Monday, May 29, 2017

Just What I Needed

As you can probably imagine, it being late spring in the Middle East, the inside of our car, little Jazzy, has been getting quite warm when she sits parked.  It's worst while I go to ulpan, as there is no shade in the parking lot, so Jazzy roasts in the sun for 4.5 hours while I slave away at grammar inside.

So, sensibly, I've been looking for a sun shade.  And while I understand that it is totally normal here *not* to have a car, I still found it surprising how hard it's been to find a sun shade.  I actually made it to "very large supermarket" the other day.  I know they have them at the back of the store, but, "very large supermarket" is also known for it's "very long lines", so I ran to get the few items I could only get there and went to wait in line (I have yet to see an Express lane here).  "Besides", I thought, "how hard can it be to find a sun shade?  This can't be the *only* place".  Or was it?!

Yesterday, I had to fill a prescription and decided to do it during the morning break from ulpan  (or "recess" as Ilana once called it :)).  "Why not do it on the way home?", you might ask. Ah, that's because of afternoon siesta time--our HMO is closed from 1-4 every day (that has taken some getting used to....Although it's slightly off-set by the fact that it's open until 7 pm).  As I was zooming into the mercaz hoping the line wouldn't be too long and I wouldn't be too late getting back to ulpan, I discovered that the police officers waiting outside their cruiser at the entrance to the mercaz were motioning me to pull over.  I was SO sure that my driving had been impeccably legal that I almost wasn't even worried, but, really, I think it's impossible to *not* be stressed when pulled over by the police.  The officer unsmilingly asked for my license and car registration and after taking them back to his police car for a few moments, returned with....a bag of "police bling", including a bunch of stickers and key chains.

And a sun shade :)

"I thought there was a problem!" I told him (in Hebrew).  He gave a little smile and sent me on my way (which made me think of the end of our new favorite music video [with thanks to Annabelle for sending it to us]):

Wishing everyone a wonderful Shavuot and a big mazal tov to our dear friend Tsipora from Boston who just got engaged.  Wishing you and Daniel a lifetime of happiness, Po!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Big Week for Israel

Small week for our family, but big week for Israel!

Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Kotel.  I heard jokes such as:
"Trump put a note in the Kotel.  He was asking Gd if He needed help with anything"


"Trump paused and looked up at the top of the Wall as he approached it.  He was seeing whether he should call in his architect about moving the whole thing to the border with Mexico"

Mrs. Trump won rave reviews for who she *didn't* hold hands with (her husband) and who she *did* (First Lady Nechama Rivlin, whose other hand held her portable oxygen).

But the really big news around here was the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and that Israel came into control of the Old City during the 1967 Six Day War.   Amazing to me, who has only known the Kotel to have the huge, beautiful plaza before it, to think of a time so near in history when houses were built right up the Wall....that for the 19 years from when Israel was established until 1967, Jews were FORBIDDEN from entering the Old City at all..... that the closest people could come was to go to the Armon HaNetziv neighborhood and rent a pair of binoculars to *see* to the Old City.  We are so, so fortunate....

An incredibly popular photo these days is a "then and now" photo of the "3 Soldiers" standing at the Wall.  I found a great article that interviews them and the photographer

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy La'D B'Omer

What's that you say--you never heard of celebrating "La'D" B'Omer, only "La'G" B'Omer, on the 33rd day of counting the Omer going from Pesach to Shavuot?  Well, this year brought an interesting twist.  Since La'G started right when Shabbat ended this week, the Rabbanut in Israel pushed off the celebrations until the next day, La'D, so that there would be no Shabbat violations with people preparing their bonfires during Shabbat.  But then there was a sizable religious contingent who felt that this was not necessary, since their followers would not violate Shabbat in their preparations and starting later at night would suffice (I read that the big bonfires in Meron were not lit until 2 a.m.).  10 Jews, 11 opinions, again--Penina's school had off one day and Ilana's school the other!

In the part of town that's mostly Traditional/Modern Orthodox, my friend who lives there told me it was totally quiet Saturday night, with everyone waiting until Sunday night.  In the *very* religious neighborhood next to it, bonfires were lit only on Saturday night.  Here, in our lovely "mixed" neighborhood, we got a two day Yontif with fires both nights ;).  I'm glad that tonight we'll be able to sleep with the windows open again!

La'D Sameach!!!!

Penina's photo of one of the many medurot across from our house

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Run, Run, Run!

We have another entry in the "New Experiences" category!

When Batsheva was visiting for Purim, I started jogging with her.  She's a pretty accomplished runner and she was a terrific person to get started with--she knew exactly what I should do to get started (she got me doing interval training with 5 or 10 minutes of running and then 30 seconds or 1 minute of walking.  Using this method was great, as it meant I did not keel over due to lack of oxygen.  Big thanks to our friend Lev who made an interval timer app that was quite a help).  It was also so neat to have *her* be the teacher and the one giving encouragement and praise.  I see we are entering a whole new level of family life.

So I was (somewhat) ready when one of the local libraries announced their yearly road race, which is their major fundraiser (like most libraries here, it's private.  But that's another blog post).   Signing up online was a total hoot.  The site announced that it was "powered by Google translate".  We'll use the word "power" loosely here, because it first told me that my age category was "Old" (in another 12 years I'll be in the "Veteran" category, which sounds much more pleasant) and then sternly admonished that "no one is allowed to use another person's chest during the race" :)

Ilana and I signed up together.  She was AMAZING and ran the 2K race in only 17 minutes, with really minimal training (we were trying to figure out if she ran with me three times or was it four, but, whatever it was, it was not much).
at the end.  whew!

I signed up for the 5K, which was the only longer option (not that I could have done more yet, anyway.  I had only run 5k once, last week, when I was starting to panic about being ready for the race).  It was really amazing to participate.  I had the idea that there would be about 50 people running on the sidewalks.  When we picked up our race packets, I found out that 900 people were signed up, major streets would be closed and there would be water stations along the way--so professional!  It was so cool to be running in this crowd of people where men were wearing yarmulkes, women were wearing skirts and had their hair covered, and some of the guards who were posted at the intersections were learning religious texts (it's like double guarding since they help cover the spiritual aspect while they stand there with their guns!)

The race started at 7:15 p.m. and the beauty of running at sunset through this area was indescribable.  We went on a street that seemed like the edge of the city--just a drop-off down the side and the mountains so close and so beautiful.  Amazing.  (The downside of being "nestled among the Judean Hills", though, is that it's always "uphill, both ways" around here).

I spent the first bit of the race just being overwhelmed with gratitude that I was there and able to do it.  Being so thankful that I had gotten past my endless series of spinal fusions when I was a teenager and my knee surgery when Ilana was young (which was following a sports injury and had me worried I would never be able to do anything physical again).....And using niece Cloe's mantra (from when she was three) of "I'm strong, I'm healthy, I can do this, I can do this" ;)

As someone who spent many years screaming until I was hoarse while cheering runners on at the Boston Marathon, it was really sweet to get my own tiny taste of receiving that support, including a few people who knew me by name and a group of girls who screamed, "Go, Penina's Mom" which I loved.  The BEST part was, not surprisingly, the end.  While we had been watching the 2k runners come back, Penina had admonished me to chill out in my cheering and clapping--I was being WAY not cool.  It was the sweetest thing to run over the finish line and have her and Ilana screaming at the top of their lungs.

We're hoping that next year, all three of us will run the 5k together ;)

Uncle Sydney's Visit

On Sunday we got to see Uncle Sydney.  What a treat! He came on a United Jewish Appeal mission with his neighbors and very good friends, Sylvia and Irving, and his assistant, Michelle.  We have met Sylvia and Irving many times over the years, and, once we moved to Boston, we always talked about their niece, Devora M, who lives in Boston.  Over time, each time they asked, our answers progressed from, "I think we know them", to "Yes, we know them and they're so nice" on and on over the years until this time when I said, "I told Devora that we would be seeing you today and she said it was good that we were switching family members, as Chana was spending Shabbos at their house!"

The trip they were on sounded really incredible.  For example, President Rivlin, Natan Sharansky and Jerusalem Mayor Barkat spoke privately with their group!  The schedule was jam-packed from morning to night and we were all totally impressed with Uncle Sydney, who turned 94 this week (!), for going on the trip (and that he is still deeply involved with his business.  And that he's planning on going to Venice, Jamaica and Hawaii over the rest of the year).  When I explained to my ulpan class why I had missed the day, one woman sagely noted that "90 is the new 40" ;)

Uncle Sydney looked good (Baruch Hashem).  It has, of course, been hard on him since Aunt Sunny died (they were married for 68 years.  68 years!) and I really admire him for coming on this trip.  He said that the first time he ever went to Israel was just a few months after the Six Day War.  "Whose idea was that?" I asked.  "I don't remember" he answered.  Then, a moment later, "it must have been Sunny's idea".  I agreed.  She was such an adventurous person who lived life fully (I discovered this obituary which is a spot-on description).  It was especially appropriate to see Uncle Sydney this week as yesterday marked 11 months since her death and SS stopped saying kaddish for her.....

Wanting to give Uncle Sydney a "taste of home", I kept at the geshnitna-making experiment.  Chellie gave me some very good technical input (I had divided the dough into half and she told me to divide into fourths) and I plowed through drawers until I found the lemon zester Barbara once gave me and found that the addition of some good lemon zest (per the recipe) really added a lot.  It was great having Sylvia there when Uncle Sydney opened the geshnitna.  She said that she remembered Aunt Sunny serving geshnitna when they played bridge together, and that *she* was touched that we had made it.

We had a long list of possible things to do, but ended up just going to lunch at the hotel and talking for hours.  We didn't get home until 9 pm!

Come back and visit again, Uncle Sydney!!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Day....After Day....After Day.....

Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, was last week.....Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, was yesterday, and it segued right into Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day, today.....

My poor ulpan teacher felt like she had so much to cover and such little time to do it in.  We spent some time translating parts of the Proclamation of Independence and she told us how the signers had to run around to the local cafes and borrow chairs (here is a GREAT description of that time.  The details of that night are absolutely unbelievable).  To think of Ben Gurion announcing the creation of Israel knowing without a doubt that it would mean an immediate war....

In the community center where I attend ulpan, they set up a table and backdrop covered in black saying, in yellow, yizkor and a group of six yarhzeit candles (one for each of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust) and, separately, one candle [Holocaust Day here is noted on the day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and I assume the separate candle was to note that]).  As we moved closer to this week, photos and biographies of fallen soldiers and people killed in terror attacks were added to the display, and, finally, Israeli flags.  It was kind of a balagan, but that seems to appropriately give over the mash-up of feelings during this week.

Nationwide one minute siren on Yom HaShoah.....Another siren at night on Yom HaZikaron (we were finishing dinner and had all forgotten that one was coming, leading to a few moments of panic).....Siren again (two minutes this time) during the day of Yom HaZikaron.  If you haven't seen the videos of people stopping on the highway and standing next to their cars, I suggest looking one up.  It's amazing.  A friend told us that she was on the bus coming back from Jerusalem when the siren went off and the bus driver stopped and stood as did almost every other person on the bus (like everything here, it's "10 Jews, 11 Opinions" and there is pretty much *nothing* that everyone does).

Ulpan took us to a Yom HaZikaron program at a nearby boys' school.  As a chardal school--chareidi-dati leumi--they try to find the middle ground of being both strongly religious and supporting the State of Israel.  Not so easy, but they did a good job.   The principal recited Kel Malei Rachamim and finished just as the siren started.  Very moving....

After Ani Ma'amin, the students had a color guard flag performance (see what I mean about trying to find that middle ground?).

Penina, Ilana and I watched the live-stream of the big ceremony at Har Herzl last night, concluding Yom HaZikaron and starting Yom HaAtzmaut (as the Times of Israel puts it, the timing "ensures that the elation of independence is never far removed from an awareness of its cost").   Rita (super famous Iranian-Israeli singer) sang the song I hate to love, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, while wearing a dress that had an enormous circular train that a whole light show was displayed on.  It was pretty spectacular!

We saw fireworks last night, and, today, had a blissful day off.  Without Sundays, the only days off tend to be when a major Holiday is starting that evening.  It was great to just have a "regular" day off.  We learned our lesson from last year and didn't try to go anywhere (worst traffic day of the year).  Our day was super mellow--we baked for the Lone Soldiers Barbeque, had a BBQ ourselves, played cards, read books and I finished off the day by trying to make the heirloom family recipe "Geshnitna" in advance of Uncle Sydney's (!!!!) visit here Sunday (still working on the geshnitna, despite getting tech support from Chellie.  Let's just say that, from the sample I nibbled on, you can tell I married in to the family....)

I leave you with a few photos Penina took that made us both smile (oops, the nail polish better go before school starts again tomorrow)
at the burger restaurant....

flag was a gift from my parents when we made aliyah