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...