a negative post during this weekend of thanks??? Why bother writing this? Because I think that when we are truly happy for people we want to connect to them. To reach out and let them know. I also think that 9 times out of 10 a new mother, at least for that first week, needs exactly the opposite. Sometimes love means giving someone space.
I have always dropped off donated dinners to new moms with a note and a delivery person, and I have never thought to make a visit or a phone call in the first week. But I also doubt I have ever been sensitive enough to avoiding asking “how are you” for a week, or assuming that maybe a hug for the new mom is not in order at a bris. I never knew that difficult sleeping when your baby sleeps is a primary symptom of post-partum baby blues, but I have always known that lack of sleep makes everything else harder.
I have had many friends who suffered from post-partum depression, but I didn’t see it – that is part of what I am describing, which is a desire to shut everyone out during such a dark time. I heard about it after the fact. Until now, I never understood why it was traumatic enough to cause some of them to think twice before having another child.
I haven’t enjoyed the experience, but I do hope it is going to make me a better friend, relative, neighbor and eventually mother to new moms. That I will have a newfound appreciation for that space.
If you ever give birth and I seem aloof during your first week, please don’t be offended, I will just be giving you your space, whether you need it or not. My guess is that if you are a brand new mom, you will be FAR too busy to notice, no matter how you are feeling.
One last note: our beautiful new baby’s name is Yehuda Chaim, and I will post our thoughts and words on the baby and his name just as soon as this little newborn will grant me the time. In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and Chanukah!!!
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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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While most people have written and filed their experiences and impressions from the President’s Conference in Jerusalem two weeks ago, I am only getting this published now. While it may only be an excuse, I doubt from what I saw that most of the participants, especially writers, at the conference were leaving behind 6 children finishing up their first year of school in Israel. For me, there has been a lot of “pay back” for that precious two day absence, so I hope this interview comes better late than never.
Of the many fantastic moments for me at the President’s Conference, meeting Rita definitely stands out as the highlight. This was for me a rare, unforgettable life-moment. There is the rush of fandom, of meeting a star, but this was something else.
Meeting someone for the first time that has left a fingerprint on your soul and having the chance to tell them personally is truly incredible, and something I do not take for granted. The fact that Rita was personable, charming, beautiful, interesting and kind is really icing on the cake.
For those of you that do not know, “Rita”, Rita Yahan-Farouz is an Iranian--born Israeli pop singer and the most famous female singer in Israel. She has had an unprecedented career in Israel in film and on stage, and has sold countless albums and sold-out concerts.
In 2011, she also became popular in Iran as an underground singing sensation after the release of various pop records which she sings in her native Persian language. In 2012, her album “All My Joys,” also sung in Persian, was popular in both Israel and Iran, going gold in Israel after three weeks. She has since been referred to as a cultural ambassador between Israeli and Iranian citizens. You can learn a lot more about Rita, her stardom and her career here.
When I was 17 years old, I came to Israel for the first time on what was then a brand new program called “USY High”. Although it has since changed, at the time it was a Conservative Movement form of the standard AMHSI two-month high school in Israel program based in Hod Hasharon.
My teacher, Yossi Katz, who still teaches at AMHSI, could see right away that I was one of those kids that was falling in love, very quickly and deeply with the country. Yossi is the author of “A Voice Called” and is someone I have always described as someone who creates zionists for a living. The number of Yossi’s former students that have made aliyah is staggering.
As early as my first week in Israel I explained to Yossi emphatically that Israel could never be home for me. It would of course conflict with the long, successful stage career as a singer that was waiting for me back in the United States. Yossi reacted by creating a mantra that I could be the “next Rita in Israel” over and over, and backed this up by giving me my first taste of Israeli music, a Rita cassette.
I spent the remainder of those 8 life-transforming weeks on a bus, learning the history of the land of Israel from the time of Avraham until today almost entirely on tiyul. And every minute we were on that bus, I was looking out the window wearing a walkman and listening to Rita.
She was the background music for my burgeoning love affair with Eretz Yisroel. 24 years later, as I drive to work on a mundane commute, I still feel pangs of fierce, passionate love. And I still hear the background music.
…. and in Binyanei Hauma, I got to tell Rita herself.
I tried to assure the true (well-earned) Diva that I wanted to talk to her about HER and not me, but opened with the personal connection anyway. She responded by gasping, telling me that I gave her the chills and giving me a big hug. I know she has a successful long-standing career as an actress so perhaps I should be cynical about the reception, but it certainly felt amazing.
We spoke first and foremost about motherhood. Since I explained that this is the subject of much of my blog, we both talked about being musical moms raising musical kids. As if we are “both” in any category. But when she stopped her manager in her tracks to exclaim in shock the number of kids I have, insisting that it is impossible because I look 26 years old, she had me even more hooked than ever.
She explained to me that motherhood didn’t change her as a musician, it just changed the centrality of her very successful career in her life. “Being a mother just instantly became the most important thing in my life, and remained so.” She spoke about the challenges of finding the right balance of (stellar) career and motherhood. She had a neighbor that would needle her incessantly about not being home for her children, as this neighbor of course was. She was so irritated by the constant badgering that she wound up going to a family psychologist who asked her one simple question. “When your daughter grows up, gets married and has a family. Will you tell her that you think she should drop her life-passion and stay home to be with her family? Will you tell her to table her own happiness for the sake of her children?”. Rita didn’t need any more information and went home empowered to find that balance every one of us struggles with.
How telling – and familiar – that the the social pressure to please others’ is at least as much a part of that struggle as the personal balance we each have to find.
We talked about the most significant influence on her as a musician. It was not a particular band or favorite album… but the rich singing and dancing her Persian mother did around the house.
She described very, very early memories of resting on her mother’s legs as she sang constantly to her children. It wasn’t appropriate for a Persian woman to publicly dance and sing, she explained, so she would perform with flair around the house for her entranced daughters. And these are the sounds that have informed and influenced Rita throughout her career. I restrained myself – with effort – from launching into my background as a Music Together teacher. Music Together teaches us through science and study the profound impact that this kind of musical behavior by any mother has on every child and their love of music. Rita knew through her gut and didn’t need my affirmation. (And it wasn’t about me. I wasn’t going to make this a two way conversation of “sharing” no matter how much it is my inclination. This was an interview.)
It made so much sense when she later talked about her 2012 album, All My Joys, which is sung in Persian, as a deeply personal “return home”. The fact that it has seen unprecedented international success and has turned into a surprising bridge-builder between Israeli and Iranian people has been a wonderful unintended outcome. I now understood how despite meteoric success and international attention she could still describe the effort as a deeply personal one.
We discussed the raising of her musical kids. Both of her daughters are very musical which is even less surprising when you know that their father, her ex-husband, is Rami Kleinstein a hugely successful Israeli artist in his own right.
Meshi is 21 and very well may pursue a career in music,” Rita told me, “I don’t think she can run away from it. She is so talented… She sings in English, Davka.”
Her younger daughter, Noam, is 12, is also an incredibly creative musician. Rita tells me she is “so talented at so many different instruments. And she seems to have rhythm and blues down in her kishkes. It is amazing. But she very well may decide not pursue music as a profession…. she knows very deeply first hand the price that one pays to be in this business, and isn’t sure she wants to pay it.”
I asked Rita if she had any message for my very musical 13 year old daughter who also has the “bug” and wants a lifetime of singing. With the added challenge of being Orthodox and all that that means in Israel today. I didn’t know how Rita would react, and how careful she would want to be to veer away from religion or politics. I didn’t know if it would be an opportunity to criticize the limitations of religion on musical expression (particularly for women). She didn’t go there at all, and impressed me yet again.
“Tell her that singing is mentioned even the Kabbalah – that music has a vibration that is like a prayer. It is the strongest way to connect to Heaven, to G-d. Like a straight cable to connect directly to G-d. You can’t tell someone to run away from such a love. She has to find her own destiny.” She said. “And tell her to never, ever stop singing.”
She had described for me her earliest memory of being asked to stand up at a large family gathering when she was only 4, to stand on a chair and sing for everyone. The world stopped, and she felt this incredible “oneness”. A moment of pure joy and clarity that has always stayed with her, and was the defining moment in which she knew this is what she had to do for the rest of her life.
I asked Rita for her proudest career moments. She said that the two peaks for her were singing “Hatikvah” at the Knesset for Israel’s 50th birthday celebration, and her recent performance at the UN General Assembly in March as a representative of Israel, where she sang in Persian, English and Hebrew. She explained that three of the tickets were taken somehow by the Iranian delegation, but they will never know how or by whom.
When I pointed out that these are both moments of national representation as opposed to commercial success, she explained that her 8-year-old immigrant self is still inside her, remembering her move to Israel, being mocked and feeling “different” . That that little girl jumps for joy when she has these moments as the representative of Israel.
Once again, I restrained myself and didn’t talk about how much I can relate, as I watch my children struggle through their first year of aliyah. I pushed down tears of emotion and made a mental note to simply share this insight with my own little immigrants as soon as I got home. (Which I did.)
These were the highlights for me of what felt like a too-short intimate conversation between two people who live in different worlds but could so easily be friends. I wondered then, and still do, if she just has an amazing gift of making everyone feel that way, and it really has nothing to do with me?
I hope Rita will get an opportunity to read this, and that she feels it has done justice to our conversation. She had so many fans approach her on that one day alone, and it must go on throughout the year. But if she does see it then she will know that she left a second fingerprint during our conversation and there is a strange part of me that is absolutely convinced that it will not be our last.
If you missed Rita at the President’s Conference, you can watch her on the panel here.
For more information about Rita’s amazing career, her latest album, or how to order any of her music, be sure to visit her website.
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Some of you know that I had written a while ago posts about the tragedy for the children of Nachlaot, starting with “Terrorists have destroyed Nachlaot“. The other posts can be found here and here and here.
Jewishmom.com has an important update about the sentencing of one of the perpetrators, and much more.
Please read her post:
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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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I have always made a conscious choice not to be that olah that goes through life in Israel comparing. That approach works for some, but I just like to live in the thick of things here and not compare it (or prices) to how things might be outside of Israel. It lowers my expectations and creates fewer opportunities for disappointment.
But on election day here in Israel (yes, it has taken my quite a while to post this one, humble, little post) I just couldn’t help myself. This being my first year here with school-aged children, it was different than any other election day I had experienced here, or in the US.
One can easily understand the astounding voting rates here when you see and feel the celebratory air. Schools close, banks close, offices close, and the country takes a day off.
… And partially because of that, but I think mostly because in Israel we still don’t take our democracy for granted, voting is a family affair.
Most families came up to vote as a group. Children went with their parents to choose a party and many placed the envelope in the ballot box with or for their parents – including mine.
Since we had the day off, after voting we went to the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. As did at least 1/3 of the rest of the families in Israel, apparently. Navigating parking was an exercise in and of itself, but after surviving the z00-at-the-entrance-to-the-zoo, we went into what was just an amazing experience.
Only in Israel can I take my kids to see the same animals we have seen time and time again in the zoo, but there are plaques with Biblical quotes describing the six days of creation from Genesis.
… I couldn’t stop myself from comparing. As regulars at the Philadelphia Zoo in the US, my children would always remark “Psst! Ima, look! There are other Jews!”. Funny how that didn’t happen once here.
And then we came upon it. Only here does our venture to see the animals end at, of course, Noah’s Ark.
The overpriced concessions inside are all kosher, of course. So this time I could say “yes.”
As we got near the exit of the zoo, I came upon the largest collection of birds I have ever seen, and thought to myself “I have never seen so many different kinds of birds in one place before.”
But then I immediately looked up and thought “I don’t think I have ever seen this many different kinds of Jews in one place before.”
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Last year I was introduced to my incredible chef friend Ruth Baks’ “Kotel Chicken”. It is a top secret recipe, and definitely in the category of divine food. It was from Ruth, through this dish that I learned that the bushes in the kotel are caper bushes.
Caper bush in the kotel
I really never gave that much more thought, as more than a fun fact. Until today.
I am studying two mornings a week at the Women’s Beit Midrash in Efrat. It is an amazing learning community for women, by women, in Hebrew and in English. One of the benefits of living here is that the superstar Torah teachers add one morning class a week to their busy roster and we benefit. But I digress.
Tehilla Elitzur is teaching a class (in Hebrew) about the inclusion or separation of Mussar, character development, in Jewish Law. Her knowledge of gemara is breathtaking, and what amazes me most is her familiarity with the authors of the Talmud, what period they lived in, who knew each other, and how all of this affected each one’s particular voice.
There is a story we read for other reasons about a Rabbi who is rewarded by the appearance in his garden of a caper bush. Why was this such a reward? Tehilla explained that caper bushes were of great value because each part of the plant could be used. Rabbi Steinsaltz’s Talmud explains beautifully in English the discussion in Masechet Brachot, chapter 6, of the tithing necessary specifically on a caper bush since one may be using it primarily for different parts.
I didn’t get enough information from the Talmud about how each part is of value, so I went to another holy source, wikipedia.
The leaves are used in salads and fish dishes. (The site says primarily in Greece, but that would logically mean it mostly was the case in Ancient Israel as well.) The berries can be cured, as well as the buds, the part we know and love as ‘capers”.
capers as usually used in cooking
According to flowersinisrael.com, “Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) writes in Natural History XIII 127:”…a shrub with a rather hard wood; also its seed is well known as an article of food, and is usually gathered together with the stalk.” Pedanius Dioscorides (40-ca. 90CE) also provides instructions on the use of sprouts, roots, leaves and seeds in the treatment of strangury and inflammation. Powdered root bark is quoted by the Venetian Prospero Alpini (1553-1617) as a treatment for skin ailments, and as a vermifuge (substance which kills worms) and emmenagogue (substance that stimulates menstruation).”
So this amazing bush was used in earlier eras for its stalks, leaves, seeds, sprouts and buds.
I don’t think it can be a coincidence. The one plant that grows – thrives – in the kotel, on its own, with no gardener but Our Creator, has lots of different parts, all useful. The buds, usually considered “not yet something” - just potential – in most plants, are perhaps the most valued.
I don’t appreciate the politics at the kotel as of late, nor do I have any desire to enter into them. I believe in religious freedom and at the same time I don’t believe that this site, of any in the whole world, is the place for provocation of any kind.
But we are certainly being given a message about just how valuable each Jew is - how Hashem intends, nurtures and loves our differences and variety – whether we are a leaf or stalk, bud or berry. Perhaps while we are tucking all those notes into the kotel’s cracks, Hashem actually has also been leaving us a note in the cracks all along.
I will never again look at caper bushes, or the kotel, in quite the same way.
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I had a little piece published in the New Jersey Jewish News, about my kids’ adjustment to life in Israel with a war (I call it a war-let) only four months after arrival:
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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:
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