Sunday, July 26, 2009

Slight Hiatus

I'll be away for a bit- we're in the process of finally moving in, and as such, my internet access will be sporadic. But, I'm not gone for good, so keep checking!

Have an easy rest of the 9 days, and a meaningful fast! Hopefully, Mashiach will come, and then all the world can join me in Yerushlayim!

Feel free to check out my archives- I do think that my earlier posts were some of my best, even though I barely had anyone ever reading my blog at that point!

Judging the News

If you haven't noticed, the news has been rather bad lately. Super Raizy gives a short round up.

The two most horrible things I heard of lately were the case about the mother in Meah Shearim who was arrested for 'starving' her child, thrown into prison for a week without having a psychological evaluation, and then finally released on house arrest, still without an evaluation and not given the chance to see her other children. Finally, the evaluation came back normal, but she is still under scrutiny.

Side 1 in this case: She's a horrible mother who starves her sick child in the oncology unit in Haddassah, and deserves to be thrown into prison. She mistreated him, may have Munchausen syndrome, and won't let the doctors do their job.

Side 2 in this case: She's a mother with a terribly sick child who throws up everything he eats, and is being used as an experimental case in Haddassah's research program, who got thrown into prison without any hearing, trial, or evaluation, and even once she had a psychological evaluation, she couldn't see her other children at all.

So, trying to be unbiased...which side do you think is right? It's hard to tell. The rioting? Not the best response, but it did get her out of prison and into house arrest. I don't know the full story, but I've heard enough about it to show that it might be biased at the highest level. I'm not taking her side, or the other side, but I do think that everyone should know all the facts.

Second piece of bad news? Well, important and prestigious rabbis were caught money laundering and organ selling, and were turned into the FBI. The NY Times Article can explain it in more detail. Personally? There are two sides to this one also.

Side 1: The Rabbis were wrong to do it, (i.e. , someone donates money to 'charity', they deduct a percentage to charity and give the rest back, making it tax deductible.), but it's not so shocking. It happens all the time. When polled among my friends and neighbors, most have said that they have taken a discount in return for paying in cash, or that they know of kollelim who do this routinely. Depressing. It may not be halachically assur, but it isn't the yashar way to do things.

Side 2: They were stealing, they were wrong, and they deserve to be prosecuted.

Not to mention the other side of this story- Shlomo/Solomon Dwek, who acted as an informant and turned them all in. Why? Why would a frum Jew turn others over to the authorities? Isn't that halachically and morally wrong also?

There are always two sides to every news story. Be careful how you read, and how you judge.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Small Frugal Measure

Since we're about to move into a new apartment, all sorts of new expenses have popped up. Appliances still hit the top of the list, costing us the most money, but furniture, paint jobs, and random fixing aren't much further down. At every step of the way, Mr. NMF and I double check, triple check, and keep checking on ways to try to keep our expenses down, without totally living out of apple crates.

(Actually, when we got married, Mr. NMF told me that the key to a happy marriage would be to marry someone who wouldn't mind having one apple crate for him/herself, one apple crate for the spouse, and one apple crate for the table. Then, one could be assured that both sides would be okay with anything.)

One expense we chose to do without would be air conditioning. Our future apartment has large windows, a good cross breeze, and isn't directly in the sun, so we think we can get by. We've also lived in an apartment for the past year without A/C, and it wasn't so bad. We invested in two fans for 80 shekel a piece, and blasted them anytime we felt the need.

So, when I saw this article in the NY Times about living with out A/C, it resonated with me. Mostly, the reason why people live without A/C would be financial. The installation itself, at least here in Israel is costly, as well as the aesthetic problems- it lowers your ceilings as well as having to remodel the concrete around it when you install it, and it has to be done professionally, otherwise you risk ruining your apartment. Plus, sometimes the electricity in your apartment has to be upgraded to a different level in order to install A/C in the first place.

And, it is possible to live without it. I've dehydrated in Israel several times (especially when I was pregnant with NBD), but if you drink plenty and make sure to eat salty food sometime during the day, the risk is much less. There are those who need A/C- like as the article mentions, the old, infirm, or very young run higher risks, but most average people could be fine without it.

Yet, I wonder. Is there sometimes such a thing as being too frugal? Living without A/C isn't frugality, it's more practicality, but there are other examples of giving up on something for financial reasons that eventually turns out to be necessary.

For example, someone who doesn't have the extra form of health insurance here in Israel runs the risk of needing some of those services one day and that they won't be able to obtain when they need it. Wearing uncomfortable shoes may be cheaper, but may hurt your feet in the long run. Buying shoddy furniture runs the risk of having to buy new ones all over again. Doing a cheap paint job, but inhaling the poisonous fumes, isn't such a good bargain.

So one has to strike a compromise. Frugality, along with common sense. To look for a used appliance is one thing, to take risks with your health, another. Many would give up on A/C if they could, but some need it for health reasons. So, if you go into someone's house and judge them on their frugality by the fact that they have their A/C blasting, think twice. Frugal isn't always the answer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I picked up a book from my local Feldheim store, with a rather interesting title: The Cliff Line. Now, I've never heard of a cliff line- sounding like a row of cliffs, but the back cover sounded interesting, and so I bought it. It's by someone known as M. Wiseman.

It was written in present tense- making it a tough read, since I'm very much used to past tense, but it was interesting, and fairly well written. Then I turned to the back, about the author, and learnt that this author was in seminary this past year.

That makes her younger than me. Younger, and she's already a published author. It seems she wrote the book in 11th grade, making her someone who's written a full fledged novel at a very young age.

There are other authors I know of who are like that- Christopher Paolini, that Eragon sensation writer, is a young guy. But this is one of the first that I've read from a young frum girl.

In one way, I'm so pleased that someone took the step like this. To go out, show their talent, and prove that we young people, young frum people, can head out and write novels, and do things, wherever our talent takes us.

On the other hand, the green monster of jealousy pops up. I write, I enjoy writing, but I've never attempted to publish a novel. Maybe I could, maybe I couldn't. But this girl went out and did it.

Sometimes we have to follow our dreams. R' Paysach Krohn, in one of his books, mentions that he wrote the famous book on Bris Milah. A well known Mohel came up to him and said, "I could have written that book." R' Krohn remarked to himself that that Mohel could have written that book, but didn't. If we don't take advantage of the times, to follow our dreams and goals, then they will slip past us. It's not the could have, should have, would have that counts, but rather the actualization.

So go out and achieve! Who knows, I may write a book someday too!

To Iron or Not To Iron

I may have made myself into a domesticate, at least in the fact that I can run a home, but there is one chore that I refuse to do. Ironing.

I detest it. It's one of those things that truly makes me feel like a homebody, who never did anything with her whole life, barefoot, and ironing in the kitchen. Talk about a stereotype.

Israelis are obsessive about their ironing. One of my friends has 5 irons, as each of her 13 children insist on having a perfectly starched and pressed shirt/skirt/pants every day, and she detests ironing almost as much as I do. She's of the opinion that if they want it badly enough, they'll do it themselves.

I've tried. I buy Mr. NMF no-iron-needed shirts, I try to hand wash and hang to dry, but the inevitable task of ironing sometimes comes up. If I was spoiled rotten, I would just send it to the cleaners to be pressed, but I don't have the money to spend so heedlessly.

When one gets married, sometimes household chores don't come easily. Cooking for a family, ironing, laundry for a family, dishes; they all fall into my hands. I don't mind, I was single enough that I did it all for myself for a long time. Just, there were chores then that I hated, and I still detest now.

I don't know how to get over my bad opinion of ironing. But, at least I'm not alone. Most of the women I know don't iron, or iron only when forced, and then in large bunches of 20 shirts at a time. It seems that if the shirts just keep on collecting, our guilty consciences will eventually encourage us to pick up that tool and start the torture.

Anyone else have chores they hate doing? How do you deal with it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Moving Week

Talking about busy times is never the same as actually being in the midst of one.

This week is the week that all my family's stuff arrives from it's long journey across the Atlantic, and we actually get to place it in our new apartment. This tends to make my week rather busy.

Not to mention that in Israel, the buyer of an apartment has to take it as is, usually because the real estate market in Israel continues to escalate. This means we have quite a bit of fixing to do before the apartment is livable.

And, the neighbor with 7 kids who I've mentioned before? Well, her oldest son is having his bar mitzva. My freezer has been doing double duty for my stuff and her bar mitzva for about three months now, so this day is rather busy as well.

I have been indulging in one of my favorite activities- cake decorating. For those of you who think the domestic arts are boring, and anyone with half a brain could do it, well, try cake decorating. It is fun, challenging, and looks deceivingly simple. So, for the bar mitzva tonight, I created the centerpiece cake for her.

Here's some pictures:

So, this week is rather busy. But, I have to step back and realize that this is all for simchos! We're moving into a new place- a cause for joy and happiness! My neighbor's simcha is happening, something she's dreamed about for 13 years. And, well, there is nothing better than being busy with simchos!
Now, for some selfish self promotion: If you'd like a specialty cake in Yerushalayim, feel free to email me, at the Kollel Baking Company, through the email address listed on the right. Thanks!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Erev Shabbos #19- Sponja Time

Nativeborn Israelis, from what I've observed, have an obsessive habit of doing sponja every night, rain, shine, whether or not mud and dirt actually exists on their usually spotless floor.

Olim and other immigrants to Israel have not uniformly accepted that minhag (custom) as a group, but some of them can be just as intolerant of dirt as the true sabras.

I belong to the other group, one that waits until an Erev Shabbos for the whole house to get a good cleaning. My sponja stick, pail, and cloth wait patiently, while during the week my floor accumulates dust, and finally, on Erev Shabbos, a sponja is performed.

Everyone has their own method of doing sponja.

Some pour water all over the floor, and then using the stick, 'sweep' it all up into the conviently located sponja hole in the bathroom. Some use a cloth, and by dipping it into the bucket to get it clean each time, it's almost like a mop. Some tie the cloth onto the stick and swish that around the floor, hoping to get the streaks gone at a later time.

And then there is the debate about what cleanser to actually use. Economica, Polywax, there are endless choices of each. Some prefer the kind that makes the floor too slippery to even walk on, while others prefer the ones that make the floor so shiny that you can see yourself in it.

As to who actually does the cleaning? Sometimes the mother of the house, sometimes the children, but more often than not, this back bending chore usually ends up in the father's hands. He even has a precedent- the Steipler Gaon used to do the sponja in his house.

Anyway you do it, this chore is part of Erev Shabbos.

When I finish setting my table, and finally get the chance to look at my sparkling floor, I feel truly like the Shaboos Queen has entered my home.

Gut Shabbos everyone!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Relegated To a Sidenote

Any of you out there youngests? Any oldests? Any middle children?

I'm curious. There are some families who's bookcases are lined with photo albums. The oldest child has an album and a half all to his/herself just for the babyhood age. The middle children have to make do, and the youngest, well- if they have a large age gap there may be much more, but from families I know, the youngest barely gets a snapshot or two.

Some families make a big to-do about photos- that they would like to capture every moment, every incident, and every smile. Yet, how many families with more than four children actually capture every moment for every child?

I'm a youngest, but my parents had me in their later years, so my every move in babyhood was documented. My husband? A middle child, who has some photos, but not so many. My youngest nieces and nephews? They have a couple snapshots. But most youngest children? Unless they have an older sibling wielding the camera, there aren't too many photos of them.

Should these youngests care? Do they care?

It's not that their parents love them any less, just they have less time to document every waking moment. And that's a reasonable expectation.

Yet, I can't help feeling that each of these parents would love more pictures of their beloved children.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How To Live In America, I Mean, Israel

I know I'm rather slow on the uptake, but I recently went to visit the new (okay, rather old, but new to me) Mamilla shopping center (should I rephrase: strip mall), next to the Carta parking lot that the entire charedi public is up in arms about (since the government wants to open it on Shabbos to aid those who are non-Jewish or secular who want to visit the Kotel.).

The streets were rather busy, (Maybe cleaning up from the protests?) but I got there in one piece. It's right next to the Kotel- so you can go right from your shopping (or place of no Kedusha) to one of the holiest places on Earth. (I'm not so sure that is a good thing.)

And what a strip mall it was! Rolex, Chanel, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, even the first Israeli GAP opening up soon. They've got Burberry and FOX, Nike and New Balance. Honestly, there was not a single thing lacking. It was beautiful too, with white Yerushalmi stone arches next to little outdoor cafes chock full of diners. Their logo is also quite classy- three arches with Mamilla in Hebrew and English, shaped to look like an ancient coin.

I stopped in their SuperPharm- quite a sight, as they were selling Chanel and Loreal Paris, to pick up a few things, when I noticed that they have my contact lenses.

Interestingly enough, I only use one brand of contact lenses, since I've tested all the others, and nothing fits or works as well. But, I thought I was doomed to forever ordering them from America and shipping them here, as I haven't found a single store that carries them. Yet, in this SuperPharm, somehow, someway, they were sitting right on the shelf, albeit for 50 % more than American prices.

Do I really ever have to leave Israel again? After all, what could I possibly be missing?! They've even invented Israeli cream cheese! (Okay, so it has an Agudas Yisroel hechsher, which I don't eat, but still....)

Is that what living in Israel should be? That everything is available, if you have the money to pay for it. I thought that Israel was meant to be removed from the total forms of physicality that are available in other places- sort of like a make-do with less environment. Yet, somehow, I can still get my MAC makeup right here in Yerushalayim. Should it be this way? Is it a good thing?
I'm not sure.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Random fact #152: I just cleaned my computer today, and it's sparkling! Nothing better than a clean screen and keys.
Now, back to my post.

One of my guests has decided to move to Israel in the near future, and therefore, she is taking Ulpan.

For those of you who don't know, Ulpan is the language acquisition program started by Israel, in order to integrate (that would be integratzionia) new immigrants to the wonders of the Hebrew language.

For me, it's pure entertainment. They have a whole section on "Mi Lo Yodea Ivrit" (Who doesn't know Hebrew?!) which is full of words that are written in Hebrew, but sound exactly like English.

Examples? Well: Pizza, Physica, Matamatica, Beera, Sucar, Psychologia, Universita, and so on.

(For those who didn't get that, that would be: Pizza, Physics, Mathematics, Beer, Sugar, Psychology, University.)

Instantly, I burst out with "Milah o' Lo Milah" courtesty of Benjy.

And we had a few uprorious laughs about " Ani Studentit B'Ulpan B'Yerushalaim. Ani Lomedet Ivrit B'Yerushalayim. Ani Lo Studentit B'Anglit B'Ulpan...and so on." After all, these new students only know a few words, so therefore, they've got to make sentences with what they've got. Absolutely engrossing and scintillating conversation, no?

But Ulpan is truly a blessing- it is a fast, easy, and basically free course for new immigrants, which throws them into the deep end, and they come out rolling their r's and all.

However, I've gotten my own crash course in other words in Ivrit, simply by living here. After all, living next to 7 children who all speak fluent Hebrew and English is bound to be an education in itself.

They have taught me Pachit (a can of soda, as in, "I would love a Pachit, do you happen to have one laying around for me? And me? And me?).

The word Nozelet comes up a lot (as in, Ugh, she has nozelet- get her a tissue!).

And of course, for the school age children, I've learnt words like 'X and Igul', (knots and crosses for you British people out there).

'Tasim V" (as in, make a check around the correct word, or "NMF #7 , could you do my homework for me, and Tasim V around the right ones?")

And of course, Kaftorim (the small button like candies I keep around the house for sugar emergencies.)

As my neighbor, the mother of all these cuties says, "You're getting a real education here, NMF #7!" And all without Ulpan!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Heading Towards Charedi

Shuk shopping has got to be one of my favorite Israeli pastimes.

After all, where else do you get to see fruit that looks like its right off the branch, fish literally swimming in a tank right before Shabbos, and the genial, sometimes direct, vendors hawking their wares all in one place?!

Just walking through the Machane Yehuda shuk has got to be an experience in itself, one not for the faint of heart.

You see the elderly Yerushalmi bubbies dragging their agala (cart) along the aisles, along with tourists snapping pictures left and right. You see the Yeshiva bachurim heading straight for the piles of fresh rugelach and bread, along with the ever present smell of sachlav. There are the regulars, the first-timers, and the vendors, constantly shouting and in perpetual motion.

There is fresh squeezed juice, chicken and fish, and of course more garninim (seed) shells than I would ever eat in a lifetime.

Recently when visiting the shuk, I noticed several stores that had, well, let me call it, the more frum hechshers. Shearis, Badatz Eidah HaCharadit, Chasam Sofer Petach Tikva and Bnai Brak, and even a Rav Landau store. All were swamped by people buying their products, while the other stores were slightly less busy than usual.

There were even some stores that had a Rabbanut, or Rabbanut Yerushalyim Mehadrin, that were also packed, and when I ventured closer, I noticed that they carried bug-free products with Rav Efrati's hechsher, also well known. Belz Machzike HaDaas and Rav Machpoud were also available, but all together, this was more Charedi hechsherim than I had seen in the shuk for a long time.

Conversely, my favorite halava guy had switched his hechsher from having a Badatz Eidah HaCharedit to having no Teuda at all, since he was now selling products from Bais Yosef, Chasam Sofer, along with his traditional Badatz halava.

So, what happened? How did everything suddenly shift, to the point where even the frummest would be able to shop in the shuk? After all, who would pass up a 4 for 10 shekel sale on fresh bug-free vegetables!

It's interesting, that even the shuk is heading towards a more religious perspective, although they may just be capitalizing on the market by getting the better hechsher. Also, some stores always carried mehadrin products, just now they are actually making the effort and getting the teuda to prove it.

I know that I love shopping in the shuk (where the fish get bopped on the head right in front of me) and now that I can buy even more products there, I'll like it even more.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

OII #15- Busy Times

It's been so hectic lately, I barely have time to sit down with my computer. NBD to play with, guests from America to entertain, and the requisite packing that goes with any move.

I took some of the guests to a hotel, since they have an excellent package in which you can join their gym and fitness room (with seperate hours) for the day, and also enjoy the enviroment.

So, I'm wandering around, when I stumble upon H. Stern.

For those who don't know, H. Stern is a jewelery company- with some exquisite pieces that I, or any girl who likes sparkly things, would enjoy. I struck up a conversation with the manager, and as usual with most Jewish people, the saying applies: if you haven't found something in common talking with another Jew, you haven't talked for long enough!

She was born in Yerushalayim, and I introduced her to NBD, my first sabra. She mentioned her love of Israel, of her wish never to leave the Holy City, and of the fact that she has a cousin who is a 7th generation Yerushalmi.

We shmoozed, and she mentioned that there was a convention of livestock and cattle owners going on in the hotel, and as such, Tnuva was there, giving out free products.

The manager from Stern left, and came back bearing some Yoplait yogurt for me and my guests. "Only in Israel," she remarked, "can you get free yogurt with a Badatz hechsher on it from a Jewish farmer!"

Only In Israel is right!