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."