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!