Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sukkot Reflections, 5777

Yom revi'i, 17 Tishrei 5777/19 October 2016, Chol Hamoed Sukkot.

Sitting in the sukkah, sipping coffee, wishing for the first time this year for a sweater, and appreciating how "only in Israel" is that convergence of time and temperature.

Murmuring Hallel in the early morning light, before everyone around me is awake, feels sweeter than at any other time, especially wrapped in the loving embrace of my favorite holiday ever.

Whispering a "livri'ut" to a neighbor's sneeze, listening to another neighbor calming a crying child, hearing another singing to her children a morning niggun, smiling at a late hammer, as someone repairs or adds to an already completed sukkah...

The occasional car seems as if it is from another time, a time in the future or the past.

I imagine all of us, the several families around me I can hear as if they were just in the next tent, which in fact they are, as if we were traveling in the desert together.

An unwilling voyeur, I am offered a mashal of how little we say and do is really private. I don't listen but hear with acceptance and joy that I am surrounded by loving parents and children, talking and guiding and laughing together.

My sukkah, my portable yearly Clouds of Glory dwelling, surrounds me with memory.

The coffee mug, given by my dear children. The bentcher, a recent gift from Norm and Gail, who dug it out of their memories, because they heard that I love having photos to enhance my prayer, and because there are shared memories here. The wall hangings that used to be tablecloths; the flags of our places of birth and the place we met; the pretty sukkah enhancements picked up for various holidays past. The bracelets jangling softly on my wrist, a gift from Adele right here in this sukkah a few years ago. My hands smelling still of the lingering lotion that was a gift from Shulamis on one of her visits to the Holy Land, a lotion I choose not to afford, which makes the gift even sweeter. Nearby, the purse Marilyn gave to me along with all of "her girls," thus binding with silk and leather and love my place in her family.

Hovering outside of our patented Sukkot Force Field ©UNESCO and others are busy trying to make us vanish by using Orwellian New Speak. (If you must, see here and here -- but I'd wait until after Sukkot, if I were you.) "And the slanderers should be denied hope, all evil should be instantaneously obliterated..."

Friends drop by with enough warning for me to put out a bit of a spread, thus turning a day-without-plans into a feast of conversation, fun and sharing of their adventures, turning our sukkah briefly into a Tardis to take us with them to Ma'arat Hamachpela and to The Moshav, without having to fight traffic!

Tonight we will visit another couple's sukkah, to play music... with the sad silent echo of the yearly invitation that will not come, because that family is in aveilut, one of our cherished fellow musicians having lost a dear relative only weeks ago.

Soon, it will be Shabbat, a "full Shabbat," meaning all of the Israel-based family will crowd in with larger-than-life talking and squabbling, one-upping and teasing, and beer pong and feasting and bear-hug loving.

Each day in the sukkah brings new sounds and songs and stories. I wish it could last longer than a week. It is a precious island in time toward which I begin to look again, even before it fades into the coming winter.

Wishing one and all a 5777 full of love, good health, good news, clarity, and even more than usual joy from family and friends.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

What Then Must We Do?

Yom shishi, 25 Sivan 5776.

Sigh. I love Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) with all my heart. But I hate summer in Israel. And it's never Israel's fault that I hate summer in Israel. It's because the child-eating monsters come out in the summer, more than at any time.

For those somehow not in the know, a little 13-year-old Jewish girl named Hallel Ariel who just graduated 8th grade was murdered in her bed, stabbed repeatedly by a 17-year-old Muslim boy who somehow infiltrated her Kiryat Arba home, near the holy Jewish city of Hebron. Fueled no doubt by the need to fix some broken thing in his relationship with his parents -- I have heard that a lot of these kids take their lives this way because they are losers with no other way to make themselves important -- this evil child was subsequently praised and glorified by his people and his people's leadership. Voices of protest in the Muslim community globally are hard to find. And as usual, the murderer's dear mommy sees him as a hero of the resistance, and hopes that more children of her people will die stabbing little Jewish girls to death simply for being Jewish and living in the neighborhood without her approval.

"What then must we do?" Is there a rational, effective protest we can make as a body, one person with one heart? We cannot go around murdering people, killing mothers and grandparents and children, non-combatants. We cannot deify our children for murdering other people's children in their beds. We cannot become like our enemies. Whether you believe in living by God's laws or are simply a moral person, you cannot accept this.

Yes, people say all kinds of things in bouts of impotent rage -- but surely they must know that they cease to be moral beings if they act upon such rage. Apart from the crazy among us, I am sure that this is true of nearly all Jews, of nearly all Jewish Israelis. While we want murderers and even potential murderers to be punished, we do not believe in randomly going after the enemy's civilians.

When horrible Jewish children murdered an Arab boy, we protested loudly, and called for their punishment; and they were punished, not honored. No streets were named for them, to the best of my knowledge, no soccer fields. I happily cannot remember their names, nor would I wish to. Yet the world at large turns a blind eye to Muslim murderers of children being honored posthumously by their people.

Besides continuing to live proudly in our land, without apology, how do we fight this terrible war? I am not speaking of the government. I have little to no power over the government. I vote, always, for candidates who put the safety of Israeli citizens first. They do not become Prime Minister. They are considered "too radical," because they are not interested in capitulation for the sake of currying favor with the West. While they do not espouse murdering civilians in their beds, they do believe in standing our ground and protecting Israeli civilians. This seems to be too radical for those who would sell our souls and our lives for empty promises of peace...

What's the plan for a protest, people? Do we build tent cities like young people did over the price of housing and cottage cheese?

Do we stand like John Hersey's White Lotus on one leg, a great mass of us, refusing to move, refusing to work, until our leaders protect us?

Do we march on Jerusalem? In my memory, marches since Selma never garnered the necessary support to change much of anything.

And against whom do we mount our protest? Against the Israeli government, so used to obeisance to the West, it is gridlocked? Against the world that pretends friendship while aiding and abetting those who would destroy us? Against God Himself? How many times in the few years that I have lived in Israel have we filled the Kotel Plaza with crying, praying, beseeching souls, to no apparent avail? How many random acts of kindness do we need to catalog on High for our babies to stop being murdered in their beds?

I look forward to hearing of a leader emerging -- may he or she be the Mashiach, as we cannot bear much more of this, and retain our kedusha! -- a leader who will teach us how to join together in an effective form of protest against a world that will not be happy until we all die.

May we do finally whatever is required of us -- and I assume as I always have, this largely means working together as a family, forgetting our differences, speaking with respect to and with each other, even when we disagree. May Hashem finally be satisfied with our pleas.

Ad matai, Hashem? What do You want from us?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Repaint Your Own Reality

Yom shlishi, 24 Adar I 5776/1 March 2016.

"I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality." ~ Frida Kahlo

I feel like a new bride, who just moved into her new apartment!

That's what a fresh paint job will do for your spirits.

We have loved this apartment for the last eight years. It has been our friend and haven. We have wonderful landlords, interesting and delightful neighbors, a loving and accepting rabbi and community. But while the landlords, friends, neighbors, rabbi and community are still fresh and exciting, the apartment walls were showing their age. I'm not going to show you before-and-after pictures, because it had gotten a bit embarrassing. This winter's mold had gotten ahead of my yearly efforts with economica. (You have to be healthy to wash a ceiling with bleach; and we feel like we've suffered the ten plagues this year, thanks to seven truly blessed months of our grandchildren living with us: colds, strep, flu, chicken pox -- you should never see a 21-year-old who's caught his tiny nephew's chicken pox -- bronchitis, a stomach bug, pneumonia...)

We called Moshe Aaron Swartz, our friend and neighbor and owner of Primary Painter Moshe, for an estimate. He came by with his stack of paint color cards, looked over our apartment, and gave his recommendations. He knew we would want easy-to-wash paint here, mold-retardant paint there... It was obvious from the beginning that Moshe cares very much about doing a great job, and about making sure that his clients' individual needs are satisfied. When we were finished with the plan, the Dearly Beloved and I were excited about the color choices, ideas, and even the price, which seemed very reasonable.

New paint. Fresh, new beginnings. Color-crayon marks surrounded by chocolate finger prints, teenager shmutz haloing bathroom light switches, the pencil growth chart on the kitchen wall -- all obscured by "What an Inspiration" turquoise and "Perfume Powder" soft yellow Meshi ("easy to clean") paint. Eight years of history, embalmed but not forgotten.

Eli Tryfus, Moshe Aaron Swartz, Yedidya Fisch, after a job well done.
Moshe assured us that we wouldn't need to move anything ourselves, save for computers, and that the entire operation could be completed in one day. We were a bit skeptical, because the Eastmans have collected a lot of stuff over the years. And yes, like most semi-neurotic housewives, I made sure that a lot of life's detritus was out of the way before the agreed-upon hour.

Moshe showed up with his two young Jewish assistants. (Much to our comfort, Moshe only hires Jewish workers.) These fine young men are trained in the art of wall and ceiling painting by Shmuel of Just Now Painters. I got a chance to speak with our two young painters. Yedidya Fisch will be drafting into Golani in March 2016, and has been working with Moshe since last summer. Eli Tryfus is the cousin of one of our Judean Rebels football players. He is studying in Tel Aviv in the field of computer networking. Eli had been working with Moshe's father for something less that three years, and started working with Moshe last July. Both men enjoy the work, and it showed. They were careful, polite, and very gracious about accommodating the customer when at one point I confused them about which paint went on which wall.

Moshe and his delightful bride Chani have lived in Neve Daniel since August of 2012. Their son
Eitan was born in January of this year. Moshe learned his art at his father's side. He worked for many years with his father before going out on his own, and still consults with his father on various jobs, painting techniques and paint types.

As the trio worked, Moshe explained the process. Certain paint types were employed for their mold-inhibiting properties. A couple of spaces were painted with a metal-flake undercoating, invisible to the eye, but a magical wonderland for grandchildren who can now stick magnets directly to walls.

Moshe enjoyed smearing barbecue sauce on one nice, clean, dry, wall and rubbing it in, to show how easily the Meshi cleans up with a little dish soap and water, and no scrubbing, and no loss of paint.

We were very pleased and impressed that the team cleaned up after the job so well, sweeping the floor and wiping up messes, and making sure that I was satisfied with the result.

Moshe stopped by with paint and brush a day later to check on the work, and to touch up a few spots.

"So, how do I clean up any little drops of paint I find?" I asked. They'd done an excellent job of cleaning up, but my practiced mommy eye had seen a speck of blue on the hall floor.

"Just use Scotch and a little dish soap," Moshe said.

I looked at him with a wild surmise. He'd mentioned dish soap several times -- but scotch? My! These South Africans are extravagantly elegant people!

He read my expression. "Not scotch," he said.

Ah. I seem to remember a scrubbing pad with the brand name "Scotch." Apparently, these South Africans use "Scotch" like we Americans use "Kleenex." Like I said. Extravagant.

When you are tired of your walls and want brand-new, fresh and elegant surroundings, call Moshe at 0545320024 for an estimate.