Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snow Survival, Snow Heroes

Yom rishon, 12 Tevet 5774.

If you live in Baltimore, New York, Idaho, Washington State... this is a typical winter day. But if you live in Israel, this is a once-in-several-years occurrence.

People have been without power for days, at least intermittently. Cars are buried in snow. Schools are closed. The roads have been virtually impassable for the better part of the last few days.

Families are spending quality time together. Kids are thrilled, or are showing signs of cabin fever. I've even seen a soldier or two giving a hearty fist-pump at being stranded on the mountain. We had a special birthday Shabbat planned for the Dearly Beloved. That, as readers of this blog may remember, does not mean birthday cake. The Friday night menu included a cheesy lasagna, fluffy, home-baked challah, and cinnamon rolls. But with no electricity on Friday, the plans changed to a complete stove-top menu (so I could get by on gas): a hearty chicken soup with lots of vegetables, cauliflower rice, baby peas, barely warmed, and paratha, an Indian pan-fried bread. The pot roast which is usually prepared in a crock pot was instead prepared on the stove top as well; and everything was kept warm on an old-fashioned copper blech.

Stunt Man had planned to spend Shabbat in Jerusalem with Molly McMolly's family. Of course, that was illogical, impossible, etc., etc.

So he walked down to the highway to see if he could possibly catch a tremp. A security vehicle came along, and the driver -- after questioning his sanity -- gave him a lift. They traveled down a completely vehicle-free highway, stopping along the way to assist stranded drivers. "There were abandoned cars all over the place. I felt like we were traveling through some surreal post-zombie-apocalypse scene," was how he described his adventure. The driver dropped him off two minutes from his destination.

I don't raise normal people. I raise heroes. Or crazy people. Or both.

Building a snowman under the trees

The Dearly Beloved, going after provisions

Getting ready for some serious sledding
We have a very special community here in Neve Daniel. People have helped each other, by digging out paths from door to street. People have shopped for those for whom getting out is a hardship. After pulling his stint as the shliach tzibur for a local shul, Yoram went to open the makolet... and was joined by store owner Moshe Torjman. Moshe left his cozy home in Gilo on foot (on his birthday), planning to walk to the makolet if he couldn't get a ride. A policeman gave him a ride to the bottom of Neve Daniel's formidable hill, where he walked up to open the store.
Kol hakavod, Yoram!

Happy birthday, Moshe; and happy day after your birthday, Coach!

Moshe fired up the oven, so people could have nice, warm pita bread.

Eli, friend and fellow shopper, duded-up for the weather

Nobody who doesn't own a helicopter is surprised that the makolet doesn't have fresh milk.

But as a public service announcement, I'll offer some alternatives, to get folks by until the milk truck can make it up the hill.

The makolet has shelf milk, soy and rice, in various flavors.

There's fresh soy milk...

...and shoko, strawberry-flavored and mocha-flavored milk...

...and yogurts of various styles and flavors...

...and if all else fails, there are chemicals.

If I still had young kids at home, I'd probably melt their favorite ice cream, and say, "Hey, boys! Guess what? When we have a snow day, even the milk is special!"
Everyone has his priorities. People with small children came to the makolet, hoping to make a milk run. Without young children at home, we made a B - double E - double R - U - N, as the country song goes.

Finally! A home we may be able to afford on the yishuv. As soon as we find out who is the builder, we plan to make a bid. Hopefully before the house turns to liquid assets...

And before a rival buyer makes his bid.
Stay warm. Enjoy each other. Let your neighbors know if you need help. One thing about snowy weather in Israel: in a few days, it will be a memory for a few years.
This jacket, like its wearer, is now officially an antique. Both of us are pretty hearty in cold weather, b"H!
A few snow-survival tips from a former Washington State gal:

  1. Do not follow my son's example. Follow the rules, and don't travel when you're not supposed to.
  2. Stay off your roof. (Sad story in the news, about a guy who fell off while trying to fix a leak that could have waited.)
  3. Walk on snow when you can, rather than ice.
  4. When you have no choice, bend your knees a bit, and walk duck-toed (as opposed to straight-toed or pigeon-toed).
  5. When going down steps, use the hand rail or a wall, if available, and put your weight on your heels. Falling on your face or tailbone is zero fun.
  6. Think out of the box, and try to have fun. Attitude is nearly everything.
  7. Get out of wet clothes as soon as possible.
  8. Have as much fun as you can!

Blech: Flat metal pan used to cover stove burners on Shabbat, to warm food without direct contact with the flame
Tremp: ride, hitch (as in hitch-hiking)
Shliach tzibur - cantor and leader of prayer
Shul - synagogue
Makolet - corner grocery store (although we are calling ours this affectionately and out of habit these days, as Moshe has made it into a supermarket!)
Yishuv - community, sometimes called a settlement (sometimes disparagingly -- but we ignore those people)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

American Football in Israel: Rockin' the Midot

Yom shlishi, 7 Tevet 5774.

Mrs. Coach has a confession to make. I don't know anything about football. I never watched it when I was growing up in America. I don't understand it, and I don't didn't even particularly like the sport. I'm a baseball kinda gal -- which my sons tell me "doesn't actually qualify as an actual sport." George Carlin sums the differences up in a five-minute comedy bit that ends with this:

"In Football, the object is for the quarterback -- otherwise known as the field general -- to be on target with his aerial assault riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing his aerial assault with a sustained ground attack, which punches holes in the forward wall of the enemies’ defensive line. In Baseball, the object is to go home, and to be safe. I hope I’ll be safe at home, safe at home."

(It's really worth hearing it in Carlin's own unique style. Don't worry: for this one, he resisted the impulse to use any of the seven words you can never say on television.)

I was never a fan of American football.

But I love American football in Israel.

I love it for several very good reasons.

My son Sports Guy is truly good at the game. Hashem gave him the gifts that he can play several positions well, and still behave like a mensch. (His mother gives him the bracha that he will be able to continue both activities in equal measure.)

Take six minutes, and watch Number 20. Even if, like me, you don't understand the game, you will enjoy watching this kid move. It's okay -- I'll wait for you.

Video credit: Pavel Arshavsky

Another of my sons, Yeshiva Bochur, is just beginning to play as Number 22. (He picked that number because it's the gematria of his wife's name. Yes, they are that adorable, bli ayin hara, puh-puh-puh.)
Yeshiva Bochur as linebacker with his father, "Coach" - photo credit: Alex Gandler

The Dearly Beloved, sporting his high school center number

The Dearly Beloved is the head coach of the Judean Rebels men's football team and the Ravens high school team. He is a good coach. He doesn't care about "winning at all costs." He cares that his players have fun, put their own families and the families in the stands first, and play fairly and with grace and sportsmanship.

"I don't want to hear any swearing. There are children and grandmothers in the stands. And I don't want to see dancing in the end zone, or hear trash talk. If you're losing, you don't have anything to trash talk about. If you're winning, let the scoreboard do your trash talking for you. When you make a touchdown, you calmly hand the ref the ball, because you just did your job. Let 'em know that you do this every day."

 After coaching his guys this way for several years, I have seen that they take pride in leading the league in examples of sportsmanship. Recently, one of our Israeli players was being harassed by a member of an opposing team, who was trying to goad him into losing his temper. "Shhhh," said our player, pressing his finger to his lips, and with his other hand, pointing at the scoreboard. Situation diffused.

And here is perhaps what I love best about football in Israel: I love it because it is Israeli. It is predominantly Jewish, meaning imbued with Jewish values, to the extent that a gridiron battle can be. (The players are Jewish, both observant and secular, and from various other religious backgrounds as well. That fact doesn't seem to keep them from playing well together.) The league is beginning to crack down on swearing on the field and in the stands. It's not official. It's just that more and more players are having increased fun and decreased anger. Parents and even young people are reminding other young people in the stands that "we don't talk that way." And unlike fans in other countries, most of the chastised listen, and try to "clean it up." We have a lot to do still. But we're making progress.

The teams have taken it upon themselves to do charitable projects, to shine a positive light on American football. The Rebels have gone a few times to Nefesh B'Nefesh events, coordinating with them and with Ben Gurion airport personnel to unload and sort luggage for exhausted and bewildered new olim.

A few Tel Aviv Pioneers even show up occasionally to help out, thereby promoting brotherhood and camaraderie among the teams. (Coach Eastman: "Leave the rivalry on the field, where it belongs.")

And the Rebels recently were permitted the privilege of participating in a project taken on by the Jerusalem Lions, reported at the IFL site by Commissioner Betzalel Friedman. Warning: tissue alert. Though you may be laughing through the tears at how easily those big orange Rebels got knocked out of the way...

Video by Midabrim Communications

Pro- and semi-pro sports is getting a really bad name. From the fields to the stands, in countries all over the world, sport is getting to be a place NOT to bring your kids. Which is a real shame. We're trying to change that, one player, one team at a time.

So do me a favor. If you like what you've seen here, please help spread the word. Pass on this blog post to your friends who love football, but don't even know Israel has it, or to people who need to hear good things about our little country. Let's help Uriel Wang's moment of glory to go viral. It's good for football. And it will make Uriel and his mother smile. Refua shelaima, little man.

Midot (also midos) - good character traits
Mensch - someone who exhibits good midot
Bracha - blessing
Gematria - a Kabbalistic method of interpreting the Hebrew scriptures by computing the numerical value of words, based on those of their constituent letters
Bli ayin hara, puh-puh-puh - an expression little old Jewish ladies say to "ward off the evil eye" -- used by this little old Jewish lady to remind readers that I am not trying to incite their jealously when I write about good things in my life, but rather am giving them blessings for every happiness in theirs
Olim - immigrants to Israel
Refua shelaima - traditional Hebrew wish that one who is ill should have a complete recovery

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Ivrit": a Hebrew word meaning "drives one to drink"

Yom rishon, 28 Kislev, fourth day of Chanukah.

I have a little exercise I take myself through, to sort of check up on my current level of Hebrew language comprehension. I read signs to see if I understand more than I used to. Most of the time, it is a gratifying experience, as there has been some progress, thank G-d. But once in a while, תיסכול (teeskool, Hebrew for "frustration"), doesn't even begin to cover it. Let me walk you through the process.

The sign said " מחסני חשמל הרשת הזולה והמשתלמת בישראל," which transliterates into something like this: Machsanei Chashmal, hareshet hazolah v'hamishtalemet biYisrael. Okay. Here's what I go through with a sign like this.

First, I give myself an "atta girl" that I can translate most of what I'm looking at. After six years in Israel, this is not a fact worth bragging from the rooftops over; but I can see progress, however incremental. Machsanei Chashmal means "Electronics Warehouse"; and it's where we have bought all of our major electrical appliances. (Brief commercial announcement: I highly recommend the store in Talpiot to all new Jerusalem-area olim. They have always given us good prices and good service. Yes, you can ship American items -- but they may not fit into your Israeli apartment. And yes, you can buy European or Israeli products before you come and have them shipped to Israel -- perhaps at lower prices -- but getting them serviced in Israel may be a question. And there is something to say for helping the Israeli economy.)

To my ridiculously over-the-top joy, nearly all of the remaining words now belong to me. Hareshet here means "the station" (sometimes as in "the [radio] station," but here as in "the best location for a particular purchase"); hazolah means "the inexpensive," or "the place for the best prices"; biYisrael means "in Israel." I'm nearly golden. But now it gets ugly. We're left with one two- or three-word big word: v'hamishtalemet.

Sidebar. If our word were English or German or Spanish, all I would have to do is to look up the word in the dictionary. This, sadly, is not how Hebrew works. First, a little dissection is necessary.

I know enough now to know that I can surgically remove the "v'," because it simply means "and." I can do the same -- usually, but one must not get arrogant, as it doesn't always work this way -- with the "ha," which means "the." Now I'm left with mishtalemet. Another sidebar. I am making an educated guess that it is pronounced this way, as opposed to mashtalemet or mastilimet, based on what I've learned in various ulpanim (Hebrew language classes). But again, we don't get cocky about this stuff. Once in a while, what I think I know, I don't know. But I do know that I can drop off the "et" at the end of the word, because it just tells me that this word is in the feminine form, to correspond with the feminine word reshet.

So now it's time to pull out Mister Dictionary. But can't I simply look up mishtalem under "מ," the "m" letter? That would be nice. But it's not always how Hebrew works.

I guess (again, based on what I may have encountered in my thousand or so teeth-busting Hebrew classes) that I will have to look the word up under a couple of possible past-tense forms, as that is how Hebrew dictionaries are organized. Since words morph depending on tense (just as they do in English, but not as recognizably from an English-speaker's perspective), number, gender, and exceptions, you have to figure out what that first letter will be. I'm thinking it will start with either a "נ" or a "ה" -- either an "n" or an "h." (You do not want to know how I know this.) I check the usually-excellent Multi Dictionary: Bilingual Learners Dictionary by Edna Lauden and Liora Weinbach. for both hishtalem and nishtalem (just as I'd previously tried for mishtalem). I don't find it. This is often the case, no matter which of my half-dozen dictionaries I grab first; and as usual, I persevere.

Even though I am thinking this word is an adjective, it is often the case that adjectives come from verbs. Fortunately, I find it in my next resource of choice, the Hebrew Verb Tables by Asher Tarmon and Ezri Uval. Woo-HOO!!! I find it as hishtalem. My troubles are over, right? Not quite. The definition is "(be) paid, do advance study." I try again with Lauden and Weinbach. This time, I'm successful. (It would be nice if I could avoid user error; but sadly, that is part of the game.) It has two definitions: 1. took extension training. Yeah, that's not going to help me much... 2. was worthwhile. Hmmmm...

So now I have to sort of guess what the adjectival use here might be. Electronics Warehouse: the inexpensive and worthwhile station [for appliance purchases] in Israel? The Electronics Warehouse: the inexpensive and advanced-study? -research? station, etc.?

At this point, I usually opt for a glass of יין אדום and something on YouTube. In English.

חג האורים שמח, חג חנכה שמח (Happy Festival of Lights, Happy Chanukah)

By the way -- most of what I "get" in Hebrew (the good stuff, not the mistakes) comes from Ulpan La-Inyan. If you are seriously interested in falling in love with the Hebrew language, check out my friend Ami Steinberger's resource-rich site and fun and excellent classes. He has a brand-new ebook called Hebrew Described. Please feel free to drop my name when you request it. It won't get you a discount (since it's free), but it will make Ami smile.