Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When You Need Medical Care on Shabbat

Fortunately, I was able to find out the answer to the "what-do-you-do-when-you-need-medical-care-on-Shabbat-and-you-live-in-a-religious-city-where-EVERYTHING-is-closed-for-25-hours-starting-at-sundown-on-Friday" question.  And, even more fortunately, is was for something that wasn't very serious (as I was cleaning the BEST kitchen gadget ever I decided I should use my fingers to remove a piece of onion skin stuck to the blade.  Should you ever have this moronic thought, please don't listen to it).

Israeli businesses LOVE promotional magnets.  I have really never seen anything like it.  Fortunately, everyone's front doors are made of metal (I'm not really sure why, it may be a security thing.  Or maybe it's just because there's no way all those promotional magnets would fit on a refrigerator so the door companies decided to give us more places to put them).  When we moved to town, in with our city phone directory were a number of promotional magnets, including one for the local "Shabbos Health Clinic", which has free walk-in hours Friday night and Saturday afternoon (fyi, for more serious things, ambulances run 24/7 and the local freestanding emergency room is also always open).  There was a medic and a doctor in the clinic and they patched me up nicely (b''H, didn't need stitches, just a big dressing on my index finger that made me look like I was wearing one of those giant foam "We're #1" hands).  They asked me to wait around a bit so the doctor could recheck that the dressing was all I needed, so I saw several other people being treated.  The staff did such a nice job at getting people speedily in, patched up and out the door.  Reminded me of my office at camp, where the main thing on a camper's mind is "how quickly can you get me out of here and back to having fun?!"

And my finger is fine (didn't even need the follow-up appointment they gave me for Saturday afternoon for a dressing change).  See the things I go through in my quest for interesting blog posts?!


Please daven for a refuah shleima for Malka bat Beryl Rivka, my sister-in-law who has been fighting Stage 4 breast cancer for the past 16 years.  May she soon have a return to good health.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Snow day: Israeli-style (i.e. no shoveling of snow required)

The big news around here is the possibility of a one-day strike tomorrow that would involve all government offices, the airport (sorry, Fern.  I know your family was looking forward to that trip tomorrow....), Egged buses, all public schools and many other things that I haven't quite figured out.

Part of the joy of being a new immigrant is going along in one's own tiny bubble of ignorance.  When we spoke in ulpan today about the impending strike, one woman told about an experience she once had while waiting for a train.  An announcement over the loudspeaker said something about "shvita" and everyone left.  Except her.  She kept waiting and waiting until she finally called her husband [who has lived here over a decade] and held her phone up near the loudspeaker.  It was so funny to hear her tell this story while bobbing her head around saying "shvita, shvita, shvita but I didn't know what the word shvita means so I'm still waiting for my train that was not coming that day because they had just gone on strike!"

Since my kids attend public school (which I still can't get over), this strike would affect them and their schools would be closed.  Or perhaps they would be open but without the regular teaching staff at them and the kids wouldn't be required to attend (i.e. if the parents desperately need to warehouse their children while the parents work, they have that option).  It's unclear to me.  Did I mention that bubble of ignorance?

The entire thing reminds me SO much of the day before a possible Snow Day: everyone is excited because it *might* happen.....there is constant listening to the news for updates (will the storm blow out to sea?!  Will the parties make an agreement late tonight?!).....rumors are FLYING via text and email.....and the ultimate Snow Day detail: we won't know for sure until the official announcement is made tomorrow at 6 a.m.!

(p.s. for those interested in the details, here is a link detailing what will be closed: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4742924,00.html)

p.p.s: strike was averted and life continued as normal around here ;).  Union members will get a 7.5% pay hike spread out over the next several years (they asked for 10%)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Chanukah in Israel!

I've never been in Israel for Chanukah before and it was delightful to see what a festive atmosphere pervades the country.  Many people light their menorahs outside, to "publicize the Chanukah miracle" and it was beautiful to walk down our street in the evening and see the different menorahs and how lovely they looked lit (certainly made taking the trash out to the bins at the end of the street a lot more pleasant than usual!).

outside our house

little hard to see, but this is the glass bridge at the hotel where everyone lit their menorahs.  Incredibly beautiful to see, especially as it was the first view we had of the hotel when we arrived Thursday night

Penina and Ilana had off school for the week and Chana got a long weekend, so we celebrated by going to a hotel on a kibbutz in the Galilee for three nights.  We met up with cousins Gil, Nitsan and Eitan and toured around the Golan Heights (in fact, we saw the borders of Lebanon, Syria *and* Jordan).  Nitsan is a shoe designer for Naot and we all thoroughly enjoyed touring the factory and seeing what shoes she had designed (and Penina got a really stunning pair of shoes at the factory outlet).  I was especially impressed with the use of computer technology which uses lasers to cut the leather pieces to minimize waste.

Gil, Nitsan and Eitan were wonderful tour guides.  They know the area and the history so well (especially Eitan, who has lived through so much of modern Israeli history).
Eitan on the left, Gil on the right and the mountains of Syria in the far background of the right

Hotel Lavi was wonderful--great location, lovely hotel, fun other guests (including two girls from Ilana's class, neighbors from our street and two young women from Chana's seminary), and, of course, the famous Israeli buffet.  Chana and I went on a guided tour of the kibbutz and it was very interesting to hear about how the kibbutz has changed according to their members' needs.  Now, as their early members are aging, they have put into place home-care services and other ways to help their members stay and age on the kibbutz.  This is in addition to the regular kibbutz system which gives people a place to live, three meals a day, healthcare and does their laundry (I think I drooled a bit over that.....).  I think my family's only complaint was that we couldn't stay at the hotel longer :)

All in all, a really great holiday!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Does This Count Towards My 15 Minutes of Fame?

I've had a fun side project recently, recording the voice of Ruth for the audio serial of Riva Pomerantz's very popular book, "Green Fences" (synopsized by Google books as "A woman's marriage to a Jewish scholar is in trouble due to her jealousy of a popular and elegant friend's marriage to a real-estate baron. Over time, the tables turn in unexpected ways.")

If you'd like to hear me as the "popular and elegant friend", call the Mishpacha ("Family") Magazine hotline at (646) 448-2111 and immediately press 7 for the options for grown-ups, then option 1 for serial stories, then 3 for "Green Fences".  

Advance warning that the sound quality is not stellar and that, although we "actors" are trying our best, none of us are professionals :)

Friday, December 4, 2015

Happy Birthday, Penina!

Can't believe our little PB is now 13 and not so little!

13 years ago, November 28 was Thanksgiving, so we are always extra thankful on that day for our most incredible Thanksgiving ever.  Here, the day is more low-key than in the US....to say the least!  The kids here are not exactly bringing home Pilgrim table centerpieces.  Our celebration consisted of a sign on the door and that was about it :)

We had a lovely celebratory weekend.  Chana came home late Thursday night.
she's here!  Tackle her!
Because Chana has class until 9:30 pm, she usually doesn't come home until Friday in the early afternoon.  To help pass the time Thursday night, Penina's 10th grade 'Hebrew' tutor Nechama (I use the term loosely because their sessions mostly consist of laughing [which, really, is probably better than Hebrew tutoring]) came over to bake something for her birthday (in Hebrew) and they were just finishing when Chana walked in the door (at 10:45!) It was SO nice to have that extra time together. Chana also has class first thing Sunday morning, so she can never stay too late Saturday night, and she is also taking an extra series of classes that are given every *other* Saturday night.   The classes, of course, always seem to coincide with the "off Shabbos" weeks that she can come home, so for the past two times that she has come home, she's needed to run out the door immediately after Havdalah Saturday night.  Oh, right--make that three times, because it happened this past week as well.

Fridays are very short school/work days in Israel.  The standard Friday work day is a half-day and our girls get out of school at 11:45 (and after 9th grade will not even have school on Fridays so that they can help with Shabbos preparations)!  Anyway, due to the short day we decided it would be okay to let the girls take a day off school so we could.....go to Friday brunch!  There is no such thing as Sunday brunch here, since Sunday is a work day, so the only possible day for brunch in Friday, and, indeed, the same restaurant we went to with Deb and Frank, which is generally acknowledged to be the nicest restaurant in the area, had a very yummy brunch.

I couldn't believe all the people there on Friday. I had worked extra all week so that I could take half the day off on Friday to attend the birthday brunch (Jewish Cinderella?!) and the place was MOBBED.  I'd love to know the secret of the other folks (did they also work harder earlier in the week?  Were they invited out to friends for all their Shabbos meals?  Did they buy prepared Shabbos food, like at this stand at the mall we were in? [There were actually two stands like this at the mall!  Plus a pop up bakery stand with challah and desserts]).

Ooh!  Shabbos food cooking just got a lot easier!
This brunch was like an Israeli hotel breakfast, which, if you have ever had the pleasure to partake of, will probably stand out in your memory (and, perhaps, your cholesterol level, if you tried all the various kinds of really tasty Israeli dairy products and cheeses).  There were jokes about our needing to be rolled to the bus home.  But, wait!  We were in a mall and it was Black Friday!  We weren't going to shop?  And why on earth was it Black Friday in a place without Thanksgiving and without Xmas (at least, the part of the country *we* live in)?!  But there it was, sale after sale for Black Friday (although without the vast hordes of people and trouble parking).  Drat, I'm having trouble getting my photo to upload, so you'll just have to trust me that the signs said "Black Friday".

It's great being in a place where the mall kiosks in November look like this:

Came home from the mall to find a message from Penina's teacher, sent much earlier in the day, asking if we could please send her to school just until 9:45 so that she could be at the school assembly where they announced that she had been chosen as Student of the Week for her hard work in learning Hebrew and helping other girls learn the class dance for the school-wide competition the following week.  DOH!!!!!!

Our dear ("like another daughter") friend Tsipora M. from Boston came for Shabbos to add to the festivities, and, for Shalos Seudos, we were joined by Sara Malya R. (formerly of Boston, now of CA and in our town for Shabbos while at seminary) and Nechama, the tutor who is a total sweetie and very fun person.  All in all, a very fun birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday to our wonderful, loving, sweet, brave Penina.  This year is so very, very different from any she's had before, and she has worked hard at opening her heart and mind to our new home. We love you, Penina!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Whaoo! Deb and Frank Visit (A Post "Written" [Mainly] in Pictures)

So glad that my one-and-only sister, Deb, and her amazing husband, Frank, came to visit this week! We packed a LOT into a short visit; they were here for 2.5 days while on their way to Italy to see Frank's family.

They had a grand walking tour of our town (at least as much as we've been able to figure out in the three months we've been here....); we walked all the way to the top and then down past our house to the very, very bottom.

We stopped at many parks.....

Scooped up Chana for the afternoon and went out to eat

But, unfortunately, not for gluten-free falafel (found out the place is moving and expanding, not closed permanently.  Whew)

Explored the Old City wandering the beautiful streets

and visiting the Kotel

It felt nice and safe.  There was plenty of extra security there but very few people visiting.  It's a very difficult time for the merchants in the Old City.  I hear they're really having trouble earning a living with so few tourists coming through....

We toured an INCREDIBLE stalactite cave that's right nearby (now on the fun-genda for any of you who come visit!)
This is, clearly, *outside* the cave (no photos inside) but I loved how we were up in the clouds

And, in general, just hung out.

Anyone surprised that Deb ended up with the most properties in Monopoly?!  (Although Ilana actually had the most money and won the game.  I went bankrupt and needed to rely on loans from my fellow sweetie-pie players [and kept asking why there was no option like "get a job" or "get a second job"])

 It was really lovely and we miss them already!

(Hint hint to others: Israel is really not so far once you're going to pretty much any place across the Atlantic.  Our guest room is set up and ready for more visitors, so please make your reservation today!)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hebrew is a "right to left" language

I know most of you know that.  I knew that.  But it's really different to see how this plays out in day-to-day life.

Like here are the hours of one of the local supermarkets:

Did you do a double-take?  I did, when I first saw it ("how can it close before it opens?!")

And this is how papers are stapled here:

When we opened our bank account, I kept giggling when I saw the clerk stapling things in the upper right corner.  Opening a bank account was a very long and involved process with much stapling of papers, so I'm glad I could keep myself amused....

Calendars--man, those will keep us on our toes!  Sunday is in the right hand corner and it all goes right to left.  Or "backwards" as I usually think of it. Check out when Chanukah is on the calendar below.

And, lastly, let's not forget that, often, things will go right to left and then left to right in the same page.  This is usually used when writing "Hinglish" (one must get good at estimating how much space will be needed for the other language's words).  In the example below, in the black rectangle, everything is written right to left.  Except the phone number.  Those are always written left to right :).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Giant Challah Bake

Tonight started the festivities for the Shabbos Project, a worldwide effort to get as many as people as possible to experience one Shabbos (check the link to see if something is happening near you!). Tonight, Penina and I joined my friend from ulpan and two of her daughters, and 1000 other women (!) at a giant challah bake (there may still be time for you to join a challah bake near you--there is a 1000-woman event happening in Boston tonight, too).  It was SUCH a sweet event.  It was Penina's first time "taking challah" and there is a lot of holiness in such a time.  SO proud of her.

 We had a lovely representation from our ulpan and it was so nice that, between neighbors and ulpan folks, it felt like I really knew a few people

Faina, the most amazing ulpan teacher, center, with women from my class on the right (I'm in the back, of course) and three women from the next level on the left side.  

The event was just what it was supposed to be: a mix of old and young (and everything in between), religious and secular (and everything in between), women who were "old hands" and making challah and those who had never done it before (and...well, you get the idea).  It was absolutely beautiful and Penina and I were both very glad we went.

Delightfully, Penina ended up right next to......one of Temima's sisters-in-law who came to meet our aliyah flight!!!! This sister-in-law lives in Beit Shemesh, so it wasn't as crazy as meeting up with, say, the sister from the Galilee who drove several hours to the airport, but, still, there were 1000 women there!


Can't wait to taste the finished products tomorrow night!  (btw, we have nicknamed Penina's giant 6-strand challah, "The Challah that Ate New York".  Ilana made hers with cinnamon and raisins to give Chana a wonderful surprise when she comes home this week for Shabbos.  Although there is FABULOUS bakery challah all over the place here, we have only seen plain or sesame, not raisin).

Good Shabbos!

Adventures in Iced Coffee

Conversation in Hebrew:

Me: "One regular iced coffee please".  I am delighted that I finally understand what "regular" and "light" mean in terms of premade slushie iced coffee (there are sometimes two machines and one will make coffee using skim milk.  If I'm splurging on a coffee, I'm going full fat!)

Worker at ice cream store: "10 or 15?"

Me: "umm, no" (wondering where this simple conversation has gone so terribly wrong as I try to calculate if I have enough money for 10 or 15 coffees and how I would get them home.  Then I wonder what we would DO with 15 coffees, there being only 4 of us at home....).  "No, just one please"

Worker (trying hard not to giggle.  He did a [reasonably] good job): "Do you want the 10 shekel size or the 15 shekel size" and he held up cups to illustrate his point :)

We have had one full month of ulpan (lots of time off for the Holidays).  It's clearly helping, but not fast enough!

Note for all Grandmothers on this list: she did not drink both of them.  But it makes for a funny photo :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Your private ulpan Hebrew lesson starts now.  See, you already know the word for rain.  Very good!

On Shemini Atzeret/Simchas Torah, we began saying the prayer for rain.  The next day was overcast but dry ("it was so everyone could take down their sukkah" said Shalom Shachne).  The *next* day: TONS of rain.  It was great!  Also very amusing to see the very big differences in how people dressed.  Some were in their usual short sleeves and some people were wearing winter coats and boots!  Penina quite delighted to wear her new "Hunters" (aka fancy rain boots that she saved up her $ to buy before we moved).  Too bad that it started raining during the night for the first time.  Sheva (doing great in her new job and enjoying Chicago, thank you for asking!) said that, when she was here, people danced in the street when it first rained!!!

Zelda, another student in ulpan (and who sat a few rows in front of us on the Aliyah plane) said, "Look what we can do when we all put our minds to it.  Now all we need to do is just daven for Moshiach!".

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sukkos Fun in Israel

The holiday of Sukkot is all-out, crazy, over-the-top fun here in Israel.  The kids have off of school (and we have off of ulpan) for over 1.5 weeks.  On the intermediate days of chol hamoed people go on trips and outings.  Since many adults don't work during chol hamoed these tend to be full-family trips, meaning that places are VERY crowded (it's a small country, but, still, when you think of the vast majority of even a small country on vacation at the same time, you can see how places get busy).

We started off at the nearby Biblical Museum of Natural History.  Thank you Elisha and Annabelle for the strong recommendation to go there--all of us had a great time.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

They had a very interesting and large shofar collection.  Shalom Shachne, of course, had to try them all :)

How could this not be the last picture of our trip?!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Things have really been happening around here!  We're still up to our eyeballs in packing boxes, but there's hope on the horizon.  Our big accomplishment was getting Chana's full-size bed up to the third
floor after the movers gave up b/c of its size and left it on the second floor on moving day (her floor has a rather small doorway with quite a tight turn going into it).  Which was fine until Chana actually came home for the weekend and was hoping to sleep on something other than an air mattress....  My amazing husband borrowed a LOT of rope and he made a pulley from the third floor balcony to the second floor balcony.  Chana pushed and he and I pulled and, hoorah, she now has her bed :)

The city (country, I should say) has been really excited for the holiday of Sukkot.  The mercaz was on absolute overdrive, with an entire open air marketplace set up before the holiday and tons of vendors hawking their holiday-related wares:
Etrogim (crazy expensive, although much less so here than in the US)

Plastic fruit is always in style for decorating the sukkah :)

It was MOBBED in the mercaz

The Jewish version of "how do I get this thing home?!"

When we sold our Boston house to the B's, we switched Sukkahs with them, as our large wooden one was made for that back yard and would never fit on the small porches found in Israel.  So their (former) Sukkah is up on our mirpeset and we only hope that Ariella B, who is coming along with the rest of last year's BY graduating class for Shabbos this week (hooray!) doesn't feel overwhelmed by the sheer weirdness of sitting in *her* family's sukkah on *our* mirpeset!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Our Lift Arrived!

It sure feels good to sit on a sofa that is *not* made out of a refrigerator box ;)

Our lift was scheduled to arrive Thursday, the day after Rosh Hashanah ended, which several people who live in Israel told us was unlikely-to-the-point-of-absurd, but, WAHOO, it really happened! 

That morning we had the ceremonial "deflating of the air beds"

It was a bit strange to see the same container that we had last seen in Malden show up here
Hello, Old Friend

The moving company had told us that they would not be able to fit the 40-ft. container down our street and would need to use a shuttle truck (i.e. they would park the container on the main street, unload small amounts [relatively speaking, of course] from "Ol' Bessie" here onto a smaller truck, drive that around the corner to our house and, finally, unload it for keeps.  Sounds like fun, right?).  In the end, they drove that giant thing right down our street (the really amazing part was watching the driver back it out at the end.  When Chana got her driver's license shortly before we left, she began saying things like, "truck drivers.  The hidden geniuses of the world".  I tried to get a video for her of this impressive display of backing-up acumen, but she'll just have to trust me that this guy was the Einstein of truck drivers).

Somewhere in here there is a kitchen....

And a living room.....

Saturday, September 12, 2015

With These I Shall Make Rosh Hashanah Meals

Here are my three pots/pans (thanks, Mom, for the silver pan and, Auntie Paula, for the red pot.  SO helpful!), two knives and one cutting board.  That is the sum total of what I have to cook with.  I wish that, out of view, there was, say, some Pyrex glass dishes....a food processor.....some more pots so I can stop washing these so often (especially the red pot, as it's the largest and really the only one that can fit food for five in it).  I also have a lot of disposable aluminum pans, two coffee mugs and a sandwich press that we bought here, and our set of silverware.  We have each commented on how great it was to take the silverware with us (I wrapped each group of utensils in plastic wrap, put the set back in its slot in the silverware tray and put the whole tray in a plastic bag so it wouldn't rattle too much on the journey).

The weirdest kitchen item I had in my duffle bag is the bowl to my KitchenAid ice cream maker.  We sold our deep freezer (hope it's working great for you, Cheryl!) after our lift left and I had forgotten to take the bowl out of the freezer (that's what I get for following the instructions to "always leave your bowl in the freezer so it's ready any time you want to make fresh, homemade ice cream".  Which I haven't made in several years, but let's not go there....).  The paddle to the ice cream maker was on the lift.  So now I was left, no matter which country I was in, with only half an ice cream maker since the bowl won't work without the paddle and the paddle won't work without the bowl.  sigh.  That bowl was a BIG thing to put in my duffle bag and it looked so odd that it got flagged at the JFK security xray and they made me take it out and explain what on earth it was and why I was carrying it (''ha ha!  See, it's really a funny story....".  The security officers remained unamused, but let it go on board).  Maybe I can use it as a salad bowl or something until our lift gets here....

Here is our new oven

I call it my Easy Bake Oven ;).  Not sure if it looks as small in the photo as it seems to me, but, working with this thing, I can only say that I am VERY glad we didn't buy one of the ovens that comes split in half horizontally, with one compartment for cooking meat and one for cooking dairy.  I can't imagine what you can fit in one half of this--a sandwich?!?!

The oven has 14 (yes, FOURTEEN) different settings.  Here they are (I had to find a crib sheet because the booklet is all in Hebrew and beyond my understanding).  I'm sure once I understand it all, it will be great, and I'm delighted that I have convection mode, but, mostly, I'm just overwhelmed with what on earth to put the oven to cook, say, string beans.  Also, the knob is in celsius, so that's something else new to get used to.  Nefesh B'Nefesh gave a nifty guide for those of us still struggling with the metric system (oy!)

B''H, we got invited out tonight by one of the women in my ulpan class, so that makes things a LOT easier (and she's super nice and reminds me of our dear friend Noreen!).  Three meals to go with my kitchen!  Off to cook....Wishing everyone a sweet, healthy New Year!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Post from Chana: Shemitta Parade


Hi everyone! I've been in seminary for about a week so far, and thank G-d it's going really well. I want to share about an AMAZING trip that my seminary took us on this past week.

On Wednesday night, the city of Bnei Berak organized a huge celebratory parade honoring all the Israeli farmers who observed the laws of shemitta this past year.  My seminary wanted us to be able to witness this once in a life time event, as a celebration like this has never happened before.

We boarded the bus in the late afternoon to begin our drive to Bnei Berak. About halfway there, our bus got pulled over by the police (!). The driver got off the bus and spoke to the police for about half an hour. We all just sat on the bus waiting, we had no clue what was going on! Finally, the driver got back on the bus. The whole time, our trip leader had been trying to find out what was happening, so when the driver eventually came back she asked him what was going on. His claim: it was all because he hadn't been wearing a seat belt. Still, we're not sure why that warranted a half hour conversation with the police!  Once that was over with, we continued on our way to Bnei Berak. We got off the bus and found our way to one of the streets that was off of the central street where the parade was happening. At the top of the street, we began to hear pounding music, and the sound of people singing. The further down the street we got, the more crowded it got. Finally, we got to a point where the crowd was so thick that we couldn't go any further! I honestly don't think I've ever seen so many people in my whole life. I found out later that 30,000 people were in attendance! 

In the middle of the street were thousands of charedei men singing and dancing with all the farmers who had kept shmitta. Further up the street were farmers riding their tractors down the streets between cheering crowds! Tons of people were holding signs proclaiming that the farmers were "giborei koach", "mighty men of power" (a description the Torah gives regarding farmers who observe shemittah). 

After the dancing ended, a famous rabbi, Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein (whose opinions form the basis of one of my family's favorite Shabbos books: "Ve'haarevna", gave a speech about the importance of shemita and the greatness of these farmers. 

One of the most moving parts for me happened after the official event was over. After the dancing and speeches were finished, the crowd thinned out a little, and we could finally get a clear view to the middle of the street. We saw huge groups of people gathered around the farmers, all requesting brachos (blessings) from them. It was so beautiful to see charedei men with peyos to their shoulders and black suits on bringing their children to get blessings from these farmers, most of whom were wearing jeans and some of whom are not even religious (absolutely amazing!). There was such a feeling of unity permeating the entire event! I (and the other girls in my seminary) were privileged to get brachos from two different farmers. We all felt that it was such a powerful moment, considering the fact that these men had literally sacrificed their entire livelihood for a year, all for the sake of Gd. They are truly "giborei koach" and it was so amazing that I got to witness it!