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Thursday, June 30, 2005

last weekend

Avishai came home for his 4-day weekend. His group rotates with 2 other groups, so he comes home now every third weekend. The group left Gaza yesterday morning early, which was lucky, because mid-morning the army closed off Gaza, trying to keep right-wing protesters and anti-disengagement activists away, and all leaves were cancelled. But Avishai is home now, and unless an emergency calls him back, he will have a chance to relax for a bit.

Listening to his stories and explanations of events and his job there is facinating -- it would be a lot more facinating if my hebrew was up to the task, so a lot of times I nod as though I understand, but miss a lot of what he's saying. I also get a lot of information by just listening to him talk to his friends who come here, or to the other kids. While he tells me the rough outline of his life in the army, and the main points, most of what I know about "little incidents" and the behind-the-scenes descriptions of his day-to-day life comes from just listening to his other conversations. This has never been as apparent as during this past furlough. When Avishai came home, we spoke for about an hour, as he told me the rough outline of his present life, and I asked questions about what he is doing day-to-day. But periodically, throughout the evening, something would remind him about something that's happening, or he'd get a phone call from one of his army buddies who is at the base now, or suddenly he'd remember an incident that he would share with us, and little by little, we're gaining a better understanding of his present life. As he sums it up, it's a bit scary, but VERY INTERESTING.

In sum, he'll be doing a bit of everything that he's learned over the past 7 months. The groups rotate, week by week -- one week doing guard duty in little "pillboxes" that straddle the Rafiah border, one week doing armoured jeep rounds, one week checking people at the border crossings, etc. There are about 7 different tasks that they take turns at, so it never becomes too boring.

We also spoke a bit about the boy who died this week from Tzfat -- Avishai knew the young boy who drowned. While Avishai's army service is by no means safe, the drowning showed us all, again, that one can never be complacient or know when something is "safe" and "dangerous". The boy just went off for a day to the beach with his friends, and never came back...who would have ever thought that his death would come BEFORE his army service? We all have to do our utmost to insure our safety and well-being, but ultimately, it's not up to us, and in my morning prayers, I've never been as aware as I am now, after 3 young boys have been killed in freak accidents recently in Tzfat in recent months, that I have only Partner #3 in raising my children to rely on for their ultimate health and safety.

It's funny that now, when my life is in such transition and uncertainty, that my faith and strength in my beliefs has grown so much. Things that I used to take for granted....health, safety, a basic standard of living...I no longer take for granted, and am more aware than ever of how much I have and how happy I am. I hope that my behavior and actions will always justify what I have been given.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Long Hot Summer

Just as I've been congratulating myself for living in a less-populated section of the country, and thus not being affected by the tummult going on surrounding the disengagement, specifically the road-blockings, I find myself anticipating being in the midst of just such a mess.

This afternoon, I am taking the kids to their yearly dental check-up, at our dentist whose office is about 45 minutes south of Tzfat. There are plenty of dentists here, but we have been going to this particular dentist for many years, an American-trained friend of ours who is particularly good with kids (my children have actually always looked forward to their yearly check-ups, though that's also partly due to the fact that they seem to have great teeth, and even though they don't pay attention to my reminders to brush their teeth, they rarely get cavities). Our appointment is at 4:00pm, and the anti-disengagement forces have called their protest for 5:00, just as we are setting out for home.

I haven't quite figured out why these groups announce their intentions beforehand, since it simply alerts the police to station a couple of thousand extra police at key intersections, but it does serve the purpose of making the public dread their drive, wherever they may be headed!

In general, I hear about most of these "strikes" and "blockages" from the news, and stay generally unaffected. However, this year, we seem to be innundated. The airport technicians are creating difficulties at the airport too, and Hagai and Ariella are set to fly to the States on Tuesday evening, in the midst of their threatened "work-dispute".

Living in this country "squeezes the juice from you", as the expression goes.

Golda and me

Heard a funny story today. A lady came into the Visitors Center with her family -- she's about 65, and said that he had worked for Israel all her life, but this was her first trip, and she's overwhelmed with emotion. That reminded me of my grandparents' trip -- after a lifetime of working for Israel, they also finally came in '58.

A co-worker was sitting here when I mentioned it (she was fixing my computer, which has been making unpleasant sounds of distress lately), and I told her how Buba and Zeida (my grandparents) had worked for zionistic causes back when no one ever really believed that a Jewish State would ever be a reality, and they used to host Golda Meir and other fund-raisers when they came to the States, and that Buba and Zeida were themselves hosted by Golda when they came to Israel.

So my co-worker said "well, I have Golda's gadkas" (long-johns).

She went on to explain that when her husband came to Israel and was in the army in the early '70s, he met Golda's secretary, who was the aunt of his friend, and while they were talking, the secretary asked this young soldier how army life was. "Well" he said, "I'm stationed on Mt. Hermon, and it's cold there".

"When Golda was Foreign Minister in Russia" the secretary said, "and we were stationed in Moscow, it was cold there too. Golda bought gatkes there and wore them, but she doesn't need them any more, so go ahead and take them".

So that's how Golda's gadkes came to be in Tzfat...my co-worker's husband wore the gadkes for several years of army service, and his son subsequently wore them during HIS service in Lebanon.

You never know when you'll meet up with fame!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Dilemna

This evening, the anti-disengagement forces have called for a nationwide protest "moment of silence" to demonstrate opposition to the upcoming disengagement.

This one, unlike previous demonstrations, will not involve blocking the roads and facing the wrath of the local police force. It involves wearing something orange (the "official" color of the anti-disengagement opposition) and standing next to various intersections in roads throughout the country in a silent show of opposition.

Up until now, my political "voice" in this whole historical episode has been to simply tie a orange tie on the car, which more and more people are doing. Part of this is because I'm kind of ambivilent about the whole thing -- on the one hand, the thought of uprooting the families, homes, communities, schools, businesses, etc., that people have created under very trying circumstances is abhorent, especially after the government expressedly encouraged people to go and make their lives there for many years.

On the other hand, I'm aware that keeping 8000 individuals in an area surrounded by a million enemies is not the greatest strategy.

So I'm not sure where I'll be at 6:00p.m., though I'm leaning towards going, mostly because I see this as a dangerous precedent which could lead to all sorts of other "disengagements" in the future. (And, let's be honest...going to a demonstration is a lot more exciting than staying at home and figuring out what to cook for dinner).

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There are some weeks when the list of "to dos" overwhelms me -- this week, in addition to full-time work, shopping, cleaning, cooking, child-care, etc., I have to take the kids for dental appointments, organize Ariella and Hagai's departure for the States, organize pool cards for the summer, make doctor appointments to check out Margalit's headaches (I suspect a milk allergy, but we're still checking), make sure that Ariella has a school for next year, and a million other things.

Just when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I read an article on the aish.com website, http://www.aish.com/societyWork/society/Tomorrows_Promises.asp. And it's so accurate, so meaningful, that I'd be willing to go home today at 4:00 and wash a million floors and organize a million appointments, just to know that I will be able to say "I love you" to my children forever.

That was brought home to me again today...walking to work this morning, I walked by two women, acquaintences, who were talking about a Tzfat boy who is missing. I stopped to ask what was happening, and they told me that the boy, 18 years old, had completed his last matriculation exams and gone to the sea with some friends...he is now missing in the sea. He is the only child of the principal of the Amit High School...my older children certainly know him.

There are simply no words...and no way to express how happy I am to be busy with appointments and housework and the day-to-day drudgery of my life.

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7:00p.m. The news just announced that the boy's body was found. I can't even imagine.........

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

twlight zone!

I don't believe what just happened!

It's the end of the day, and by this time, at work, I rarely pay much attention to what's going on out on the street, because I don't have the energy to get up and go greet people who don't come in.

But a guide was standing outside the Visitors Center, telling people about LIvnot, so I went to give out flyers, and the guide gave me a moment to tell people about LIvnot, and all of a sudden, one lady says "Laurie! It's Sheryl Rose from Hebrew School!"

It was a group of Detroit educators, and one of them recognized me out of the blue! We are talking about 30+ years of not seeing each other, and she recognized me! To say that I'm stunned is an understatement...what fun!

sleep-deprived

I once again started out my week sleep-deprived -- as much as I've been looking forward to catching up on my sleep throughout the week, when Shabbat comes, I inevitably sit up late reading on Friday night (since I never have any other time to do such a thing), and then whatever extra sleep I get on Saturday mornings or during my afternoon nap, I waste by staying up again late on Saturday night.

Sunday I came home from work at 4:30 and washed down the entire house which REALLY needed it after a weekend of all 5 kids and their friends home. Then some shopping. Yesterday, I left work in the middle of the day to pick up Ariella from Hatzor on her way back from 11th grade. She came back with two huge stuffed backpacks, and now I know where all my missing sheets and towels went to.

I stayed at work late to make up for the run to Hatzor, and took Margalit to her Occupational Therapy appointment, with a quick stop in at the library for some books for Hagai and Yochi. Then, at 8:30, hagai and I went to his school for the end-of-the-year party for the 7th graders. They called it the class bar-mitzva party, but it was mostly an attempt by the staff to convince parents that the school is terrific, and that they should leave their boys there after the 8th grade, when many kids leave. We'll see about that when the time comes...hagai likes the school, and has a lot of friends there, so thank goodness, in the meantime, he's happy. And in the long-term, we'll see, though if I have to sit through many more late nights like last night, listening to endless quiz games and watching the students' computer Power-Point projects being demonstrated on the wall, I may look for somewhere that doesn't expect parents to show up at all!

Today is the first day of vacation for the older kids -- Margalit has another 2 weeks of school. Ariella is easing into her vacation by going OUT at 12:30a.m. last night, and leaving a note on her door this morning informing me to NOT wake her up or make any noise. She's been "keeping company" with a boy named Ariel, which is kind of funny, Ariel and Ariella.

Yochi and her friends are heading to Haifa for the day, and I think that Hagai's friends were going to convince him to go to the pool this morning, though he didn't call me for money, so I don't know if that came about. I have been making noises about taking out a membership at a local pool for Yochi and Margalit (Ariella and Hagai are leaving for the States on July 6th) -- there's one at the hotel next door to us which removes the burden of transportation from my shoulders. Hopefully next month....I had hoped that margalit would agree to go to summer day camp, which would put a little structure into her day, but she is absolutely opposed, and I don't have the energy to insist, since I know that it would just be one more task for me every day, to get her out of bed while everyone else is sleeping and off to the camp. So she'll hang around the house this summer, and maybe get to the pool a bit. Summer vacation is a TEST.

Found Ariella's mouth mold which she'd lost again -- she leaves it sitting around, wherever she is (bathroom sink, kitchen, next to the computer, whatever) and at least once a day, is searching for it. This last time, it disappeared for about a week. If there's anyone more disorganized than Margalit, it's her older sister.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Shavouth resolutions

Shavouth just finished, and I have come up with a few "revelations" of my own:

1. I will attempt to attend more Torah classes this year. They uplift me, strengthen me, and focus me. HOWEVER, I will try to find some classes in english, since today's class, the yearly shiur in memory of my old friend and neighbor Rachel Ben Zev, was given in hebrew, and I found it difficult to concentrate on the content because I was concentrating too much on the words.

2. I will make dairy for Shabbat more often. Yoni never liked it, so I never did it too much, but having dairy on Shavouth was great. The kids all ate heartily, and Ariella appreciated not having to avoid the main dish (she's a fairly militant vegetarian). So from now on, I'm going to try to make dairy meals at night, and simply due to the lack of imagination and cooking time, meat for Saturday.

3. I will try to water the garden this summer! I cleared out a plot and planted some vegetables, and want to plant some more, but I need to take care of it, so I need to set aside some time every week to do so. We no longer have a rabbit that I need to worry about munching my produce, but I'll have to find a way to keep the turtles out.

Back to work tomorrow. Didn't miss it a bit. I've gotten used to rushing off to work and trying to work housework, shopping, and children in between everything, and thank goodness, I work with great people and enjoy the work.

This evening, I had just come back from taking my daughter to her occupational therapy appointment, and was looking forward to running to a neighbor's open house for a new Environmental Center/Healthy Living center that a bunch of people here are working on, when my 12-year-old met me at the door in a panic. He had forgotten his backpack in the bus stop in front of his school, out on the main road.

For a hundred-and-forty shekels (which is what this backpack cost me -- a replacement for his OTHER lost backpack that he left on the bus about 6 months ago) I put him in the car and we dashed out to the bus stop, a 15-minute drive outside of Tzfat, to see if the pack was still there.

It occured to me that, in other parts of the world, one would worry that the item had been stolen, but in this part of the world, I could only imagine police cars blocking the road in either direction as the bomb squad came to blow up hagai's math and history books, plus a deck of playing cards, some marbles, and who knows what else.

But when we arrived, it was clear that the backpack was still quietly sitting in the corner where Hagai had left it, and after a quick, illegal U-turn, we had it back in custody. I wonder what the lifespan is of other kids' accessories which are not buttoned, belted, or in other ways tied to their bodies -- I, personally, am wondering if I'm doing something wrong, having had to replace a lot of basic possessions of my childrens' lately.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Shuking it

Yesterday I made my weekly trip to the shuk after work. It works out well, since I take a detour to the shuk at the end of the workday, which happens to coincide with the last half hour of the shuk (open-air market), when the prices are rock-bottom, since the stall-owners want to get rid of their produce and go home for the day.

The tempo of the shuk is always a fast-paced one, and amazingly, even on the hottest days, and even at the end of the day, tempers are even and people are in good moods.

Every once in awhile, you hear some people yelling back and forth, but almost always, when the yelling ends, the customer ends up buying from the same stall-owner that he was threatening with bodily harm 5 minutes ago, and the stall-owner is offering the customer a drink of whatever he has.

The Ethopians also frequent the shuk at the end of the day...they are the newest immigrants, many whom just arrived weeks before, but they've learned quickly that the best deals are to be had at the day's end. Their families are rigidly divided by sex...the women and girls do the shopping, while the little boys hang around the shop owners, waiting for an hour's work at the end of the day, taking down the stall and putting everything away.

I once saw a group of these little boys walking home about an hour after the shuk closed, carrying bags of fruit and vegetables for their families -- their payment for their work. Some of these boys couldn't have been more than 9 or 10, yet they didn't expect candy or money for themselves -- they wanted to bring home food.

I want so much to "give" to my children, to make sure that they have money for the extras that they enjoy...new shirt, goodies, etc., but somehow, I think that these kids are getting more. So how do I give those sorts of values to my children, who are used to receiving the basics, without struggling or going without? A question..........

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tekas Kumpta

Yesterday was Avishai's "Tekas Kumpta" -- the ceremony marking the end of his training. The ceremony was set for 1:00p.m., and was to come at the end of the soldiers' "massa kumpta", their last hike of basic training.

I was actually not quite sure what a "kumpta" is. At first, I understood it to be the beret that the soldiers wear, different colors for different units. Then, I heard about the soldiers receiving their "fighters' pin" and thought that THAT's what it was, the pin. Then, Avishai started talking about the badge in the middle of the beret, and I thought that THAT's what it was. And at some point, so much of the culture of having a son in the army is so strange and beyond my realm that I try not to ask too many stupid questions, and often go on blithly misunderstanding what is happening in my child's life.

In this case though, all I had to do was to wait for the tekas (ceremony), and my curiosity would be satisfied, and in fact, when the "kumptas" were handed out, it became clear that the kumpta is, in fact, the beret (brown for Avishai's Golani unit).

At the last swearing in ceremony, held 3 months ago at Avishai's base, the soldiers were all dressed in their dress uniforms, and when the commander called out "stand straight" or "at ease", you could hear the soldiers, who were standing upright in their spots, move smartly. This time, the soldiers had just completed a 45 kilometer hike which stretched through the night, and their lines were a lot less straight, and their movements were not as smart. But they were all pleased to receive their kumptas and signify the end of their training.

I was suprised that the commander's 3-minute speech included the admonition that the soldiers were expected to fulfill all orders to the maximum, even, he stated clearly, with the upcoming disengagement. I was even more suprised that no one among the families cat-called, even though I saw many cars parked of people who had come to the ceremony with the distinctive orange flag which signifies opposition to the upcoming disengagement. But the ceremony passed peacefully, and when we sat with Avishai and his friends afterward, most of them expressed the opinion that participating in the disengagement was going to be a terribly demoralizing task for soldiers, and many who will not outright defy an order will simply not put a lot of effort into their task. It's a terrible time to be a soldier, with the disengagement hanging over the country, and I am terribly sorry that Avishai will have to be a part of it.

I was also suprised to see how many Ethopian families were at the ceremony to be with their sons...the number of Ethopian soldiers far exceeds the percentage of Ethopians in the general population. The Golani unit is an elite fighting unit, and it's interesting that, even with the difficulties that the Ethopians have in integrating into the country, so many of their sons are joining units such as Golani.

Avishai told me that one of the reasons that he likes Golani is that all the soldiers are like one family -- in contrast to other units, where there are a lot of cliques. I had told him about a neighbor's grandson who was in the elite Sheldag unit. This boy had undergone laser eye surgery so that he wouldn't have to wear glasses, and so that he'd be accepted into this elite unit. Now in, he has decided to resign, because he's getting a lot of flack from some of the secular Tel Avivians for being religious.

When I mentioned this to Avishai, he acknowledged that that's a problem in many units, especially some of the super-elite units which have a large percentage of boys from wealthy homes. Golani, he said, is known for its "Amcha" (all-one-big-family) atmosphere, and that's why there are so many Ethopians, Russians, Druse, Bedouin, religious, secular, etc. I have to say that, if Avishai is going to spend 3 years of his life in the army, I'm glad that he's found such a positive group to spend it with.