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!

We Are New Immigrants Who Prefer *Not* to Take the Bus

Here's a follow-up to an earlier post:

This is what it's like to take the bus in the morning here:

1) Wait by the bus stop

2) Bus drives by and is so crowded that the driver refuses to stop despite frantic waving from people at the bus stop

3) Begin calculating how late children will be for school and if a note will be necessary.  If so, try to find scrap of paper for note and consider wording.  Will Google Translate be necessary?  Allow neighbor whose Hebrew is much better than yours to write note for both kids using your shoulder as a table.

3) Next bus comes and is similarly crowded, but driver yields to frantic waving and stops.  Briefly.  Very briefly.  If you are not on within about three seconds, tough for you and the driver is gone (note: you may be waiting at the stop and waiting patiently in line to get on the bus.  That is probably your  mistake--savlanut is not to be used when waiting for the bus.  You can be patient once *on* the bus, but not before.

4) Go in back doors of bus because there is no way to get in the front doors.

5) If driver drives off with the front doors open because the bus is so crowded he can't close the doors, be very thankful that you are not the last one on the bus, and hope even more that no small children (who are riding the bus alone) are in the stairwell (note: in their defense, I have never seen a driver go all the way to the next stop with the doors open.  I think there's something about seeing the doors open while the bus is going that makes everyone on the bus squish in closer so that the people on the stairs can move out of danger)

6) Once the crowd empties out, get out of the back door at the stop *near* where you are going and immediately go in the front door so you can pay before your stop

7) Inevitably, find out the hard way that the bus does not go left on the street you want and instead makes a right turn and goes at least 1/4 mile before getting to its first stop

6) get off and walk to where you need to be, commenting on what great shape the family is getting in

7) next time, take the "#11" (slang for walking.  I love the expression)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Party at Ulpan

Woohoo!   Par-ty!!!!  Well, since it was a party at ulpan and resembled (more than a bit) a school's kindergarten show, we won't get too carried away.  But it was very sweet.

We stood by class in front of a blackboard fancied up to say "The Ulpan Wishes You a Good New Year" and said our prepared lines.  Our teacher had been very amusing that morning saying over and over "od paam od paam!" (again, again) as we rehearsed.  My class "sang" a Rosh Hashanah song (I use quotes because there are religious issues over women singing in public in front of men.  So the 12 of us who are observant women lip-synced and the three men and three secular Russian women belted it out.  Nice that my class is somewhat diverse!).  I am glad that I finally learned the words to the song "L'Shana Habaa" (Next Year).  I had always understood the second paragraph ("how good it will be next: next year, next year") and was always totally stymied by the first--something about a mirpeset (balcony)?  That didn't make sense.....Mirfleset (monster)?  That made even less sense!  Now that I know the translation, I still don't think it makes a ton of sense, but I do know it's correct :).  So "next year, we will sit on the balcony and watch the migrating birds as the children, on holiday from school, pay catch between the house and fields".  Yeah.....I could have sat with my dictionary for *hours* and not figured out "migrating birds".

Shalom Shachne's class is the advanced class, so they had two parts in the show, each with one person speaking Hebrew and one translating on the spot.  I loved the story told by a woman in his class about feeling a bit overwhelmed as Rosh Hashanah approached and all her family and her husband's family is in the United States and how was she going to make Rosh Hashanah?!  (see my future post with similar sentiment)  She called her sister who told her, "don't worry, Hashem will make it all work out for you" and, as soon as she hung up the phone, it rang with an invitation for a meal.  And then there was an email invitation for another meal.  And then another phone call invitation and she "realized that we are all family here".

Shalom Shachne and his class friend gave over a dvar Torah about Rosh Hashanah that several people commented was very interesting (I agree!) and the woman from my class who had just invited us for RH dinner said that he was now elected to give a dvar Torah at the dinner table.
Taken especially for Chellie: here is a picture of your baby at his show

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dust Storms and Chamsins and Ulpan: oh my!

Since yesterday, much of the Middle East has been enveloped in a very large dust storm, the worst in Israel in 15 years, according to the Jerusalem Post.  In the morning, the kids looked out the window and said, "it's going to rain today".  I chuckled and told them that it was unlikely to the point of impossible for it to rain in Israel in September.  Then I looked out the window and said, "but it sure does LOOK like it's going to rain...."  Turns out it was just tons of dust coming over the hill next to us and heading our way.  The whole area looks like Los Angeles in the midst of very bad 1980s smog.....or like it's a very foggy day......or like Lawrence of Arabia is going to come galloping over the hills of "Rama Gimel" and ride through town.....

We had no idea that this type of weather was coming since we don't listen to the news or get the paper here (and when I looked at the front page of the Jerusalem Post in the grocery store yesterday, I realized how glad I was to be out of the loop).  We just went on our merry way walking to school yesterday morning, although we all noted how extremely hot the weather was (that's the chamsin part of this: we're in the midst of a heatwave as well as a big dust storm.  I'd say "when it rains, it pours", but, clearly, that is not the right analogy....).  I thought maybe it was hazy because it was so hot.  It wasn't until our teacher walked into ulpan and we spent the better part of an hour discussing the weather that I really understood what was going on.

photo from NASA.  Here's an interesting link to a National Geographic story about why this dust storm is happening.
It really isn't that bad out.  From our house, it looks very cloudy and dirty but, walking around in it, it really is okay.  There are many kids at the park and riding bikes around and, while I'm sure some people are curtailing their activities, most people seem to just be living life as usual (if with a few more showers per day!).  Perhaps our area just got less dust than areas that had people go to the hospital.

Here's hoping the dust storm as well as the heat wave will be over soon!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Getting Good With the Cardboard

Cardboard is my new favorite building material: here are our bookshelves

We have a bunch of them--all a set (good thing the recycling bin outside the shoe store was full of matching green boxes, because I'd hate my fancy book cases to not match....)

I also made a utensil holder from a 2 liter water bottle

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Donating Blood in Israel

Three times a year the Beit Shemesh Blood Drive is held.  I signed up to volunteer while we were still in the US.  I was assigned to either "take blood pressures or give out drinks and snacks".  Fine with me--I can handle either (they said they would provide me with a stethoscope if I ended up taking bp's, since mine is on our lift).  This amazing woman who ran it told me she started it in 1998 and has organized 46 blood drives since then!  HERO!  (And the computer programmer guy who, for many, many years has volunteered to drive people to/from the blood drive [and was so experienced at doing it that, while he was driving me and some others, a call came in and, when he heard the man's name, he asked, "you live on .......street, right?"]--HERO!).

In the end, it was pretty quiet when I was there, so they didn't really need me to volunteer in any way except to give blood.  I specifically didn't give blood before we left so that I would be able to donate at the Blood Drive (seemed like a nice way to give back to our new community).

Donating here was really an interesting experience.  First off, the entire form was in Hebrew, but, before I panicked, I saw that they had a laminated copy of an English translation.  Whew.  Then off to pre-donation clearance ("have you ever had Mad Cow disease?").  I had to stop the woman and tell her (in Hebrew, per my ulpan teacher) that I was a new immigrant and I don't know much Hebrew yet and did she speak English?  Between her moderate English and my moderate Hebrew (she was better than me!), we got through the whole form.  She was so delighted that I was an olah chadashah.  It's really sweet how people here really get a kick out of new immigrants (unlike, say, many other places in the world.....).   Off to another booth for a finger stick: "Ooh," said the nurse, "13.6!  That's GREAT".  Me, "Wow!  That IS great!  Must be because I've eaten so much more meat since we moved here".  Her: "NO!  It's Israel!  It is such a good country--it is good for you!  You get blessings being here."  Everyone was beyond sweet and showered me with blessings for a good New Year and a good absorption (there it is again!).  There were five stations to get through the donation process, and, when each person sent me on her way she told the next one I was a new immigrant.  When the person checking me in saw the date on my teudat zehut she did a double-take and said, "You really ARE a new immigrant".

Then I received a booklet with the date stamped inside and they told me I was now eligible for "Blood Insurance".  Basically, if a person needs blood in Israel, they are required to find family/friends to donate blood in their name, so the blood supply does not get depleted, and, especially, so the supply is there if soldiers need it.  I found the details quite interesting: http://www.shemesh.co.il/bd/BloodDriveAllAboutBloodInsurance.html.  By doing a proactive donation, I ensured that my family can receive as much blood as they need (hopefully none!) for the next year.  Quite different than getting a t-shirt and a coffee mug like at Children's (always my favorite place to donate), but really a sensible plan.

Fun fact: Magen David Adom in Israel, who staffs the blood drive, is known as "MADA" here. I keep walking by their various ambulances, which all contain the names of donors on the side, and I fully expect that, one day, I will see a name or community I know.

The Library

We are very big library users, so, of course, we were delighted that the library here has a small English language section.  The challenge is that the whole system works differently here: we had to pay a yearly membership fee based on how many books we wanted to take out each time.  And "50" was not a choice....The most was 10 books out at a time, so I got that (cost about $45 for the year, which is comparable, if not a lot less, than what we pay in library fines back in the US).

I went this morning, as the library is conveniently located in the same community center where we adults take ulpan.  It has been veeery quiet this afternoon as the kids read some old favorites as well as a few new things I picked up.  Seeing the small number of books (and hearing from someone that her daughter donated the entire collection of "Babysitter's Club" books that are there) made me wish that I had put on our lift at least some of the many, many boxes of books we got rid of.  I did consider it before we left, but, not being sure if our stuff would even fit on the lift without taking things to donate, I chose not to do more than think about it.

Maybe next summer when we come back to the US, I'll bring back an empty ToteATon and everyone who has kids' books to donate can give them to me (assuming they are paperback and don't equal more than the 50 lbs I can take in a checked bag)?!

Let's Review: The Past Few Days

EZG: No real theme here, just miscellany from the past few days:

--Thursday, Ilana tried out an after-school dance class.  She LOVED it and I had to smile when I came in at the end and they were dancing to one of the girls' favorite songs: Shaindel Antelis singing "A Sister's Love".  She can't wait for this week's class ;)

--On Shabbos we went down the street for Friday night dinner.  The P's made aliyah last year from NJ and have older children as well as a 6 y/o and a daughter in 10th grade.  When they came last year, she was the only new immigrant in the 9th grade.....Makes me so grateful that there are 4 olim in Penina's class

--Shabbos day we went to our old homeschooling friends, the Werners .  Eight of their ten children were home for the weekend, and we got to meet the totally adorable Yirmi, their youngest.  It was quite a far walk and we got pretty lost (too bad it was Shabbos and I couldn't take a photo of our shoes *covered* with dust because they live in a part with construction going on.  It was funny to see four pairs of black shoes with so much white on them).  Nice to reconnect with them and hear the neat paths each of their kids is on.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Good Shabbos From Our Tidy Home

Just a quick post because our dinner hosts start early-early Shabbos (their shul davens at 5:30 and candle-lighting isn't until 7!).....

Things here are going so well.  No ulpan today.  As much as I love it, it is very hard work concentrating so long and I have been frustrated that I haven't been able to get the house together.  Thankfully, today was the day for getting the house as in-shape as it will likely be without dressers, a china cupboard, etc.  I was able to borrow lots of boxes from our neighbors (the ones who made aliyah just a few weeks before us) and they are our pseudo-dressers.

Ilana's room.  We brought the polka dot stickers with us

Penina's room.  If you couldn't tell by all the shoes.  

Penina and I met on her way home from school and went shopping for Shabbos lamps.  It will make such a nice improvement in our house to have these again.

Penina came home on her own because she wanted to do some shopping.  Sweetie pie bought me roses :)

Good Shabbos!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Rest of Us Start School

Today, Ilana started "Kitah Daled" (4th grade).  She and I walked to her school and, yahoo, it only took about 15 minutes and was a pretty easy walk after we got up the 7 (!) flights of stairs between our house and the main street two levels above us (we're going to get in such great shape here!).

The school did such a nice job preparing for the beginning of the year.  The other day, we went to a meeting with all the other new olim in the school.   It was really nice to meet the other parents and kids (especially the two from the Greater Boston area).  Today, they had students waiting at the front gate with "elementary school bling" (like rubber bracelets exhorting the kids to cross the street safely), the loudspeaker was blaring the Yeshiva Boys Choir "V'eahavta" ("love your friend as yourself"), there was a ballon arch, the school was extremely clean, and they had cute decorations in the hallways.  Oh yeah, and the bell that rings when it's time to go in is an instrumental version of "Hamalach Hagoel".  

They also have CROSSING GUARDS at this school--girls who appear to be in 5th or 6th grades who get vests and long sticks with stop signs on the ends.  They even stuck them into the street and stopped traffic for *me* to cross (I hope they don't let the power go to their heads....).  I was already feeling that we had chosen the right school but seeing the crossing guards totally pushed it over the edge for me ;).  Here it is absolutely not unusual at all to see a 5 year-old walking a 3 year-old sibling around and crossing busy streets.  I will give Israeli drivers a nod that, though they drive like total lunatics, they will generally come to a screeching halt if a young child is trying to cross the street.

It was Chana's first day at Seminary:

She is holding the "b'ahava" ("with love") package that Penina and Ilana made for her.  I dropped her off at the seminary (the school and the other girls seems very nice) and helped her get unpacked before attempting to come home in our rental car, missing the exit for the highway, and following my crazy GPS that, instead of just having me turn around, sent me "the back way" (I wish I could put ominous music to the phrase "the back way"), which involved driving on a winding, two lane road on the side of a huge cliff.  The scenery was absolutely breath-taking (the nanosecond views of it that I took, that is) and it really wasn't dangerous because there was a guard rail, but I will still not too happy.  The route was so winding that I actually got carsick, which I thought was impossible to have happen to the one driving!

Today was the day for us adults to register for *our* school--ulpan--intensive Hebrew instruction.  We had received an email stating that we should "come at 9.  No need to come early.  There will not be instruction that day".  We arrived at 9:05 and discovered a line out the door.  40 minutes later they told us to get out of the line and come inside to the auditorium for a presentation about ulpan (which took a while to get basic info across because they translated everything from Hebrew into English and French) and then they divided us up into groups by our personal guess of our level (I'm in second level and SS is in 4, which is the highest) and brought us upstairs for instruction ;).  Thankfully, it was just basic testing and didn't take too long (I had a huge to-do list since we had a rental car).  Tomorrow, we start classes from 8:30-12:45 Sunday-Thursday for the next five months.  Can't wait to start speaking better.

In Israel, Getting a Refrigerator Delivered is a Religious Experience (from Shalom Shachne)

Last week, we had our refrigerator delivered.

Unless you have been shlepping huge piles of luggage in the blazing Israeli sun, and then racing around an unfamiliar hot apartment struggling to make everything work, and are constantly thirsty, it's hard to appreciate how hard it is to live without a refrigerator even for a day.  (And of course, you can't store any food, so you have to keep running out to buy things to eat.  And of course, the kids are constantly hungry and thirsty.)

So anyway, the day after we arrived to our apartment, late in the afternoon, our refrigerator arrived. Out of the delivery truck popped two swarthy, secular-looking Israelis, who called me downstairs to to explain the situation.  They were shaking their heads ominously, saying that the refrigerator wasn't going to fit through the apartment door. They asked me for a measuring tape to check.  We took various measurements with my US tape measure and then a centimeter tape that a neighbor loaned us.  The situation looked dire.

When I pointed out that once they took the refrigerator out of the box, and took off the refrigerator doors, that it should probably fit, they still insisted that it was too wide:  there was a pipe in the back of the fridge, the doorway narrowed in a certain section, etc.  However, the lead mover (one was very large and strong, and the other was very thin and wiry) then said, ״הקדוש ברוך הוא יעזור״.  This roughly translates to "G-d will help".

I went in to tell Ellen the bad news, and told her to start saying Tehillim (Psalms), because we really felt like we needed that refrigerator.  (Again, you have to understand the level of exhaustion, and psychological hardships of living with no furniture for so many weeks, and no kitchen, to understand why this was so important to us.)   They removed the refrigerator from the box which improved the situation quite a bit.  Then, while the thin wiry mover whipped out an electric screw-driver to start removing the doors, the husky mover strapped our gas stove to his back (which was being delivered at the same time), and struggled up the stairs.  (I had to give a little assistance to prevent him from pitching forward down the stairs when he turned around to set the stove down at the entrance to the apartment.)

Once the fridge doors were off, I raced back down the stairs to take the measurements again.  Truthfully, it actually wasn't even close to being a tight fit through entrance once the doors were off.  But it still wasn't an easy task getting the large fridge up the narrow staircase.

At last the refrigerator was in place, with the doors back on, with its compressor humming away happily (for us).  As the movers turned to leave, the large one came up to me, to tell me how he really he was shomrei Shabbos, and putting on Tefillin every day, and sending his children to a Bet Sefer (school) to learn Torah.  It is typical here, where the cab drivers routinely bless G-d when you get in the car, that you can't see how religious people are in their hearts.

And even though we didn't really need a miracle to get the refrigerator into the apartment, G-d was still obviously involved from beginning to end.