Monday, March 28, 2016

Batsheva left ;(

And the house is too quiet and the table seems too big.....Ilana was setting the table tonight and commented on how odd it is to just put out four plates again (Chana's also been here for most of the past 5 days).  It was a great visit and we look forward to her return!
about to leave for the aiport

Here are some unusual things noticed over the past few days:

--I asked about setting up an appointment for a dental cleaning and was offered one within 24 hours. This is the 3rd dental cleaning I've set up for family members and they always seem to ask if I want one within the next day or two. If your US dentist is anything like mine, appointments are booked 6 months in advance and, should you need to cancel that appointment, say, 5 months ahead of time, you will wait another 2 months (after the original 6 month date) to get a new appointment.   Pleasant change!

--Batsheva pointed out that a meal at McDonald's costs about the same as going to a nice, sit-down place!
The "Original Big America" is 44NIS--about $11!
p.s. don't worry, we weren't going to eat there (no matter what the prices were).  Just snapped the photo as we went by

--We had a great time on our last tiyyul--going to the Israel Police Heritage Center, conveniently located about ten minutes from home.  Very interesting tour of the history of the profession in the country and definitely food for thought about many things (for example, while I knew that the population of Israel went up a lot once Independence was announced in 1948, I didn't know that the population of the country *doubled* in the first year.  All in a country severely lacking in infrastructure.....We are so blessed to be here now....).

Here is a picture with our guide in front of an early Israeli police car.  I was really stymied when he started to speak.  He looked like an Israeli, had an Israeli name, and spoke Hebrew like an Israeli but he had a perfect accent when speaking English and a very high-level vocabulary.  I was so confused I even asked him if he was from the US.  Turns out his father was stationed for the Israeli Air Force in Utah for a few years, starting when our guide was 5.  No other Israelis anywhere around.  When the family returned to Israel they had to put him in a program with new olim so he could learn Hebrew again!

--Final thought on Batsheva's visit: Israel is a very sweet country.  In every place we went to that had a kid's- or family rate, they charged us the lower rate for Batsheva.  I would say something like, "no, no she is my child, but she is 20, so she's not a child for tickets" and the clerk would say, "no, she's your daughter!  Family rate"  :)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Purim! (Part Two)

Well, we made it!  And it was fun and not too overwhelming :)  Here are more random thoughts:

--I went to the early minyan at the BIG shul and committed a faux pas when I shook my grogger on the *second* "Haman".  Oops.  I guess it's a custom at more than one shul to only make noise on the first and last "Haman"!  (I wasn't the only one.  There were maybe 4 of us in the crowd of, umm, 150).  My kids went to the next minyan at the BIG shul and  they made noise on each "Haman", so I guess you just need to know what you're in for.

--We did our usual morning scramble for costumes (Ilana, at least, was prepared ahead of time) and ended up with

a giraffe:

Rosie the Riveter

a cat (or two cats, once Liat and her family showed up)

and an olah chadasha

--the bus stop was full of people in costume;

--And the bus said "Purim Sameach" (Happy Purim) on the front:

--We were *not* overwhelmed with tzedaka collectors and no one came dancing in our door :)

--I sent Batsheva and Chana on what I thought was a reasonable walk to deliver mishloach manot, not realizing that my phone did not have Google maps on it, which was how I planned out the delivery system.  Since our city has many stairs, there are shortcuts that Waze (the only similar app I had on my phone, which I gave to guide them) did not know.  So it sent them hither and yon on a driving route that did not help much since they were walking ;(.  5 miles later (oops) they collapsed back home.  They were very good sports about it, thankfully.

--Liat's family came for our festive meal as well as Ariella B, which added a lovely "bit o' Malden" to the day :).  Jerusalem celebrates Purim a day later than everywhere else, so, for everyone who ate with us, it was really just a regular day for them.  It seems like the custom is for people in Jerusalem to go someplace where it IS Purim the day before to celebrate then, and, when it's Shushan Purim in Jerusalem, vast amounts of people from the rest of the country descend on J'lem to party there as well (it's hard to get enough Purim).

--Friday morning, BIG shul put together an amazing volunteer event.  As soon as Purim ended Thursday night, there was a collection of unwanted items that people had received in mishloach manot.  Since Purim in Jerusalem was Friday, there was (a brief amount of) time to repackage those items into new mishloach manot for kids in Jerusalem.  GENIUS!!!!

in case it matters to you, I didn't take these photos :)

There were four tables FULL of stuff--one of chips, one of candy, one of drinks and one of cookies.  It was stunning to see the plenty that we are privileged to live with, and made me so glad this huge amount of items wasn't going to end up in the garbage (at least, not *that* morning....)

In the end, over 1000 bags were packed for Girls Town and other similar organizations in Jerusalem. Deliveries were made by people who were already going to Jerusalem to experience Purim there. The whole thing was genius from start to finish!

--Friday morning we turned our clocks ahead.  Interesting that the day chosen for the time change is a Friday!  For an interesting read, check out a Wikipedia page (specifically the 2005-2012 section) that Batsheva pointed out to me about how the vagaries of exactly when the time change would happen each year so frustrated Microsoft that "Windows stopped trying to track changes and just made Israeli time be Greenwich Mean Time plus two hours" (!)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Purim! (Part One)

We're right in the middle of the wild, wacky, fun and (yes) spiritual holiday of Purim.  Purim started last night.  Or about three weeks ago, depending on whether one is looking at the calendar or judging by the number of children walking around wearing costumes.  In no particular order, here are some random thoughts on Purim in Israel:

--MANY tzedaka collectors come to the door.  While this is a general Purim custom, in Malden we always had exactly zero collectors.  Here it's a whole new ballgame.  Starting about three days ago, we began getting several each evening (we do oftentimes get one or two a night, but that's a different blog post.  So interesting!).

This is a big time for young men to collect money for their yeshivas.  I have heard that it goes to their Rebbis/teachers to supplement their salary.  If so, I see that they do need to go to many houses, since the standard donation is 5 or 10 NIS, which equals about $1.25-$2.50.  Shalom Shachne went to the bank to get rolls of 5 and 10 coins (and may I just take this opportunity to say how lovely having a coin that is worth real money is?  The 10 shekel coin is my favorite.  Also because it's pretty :)).  He came home empty-handed, though, because the bank told him he should have PRE-ORDERED his coins!  "Wait, let me get this straight: you went to the bank and they didn't have MONEY?!?!"  Luckily, he went early enough in the week that he was able to get our coins in time.

--Last night, we heard the megillah reading at the BIG shul in our neighborhood (we decided that Matthew in Malden is the best megillah reader, though.  If you have the opportunity to hear him, please do!).  The small shul that we normally go to has a custom that people only make noise on the first and last "Haman" (booooo).  The Rabbi there explained that the important thing is to hear every word of the megillah, not to make noise when hearing Haman's name (booooo).

Afterwards, everyone went home to get dinner started while I went to deliver mishloach manot to a family that is collecting them to bring to soldiers who are training nearby.  Unfortunately, I misplaced the paper with the family's address on it.  I thought it was building 34 apartment 5.  Building 34 is a very typical Israeli apartment building: first I went upstairs.  Nope.  Then I went to the apartments downstairs.  Nope.  Then I ran into someone I know who lives in the building.  He didn't know the family or where the exact apartment was, but suggested that I look to the right and left of the main building.  Nope.  By the time I gave up and went home (it was 34/4.  argh) the streets, which had been thronged only 7 or 8 minutes before with people leaving all the shuls at approximately the same time, were almost empty.  Guess the thought of eating after the Fast of Esther was pretty tempting ;)

--Our mishloach manot continued the theme of being new olim.  After searching and searching I found a container that looks like a suitcase.  We put in the iconic Israeli snack foods Bamba (peanut butter flavored corn puffs.  Likely the biggest reason that peanut allergy is rare here because people give to babies as a finger food) and Bissli (MSG-laden salty snack), along with biscuit cookies I dipped in chocolate and covered with blue and white sprinkles.  The cookies were packaged in a sandwich bag and tied with a knot, which is a very Israeli thing to do (I used to wonder how the Israelis tied their bags.  I never had enough bag left to do that.  Then I bought my first box and discovered that Israeli sandwich bags are bigger than American bags!).  Everyone got a keychain (either the Israeli flag or one of Israeli currency for people who are less Zionistically-inclined).

We even made a poem for the front:

With our suitcases packed
We made Aliyah
Thanks for joining us
We've come so fah! (sorry, we're from Boston....)

Ilana and I put the "suitcases" in a pile and then commented on how much it reminded us of before we left for Israel (Deb, Frank and Noreen, I hope you don't have PTSD looking at the photo!).

--There was a parade of cars yesterday for a big charity campaign in town.  The locals (especially a few at our house) were excited when a sign went up last month that implied that Starbucks was coming to town.  Despite the disappointment that the signs turned into "Give Bucks", it is a cute campaign and enjoyable to see how people decorated their cars.

--We had a play in ulpan on Monday.  Shalom Shachne had a star turn as Mordechai, here seen overhearing the guards plot to kill King Ahashverous:

And I made a wonderful (if I do say so) monkey in the Hebrew version of "Caps for Sale" (we also did another piece where we all had to speak).
My class.  We're a very diverse group in age, native country, etc, but what a great bunch of people!

--Ilana, with Penina's help, made a really cute costume.  She's going as Fluttershy from My Little Pony:

--Kids were playing balloon ball on a bus the other day!  The driver didn't get angry when it went into his area, just waited until the next stop and batted it back to them.

--So things are a little crazy and likely to get a lot crazier as the day goes on and people drink more.  Penina got a text to her class list asking another girl if "10 guys with red shirts just danced into your house?!"  It is, evidently, not uncommon for yeshiva guys to just walk into people's houses today.  I think that, for once, we'll lock our door :)

Off to shul!  Happy Purim!

Exploring With Batsheva!

We've had such a great time during Batsheva's visit :).  She has quickly and seamlessly fallen right into the family schedule--she goes to ulpan in the morning and works in the afternoon through late night.  She's in the 4th level of ulpan, so (boo) she's not with me because she's too advanced (Shalom Shachne's 5th level class meets with 4th twice a week.  She says it's very interesting to see her father as a student!).

We've gone on a lot of "tiyyulim" (trips).  It's been great to have the impetus of her visit to "make us" take days off of school/ulpan, rent a car and see more of the country.  It was wonderful to explore our local area and see all the incredible sites we live near.  There is a famous hill nearby, Givat Haturmusim (Lupine Hill), that is covered in beautiful flowers of many colors.  Being a city-ish girl, I can't tell you the names of any of them, but they sure were pretty!  I don't think I've ever seen a lupine before (Monty Python doesn't count) and they are just lovely.
"Hand over all the lupines you've got..."

snails aka "getting jiggy with the macro setting on the phone"

We also explored the amazing nearby archaeological site of Beit Guvrin.  The area is huge--over 1200 acres--so we only saw a small part, but it's unbelievable to see what people in the past did with the area. According to the Israeli National Parks website, the caves "consist mainly of chalk overlaid with harder rock called nari. For thousands of years people have been cutting into the rock beneath the nari as quarries, burial caves, storerooms, industrial facilities, hideouts and dovecotes. They dug small openings into the nari, normally no more than two meters thick, and expanded the caves into the softer chalk beneath. Hundreds of such caves were dug at Bet Guvrin and its surroundings, creating subterranean networks of unparalleled complexity."

We visited the nearby area where David and Goliath fought and also saw the incredible stalactite and stalagmite caves.  

We celebrated Ilana's birthday a month early (so Batsheva could be here) by going to Be'er Sheva  (oftentimes transliterated locally as "Beer Sheva".  Only sorry that we couldn't get a can of beer for (Bat)Sheva to hold near one of those signs....).  Ilana and Shalom Shachne had a really fun visit to Carasso Science Park in Be'er Sheva on an ulpan field trip and she wanted to celebrate by going back and fully exploring the museum.

It was an hour's drive through really gorgeous areas.  The fields were so green and lush they almost looked fake ("Hey, this looks like the beginning of 'Teletubbies'!")

The museum was terrific (we stayed until closing time) and had a really fun outdoor park.  Batsheva quickly learned to play "Happy Birthday" on this....rock thingie

All in all, we've had a great amount of family time:

Or maybe it's been more like this....

But it's been great!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Purim Costume: Your Input, Please

Some of us (okay, perhaps just me....) are planning to dress up as "new olim" for the holiday of Purim next week.  So far, my costume is a Nefesh B'Nefesh baseball hat, a camera around my neck, my MapsJerusalem map and....well, not sure what else.  I'm going to see if we have any Israel t-shirts, but I don't think we do.  Your input wanted, please!

p.s. more photos of Batsheva's visit coming soon to a blog near you.  b''H, we're having a great time!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

She's Here!!!!

Hooray!  Batsheva arrived on Monday night!  She's here for three weeks, so we'll be together for the super fun holiday of Purim.

After picking her up from the airport we.....went and threw snowballs.  Really!  The mall near here was having a "Festival of Snow" with snow trucked in all the way from Mount Hermon, the Israeli ski area.  Certain younger members of the family were very happy to throw snowballs at each other, while certain older members of the family (there were only four of us present), especially those of us who had just arrived from a much-colder environment, felt little excitement over the thought of playing in a mound of parking lot snow.  I held a bit for a moment and said, "nope, don't miss it at all".

Once we arrived home, there was much excitement over seeing Batsheva.  There was also excitement over unpacking the giant bag of goodies she brought with her (between my, umm, bazillion Amazon orders and the goodies she wanted to surprise us with, her Tote-A-Ton took up the entire trunk of our rental car!  Okay, it was a Kia Picanto, which is every bit as tiny as it sounds, but still....

Gluten-free Cheerios.  Not available in Israel :(

See, I wasn't exaggerating

The next day, she was up and out early and came to ulpan with me (which she enjoyed and hopes to come back to).  Then, off to Jerusalem.  We went to the Kotel and, as we were leaving, I suggested taking a photo.  "Oh, Mama--I've got plenty of photos of me by the Kotel".  Me: "I'm sure but I was just thinking about how the last time we were here together, you were three!"  We took a photo :)

Batsheva decided that the thing she most wanted to do was just walk around Jerusalem.  So we did.  For six miles!  She walks a HUGE amount each day in Chicago, so it wasn't a big deal for her, but, man, I was exhausted!

The "everything for 5 shekel" cafeteria craze is in full swing.  There are THREE of these places in the Old City alone!  Above, an iced coffee, a carrot juice and a peanut butter donut, each for about $1.25 

the (Semitic) Disney Princesses

On the way back, we picked up Chana, who was able to take the afternoon and evening off of classes to come home and celebrate.  For the first time in seven months, all six of us were around the dinner table!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Shuk at Night

Have you seen the Inspired by Israel  videos?  Penina, Ilana and I have had a lot of fun watching many of them.  It's very interesting to see the different angles people take in being "inspired by Israel".  The video below is my favorite.   Our first week after making aliyah, we rented an apartment across from the shuk and, while walking through, we so enjoyed seeing the painted store shutters. Now I just need to find a tour! Until that time, though, this video is a very enjoyable and interesting way to spend a few minutes.  

"Inspired by Israel" is a contest, and this is the last day to vote.  I hope this video wins!
(my apologies that I can't get the video to embed....)