Thursday, October 27, 2016

Right on Schedule!

Monday: Prayer for Rain makes its first appearance in the davening

Today: wake up to odd sound.  It takes a few moments to place it.  It's.....raining!  Wahoo!  (But, boo, that we procrastinated on taking down the sukkah)

Later today: take down sukkah.  Just as we finish, it rains again, and this time it POURS.  Kids are playing in the street and asking for hot cocoa (Israeli equivalent of playing in the snow for the first time, I guess).  My kids took a squeegee and cleaned our car off (I can't believe how dusty Jazzy got in only a week!)

Coat was really not necessary, but it was the first raincoat-like thing I grabbed

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sukkos (featuring the first appearance of "car, car, c-a-r"!)

It's been a very pleasant Sukkot holiday here.  It is delightfully easy to have our sukkah on our mirpesset, as this porch is right off our living room and near our kitchen.  No stairs, and no (potentially-muddy) backyard to walk through.  Since our entrance is a flight above street level, we also don't have to worry about having animals walking near our sukkah, like the time a skunk walked by when Shalom Shachne was sleeping in the sukkkah ;).  It's also lovely to be in a place with nice weather pretty much guaranteed--I took dining rooms chairs out because I didn't have to worry about them getting rained on.  On the other hand, it's still quite warm here and we had to get a fan (wow!) for our sukkah.

We've been in overdrive going places during chol hamoed.  That's literal because we bought a CAR!  I struggled with this decision ("It's like Woody Allen says--our feet will never touch pavement again"), but faced the reality that, with five of us now living at home, we can't all fit in one taxi to go anywhere.  Suddenly "let's go out to dinner Sunday night" became a whole balagan.  So we've added "Jazzy", a 2013 Honda Jazz Hybrid, to the family, and we've been racking up the kilometers on it since we bought her six days ago.

She sure was excited to drive down our street

We went on the Nefesh b'Nefesh trip which was to a nature reserve that had over twenty different types of sukkahs on display.  Some were halachically permitted, like the sukkah on a boat, or this one on top of a camel:

Others were not okay to use, but were interesting to see what they looked like in reality, like this "too tall" one:

And, best of all, we would have had to be at the community center at 8 a.m. to catch the NBN chartered bus, but, thanks to Jazzy, we were in no rush to get out of the house.

We managed to do relatively few things with all of us together, but *some* of us did things like: go to the Kotel, go bowling, go to the mall, visit our former neighbors Lori and Andy Shlomo, and, what every holiday needs: a visit to Ikea where I continue to be delighted in all the Jewish things in the store:
I couldn't figure out if it was just the frame for 49nis or if it included the bircas habaiyit home blessing

tables were set for Rosh Hashanah meals, including having a "machzor" out on each table (we checked inside and it was really a children's sports book written in Swedish with just a fake cover to look like a Rosh Hashanah prayer book)

the cool thing here is that there are two sinks in the model kitchen and they are labelled "meat" and "dairy"
Ilana and I went to the big free concert that our city put on: Chanan ben Ari--awesome to see tons of people singing along to "HaChaim Shelanu Tutim" (although I'm not sure why our lives are like strawberries), and teen sensation Uziah Tzadok, although we left before the headliner, Yaakov Shwekey!).  Only about two weeks ago, it was unclear that the concert was even going to happen, and it was incredibly professional and well done.  It was also a really beautiful example of the types of people who live here--from extremely secular to extremely religious, all getting along together.  Plus they sold the largest cotton candy I've ever seen:
Israel gives up all pretense of fancy names like "candy floss" and just calls it "sugar" :) (and, no, she didn't eat it all but it definitely made for a good photo op while we were waiting between performers)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What's doing at 11:15 pm?

That was our question last night, after finishing putting up the sukkah in preparation for the start of the holiday tonight.  So Shalom Shachne, Penina and I went up to the mercaz to see what was doing.  And it was jumping!  Many stores were open, both the expected ones (clever hardware store) and the less-expected (who really needs a new snood at that time of night?!) and TONS of open-air booths selling items for the holiday, including hundreds of etrog and lulav sets.  Loads of people, including a much larger number of children than I felt was appropriate for that time of night (when *I* wanted to be home in bed)

super jumbo etrog!
The buses all say "Chag Sameach"  on their destination signs, our sukkah is ready, the food is cooking and we're off to have our second Sukkos here!  Good Yontif!

Kever Rochel

Last Saturday night, Chana and I joined a women's trip to Kever Rochel--Rachel's Tomb.  A synagogue across town was doing a fundraiser for their members who need financial help over the holidays.  A member paid for the bus so all the money raised went to the charity fund.  For Israel, it was expensive--100nis (about $25) for each of us--but I was really glad to support the need as well as have someone drive me to Kever Rochel, as I had never been there and, really, it's not in a great neighborhood (although plenty of seminary students--including my own--have taken the public bus there and report that it is easy and safe).

The entrance to the complex has a gated fence and a soldier actually walked through the bus we were on.  We were clearly a pretty innocuous bunch of frum females (we were sitting across from a woman who had brought bags of popcorn to give out to the soldiers on duty) and were allowed to enter the compound.  There are high walls with barbed wire and lookout posts on the tops as you travel down the road, turn a corner and then....enter a more open area where there were tons of religious Jews milling around.  Cognitive dissonance.

We entered the Kever and had some nice private davening before the bus left to go back home.  It was quite crowded, as the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are both an important time to pray as well as a traditional time to visit the grave's of one's ancestors.

The most surprising thing for me was finding out that the "modern" Kever Rochel looks nothing like all those art projects my kids brought home from preschool.  Maybe you have to come during the day.  Or enter from another way (although the way we came in is the only way Chana says she's ever entered), but there is no dome on top!  Yet more cognitive dissonance.

All in all, another thing to tick off of my "new olah" checklist (and, in this case, my "baalat teshuvah" checklist) and the synagogue raised over 6000nis for its members in need ;).

Monday, October 10, 2016

Got me a ukulele....or something

The background to this story is that, when driving "the back way" to Jerusalem, one goes through a security checkpoint (soldiers decide which cars to stop and search) and then, immediately after, there is a large traffic circle.  So cars are going quite slowly for about 1/4 mile and "the locals" have used this to set up some road-side businesses.  One guy sells fruit, another sells soda cans from a cooler and then there's the guy known in my mind as "The Ukulele Dude".  He could also be known as "The Stuffed 'Hello Kitty' Dude" or "The Tacky Tchochke Dude".  Every time we drove by him, Chana would longingly say, "I've always wanted a ukulele" and I would really understand that because I would also get this urge to stop and buy one.  We never had any spare time ("Gotta get the rental car back").  Until the other day.

With images in my mind of Chana joining Batsheva and Auntie Paula at a ukulele-fest next summer, I stuck my head out the car window.  "How much for the ukulele?" I asked in Hebrew.  The guy looked confused.  I pointed.  "Over there.  Like the small guitar".  I wondered if maybe there was a different word in Hebrew for "ukelele", as I had just said the word while trying to put an Israeli spin on the pronunciation

I felt that 50nis (about $12.50) would be appropriate and was stunned when he said 130nis!  "Oh, I didn't realize they were so expensive.  Never mind".  And then it got into a whole bargaining balagan with me saying I only wanted to pay 50 and him offering other amounts, telling me about his 7 children ("cue the line about the large family!"), showing the genuine wood of the guitar, telling me he wasn't going to make any money on the deal, etc. I was actually not really trying to bargain and was just trying to leave without running over the guy's foot (he must have been a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman in a past life, because he used every trick in the book: "Step 1: put ukulele in car and push it back in every time lady tries to give it back to you").

Finally, Chana started saying, "Mommy, just drive away".  And the guy yelled some number and I said, "Sorry, 50" and then, in an extremely cartoon-like moment, he said, "50" and then I said, "no, 50" and he bellowed "50!!!!!" and Chana said, "umm, Mommy, he just said 50".  I was laughing so hard as we exchanged money for musical instrument.  It is rare that life imitates Bugs Bunny so faithfully.

On the way home, Chana worried that we had paid too little ("the guy has 7 kids!").  Sharing the story when we got home, Penina agreed with Chana ("7 kids, Mommy!").  I will let my brother, Jay-the-well-known-economist, give his views on this (although I'm pretty sure I already know them).

Then Shalom Shachne, the player of many musical instruments, heard the story and saw the ukulele.  And told us that it was it not a ukulele at all, just an extremely small guitar (which explains why the guy didn't know what I was initially asking about).  After trying to tune it and finding that the thing refused to stay in tune for longer than a minute, he also said that I "certainly had not overpaid" from a merchandise standpoint.

On the plus side, I conducted the whole two minute negotiation in Hebrew.  On the minus side, this may only show that I know how to say the number "50" in Hebrew :)

"Uki" (shout-out to cousin Gil)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rosh Hashanah Wrap-Up

It's a little hard to believe this is our second Rosh Hashanah here, and that, last year at this time (on the Hebrew calendar, anyway), our lift hadn't even arrived.  Last year I was making meals with two knives and two pots and this year we'll have a full table and I'm making my first-ever brisket (we're hosting a bunch of yeshiva guys for one of the dinners.  After a meal last year where a yeshiva guy almost cried that we were having salmon as the main dish, I now only serve fleishigs when hosting young men.  They don't know enough about my love of all things vegetarian to know how lucky they are ["Main course of breaded tofu, anyone?  Anyone?!?!"].

It is beyond lovely to be in a place where Rosh Hashanah is such a big deal. The malls, schools, doctors offices and stores are all decorated with things like paper apples and fake pomegranates, everyone (including store cashiers) is wishing each other a Shana Tova (a good new year) and kativa v'chatima tova (may you be written and signed for a good year) and Ilana and I both came home from school/ulpan with candies from classmates to wish us a sweet New Year.

People are in overdrive buying and making simanim foods (one clever supermarket even posted a sign by each one of these special foods that are eaten on Rosh Hashanah.  This way, shoppers just had to go down the produce aisle saying, "ohh, right--I forgot to get the leeks."  [Karsi in Hebrew sounds like the word kares which means to destroy, so there is a custom to say "May it be your will, Hashem, that our enemies are destroyed"].  Simanim have become almost a trend now, with one popular blogger posting her Rosh Hashanah Tapas Simanim meal.  We are sharing a meal tonight with our friends the O's, who made aliyah this summer from Sharon, MA.  I've suggested that everyone try to bring their own siman.  As we are big into puns around here, we're having fun planning on what to bring.  Chana seems able to make anything into a siman: "I'd like to make chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  I can say that we should always be chipper and never be late.  Choco-late".  I found a recipe for Harvard beets so that we can beat back our enemies and be really smart while doing it)

All of the houseware stores are having huge sales (bigger around Pesach, but still pretty big now). The appliance stores are also in overdrive.  Thinking about that more, I think it's a confluence of the holiday being right after tons of new olim arrive so, for many reasons, it's a good time for stores to have a sale.

Rosh Hashanah is the only guaranteed two-day yontif on the Israeli calendar. You should see the worry people have about buying enough food/cooking for a a two day holiday.  I only hope that, by next Rosh Hashanah, we will be in a new house that has space for a second freezer and/or fridge, since the space issue of hosting people with only one fridge has been a big challenge (I wonder many times a day how my grandmothers and great-grandmothers did it). Shalom Shachne and I went grocery shopping last night after Shabbos ended because there was just no fridge space before Shabbos.  This meant that we had to wait until the store actually opened after Shabbos ended and then wait in a long check-out line at 11 pm because we were, not surprisingly, not the only ones who knew that the lines this morning would be twice as long as last night!

The spiritual aspects of the end of one year/beginning of another one are being heavily focused on, which I love.  I went to a shiur last Shabbos (my neighborhood has a weekly class that is given by different women who live here) and the speaker noted that this is the last week of the year and how hard we should work to make each day the best it can be, since each day "done right" can make up for less-than-stellar ones that happened throughout the year.  The Rabbi at shul yesterday took a moment before mussaf started to remind us that we were about to daven the last  mussaf of the year, and make it count.  Intense.  I always spend part of Shabbos afternoon saying tehillim so, in this spirit, I said extra yesterday.  I was about to stop when I said, "oh, why not--just one more.  I'll open randomly" and opened to.....number 119, which is the longest one of all (celestial joke!).  I made it through and was only five minutes late for the shiur :).

May we all be entering a sweet, happy, and healthy New Year!