I can’t help but compare….

February 4th, 2013

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.”

birds at biblical zoo








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.”





The Philadelphia Zoo

June 22nd, 2010

I wrote several weeks ago about playing hooky with kids and spending the day at the Philadelphia Zoo.

As we plan to head back today on a school-is-out celebratory trip with  friends, I wanted to write about the Zoo itself.

We LOVE this zoo. I do not know if it is just because it is a zoo, or because of familiarity with this one, or because of particular things about the Philadelphia Zoo. We have been to this one many times, and I don’t remember taking my kids to many others.

We have been to the Zooquarium in Cape Cod, but I found it disappointing.

My stepson loved the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo as a child, but alas, those memories were not made with me.

My generous parents have gifted us a zoo membership for a number of the past few years. This includes zoo rides, such as ponies, a carousel, and a hot air balloon ride. While the rides aren’t my favorite part, they make it much easier to take a mixed-age crowd such as mine. Needless to say, with a brood our size, the parking, one visit and one set of rides by six kids paid for the membership. (The rides are expensive otherwise, at $6 per ride kid for some of them. )

The pony ride.

The designated parking lots that are free if you are members make getting there much easier. The park is amenable to bringing your own food, which makes it an easier trip than most for anyone keeping kosher.

There are a nice combination of indoor and outdoor exhibits positioned in such a way that we can enjoy the zoo in the winter, when it rains, and even on a ninety degree day, such as today threatens to be. While I love to explore and see new things, the zoo is just one very typical example of how my children crave familiarity. The fact that the zoo has been seen so many times seems to make it comfortable to them, and give them a sense of mastery, not boredom.

On our last trip I wanted to make the trip more interesting for the kids, and easier on me. I went to their web site looking for some on-line activities for the kids to do when we got there. I couldn’t find any! The web site has a great section for educators, but the material there is mostly designed for in-classroom lessons in preparation for a field trip.

I did find these great scavenger hunts at other web sites:


The kids really enjoyed them, and had more focus. I have since been in touch with the Philly Zoo about this, and I was amazed that they returned my call. However, that follow up has not yet resulted in a change to the web site or any Philly Zoo scavenger hunts being emailed to me although I was told they would be.  I hold out hope.

I used to want to take the kids on a lot of different adventures. I have learned to take them where they know, where they want to go, and where I already know how to easily find a bathroom.

I find most museums to be more expensive, and hard to suit to a wide variety if ages. I would love to hear your recommendations for other trips/spots.

I also welcome any suggestions on more strategies for trying something new at the zoo.

This summer the zoo is having a family “Rock and Roar” concert series, and we are planning on going back to see Yosi and The Superdads on August 17th. Is a cute, fun band that the kids just love. (Thanks for the intro, Cindy.)

I would love to see you there. Just look for the Ima with seven kids.

Playing Hooky

May 30th, 2010

I had a glorious day this week playing hooky with all of my kids.

We own a game that is no longer produced (by Mattell) called Chatter Matters.* It is a very hokey family game designed to get the family “talking”. One has to answer questions about how well they know other family members, about their own childhood memories, etc. Part of the shtick of the game is that each player gets to choose their “prize” from a list at the beginning of the game that they will get if they should happen to be the winner. The list includes things like “the dessert of your choice alone with the family member of your choice” & “movie night at the house one night, and you pick the movie.”

This game became very popular in my house over the long Pesach break, and led to many very sweet family conversations and moments. It also led to one child winning a trip to the zoo on a school day.

So, this past week I took off of work, pulled all the kids out of school (except dss), and too off for a day at the Philadephia Zoo.

I was quite excited at the prospect that on a school day it would be deserted and we would have full run of the place. Imagine my suprise when I pulled up and not only the two closest parking lots were FULL, but there were 90 buses lined up on the street parked as well. (An employee told me that was the actual number the next day.)

We managed to avoid the throngs of school children for the most part. This was one of the many aspects that made it easier to have gone to a place I already was very familiar with.  We enjoyed the zoo tremendously, and we love the Philly Zoo in general. So much so, that I have decided that I am going to write a separate post altogether about the zoo itself.

I wanted to make separate, and I hope not too obvious points.

The Zoo itself was part of the reason that I was able to take six kids on an adventure by myself, and part of the reason we all managed to have fun. However, the kids were really in a great mood simply because I had taken them on a school day. I dropped my work and we just had a one-day mini vacation where it was all about them. The impact was tremendous. Maybe other people get to do this more often than we do, but with so many kids it isn’t easy, and I know in Israel Sundays aren’t time off and here they seem to get swallowed up by simchas and the insane birthday party circuit alarmingly quickly.  They felt loved,  and they actually said so.

I also told them that many people would consider it simply crazy to take six kids ages ten and under on an outing for the day without another adult. That it was in their hands; they could prove it can be done by listening and cooperating. That it would probably encourage me to be brave and try it again. Or, they could show me that it really is crazy, and I just won’t try it anymore.  Somehow, by some miracle, they seemed to get that. I am consistently re-amazed at the efficacy of a good in-car, pre-event pep talk. By the end of five hours at the zoo with 90 degree weather there was admittedly some melt-down commencing, not entirely on the part of the children, but everyone, including ima2seven, managed to keep it together.

I did call poor husband who had to go to work instead of coming out to play hooky and ask him to have some dinner for us when we walked in.

The last comment I want to add is that (of course) they learned a ton. And (of course) not just about animals. I have a tough time believing they would have learned more had they been in school. And even if they did, I wouldn’t have been right there, eating up every minute of it.

*The link to this game from Amazon sells the game. I think it is worth it. For a better description you can visit this other link, where they are selling the same game for $110.95.