Monday, December 13, 2010

Parenting Perspective

Okay, I admit it. My husband says I'm part of a cult. And sometimes I agree.

How so? Well, I'm a bit of a [says in quiet undertone voice] attachment parenting mama.

Flee while you still can!! I am one of those! You know the kind, the ones who are active (or like me, used to be active since I have NO time right now, but still give advice when asked) in La Leche League (which speaking of that, there are 2 awesome groups, one in Hebrew and one in English running in Jerusalem right now- email me for details).

The kind that breastfeeds a toddler, interested in baby led weaning or baby led foods, tries to wear or hold her baby as much as possible, doesn't believe in cry it out sleep training, has co-slept with her baby for now close to 2 years, and still has her in her room when not... I know. I'm a freak. I'm facing it.

It's not a cult, I tell my husband- I raise a happy, well adjusted, independant, smart, courageous and adorable toddler this way! Her needs are met, I am in her life, despite working during the day, and all is right with the world! And then he conceeds, that yes, everyone is happy- and then mutters "LLL, it's a cult" under his breath. And we both laugh.

Now. I am usually a very non-judgmental person. I try very hard to be like this. The problem is usually not me- but people around me. Like for example, if someone mentions she's giving her one year old milk, and I remark, "Oh that's nice.", she immediately feels she has to defend herself and say, "Well, I breastfeed for a year, and now I need a break, and I'm happier and so is he, so now we stopped nursing."

Okay lady. I get it. And truthfully, a side of me says- yay! You are happy and your baby is happy! So what's the problem? I certainly don't care! I think 3 days of breastfeeding is a huge accomplishment and mothers should get awards for it!
Yet AP parents get a flak, sort of, of being judgmental of others' parenting, so hence the response.

Yay! I'm happy you found a bedtime routine that works for you. Do you really think I care that your kid is in another room than you? Do what works! As a wise friend once said- if it ain't broke, don't fix it. (Now, if you let your kid scream for hours alone to get that result, don't expect me to praise you. I may nod and say, OK, but I'm certainly not going to lambast you in public for it. If I feel you are receptive to a comment, I may recommend The No-Cry Sleep Solution as an alternative.)

So I'm throwing this out to the blogosphere. Do you feel people judge you on your parenting style? Are you judgmental of others? Do people feel they have to defend their style to you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chanukah in Israel

One of my favorite holidays of all time- but here in Israel, Chanukah is taken to a new level.
Besides for my daughter having learnt in Gan for the last 3 weeks consecutively every last detail about Chanukah- dreidel spins, menorahs are polished and then lit with oil, the Pach Shemen was very important- did I leave anything out- and then actually coming home with several songs about Chanukah, Israel tends to make a big deal about this holiday.
The Ubiquitous Sufganiyot line the street, so much so that you can smell them practically everywhere- caramel, jelly, and plain- you name it, they've got it. Livivot, or Latkes, are being baked everywhere, so potatoes are on sale at your local grocery or makolet.

But not only that- traffic hits a new high at around 4 pm, as everyone frantically rushes home to light their candles as soon as they possibly can. I got home at 5- and my whole block (practically) had their menorahs already proudly displayed in their windows, or in the aquarium boxes on the street. The Kollel men shift their schedule tocome home at 4 and then head back at 6.

I guess it's nice having such a nice, big, deal made of the Chag HaORim, Festival of Lights. It's beautiful to see even those who are not religious celebrating this day. Where I work made a special effort to erect a menorah and light it on time for all the workers still there.

So whereever you are, have a very Happy Chanukah this year, and may we be able to see the Temple that the Jewish people fought for rebuilt speedily in our day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Top Ten Things I'm Grateful For

I think it was R' Avigdor Miller who said that one should write a list every once in a while to say thank you to Hashem for all the good He does for us. This can also be applicable to everyone- as everyone has something to be grateful for. In one of R' Shimshon Pincus's books, he says that every mitzvah leads a person to realize something he/she is grateful for. If you see a Mezuzah, and you head to kiss it- be grateful you have a house. If you get something Shatnez-checked- be grateful you have clothing, and so on. Each leads to a way to thank Hashem for all we have.
Without further ado: Top Ten Today (not necessarily in perfect order)

1. Breathing- air- respiration- oxygen
2. My body, with all of it's intricacies, from the organ to the cellular level
3. My Neshama- soul
4. My Parents and Family
5. My Husband
6. My daughter
7. Having a Parnasa in these rough times
8. The world we live in- the sky, the earth, the grass, the trees, the beauty
9. Yerushalayim- the zechus to live here, and this special city
10. The ability to think.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Erev Shabbos #25- Short Friday

People view me as a generally 'emotional' person- when I'm happy, I'm happy, sad, sad, excited, angry- you name it, I display it. It's something I think I have to work on in my life. After all, my face is public property.

But no more of that- frantic- is the emotion I generally feel on a Friday afternoon that leads to a Short Erev Shabbos. After all- I have to have everything ready by 4:00 in the afternoon- and no, I don't cook during the week. All is done on Friday, fresh and early. Even if I have guests, most of the time I don't prepare in advance.

I do however, during each recipe on a given Friday, try to make doubles or triples- to stash up in my freezer for times of need, a friend in need, or an emergency.

Yet early Shabbosim, and the Short Friday syndrome (everything is always ready, exactly when Shabbos starts, no matter what time it is) often prevent me from doing everything.

A rebbitzen in our community once discussed a lady who was very stressed out on Erev Shabbos. The lady complained that she had no time, and couldn't manage to get everything done, so she vented her frustration on her husband and family. (I'm sure we all can relate to that.) So my rebbitzen's answer- buy some ready made and use paper and plastic. Hence the reason that she is a practical rebbitzen, and I am not.

So I try. But- sometimes the Short Friday overtakes me, and I'm found rushing from one thing to the next, ordering my family around, and generally frantically frustrating the world.

Yet I continue to hope that every week I will find the right balance- between getting everything done, and getting frantic about it- between having it all and doing what I need to do.

It's a work in progress- just like my kugels. But it'll happen eventually- with Siyata Dishmaya- help from Heaven.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Busy, Busy, Yet Grateful

Busy doesn't even begin to describe it- what with deadlines, school, work, home, house, and family.

Chanukah always has meant to me a time when one could actually celebrate and relax with family. Thanksgiving was a family time too- but due to family members having different dietary requirements (ie, kosher and not) and differing schedules, it wasn't always celebrated, except with the obligatory turkey on sale.

But Chanukah was different. Gathered together, around the menorah as the lighting commenced, the little ones hanging around, my mother playing the piano's sweet tunes- I can't even remember a Chanukah in which my family wasn't together in some shape and form.

That family togetherness is something that I realize doesn't always happen by everyone. In Israel, the kollel men have a weird schedule, in which they come home really early to light the menorah exactly on time, and then go back. It's not like the family gatherings that started at a covenient 7-8 for everyone. But the togetherness is still there.

And that's what I'm thankful for today- the time to reflect on the fact that I have a family, that we do try to come together, and that they all still want to spend time with each other. That in of itself is a miracle- that everyone is willing to spend time together, to join in something so simple- yet so powerful.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all- and a future Happy Chanukah. May we all realize the things that we are most grateful for.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

Baruch Dayan HaEmet - Blessed is the True Judge.

This is the blessing said upon hearing the news of someone's death.

About 11:10 AM this morning (Friday), RivkA, of the CoffeeandChemo blog, passed away.

Funeral plans are in the process.

May RivkA's family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Please daven (or send happy thoughts) for the memory of RivkA bat Teirtzel.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10 Things I Learned in America

Yes, SD, I'm stealing your Top 10 idea, even though it's Wednesday.

I'm back, after a long and harrowing trip. We had our ups and our downs- lost luggage, close connection flights, and busy days and nights. I'm so thankful to be back.

So here's my list of things I learned in America.

10. American money was almost unrecognizable to me- it's so big, and green. I felt like it was Monopoly money. You know how everyone says that America is cheaper- somehow, I didn't get that impression, when a bottle of Snapple has jumped from 1.25 to 1.50 or even 2 dollars, and a slice of pizza is now $2.50. How times have changed.

9. Snapple rules. Israel should import it. That's all I'm saying. Especially diet Snapple.

8. I forgot how polite Americans are- holding doors open, saying excuse me, please, and hi. I almost hit my own head when I responded like an Israeli would to someone randomly saying hi to me. I said, "Do I know you?" I learned by that that I have integrated well in to Sabra culture.

7. It is nice to have a car once in a while- but finding parking spaces in New York is impossible. It's got to be one of the three: a driveway, a fire hydrant, or a no parking sign.

6. El Al rules. I could give a giant review on how wonderful they are- but it'll wait for another post.

5. Wal-mart is amazingly wonderful- just as I remembered it. And, courtesy of the Jewish Press, I saw that they are in talks to open stores in Israel. After all, many Wal-mart products are made in Israel anyway, so it would be easy. My dream of it coming here is not far away.

4. American news sometimes knows more about what is happening in Israel than the Israeli news does. Other times they get it totally wrong. (Well, usually they do.)

3. When people ask where you are from, and you say Israel- they usually respond with shock. I guess the news really does a number on people. But when you compare Israel lifestyle with Manhattan- they understand completely.

2. Israel coffee is better than US coffee. Even iced, or carmelized, or whatever. It's a known fact. I used to dream about US coffee while living here, but now that I've gone back after tasting Israeli- either my taste buds have changed, or the coffee has- or I just never gave Israeli coffee the chance it deserved. Cafe Neeman here I come.

1. That Israel is (for me) one of the best places on Earth- and I'm so glad to be back.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Comparative Religion

A NYTimes Article struck my eye- "Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Believers"- in that a survey was sent out with basic questions about different religions, and most answered incorrectly (more than half) as well as people answering wrongly about their ownreligion. However- out of all the people in the US who took the survey, atheists and agnostics, as well as Jews and Mormons- scored the highest in knowledge.

That's pretty good, I think- that we actually, as Jews- know what we are talking about- about our own religion, and about others. And, the atheist statistic doesn't surprise me either- I think that most feel that they have to do research before coming to such a decision about faith. Realize, though, that I said most- I have found so many irreligious Jews who don't do research at all- who don't know about anything really, that has to do with religion, Jewish or other.

But what was saddening to me was that 43% of Jews didn't know that the Rambam- Maimonides- was Jewish. What do you think the explanation for that was?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chofesh: Why Israel Is So Cool

Yep, I'm typing this from Ben Gurion, as I wait for my flight out of Israel. Yet another reason why Israel is truly awesome, to be hippie-like: there is free Wi-Fi internet access. In all other airports that I've been at- it's a paying enviroment- but here it's not.

Anyway- I'm on my first Chofesh- ie, vacation- in the last year and a half- and I'm determined to enjoy it and relax. Israel also makes me appreciate vacations- since they give them so infrequently, I appreciate them more when they actually show up- and coincide with a time that I can actually use. Again, another reason why Israel is cool.

Interesting fact: To get an esrog (citron commonly used for Succos) out of Israel, you need a special certificate stating that it is not infested with bugs. Any esrog dealer should have a few lying around- don't forget to ask for one, otherwise customs will give you a hard time. But it's all worth it for an Esrog from Israel.

So L'hitraot, and Chag Sameach!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Small Bit of the Kibbutz

My Ulpan is still going on, and with it they are celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the establishment of the Kibbutz. We have been shown films, text, and other various presentations regarding the establishment of the Kibbutz, Kibbutz life, shared life, living, sleeping, shared education, and the eventual breaks among the Kibbutz and among the movement.

I am definitely not the expert of a Kibbutz. I’ve read Batya Gur’s ‘Murder on a Kibbutz’, which was illuminating, heard the words of various Israeli writers on the subject, and recently watched the documentary film of Ran Tal- ‘Yeldei HaShemesh’.

Ran Tal spoke personally to the group afterwards, and mentioned an interesting point- that before one judges the kibbutz society, and how they lived, with the minimal time spent with parents, and the shared environment in general- one should see that in families where there are problems among the family itself- a broken home, an abusive home, and so on- that the family model is not necessarily perfect either. The Kibbutz model has different problems, but neither model is perfect.

In R’ Mattisyahu Solomon’s recent book, ‘With Hearts Full of Love’, on Chinuch, he discusses the interesting idea that before a Jewish marriage, no one presents the young couple a certificate, or even a training course, saying that they are fit to become parents. He questions why not, and his answer is that he believes that within each person, within in each Jewish marriage, they are equipped with all the necessary tools to educate their future children, albeit if they need advice or so on- but they have the tools necessary.

The kibbutz movement felt to eliminate these problems would be to create this shared environment, to make sure that the children would be educated and so on in the way that they wished, without these problems. I can see their point- from their side, but watching this movie brought tears to my eyes.

To see these young parents not being able to relate to their own children, because they were not brought up with love from their own parents, to not being able to even give them a kiss or a hug from true feeling, simply because they were brought up in the kibbutz lifestyle. To see a sobbing child being brought back to the shared children’s room, and crying for their Ima, until the wee hours of the night, or to stay awake all night, afraid to go to sleep- it’s the saddest thing in the world. To see a child, sneak out of the children’s room, wandering outside in the dark till they found their parent’s room, and then to sleep outside the door, or to clutch their parents’ sheet, but not wake them at all- simply because their parents would bring them back- just to be in the same room with them- it literally made me cry.

For one, I am glad that the Kibbutz movement eventually got rid of shared sleeping spaces- but it taught me something powerful: there is nothing more important in a family than the loving relationship between a parent and child. And how blessed I am to go home to my daughter, to hug her and to kiss her, and to be a true family with her.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Only In Israel #21: Of Cabs and Mitzvahs

A friend of mine recently took ill, and was sent by her doctor to Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. She’s a new olah, with no family in Israel, so when she was admitted, she decided to call me, hoping to get a visitor, a listening ear, and someone who spoke Hebrew to come help her out in the hospital.

So, after much dithering on my part (it was late at night, and I do have a little one at home and a husband to feed supper) I called a cab, and away we went.
The cab driver, a middle aged guy who was not wearing a kippah, noticed my morose mood on my face, and asked what was doing. I replied with the tale ofmy friend the olah, who needs someone by her side in the hospital, and how I’m jumping in a cab to go help her out, since I’m the only person available help her.

He listened, interjecting remarks, and then replied, “You know, you’re doing a BIG mitzvah. Actually, two big mitzvot. One, you’re visiting a sick friend who needs you. Two, you’re being like family to her- doing such a great chesed by coming to her aid as a new person in Israel without family.”

He continued without prompting. “You know, you’re like my wife. She goes up to the Rav of our Beit Knesset and asks, who are families that need food, who need support- and quietly, privately, she sends them food and necessary items, she offers them a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. It’s a big mitzvah.”

I listened, heartened to hear that one more member of Am Yisroel is doing such a wonderful thing.

He drove me to my husband, who I picked up on the way, nad then to Shaare Tzedek. When I asked for the price- he quoted something very low. When I asked why- he said, I too want a share in this mitzvah.

How’s that for OII!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Aseret Yemei Teshuva

Rosh Hashana passed here, along with its uncommon three day Yom Tov here in Israel. Even after only a few years here in Israel, I still feel it odd to actually celebrate three days of Yom Tov. After all, most holidays here only last at maximum two days, and we end earlier than outside of Israel, which is especially nice for Pesach.

And now we enter in to a new stage- the Aseret Yemei Teshuva- from Alef of Tishrei of Rosh Hashana to the Yud of Yom Kippur. Along with the buses that have switched their flashing phrase from ‘Shana Tova’ to ‘Gemar Chatimah Tovah’, and the Kaparot stations that have found their way to every street corner, alleyway, and intersection- it also comes a feeling of limbo.

Our jobs from Heaven have been set out for us on Rosh HaShana, the final Din is reiterated on Yom Kippur in clay, and sealed in blood on Hoshana Rabbah. We’re in between, in a bit of limbo, without a concrete stage of life to understand. After all- we try our best during these ten days to just be a bit better- to add in more prayers to our every day ones, to try to do what we would like to do during the rest of the year, but somehow are prevented from doing. But we’re still in limbo- one good thing could just push us over the edge, right into that book of life.

So let’s make a proactive effort. Take on one small thing- one thing to push you over that edge, to try to make you into that better person that you have in your own ideals and dreams. And try it for the rest of these days- see what happens. It’s the little steps that count- and that which can pull us out of limbo and into the Hebrew ‘Chaim’- life and all that it represents.

Gmar Chatima Tovah L’Kulam.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

OII: Seasons and Buses

Just noticing that again, just in this wonderful country that we call Israel, even the buses wish you a Shana Tova and a Gemar Chasima Tova on their flashing signs which also state which place they are going.

And I wish you all the same- to all my readers, a Shana Tova- happy New Year- and a Gemar Chasima Tovah. May we all continue to be inscribed in the Book of Life- filled with happiness, joy, blessing, health, and prosperity.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leaving the Holy Land

No, I'm not leaving- I just got here. But I might be back to visit the good old U.S. of A. sometime in the near future. And you know what?

The thought is making me antsy. Not the good things about it: being able to see friends and relatives again, do some much needed shopping (ie: pick up things that are either only available in the US, or cheaper there- anyone who wishes to help me with this at any time is free to email me), and bring a bit of the Holy Land there. On the other hand, how can I leave Israel?
To not see my blue sky, my crisp white stone buildings- the air, the atmosphere- the general feeling that it impresses on my psyche?

And NBD (should I come up with another name for her now that she's 1 1/2? ) has never been outside of the Holy Land. When I made aliyah with her, the Misrad HaKlita (Ministry of Absorption) asked me when her entry into Israel was, as it was not written in her passport. I replied, "She was born here." They then duly recorded her date of birth as the entry into this special place. Like Yitzchak Avinu, who never left the Holy Land in his lifetime unless instructed by G-d- how can I take here out of here, even for a short time?

There are rabbinic responses listed as to for what reasons one can leave Israel. I think that R' Moshe Feinstein is the posek involved who gave the reasoning that if parents want one to come back to Chutz L'Aaretz to visit- that would be enough of a reason. But the simple truth shows that one needs a pretty good reason to leave Israel.

When all is said and done, I still don't know if we will be leaving or not. But I do know that if we do leave, I will be pining for my Yerushalyim every day that I'm gone.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ulpan 3: The Questions

Why do Jewish married women cover their hair? (coming from the Muslim girl who doesn't cover her own hair in the class)
Why can't women sing in front of men that don't mind hearing women sing anyway? Can you sing under your breath?
Why don't religious Jews serve in the army?
What does Beitar Yerushalayim stand for (the soccer team) and who is Yosef Trompledor anyway? (I asked this one- and it turns out most of the class didn't know either. So much for educating the masses about Zionism.)
Can religious Jews throw stones on Shabbos if they set aside the stones before hand with that in mind?
Why do different Chassidic sects have different kippot, hats and payot?
Should there be buses that travel on Shabbos in Jerusalem?

And so on. Feel free to answer if you know. I for one had a lot of fun with some of these questions in class. I am proudly religious, so I truly don't mind when people ask me respectfully and honestly- not antagonistically, about the Jewish religion. I'm happy to give an answer, and to engage in discussion. What I'm not so happy about is trying to deal with the stereotypes, or the anti-charedism that comes along with it. It's hard for me to explain that a religious person who steals isn't religious, and that we are not 'you people' and so on.

How would you deal with some of these questions? Inquiring minds want to know. Respectfully of course.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ulpan 2: History of the Hebrew Language

Ulpan continues- I'm learning again, as I dreaded in high school, the different forms: Nifal, Hife'il, Hufal, Piel, Pual, and so on. The problem is, at least with me, that after having learned Ivrit for so many years, my Hebrew is 'fossilized'- as my Ulpan professor put it. My grammer mistakes may be there for eternity, since I speak and understand Hebrew to a high enough level. Which is a price I'll have to pay. I've been told it takes many years to actually speak Hebrew perfectly- so what right do I have to complain after such a short time here?

But I digress. My elective in Ulpan is History of the Hebrew Language: was Hebrew the first languge out there? How did modern Hebrew evolve from Biblical Hebrew? Where do Arabic, Aramaic, and Phonician come into play? And so on.

As through the Mesorah (at least the way that I understand it) the Torah always existed- G-d looked into the Torah and created the world- through the words of Lashon HaKodesh themselves. The Torah is the expression of Lashon HaKodesh in this world.

But does that mean that the Torah is written in Lashon HaKodesh? Is Hebrew the original Lashon HaKodesh, or a translation or variation thereof? I would probably say yes, at this point, albeit with the caveat that we do NOT speak Torah Hebrew the way that probably David HaMelech, or Avraham Avinu spoke Lashon HaKodesh-namely, the 2 versions of Chet, 2 versions of Ayin, Daled, Gimel (Beged Kefet are some that most are familiar with), Tzadee, Shin, Samech, Zayin, and so on.

I, the datiyah (religious girl) in the class, kinda forced my professor to say that most of what he was saying was theory, rather than concrete fact- but most was highly illuminating and made a lot of sense. Plus, I got to show that I actually can read and translate Tanach- unlike many of the Israeli brethren out there. Shows a Bais Yaakov education is good for something! (that was a joke, for those of you about to throw tomatoes.)

Anyone have any really really early Torah sources for prounciation and grammer? Or writing, and language? I'm curious!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ulpan: First Thoughts

Yes, you read the title correctly: I'm in Ulpan.

Traditionally, Ulpan is conducted over a long period of time, except for crazy fanatical students like me, who have no time in their lives to begin with, so they embark on the sadistic torture called Ulpan Kayitz (Summer Ulpan), which is 2 months of intensive Hebrew learning atmosphere, with some fun electives and activities thrown into the mix.

When I first walked into the Ulpan (3 days late: Israel bureaucracy at its best), I immediately was thrust into a conversation amidst the mostly irreligious- (or chiloni, as they call themselves- no derogatory meaning implied) members of the class, regarding a certain text passage that they had read. It seems that one of the members of the class interpreted the passage to mean that Jerusalem- ie Yerushalayim- is a holy city, and therefore, should be occupied by the religious (ie, charedi or dati- depending on which group you are referring to.)

And, in midst of the screaming of the 'zealot charedi movement that wants to take over a city that should be free for all'- I slunk into a chair in the back, my cheeks burning brighter than the colorful headscarf I had on my head that declared to all that I was a 'da'atiyah'.

I thought that I would have to leave Ulpan then and there. My professor, very knowledgable about the religious public and Tanach in general (he grew up in a religious household and cast it away), singled out me as the likely person to explain why women can't sing in front of men who don't care about hearing women sing.

I picked the least inflammatory elective- History of the Hebrew Language, as opposed to Biblical Criticism, and am enjoying it immensely- especially as to most of the class, I seem to be a scholar of Biblical Hebrew (ie: I can translate and read Tanach.)

I must say, Ulpan is a truly interesting experience. All comments and ideas are welcome.

Just a Mazel Tov Shout Out....

Just thought I shouldn't ignore the many, many mazel tovs in the Jblogosphere:

Jerusalem Stoned, Mekubal/The Rabbi's Wife, and Sporadic Intelligence on the birth of their baby boys!

Shades of Grey, Musing Maidel, and SiBaW on their engagements!

Chana on her upcoming marriage!

As a Yiddishism expresses it so perfectly: Oif Simchos- or in Hebrew- let's continue to hear Besurot Tovot!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Israeli Mothers' Club

This month, I initiated myself into a new exclusive club. The initiation rites were frustratingly annoying, as intiation rites usually are, but once you are in, you're in for life- or at least for what seems like a life sentence.

What did I do to get inducted into this exclusive club? Well, it's not really what I did, but rather what my daughter did, and rather not what she did, but what was done to her. You see, I joined the IMC- Israeli Mothers' Club. This club involves all mommies, Imas, Mamas, and other assorted names, who are now living with their children in Israel.

What is this induction rite of which I speak? Well, the classical one of course. It's a four letter word that might be one of those 10 plagues that God struck Egypt with in days gone by. And yes, my daughter had it.

Yes, I freaked out. No, I had dealt with it before. Yes, I still freaked out. Yes, I called my former neighbor, the Ganenet, who responded with those famous acceptance words: Welcome to the IMC. You're in it for life now.

And then she proceeded to tell me how to handle the scourge that had taken over my house, and most heads in the house as well.

And then I cried. Because, I don't know if I can do this- be the Israeli mother that my kids will probably expect me to be- capable, unflappable, courageous, that strong and comfortable shoulder to lean on, and lap to hug and cuddle.

If I can't even handle a common pest, how could I deal with the greater things that go along with being an Israeli Ima? What will I do one day when a future son turns 18? What will I do on my daughter's first day of real gan in the Israeli school system? And there are so many more milestones that I don't even know about in being an Ima here in this Holy Land?

If a little tiny thing like this moves me to tears- what will be?

But for now, I squared my shoulders, and dealt with it. Rosemary shampoo and conditioner, nice fine toothed combs- and a clean household once again. Welcome to the IMC, you're in it for life. Hatzlacha Rabba.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Missing My Sundays

Work and school have bogged me down for the time being- my faithful Google reader is waiting with many stars for all the Jblogosphere posts out there that I would like to comment on, but alas, the hours never come.
And for that, I miss my Sundays. I miss that day of the week where I could catch up on work, relax, and generally enjoy my day. I could have off from work, spend time with my daughter and husband- you know the drill.

So I'm going to live vicariously through you. Whatcha doing this Sunday?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Integration in Israel Part Three

The second thing that happened to me was that a neighbor called me about a certain gan that was opening up in my neighborhood. It has a specific style of learning, of which I'm an advocate for, and she wanted to know if it would be suited for her child.

I told her my opinion, but added in a statement in that I felt that at her child's age, language would probably be an important thing to learn in the year- I felt that her child should go to a Hebrew gan, to better get a grasp on Ivrit.

She told me that that was her first inclination also, to send to a transitional, or Hebrew-speaking gan. But she felt that the style of learning in the new Gan would be better for her child.
So, she switched.

I later met another neighbor, who's child was registered originally for this specific new gan. I mentioned that I had just recommended another mother to this gan. She replied that she had switched her child out of it- why?
Language. She felt that her child should go to the Hebrew speaking gan that I recommended to my first neighbor.

So should I go back and stress the importance of Hebrew? Are there different opinions on this issue?

How early is too early to learn a language?

Why should I feel I should sacrifice an excellent learning style just to learn Hebrew?

This whole gan registration time is making me nuts, honestly. Integration isn't so easy after all.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Jewish Student Speaks

I don't usually delve into politics- but I thought this article, posted on Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) was kind of cool. It's about a lone Jewish high school student which marched alongside Arab-American students protesting Israel.

Reporters asked him [the Jewish student] afterwards about his unusual presence, and he explained, “I came out because I want to defend Israel… They [the soldiers attempting to divert the flotilla ships - ed.] were attacked, and they had the right to defend [themselves]. These people [on the boats] were not humanitarians; their ship was armed with knives, batons, and all kinds of things to attack the Israelis with. There is a naval blockade on Gaza, and they [the soldiers] were just doing their job of enforcing it… Hamas is a terrorist organization trying to kill Israelis.”
Asked if he is affiliated with any group, he said, “Just Judaism and Israel, that’s it."
Another Arab-speaking American explained, “The only reason Israel is doing this is because they got kicked out from, uh, the German whatever, whatever happened to them. So they’re trying to take out their anger on someone else.” Asked about the Bible and the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel since the times of King Solomon, he lowered his voice and said, “I don’t know about that.”

Check it out here with a video.

Integration in Israel Part Two

After having posted about the integration issues that Americans who have chosen to live in Israel face regarding their kids, two things happened to me.

One, I re-evaluated my choice for my daughters' first gan several times. I originally had chosen a gan that I thought would be wonderful for her, if not the total, absolute best, because that was what was out there that I thought suited her and our lifestyles.

Then someone else suggested a gan that would probably be the total absolute best gan out there. Problem is, that the gan is not a religious gan, but rather a gan to which religious people send their children. (ie, it's not a Bais Yaakov, but rather an Iriyah gan, to which those who are Dati Leumi or Mizrachi send their children, with a few Charedim thrown in the mix.)

As I investigated more into this gan, I found that it would probably be a wonderful place for my daughter, but for one problem: future Bais Yaakov schools would probably ask why I had sent her there, due to the fact that it is not a Bais Yaakov gan. (There were other small problems as well, like logistics and such.)

And so, I nixed that idea, and went back to my first opinion.

Now the question that still lingers in my mind: was I right to make that decision? If I wasn't afraid of public opinion, would I have sent her there? She probably would have an awesome year there, and would grow and gain in ways that my first choice gan would not be able to give her.

I can't fight the system on my own- to explain to a Bais Yaakov, which already looks down on me for being American, and for working at a job that not many mothers work at, why I sent my daughter to a gan that's not Bais Yaakov- would be far too hard for me to handle.

Yet I still wonder- should I have taken the risk, for my daughter's education's sake?

Third part coming soon….

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Israel Through Different Eyes

I recently hosted a good friend of mine who was visiting here for two weeks. As I'm in school and in work full time, I wasn't around much to show her the Israel ropes, but I figured that a basic level of Hebrew from American schools, plus the fact of her being Jewish and having visited Israel before, would be enough for her to get around touring this fair country.

It was enough- but I realized that there are so many things I've learned since I came here- things that I think are basic to anyone living in Israel, but not at all basic to those coming from America. Like, how not to take an Arab taxi, and how to pay the correct amount for a Jewish taxi.

How to stand while holding on to a swinging bus (is it true that all bus drivers are former tank drivers from the army?), and be able to punch your cartisiya, hold a baby, and fold a stroller while finding your seat.

How to navigate the winding streets of Yerushalayim, and how to find my way, basically, in the Old City. How to find the best stores to shop in, and how to find American salad dressing in Israel (not as hard as it used to be, but still hard).
How to adjust to the rest break in the middle of the day, and to learn that afternoon in Israel means after 5:00 PM, not after 12:00 PM as previously thought. Morning is MORNING with a capital M; starting days at 6:00 is common.

How to smile when you see that little one with a baggie containing their shopping list and the money necessary to purchase it, walking their way with small steps to the local grocery store, instead of freaking out that a child that young is going unaccompanied.

I guess there is a lot to learn in Israel- but oh, so much to love. Come back soon and visit again!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meeting your Match

"Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match...find me a find, catch me a catch."

Is that what singles are looking for? A catch? A find?

A woman once came to Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis, looking to meet 'the one'. When asked what she was looking for, she answered, "Well, you know Rebbitzen, I'm looking for the big 7. Money, brains, beauty, athletic, a sense of humor, talented, and adventurous." (Or something like that.)

The Rebbitzen responded that her big 7 all equaled 0 if not paired with a good heart. Because that should be number one. Without a good heart, one can't possibly be a good husband or wife, or even a good friend- which is what marriage should start off on.

So, meeting the right one can't be just a matter of finding the best find- like bragging about securing a place in an Ivy League college, a top yeshiva, or a top seminary. It has to be deeper than that- no matter whether or not a mother wants her child to marry a doctor. That doctor may have a prestigious job, but does that guarantee happiness?

When I met Mr. NMF, I was convinced he had a good heart. I had dated people before him, and none responded as kindly or as sensitively towards issues as he did. I saw in him a truly good person, which is something I desperately wanted in a marriage partner.

So search out that good heart- that Lev Tov- and I can almost guarentee you that you'll be happy with your true 'find'.

Speaking of Shidduchim- B4S, Shades of Grey, and FnF have gotten together to create a 'best of the shidduch blogosphere' offline. Feel free to browse through your favorite blogs and pick your favorites! Submit it here!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

School or Work

Time truly seems to fly as stop speed many times, and yet other times crawl.
(Shavuot was nice, thanks for asking, and my pareve cheesecake was praised beyond my milchig one.)

Some people I know are content to stay in school forever. Knowledge for knowledge sakes' they cry, saying that they love the learning process, they love stretching their minds over homework and tests, and they love the research that goes along with learning new things. They like the teachers, the coffee stands, the quick meals or chocolate pick-me-ups, and the classrooms with their internet.

I actually used to be this way- I liked the atmosphere in school, the quest for mind-broadening and the teachers who opened doors to me for a new universe.

Isn't that a Talmid Chacham's love as well- constant study, growth, learning, knowledge of Torah- although they also have a motivation in that Torah study is considered like all the other mitzvos, it sustains the world, and in the fact that they are obligated to do it?

Yet lately, I have been finding myself wanting to finish school, acquire the knowledge and head into the workforce of my choice. There are those- as a blogger once told me- who hate school with a passion, and would much rather be working. They would be happy to get the knowledge they need, and go to their future job and get trained in there- rather than settle for tests, classrooms, and that water fountain that tastes metallic.

Guess it takes all people to enjoy the world. Good luck on your paths- you'll need it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Riding the Train (or Bus)- It's all Good

Sometimes, I have a really bad day. That seems to happen once in a while, where everything that can go right goes wrong, and some other things besides.
It was on one of those days that I boarded my second bus, heading to my third, and last bus of the day, and all I wanted was to get home to my daughter. The driver pulled up to the stop I was supposed to get off on, and the third bus that I was supposed to take pulled up right behind. Great, I thought. I'll just get off, and get on. Easy.

Yet for some reason, the bus driver hesitated while opening the second door of the bus, and as I disembarked, my third bus drove away, in a trail of dust.

My first, gut reaction was, how not fair could one day be. My second reaction was, that maybe, if I had reacted sooner, I could have gotten the driver to open the door faster, and I would be on my bus, instead of at the bus stop.

But my third thought brought it into perspective. I said to myself (and I don't do these type of conversations often), who are you kidding. Hashem didn't want you on that bus, that's why you aren't on it. He's running the routes, he's guiding the trains, the buses, the planes- and if you're not on that bus, it's because you shouldn't be. If I would have gotten the driver's attention, I probably would have still missed the bus- because it wasn't in that Divine plan. So it was meant to be, and so it is.

And as my mind came to a peace of mind, knowing that G-d had wanted it this way- my eyes lifted, and I saw another, of the same number, bus pull up directly in front of me- mostly empty. And as I boarded, I realized my lesson of the day- it's G- d calling the shots, and all is Gam Zu L'Tova.

Chag Sameach all!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lag B'Omer and Shavuot

For those of you who don't know, Lag B'Omer was my birthday, celebrated in Israel with large dangerous bonfires being set hapahazardly close to grassy areas. In my own neighborhood, a man was employed with a fire hose to extinguish those fires (read, most) that got out of hand. I myself told my own neighbor about the three little boys trying to make a bonfire directly in front of my building, next to his car. After all, they didn't know how to build it properly, and they might have needed help, no?

Anyway, my workplace celebrated my birthday as well- going to special efforts to obtain a kosher cake for me, and wished me a happy year filled with blessing. So, how's that for a birthday?

Yet, between Lag B'Omer and Shavuot, people's heads turn to thoughts of: cheesecake. Yes, there is Kabalat HaTorah, yes, the men learn all night, and my friend visiting from the US is planning to hike to the Kotel at dawn, but for me- I've got to figure out cheesecake. I've decided this year to do like last year, and make a delicious and delectable pareve cheesecake, rather than make a milchig one. That way, it can be eaten at more meals- some of which will be fleshig for those lactose intolerant people in my family and who are invited.
So does pareve cheesecake still count as cheesecake?

Any other random thoughts floating through my head?

Not really. But I have a more serious post coming up soon, so stay tuned.
Oh, and Chag Sameach!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Anyone know if there is a Starbucks cafe in Israel? Or are we just Aroma/Cafe Hillel/Coffee Bean friendly?

Monday, May 3, 2010


No, not calculus. Integrating as a new olah into Israeli society.

That was the topic of a lecture I heard on the subject by a renowned educator, on how to help your children integrate into the Israeli school system. One of the major components that was stressed was the problems facing children who do not have the opportunity to learn Hebrew before entering the primary grades. Without a solid language base, these children have a tendency to turn off, to be misdiagnosed with attention problems, and to be correctly diagnosed with behavioral and social problems that result from the simple fact of a lack of understanding.

For American families, this provides a path that they must follow, if they want their children to swim with the rest of the fish. Consequently, chief among the worries of the parents attending this lecture was the fact that they did not wish their children to forget their English- to be able to communicate fluently with relatives, grandparents, and frankly, their own parents.

That is a major point- but as I continued to think about it, I realized the educators were right. It can only hurt a child to place them in a situation where they don't understand, or they have minimal understanding, in the language that is spoken by most of the country.

Seeing my work mates flow freely between Hebrew and English- even though they aren't American born, gives me hope that my future children will still have the English language skills needed to succeed in certain professions here in Israel, as well as just for me. So if I ask questions in English, and they answer in Hebrew- they will still be okay- with extra tutoring in reading and writing.

One family in the lecture piped up that they read two storybooks to their children every night- one in Hebrew, and one in English. That way, everyone wins.
As the educator ended off- he has never seen any child have problems going from the Israeli school system to the American one- besides for some small reading and writing issues, that are resolved rapidly.

So, integration isn't so bad after all (despite what I remember from calculus class). It may be the chance my future children need to help them succeed.

Mazel Tov!

Just wishing a quick Mazel Tov to my dear friend Chana, on her engagement!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

OII #20- Buses Yet Again

Yet another OII happened to me today. I was on a busy bus, standing with my book bag on my shoulder and cellphone in other hand, while trying to cling to a bus pole so I wouldn't fall down. (That has happened to me on buses before)When I reached the busy Bar Ilan intersection, a woman with a baby in a stroller got on. Someone got up for her (which is nothing new, but still very nice), and she sat down as the bus continued on its way.

I then felt a tap on my shoulder. Someone behind me was waving a bus ticket in my face. "L'vir et zeh l'nahag. Paam Achat." I didn't understand the rapidly mumbled Hebrew, so I asked him to repeat himself. "Pass this up to the bus driver. One time (punch)." I looked in front of me- but there was no way I was getting through the mass of humanity in front of me just to get a punch for this man. I looked back, and he pointed to the woman with the baby. "Rak L'vir et zeh." "Just pass it on." And so I did.

Her nearly full bus card was passed from passenger to passenger, duly punched by the driver, and handed safely back to the mom.

I guess I can't imagine this happening anywhere else but Israel.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom HaAtzmaut

This is my first year being in Israel as an Olah, and as such, these 'national' holidays somehow take on more significance. I had a draft on Yom HaShoah, but as it has gone by, and we are on to the next national holiday, I figured my thoughts could go all together.

Yom HaShoah per say is one of those holidays that the religious public and the secular tend to disagree on. Rabbis have ruled that mourning is not such a good thing during the time of Nissan, and as such, we should have mourning for those victims of the Holocaust during other days set aside for mourning already, like the 10th of Tevet, and Tisha B'Av. There are Kinos and other liturgies written specifically commemorating those Kedoshim to be said on those days.

None the less, I still had something very positive to say on Yom HaShoah. In my workplace, they
had a gathering for all the students and employees, and presented a presentation on the Holocaust and its victims. Now, usually, these presentations take on a very secular perspective, as that is what resonates with most- not the religious stories most who live in the charedi world grow up hearing.

But the one thing that really did resonate with me was that despite being in an entirely secular environment, the first thing they did after the siren and moments of silence, was to read a Yizkor memorial prayer, commemorating those who died Al Kiddush Hashem, and to hope that their neshamos have an aliyah.

Now, that was something special that I noticed- an entirely secular group of people, recognizing that those who died because they were Jews died Al Kiddush Hashem- they actually mentioned G-d. And G-d in the Jewish sense- unlike many American gatherings where other religions might play a role, or no religion at all. Many Holocaust gatherings in America stress the genocide aspect, the killing of many different people, such as gypsies or the handicapped. Very few secular gatherings in America take any time to mention G-d at all, or that the souls of these people have not died in vain, for we remember them, and say a prayer for their memory.

When I came home, and remarked as such to Mr. NMF- he reminded me that the Teshuva movement in Israel is always growing. He believes it is much more prevalent than it was in times gone by.

As for Yom HaZikaron, another sad day here in Israel- I actually did not have a memorial service to attend, but most of my workplace did. I looked up how Yom HaZikaron started, and I found out that originally, the politicians (typically Jewish) couldn't agree on a date, so they lumped it together with Yom HaAtzmaut- which was hard for the people actually mourning to concentrate on the happiness of Independence. So, they moved it to one day earlier, the reason being to remind us all what the cost of independence truly is. Somber thought, but something worth remembering.

And today? I'm celebrating the independence day by being off from work, and enjoying the day with my daughter. That's true independence for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Shidduchim: A Kapara For Klal

At a recent simcha, I came across a lovely woman, with several children, who is moving back to America after her recent sojourn in Israel since she got married. We schmoozed, and eventually played Jewish geography. People from my hometown came up, including a certain woman who is still looking for her shidduch. She is a wonderful person, sweet, smart, charming, kind; in short, all the good qualities one would look for in a shidduch. Yet she hasn't met her match yet. The woman across from me remarked, "Maybe it’s a Kapara (atonement) for Klal Yisroel (the Jewish people)."

I was a bit taken aback by this statement. Then the woman next to me commented that she believes that there are two types of older singles out there. There are those who are being reasonably too picky, as they might be looking for something they can't get, or is exceedingly hard to get. The other, simply, hasn't met the right one yet. And those are, in her words, a Kapara for the entire Jewish nation.

Again, my brain started working overtime. You mean to tell me that there are women and men out there in this world who are waiting to meet their match, through no fault of their own, but as a general atonement for the world?

It came as a sort of shock to me, so I headed home to ask Mr. NMF about it. He remarked that he doesn't know too much about it- as atonement, as a general rule, is Kabbalistic in nature. But, one thing he does know, is that a person doesn't go through suffering only for the nation as a whole, but also for themselves- for some trait/action of their own. In addition, he threw in the Gemara that states that the death of the righteous (not to compare the lack of a shidduch to death of course, just for comparison's sake) does atone. Therefore, one person does have the capability to atone for the Klal.

So what do you think? Are there those out there who are waiting for their match due to a Divine decree, not specifically against them, but for the nation as a whole?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pesach Part 2

Life seems to be flying ahead of me so fast that I have at least 10 blog posts just waiting to be put up.

Here's the second Pesach part that I meant to put up earlier.

Pesach brings with it many things, mostly the domains of families. Many take trips, head out to wild, exotic places, just to see the sites and report back. Children in these families take great pride in reporting where they just came from, what they saw, and what they did. They brag about their latest exploits to their neighbors, friends, and classmates- and woe to those children who didn't do anything at all.

This past Pesach, the neighbor of mine who has 7 children delivered her eighth, a boy. And so, I and Mr. NMF volunteered to take the young ones on a trip to the zoo. Nothing major, but anything with 7 children becomes something major, of course. An enjoyable time was had by all, viewing the elephants and the vultures, just waiting to swoop down on my unsuspecting NBD, who laughed the whole time.

But the best part was, that now they had something to 'talk' about- that they did something on Chol HaMoed.

Compare that to my new neighbor, who also has 7 children, and is also a Ganenet. (I seem to attract these type of families as neighbors.) She confided in me that for her family, a Chol HaMoed activity is spending time with everyone- just hanging out together, small art projects, new games at home, or heading to a large park or picnic with extended family. In a way, I like this style some what better- as it promotes values that one doesn't really need to do something flashy or overdone in order to have a wonderful lasting time, that makes for good memories.

Either way, Chol Hamoed becomes the time to spend time with family. I hope all succeeded in doing that this Pesach.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pesach Part 1

I'm busier than ever these days, especially with the inevitable Pesach cleaning. I'm also insanely jealous. Why?

Well, I'm making Pesach- the seders, the cooking, the cleaning- you name it, I'm doing it. And throughout the last couple of weeks, the common refrain from the young couples in the neighborhood has been something like this.

Me: How are you doing?
Neighbor: I'm busy packing. Gosh, it takes a long time.
Me: Really? Going to the US for Yom Tov?
Neighbor: Yes, and you wouldn't believe how much work it is. Packing, then taking a __ hour flight- it's just too much. You're so lucky you get to stay here.

Me: _______

If they think a 15 hour flight is hard, even with several children, try making Pesach anytime.
But anyway, enough with the griping. (Sorry! It's practically Erev Pesach! Hard to remain cheerful.)
Good news is that I get the amazing experience of being here in Israel for Pesach. Last year I got the pleasure of hosting a 2nd Seder, even though we had already moved here permenantly, and so I got to take pictures, relax, and enjoy the Seder in an entirely different way than I normally do. This year I plan to do the same, with even more guests.

It's a totally different feeling to know that you aren't obligated to start measuring your matzah out- and instead, you can just focus on the meaning of the Seder, the Divrei Torah, the essence of real freedom. I think it would be fun to continue hosting a second Seder, for fun, even when I don't have guests from America.

And now, for your viewing enjoyment, a short clip from the Robotics team in Rishon L'Tzion.

More on Pesach will be coming later. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Doctors and Research

Two articles caught my eye this week- neither really has to do with Israel- which is what this blog was originally about- but they are fairly interesting, and have a lot to do with science and medicine.

So, if you are interested- here they are from Is Stem Cell Research Ethical? and Doctors: A Second Opinion.

The first article is on research, something I'm involved in right now, and I thought it was quite thorough, albeit from more of a lay perspective.

The second article is something that's been quoted to me many times, and is why I originally wanted to go into medicine. Doctors take a hard rap for people who don't have enough compassion in them, who get too haughty and ignore the true feelings of their patients, who see them as just statistics. I wanted to change all that- to become a doctor who cared for their patients' needs, and yet was still able to help them.

This is a hard path to follow. Med school teaches a person to be objective, to not have other factors clouding their judgement. This in turn becomes a lack of compassion, of basic kindness. Some of the best diagnosticians have the worst bedside manner. Sometimes a doctor has both, but it is rare. Does that make them a bad doctor? No. But it does make for bad doctor/patient relationships.

I have found that those doctors that are religious in any way, are more likely to have a sense of kindness and compassion- but that is not always true as well. For some doctors, simply having a sense of ethics and morals allows them to be excellent doctors and kind people as well.

I was once treated by a doctor, a head of a department with students crowded around him, who made me feel like a piece of meat, rather than a human being. I felt trapped, unable to protest, and when I did- the response from one of the 'groupies' was, "But he's the head of ______!"

Good doctor- possibly. Bad patient connection- most definitely. I still have nightmares about dealing with him.

Yet, some of the kindest people I know are doctors. They have compassion, care, concern, and all other things. They influenced me to go into research (albeit not medicine, but something akin) and taught me how a person could act. After all, a doctor has power in his hands (invested by G-d, but still in a human's hands). How he uses it is an expression of his character traits.

As the prayer of the Rambam- Maimonides, states:

"Do not allow thirst for profit, ambition for renown and admiration, to interfere with my profession, for these are the enemies of truth and of love for mankind and they can lead astray in the great task of attending to the welfare of Thy creatures. Preserve the strength of my body and of my soul that they ever be ready to cheerfully help and support rich and poor, good and bad, enemy as well as friend. In the sufferer let me see only the human being. "

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reevaluating My Own Viewpoint

A couple days ago, I headed to a mothers' meeting in another neighborhood. It was wonderful, very nice to meet new people and have NBD play with new kids, but it also caused me to think quite a bit.

After all, as the authors of 'How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk' state, they read all the parenting books out there and were the best advice givers to those who didn't have children, until they had them. Then things change- your parenting 'style' evolves with time, with your children's ages, with basically just about everything.

Choices that you thought were set in stone, no longer are even carved into soap. Never say never, they say- and they don't know how right they are. Mr. NMF remarked that a family he knew were dead set on never giving their children candy. They tried fruit as the 'candy' instead. Result? Not surprisingly, it didn't work. They knew what a cookie was nonetheless.

I thought one thing before I had my daughter, now I think another. And it gets better and better with time. Books like 'Chinuch in Turbulent Times' or 'With Hearts full of Love' are my standbys, along with other Jewish parenting books like 'A Delicate Balance'. And of course I read so many other books as well. But books can only do so much, and then your parenting is tested by the children who you love so much.

But back to the original idea of my post. I met mothers who had the same viewpoints I did before I had children, but amazingly, they still stick with them. Things I thought would have been impossible, are right there in broad daylight for me to reach out and touch to see if they really are real. Like the woman who feeds her children only organic food, no sweets ever, and their favorite snack is chestnuts and whole wheat pretzels. Me? NBD can say bamba. (Really, I try to be good. Bamba is usually as bad as it gets around here.) After that, I took NBD to the park with only avocados and crackers with chummus, to assuage my guilty feelings.

So, should I have stuck with what I believed earlier? Should I ignore the fact that my perception of these things have changed?

Now, I don't know what to believe anymore.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Purim!

A Freilichen Purim to all! As you know, I'm in Yerushalayim, so my day of festivity and simcha is just starting. My shalach manos are laying on my dining room table, NBD is dressing up as a ladybug, and I'm looking forward to the rain, rain, and more rain, that is supposed to hit us full blast, much like it did today.

I'm linking back to my post last year about why Yerushalyaim celebrates a day later, and which other cities do the same. Enjoy!

To all those who are celebrating now, and to those who are ending soon- I hope it will be/was a day filled with much simcha and freilichen Purim spirit.

Happy Purim to ALL!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Erev Shabbos #24- In the Middle of Purim Week

Well, so much for that theory that now that I had a steady job and a schedule of classes, I would be able to find free time to post more often. I should do like SD and get an iPod touch, because at least then, I could write posts on my agonizingly long bus rides.

Today is sort of an 'in the middle' day. You see, in Israel, Purim lasts an entire week. How you may ask? Well, it goes like this.

First there is the planning for Shalach Manos and the shopping. Whether you are doing a theme or not adds a bit to this step, but not by much. You have to calculate how many people you know, how many you don't know but want to give to, how many you have to give to, and how many your children/spouse/other miscellaneous people need. This requires you to have a math oriented brain, combined with a knowledge of what sales go on where, as well as the best places to shop before they get ransacked.

After all this, you have to actually go out and shop for it, which also includes the famous part where you get to the store and what you wanted isn't there, so you have to revise your ideas, theme, or just give it up entirely.

Then, the children have a Purim party. This never takes place on Purim, or even the day before Purim. It's always at least 4 days before. So that means costume shopping has to take place at least a week before, as well as deciding who will wear what, and what is available. Enough said- I'm sure you can hear the arguing and the indecisiveness in your sleep.

In addition, on the day of the Purim party, or possibly the last day of school before Purim, shalach manos is required to be sent to your childrens' teachers, principals, doctors, and so on. Failure in this is not an option, so you have to prepare that Shalach Manos at least 2 days before Purim.

Finally, the great day arrives, in all its glory.

What does this all have to do with today? Well, since in Yerushalayim, Purim falls out on Monday, yet no-one has school on Sunday, and the Purim parties took place on Wednesday or Thursday to avoid the rain that is assailing us today, today is more of a relaxed day, in the middle of all the hubbub.

Me? I'm going to cook for Shabbos and make hamentashen. Because what would an 'in the middle' Shabbos before Purim but after Taanis Esther be without hamentashen for dessert?

Gut Shabbos all!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chill Out!

No, I'm not speaking about the weather. Most definitely not, as we are experiencing a mini summer here in Yerushalayim. The weather has been stunning- no coats, frolicking outside in the sun, but the downside of that is no rain during the last little bit of the rainy season. The Kinneret still has 4 meters to go! (Hopefully we will get some rain this Thursday though, at least according to predictions.)

What I'm really referring to is a habit typical of the Israeli professionals that I've met. From the army to the science labs, Israelis do not dress formally. It's like casual Fridays taken to a whole new level. High ranking doctors walk around in jeans and Crocs. Army officers request that their soldiers call them by their first name. Formality? Gone. Thrown out the window. Scraping and bowing? Gone. The top professors in a college almost expect their students to treat them in a casual manner. In any other country, it would be chutzpadik. To the Israelis, that's normal.

It's endearing in a way. After all, that provides the young ones with the chance to speak up, to let their ideas be heard, instead of always deferring to the elder in the group. That may be why Israeli teenagers are so ingenuitive, creative, and otherwise street smart. They have a chance to speak their mind, to change the system, and to make their positions and ideas known. In a way, it's a bad thing- leading to disrespect of the older generation, and a lack of regard for authority.

All I know is that my mouth dropped open, when my new director walked in and said, "Please refer to me by my first name. Thanks."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Erev Shabbos #23- Exhaustion

You know you've had a busy week when the second after you decide to light the Shabbos candles, you collapse into a blob on your couch that refuses to move, not for love, money (muktza, remember), a good book or a cookie. Your eyes start to close, and the only thing that wakes you is the sound of the father of the household inviting everyone to sing Shalom Aleichem.

Mostly this happens to me when I've had a busy work week, or a busy non-work week, or just a busy Friday. After all, I cook an entire Shabbos on Friday (I know, I should start on Thursday, but frankly, cooking it all at one time is easier than finding fridge or freezer space and storing it and then re-warming.) which means that it can get exhausting.

Somehow I find that no matter how early Shabbos is, after the soup course, all my body wants to do is curl up in a warm bed. My mother used to remark that her soup must be a cure for insomnia, since throughout my teenage years, I would ask to be excused to curl up on the couch right after the soup course. As the Ima of the house, I can't really do that in my own house, but I wish I could!

Thank G-d for Shabbos, otherwise I would be exhausted the entire week. I can only begin to imagine how I would start to feel on a Sunday if I didn't have Shabbos to relax, rejuvenate, and become ready for the week ahead.

Gut Shabbos everyone!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Cheaper Way

Hi all! I'm back! And, I hope to blog a lot more in the future. Updates in my own life: I am starting school again, with a position in an excellent lab in my field, which is great for me. Courtesy of the Israeli government of course, which is providing me with a salary, as well as paying my tuition as a new Olah. Thank you Israel!

Since the Israeli government gives out money in so many ways, you might think that they have a money tree planted somewhere out in the Shomron. Yet, this obviously is not so. They do what all governments do: budget out their expenses, plan accordingly, and provide what they can within reason. At least, from my own experience, that is what they do.

Israeli medical care is socialized, which has good things and bad things. I have spoken about this before, but I find the standard of care here to be pretty good, all things considered. I have caring and compassionate doctors, a level of care which seems to be rather decent, and best of all, free insurance.

Free insurance? Yes, the government provides a basic level of care for all its constituents. Beyond that basic, and one needs to shell out some pocket money, but not quite as much as one might think. Medicines are cheaper, tourists can also get insurance through the government for their stay, and in general, most things do not cost an arm and a leg.

This past week, my brother-in-law caught that strain of mumps that seems to be going around. It is a new strain, so many in the Orthodox Jewish community, both here and in America, have been affected. He stayed at home at first, thinking it was just the flu. When it didn't go away, a nurse friend paid him a home visit, and told him it was the mumps. Now, my brother in law does not have insurance. He didn't have the need for it since he left college, and he never applied for it. But now he needed a doctors' care, and he had no way to pay for it except out of pocket. So he went, and got that antibiotic which he needed, and paid for it himself. Expensive, no?

Would it be better if there was a basic standard of care for all citizens, like Israel has? In this particular case, yes.

When I was pregnant with NBD, I lived in America for a few months. I had insurance, and received excellent care. However, I was charged astronomically for minor, no emergency, visits. After all, this is America, where medicine is private and expensive. In Israel, I received almost the same standard of care (by almost, I mean that I performed my own tests in the doctors office, rather than having a nurse perform the test. This is how Israel saves costs.) for free or almost nil. My doctors were just as caring, the midwives just as alert, and all for cheaper.

I know those who come to Israel just for the medical care. Cheaper? Yes. Better? Not sure. Almost? Pretty close.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dorothy, You're Not In Kansas Anymore

Israelis have a whole new way about them that just is intimidating to a timid young American like me. I mean, they are brash, chutzpadik, pushy, deliberate, blunt, and a whole bunch more adjectives. That's what makes them so lovable, you see.

If driving demonstrates personality, then Californians are all about the bling, Midwesterners are slow and polite, and New Yorkers couldn't care less. Israelis? They'll cut you off one day, and then bake you cookies for your daughter's simcha the next. They tell you how they feel, with no compunction, but it's emes, it's truth, and you've got to admit they have a point. And, when they pepper their phrases with "Don't worry, Yihyeh B'Seder, " you know you've got the real deal right here.

I'm applying for a position right now, and well, dealing with Israelis has given me a whole new take on what it means to live here. According to the secretary, who felt it was her job to give me, the new Olah, advice. "Don't take no for an answer. Be brash. Be persistent. It's all about patience and self esteem. Bang down those doors until someone gives you an answer."

When I quietly handed someone a resume, they asked, "Do you have some money behind you that you could bring into our work? After all, it takes money to run everything."

I'm thinking I'll never really understand their approach to things. After all, I'm just a quiet American. At least the secretary reminded me of that fact. "You're in Israel, not America. This is how we do things here. Welcome."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Erev Shabbos #22- The No-Cooking Shabbos

Wow, this has been a crazy week. NBD is really sick- a cold turned into bronchitis- and so I've been in full Ima mode. So, when two of our wonderful neighbors invited us out for both meals, this made my Erev Shabbos into a non-cooking week, allowing me to catch my breath.

When my husband and I were in our first year of marriage, we managed to maintain a good balance. Sometimes going out, sometimes eating at home, sometimes traveling to another state- we were bounced around while we were living in the US.

I had already been away from home for the 3 years before that, and Mr. NMF had been away for 5, so we were kind of used to going from one place to another, packing up suitcases, and generally never knowing where to place our aching heads.

So that was what I looked forward to when I came to Israel: a home. I was so grateful to never have to go out for meals, never have to visit anyone, just relax and enjoy my own Shabbos table. I think we stayed home for weeks upon weeks, before accepting an invitation to go out for a meal, and then hurry home to our couch.

So, when I called up a friend of mine, I was shocked to learn that she, who has been married for 6 months, has never made her own Shabbos meal. Her in-laws and parents live close by, and they always expect the young couple to show up for all the meals, if not to sleep by them as well.

And, she enjoys it. Never having to cook, prepare, serve, wash, clean up- all of this was taken care of for her. As she put it to me, eventually the young couple would no longer be so young, and they iy"H would have a brood to take care of. So, until that time, the parental units were getting the pleasure of having the couple come over while they could.

That was such an interesting concept to me- to enjoy going out, rather than staying at home. I was so grateful not to have to shlep all over the universe, while she was enjoying every second of shlepping.

Each to his or her own. But this week, I'm very grateful not to have to prepare. NBD is going to want to be held once she wakes up from her nap, and that leaves me with almost no hands to do anything. So thank you kind neighbors. We look forward to seeing you.

A Gut Shabbos Everyone!

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring- Do Something!

Baruch Hashem for rain. At least, rain in Israel- since that's a blessing we really need in these times. After all, the Kinneret is below its appropriate level, the government is soon to level a water tax (if it hasn't already) on the public, and we generally just need rain, living in a desert and all.

Last night, at the dinner table, we engaged in a resounding chorus of Mashiv HaRuach- the prayer for rain and wind- and today, look what happens. I actually got to say the blessing on lightning and thunder last night as well.

But rain also means that both NBD and I are down with colds. We also don't really leave the house on rainy days, due to the fact that I prefer not get soaked.

When I lived in the big old city of New York, I didn't have a car. I used to walk, or take public transportation, everywhere I went. As I walked down the streets, carrying one heavy bag on my back and other one wheeling behind me- I sometimes wondered why no one even thought to stop and see if I needed help, or a ride. I assumed they had other pressing business to take care of, and I was grateful if when I got to my destination, someone offered me a ride for the way back. I can remember one time when a newlywed and her husband offered me a ride as they saw me trudging down the street- they were even going in the opposite direction! But that's about it for random rides throughout my time in NY.

JerusalemStoned- a not so well known blogger, but an excellent writer and mommy living in Yerushalayim- has an interesting take on rain and people. After all, this is the season when people can do a lot of kindness to one another. Like loaning umbrellas, hitching rides- like Mr. NMF did this morning as he waited for yet another bus to slowly make its way through the traffic, or even just watching a neighbor's child so she can go pick up the other one from Gan.

Let's make this rainy season one where we reach out our hands and use the Gishmei Bracha- rain of blessing- to actually bestow tangible blessing on our friends and neighbors.

Oh yeah, and have fun splashing in those puddles!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bargaining, Israeli Style

I know, the whole world isn't a shuk (open air marketplace). But it sure seems like it!

Practically all Israelis bargain, and love doing it. Whether it's shopping for basic food items at an actual shuk- like Machane Yehuda, or doing some shopping at a small store, you can probably always bargain down the price.

Big grocery stores like Yesh, or Bar Kol, are immune to my nefarious bargaining ways. After all, when they list their chicken on sale for 29.90 NIS, I can't very well go up to them and ask to have it for cheaper if I buy more. However, with my local butcher, I totally can. He even has a sign up right now for cases of chicken for cheaper if you buy by bulk. And, what if I walked in- after discussing with 5 neighbors of course- and then asked to buy 5 cases- would he give it to me for cheaper? Maybe. Who knows?

My whole block seems to believe in this wholesale theory. There are families who sell eggs, for about at least 5 NIS cheaper than the local grocery store. The same goes for flour, oil, sugar, and other household items. Another neighbor does a gigantic meat order, of which I proudly participate every month.

If I head down to my favorite baby supply shop- he'll give me bargains right on the spot. All prices are negotiable, it seems, if they are just taped on the item with a sticker. After all, he could just rewrite the sticker, couldn't he?

I never thought I would do something like that. It's like walking in the US into a store and asking to have the listed item for less. I would never be brave enough to do that- except maybe in a Jewishly owned store. (Does that say that all Jews are willing to bargain, even if they aren't from Israel?)

As the NY Times stated, most shoppers were looking for bargains this past holiday season. So maybe it's not a Jewish thing after all? Although, I have to admit, I love showing off a great deal.
It's like beating the odds, getting my pack of disposable diapers for 48 NIS, instead of 69. I just HAVE to talk about it.

So is it Jewish to bargain? Israeli? Or something in between?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pushing the Train

Note: These are my feelings on this. My emotions are expressed within. If this hits a raw note with anyone- I apologize. I do not mean to offend. I just felt like I needed to write this out, to look back at it one day, and to remember and grow.

I read this amazing article on, and it resonated a cord with me. First of all, the author is young. As she writes, she is 19 years old, or at least, she was 19 when her father was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. And the second thing is that her faith in G-d is so powerful and strong that it continues to flourish, even at a time in her life when many might lose their faith.
She says that her father commonly paraphrases something from the Chafetz Chaim:

Let me ask you, if you’re on the train and you want it to go faster, are you going to go outside and push it?”
“Of course not. That would be pointless. So stop trying to push the train.”

In life, there are problems. There are curveballs. There are times when I've stood outside in the cold Jerusalem night and railed against G-d. How could He do this to me? What did I do wrong? How could life be this way? And, I've made bargains. Just like she did. I've stood in a home and screamed and sobbed to G-d. Told Him the pain I was in. Told Him how I didn't deserve it. Told Him how if only it would be better, I would be a better person.

And it's only my faith in G-d that kept me going. There was nothing else I could do, no one else I could turn to. G-d was the only Being in the Universe who was in control, not me. And I prayed. I prayed like I had never prayed before. I recited countless chapters of Tehillim. I prayed in my own words, in English, to G-d.

And you know what? G-d answered me. I saw Him pushing the train, and I realized it was in G-d's hands. I'm not saying G-d's answers were exactly what I had wanted. But G-d did give me some measure of hope.

I have felt despair. I have felt like my life as I knew it was about to end. I have felt the loss of hope, the darkness that the Yetzer Hara contrives, all of it, for myself and for others. A friend once called me during one of the darkest hours of my life, of which she knew nothing about, and talked blithely about her upcoming wedding and shower gifts. Little did she know that I couldn't even comprehend what she was talking about- as my life as I knew it was shattering into pieces.

But throughout it all- it was G-d running the train. It's like Tzipi Caton's book- Miracle Ride- He's calling all the shots. G-d is running the train, and there is nothing else to do sometimes- but turn to Him. For Hashem is always there for us, and as such, there is always hope.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wedding in Tzfas

Yay! So, blogger and friend Mindy is now a married woman! She's Bad4's NMF #16, I think. And, I shlepped myself, NBD, and Mr. NMF up to Tzfas in order to witness the new home in Israel being made.

Now, Mindy is a special, glorious, and amazing person- and she got married to a wonderful, special guy as well. So, I knew this wedding was going to be something 'different'. And, getting married in Tzfas of all places (since that's where her husband's yeshiva is) would make this something not to be missed.

It was beautiful. The neighborhood got together and made the simcha truly special. Nothing could be prettier than their outdoor chuppa under the stars, with all of the friends singing away. The kallah was radiant in her element, full of joy and laughter. Everyone knew everyone, the wedding itself was made up of gifts and generosity from the Tzfas community, and everyone just had a grand old time.

Music was a little loud though- it took me till the next morning to get the ringing out of my ears. The food was catered by friends and neighbors- pot luck and DELICIOUS. It must have tasted as good as the shtetl weddings of old, since home cooked food is always better than the standard chicken and salad. No one felt out of place, and the hall in Tzfas had just enough room for everyone- as if it kept expanding every time another friend showed up.

So, I'm wishing Mindy and her husband much happiness as they embark on their life together. Just visit me in Yerushalayim sometime, okay?