Monday, July 31, 2006

Week #3

As of this morning, we are officially week #3 "on the road". However, we split up from the other family that we were staying with (their grandmother rented an apartment in Jerusalem for them) and have moved closer to Jerusalem, so not only do we have more physical space, but I'm near Jerusalem and can (if Margalit manages not to annoy her playmate too much) get in to work every day. My computer was brought down to Jerusalem from Tzfat, and I feel useful again.

Another plus in our new "digs" is that the wife, a friend, doesn't really like to cook, (not during the week, anyway....her Shabbat meals are wonderful) so I've been able to cook a few dinners, again, making me feel useful, and at the same time, doing something that I enjoy. Yes, I like to cook. I didn't reach Weight Watchers by not liking food!

We spent Shabbat in Modi'in again, at the apartment of a family that was away for Shabbat. They had offered to take Lola, at least until this "situation" is finished, and maybe for good. Yochi called to say Shabbat Shalom from the States, and was upset to hear that Lola might be leaving us, but I am having enough trouble managing with 2 little dogs...the third, though she's an amazingly gentle and easy animal, was getting to be quite enough.

so the nomad life is continuing, and I'm resigned to being here for awhile. I have to say that there's a tremendous lesson in humility in this whole episode. We, who are accustomed to be asked to help others, and who pride ourselves on our ability to help whenever we can, are now in a position of relying on being helped. It's a bit of a tikkun -- life lesson -- and I can't say that I'm enjoying it, but I am trying to recognize it for what it is.

This was sent out regarding our neighbors who were injured in one of the first attacks on Tzfat, across the street from our house :
MiITVA: A Family in Need from TZFAT
Before the Fast of Tammuz was over The Mor Family, of Tzfat (formerly of Petah Tikvah) were miraculously saved by a direct hit to their house, landing in their kichen where the mother and 4 of the five children, ages 7-1, were standing there. They were released from Rambam Hospital this week and are residing in Kibbuz Gush Etzion, until their home in Tzfat can be repaired. I, Dr. Wendy Tikva Cohen, their neighbor and close friend have, with their full permission and need, started :
Give generously or whatever you can afford. Please remember Tzeducka (Charity) saves the World!! And please pass this email on to any of your friends and family around the World!
For their names to pray for and for further information on how you can help them please contact me at tikvacohen@
Tzion Mor, is a Sofer and you can help them by ordering mezuzzas or a Safer Torah.
Please if their is anyone I can send a package to who could deliver it to them in Gush Etzion, please contact me if possible before Shabbot or anytime near thereafter.
G-d bless all of the people of Israel to be safe and to see Peace, full and uncondi-tional and a Refuah Shlema (complete healing) for this exceptional family of Tzfat.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The big changes in life

I think I see how people move through life...I feel like I'm living it in a microcosim. One doesn't turn one's life upside down in a few's a process of moving 2 steps forward, one back, two steps forward again....until one has again arrived at the next flat station of life. And then, after a period of time, when change is due again, the process starts again.

I was thinking about that as I try to work out my life for the next few weeks, since this "situation" doesn't seem as though it's going to be finished so quickly. the number of rockets raining down on Tzfat is as numerous as ever (in addition to hundreds more throughout the north) and, although I support the army, patience is not my strong point.

So I would like to go to Jerusalem, where I could, theoretically, work (Livnot has a Jerusalem campus, and I am, I am told, needed).
#1. What can I do with Margalit?
#2. What can I do with the dogs?
#3. What can I do with Ariella (and her wolfhound)?

Number one is the toughest. Margalit is 10, old enough to be unwilling to hang around with any babysitter, but young enough to need supervision. I can, I was told, live at the LIvnot campus in Jerusalem, so that would be taken care of. But what would I do with Margalit while I was working? I'm presently looking for day camps, one phone call at a time.

Number 2. I think that I found Lola a home, with a new immigrant family in Modi'in. I was supposed to take her there today, but then they said that they would be going to Jerusalem for Shabbat, so they would prefer waiting until Sunday. It wasn't until several hours later that the light bulb went off...if they're in Jerusalem, their apt in Modi'in (near friends, with a girl Margalit's age! whom she enjoys playing with!) will be free. So I called them back, and they said that we'd be more than welcome to use their house over Shabbat. Hurray! Now, I will pick up Margalit on Friday from her 3-day camp, go to Modi'in with her and Lola, stay over Shabbat, leave Lola there with the host family, and hopefully move on to Jerusalem. If I can find a kaytana......
#3. Impossible situation. I'm at wits end. Love my daughter, but being around her makes me into a nervous wreck.

Here's the recent letter from Livnot to alumni and friends about their lives as coordinators of the volunteer activities in Tzfat these days. Aharon, the Executive Director of LIvnot, spent today running around to shelters fixing toilets.

"It is a busy Sunday in Tzfat after a powerful and amazing Shabbat here atLivnot. We were honored to host Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Yonah Berman fromRiverdale, New York, as well as Rabbi Adam Scheier from Quebec. We were also joined by the entire Nachmani family and four volunteers from America. NuahPadmore also joined us, an IDF soldier staying at Livnot who is in charge ofadvising civilian officials and the municipality on how to manage the city of Tzfat during this crisis. They all came specifically to volunteer theirtime, bring joy to those stuck in bomb shelters, and express theirsolidarity with Israel and her citizens.The usual bustling Tzfat on a Friday afternoon was akin to a ghost town - the bakeries, kiosks and grocery stores are closed. In fact all of the shopson Jerusalem Street are closed, with only one vegetable store stilloperating. The majority of the population of Tzfat has evacuated, with the remaining citizens sitting at home or holed up in bomb shelters.With planes flying over the hills to put out fires from katyusha rockets amere kilometer away, and planes heading to Lebanon to fight for Israel, we stood together to have Kabbalat Shabbat on the famous Livnot porchoverlooking Mount Meron. As the sun finished setting, and with synagoguesclosed, we headed to the center of the Old City, where we were joined by the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat and about twenty other brave souls to pray in thekikar. There we danced, smiling and laughing, welcoming in Shabbat againstthe background noise of our artillery taking out targets in southern Lebanon. After Friday night dinner which ended at one in the morning, wewent to meet with the mayor of the city in the "war room," a bunker in thecity center which houses the main operations of the city, and is open to everyone to walk in and share their needs with the mayor and the armyofficers assisting him. All sitting around a large table, we sang and triedto bring some Shabbat simcha during these trying times.On Shabbat we headed out to the citizens of Tzfat to visit them. After being inside for days, the simple power of talking with them and singing Shabbatsongs cannot be overstated. Some of them are in shock and are too scared toleave their homes to get food. Filipino caretakers of the elderly fled when the rockets started to fall and they have no one to take care of them. Tiredparents welcome us into their bomb shelters to play with their children sothey can get some rest. One woman who is living in a bomb shelter came ten years ago from Ethiopia to Israel with her mother and daughter, who is goingto the army in a few months. The woman told us that when she came to theabsorption center in Tzfat she saw a huge mural on the wall with a painting of her grandfather among other olim, the first of four generations of herfamily in Tzfat. At that moment I realized that a Livnot group in 1983painted the mural. One of the many Livnot connections in Tzfat.Our last stop was the Tzfat Hospital, which was hit several days ago by akatyusha, where we sat with patients and played games with children. We alsovisited two soldiers who had just returned from the Lebanese border. One of the soldiers was hit in the neck by shrapnel, three millimeters from hisspine. We received news that he had surgery on Shabbat and might walk out ofthe hospital tomorrow. The other soldier was in southern Lebanon, wounded in a tank and brought into a Lebanese house that was under fire for two days.He was taken by tank to the border, switched to a car, then to an ambulanceand flown in to the Tzfat hospital.There are miracles happening here everyday. My son, Eliezer, goes to the woods surrounding Tzfat every Friday to meditate for one hour at a naturalspring where he goes to a mikveh, always in the same place. On Friday, hegot into his car and drove there as usual. On the road, an old man was hitchhiking, and Eliezer stopped to see if he could give him a ride. The manasked to be taken to the Ari mikveh, which was in the opposite direction ofwhere Eliezer was going. He tried to refuse, but the man had already got into the car and there was no arguing with him. So he took the man to themikveh, thinking that he will still have time to meditate before Shabbat.After the mikveh, the man wanted to go to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, at Mount Meron. Again, there was no arguing with him, and Eliezerjust gave in.Only upon returning to my house to prepare for Shabbat, Eliezer saw from theliving room window that a Katyusha rocket fell exactly on the spot in the woods where he usually meditated - a miracle. And there are so many stories- people who leave their house a few minutes before it gets hit, twoincomplete minyanim in shuls across the street argue in which synagogue to congregate, finally one group goes over to the other and a minute after, theemptied shul gets a direct hit. A rocket passes ten centimeters to the leftor the right and is stopped by an obstacle, preventing it from hitting directly into a house full of people and I could go on...To date over 300katyushas have fallen in Tzfat but we still hear of miracles all around us.We continue to receive volunteers on a daily basis, those flying in from America as well as volunteers from all over Israel. Livnot is giving them aplace to stay and is busy helping the people of Tzfat.We wish you a shavua tov, we will continue to give updates and please keepus in your prayers.Besorot Tovot,Aharon and MiriamLivnot U'Lehibanot"

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


So, here we are. Ariella arrived last night with Lucy, her cat-killing shepard. I made it clear to her that Lucy had to be kept tied up, but it's one more barker to keep track of.

Someone in Modi'in may want Lola, at least to take care of her while we're down here. I need to call.

Margalit and Meira, the 10-year-old of the family that's staying in Hemed with us, are now fussing at each other full-time, and Margalit is threatening NOT to go to the kaitana if Meira goes. If she doesn't go away for a couple of days, I'm going to go!

One of the girls in the other families seems to have heat stroke.

We should really leave and give this family, where we've been staying, a break. They are true tzaddikim, hosting us, never complaining, always smiling...who else is going to take 3 females and 4 dogs? One of whom kills cats? (one of the dogs, I mean) And Ariella doesn't exactly dress in a way that would allow me to take her to a religious neighborhood.

Personally, I'm bored out of my mind, sick of driving everywhere, tired of trying to keep Margalit amused and happy (bowling yesterday was a big hit) and itching to do something useful. I'd like to go back to Tzfat and help...Livnot is organizing volunteers to deliver supplies to the shelters. but I can't leave Margalit.

I wake up every night and lay awake for hours, thinking....what am I going to do?

Well, I guess today we're going to go to to a local game/play area which is free for refugees, and then to the pool, for one last swim before the 9 days of Av (a period of mourning for Jews begins.) I'll start on the phone calls again tonight.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A new week

We went to Modi'in for Shabbat, because the family that we've been staying with in Hemed was expecting guests. The Shabbat was wonderful, and our hosts have a 10-year-old so there was plenty for Margalit (and her friend Meira, who is travelling with us) to play with.

The english-speaking community in Modi'in is very cohesive...Modern Orthodox, and tightly knit. Friday night, many get together in the backyard of the family that was hosting us for a Kabbalat Shabbat, Carlebach style. then on Saturday morning, they have a tradition of getting together again for a "Rambam group", a group of mostly men who do an extended kiddush with a good amount of alcohol, good stuff, a bit of food, and a little talk of Torah. Most of the talk, it seemed to me, revolved around the various drinks available.

Then, for lunch, in addition to myself and Margalit and Sharon and her girls, there were 2 other families invited. One has been in Israel for 6 months -- a young couple with a 4-year-old girl and 2-year-old triplet boys! The other couple just arrived 2 weeks ago. What a welcome for newcomers to Israel! Anyway, between the pitcher of Tom Collins on the table, 3 bottles of nice wine, schnapps, and some beer at the end (the host, David, is a brewmaster, and in the process of starting a micro-brewery in Israel), the "lunch" went on until 5:00p.m.! By that time, I, who had done justice to the Tom collins pitcher and the wine, needed a nap, but everyone will be pleased to hear that I didn't do anything to embarass myself...just stumbled up the stairs and took a nice rest. Truthfully, after these last 10 days, I think that i deserve a bit of a bender.

Today we went to Mini-Israel and then, on to a pool....pleasant for the girls. I'm wiped out by all the driving, unfinished chores that I need to do in someone else's house with someone else's equipment while disturbing someone else's peace....if I could go home right now, I would.

However, the katyushas continue to fall on Tzfat, and if for no other reason than to keep Margalit sane, I remain. Ariella was in Tzfat until today, but yesterday, one fell on the house next door to where she was staying, and today's barrage made her head down to us, and she's expected (with her hound) any moment. Heaven help us.

Someone posted some of the recent pictures of what's happening in Tzfat.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some stories......

Here are a couple of personal stories from neighbors/friends:

Dearest Friends and Families; Neighbors from Tsfat who left and those who remained; Partners and Associates in Israel and Abroad, and to the few of you who made their way into my address book thanks to Bayit Chadash or other mail lists;

God's Blessings upon us all for Peace, Safety and Prosperity; May we all be protected from the wrath of war.

As NatanYah is well into her 9 th month and being that the repeated rocketing of our normally peaceful little ancient city was disturbing her and our little boys, and seeing as how Carol, our midwife, called us on Friday afternoon to invite us to her Yishuv for Shabbat rather than kiddush in a bomb shelter; we had decided to leave our lovely home in Safed's Artist's Quarter for the Religious Zionist community of Hosha'aya, a few miles from Nazereth. Our beloved friends, Racheli and Zion, had earlier invited us to their studio apartment in Tel Aviv (they would go stay at their parents) and as sweet an offer as that was, this later offer came with a ride, as I had no car and the Egged Central Station had been hit by a katusha an hour earlier as our friend Mike, who was waiting to leave town to see his son in the south, said busses were canceled for the day.

Carol gave us an hour to think about it. The news mentioned a katusha that struck 2 km from the Jordan River Wildlife Park where we had originally intended to camp out for Shabbat with Simcha Laya and her children, and I felt that our stone house was more secure than our nylon tent and so, despite NatanYah and Simcha Laya's feelings to the contrary, I put my foot down and squashed the camping plans.
Good thing too, as the park area itself was struck by a missile as well as Tiberias, on Saturday afternoon.

We heard from friends in Italy that, as of Friday at least, the media was making it seem as though the Israeli attack on Lebanon was only in response to the kidnapping of the two soldiers. They never mentioned the multiple missile attacks of over 200 katushas in two days. I suppose now, that Haifa is being rocketed and the death toll is into the double digits, that the media will finally mention the rain of rockets, at least as a side point.

Another rocket in Thursday's first barrage had damaged Beit Maimon, the furniture store where we bought our fridge, just a 2 minute walk from our home, and perhaps 50 meters from Michael and Lisabeth Oxman. They left town after the second barrage terrified their children and I hope they'll contact us soon, and with a phone number.

That second barrage struck a neighbors house near the Lessers and right behind the Reznicks, in the Artist's Quarter. Avraham Lesser heroically trudged through the mud and spray of a busted water main to the house, found three bloodied children and carried them down to the next street of Keren Hayasod to meet the ambulance. The medics found their mother in shock with a compound fracture to her leg and took them all to the Sieff hospital in Safed.
I merely turned off the watermain.

At the entrance to the Rimonim Inn road, near Tsfat's Canyon Mall (the Lamest Mall on Earth) another katusha struck the intersection, making a small crater, blowing off the doors of an art gallery, blowing out all the windows and tires of a nearby VW van and cracking a few windows of our deputy mayor and local entrepreneur, Reuven Sade, whose house stands on that corner.

Eliyahu McLean phoned on Friday afternoon to ask how we were holding up and if we can hear the katushas. I told him that we heard them very well as three struck within 150 meters of our house. He asked "What do they sound like?" I replied that the ones in the distance sound like a brief strike of a bass drum and the windows rattle a little.
"The closer ones begin with a whoosh—" and just as I was forming my mouth in an attempt to mimic the sound, outside there was a swiftly growing
whHHOOO oos HHH ---! BWOOM!!!

Our sons, Michael and David were frightened by the loud rocket impact that shook our house and the entire Artist's Quarter. Two year-old David cried out "BIG Rock…FALL!", as NatanYah took the boys into the back bedroom, where we feel the combination of domed ceiling, an upstairs made of stone, and 2 neighbor's houses bordering on ours, shield that room best from incoming missiles, and before I followed them, I shouted to Eliyahu "We're being bombed! Gotta go!" and hung up. I called him back two minutes later when it seemed that would be all until they reloaded the launchers, and apologized for the abrupt end of our conversation. He said that my verbal imitation over the phone of an incoming rocket was totally excellent and extremely realistic.

So Carol arrived within 20 minutes after we called, (25 minutes after I hung up with Eliyahu). I think she was already on her way regardless of our call, as she lives 50 minutes away. She gathered our family into her Fiat mini-van, with a little food, towels and bathing suits (she said we can swim in the yeshuv's pool) and the clothes on our backs. We didn't realize we'd be staying here, very possibly it seems, until after our baby girl is born.

As we left Tsfat and got onto the road from Rosh Pina to Tiberias, I looked behind us and saw 4 plumes of smoke from rockets that hit the south slope of the hill, close to where we had just driven on the new highway that goes down from Tsfat. Then Carol's cell rang and we heard Gedalia's wife, Shira, on the speaker, who had heard and felt impacts from that last barrage. Carol immediately offered to take their whole family and her visiting sister's out of Tsfat. She then phoned a friend from her yeshuv and asked her to come pick us up from a gas station before the Golani Junction where she dropped us off, turned around, and headed back to Tsfat to get them.
An hour later we were in Hosha'aya, about 7 km from Nazereth. It is a lovely Religious Zionist community of what seem to be mostly very modern, cultured, European descended people, and perhaps 15% Anglos. The 3 different families who hosted us for Shabbat meals all spoke excellent English, served delicious meals and had wonderfully loving and close families.

When we returned with the kids from the community pool (different hours for men, women and families), we were pleased to find Amanda Cohen and her 4 children at Carol's. Amanda and her kids live up on Biriya mountain, next to Tsfat, about 20 meters from the gates to the Northern Command for Israel's military and probably the true target of all these katushas that are landing on Tsfat; Biriya's downhill side. The Cohen's had a meeting under their kitchen table regarding where they would dine for Shabbat and decided to take up Carol's offer for a shabbasdik refuge. So Carol returned to Tsfat for the 3 rd time in as many hours and rescued the Cohen clan from perhaps the most dangerous spot in Israel these days.

Carol's son, Akiva, is stationed at Biriya and I believe her fear and concern for her first-born is transformed by her into heroic action. She reminds me of medics in jeeps driving back and forth from M.A.S.H. units to the front lines and back during the Korean war.

Carol brought us to the home of Avi and Tami, who recently added a beautiful 1 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with brand new furniture and top of the line appliances in an attempt to entice Tami's parents into relocating near their 5 grandchildren. Avi is a border policeman and Tami teaches art to children and they have offered us this beautiful space to live and have our baby, should the conflict last so long that we can not return to our home to give birth there, where Michael and David were both born. This tremendous act of chesed continues to blow me away; not only for the temporary shelter (which beats a 4 star hotel) but primarily for the peace of mind which is so essential to us in the days before the birth.
We are considering "Hoshaya" as a name.

Yesterday, NatanYah closed the bathroom door in this echo-filled apartment, and little David ran to grab me and said "Big rock." I calmed him, explaining it was just a door.
But one can easily see how children may be traumatized by these events and if one has another place to take one's family, then perhaps one should do so regardless of one's personal or "religious" beliefs. Get the children out of danger. There is halacha about this.
And if one has no other place then please contact us here and we'll find a place for you here amongst the Tzaddikim of Hosha'aya

July is the height of the Tourist Season; one of a few months where businesses are so in the black that it makes up for the red we're in most other months. I was working my tush off, trying to sculpt enough cute little candle animals and candle chassids as to keep things on the shelves while tour groups walk in and out with a dozen of my pieces per hour. Before the Katusha War, I was mostly concerned that NatanYah would give birth before the summer rush slowed down, causing me to have to take a 2 week leave during the height of their need of me.
No such worries now. The Tourist Season is canceled due to rocketing rockets.

While I understand the military necessity of eliminating Hezbollah's rocket launchers, ammunition, bunkers and their offices in Beirut, and even the strategy of destroying roads, bridges, electric substations and cell phone towers in southern Lebanon, I am very saddened to see the tremendous damage being done by the IAF in Beirut, a city that has had such a short ceasefire after such a long and violent civil war. I pray that all children, women and other innocents got out of the areas bombed by our jets; that our generals be merciful in their precise surgical bombing of Hezbollah centers to protect the rest of the city, and that the basically Christian country of Lebanon take responsibility and control of their own borders, perhaps with US or UN help, away from the Muslim fanatics of Hezbollah following this war.

The news is on now, showing pictures of the outside of the Safed factory that was hit. It has a road paved with cobblestones and several, well-kept olive trees in front. Never seen it before.
At this very moment (5:10pm), air raid sirens are sounding in Tsfat, Karmiel, Nahariya and Haifa. It is amazing how the 3 rd greatest airforce on Earth can not prevent nearly 300 missiles per day from being launched and striking our land, our towns and cities; our homes.

6:07pm – Another bomb shelter was hit, this one in Naharia, has taken a direct hit! That makes THREE that I know of. ZAKA, a Haredi unit responsible for picking up bodily remains, is combing the lawn above the shelter for the rest of the man who took a direct katusha hit, while walking past on his way home.

So why am I writing you all this travelogue of a war zone? To CONNECT with YOU; to tell our loved ones that we are fine where we are. BETTER than fine, as we have food, bedding and a spacious 1 bdrm apt. and are down the street from our midwife in these last days before we bring another Jewish child into the world.

But for those friends and neighbors who, like us, left Tsfat: where are you? Please be in touch. Even more so, for those who remained, like Danny and Mike, the Rosens, Simcha Laya and the Yates: HOW are you? Is everyone safe and sound? And who is where? Can we post a phone contact list, perhaps on the Tsfat Yahoo page? Can we get info on the status of our homes, on any looting or arrests for looting?
For those from chutz l'Aretz (outside Israel) who are trying to contact their beloved Tsfatnikim, and are fearful for them, a contact list would be most helpful.
Carol's husband, Michel, drove me back up to Tsfat the other night (despite a broken hand) where I packed the minivan with clothing, food and spices, toys and books, and thanks to this wonderful man, I have my computer and scanner up and running.
Since a State of Emergency has been declared, does that mean there may be some National Insurance compensation for lost income being offered by the government?
I hope we will all be in contact soon; first via phone or the Net, and soon, at our Shabbat tables back home in our peaceful city of Tsfat.

Love and Peace to you all,

Moshe Chaim, NatanYah, Michael Yehuda & David Azriel

P.S. – You are all welcome to fwd this letter to anyone, as you feel appropriate, but please erase all the e-mail addresses above first so they not be sold to spam merchants.

I've kinda lost track of days and such, but since Iwork at the Ziv Hospital in Safed, I decided to stayhere for a couple of nights. I have everything I needand the miklat is much nicer than the one in theneighborhood. Sunday nite the hospital had anear-hit. A katyusha fell at the periphery of themain building. There was no structural damage tospeak of, but tons of broken glass. 14 staff weretreated for shock. I was either under my dining roomtable or in my local miklat in Karmiel at the time,but not everyone was so "lucky."The miracle is that the attack took place at about10-11 p.m., so the public areas were empty, and theheads of departments had already taken the precautionof moving patients from the north to the south side ofthe building, and mommies and babies had beenrelocated to the day surgery center in the bowels ofthe main building. All but one window in the Pedsdept was blown out by the force of the blast as weremost of those in the surgical ward, the waiting rooms,and others.A 13 year old boy recovering from surgery for aruptured spleen and internal bleeding was watchingt.v. in the dining room when the blast took place andwas hit in the head by flying glass, suffering anasty, deep gash. No brain injuries, but lots ofstitches. A patient in the orthopedics dept, recovingfrom shrapnel wounds and the subsequent surgeries, wasthrown out of his bed. He said he could feel the wholebuilding move.Sunday and yesterday (Tuesday) I heard loud booms andsaw the aftermath of rockets which had fallen acrossthe wadi, some hundreds of meters away, but scareyenough to see out of your office window...I met with 4 groups of reporters yesterday (they'vediscovered us!) Most of them were reallyprofessional--(From today's Daily Mail as reported by one of ourvisiting journalists yesterday. ignore that bit about my being anexecutive...what a riot! An ozeret makes more than Ido, but I guess he had to call me something!!!)--but when the chickie from CBS called to make anappointment for 8 PM and asked if there was any chancethat they could interview a patient who had been hurtby this attack (yes), and wanted to know whether -- bychance he might be from New York (nooooo -- Safed byway of Morocco), she decided to come but not tointerview. "I really wanted to talk to someone fromNY, or at least an American," she said. I told herthat I was sorry that I hadn't received more notice sothat I could have arranged to have an American woundedfor her... It went right over her head. BTW, theyshowed up at 10:30.Anyhow, I'm tired and testy. Slept in the cardiology'benoni' room with 4 other women, one of whom soundedjust like a diesel truck warming up on a cold winter'sday. I don't do well on hospital mattresses (and whodoes?), so I was up at 3:30 again. But it was nice tohave other people around whom I know. And since Ihave a vacation in the US scheduled for a few weeks,perhaps I will catch up on sleep there.Something I didn't anticipate was that my grandkidsare watching the news on t.v. in America. Andrew justturned 12 and David is 7. I had no idea they watchedthe news or that they had any understanding.Apparently they are very upset and David just wants tohold his Bugs Bunny. And that's from yo-manythousands of miles away. The kids here are reallysuffering, as most of you parents must know. I knowof two families among my acquaintence who had to go asfar south as they could just so the children wouldstop having panic attacks.This is really (fill in your expletive), this massive,indiscriminate bombardment of innocents.Stay safe,Sylvia

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Another day finished

A number of attractions, exhibits, museums, and other places around the center of the country have opened their doors to residents of the North to a free entrance, and today we took advantage of that to go to the Safari in Ramat Gan. The safari itself was kind of, um, OK, but the zoo is excelent, and we have a great time walking around. The exhibits aren't far apart, it's shady, and it was a nice day.

tomorrow we'll go to a water park which is half-price for northern residents...not cheap, even at half-price, but I would have never attempted it at full-price, so it's appreciated.

I also organized a different place to go to for shabbat, because the people that I'm staying with here had a long-standing committment to host some other people for Shabbat...visitors from the States. So we'll go to Modi'in to other friends for Shabbat.

I am more appreciative than I can ever say to the people around here who have opened our homes to us, and to other evacuees from the North, but it's very difficult, being in someone else's house, trying to use someone else's kitchen, and basically being dependent on the good will of others. The family that we're with are extremely low-key and easy-going, but it's still uncomfortable. However, I imagine that many others are in much more difficult circumstances, and I try to keep things in prespective.

A Tzfat resident repeated, on the local e-mail, a call from a well-regarded local rabbi, to people who had left, to return. He pointed out that many people cannot leave -- either they don't have anywhere to go, or they physically can't leave. This is understandable, and I am torn, since, on principle, I believe that he's right. If I was one my own, I'd return, or, probably, not have left to begin with. But I am responsible for my 10-year-old right now (the other kids aren't here now) and she had to leave Tzfat...she was a nervous wreck while we were there. I don't have the answer. I feel guilty that, as uncomfortable as it is to be living in someone else's house, I'm pretty lucky that I have a situation that allows me to be here. Life is....complicated.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

keeping up with everyone

One of the biggest blessings of our situation is the fact that we are staying with neighbors who have a girl Margalit's age (they are friends...usually...from age 0) and the family where we are staying have 2 older kids who have kept all their toys from childhood. So Margalit has tons of Barbies and other stuff to play with, in addition to videos, computer games, etc. I can only shudder to think of what is going on with families who are stuck in shelters with their kids 24 hours a, a man who had just wandered out of his shelter in Nahariya was killed by a katyusha that landed next to him, so going out even for a moment is dangerous. I heard today that the army has sent in non-combat solders to the shelters to entertain the kids, play games with them, and give the parents a break, but that probably isn't for more than an hour or can they manage? We are no longer talking about evacuating several tens of thousands of residents from Northern towns and villages...we are now talking about the evacuation of large cities as well, like Haifa, Acco, Tiberias, etc.

A friend called me yesterday to suggest that I get counseling for Margalit, even by phone. She said that because Margalit had been talking to the kids who got hurt by the Katyusha that landed near us, she might well be harboring some trauma that should be talked out. Margalit has talked with me about what happened, but it could well be that there's other stuff that I don't see, or that I don't know how to extract from her (prehaps she feels guilty that the other kids were hurt, while she wasn't, or that they were about to come over to our yard when the missile fell), etc. My friend told me that the psychological services are working overtime in the area, and that we can phone for advice -- I will do that.

One of the most interesting parts of this whole episode is the way that Tzfat people are keeping up with each other. Every time I open my e-mail, I see another couple of letters from friends, neighbors, and sometimes, simply people who I wave to here and there....where are you?

Livnot sent out a letter to all chevre (those whose e-mail that they know, anyway...people who have done Livnot throughout the last 26 years!) to update them. Evidently they are getting dozens of "how ARE you" letters daily, some from people who have been out of contact for years and years.

The Botzers, who founded LIvnot and still direct it (Aharon does, anyway...Miriam stays involved from behind the scenes) are still in Tzfat. Aharon and his son David race over to all katyusha landings, when they can, to help. The town is basically a ghost town, they said, though there are still many people who are unable to leave, so anyone who is able to help has a special mitzva. (The hospital was hit this's been a target since the katyushas began. Can you imagine? Targeting a hospital?)

Believe it or not, Livnot presently has 3 programs running --a birthright program, a JCSC Hillel intern program, and a 3-week program. Some participants cancelled, but many arrived, on schedule, yesterday. AMAZING! Obviously they won't be doing the Northern part of the program, but the Livnot campus in Tzfat isn't empty....Livnot invited much of the local security apparatus of the North to set up shop, and they are now living and working there. Those rooms stood through 2 earthquakes over the past several hundred years....who would have ever thought that they'd be used as bunkers against long-range missiles? Definitely not the Tzfatters of the 1600s who built them!

local news

Turns out that Avishai returned to Tzfat on Sunday, and only left today. He was supposed to return to his base yesterday, but there were no busses running, and since it is illegal for soldiers to hitchhike (thank GOODNESS) he was stuck in Tzfat till today. I told him to let the cats out and leave a lot of food for them, but I assume that all the neighborhood cats will gather around...don't know what to do about that. There was no way to bring them with us. My downstairs neighbor is still there...probably strumming his guitar in the yard, as he always does. I'll ask him to keep an eye out on the cat population, and will reimburse him for food later.

There are two on-line methods for people to keep up-to-date with what's going on in Tzfat. There's an e-mail list which goes out to local residents, Tzfatline, and a Tzfat yahoogroup.

Both give residents, both those still in Tzfat and those who are on forced vacations, a connection with what's happening. What did we DO before internet?

Here's a summary of today's Tzfatline e-mail.

Item #1SUPPORT:Yosef (Daniel) and Miriam Kresh are thinking of all our Tsfat friends all thetime, and dovening for your safety. May we all be together again b'smachotvery soon.Item

#2BSDINFORMATION NEEDED:Shalom Alechem . I truly wish I were there in Tzfat with all of you. It isvery difficult to be so far away from my extended family in these hrs ofuncertainty. One thing I am sure of, BE COURAGEOUS as you all are being and beblessed with safety from any harm. I am in France and if G-d willing the KLM Airlinegoes into Israel I am to return this coming Fri July 21 at 2:30AM. Can anyonewho has their computer up and running let me know, ASAP, if the trains, busesand taxis are running up to Tzfat. Please email me soon if anyone knows as wehave very limited email access. tikvacohen@ G-d be with all of youand please may we see Moshiac eminently.Item

#3ASCENT IS FINE:In a previous announcement, the impression may have been given that Ascentwas hit by a rocket. This is not so. Ascent is fine, for the time being.Rabbi Shaul LeiterItem

#4BS"DOFFERING OF HELP:I am currently living in Beitar but am in the midst of possibly moving toTzfat (it was in the works before the war). Anyway, if anyone is looking to cometo the Jerusalem area and would like help finding a place to stay please callme at 02-580-0230. Single girls and single moms are welcome to stay by us. I'm
Jerusalem now and you are missing things you forgot to bring from Tzfat youcan call me - maybe we could help with loans of toys, books, linens, a me.H\' should bless each of you with revealed good, with peace.ariella ChanaItem

#5INFORMATION AND A QUESTION:I thought this article was a nice glimpse into what\'s going on in Tzfat:\'m wondering if there is a website that deals with the news updates inspecifics (like where the rockets hit, who was injured lo aleinu). Being one ofthose who "fled" the scene, I would greatly apreciate being updated on the latestof the "who what and where’s of Tzfat. Thanks, atskramer@

#6HELP ARTICLE:Tzfat-Line has received an extensive article (?) from Nefesh B\'Nefesh, sentby two subscribers, on how to deal with the current crises in Israel. It issomewhat lengthy and thus we have to send it as an attachment. Anyone wishing toreceive this, email Tzfat-Line ( with the message "Nefesh B’Nefesh" article.EditorsItem

#7FREE FOOD:As of 1:30 PM, today, Tuesday, free food is being distributed through theefforts of the City of Tzfat. Vegetables, fruits, bread and other items areavailable in front of the Municipal Building on Jerusalem Street. Bring yourshopping cart or shopping bags. It is not known how much is be given away or for howlong.Submitted via telephone by Chana BesserItem

#8 INFORMATION AND A QUESTION:I thought this article was a nice glimpse into what's going on in Tzfat:'m wondering if there is a website that deals with the news updates inspecifics (like where the rockets hit, who was injured lo aleinu). Being one ofthose who "fled" the scene, I would greatly apreciate being updated on the latestof the "who what and where’s of Tzfat. Thanks, atskramer@

Item #9 HELP ARTICLE:Tzfat-Line has received an extensive article (?) from Nefesh B'Nefesh, sentby two subscribers, on how to deal with the current crises in Israel. It issomewhat lengthy and thus we have to send it as an attachment. Anyone wishing toreceive this, email Tzfat-Line (TzfatLine@) with the message "Nefesh B’Nefesh" article.EditorsItem

#10FREE FOOD:As of 1:30 PM, today, Tuesday, free food is being distributed through theefforts of the City of Tzfat. Vegetables, fruits, bread and other items areavailable in front of the Municipal Building on Jerusalem Street. Bring yourshopping cart or shopping bags. It is not known how much is be given away or for howlong.Submitted via telephone by Chana Besser

not have a phone but is planning on getting one soon. We can be reached alsoby leaving a message on our ta kolee at home: Love to you all. Stay safe- wherever you are.Avi & Tzippy**************************************************************************************************Tzfat-

Monday, July 17, 2006

sleep...or lack of it

I wake up every morning about 5:00a.m. and from then on,my head is buzzing. What can I do to keep Margalit busy today? What is happening with the house (Tzfat was rocketed yesterday both in the morning and the evening, and several neighborhoods were hit, including the hospital, Cana'an and the Old City), what's happening with the cats, etc.? When can we go home? What should I DO? Stay still? Go stay with someone else for awhile and give our hosts a break? If so, what do I do with the dogs? Will the car hold up with much travelling? It already seems to overheat....though I don't really know what to do about it. How do I check the oil? ( I did learn to check the water...whoopie for me).

Again, the most that I can do is to take it day by day, life should be, I guess, in general....give myself up to the situation that's been presented to me. Strange way to life for someone who has grown up believing that one creates one's future through his or her own actions. Ain't true, guys.

Yesterday we drove into Jerusalem to visit my brother, sister-in-law and yummy nephews. Margalit was in bliss....three hours of being the "babysitter cousin" was great for her. We met Ariella at a nearby junction, and she came with us, which was great. We took "the boys" out to the park for a bit -- Shimshon is about 20 months, and Aryeh is 2 months. I "wore" Aryeh in a stomach pack....the one that I'd used for my kids (and given to my sister-in-law....I'll take it back when my grandchildren begin to arrive). Shimshi is a little cuddle...friendly, and takes to strangers (well, cousins or not, we are strangers) easily. Today, we're going to the pool with the girls from the "other" refugee family that's staying here. Tomorrow......we'll see. Maybe we can go home.

I just read on the local Tzfat e-mail group that there's a camp being organized through the Jewish Agency for evacuee kids in the center of the country, so I'll call today to see if we can participate. Honestly, where else in the world would one find such an infrastructure? People from the center are opening their homes to complete strangers, we've been told (Ariella said) that our city taxes have been cancelled for the immediate future, the cell phone company is giving free message service to Northern residents.....

Vacation....kind of

We are now settled at our friends' home in Moshav Chemed, about half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It's located next to Ben Gurion airport, and hearing the planes still gives me a start every time one goes over....there's a moment of "whishing" that makes me want to bolt for a shelter each time.

There are other neighbors here too, a mother and 3 girls...this host family deserves a medal. Not only are they hosting us, but our canines were invited to come too, alibet to stay outside in their yard (a huge area with plenty of room for loping around). The hosts haven't said a word about the huge hole that's beginning to take shape under their swing, and since the dogs like to lay there and cool off, I'll just wait until we leave before I fill it in.

The news is still worrisome. A couple of katyushas fell on Tzfat, but evidently there was no damage. I called Avishai to find out what was happening with him...he needs to return to the army today, but wasn't sure whether he'd be going north, or return to the south. For now, he needs to be in Ashkelon...south.

In addition to my total lack of ability to concentrate on anything, I also have to keep Margalit busy. Thank goodness we brought the dogs...she's worried enough about the cats, though I left them enough food and water, plus an open window, for at least a week. (there was no reason to lock up securely, since we have 2 windows with no glass....). Today, we plan to go into Jerusalem to visit my brother and family, which should take her mind off of things -- 2 little babies to spoil and play with. I spoke to Ariella last night, and we plan to meet up and go together. Tomorrow, we'll do a pool day. Thank goodness I have a car to move around! At least we can make this a sort of vacation, alibet a very strange one.

I've been blown away by the messages of support and offers of assistance from people. The first day of missile fire, tons of people calls me, some who had met me once, some who had stayed with me overnight here or there, and some who had simply met me for a little while in the Visitors Center once and we had chatted a bit. One woman who had met me when she came up for an afternoon with an old friend from Detroit called me to invite me to stay with her! Cousins, friends, acquaintances....everyone wants to help. (Not EVERYONE, I must stress, is willing to take 3 dogs....people do have their limits). And the e-mails of concern and support....all of Israel really IS One! (not to mention FOI-- Friends of Israel).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

suddenly homeless

Who would have thought, even one week ago, that we would be moving around, trying to dodge katyushas? I always thought that wars began slowly, with rhetoric, threats, and escalation of tensions. This war started on Wednesday morning with the kidnapping of 2 Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah and the killing of 6 others, and has turned into a full-blown war in a matter of days.

Hizbollah, true to form, is targeting civilians, which is their forte, and katyushas have been raining down on the North for several days. I stayed in Tzfat over shabbat because Avishai was coming home for a few days and was adamant that he wanted to be HOME. Fair enough. But by Saturday night, even he admitted that it was time to leave, and we packed up our car and the car of the neighbors whose house we'd been in throughout Shabbat (underground, thick stone walls) and headed out. The house next door to them was hit on Friday evening, and it was clear that, by staying, we weren't helping anything, and just driving the kids nuts with being in the house all the time.

I also didn't feel like staying in the local shelter any more, where my neighbors, all lovely people (mostly American) were saying tehillim (psalms) most of the time....I wanted to see the TV news, and these people didn't want to see TV. Understandable, but for whatever reason, it was a blessing that I had the car at my disposal and could leave with our dogs (our hosts, bless them, invited us to bring the beasts, as long as they stay in the yard.)

so here we are, and I'm determined to try to make this into a holiday of sorts for Margalit -- pool, a bit of travel, renting movies, etc. There goes the school tuition that I thought that I could pay off before the beginning of school this year...for once. What do they say? Man plans, and God laughs.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

life heats up

Up until 48 hours ago, my biggest dilemna in life was my Shabbat menu -- cousins from the States were coming (I'd never met them before....the wife is my second cousin on my father's side, granddaughter of my great-Aunt Gert) and I had been looking forward to meeting them and hanging out over Shabbat.

All that changed with "the situation". Two mornings ago, Hizbollah attacked an Israeli army patrol which was patrolling the Northern border, killing 8 soldiers and kidnapping 2. Israel began to respond, and beginning yesterday morning, katyushas began to rain down on the North of Israel.

My first inkling that things were going to be "interesting" was at about 7:15 yesterday morning, when I heard the katyusha which landed on Mt. Meron, across the valley from Tzfat. I remember vaguely thinking "why can't my neighbor start her renovations later?", but it didn't occur to me that anything was really "happening".

At 9:00a.m., I had a meeting in City Hall with the City Manager (regarding the Tourist Info Center which I coordinate) and the meeting wasn't progressing much, because the C.M. kept fielding phone calls, people asking whether they were supposed to be going into the shelters or not. (For the record, during the time that I was sitting there, he got 3 different answers from each "security apparatus" that he called, including the police, home front, and army).

We kept our eyes on the news throughout the morning, and about 2:30p.m., I heard a whistling overhead and the sound of explosions. It was definitely time to close up and go home, and by the time I got home, I heard that several katyushas had been fired at Tzfat, landing on the main street (a five-minute walk from our house) and in several neighborhoods surrounding the city.

Throughout the afternoon, I got very little done besides talking on the phone...people calling to find out how we were, people calling to invite us to their homes in the center of the country, etc.

At about 7:30p.m., Margalit was out in the yard and I was watching the news, trying to decide what to do, when another whistling sound passed overhead, and a tremendous explosion blasted out our windows. Within a moment, Margalit was running up the stairs, with our newest dog, Lola, pulling her....the katyusha had landed right across the lane from our house, about 100 yards from our front door. Aside from the windows, there was no damage to our house or to either of us (Yochi and Hagai are in the States now, and Ariella is in Tel Aviv...she had wanted to return, but the roads to the North are closed).

I heard a hissing sound in the street and it was foggy, so I thought that prehaps a fire had started. We first ran down to our so-called security room, the small room downstairs which has steel re-inforced concrete walls, but I quickly realized that the glass window in the room (we had put it in, rationalizing, 10 years ago, that if we ever needed the steel window, we'd just "stick it on" when necessary" -- dumb) wouldn't provide us with much security, so we ran up the stairs, where another katyusha had fallen.

At some point, we were directed to go to the local shelter, which was quite crowded, but full of people in good cheer, lots of food being passed around, and everyone helping out everyone else. We stayed there for awhile, and were getting ready to sleep there, but then a friend told me that her kids had gone south with their father, and she asked if we wanted to sleep in their downstairs room, and since that seemed like a better idea than trying to sleep in a crowded shelter with dozens of people, we went there.

Now i'm back home...I left Margalit sleeping at my friend's house. I'm waiting for Avishai to tell me if he's coming home for Shabbat...if he's not, I'll take Margalit somewhere, but if he is, I'll stay here for him. I'll need to replace our windows, but luckily it's summer, so open windows aren't a problem (though it's silly to lock up the house when I'm gone if the windows are shot out) and my neighbor just told me that our water collector on the roof has been leaking all night, so I need to find someone to deal with that too.

That's the story's been quiet here for the past few hours, and I hope that it stays that way.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

July 2006

I was chugging along on a new blog a few days ago, and suddenly, my screen "errored-disc". Gulp. For two days the computer didn't work, and suddenly, it returned. Go figure.

Spoke to Avishai last night. He's been in Gaza for the last week-and-a-half as the Israeli army tries to recapture the kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shilat, and stop the Kassams from raining down on Israeli towns and villages. It's infuriating to read the international media, which concentrates on the incursion without paying much attention to the rocket attacks on the town of Sderot, southern Israel villages, and now, Ashkelon. I mean, what would any other country do if its civilians were being rocketed by a neighboring country?

Anyway, Avishai was getting ready for the entrance into Northern Gaza, which was set to be with Golani (his unit), Givati, the artillery, air force, and the special forces. I can't even imagine what he's involved in, but I believe totally that he and the other soldiers are committed only to protecting the country and the people in it. Me and my children, to be exact. It's frustrating, knowing that your child is involved in something like this, and knowing that the only thing that you can do is pray.

Took Yochi and Hagai to the airport last night and sent them on their way to the States. Since I didn't get a phone call saying "where ARE they?", I'm assuming that they made the transfer in Frankfurt all right, and arrived safely. I was a bit concerned at that transfer, and asked Hagai several times if he knew exactly what he was supposed to do, till finally, with exasperation, he said to me "ema, if I got Ariella to the right transfer last year in New York, I'll manage fine with Yochi". True....I stopped worrying, because Ariella is a complete space cadet, and although, on paper, it was the 12-year-old being accompanied by the 18-year-old, in point of fact, it was very definitely the 18-year-old being accompanied by the 12-year-old. I'm always amazed at the logic and orderliness of Hagai's thinking, and how MUCH he knows from his reading, web-surfing, encyclopedia reading, etc. He's a wealth of information, but also, as they say, has a lot of seichel (common sense).

So, it's me and Margalit in the house now. I barely see her, because I'm at work most of the day. I agreed to the trip because Yoni got Margalit to agree to go to day camp, so I wouldn't have to worry about her being home all day, even though I told him that she wouldn't want to go. Well, I know my daughter...she absolutely refused to go to any type of day camp, and is now Home Alone, keeping house for me with her friends. Yesterday, they fixed me lunch and washed the floor. Let's just say that there was a lot of wasted "lunch" (marshmellows with candies on them, crackers (which I don't eat because of my diet), fruit (I eat enough fruit at work every day to keep several orchards busy) and a bunch of mush mixed into a red pepper that Margalit told me was "tuna and mayonaise". Any tuna was swallowed by the mayo. I think that I quite offended her by my fit, but made her promise that she wouldn't do such a thing again. We'll see.