Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dateline: Israel. The Fifth Day of Chanukah

Yom revi'i, 29 Kislev 5770.

Not to rub it in...


The brothers, dining al fresco.  In December.

Chag Chanukah Sameach, from Mishpachat Eastman.
Yeah, we wish you were here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

News Flash: ALL Building in "West Bank" Frozen for Ten Months

Yom revi'i, 22 Kislev 5770.

Rumor has it that Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered that all Lego in Judea and Samaria are to be confiscated, to comply with Washington's demand that all building, even natural growth, should be halted.  There will be a protest in Kikar Pollard Paris this evening, which is expected to be heavily attended by disenfranchised 10- to 48-month-olds.

A young settler responds to the news of the latest building freeze. (Photo courtesy of Marc G.)

The most recent settlers, those in the holy outpost of Gilo, are starting to stockpile Lego for the anticipated protest-building.  The first streets to get their foundations on the ground are expected to be permitted to hang onto at least 86 boxes of the coveted Duplos.

Any civic-minded individuals traveling from the States are welcome to bring anti-freeze as a gift for Bibi.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Remember, remember, the month of November...

Yom sheni, 13 Kislev 5770.

Well, it's been a busy month at Beit Mizrachi.

Let's see...

First, the less-than-a-year-old Sephardi shul invited the community to hear the Friday night bakashot.

I strongly recommend to my Ashkenazi friends that you wrangle an invitation, at least once in your life, to hear the bakashot.  Meaning "requests," the recitation of the little book of bakashot used to be done (and perhaps still is in a few communities) in the middle of the night on Friday night.  Now it seems to be offered, when you can find it, at a more reasonable hour.  The singing is haunting, lovely, complicated.  The best part is that while one person may be the leader, everyone who wants to participates.  The intricate nigunim have choruses for the group, and yet allow some showy vocal gymnastics for talented soloists.  The participants range in age from young bar mitzvah boys to elderly men.  There is something very sweet about watching a father or grandfather hold his child's face tenderly as the boy takes on the challenge of learning his first public solo.  The weaving of the bakashot tapestry can cause the soul to soar.  Just close your eyes, and follow the golden road to Samarkand...

Jews of Samarkand, circa 1915.

And then I danced my heart out with 250 of my best girlfriends.  "Dames of the Dance," one of Efrat-based Sharon Katz's many efforts to raise the spirits of women throughout Israel, decided to make its annual tryouts into a big dance fest for anyone (female) who wanted to attend. 

There were several talented dance instructors on hand to give a sample of their various styles, and great dance music that spanned several decades.  It reminded me of a high-school sock hop, without the complication of boys.  I lost a couple of pounds, and almost cracked my face in half from smiling and laughing for so many hours.

After that adventure came the holiday of Sigd, which commemorates the longing of Ethiopian Jews for Jerusalem and Zion.  I did not actually merit to attend any Sigd festivities this year; but there is a very special joy in bringing smiles to sweet brown faces by saying "Mel'kam Sigd" to every Ethiopian one meets.  I wish I had more pictures for you of these smiles that fairly glowed; but I was so busy enjoying the meetings and short conversations that I didn't think to bring out my camera. 

Anyway, if you happen to be in Yerushalayim seven weeks after Yom Kippur, give yourself the gift of making someone else feel accepted and acknowledged.  Those two words -- wishing a joyful Sigd in Amharic -- caused me much more happiness than the twenty or so people to whom I said them.

In the midst of happy days, we have had some sad ones, as we listened to friends who have suffered great difficulties and tragedies.  We have mourned again Mumbai, and have vicariously felt personal loss.  We Jews cannot prevent the sorrows of others, but we can try to share them.  We do not rush people back into the tumult of jobs and life.  Rather, we encourage them to immerse in the sense of loss for a short time, because this is also from Hashem.

No one has to go through it alone, if she doesn't want to.  It reminds me of how fortunate I am to be part of a peoplehood, a nation that looks after its own.

During this month, we have had the pleasure of visits from friends, some of whom we have not seen in twenty years, since we were stationed in Germany.  Some of them shared with us that they were on pilot trips to plan their future lives in Israel! 

And then we had the pleasure of our first train trip in Israel to meet friends who made aliyah, later sharing our Shabbat with them, and a visit to the Kotel.

All of these great adventures have been surrounded by conversations with my sons, as they explore who they are becoming and their personal directions in life -- musical, religious, philosophical, political...

I have decided that my greatest joy in life is seeing other people happy.

As tomorrow is the last day of November, we are scrounging around the house for enough agarot to buy a few peppers to enhance the stir-fry for dinner.  Our very dear Shulamit, who graciously accepts our baggie of change, teaches us an important survival tool for the day before payday in Israel.

For your information, 400 grams of ten-agarah matba'ot (coins) equal ten shekels.  Trust me, when you have lived here a while, you will find this knowledge invaluable.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who's your daddy?

Yom rishon, 14 Cheshvan 5770.
There is a delightful phenomenon that I have been noticing in my community.  I am sure that it happened in the States as well; but either it is more prevalent here, or I was too busy to notice it as much there.

Whether it is Israeli, or generational, or a combination of the two, I see a lot more fathers walking their kids to school, pushing strollers, carrying their babies around in "snugglies," and pushing shopping carts while having lively discussions with two-year-olds about paying for the Bamba before we can open it.

Some local fathers were pleased to offer their thoughts on the subject.  Patiently explaining around my pidgin-Hebrew with their pidgin-English, they gave opinions as varied as -- well, as varied as opinions you would expect from a group of Jews.

One Israeli said that it is clearly generational.  "This is something my father would not have done.  It was for the woman."

A slightly older oleh from America agreed with him.  "My father used to drop my mother off at the hospital when she went into labor, and then he'd go to work.  It wouldn't have been 'normal' for him, in his generation, to spend this much time with the kids."

Another young Israeli father said, "No, it's Israeli.  We want to spend more time with the kids.  And also it's to give more time to the mother."

A very practical South African oleh said that it's all about the schedule that life in Israel requires.  "It depends on who landed the A.M. job, who needs the car -- like that."

Upon occasion, I wasn't sure if I was photographing a father or a big brother walking the little one to gan; but even this variation is one I did not perceive in the States -- at least not as often.

In Baltimore, fathers frequently drove their kids to school.  So another factor may be the city vs. small-town differences:  It would have been a bit trying for fathers to walk their kids the four miles to the school my sons attended.  Naturally, life was lived pretty much between station wagon or van drop-off and pick-up.  ("Car Pool" is practically a religious affiliation in Baltimore.)  But even when school was not involved, I just don't remember as many fathers having the "dad-and-kid" time to push strollers and shopping carts.

Whatever the reason for the frequency of fathers picking up and dropping off their children, taking them shopping, and in general "hanging out" with them -- it is a pleasure to the eye and ear.

And anybody wanting to make a crack to an Israeli dad about spending too much time playing "Mr. Mom" might want to be sure that the former IDF soldier isn't carrying both a baby in a backpack and his M16.

This post dedicated to all of the kids of Neve Daniel, for cheerfully  submitting to these pictures.  May you continue to enjoy the bracha that is your Abba for long and healthy years.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sometimes the photo says it.

Yom chamishi, 11 Cheshvan 5770, Rachel Imeinu's yahrzeit.

Man ought not fantasize about resting peacefully overlong.  
Life has a tendency to keep growing right over him.

Think I'll get back to work now...

I'm a bit late about it -- but good reading stays good reading, no matter when we hear of it.  Haveil Havalim #240: The Aliyah Edition, is up over at Yisroel's Aretzeinu, which happens to be a very good blog. 

And in honor of Rachel Imeinu's yahrzeit, here is one of my favorite songs by Udi Davidi:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Welcome to the world, Baby Moses!

Yom rishon, 7 Cheshvan 5770.

On Saturday, another righteous Gentile entered the world.  (I know his mom and dad pretty well; so I have no doubt that he will be raised to be righteous.)

 Moses John Albert Bosley, 
aka "MoJo," according to his Israeli uncles

Baby, mommy and daddy are doing fine, baruch Hashem.

Dear Baltimore kehilla:

I just want to remind you of and thank you for your kindness and kiddush Hashem of many years ago, when a nice Gentile boy and girl and their baby daughter came to visit your fair city.  You treated them well, and helped them to learn how wonderful are the Jewish people.  You helped them to understand us.  (Even if they still don't quite "get" kosher for Passover soup nuts, and what anyone would see in horseradish mixed with apples and nuts on cardboard.)

And to everyone else who didn't know us then, but has been davening for the health and well-being of this baby and his mother, may you have many blessings to share with your families, over long, healthy, happy lives.

Todah, hamon todah!

Kehilla:  community
Kiddush Hashem:  sanctification of G-d's name.  When a Jew behaves as he's supposed to, G-d gets good press.
Todah, hamon todah:  the biggest "thank you" I know how to say in Hebrew

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just a little reminder: we're all in this together.

Yom shishi, 5 Cheshvan 5770.

Hat tip to Haim Makovsky

Mashiv HaRuach U'Moreid HaGeshem:  the prayer for rain, very important to a country that relies so heavily on G-d's blessing of rain for its very survival.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"There is a place for you here." *

Yom revi'i, 3 Cheshvan 5770.

We talk a lot about the need to re-invent yourself, in order for aliyah to be successful.

Certainly, there are people with great jobs in the States, to which they commute a few times a month.  That is one way to support one's life and family here in Israel.  And there are other people who land great jobs in their fields prior to making aliyah or once they get here.

But the vast majority of olim must "think outside the box."  For example, we have a friend named Ronda Israel who was a yeshiva administrator for six years.  When she made aliyah, she had to come up with another way to make a living.  The "Chocolate Dreams Company" was born.  (I have tasted this gourmet chocolate, and heartily recommend it!)  Ronda's attitude about making it in Israel inspired our thinking about financial survival after aliyah.

The Dearly Beloved has done many things in his life.  He worked in an auto manufacturing plant; he drove all over the East Coast making brochure deliveries.  He played college football and soccer, and even a little rugby.  He played guitar with several different kinds of bands over many years, sometimes for money, mostly for fun.  He spent 20 years in the US Army, leading men and dealing with "special" weapons.  (Don't you just love euphemism?  Like "friendly fire," special weapons are just as deadly as if we called them nuclear -- and just as nerve-rattling to be responsible for.)

And then he made aliyah.

We have a military pension, thank G-d and Avi's 20 years of service.  We are willing to live simply.  We satisfy ourselves with inexpensive entertainments.  We don't own a home or a car.  And none of the kids is planning on Columbia U or Harvard.  So we don't have to fly to America a few times a month, or spend hours and hours commuting to the city and working at a desk, to sustain our life here.  But we do need a bit of "odd-jobbing" to make ends more or less meet.

We found out rather accidentally that the Dearly Beloved is a remarkable guitar teacher.  Someone heard him playing at a kumsitz, and asked if he could teach guitar to her son.  He decided to give it a try.  And what has unfolded over the last several months has been a joy for me to watch.

My husband doesn't "do Hebrew."  He is not going to sit through hours of ulpan.  And yet, in order to teach some of his young students whose first language is not English, he has begun to teach himself some musical terms in Hebrew.

And because he is a gifted enough teacher to teach the student, rather than the curriculum, he has stretched beyond country and rock to teach himself various types of Jewish music, and even reggae and jazz!  Each of his students has a totally different and tailor-made instructor.  And he and they are having fun.

Let me share a secret with young marrieds everywhere:  one of the sweetest stages of marriage is yet to come.  Watching your spouse re-invent himself when the world expects him to go quietly into that good grandfather night is very cool.  It is eye-opening to see that your life's partner still has lots of life and learning in him.

And the wisdom to know when to rest.

  The Dearly Beloved pretends to take the news seriously.
* In 1991, we visited Rav Noah Weinberg, zt"l, and asked him for guidance about making a living in Israel.  This (the title of this post) is what he said to my husband; and now we know what he meant.  Everyone has to make his own place -- but it is here.