Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jimmy Hoffa?

I can't believe it! Jimmy Hoffa is back in the news! The boss/gangster/mafioso who disappeared not far from my Michigan home about 30 years ago is making headlines again, as the FBI and local cops still try to find his body.

The funny thing is the "who is Jimmy Hoffa" stories circulating. I mean, 30 years ago, the name "Jimmy Hoffa" was known to every tot above the age of 5, and now, it's like "um, Jimmy WHO?"

Quite right too, I suppose....time moves on. But maybe I'm missing something. I mean, how many hours and $$$ were wasted STILL trying to find his body? Who cares? The guy, by all counts, was a true criminal and knew that he was playing with fire with his business-dealings with the local Mafia. So, aside from Mrs. Hoffa, who cares WHERE his body is?

This morning offered another "Israel moment". It's the day before the kids get off for Shavouth vacation, and all the gans (kindergardens) in the city gather at a couple of the synagogues for a pre-Shavouth party. The kids come dressed in blue and white, and in each synagogue, a rabbi greets them and tells them stories about the Torah scrolls, the Jewish people, the holiday of Shavouth, etc.

One of the central synagogues where the children come is located next to my office, and this morning at about 10:00a.m., streams of 3,4, and 5-year-olds came down the stairs with their teachers and some parents, smiling and chattering. Children from all the gans gather together...religious and secular, and many of the children are new immigrants from Ethopia, who are scattered throughout the city's gans and schools (to avoid ghettoization and encourage the younger generation to integrate into Israeli society). The picture of all these kids streaming down the stairs together was beautiful, and I'm sorry that I didn't have a camera available.

With the introduction of internet to more and more homes, it's becoming easier and easier to disseminate information throughout the community, and this year, most of the learning opportunities are posted on the Tzfat website. I admit, I'm still a bit awed at how much our world has changed, and how much easier it is to pass along information. Of course, there's a lot that is quite dangerous with the internet, but one can try to concentrate on the positive.

Hope I have renters for Shavouth. I've already planned out how to spend the would be nice to have a bit of extras here and there.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Return to the homefires

Came back yesterday from the bris of my new nephew. Aryeh Leib Sendler was inducted into the Jewish people at 8:30a.m., and after a bit of planning, I, Hagai and Margalit were able to attend. We went down by bus on Sunday afternoon (filling up a tank of gas now costs $100, so for just the 3 of us, we could get there and back, plus enjoy pizza for dinner, for quite a bit less), slept over at the LIvnot campus, and got to the bris on Monday morning on time, thanks to a swiftly-moving taxi in Jerusalem.

The shul is Litvak (the non-hassidic Lithuanian school), so the bris actually started on time, and it was nice to see my brother and his wife, though Margalit was quite disappointed that their older son wasn't there...she desperately wants a baby to take care of. I've actually considered, if my marital situation ever resolves itself, fostering a child one day, so maybe that will take care of her desire to be a big sister. Of course, I might just be biting off a bigger piece than I can chew too, but one thing at a time.

The bris featured a tradition that many in the more Ultra-Orthodox world embrace, namely that no "seudah" (festive meal) is complete without meat, so, at 9:00a.m. we were served chicken snitzels. Needless to say, i passed, though Hagai said that the snitzels were quite good. I think that my daughters' vegetarianism is growing on me, and while I doubt that I'll ever be a full vegetarian, i usually prefer non-meat meals. (they take more imagination and time to cook though).

Speaking of food, I bet that everyone is wondering how my Weight Watchers is going. Right?

Well, I haven't lost any more weight in the last 2 weeks, but I continue, if I may say so, to look good! Better than 6 months ago, at any rate...I'd still like to drop another 5 kilos. My friend gave me a hint about getting the metabolism going again...she says that when you hit a no-loose snag, your body has often gotten used to your new eating habits, and you have to rev it up, so you should change your eating pattern.

She suggested dropping most carbs, and, keeping to the same number of points, revising your eating habits by eating mostly proteins (along with vegetables and fruits). So I'm trying that. It is definitely less expensive to eat more carbohydrates -- proteins cost more. But I've made a committment, and am "treating" myself to healthy low-fat food.

It's much easier to diet when you're not at home all day -- I take the food that I plan out for myself in the morning, and that's what I have for the day. On Fridays when I'm home, I find it very hard to watch my points, and I'm grateful for the framework that work gives me.

Speaking of that, I've decided that after Shavouth, I'm going to take a couple of days off and try to get my business-idea off of the ground. I have an idea that I think will be good, and have just been reluctant to invest the time and resources to get it started. But now I have decided to push myself and try to make it a success. The saying "nothing ventured, nothing gained" is so true, and I have to be prepared to give this a chance.

More another time...I'm not yet ready to discuss my idea, but when the website comes out......

I'm certain

Sunday, May 28, 2006


....and the lack of it.

I am always trying to figure out how I'm going to make it through the week -- when I will get my shopping done, when I can wash the floor (which, because of the construction outside, is dusty as hell -- we won't even discuss the furniture), when I can make something somewhat healthy for mealtimes, when....well, the idea of actually sitting down to read a book or watch a movie is just not even on the list!

Last week, I was in a marathon to get everything (Shabbat cooking and cleaning) done before Friday morning, because we had to go down to Latrun (near Jerusalem) for Avishai's "tekkas" for his "course ma'akim". Translated....the ceremony which marks the end of his 4-month course as a non-commissioned officer. Kind of like a sargent in the American army.

Once again, he'd come home and tell me what they had the guys do, and I'd be thinking "my baby!" and he'd just kind of brush it off and say "oh, hafif", meaning "ah, it was nothing". What do they mean, nothing? Why can't they do the training AND let the boys get their 8 hours of sleep nightly? Even if they have to train out in the sun, why can't they make sure that the boys have proper food? I mean, honestly! If I didn't worry that Avishai would use his army training to kill me, I'd call the commander!

Anyway, he finished, and now has 3 stripes on his uniform. The "tekkas" was...ok, let's call a spade a spade. A total waste of time. Plus it was hot. Plus travelling with Margalit is never simple...travelling makes her ADD act up. But, what the hell. It was important to Avishai, and if he can go 48 hours with no sleep, navigate in the heat with a ton of equipment on his back, do 30 mile hikes carrying some guy on a stretcher...well, I can go down to Latrun for a morning.

This week, in addition to thinking about loosing a day at the end of the week for Shavouth, and thinking about the extra cooking, I also have to think about another trip to brother Dov's baby's bris. An 8:30a.m. bris, meaning that unless I want to start driving at an ungodly 6:00a.m. (at the very least), we'll have to go to Jerusalem tonight and stay over. So, that's what we'll do. Thank goodness for the Livnot campus, and my access...we just need to make sure that it'll be open, or, at the very least, that someone will leave a key out for us. The getting there and back isn't the biggest's the planning that puts me over the top. That, and trying to figure out how to squeeze in everything else that I have to do this week.

Blessings for my rental room, which is allowing me to buy gifts where needed, travel where needed, loan the kids money when they need it (and not realistically expect to be repaid), etc. I just got another call for several days in June -- hurray!

The streets around here are full of tourists -- this is the best year in many years for tourism. A lot of the tourists are youngsters, high school and college kids, and there are hundreds of birthrighters around. Last week, one of the local "schnoorers", a Hassidic "rebbe" from San Francisco (he says that he's decended from a Hassidic rabbincial line from Romania, and his family dropped their yiddishkeit after the Holocaust) was standing in his usual corner, panhandling. (He asks for tzdekka for local families, he says...probably true. He himself seems pretty well-set). Anyway, despite his extremely Hassidic look, he's got a lot of San Francisco still in him (where he grew up and passed through the '60s -- probably NOT as a hassid) so last week, as he stood around in his "uniform" asking for money from a group of American college kids on birthright trips, he suddenly found himself being photographed by 42 shutterbugs. I mean, honestly, he does make a good photo opportunity. And he enjoyed it (he's from SF, after all). And then, the kids started dancing with him and singing Jewish songs...those who weren't dancing were photographing.

As my father used to say about the Gur Hassid who used to live in Oak Park MI., the City should pay this guy as a tourist attraction!

Monday, May 15, 2006

think that I now realize why the Israeli army is as successful as it is. It's because the future soldiers get so much practice in planning strategies from preparing their Lag B'Omer bonfires.

Over a decade of watching my children huddle with their friends during the weeks before Lag B'Omer have convinced me that they develop techniques of planning and executing manuvers which would make any fighting unit proud.

With all due respect to the Women's Movement, this holds much truer of boys than it does of girls.

Girls generally sit together several hours before the event, decide where they want to go (somewhere where wood is already plentiful), what everyone will bring, and whose parents will bring them and pick them up.

Boys start planning weeks before the event, with afternoon excursions to find wood blocks and planks. They call each other with phone chains to decide where and when to gather, and then spend several hours each evening hauling home the findings.

About a week before the bonfire, they confirm who the chevre will be...not too many, but not too few. Having boys whose mothers have differing cooking skills helps (Shlomo's mother can make the kebabs and Matan's mother makes good shipudim and Aryeh's mother makes good hamburgers). Vegetarians would have a lonely and hungry evening with these groups who look forward to a meat fest.

Then, a day or two before the actual bonfire, the boys start making lists. Why they need so many lists I have yet to understand, but it seems that they use a tremendous amount of paper trying to work out who will bring the ketchup, mustard, knives, spatulas, etc.

Hagai's group has collected enough wood to have their bonfire seen from Meron, as we try to see the Meron fire every year from our front porch, and the boys will be starting their fire about 8:30p.m., which, if all goes according to plan, will keep them busy and their stomach's full until tomorrow morning.

IDF, take note.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Israel Independence Day

This week was Israel Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut. The family celebration is dwindling, but we still did the day up proud.

Avishai, of course, is in the army, and Ariella went somewhere (not that she told me...I know because we babysat Lucy, her wolf-dog). Yochi went to Tiberias at night to see the performances (the ones in Tzfat were hopeless), so she didn't feel like coming with us on a picnic the next day. She wanted to sleep. But Hagai, Margalit and I, together with some a bunch of neighbors (don't ASK how many people I stuffed into the car!) went up north, together with some other families, to a spot along the Banias river. VERY nice, though personally, I would have been just as happy to go down to the wadi below Tzfat where some of our other friends were going. But Hagai didn't feel that that was a proper Yom HaAtzmaut outing...he wanted water and nature. And frankly, it's the kids that I'm doing all this for, so...OK. On we go.

We got back about 6:00p.m., in time to shower and relax, and then Hagai headed out with his friends to look for boards for the Lag B'Omer fire. I would appreciate a moment to breath!

Just took a shower and Bagheera jumped in through the window while I was showering. Strange way to take a shower, with a cat watching from the window ledge, meowing his hunger. Still haven't found a home for Lola, who grows on me -- she's a lovely dog, gentle and sweet. But I don't WANT three dogs! Sigh. And now she's about half-a-year old...time to get her spayed. There goes a couple hundred shekels.

The street where we live is in the middle of construction, and everyone is up in arms. The place looks like a bomb hit it, and the workers haven't been seen for weeks. When are they going to start working, next winter? I asked the director of the project for a neighborhood meeting, and organized the neighbors. The meeting was cancelled at the last minute due to the death of someone that the director knows, so we'll (read: I'll) reschedule. I was pleased to see how many neighbors were ready to come to the meeting, but I get depressed at the lack of initiative...why do I, a single mother who works full-time, runs a b&b, and takes care of 3 children IN MY SPARE TIME have to organize this? Everyone is disgusted by the irresponsible nature of the work being done...can't someone else organize?

There's Yoda, walking along my counter looking for something to eat. Whoops...he got a potato knish which was sitting on the hot plate, waiting for me to turn it on for Shabbat. The cat's name should be "Chutzpa". And another thing...since when do cats like potato knishes? (I keep the challah hidden in the oven until we eat because I know, from past experience, that Yoda will munch on that too. He also likes vegetables. There's something WRONG with this cat!)