Friday, November 28, 2008

"May we sing for joy at your salvation..."

Yom shishi, 1 Kislev 5769, Rosh Chodesh.

Yesterday evening, when the news reports out of Mumbai were looking hopeful, I saw the following quote in a story that had reported the hostages rescued from the Chabad house

"The terrorists who were holed up in the city's Chabad House had offered to negotiate with India's government for the lives of the Jewish hostages they are holding, but the government said, 'No deal.'"

I subsequently commented to friends:

If this sentence from the Arutz Sheva news report is accurate, Israel and the West could learn a lot from India.

Let's listen to the music, boys and girls. It's about time that the so-called civilized countries on this planet start to ask the Mujahedin to protect
themselves from us. It is about time the people of Islam and the Arabs should be expected to be apologetic for their crazy brothers. The wrong people are cowering in fear. The wrong people are walking the streets without concern.

Negotiating with evil brings more evil, because evil doesn't play by the nice guys' rules.

As we continue to daven for the safe rescue and return of Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and Rivka bas Yehudis, and their colleagues, Aryeh Leibish ben Elta Nechama Maltshi and Ben Tzion ben Elka, among all of the other holy captives of Hashem's enemies, let us not turn away from that fact.

And as we sit, wondering how we can stop the madness from our kitchens and cubicles and classrooms around the world, let's take a brief glance at the Shir shel Yom for Yom Chamishi, the day this most recent horror seems to have begun:

"If only My people would heed Me, if Israel would walk in My ways.  In an instant I would subdue their foes, and against their tormentors turn My hand."*

*Artscroll translation of the Song of the Day for Thursday

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Little Red Convertible

Yom shlishi, 27 Cheshvan 5769.

The subtitle of this post is: "You do your mid-life crisis your way -- and I'll do mine my way."  Here is my little red sports car with her top up, for inclement weather.  Lotsa room in the boot for the groceries.  No room to shlep the kids, of course; but that's the point of a tiny roadster, isn't it?

And here the little baby is with her top down, for sunny days like today. 
No need to be jealous.  My other car is an "Egged."
Whatever gets the shopping done...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nineteen degrees is nice in Neve Daniel. I'm just saying...

Yom sheni, 26 Cheshvan 5769.

Today is one of those days that reminds me of some of the physical aspects I love about living here in Israel, especially on "my mountain."  (Even though there are no Cascades or Rockies here, Neve Daniel -- at 997 meters above sea-level -- is the highest-elevation community in the country.)

At a crisp 66.2 degrees Farenheit, it is a good day to have a bite of breakfast outside. 

Dear Baltimore Homies (who have not yet decided that it's time to be moving to warmer climes):

Is that YOUR house going up in my back yard?  Looking forward to seeing your name beside the door.

 Time to sit outside and learn a little Mesillat Yesharim with my best friend.  Join us for coffee and a learning seder soon?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Cornucopia of Commentary

Yom rishon, 25 Cheshvan 5769.

This week's rich harvest of opinion and reportage is in.  Look at some of the wonderful writing for which we can be grateful.  Heveil Havalim #192: The Thanks and Giving Edition is up at Ima on (and off) the Bima.

A hearty welcome aboard to my dear friend, "Dr. Aliyah."  Her writing about her love for Eretz Yisrael and her longing for the Geula always inspires me.  If you haven't yet visited her blog, now is a chance to do so.  "Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop" puts some perspective on the global financial crisis, and how it effects at least one family's outlook on aliyah.

Whether Thanksgiving is your thing or not, it never hurts to be reminded that hoda'ah is the key to contentment.  Hodu Lashem ki Tov, ki l'Olam Chasdo!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday Sojourn #1

Yom sheni, 19 Cheshvan 5769.

In 1991, the Dearly Beloved took me to Israel for the first time.

He wanted to show me all of the tourist sites that he remembered from his visits in the '80s.  But I already had the seeds of aliyah sprouting in my soul; and I told him I wanted to spend our time experiencing the life of the residents.  He's an understanding fellow; so, instead of showing me Masada, he let me drag him to the makolet.  Instead of visiting the banks of the Yarden, we were sent from teller to teller in the banks of Yerushalayim.  We visited families, and listened to them talk about what real life in Israel was like.  It was just as beaurocratically ridiculous as everyone said.  It seemed like an interesting challenge.  When we got back to the States, I told my husband that I would take the time to be a tourist when I lived in Israel. 

Over Shabbat last week, the Dearly Beloved informed me that it was time to make good on my 17-year-old promise.  And that Sundays would be "tiyul day" for the two of us.  After all, the kids get to go on tiyulim through their schools.  It's not our fault we're too long in the tooth for yeshiva.  And now we have these special bus passes for olim, that allow us to travel anywhere in the country (except Eilat) for a very reasonable price.  Why not use them?

The first stop was a visit to one of our favorite bakeries, very near the tachana.  The pastry is as good as is pastry everywhere in Israel.  What makes this bakery special is Amir, who makes a great cup of cafe shachor, and treats everyone like a mentch.  (Throughout my marriage to the Dearly Beloved, the guy who gets our money isn't always the cheapest.  He is good at what he does, and treats us the way he would like to be treated.)

After that pleasant visit, we added another photo to our catalog of the "Most Exhaustive Photo Essay of Every Possible Angle of the 'Bridge of Strings'".  This project has picked up a more feverish pace since the new mayor-elect, Nir Barkat, has expressed his desire to tear the thing down.

In 2005, I sat at my computer and watched, day after day, as the soap opera that would become the nightmare of Gush Katif unfolded.  It was a surrealistic time; and the only people with whom I could relate on the subject lived in Cyberspace.  More accurately, they lived all over the world; but we shared the need to "live" the Gush Katif drama at a depth most people around us couldn't seem to fathom.  So we became an internet support group, holding virtual hands throughout the trauma.  The Gush Katif Museum is tucked into Agrippas Street.  We discovered it quite by accident.  It is a stop we would recommend for every tourist.  We expected a small museum, filled with facts and photos.  There were those.  The time line makes it painfully obvious that Israel has built herself, only to tear herself down at the world's insistence, many, many times.  My favorite photos were of children.  One was holding orange ribbons in each hand, stretched out to invisible hands outside the left and right frames of the photo.  Another shows rows and rows of young soldiers.  In the foreground, his back to us, is a tiny boy, offering a few cookies to the tenderly smiling soldiers in his chubby hand. We did not expect the poignant paintings, full of the intensity of the youth who stood their ground.  Nor did we expect to spend an hour sitting together and crying.  Whichever side of the argument you fell out on, you will find that the film is a fair representation of the good and bad on both sides of the struggle, and of some of the pain each side endured. I don't usually suggest that people take time to be sad...  but there is a time for everything, as the wise king said.  And there are, unfortunately, more events in Jewish life to which the expression "never again" must be appended, and repeated to ourselves, in full video sound and fury.

Well, after that, a little fun was certainly called for.  We stopped into Emek Refaim at one of our favorite restaurants.

  After I seasoned both our dishes of Temani Meat Soup with a little charif, the Dearly Beloved said that he would prefer to handle this task for himself in the future.
Look.  My main job in this climate is to get a lot of water into each member of my family every day.  You can see, by the empty water bottle at his right, that I was very successful.  
Next week:  Tel Aviv, and the quest for the wily Dancing Camel pub. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Today, you don't want to read my blog...

Yom rishon, 17 Cheshvan 5769.

...You want to read everybody else's.  Check out the "Mama Rachel Edition" of Haveil Havalim.  Hosted this week by my friend and fellow obstacle-to-peace, West Bank Mama.

Lots of well-written stuff, by folks on the front lines of Jewish life in Israel, as well as some very nice stuff by people still stuck in Chu"l* who love us.

Until you can come and be here with us (and even after!), this is the best place to stay up-to-date with "the real scoop," IMHO.


*BTW, if you are a writer (Rivkah, Shprintz, Mordechai, Josh, and the rest of you), and you haven't submitted anything to Haveil Havalim yet -- get with the program!  This is a nice way to let people see your stuff.  Why deprive the world of your wisdom?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Free for Soldiers

Yom shishi, 16 Cheshvan 5769.

I love living in a country that treats its soldiers this way.

Just seeing the sign makes me smile.

(The sign offers free internet surfing to the soldiers at the internet cafe in the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem.)

They don't seem to mind it, either.

Shabbat shalom u'mevorach!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The B-More Backers Bring the Four-One-Oh* to Israel!

Yom revi'i, 14 Cheshvan 5769.

Back in Elul, we former Baltimoreans shared a sad memorial service for a very sweet kid named Chananya Backer, a"h. The boys wanted to do something to remember Chananya in a positive way.

So when it came time to come up with a name for their American Football team, they decided to honor their friend, and their old home town. Thus, the "B-More Backers" were born.

Tonight, I can happily report that the Sports Guy and the Bookworm, two of our favorite 14-year-olds, received their team shirts. After the game, the good news was cell-phoned home: The B-More Backers are now two and oh! "Pizzeria Efrat" and "Your Moms Mistakes," notice is served: watch out. The field belongs to the Four-One-Oh!*

Chananya, your homies are doing okay. I think you'd be proud of the way they are becoming Israelis, with a Baltimore "ta'am."

*410 was the area code of Baltimore for some time, only recently joined by 443. "Bringing the four-one-oh" is some of the only teenager slang I have mastered, much to my sons' embarrassment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Soldier's Perspective

Yom shlishi, 13 Cheshvan 5769.

I was going to write about soldiers today; but Soldier Boy just wrote a very nice essay at Through Josh-Colored Glasses; so I think I'll just post his excellent work instead. As I've said before, a little nepotism is a good thing.

Enjoy. This mama will shep a little nachas.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Strength in the Face of Despair

This post is a bit out of keeping with my usual style of writing, but I thought it important to remind people about why we do what we do.

I have heard talk.

People are afraid.

Politics in the states, potential wars, morality plummeting around the world, fear of the rising Islamic global terrorism, the sagging economy-the list is endless.

I heard a story about a man I know, a great man, who was afraid to bring children into the world. The sickness, the horror of it, kept him afraid of bringing more people to suffer into this world for the longest time, but his wife finally convinced him. He now has four great sons, may they only climb higher and bring honor to his name.

I heard a similar story that happened in Eygpt. A man there also refused to bring a child into the world, fearing the child's death, and he parted from his wife. A strong-willed daughter reunited them, and a son was born. That son was Moshe.

I am married, and I also had begun to feel this fear. Here I am, listening to all the sickness and rot of this world, and yet I am expected to bring another life into a world of death?

The answer to my question, of course, was my question. A highly Jewish concept.

We fear darkness, the evils from all around and seek a way to fix it, hide it, hide ourselves.

The answer is found in our children.

When Moshe was brought into this world, he came as a light into the darkness, dispelling night as a candle fills a room.

Each child born does run the risk. The path to darkness is easy. It is enticing. And the youth is drawn to it. The Pied Piper of comfort and money and depravity wears the shiniest coat, and plays the loudest music. And failing that, he does try to undercut the strong ones, the light ones.

But we must remember that each child we bring in could be another potential Moshe. Another potential candle. We must not despair, we must not falter. Dovid Hamelech speaks of the darkness surrounding him. But with perfect faith he stood up and fought the fear that came. We must battle the darkness. We must remember that the only way to defeat evil is to stand up and call it for what it is. We must never sacrifice our morals, even the smallest amount, because all darkness understands is power.
That power is our youth.

May G-d bless us with the ability to produce this light, to not be afraid to bring it forth, and to see the strength even a single candle can have. May the ultimate light come soon, and may we never need to fear anything again.
Posted by Hashke at 6:07 AM

Friday, November 7, 2008

Come for Yourself

Yom shishi, 9 Cheshvan 5769.

There is a saying that if you are very happy in a place in Eretz Yisrael, it is because Avraham Avinu met your neshama in this place when he walked the Land.

Hashem said to Abram, "Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you."

Come for yourself. Come for the world.

(Translation of verse from "Lech Lecha" from The Stone Edition of the Chumash)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More Reasons to Live in Eretz Yisrael

Yom revi'i, 7 Cheshvan 5769.
(To my Israeli readers:  Don't forget to add "tal u'matar" today!)

Many of our holy sites, accessible and surrounded by great beauty...

Kedusha, out in the open, seemingly everywhere...

A vending machine in Jerusalem's Central Bus Station for a little "light learning" on the trip...

It's okay to say Tehillim on the bus.

Throughout the year, preparations for our holy days are evident everywhere...

Where else does the head come with the gefilte fish for the Rosh Hashanah simanim, for example?

In a country that puts family first, it's not unusual for the kids to help out in the store at a surprisingly young age.
Where else do we Jews have our own army?
There are holy Jews all over this Land...

And Hashem Himself seems to come down to do the gardening.

Hashem made a beautiful world.  But I can't imagine a better place fully to live as a Jew than this amazing Land He gave to us.  May He grant that we should be permitted to weather the political storms, and to keep this precious inheritance.  And may He bring all of our dear, holy sisters and brothers Home soon!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Haveil Havalim #189 Hits the Stands!

Yom rishon, 4 Cheshvan 5769.


I have a pretty good idea of when the nations and their media (and even our own, sadly) are going to give Israel and the Jewish people fair representation.

If you are a fan of, and wish there were a Jewish version, check out Haveil Havalim. The latest collection, "The Election Edition," is presented beautifully by Ben-Yehudah at Esser Agaroth.

Getting my commentary from the Jewish Blogosphere was a great way to wean myself from the misinformation of the MSM. Haveil Havalim is the best place to start.