Friday, December 28, 2012

Driving - I Figured it Out

After driving here every day for nearly a year, I have figured something out.   I'm sure that traffic specialists all over the world will be calling me to offer congratulations.

It's the army training.

They all think they are driving tanks.

That has to be it, it makes so much sense!

In a tank:
1. You need to take up many parking spaces, because one is certainly not enough.

2. You need to drive on both sides of the street, because one lane is certainly not enough.

3. You don't need to yield to ANYONE, because that would mean your ultimate defeat in battle.

4. Re #3 above you are ALWAYS in a battle.

5. If the person in front of you is not moving fast enough, it might mean your ultimate demise, so you need to hurry them on by honking at them.  I don't know if tanks have horns, but I will find out.

6. You can park at any angle you want, because after all this is war and you are in a hurry to defeat the enemy.

7. Re #6 above, the enemy is everyone else on the road.

Glad I figured that out.  Now all I have to do is go get some tank training. 

Please send my research prize in cash.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Almost a Year

In another few weeks we reach our first aliyahversary.  For those of you out there thinking of aliyah, I can now tell you that after the first year was the question?

We have a lovely apartment, new friends, work, a car, and of course two of our children living nearby.  We still can't believe we are here.

I mean that in the butterflies and violin music way.

I also mean that in the oh my goodness what have we done way.

We are definitely still in shock. 

Things we never thought we'd be doing at this point in our lives:
  • Secretarial work (me)
  • Working at home and doing everything together. every. single. day
  • Sweeping my house every day like the Israeli version of Cinderella
  • Checking the bank account every day to make sure we have enough money
  • Turning the heat and a/c off to save money
  • Getting rid of cable!  To save money!  Horrors!
  • Spending 1/2 hour before a doctor visit to make sure I have the vocabulary right
  • Listening to little children and wishing I could speak as well as they do
  • Going to the Post Office to pick up any piece of mail over 6 inches in size
  • Avoiding buying anything in the supermarket that requires that I speak to someone behind the counter
  • Not being able to express myself how and when I want to, in any situation, when Hebrew is required

But then there are other things that we never imagined we'd be able to do:
  • See the walls of the Old City every few weeks
  • See five of my grandkids whenever I want to
  • See two of my kids whenever I want to
  • See a huge mix of Jews that are completely and utterly different from anything I've ever known
  • See archaeological sites pop up on roadsides where construction crews have found remnants of ancient Jewish buildings
  • Experience an entire country getting into Jewish holidays a month beforehand
  • Look out every day onto the Judean hills and views of the towns outside Jerusalem
  • Hold a conversation in Hebrew - a short, simple one, but still
So all in all we feel very fortunate to be home, and b"H things have gone very well. We would not want to be anywhere else, when all is said and done, and while we miss our friends and family, we do not miss living outside of Israel. 

This is where we want to be.  Nothing has ever felt so right. 

OK, gotta go sweep. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ben Yehuda

First of all, kudos and kappayim and kol hakavod to Eliezer Ben Yehuda the man.  We learned about him in Ulpan and of course everyone (?) knows that he is the father of modern Hebrew.  He was determined that people living in this country speak Hebrew as a daily language, and fought against the natural inclination of the new immigrants to revert to Yiddish, Polish, Russian, or whatever the language was of their native homeland. There are all kinds of stories and songs about him (yes, we actually song the Eliezer Ben Yehuda song in Ulpan).

Now, let's move on to Ben Yehuda the street mall in Jerusalem. 

When you are here as a visitor, one of the things on your MUST list is a stroll up and down Ben Yehuda.  You buy a couple of tchotchkes, you shop for a kippah, eat a falafel, but mainly you people watch.  You soak in the atmosphere of Israel - the seminary / yeshiva students enjoying their year here, the families, the soldiers, the variety of religious garb, the people begging for money, the musicians, and it is a critical part of what you remember when you go home.  When you walk into the stores, your wallet just magically opens and your shekels and credit cards jump out - very few people walk away from a stroll down Ben Yehuda without buying something.

Last Motzei Shabbat my husband and I, for the first time in our almost one year here, went to Ben Yehuda.  A couple of thoughts occurred to me:

1. When you live here your wallet stays closed.  Tightly. 
We walked into an art gallery where we once, during a visit, purchased a painting that we fell in love with.  Sure enough, the artist had even more pieces there.  We fell in love with them too. 

And then, guess what happened?  Like magic, we jumped into tourist mode, and our wallets were throwing themselves against our pockets trying to get out and give the gallery owner all of our money.  "No, wallets," we said, "stay where you are."  Reluctantly, our wallets quieted down. But it was amazing how quickly we had turned back into that mode - oh!  we are here in Israel, we must buy something to remember our trip!  I looked my husband straight in the eye and said, "We can't do this anymore.  Not for a while, anyway."  When his vision cleared, he agreed with me.

2. When you are not a visitor, you kind of feel sorry for them.
Walking on Ben Yehuda, watching the tourists, I remembered all of our trips and how sad I'd feel when we knew we were about to go back.  You know the feeling?  Wow, it is so special and holy here, it feels so right, and now we have to go back home and leave all of this.  I know how that feels. At the same time as it made me feel awesome knowing that we didn't have to leave, I empathized with visitors because I know how it feels when that plane takes off from Ben Gurion and you leave Israel behind.

3.  I don't like walking on wet, uneven stones.
Just saying.  I always feel like I'm about to keel over walking on those pavements.

4. Israel needs more visitors.
When all is said and done, there are not nearly enough people visiting Israel. When tourists come, everyone wins, especially the tourists.

5. People can and will eat outside in the cold.
It was really chilly (OK, not the 30 degrees of Baltimore, but pretty cold for here - 50!) and people were sitting OUTSIDE eating ICE CREAM!  Seriously?

6.  And the most important item - I am no longer completely and utterly terrified of driving to and in Jerusalem!
Thank goodness for Waze, which is not foolproof but pretty good ("In 400 meters, at the roundabout, stay straight, and then, at the roundabout, take the second exit"). 


Monday, December 10, 2012

Boys and Tanks

Funny how programmed we are.  When you drive around in Israel before Chanukah, the streets are decorated with bright shiny decorations.  My first gut reaction is to assume they are trees and wreaths.  Only after that millisecond do I remember that there are no such decorations here.  The streets are lit up with menorahs and Jewish stars.  It's thrilling when that happens.

So, boys and tanks.  Yesterday I took grandsons Tani (age "5 almost 6")  and Amichai (age "almost 4") Klein to the Tank Corps Museum near Latrun.  It's just about the coolest place ever.  There are probably 50 tanks there (yes, real ones) and kids can climb on them, sit on the huge guns, and basically have the best game of soldier ever.  The boys were thrilled when they found out:

Tani: Wait....REAL tanks?
Me:  Yes, real ones.
Tani: Wait...we can go on them?
Me:  Yes, you can climb on them.
Tani:  And they are working?
Me:, they are not working.
Tani (disappointed): So, they are not real.
Me:  They ARE real, just not working right now.
Tani (a big skeptical): Oh, OK.

Anyway, the minute they got there and saw the REAL tanks, they were beyond excited.  There is a tank in the parking lot, just sitting there behind some bushes (maybe it was a bad tank and it was punished), and when they saw that, they thought THAT was the tank they had come to see, and rushed over to look.  I had to convince them that there were more tanks than that.

Their eyes practically bugged out of their heads when they saw how many tanks there were to visit.  They immediately ran up the steps of the first one and got into "milchama" (war) mode.  For some reason only known to brothers, Amichai immediately started calling Tani "Captain" and did that for the entire visit.

Best conversation of the day:
Tani: Chayal (soldier!) we need more bombs!
Amicha: Yes, Captain!
Amichai: Oh, Captain! I forgot! Eema said we can't have bombs!

There were tables set up for kids' craft activities.  Tani, who loves art, was excited and ended up making an origami tank - very cool.  Amichai was shy and wouldn't even color, but eventually the soldier who was manning the craft table made him (sort of) smile by giving him a picture she signed, "To Amichai, Chanukah Sameach!" and signed her name.

They were playing Chanukah music and the boys happily chimed in (loudly, completely oblivious to everything else going on, making a lot of people smile at them) with all of the Israeli Chanukah songs which I do not know yet.  I was very proud. 

After the craft activity, the soldiers told us that the movie was starting in the indoor part of the museum.  The boys were excited to see a movie about shooting.  Unfortunately for them, it was a movie about the history of the area, and of the soldiers who died there.  It was very moving and interesting, but please if you are almost 6 and almost 4 you do NOT want to hear people talking, you want shooting.  So we left.  But first we saw a group of soldiers sitting on the floor of the museum, clearly getting a history lesson.  You see that a lot here - at almost every museum or historical place you go - groups of soldiers receiving a lecture. The soldiers apparently receive a lot of education about the country during their training.

OK, back to the tanks.

Back outside, we saw two older men walking around, and one had a book in his hand, opened to a certain page.  He came up to me with tears in his eyes and showed me the page.  "Zeh ani," (This is me) he said and pointed to a picture of a young soldier on a tank.  He explained that he and his friend had been in the Tank Corps during the Yom Kippur War. Both looked so proud. I didn't know what to say.  I put my hand on his arm and said, "Kol Hakavod" because what I wanted to say wouldn't come out in English, much less in Hebrew.

After more tank climbing it was time to go, but first there was the required visit to the Gift Shop! After the purchase of several poorly made plastic tanks, we were outta there.

On the way back, they were chattering about the visit and had but one criticism of Bubby's tour guide skills, "Bubby, next time we will come with Abba because he knows how to climb on things and you just stand there."

Last thought - and how can one help this, living here - my thoughts went from the sight of the veterans to the faces of the beautiful young chayalim who were working and learning there, to my little grandsons.  Three generations of chayalim. 

My heart was at once wrenched with worry and bursting with love and pride.  And that, in a nutshell, is what it is like to live here.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

We Finally DO Stuff

Well, we've been here over 10 months and other than, you know, move to a new country, new apartment, make new friends, find new work, learn how to live here, we haven't done much.

And by "doing" I refer to those images I had in my head before aliyah.  You know, you see yourself going to the Kotel every week, climbing mountains in the Golan, jeeping in the Negev, visiting ancient ruins, etc.

So far, for us "doing" means food shopping, going to the Modiin mall for necessities like lunch, finding a good dry cleaner, and figuring out when the fruits we like are in season.  I mean it, James Bond has nothing on us when it comes to pure adventure. Sometimes - hold on to your seats, my friends - we even go to ANOTHER mall!

See, we are still in the "deer in the headlights" phase of our aliyah which, from looking around at our neighbors, lasts about 5 years.  Seriously.  By this I mean we look out at our magnificent view of the Judean hills (I think that's what we're looking at, at least I'm pretty sure we're not looking at the Alps, Syria, or Jordan, so let's call them the Judean hills because it sounds so ancient and romantic) and think, "We actually LIVE here" but it does not sink in at all.  In fact (and I've heard this from other olim) sometimes I say to myself, in shock, "When is our flight back again? Oh, right, we're not going back, we're staying here.  Get it through your thick head, woman."  Still can't believe we live here.

We have been saying the following to ourselves for about 6 months - "We really need to DO something."  We just haven't been able to figure out what that is or get ourselves to do it.

Well, all that is over because as of two weeks ago, we are doers.

First, we took a short vacation to the Dead Sea.  Let me tell you about the Dead Sea.  People walk around there wearing bathrobes.  OUTSIDE of the hotel.  In the STREET.  I felt like I was in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and Jack Nicholson was going to appear around the next corner (ooh, image deleted - every time I think of him I think of that scary Stephen King movie).  Really, perfectly normal people are walking around outside, in the street, in the little white bathrobes that the hotels give you.  But anyway the trip was restful - my husband decided to try out the massages in the spa.  First day was great - second day not so much.  On the second day he opted for an anti-stress massage.  It's called anti-stress because when it's over you stop worrying about all the stuff going on in your life and begin worrying about he bruises that have already begun to blossom on your poor body after the masseuse is finished with you.  I am not kidding. The man is now covered in bruises - even on his toes!  Eww.

Next, we went to a concert in Jerusalem - yes!  We drove there!  Hooray for Waze - people, if you are coming to Israel, put Waze in your smartphone and you are all set.  The concert was a benefit for Emunah and was wonderful.  I looked around and congratulated us on doing something Israeli.  The Jerusalem Symphony played and several chazzanim sang.  But the highlight was at the end - everyone stood up and we sang Hatikvah.

That got to me - standing up with hundreds of other Israelis, singing Hatikvah, in Jerusalem. When I used to sing Hatikvah in America I always got emotional, but this was several hundred levels of emotion above that.  Not something you can really put into words, but I almost felt worthy of calling myself an Israeli.

Last night we attended a comedy show put on by the Koby Mandell Foundation.  Seth Mandell does the intros for these shows and as he's standing up there, smiling and joking around, you just wonder how he manages to do all of this.  He talked about the summer camp that the foundation runs and how the kids who go love it because they can feel like it's OK to be sad, to feel lost, and to need to be with other kids who understand that.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to go on a tiyul around Modiin to learn about the history of the city. 

So this was a jam-packed week of DOING.  Hopefully this means our lives are getting into somewhat of a more normal routine.

However, we have yet to find a decent dry cleaner.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Going Social and the War

Lately there has been a great deal of back and forth about the value of the Internet. 

Let me tell you something - social media (Facebook, Twitter, and all that) has changed the face of war forever.  And I think it's for the good. 

I know some of you reading this may disagree, but denying the value of social media in 2012 is like living in 1950 and denying that telephones were worthwhile.  It may be a new thing, but it changes everything - and it's not going anywhere So get used to it.

With rockets raining down on Israel, Israelis are able to Tweet and post to Facebook using their phones and tablets - no electricity necessary (until the batteries die, but that's another problem).  There is no such thing as a delay anymore.  As soon as something happens, it's out there.  That means that help is also on the way immediately. 

Before Shabbat, emails went out informing everyone that they could keep on their radios (or radio station Internet sites) over Shabbat - once the regular broadcast stopped around 4:00 pm as it usually does on Fridays, it would immediately be turned on if there was a siren, with an announcement of where the rockets were heading. 

We did this.  For the entire Shabbat I don't think there was a 15 minute period of quiet.  You'd hear the siren sound, then you'd hear the announcement, "AZAKA - [name of place]."  Over and over and over again.  Nonstop.  Imagine living in those towns and having those sirens go off one after the other.  Many people spent Shabbat in their safe rooms.

So here is the Internet saving lives, literally.  Just like the phone, which can carry lashon hara or b'sorot tovot, the Internet is a tool that man has created and which can make a huge difference for the good.

People have been writing and calling asking us how it feels to be new olim and going through this war.  I can give the pat answer, "Well, life goes on here, blah blah blah."  But it doesn't.  Each of us has a knot in the pit of our stomachs, knowing that young men and women are out there risking their lives for us.  We see the photos of young men davening in the field somewhere, taleitim and tefillin over their rifles and uniforms. And we love them.  I mean each one of them is like our own child.  Our heart aches when even one is injured.  People are posting on Facebook the names of their children and relatives who are fighting, to keep them in mind. 

This past Shabbat, Chief Rabbi Lau asked everyone to say special Tehillim during davening, some with the Aron Kodesh open.  How powerful that was.  Knowing that standing there in shul were parents of soldiers already called up, or about to be called up, and parents whose young boys and girls are not yet in the army but will be, sooner than one can imagine.  Your heart aches and your soul just reaches to shamayim to ask Hashem for help.

So that's what it's like.  And all of these feelings, and so much more, are communicated between millions of people via social media - and it gives tremendous chizuk to all of us to hear and see it. 

Today we are tied together as never before, we are within milliseconds of reaching each other with comfort and love.  And with news, both good and bad.

May Hashem give us the strength and courage to be what we are meant to be, what He made us to be - giborim/ heroes - and to use our brains to continue to create tools that bring us together as a nation.

And to recognize that those tools ARE for good, and that we have the strength to make sure of that.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Being in the Right Place

Today Tzahal took out a high level Hamas leader and Hamas and their friends have vowed revenge - big time.  Apparently people in the reserves are being called up, and the government is advising people within 70 km of Gaza to go into their shelters.

It is very scary. 

But for the first time in my life, instead of feeling that gut-wrenching worry from 6000 miles away, I am here going through it with the rest of our country and our people.

Hundreds of rockets hit the Gaza region and the news ignored it.  It was all over Facebook and Twitter, but never picked up in the mainstream media. So, since the media rules the world, it never happened.  You can bet this attack on a Hamas military leader by the Israeli army will get plenty of press, though.

So, my reaction to this event today is -I am here.  I am not trying to be glib about this, chas v'shalom.  I am trying to get my head around the fact that I am part of this country instead of an observer of it.  It is my country, my people, and my war.  Don't think I've ever felt like that before.  It's a very new experience.

But I feel proud - of how Israel behaves, of its brave soldiers, and of its smarts.  And, OK, I feel a little proud of me for being on this side of the world, finally. 

Finally, I'm in the right place.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Dud Dudes Do It

Oh,, boy, here is one for the books.

Last week, the weather got much cooler.  Suddenly, our hot water did not heat itself anymore, as it does all summer (solar heating is VERY cool - well, hot, well you know what I mean).  So we started to switch on the dud (pronounced "dood") shemesh (solar water heater people, keep up) about 20 minutes before we wanted to shower.

The first time we did this was last Friday.  Our showers were, um, not hot, let's just say that. Hmmm, we figured, our dud shemesh is broken, we have to get it fixed.

So we called the dud company on Sunday, and, of course, they said they'd come on Wednesday.  We got them to come on Tuesday.  Monday they called and said they'd arrive between 10 and 2.  They came at 3:30.  Early!

First, they had to figure out how to open the combination lock that secures the door that goes to the roof.  This was a problem.  Apparently children in this country do not grow up using combination locks on their school lockers. Even with written instructions in Hebrew, this did not go well.  They looked at the paper, only saw the numbers, and rotated the heck out of that dial. After 4 tries, we convinced them to actually read the entire list of instructions, which tells you what direction to turn the little dial in.  Voila!  It worked.  Up they go to the roof to inspect the dud.

After a few minutes guy #2 (I'm calling the guy on the roof guy #1) comes down and asks me to turn on the water and turn the handle to the hottest possible.  I do.  Then he tells me to turn it off.  I do.  So far, I am doing great.

They he asks me where the switch to turn the dud is - I show him the switch we use near our master bathroom.  There is also a switch near the guest bathroom.  Here is where the story gets extremely embarrassing for us.

When he turns on the switch, the guy on the roof says nothing is happening.  This goes on for a few minutes with a lot of conversation in Arabic.  I think I learned the word "no" in Arabic very well.  Then I had an idea - "Look," I said, "there's another switch near the other bathroom."  He looked at me kinda funny.  Another switch?  So I show it to him.

Then he looks at me funny again.  "THIS is the dud switch," he says, pointing to the switch we kind of ignore, "and THIS is the switch to turn on the bathroom heater," and he points to the other switch.

Oh.  Um.  OK.

So apparently we have been using the wrong switch this whole time, and just lucking out that the water was hot enough on its own.  We have never actually turned on the dud, it turns out. 

Yes, we are idiots.

But then...guy #1 comes down from the roof with a part in his hand.  He has replaced the thermostat.  He shows it to us.  He says some words.  The words probably mean, "We brought this old thermostat in with us to make you believe that we changed the thermostat, but actually we just carry it around and show it to people."

So wait - they replaced a part, but really the problem was that we were using the wrong switch.  So ...oh, forget it, by this time they are leaving and speaking quickly in Hebrew or Arabic or Swahili and we are flustered.

After we closed the door, we burst out laughing - idiots!  We were pushing the wrong switch for 10 months. 

That's it for now.  More embarrassing stories to come, I'm certain of it.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Work - Differently

Since about a month after we arrived in Israel I have been working as a Virtual Assistant - working for US companies who need help with all kinds of tasks (administration, writing, research, social media, web content, data entry, etc. etc.) and decide to get real about the work force and hire some exceedingly qualified people, no matter where they live.  I have had between 5 and  7 clients at any one time. (The company, by the way, is called Secretary in Israel and is very cool). 

Before we left the US, I had been working for The Johns Hopkins University (you have to write it that way or Johns Hopkins himself climbs out of his grave and beats you over the head with a stick) for over 30 years.  I had gotten positions of increasing responsibility and benefited from all that JHU had to offer, including tuition benefits for my kids (yay!).

So here I am in a new country, new home, and now not only a new job, but many new jobs and working at home for the first time since a brief stint 1982 when my son was born (I couldn't take it after 6 months and went back to in-office work).  Listen, I like getting out of the house every day.  I like being with co-workers, discussing issues with them in person (you know, "issues" like office gossip, that sort of thing - what? is that wrong?).  Not only that, but I was now working US hours - not really getting going until around 3:00 pm and working until 10-Midnight most nights.

Not only that, but my husband is also working from home.  So we are together.....all the time.

OK, listen, before you wives out there start making gagging sounds I want to tell you that it is actually OK.  Sort of like when our youngest left the house and we looked at each other and said, "EWWW, I have to talk to YOU now? Gack!" and then we realized that we kind of still like each other.

But wow, what a change in lifestyle.  Here goes:

1.  You wake up and do not have to rush out to go anywhere.  Sometimes (heh heh heh) you can even get back in bed and read awhile.  GOOD!

2. You are near the kitchen and fridge all day long.  BAD!

3. You hear your spouse on the phone with his/her client and coworkers and now you know everything he or she is doing and all the ins and outs of office politics.  INTERESTING! (maybe)

4. Your spouse, whom you love with all your heart and who is cute and wonderful, and by the way a total genius, but who is just not a computer person by nature, keeps calling you in to help him with things like PDFs and printing. CHARACTER BUILDING!

5. You make up reasons to go out - "Yay, we need to go to the cleaner today! AND the supermarket!|  "Let's not do both on the same day, ok?  Let's hold off and do the cleaner tomorrow!!"  PATHETIC!

6. Your work is. always. there.  You cannot walk away from it. DEPRESSING!

7.  When you get tired, you walk 2 steps to your bedroom and take a rest!  EXCELLENT!

8. You can get work done while everyone else is sleeping and impress the heck out of your boss! SMART!

9.  Dinner becomes the high point of the day.  Wait, dinner is always the high point of the day.  Never mind.

10. When you have fee time you can check Facebook or play games and no one will come in to look over your shoulder and wonder why they are paying you money to do this. AWESOME!

11.  Oh, but remember re #10 - you only get paid by the hour, don't earn money while you are on Facebook.  NOT AWESOME!

That's it for now.  Gotta take a break.  Naptime!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Vote, Cleanliness, a Tiyul, a Friend

First, we (and by "we" I mean my husband) had our first Israeli voting experience.  This is how the elections work in Israel:

1.  You join something.
2.  They send you emails and texts
3.  They tell you to go vote somewhere
4.  You go
5.  There is a selection of slips of paper and you choose one and put it in a box.
6.  You walk out and wonder what just happened and is this 1877?

That's about the size of it.  No idea how this all works.  Of course we learned about the elections in Ulpan - you vote for a party, not a person, but you want to see who they might pick, etc. etc., so maybe that's how you decide what party to vote for.  Or not.  Apparently yesterday's vote was only for people voting for this party.  Maybe.  Or not.

On to our latest property tax bill.  Received yesterday, paid yesterday; we are good citizens.  The bill was accompanied by a flyer about the Modiin Fall Music Festival.  "Fall" being an interesting term for a season that so far has seen 90 degree temps and no rain.  But that's another matter.  On the flip side of the flyer was an ad.  It was a plea to dog owners to clean up after their dogs.  OK, nothing so wrong with that.  But the photo that accompanied the ad was of a dog cleaning up its own....mess.  With a shovel and pail, and a plastic bag.  Standing on its hind legs. 

I'm proud to say that we wrenched ourselves away from our computers this week and went to two tiyulim!  We feel dumb that we've been here for 10 months and have done nothing Israeli.

Well the first was not really a tiyul, it was more of us getting out of the house and going somewhere that is not the Modiin mall, the local grocery store, or the home supply store.  We went to another mall! In Jerusalem!  And we drove there!  And we came back! 

But the next day we went on a real tiyul, since we now consider ourselves expert "getting out of the house" people.

So where did we go?  Up the road!  There is a memorial to the Jews who died in the Zaglembie region of Poland during the Holocaust.  It is all outdoors, a series of garden areas, with the names of all of the families, etc.  Very touching and well done, as are all of the memorials here (and as you can imagine there are lots and lots of them).

Last but not least, I heard from my friend Edson who works for Johns Hopkins in Jordan - he is coming here and we can visit!  He figured it lot easier for him to come to Israel than for me to go to Amman.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Ten Month Report

We have been Israelis for 10 months now. 

We love living here, more than we ever imagined we would.  We feel like we are living the way Jews are supposed to live, in the country Jews are supposed to be in, and it is not a feeling I can adequately describe in words.  It just feels right in a way we never felt in America.  We are home, and it is a visceral feeling - way, way, down deep inside, that you don't get from a visit - you get it when you live here every day, when this is your home base. 

The bottom line is that we thought our life was great in Baltimore, and in many ways it was, but when we moved here, we realized what our lives had been missing, how empty they'd been in many ways, even with the wonderful community, learning, chesed, friends, etc.  It's like a big veil has been lifted from in front of us and someone is saying, "Hello, there, THIS is living a Jewish life."  And we're responding, with mouths wide open in awe, "Oh!  We get it now."

I'm not preaching to anyone about making aliyah - that's a very personal decision - I'm just telling you how we feel. Take it or leave it.

With all that said, it has been an interesting adjustment in many ways:

1. Culture - Israelis are a different breed, and it takes some getting used to.  This is a country where everyone has a military background, has seen profound loss, and knows that they are surrounded by countries that wish to wipe them off the face of the earth.  This makes for some very tense people, but people who are also very emotional, caring, and deeply, fiercely protective of the country.

2. Language - it's not easy being in a country where you can't express yourself easily. Where you have to think about how to say, "Can I have 200 grams of cheddar cheese?" without embarrassing yourself.  And where you do, actually, embarrass yourself on most days.  Which leads us to #3...

3. Humility - being in a new culture teaches you humility if nothing else.  You know that you can't speak as fluently everyone else does, you don't know the ropes yet, you are going to make mistakes, and you need to make new friends.    This especially comes home when you listen to your 3-9 year old grandchildren play with their friends and are jealous of their facility with Hebrew. Even 2 year old Nadav speaks better than me, and he isn't speaking in full paragraphs yet! It also teaches you that if you are ever in a situation with an immigrant, be kind, patient, and understanding - but most of all be respectful.  This person who can't get a sentence out in your language has a whole life, profession, and history that you know nothing about.

4. Schedule - my husband and I work, for the most part, from home.  We miss going out each day to an office with (other) people with whom we can chat, etc. We spend every. single. day. together.  And you know what?  It's really OK. Although he keeps mumbling about finding an apartment in Damascus, but I don't think he really means it.  Do you?

5. Kids nearby - awesomeawesomeawesomeawesome.  Being near two out of three children is a dream come true.  It does not get old, we do not take it for granted, and we get a thrill each time we see them.

Yesterday we met Leezy and the boys at the mall for an hour - Tani jumped into my arms like he hadn't seen me in weeks (it's been about a week since I last saw him).  Ariella comes up and lets herself in to our apartment, and is suddenly standing in my office with a big smile.  Nadav waves from the mirpeset below when he sees me peering over, "Oh!  Bubby! Hi, Bubby!" and when I'm with him he tells me to "Shev Po!" [Sit here!]  Amichai, the child who never stops moving, is able to make me laugh just looking at him, and Yaakov always looks at us with such true affection and leaps into our arms and offers big kisses - and he lives downstairs.

6. Kids far away - we miss our Chicago kids terribly.  Everyone here that is our age (we call ourselves the old people), seems to have at least one child/grandchildren in America, and we all discuss how hard it is to be so far away.  I don't think I'll ever get used to that - it hurts to be that far away from a child.

So there's my 10 month report. 


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My First Pet

First of all, best wishes to all of you East Coasters - does anyone think it's ironic that a hurricane named Sandy washed out so many beaches?  OK, OK, not funny.

Yesterday I received an email that a paycheck had been deposited in my bank account.  Whoopee!  I loooove money!  It had a link to use to go see how many millions of dollars had been deposited (a girl can dream).  I clicked on the link and the website asked me to log in.

Hmmm.  This was the first paycheck I was receiving from this company.  I don't remember creating a login or password.  Hmmmm.  Well, tech wizard that I am, I decided to click on "forgot your login ID?" and see what happened.  It asked me for my email address.  Ha, I thought, this is where I'll get the message that "no account exists for this email address."  But no, it told me to rush to my Inbox where a friendly message about my login ID awaited me.

And yes!  There it was.  But I totally did not recognize that login ID.  Hmmm again.  Then I started thinking this was spam.  So I asked someone else who gets paid by the same company and she confirmed it was for real.

OK, so I went back to the site and typed in the login ID I had apparently created, although I was feeling less optimistic.  Then I clicked on "forgot my password."  A new screen appeared asking me a security question.  "What was the name of your first pet?"

Well, there's a progress stopper for ya.  I would never have created that security question.  Time to write to the company and ask for help.

But this put me in mind of the fact that I did, indeed, have a first pet and I'd like to share his or her story with you.  Ready?  I doubt it.

When I was 4, I asked my parents for a dog.  "No way" was the response.  My parents were kind and caring people, and I don't think they wanted to deny me of a precious pet, rather I think that having a butcher shop with fresh meat in the same building as a dog (we lived upstairs from the butcher shop) was probably a baaaaaaaad idea.

So, because I was a very persistent child (read stubborn and kinda spoiled, 3rd girl of 3 and all that, and awfully cute if I do say so myself), they finally gave in and bought me and my sisters a parakeet.  I don't remember what we named it, but I remember it was green.  Or blue.  Or yellow.

We were very excited about our pet - it chirped its head off most of the day (oh, not annoying at all) and our wonderful, patient housekeeper Milly of course ended up being the one who had to change its cage-paper.

One day (cue the dun dun DUN music) the bird escaped while Milly was changing the paper.  She or he (the bird, not Milly) flew around in a crazed manner and we all tried to catch it.  Milly finally caught it and handed it to me while she fixed up the cage.  (Cue music of doom again).  I decided this was a good time to give the birdie a bath.

I took it into the powder room and turned on the water.  Can you see where this is going?  It tried to fly away so I held it.  Tight.  Really tight.  Oops.

Let's just say that I have never watched "The Birds" all the way through because I think one day our bird's extended family is going to come for me.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Just Went to the Supermarket - Need a Nap

Food shopping in Israel is exhausting.  Every time we go we come back and need to recover.  Not, mind you, when we visit the little store in the 'hood, but when we do the big supermarket shopping that even we empty nesters have to do once in a while.

Here's why this is such a wearying experience:

1.  Organization of the merchandise - I'm sure that in someone's head it makes perfect sense to put the shampoo aisle next to the fresh vegetable aisle, but to then put the body wash aisle waaaaaaay on the other side of the store. In the bigger stores, you could walk for miles (sorry - kilometers) back and forth to get from one part of the paper goods section to the other.

2. What is that? - for us newbies, figuring out what the product is when the label is in Hebrew and there is no pretty picture on the front is unnerving.  I usually pick something up and say, "Hmmm, those words look like they mean confectioner's sugar!  Surely, that is what it is."  And then I get home and realize that I have purchased yet ANOTHER package of regular sugar. We have a lot of regular sugar.

3. People behind the counters - when I see those people I think of a Vincent Price movie with the wind blowing, the sky all dark and stormy, that creepy music, and a big haunted house on top of a hill.  NOOOOO!  I can't speak to them, I have no idea what to ask for! I'll probably end up asking the cheese lady for paper towels.

4. Stuff in the freezer section - since I don't deal with real people, I am left with picking things up from the freezer section.  I can identify chicken pretty well, but with meat you don't always know what you're buying.  They have a number system here and I know an 8 is good, so I buy that.  No idea what it is.  My parents would be mortified.

5. Checkout - first thing they ask you is if you have a club card.  OK, I can handle that.  Then, you have to bag the stuff yourself.  Also not a problem, if not for....dun dun dun.....

6. Hermetically sealed plastic bags - they must hire someone with a twisted sense of humor to purchase the shopping bags to for the store.  These bags are impossible to open.  I am not exaggerating.  TODAY, after almost 10 months here, I figured out the best method for opening them.  I hope you are not eating when you read this, becasue the method is to lick your thumb and forefinger before you open each bag.  This gives you enough grip to open them.  I tried licking just the forefinger (much daintier), but alas it is not enough to do the job. This even grosses me out and it's my fingers.

7. Deforestation - for some reason, in this country where conservation is so important, when you check out of any store, the register generates like 5 feet of paper.  The cashier then sorts these into 3 or 4 different slips and you sign one.  I have no idea what the other ones are - she takes some, she gives me some. 

8. Payment - there is always, always, always a "bargain" at the checkout.  Before your cashier finishes checking you out, she will ask you, with a very serious look, if you want the bargain.  If you don't, she looks off to the side where a Mossad agent is waiting with arms crossed, sunglasses, ear thingy, and gives him an almost imperceptible nod.  He nods back and takes your name down as a "bargain rejecter" and you are marked for life. That last part was a joke. Lighten up, people.

9. The cart - ok, shopping done. Now try wheeling this cart out to your car. Every single shopping cart in Israel veers to the left, so you have to either have someone in front steering or you end up developing impressive biceps. You actually see people walking the cart out by pulling it from the side. Someone once explained to me  the reason for the veering to the left, but it involves wheels, weight, blah blah blah.  Forget it, who cares, it just makes me tired.

So you can see why we need a nap when we come back, right?  Well, gotta go put the groceries away - we are building a new closet just for the sugar.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farm Girl, Phone Company, Chumus, A Wave

We just received an email from our Rav, detailing the halachot of saying the brachot for rain.  This is serious stuff. 

I used to wonder, with some amusement, at the Israeli attitude of "after the chagim" and the constant gazing into the sky for rainclouds, but it is no joke, and living here you really feel the angst over the dire need for rain.  Yestrday we took a train ride to Haifa and along the way you are struck by the brownness of all of the farm land.  The cows stare at you as you ride by on the train, with that, "Hey lady, got anything to eat?" look on their faces.  When we returned to Modiin, lots of people were looking up at the sky hopefully, becasue it had become very cloudy and dark.  Alas, though, no rain. We were all disappointed.

Israel is very big into medical and technological research, but when all is said and done it is an agricultural country.  It's quite different from Jackie Mason's famous line, "Jews don't work on farms, Jews OWN farms." 

Mind you, I'm not going to quit my current job and start herding cows.  I mean, I don't like being in the sun, I don't like being sweaty, and I am scared of most animals, not to mention being terrified of bugs, whcih I hear they have on farms.

Well, the phone company keeps calling me.  They want me to take advantage of this wonderful deal.  I told the guy on the phone, "Listen, either speak in English or speak more slowly."  So he stated to speak louder.  Happens every time.  I still didn't get the deal, but these people are so insulted when you don't accept.  It's like you've pesonally hurt them and all of their ancestors.

And chummus.  Yesterday we went out for dinner to a local place.  We order the salad appetizer (lafa bread plus like 64 different salads in little dishes).  When we ordered, the waitress said, "Well, you understand that this does not come with chummus."  Um, ok, so what?  "No, I want to make sure you understand that this does not come with chummus."  I thought we were going to have to sign a form agreeing that we understand that the appetizer lacked chummus.

Yesterday, as usual, I waved someone on to pull in front of me as I was driving.  I would much try to fight Israeli drivers.  And guess what?  He waved thanks to me!  I mean it, I am not making this up.  Or else he was waving a fly out of his face.  Or waving to a friend on the street.  I'm going to believe he was waving thanks to me, no matter what.  Made my day.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Post Office Failure

In Israel, life pretty much revolves around the Post Office.   It is the Israeli version of the General Store from the Old West. It is yet another Israeli thing that reminds me of Mayberry.

Pay a bill?  Post Office.
Register for a library card?  Post Office.
Pay for your driving lessons?  Post Office.
Toys?  Post Office (no joke, my PO has a toy store in the back of it)

So every few days we receive a "petek" (note) in our mailbox instructing us to come to the PO to pick something up.  Usually it is something which didn't "fit" in our mailbox.  Now, think about this - maybe make the mailboxes a little teensy bit bigger and the mail carriers would not have to spend their time writing out those little notes?

I know, I'm being silly.  That's just crazy talk.

We received a petek, which noted on it that it was the second notice for this item, which is listed as "publication."  OK, whatever, guess there was something we didn't pick up or a petek we missed, etc.

We go to the PO and hand over the petek.  They look and look and look and cannot find our package.

Here is the conversation that ensued:

PO Lady:  This says it's your second notice.
Us:  yes.
PO Lady:  So maybe you picked it up already.

Now, listen, I am not that bright by some standards, but I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that if we had picked up the package, we wouldn't have received the second notice.

The conversation continues:

Us:  No, we did not pick it up, that's why we are here.
PO Lady:  But it says it's the second notice.
Us:  Yes, so shouldn't it be here?
PO Lady:  But where is the first notice?
Us:  We don't know.
PO Lady (getting irritated and now asking her colleague, PO Man, to help):  OK, let me look.

She continues to look.

PO Man:  It's a calendar.
Us:  How do you know that?
PO Man:  Because it was shelved over here and that's where all the calendars were.  It's not there now so you must have picked it up.
Us:  We did not pick it up, we do not have a calendar.

Now a little wire in my head makes that pinging sound when it just snaps off.  I'm toast.

How did he know it was a calendar?  How does he know anything is a calendar, if it is in an envelope?

Now PO Man makes a management decision - he is going to give up looking for the item, but will put our phone number on this eensy weensy piece of scrap paper and call us if it shows up. Haha!  Seriously, even I know that is completely ridiculous, after all I am not a new olah, I have been here a whole 9 months!

We stare at each other and, without saying a word, decide to give up.  I say the only thing I can think of, "Well, if it's a calendar, it is not important."  In one sentence I have not only given up the fight, but have also conceded that PO Man really did know what was in our envelope.

I'm such a wimp.
And now I have to go buy a calendar. 
So I'm a wimp-loser.

Monday, October 8, 2012

After the Chagim

Well, today we will take down our sukkah.

Um, well, it's not exactly a sukkah you take down.  The schach is permanent (wooden slat covering recently installed at a perfect angle so as to block the harsh sunlight streaming into the sukkah - thank you Donny). 

And, the decorations.  Well, let's just say that we decorated the chatzer (courtyard) of the sukkah.  See, the sukkah is on our mirpeset and the walls are mostly stone, to which nothing really adheres.  So, in our frantic pre-Sukkos decorating frenzy we hung decorations from our railing, which is technically outside our sukkah.  In order to hang things from our slats would have required getting on a ladder, something neither of us is crazy about. Son in law Elie promised to decorate for us next year.

Why was it a "decorating frenzy," you ask?  That's because we had put off decorated since we were both sick.  I was struck with a horrific case of strep and my dear husband had a cough that later turned into pneumonia.  Fun! 

But we did manage to shlep the new sukkah table up from the machsan (garage-level storage closet).  After which I asked my husband why he had purchased said table, since we already had a nice folding table sitting in our mamad  (safe room / storage room / guest room).  His reply was, "We do?  I thought we left that in Baltimore."  Hmm, methinks the mamad is a bit overcorwded.

Never you mind, we had a fabulous Sukkos anyway.  First day in Beit Shemesh, followed by chol hamoed of coughing, sleeping, visits to the emergency center, and medication.  But after that, we had a great Shabbos with US cousins (hahaha!  we are not the US cousins anymore!) and a lovely Shemini Atzeres / Simchas Torah.

We even met a new couple who just arrived 5 weeks ago.  Now we're not the newbies anymore.  We got to give someone else advice!  Yay!  But oh, the looks on their faces, I remember that feeling so well. 

Now comes the momentous season in Israel known as "after the chagim."  As soon as Sukkos is over, Israelis decide it is winter.  Out come the sweaters, boots, scarves, etc.  It is still at least 85 degrees here each day, but that does not deter them from acting like it is winter.  We look at each other in wonder.  They are thinking, "How are you still wearing sandals?!  It's after the chagim!"  And I'm thinking, "Please take off that sweater you are making me feel even sweatier."

Our next project is getting our extra "stuff" out of our apartment and into the machsan - I am soooooo tired of seeing plastic tubs full of blankets, pillows, dishes, and other whatnots that I HAD to bring with us but for which we have absolutely no room until some carpenter comes and builds us more storage units. 

And somehow my husband keeps making clandestine trips to the machsan and bringing up armfuls of seforim - I think maybe when he says, "I'm going to the machsan," he is actually getting in the car and driving to the seforim store, but I'm not sure so I may have him followed one day.

We are also awaiting (yes, this is true) lift #2 which is to arrive next week.  It contains 13 more pieces of art, MORE seforim, and other stuff.  This means a trip to Haifa to visit the port and sign our lives away, and of course it also means......more stuff to find a place for.  Looking forward to that.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yom Kippur, Ulpan, Sukkos, Ants

Yom Kippur.  First of all, in Israel they change the clocks right after Rosh Hashana.  They do that so that Yom Kippur ends at around 6:00 pm (at least I think that's why they do it.)

That means that Kol Nidre night, we are done at around 7:00-7:30.  Weird, right?  Usually you get home from shul on Kol Nidre night, it's around 9:00 or so, and it's bed time.  Not here.  It's like early evening.

So what do you do?  Well, if you are not religious, this is what you do:  You ride your bicycle in the middle of the street.

You read that correctly.  Here, Yom Kippur is also known as Yom HaOfanayim (Day of the Bicycles).  Since it is generally accepted that no one drives anywhere on Yom Kippur, it is considered "de rigeur" for the non-religious to ride their bikes in the street.

We walk out of Kol Nidre to the vision of kids literally sitting in the middle of the street, families walking in the street, and non-religious kids riding bikes (fast!) up and down.  We are definitely not in Kansas, Toto.

So we went to our apartment and sat outside watching the mayhem.  My grandkids were happily running around in the street with tons of other kids, feeling the sense of freedom.  My 2 year old grandson Nadav discovered a happy digging place between the curb and the sidewalk that was filled with rocks and dirt and sat there jabbering away in Heblish, happy as a clam (not a good analogy for Yom Kippur, I agree).

OK, new experience!  Check!  Today was more of what we are used to.  Beautiful davening, great singing (I love that our shul is filled with people who love to sing), etc. 

In Ulpan news, since you deserve an update, I have the ultimate ironic story for you.  When we returned to Israel in mid September, there was a message on my Israeli cellphone.  It was my Ulpan teacher.  She called to tell me about my test. 

And? I didn't understand the message. I am not kidding you.

I listened 4 times and I still didn't understand her.  Either I got a 9 on my test or I got an 86, or I got a 986.  Not sure.  Anyway, my certificate is waiting for me, so I guess I passed.  The new class (level daled, I think) may or may not start after the chagim, and it may or may not be 2 or 3 days per week.  I'll let you know.

Sukkos starts Sunday night.  Our sukkah is on our mirpeset and we are very excited about having one for the first time since we moved out of our house in 2006.  The sukkah is on part of the mirpeset that is already covered, and has a huge "window" that looks out onto the hills.  We replaced the cover that came with the apartment with a covering of wooden slats to keep out the sun, so it is looking good.  Now that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are over, sukkah stalls are going to pop up all over the place selling arba minim (lulav and esrog), decorations, etc.  Can't wait to see it all, and I'm so thrilled that we are living here, not just here for a visit. It ain't the same, Jane.

Ants.  We have them.  It is a very common problem here, as I understand it.  So tomorrow a (female!) exterminator is coming to treat our apartment.  I hate, hate, hate, hate bugs.  I will not tolerate them.  They give me serious willies, I literally shudder if I see one.  So, you see, we need to get rid of them.  Last night I saw one of those humongous bugs that look like some kid's stick drawing (I think it's actually called a stick bug) and I walked on the other side of the street to avoid it. I mean really, do I think the bug is going to look at me and say, "Oh, boy, there's a juicy victim, I'll just crawl across the street and attack her with my stick arms and legs."

Anyway, he would have gotten run over by a kid on a bike.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Days of Awe-some

It's holiday season.  You know how it is in the US around the end of October when everything goes green and red and all of the ads start mentioning the holidays? 

Here too.  Except for the green and red.  And except it's not the end of October, it's the end of August. 

Everywhere you go in Israel, the billboards and store ads mention the chagim and wish you a good new year. 

Even the Egged buses have shana tova flashing on their screens.  It's such a different mindset for us used-to-be-living-in-America types.  Even the eggs in the grocery store have "shana tova" stamped on each one!

So there I was, in shul on Rosh Hashana, looking out at the beautiful hills around Modiin.  I kept thinking, "My own ancestors walked these hills at one time, made their way to Jerusalem to the Temple, built homes and cities, fought, died."  Yes, I was being melodramatic, but it was Rosh Hashana, so, you know, you kinda get serious.

What can I say?  It just feels authentic living here, that's the best way I can describe it.  

Today our Rav gave his Shabbos Shuva drasha - it was done in the morning instead of the afternoon because Modiin's Chief Rabbi, Rav Lau, gave an afternoon drasha that the entire city was invited to (no, I did not go, as it was a 40 minute walk in bajillion degree heat).  We really like this Rabbi - he's a Yerushalmi, going back many, many generations, and is a descendant of the Gra - the Vilna Gaon.  So that's cool. AND he speaks Hebrew slowly and clearly enough for me to kind of understand.

The drasha was good - how do I know?  Because I understood it!  Yes, it was in Hebrew, don't be a smarty pants.  Now, let's not say that I understood every single word.  I mean, I'm glad that when Rabbis speak they kind of repeat themselves a bit so that if you don't get it the first way they say it, maybe you'll get it another way.  So he'd say something, I'd kind of get it, but then he'd repeat it another way (at least I think that's what he did, otherwise I missed a LOT of it) -  and I'd get it.

I still get excited when I hear a word I know, and do a little dance and punch my fist into the air (subtly) - "Yes!  I know that word!  yay me!!! I really remember that from Ulpan, wow, that's great" - but then by the time I'm finished celebrating the Rabbi is two paragraphs ahead of me, so I really have to stop doing that.

In Bubby news, little Nadav (age 2) is my new Hebrew buddy.  His vocabulary is growing (he now says "Bubby" very clearly and I get a big loud "Hi Bubby!" when I walk in.)  He also orders me around.  He tells me to sit, stand, come in, leave, put things HERE, THERE,  read to him.  All in Hebrew.  See, his Hebrew and mine are at about the same level so we're good.  Also, he knows I will give him candy at any time.  I think that has cemented our relationship.  The other day his mother unwittingly left him with his supplier, who stopped him from wailing by offering him M&Ms AND a lollipop - look, man, you gotta do what you gotta do.

So back to melodramatic (briefly) - we are about to have Yom Kippur, my first ever in Israel. I don't know if you can say this about Yom Kippur, but I'm looking forward to it.

Maybe by this time next year I'll be wriitng this blog in Hebrew.  I'll ask Nadav for help with the big words. If he's not too busy sitting in a bucket.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Saying Sorry

It's the "saying sorry" time of year, and I want to apologize to my parents, a"h.  Too late?  I know we are all thinking of things we did in the past year, but I'm talking right now aobut things I did over 50 years ago.

I was a pretty terrible little kid.  Just ask my sisters and basically anyone who knew me from ages 3-17 or so.  I gave my parents some serious heartache because I had a vicious temper, was incredibly stubborn, and just plain old wanted attention.  That part of my life involved the following, among many other incidents:
  • Breaking a fancy dining room chair during a tamtrum (4 years old)
  • Making my parents come upstairs from their store (we lived above their butcher shop) because I was screaming so loud (MANY times during this period).
  • Causing our wonderful, kind, loving housekeeper Milly to send me outside onto the porch because she couldn't take my screaming and crying.
  • Refusing to go to the bathroom when I needed to (let's not discuss this any further, ok?).
  • When I was about 15, joining the Jewish Defense League and scaring my parents half to death (well, my mother; my father thought it was kind of cool).
So that's just a sampling of what I was like - I'm sure some psychologist somewhere would have had a field day (and made a fortune) if I'd been a patient but in those days parents didn't rush to the doctor each time their kid had a tantrum. It was more like, "She's a difficult child, she'll straighten out."

And guess what? In the end, I straightened out (sorta, I still have a temper and am VERY stubborn, just ask my family). 

But, you see, the reputation stays with you and when you get together with your siblings, relatives, and friends from the old days, it is a topic of conversation.  That's how I can tell that my (former) personality really affected everyone around me.  I don't blame them for talking about it - they were traumatized by me!

So, I would like to apologize to my parents, sisters, and anyone else whose life became a misery because of me.  But especially to my parents, who unfortunately are no longer here to read this. 

I am bringing this up because while I was in Baltimore, my sisters and I spent some wonderful hours with friends from the "old neighborhood."  We all grew up in Pimlico, which was, in the 1950s, a bastion of Jewish life, full of shuls, groceries, community life, and good public schools.  In those days the JCC Park Heights was our hangout and we walked there daily in the summer to swim and eat our first-ever restaurant-quality french fries (I still remember the smell of chlorine mixed with fried food, since the JCC cafeteria was on the same floor as the pool).  The JCC was also just about the end of the earth for us - people who lived in the Glen Avenue area were in "the suburbs."

So we met our friends, Eunice and Adrian (ha! Eunie and Addie, I bet you didn't think you were getting a shout out but here it is!) and laughed for about 2 hours while we remembered our life on West Garrison Avenue.  Mind you, today I would not even drive close to that street without feeling terrified.

Eunice and Adrian lived up the street and we three girls spent lots of time with them. I remember thier parenets fondly, their house, and running up the street to see them.  Their father worked for the Hendler Ice Cream company and I remember thinking that I wish MY father worked for an ice cream company instead of having a butcher shop!  I mean in my mind I imagined Mr. Mervis coming home every day with vats and vats of ice cream, whereas my parents came home with sawdust in their hair.  I mean, really, ice cream every day as opposed to looking at raw meat and chicken! 

Of course, during the conversation, the subject of my childhood behavior reared its ugly head.  And I felt sad, really sad, that I had caused so many people such pain.  I know I can't ever undo what I did, and I can not really, truly, tell my parents how badly I feel for giving them such tzoris. 

I know, I know, I kind of made up for my badness with some goodness when I got older, but still, one hates to think that one caused pain to anyone, especially one's parents.

So, Mom and Dad, I'm really, truly sorry to have made life so tough for you.  And thanks for never giving up on me.

Oh - and I can see you two right now.  Mommy is saying "Oh, she wasn't that bad," and Daddy is looking at her like, "What?  Yes she was!" 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Welcome home!

Good flight, early arrival, short line at passport control, bags are out, we are doing great! 

We walk out of the terminal and I see tons of people walking INTO the terminal with their luggage carts.  Huh, I think.  That's a little strange.


...The Police tell us and everyone else pouring OUT of the terminal to GO BACK IN.  And wait.  And wait. 

Now tons and tons of people are waiting inside the terminal with their luggage and guess what they are all going to want to do when they leave?  That's right, get a cab.  So I inch up to the front so that I can whoosh out when we get the all clear.

What was the problem in the first place?  Everyone's best guess is a piece of luggage left by itself that might have had a bomb in it, but who knows.

About 15 minutes later, we get the all clear and rush out to the taxi stand.

Now, there are little size taxis, medium sized taxis, and van size taxis.  I was hoping that, with our 5 ginormous pieces of luggage, the dispatcher would call over a van.

SILLY ME!  No, a small car pulls up and I say to the driver (in Hebrew, thank you), "We have 5 suitcases, can your car handle that?"

He answers, "If it works it works, if it doesn't it doesn't."  Welcome home!

So he hoists three of our heavy bags onto the top of the car and puts the other two in the trunk.  I expect him to then pull out bungee cords. 

He pulls out a big piece of rope.  And proceeds to wrangle the suitcases like a rodeo rider.  This puts me in mind of our trip to Israel back in 1997 to visit Gila when she was in Michlala  Our driver put the suitcases on the top of the car and had to stop in the middle of Route 1 because the suitcases were falling off the roof.

OK, we get home, have a great reunion with the kids, and then decide to head out to the supermarket to start re-stocking.  By the time we get to the supermarket and back, we've been honked at 3 times.

So, all in all a wonderful return home - and all kidding aside, when we landed, we couldn't stop smiling. Still can't.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Yoo Hoo! What's Going on Over There??

Here is a report from the women's side in shul. 

I am not complaining, chas v'shalom.  I personally really love going to shul.  All I want you men to know is that we women often have NO IDEA what is going on over on your side. 

For example, here are some common problems and my suggestions for solutions:

New father goes up for his aliyah, and we hear (we think) that the mi shebayrach has morphed into a baby naming.  We get all excited, straining to hear the name.  The the gabbai says it - too fast, too low.  We miss it, every time.  Then the whispering starts.  Every single woman turns to the woman next to her and says, "Did you hear it?"  "I think I did, but it sounded like 'Crocus Pizza' - that can't be right, can it?"  Well not unless the mother was a Hollywood star.

  • SOLUTION:  Please ask the new parents to have a poster ready with the name of the baby on it that the father can hold up immediately after the naming.  Oh, and a brief explanation of who she is named for wouldn't hurt, if it isn't too much trouble. Oh, and please the full names, cities of residence, professions, and relations to local people of the parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.  Again, if it isn't too much trouble.

Yes, we are also interested in who gets aliyos.  But can we tell who they are?  Almost never.  First of all, the man usually starts putting his tallis over his head before he gets up there.  Second of all, the voice is muffled by the tallis, so we can't tell that way either. 
  • SOLUTION:  Would it be possible for the men to have a sign on the back of their talleisim with their names please?  Oh, and some identification, like "Shmuel Schwartz, the new son in law of the Goldberg family, he is learning in Telz and his parents are - yes, you are right - Malkie and Hillel Schwartz of Cleveland!  Yes!  originally from Flatbush!"

So, we women are, thank you very much, mostly comfortable with the usual flow of things in davening.  We know when to get up, when to sit down, when to be half and half.  But then there are the days when things are different, for whatever reason.  Like the first Shabbos after the third Thursday in August (can you tell I went to public school?  They did NOT teach this stuff in Pikesville Senior High, the nerve of them) - when they say an extra perek of this or that.  And we just don't always know what's going on.  Sometimes our neighbor does, but sometimes not.  Then we all stand (or sit) there trying not to look totally and completely lost.  The men are rushing at 200 mph through something and we don't know what it is.  We know we should be doing SOMETHING so we look at our siddurim as if they will magically tell us what to do.
  • SOLUTION:  I have none.  Other than using an Artscroll siddur, which, bless them, practically tells you when to breathe, or going back to the old ways of having everyone use the same siddur and having some young boy announce the page, what do we do about this?
Sometimes in shul everything stops and we know that something is going on but we don't know what it is.  It could be a problem with the sefer Torah, chas v'shalom someone isn't feeling well, a child just spilled an entire bag of treats on the bimah, etc.
  • SOLUTION:  Breaking News alerters - a young child can be sent into the women's section with an explanation of what is going on.   Who knows, this boychik could become the next Walter Cronkite and his career would have started in shul!

I always tell my husband that he should daven behind a mechitza sometime to see what it's like to daven behind a partition. It takes a lot more energy and focus on our part, and I think we deserve a lot of credit for that.

Of course we are women, so we have more focus and energy. [OOH, did I say that out loud?]


Friday, September 7, 2012


This post is not about aliyah.  Wait, come back!  Just give me a second of your time for a rant.


Now I love technology, and I am a technology junkie of sorts.  I love new gadgets, figuring out how to use new programs and tools, etc.  I think it's fun and for an old gal I have a kind of knack for it.  Who knows, maybe those years of watching "Captain Kangaroo" and seeing Mr. Green Jeans (it wasn't Green Genes, was it, because that would just be weird) fixing things made an impact.

But during this particular trip (see?  it IS about aliyah, because I came from Israel and I'm going back there) I have just about had it.

1. My dinky cheapo temporary just for America cell phone:  I already told you about Terrell, my DJ.  Well, today I received a call, as follows:

Caller: Hi, this is [unintelligible] - I need your computer password
Me:  What?  Who is this?
Caller:  Well, I can't do anything without your computer password.
Me:  Who are you calling?
Caller:  Francis!
Me:  This is not Francis.
Caller:  Oh, really?  Well this is the number she gave me.
Me:  This is NOT Francis
Caller:  Oh, sorry.
Me:  That's ok, this is a temporary cell phone and probably [at this point he hung up on me before I could regale him with my fascinating tale]

2.  Skype
Every couple of days I receive a call on my Skype phone number and the caller is identified as "maintenance."  

They keep calling and calling and I decline the call every time.  I Googled this and it seems it is indeed some kind of spam calling to confirm your phone number so some other spammer can call you later.

3. Phone Pouch Dialing
My dear husband has a cell phone and a new belt pouch for it. For some reason the belt pouch decides to call the last number he's dialed (usually me) every time he breathes.  Breathe in - ring!  Breathe out - ring!

Yesterday he was at a meeting and must have been sitting funny, because he called me eleven times in the span of 10 minutes.  Shift - ring!  Re-shift - ring!  I kept answering and saying "hello" softly thinking he'd realize what was happening but it didn't happen.

One thing to remember people - if your belt pouch calls someone, they can hear everything you are saying.....

4.  There's Always Something Better
Right before we made aliyah I bought myself a gift of a brand new Kindle Fire - it's Amazon's answer to the iPad.  It was much cheaper (and smaller) than the iPad, but very functional and I love using it.  Living in Israel, it's great to be able to order books and read them immediately. I can also shlep it around and use it in waiting rooms, on the beach, etc.

Yesterday Amazon came out with a NEW Kindle Fire that is bigger than the one I have!  No fair!  I just got mine in January and now I want the new one!  Don't do this to me! 

5.  Cords!  Wires! Remotes!
If you look at the backpack I take on the plane, you'll think I'm planning some kind of government takeover.  I have my computer wire, my phone wire, my Kindle wire, my other phone wire, my camera wire, and a couple of other wires I can't identify but that look too important to throw out.  How is this making our lives simpler?  We were in a hotel last week and I couldn't find the remote - and I also could not for the life of me figure out how to turn the TV off without it.  I left it on when we checked out.

6.  Faster!
Nothing is fast enough anymore.  When I'm waiting for one internet page to load, I HAVE to go look at another because, sheesh, you can't expect me to just wait here for it, can you?  And why should it take so long to load in the first place?  What are we, barbarians? 

7. Email!  Stop!!!
I cannot keep up.  I have several accounts for several different clients and all I seem to do all day is click between Inboxes.  It never, ever, ever, stops. I used to like getting mail....

Well, gotta go.  Terrell is on the line.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lift Off

Olim, here is what happens when you return to your country of origin for a few weeks and live in the apartment you vacated and thought you emptied out only 8 months ago.

You realize that you did not empty it out.

And then you realize that you really do have to empty it out.

You see, when we left in January, we were completely overwhelmed with what we were about to do.  So when it came to those last few "things" in the rental apartment that we were keeping for the forseeable future, we thought, "Oh, we don't have to worry about that!  That will stay in the rental apartment and then....."  But we never really completed that thought.  We were so relieved not to have to get rid of every single item, that we blissfully left.

Fast forward to August 2012 - we arrived in our rental apartment and you know what?  It's kind of not empty.  

Not only is there stuff there, but once we arrived, we "needed" to order things to take back with us - well, I did anyway.  Let's just say that every day a package arrived from some online store with treats for me.  It made me happy.  So now we have new clothes, shoes, some books, and of course Bacon Bits to shlep back with us.

The list of what to take back grew.  And grew.  Then my very smart husband made a very smart phone call to the company that sent our lift in December.  And guess what?  For a (not unreasonable) fee they were happy to offer us 100 square feet of lift space! 

Well, now, that's a whole different kettle o' fish.

Then we started to take a second look around.  I mean, 100 square feet is a lot!  So now we decided to take the artwork we thought we'd have to leave behind.

So aside from the six (count 'em) suitcases we are taking with us on the plane, we are also sending stuff in this mini lift.  I can't wait to go to the port to sign for it, that was such a lovely experience last January.

One thing I can guarantee you - when the stuff arrives in Israel we will be scratching our heads wondering why in heaven's name we felt it was necessary to send some of the items. 

So, lift #2 is being packed today, the Salvation Army is coming on Friday, our car is being shipped to our nephew Ari sometime in the next few days, to live out its happy life in Las Vegas (it's probably so excited, I mean really compare Baltimore to Las Vegas, wouldn't you be excited?), and various friends and relatives are on call to come by and pick up pieces of furniture.

This time feels more permanent because there are no immediate plans to return to Baltimore.  The goodbyes seem more teary.  Also, the fact that we are not total wrecks knowing about all of the aliyah stuff facing us allows us to concentrate more on the people.

Am I excited to return to Israel?  You betcha.  It's home, in a deeper and more real way than I could have ever imagined. Am I sad to leave Baltimore?  Well, not the city really, but the people, for sure.  All I can hope is that I see them soon, over there...


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Phone Tales

One of the issues you encounter when living in Israel and visiting America is that you don't necessarily have or want a permanent US cell phone, but you need one for the duration of your visit.  I mean, are we barbarians?  Living without a cell phone in 2012 is utterly unthinkable.  It's without a horse in 1812.  [I have a sinking feeling that that was a horrible analogy.]

So, many olim coming for visits will perform various feats of magic to obtain a temporary cell phone - borrow one from a neighbor, pay an exorbitant fee to rent one from their own cell phone company, etc. etc.

I figured I'd out-smart them all (any sentence that starts like that is sure to have a sad ending), and decided I'd just pop into an AT&T store when I got to Baltimore and buy a cheapo phone that only makes phone calls (no email, no web, no camera) and a prepaid card and I'd be all set.

It went well for a few days.  Then two things happened. 

First, I went on a cruise to Alaska with a phone that could not take pictures.  I pointed my little dinky phone at the glacier but it just sat there and stared at it.  It sort of looked at me with a condascending glare, "OK, Mrs.Penny Pincher, remember how you told the man at the AT&T store that you wanted the cheapest phone?  Well, you got ME so live with it and stop pointing me at glaciers."

The next thing that happened was that I received a text message.

The message was,  "What is the date of the wedding?"

Hmmmm.  I sat down for this one.  I know I'm getting older, and sometimes I get confused, but is there a wedding coming up that I've somehow forgotten about and yet that I know so much about that people are asking ME for the date?  I don't think so, but I gave it a few extra minutes of think time just to be sure.

Nope, nope, I'm 99% sure there is no wedding coming up.  I texted back, "Who is this?"  No response.

Two days later, another text.  "You need to tell me the date of the wedding."

Wow, this person is serious.  I did toy with making up a date, but couldn't do it.  So I texted back again, "Who is this?"

Two days later I get a response, "This is Terrell, your DJ."

Aha!  So, Terrell, my DJ, certainly deserves to know the date of the wedding so that he can hone is DJ'ing skills and DJ away on the night of the wedding.  If only there was a wedding.

I wrote back, "You have the wrong number."  Never heard back from him.

A couple of days later I started receiving phone calls, several times a day, from the same number, one  that I didn't recognize.  I finally picked up. 

This is what the recording said, "This is ___________ company with an important message for ....Cynthia Hayes.  If this is NOT Cynthia Hayes, please press 1."

Well, I am pretty sure I am not Cynthia Hayes (I checked my license just to be 100% positive).  So I pressed 1.  Then the recording said, "Please stay on the line for an important message for Cynthia Hayes."  Wellllll, if I just said I am NOT Cynthia, then why do I need to listen to a message for her?  Should I listen and then try to find her and pass the message on?  How would I even start looking for her?  And really I am so busy right now, I can't take on any more projects.

So I hung up.  After receiving the same call about 5 times the next day, I called the number back.  A person answered!  I told my story.  He said he'd take care of it.  But he must have been so busy making other incorrect phone calls that he did not take care of it.

Then, a few days ago, I started getting calls for Samantha something or other.  I told them twice that I am not Samantha.  They keep calling me.

So....let's sum up here.  SMART me that I got the cheapo phone and saved money. Not so smart phone company that can't recycle phone numbers very well.

I have a little comment, for AT&T.  Listen - there are over 6 bazillion possibilities of phone numbes in the US (I looked that up) - couldn't you possibly find a brand new number for me?

Oh, and Terrell, if you're out there, I hope you got the date of the gig.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Noise Machine

My name is Susan and I am addicted to my noise machine.

Way back when we lived in New York.  New York is a very noisy city.  Our apartment was situated next to the elevator.  All day and all night, we heard the following:


You get the idea. 

So we had to find a way to shut out that noise.  Fans didn't work, neither did staying up all night listening to the noise (very bad idea).  Finally we knew we had to do something.  I mean this was pre-kids so we didn't have any reason whatsoever to be up in the middle of the night.

Now this was in the Stone Age.  There was no Googling, ordering, and waiting for UPS.

Somewhere we heard about something called a white noise machine. And we heard that the store which every New Yorker knows, Hammacher Schlemmer, sells them.  [Say that store name fast five times, I dare you.  Our kids ended up calling it Hemcher Shemcher]. That was good enough for us - we hopped on the bus and made our way down to West 57th Street. 

Sure enough, there it was.  In all its beige, retro beauty (see above.)

That night we slept. Ahhhhhhhhhhh, all we heard was the insistent SHHHHHHHHHHHHHH of the machine, and nothing else.  Heavenly.

Then, a bit later, we were blessed with our first child.  A beautiful girl whose middle of the night crying would wake up people all over the tri-state area.  After feeding, burping, and walking back and forth with her, she'd still refuse to settle down.  Our doctor said we had to let her cry.  I couldn't bear it!  I mean, what would she think?  That we'd abandoned her?  How could I do this? 

So, after much soul-searching and many, many sleepless nights (why don't they ever tell you about this in the pregnancy classes???), I left her weeping, trudged back to bed, and let the noise machine (sort of) muffle her cries.

It kinda worked.  I mean, 6 months later she was indeed sleeping through the night.  I, however, was no longer able to sleep soundly, ever again.  But that's another blog post, and if you're a mother you already know what I mean.

So we got used to the white noise machine.  And when this baby got older, SHE became a light sleeper - every little footstep woke her up.  But did we have a solution?  You bet we did!  The noise machine!  Did we give her our noise machine?  Are you kidding me? 

No, we bought her her very own noise machine.

Then her brother came along, and he had one in his room. And on and on....

We kind of felt like dealers, you know, "Here, just try this for one night - see, it's good, right? OK, you can have it forever."

On Shabbos, our house sounded like Niagara Falls, with WHOOSH noises coming from three rooms all day long.

So now we had addicted all of our children to this machine.  Thankfully, they all grew out of it and none of them uses it now.

However, we still use ours - we are so addicted that we bought an extra for when we travel to people's houses, hotels, etc., and when we made aliyah we made sure we bought one in the 220v version.

I can honestly say that we cannot sleep without it because - get ready for this - it is too quiet for us without the whooshing noise.  If we're away somewhere and we forgot to bring it with us, we will do anything to recreate some kind of whooshing noise, short of one of us staying up all night and saying "WHOOSH" so the other one can sleep.

I don't recommend addiction of any kind, BUT if you want to block out noises (street, children, neighbors, annoying relatives) I highly recommend this machine. 

When you realize you can't sleep without it, call me and we'll talk.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Time, Date, Direction

Full disclosure - I am one of those people who does not know my right from my left.  All I can say is thank goodness for public school in the 1960s - the way I remember my right hand is that that is the hand we would put over our hearts when we said the pledge of allegiance.  See?  There are some good things about having attended Pimlico Elementary School #223.

TIME: So there's one problem.  Another one (I'm full of them, don't get me started, oh I started, never mind) is that I have a little, eensy, weensy problem with time changes.  And this happened to me in stages.  Let me explain, because I know you're anxious to hear more about me and my problems:

1. My daughters moved to Israel - they were now 7 or 8 hours ahead of us.  Every time I looked at my watch I added 7 (or 8) and think,"Oh,  they now [fill in the blank]."

2.  My son moves to Chicago - he is now 1 hour behind us.  Every tine I look at my watch I add 7 (or 8) for the girls and subtract 1 for him.

3.  We move to Israel.  Now we are at the same time as the girls, but 8 hours ahead of Chicago.

4. Israel switches time near Pesach - for a while we are 8 hours ahead of Baltimore, 9 hours ahead of Chicago.  Then Israel switches back.

5. I have a job - great news!  My clients are in California (10 hours from Israel), Alaska (11 hours from Israel), London (2 hours from Israel), East Coast (7 hours).  Help!

6.  I keep an app on my desktop which lets me know what time it is in all of these places.  I look at it constantly. 

7.  I have appointments with people in these various cities - soI  have to figure it out so that I don't make a meeting when either of us is sleeping.

8.  We come to Baltimore for a visit.  Now all my time differences have changed!

9.  I go to Seattle for a cruise - change again!

By this point I just stare at my watch with my jaw hanging open and drool threatening to drip out. 

I have been in a lot of airports in the past couple of weeks.  There is now a sign when you're standing in the security line - it states that "if you were born on or before this date in 1937, you do not have to remove your shoes in the security check."  I stared at that sign for about five minutes.  All I could think of was - Do they change that sign every day?

Basically when I tell my husband to turn right, he asks me which right I am referring to.  So here I am on the ship last week with aft, port, starboard, down, up, around, in, out. One day they say the ship is sailing north.  I stare outside.  If the ship is going north, where is east, west, and south?  For the life of me, with the ship moving one way and the water moving another way, I could not figure it out.

Maybe all of this has to do with getting older.  I mean, I do crossword puzzles like crazy to keep my mind sharp as a tack, but I don't think it's working.  Maybe I need more naps. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Shipped Off

I am getting adventurous in my old age, or maybe once we did the aliyah thing, smaller adventures don't seem quite so daunting.  I mean I have tackled the cheese counter at the supermarket in Modiin, so really there is not much left after that.

So, last week I went on a cruise.  My daughter Leezy works for a cruise company (Kosherica - shameless promotion!) and suggested I accompany her for a week, on a cruise to Alaska.  So off I went, la di da, just like that.  Believe me, I never would have done that before, but I think moving to a new country, learning a new language and making new friends has given me a wee bit more confidence than I used to have.

But shiver me timbers (yes, I am going to use all of the ship lingo I know in this blog, so just deal with it), life on board a cruise ship is verrrry interesting, I've learned. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

So I flew to Seattle and got to the pier.  Me and the other over-3,000 people going on this ship.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The kosher group was only about 90, but all told on the ship there were over 3000 people.

We go into the pier building and proceed to experience what can only be called (l'havdil) "Ellis Island In Reverse."  You are waiting in line after line after line, shlepping your bags, sweating, trudging forward slowly - to get ON a ship, OUT of the country.  I was actually waiting for someone to test me for cholera or look at the tag hanging from my shirt.  It was weird.

Finally you get on the ship and then you are officially - lost.  This thing is beyond massive.  There are 14 decks, and suddenly you have to get oriented.  I mean, the nice lady in the crisp white uniform tells me that the room I am looking for is "aft."  Excuse me, but I haven't eaten "me spinach" yet, so can you please use normal words like "this way" and "that way"?

I finally find the dining area for the kosher group.  AHHHH!  NOW I am feeling at home!  Food galore!  piles of it!  Fruit! Cake! Salads! I start to relax. 

Then, I find my daughter who is busy directing everyone, welcoming guests, answering questions, dealing with the chefs, with the mashgichim, with the scholar in residence, etc. etc. etc. We have a warm hug and then she goes back to directing and I go to eat.

So after the first face-stuffing of the cruise, I go to find my stateroom.  I know they are called "staterooms" but maybe it's better to think in terms of tiny villages instead of actual states, unless the state is Rhode Island.  I mean these rooms are compact, but you know what, they are very nice - everything is well organized in a small space. It's ingenious, really.

OK, now I can find my way to my room and to the food.  Good start!  First thing I do in the room is plug in my laptop so I can check my email.  Then something happens.  I look out the window and realize that this thing is moving.  So I am sitting still and the water is moving.........ugh...... I begin to feel a bit, uh, queasy.  OK, very queasy.  But yay Leezy who warned me to bring Dramamine.  I take some and yay drugs, I start to feel better.  Just don't look at the water, I tell myself.  Well, that's going to make for a fine cruise, spending my time trying not to look at the water.

The next day we are "at sea" meaning that - we are at sea.  Not at a port.   I wander around the ship a bit, but not too much because I'm afraid I'll get lost and end up in the brig.  Do they still have those?  Or I may have to walk the plank. 

The rest of the week was really amazing - Alaska is beautiful in a wet, rainy, and foggy sort of way - actually it is quite beautiful and the sights we saw (glaciers, mountains, etc.) were breathtaking.  I did not need to take dramamine again - I actually got used to the motion of the ship.

The ports were interesting - Juneau, Skagway, Katchikan - and Leezy and I even got in a little sightseeing and some shopping (I mean we HAD to buy the socks with pictures of a moose on them, didn't we?).  And there is a lot to do on the ship if you are a do'er - there is even a library and a card and game room.  And, yes, there was shuffleboard.  I kid you not. 

There was a couple on the ship who were going on the Nefesh b'Nefesh flight arriving Tuesday morning - they decided to spend their last week in the US on the cruise.  While I felt a bit sorry for them knowing what those first few weeks are like, I was also a little jealous knowing that they were about to to experience that thrill of coming off the plane as an oleh.

So it was a great experience but you know what?  As beautiful as Alaska is, it made me miss Israel even more.  There is something about the desert that speaks to me like no other landscape.  It is bleak, dry, hot, dusty, and rocky and I can't get enough of it.

So ahoy, matey, Popeye the sailor man, aye-aye Cap'n, and all that.  (had to get the rest of my sailing phrases in somewhere).