Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Ain't it good to know, you've got a friend..."

Yom chamishi, 4 Kislev 5771.

Lots of people go around gushing about what friends they are to Israel... but this usually ends up with something that makes us feel a wedgie coming. "I'm your friend... your only true friend... so you have to do what I say. Capish?" Shades of Don Corleone...

But just today, I heard a couple of reports on IBA News that I want to share.

Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has put it on the line for Israel in the past. Harper's in the news again, this time pointing out that there are more important things than a seat on the Security Council.

"When Israel -- the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack -- is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.  Demonization, double standards, deligitimazation -- the three 'D's' -- it is a responsibility of us all to stand up to them.

“And I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations or any other international forum, the easy thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israel rhetoric, to pretend it is just being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of honest broker.

“There are, after all, a lot more votes — a lot more — in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand.

"But as long as I am Prime Minister -- whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie [Summit in Montreux, Switzerland], or anywhere else -- Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost."

And while I was sending a note of appreciation out to some of my Canadian friends on the yishuv, I was treated to the second positive news story of the day.

It's one of those stories that starts out sad, and ends up taking your breath away.

Apparently, the Jewish community of Palm Beach, Florida was devastated by Bernard Madoff's financially-rape-the-mishpacha scheme.

I would expect a community that was licking its wounds after such a shandeh fur de goyim to just handle local issues for a while...

So I was a bit surprised that one of their first acts after financial recovery was to donate the funds for the rebuilding of the Magen David Adom emergency medical station in Nahariya.  The MDA station -- which serves 90,000 residents -- played a crucial role during the Second Lebanon War.

A primary donor was the estate of Joseph Gurwin, zt"l, who died at 89 in September.  Gurwin's foundations lost millions last year in Bernie Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme.  But months before his death he vowed to keep giving, telling The Palm Beach Post he would continue donations even if he had to "sell apples on the corner."

It has recently been a topic of discussion among my friends that Hashem is giving us clear opportunities in recent generations to choose between good and evil.

During the Second World War, it seems that much of the world was pretty clear on who were the bad guys, and who were the good guys.  But in recent years, what appears obvious to some seems to be very blurry for others -- possibly for a majority today.  I do not know why this is so.  But to me, choices are very clear.  What is evil is evil.  To steal people's money, to deny a country its right to exist, to thoughtlessly embrace double standards...  these things are wrong.  To stand strong when all those about you are quaking under the weight of what is popular, even though wrong-headed -- this is right.

Hillel said:  "In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man."

I am grateful that Hashem has sprinkled about the globe a few men of parts to set examples for the people around them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

They're our kids. Let's keep 'em warm.

Yom shlishi, 2 Kislev 5771.

I think I've mentioned it before -- but one of the great things about having one's own blog is the opportunity to advertise what one loves.  Please take a moment to read the request below.  If you want to and are able to contribute, please click on the link below to keep our IDF boys and girls warm this winter.  Thank you -- and may you and your children have many blessings in the coming year!

And if you have words of encouragement for our soldiers -- in Hebrew or in English -- please feel free to include them in your comments.  I'll be sure that Standing Together gets them to pass on to our brave soldiers.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Three-Year Mizrachi Report

Yom rishon, 30 Cheshvan 5771, Rosh Chodesh.

What has changed since we made aliyah, three years ago?  Here's a stream-of-consciousness slice of our lives.

I have a son who has fought in a war.  I have another son who is preparing to do the same.  I no longer think of this as bizarre -- though it has probably caused me to daven with more kavanah.

My husband has started the favorite career of his life as a guitar teacher.  He is "15 years younger."  So say his sons.

One of my sons is fulfilling my "dream aliyah":  At 20 -- a great age for absorbing a language -- he is immersing in a religious kibbutz ulpan program.

My youngest son, now quite as tall as his brothers, likes school for the first time in his life, and is being scouted for professional football.

I finally got to be the writer and photographer I wanted to be since I was ten years old.

Small things have changed, too.

I automatically drift to the left on a sidewalk or down a public hallway now.  I can spot the Americans, even before I read the Yankees symbol on their baseball hats, by their insistence on walking on the right.  (Don't for a minute think this is reliable.  We are a melting pot of the world's cultures.  Generally, we make an effort not to crash into each other.)

Everybody has taught his stomach to expect cholent by 10:30 or 11 on Shabbat.  In the morning.  We guess that they daven this fast because they have been reading and speaking this language since they were pitzilach.

I now speak three languages haltingly.  When I want to speak German, only Hebrew will come out.  When I want to speak Hebrew, it's as if my mind were an electronic Roll-O-Dex, carefully (whirrrrrrrr) choosing (whirrrrrrrr) one (whirrrrrrrr) word (whirrrrrrrr) at (whirrrrrrrr) a (whirrrrrrrr) time.....  While English is still easy for me to maintain, I often find that only a Hebrew word will come to mind.

Other changes:

At my house, we don't face East to pray.  (Facing East would mean, incidentally, that we would be bowing to Mecca.)  Since we are situated to the South of the Holy of Holies, we face North.

I no longer absentmindedly hum the Orioles' baseball theme, or a catchy jingle from one of the Baltimore radio stations.  I now find myself singing "Gal-gal-galgalatz" or "Kol Chai, Kol Chai, Kol Chai, Kol Chai..." as I leave the house for the bus.  (Galgalatz is the IDF radio station, and Kol Chai is a religious radio station.  Kinda depends on my mood...)

My kids prefer Osem Ketchup to Heinz.

I  now type "חחח" nearly as often as I type "LOL" in emails or Facebook comments.  (First person who says "GROW UP!" is gettin' a couple of  knuckle sendvitchim.)

Instead of little bags of Cheerios, I now see kids waiting for the school bus, eating halves of avocados and red peppers, or munching on pitot, or drinking chocolate milk from plastic bags.

I have undergone a cultural fascination shift.  I used to wonder what possessed urban black teenagers to introduce the fashion of displaying three inches of underpants above the waist of their pants.  (How does one participate successfully in gang warfare with one hand holding up one's jeans?)  Now I wonder what is meant by wearing a hijab along with pencil pants and three-inch spikes.  (What is the point, and how exactly does the imam feel about it?)

Gefilte fish, once a staple of our Shabbat meals, has been replaced by various brightly-colored salads (such as carrots with ginger and garlic; beet salad; or salads of olives and onions).  I was worried that my family would complain.  Then they informed me that gefilte fish -- as expensive here as chicken -- was never a favorite of theirs anyway.  Now we have it for Rosh Hashana, and it's special.

True -- I might see flowers and candy in a vending machine here; but I also see seforim.  And there might be indoor-outdoor thermometers hanging on a display in the hardware store; but there will also be mezuzot.

We have very Yid-centric headlines here. "Fur Import Bill Amended to Accommodate Shtreimels" is one that comes to mind.  Perhaps such headlines existed in the Goldene Medina as well; but they seem to stand out more here.
I don't recall in America ever being asked at a simcha to watch a friend's purse while she dances, because she doesn't want to leave her handgun unattended.

Standing at the butcher counter in a major supermarket, I had to explain to several customers and to the butcher that "OU" is a very reliable hechsher in America.  They weren't so sure... because they'd never heard of it.

Jewish holidays are on everyone's radar.  Can you say heimish?  There.  I knew you could...

During the Ten Days of Repentance, we witnessed several Jews of different backgrounds performing tashlich at a small pond in the Wohl Rose Garden, right near the Israeli Supreme Court building.  There were five or six Chareidim, shuckling gently with prayerbooks in hand. Across from them, on the other side of the pool, was a youngish Russian Jew, singing the prayers of tashlich aloud in a beautiful voice.  While he was not Chareidi, he clearly knew his stuff.  When they were finished, one of the Chareidim went over to the Russian and shook his hand.  There was a short, pleasant exchange, after which my husband said, "I have hope."

Stores offer products for 1 shekel each in honor of Shavuot.  The products offered might include: Tnuva, Strauss or Tara white cheese (gevina levana, 250g), Tara sweet cream and HaMutag pasta.  At Sukkot, Angel Bakery gives us a "matana" -- a gift -- of two extra hotdog rolls in the package.  Coca-Cola gives us a free additional .25 liters of Coke.  At Purim, the local online chat list heats up with interesting offers and requests:  "I am offering Superman, Ninja Turtle, Robin Hood, soldier, Moshe Rabeinu.  Looking to borrow a cowboy, and Rivka really really wants to be a parrot -- any good suggestions????  ~ Shifra"
There is a lot more...  But I think I'll give it a rest for now.  It's motsei Shabbos -- called "motsa"sh" here, and the young kids are entertaining the entire yishuv with the yearly daglanut festival, when they will learn the name of their Bnai Akiva shevet...  See?  I don't even speak English anymore!  (Sigh.)

Chodesh tov!