Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I 'd unsuccessfully to upload the video on the previous blog, but was unable to....the message that I kept getting was that my "cookies" were disabled. I often think that I'm several cookies short of a full batch, but still.....I thought that I had advanced enough in my knowledge of computers to stick a video on a blog!
Turns out that "cookies" are a device that internet uses to track your web surfing. If you turn it off, you can't be tracked, but there's stuff that various sites won't let you do.
Enter Hagai, who, within 10 minutes, enabled my "cookies", and voila....the video from the previous post appeared! Now, of course, I have to work on my video techniques, but I can say, in my own defense, that that on was taken by Margalit, who takes most of the videos so far, mostly of herself singing.
Last week, Hagai was paid for some cleaning work that he did at Livnot, and handed me the cash as tzdekka. Avishai did the same with his salary....he asked me to give 10% to my friend, who I'm always trying to send some assistance for.
So....outwardly, these guys may not look like the most "spiritual" folks walking around, but somewhere inside, they're pretty savvy when it comes to doing the right thing. I'm really proud.
No pictures of their donations, but here's one of Yochi, who volunteers every week in the special ed kindergarden in Tzfat. (She also volunteers one evening a week at the local soup kitchen, making sandwiches for the kids who don't have one at school the next day. The numbers of such families who can't even send their kids with a mid-morning snack goes up weekly....this country is in serious trouble.
Found a home for "Joey", the mutt that Margalit found. I was sorry to see him go, but couldn't fight with the older kids all the time, and they were animaled-out.
And finally, I asked someone to come and do the floor in Margalit's room....it is old formica, probably from about 50 years ago, and last summer, I bought floor boards because someone told me that he'd do it for me for free. That, of course, didn't work out (he had to leave Tzfat for business)...silly me, for expecting it....but I've finally asked my local handyman to do the job, and he's in the midst of it. Margalit doesn't have a room for a few days, but in the end, it'll be great.
Next job.....figuring out how to strengthen the house to keep the house from shifting, and the cracks from forming in the walls. Engineer-time.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Lately, I've been innundated with all sorts of e-mails that give websites for "how to save money". I always look, because, well, I'm always interested in saving some money! Turns out that I already do almost everything. Short showers (though trying to imbue my children with that idea is hard!), running the washing machine on cold water for the shortest amount of time for everything except socks/underwear, homemade food (I rarely hit the freezer section, and never get fast food, unless it's a treat of falaffel or pizza), buying large economical sizes of products...you name it, we do it. And still, the amount of money that flows out of this house every month is staggering. Maybe I should write my own book and make some money!
I don't have car expenses this year, because Yoni takes care of them, but then again, I don't have the car! I rarely miss it -- the biggest challenge is getting Hagai to the Rosh Pinna library every two weeks. But this week, my neighbor told me about a wonderful sight, the birds that make the nearby Hula valley their resting grounds on their migration south in the fall (and vice-versa in the spring). She was there this week and said that there are thousands of birds milling around each day, and when they all take off, it's a spectable worthy of National Geographic. Basically, right down the road from me...but how to get there? All these years, I took the freedom that having a car around for granted, but now....I so much would like to take the kids to see this. Bummer.
Hagai's school trip is next week, so we'll have another 3 days of a small contingent in the house. I'm so pleased that the schools do these trips....the kids, mine anyway, have experiences and see things that I could never offer them. Hope that he gets some nice weather -- Yochi had 2 nice days in the south, and the third, when the rain headed south, the kids came north for activities, so she came back quite happy.
Time to do the Friday shopping. Avishai found the extra bottle of cola that I bought last week, planning to keep it for this week (12 shekels for 3 bottles of Pepsi at the local store, so I bought an extra one with the idea of keeping it for the next week....so much for saving money) and drank it, so I'll have to do extra schlepping (the extra bottles that we buy for Shabbat). NEXT time, I'll have to tape a note on such items..."DON'T TOUCH".
When Avishai called me to tell me (he realized afterward that he should have had them call me), I just figured that I'd get the package in another few days. Then, I had to run up to town, and lo and behold, there was the delivery van. The guy saw me and said "Laurie? I'll bring your package to you this afternoon". And sure enough, about 2:00p.m., he brought the package into my office....no one reminded him who I was, or where I worked. He just knew. Love living in a small town.
Yochi's on her way home from her 3-day school trip. They went down to the Negev and missed the massive rainstorm that we had here. It POURED BUCKETS, and hailed too. Good start to the winter....hope that it continues, but I also hope that we have some days off inbetween the rainstorms -- it's depressing to have it rain continuously. How do people live in England? Anyway, there's something wrong with the cord to my dryer, so I'll have to try to make do without a dryer for a little while. Actually, I use it only a few times a year -- most of the time, I hang the clothes to dry. But when I need it, it's great to have!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Recently I saw two girls, about 8 years old, rummaging through clothes they had plucked from a large garbage bin. These bins are about 4 feet high and look like a small, green tank with hatches on top and an open area on one end to receive large items. One girl clutched their few "finds" while the other piled the unwanted items into a nearby carton.
A man with whom I was casually talking to mentioned that he sees small children climbing into these garbage bins and how unhealthy it is to be in such a filthy place. I told him that the children climb into the bins to extricate anything they can find that can be of use for their families; clothes, food, broken furniture, etc. He was shocked. Not too much shocks us, anymore.
The store owner of our neighborhood vegetable/fruit store puts boxes on the ground outside the store door into which he puts damaged, partially spoiled vegetables and fruits. People come and select for free what they want and salvage what they can eat.
The City of Tzfat hires men to clean the sidewalks and gutters. They push a large plastic bucket, or pull a rope attached to the bucket to drag it behind them. They also carry a broom and a shovel to do the cleaning. One such gentleman, Uri, an elderly fellow, works in our neighborhood. I see him in all kinds of weather pushing or pulling the bucket and sweeping carefully to clean up. In the winter, often in rain and fog, he goes about his work, looking completely soaked. He wears several sweaters and an old, frayed jacket. This week I asked if he would like a warm coat for the winter. He eagerly answered yes. Later that day, after finding one in the Lev U’Neshama Clothing Gemach that I manage, I found him on the street and he got a "new", warm ¾ length, fully-lined, hooded coat. He was so delighted that he couldn’t have smiled any broader. A gift from friends from America.
Families are "living on the edge". Some have "fallen off" the edge. It is not uncommon to dial a phone number and learn that it is disconnected. Phone service is the first thing to go when you can’t meet the bills. Additionally, electricity costs have escalated and I shudder to think of the countless families in Tzfat who have no heat in their homes. Even those with heaters often turn them on only in one room where the family gathers and the door is kept closed. Fuel costs have escalated, as well. The Lev U’Neshama Discretionary Fund is used to help extreme cases and as money allows.
A family who gets food boxes from Lev U’Neshama was visited. The volunteer discovered that the children needed bed frames. The mattresses they had were on the floor and they were in deplorable condition. A donor supplied the funds for used bed frames to be purchased and another person donated the mattresses.
Another family was visited by a Lev U’Neshama volunteer and it was learned that several of the younger children in the family have skin problems. The mother reluctantly told the volunteer that the doctor told her that the problem was the result of vitamin deficiency. Her doctor advised her to take vitamin B, especially because she nurses the babies and the vitamin deficiency impacts the children. A donor will be supplying the vitamins. The family was put on the food delivery list and they will get, at least once a month, a bountiful amount of fruits and vegetables that perhaps will help the situation somewhat.
Bread costs have almost doubled. When Moshe and I were in the bakery buying our weekly bread, a woman shyly asked if we could give her some money to help her buy bread for her family. We gave her some money, of course, for which she was grateful. Produce has also almost doubled in cost, mainly because of the requirements for Shmita-approved produce. (This is an agricultural law that is in force every 7th year.)
Three preschool classes in absorption centers in Tzfat will be receiving winter gear in the next few weeks; hats, gloves/mittens, two pair of socks, warm jackets. For Chanukah we have a special surprise for the children of stuffed animals and dolls that were supplied by donors. We recall the children’s radiant smiles from last year’s gift giving. The smiles surpassed their verbal thank yous.
Also on the bright side, doves have taken up residency in the eaves of an upstairs neighbor’s porch. The happy couple have produced some chicks. It is pleasant to hear their cooing sounds, particularly in the morning.
The joy of singing: I watched a father pushing a carriage containing his youngest child. A toddler and another child slightly older were close behind as the father sang a simple song and the children happily sang along. When we walk to a family who has invited us for a Shabbat dinner, it brings a smile to our faces to hear families singing around their Shabbat tables as we walk past their homes.
I saw a man parking his car and when he saw an elderly man struggling to carry sacks of groceries up a steep stairway, he stopped and carried all the bags to the elderly man’s door. When I passed him, he said, "It’s a Mitzvah", and he walked down the street.
It’s a Mitzvah for those who help Lev U’Neshama supply boxes of food to 140 families (1,000 people, approximately.) Every dollar helps those in need because we are a volunteer staff. However, the food fund budget is strained and we must reach out to replenish the fund in order to maintain the food box deliveries.
Therefore, when Moshe and I will travel to visit our families in Chicago and Denver, we will try to raise funds. We will first be in Chicago and then on to Denver. We will be available in Chicago from November 27-December 6 and Denver from December 10 - 30. If you live in either of these cities and you would like to arrange for a private or public meeting, please contact us at: email@example.com to get our schedule. If you can manage a donation of any amount, you can save a trip to the post office to purchase an overseas stamp and use a domestic stamp. Make your check made payable to Lev U’Neshama and send it to: Smolensky, c/o Mazel Emet Quezada, 2285 Forest Street, Denver CO 80207. We’ll happily take the checks back to Tzfat and turn them into working shekels. Together we can make it a little healthier and happier for needy families in Tzfat.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Canadian Tax Donation InformationCanadians who need a Canadian tax receipt should make their checks out to the: B'nai Torah Charity Fund. The check and a note that the donation is for Lev U'Neshama, Tsfat (special project if required such as food fund, shoes, etc) should then be sent to:Congregation B'nai Torah465 Patricia AvenueWillowdale, Ontario M2R 2N1 CanadaThey will send you a receipt.
US Tax Donation InformationDonations in any amount will help so much. This can easily be done in several ways.
(1) By going to the website: http://www.levuneshama.org/ and using the system on this site for making donations. Tax receipts can be issued from here.
(2) If you don't need a tax receipt, you can send donations directly to me at:SmolenskyP O Box 6432Tzfat 13229, IsraelPlease make the checks payable to: Lev U'Neshama
(3) Checks can be sent to: To Save A LifeJerry Klinger16405 Equestrian LaneRockville MD 20855Indicate your donation is for Lev U’Neshama. Make checks payable to: To Save A Life.Tax receipts can be issued from here by request.
Checks can be sent to: Lamed VuvnikLouis Berlin19651 NE 19th PlaceMiami FL 33179Indicate your donation is for Lev U’Neshama. Make checks payable to: Lamed Vuvnik.Tax receipts can be issued from here by request.
If you wish to contact me, please use this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.If you can't make a donation, or if you do, your prayers will help us a lot.Sincerely,Moshe & Yaffa Smolensky
Monday, October 29, 2007
We're renovating the Visitors Center, and I'm so thrilled that I don't want to say anything to jinx it, but.....between the cigerettes that the workers smoke, the fumes of the paint, the noise of the metal being soldered, (not to mention the sparks that fly), and the ever-present tractor that's hauling stuff up and down the street outside (for someone else's renovation) I'm being overwhelmed with stimuli.
I finally went looking for some music on an on-line radio station, and found some old '60s and '70s music, which is fun. So one more stimuli. It doesn't exactly block out all the rest, but it's helpful.
I just saw that my cousin applied for the winter Livnot program! I'm so excited! He'll have a wonderful time. (Maybe he can drag some of the others mishpocha....)
Hodesh Irgun continues unabated. Hagai is definitely NOT interested in participating, but Yochi and Margalit go up almost every night to paint and rehearse. The house is quiet. My biggest challenge these days is keeping the cats out as much as possible. All of a sudden, Bagheera has noticed that he has a home, but he pooped twice last week inside the house -- I thought that cats were supposed to have an intuition about that? And now, no matter what I do, he insists on trying to come back in.
Then, to complicate matters, Miranda has peed a couple of times in the house, something that she hasn't done in 3 years. Does she sense something? Or is it a bladder infection? Getting her out is even harder -- she's quite sneeky about slipping back into the house, and if I succeed in getting her out at night, she'll scratch at the door (MY bedroom door...she knows where I am) right around the time that I'm in them middle of my REM sleep. I DO NOT LIKE CATS!
Monday, October 22, 2007
rooms dug out -- buried under rubble for hundreds of years.
the arch of a door of a buried room -- when you see an arch like that, you know that there's a room buried under there!
A couple who visited from America came by Livnot today. They are in their 50s, and their daughter had done the program several years ago. Her boyfriend was doing his second program, as a counselor, and brought his girlfriend to have the experience...he proposed to her during the program, and they returned to the States to be married.
A few weeks before the wedding, the young woman suddenly died...she had some sort of undiagnosed heart problem (I think that that's what it was). Now her parents were here to see the places where she had enjoyed so much, and where she had been proposed to -- the most exciting time of her life.
I took them around a bit. It was so difficult to know what to say, when to talk and when to leave them to themselves. I can't even imagine such pain. I hope that it helped them a bit to feel close to their daughter in the place where she was so happy, but it brings up the fears that so many parents must feel, and I certainly do...the dread of something happening to a child. How does one go on?
What was really strange was, not an hour later, a guy came by with the SAME LAST NAME as the parents of the girl....and he was here because HIS GIRLFRIEND, who had also done the program, had died (she had had some sort of accident) and he wanted to come and see the place that she'd spoken of so often. Eerie.
Since my digital camera is still broken (the store keeps promising that it'll be back "this week") I've uploaded some pictures from work -- the crew is digging out the new campus area, and have already found 18 rooms buried beneath the rubble of successive earthquakes. I find it tremendously exciting, to see the process (I'm not big on actually doing physical work myself, ahem, but think that it's interesting to see it being done) and know that these are the rooms where Jews lived hundreds of years ago. This is the area where Hagai was digging this summer, and Avishai several years ago)
My little area of the world, the Tourist Center, is also being renovated. The guy who runs "KabbalahTour" is moving in with me, and it has been the imputus to renovate the space. Together with the Breslev "Kabbalah Center" that's moving in across the street, this should make our part of the street a happening place! At the very least, it means that the office where I work will look more professionals and organized...not longer like a B'nai Akiva headquarters.
Speaking of B'nai Akiva, that's where my children are whenever they're not sleeping or at school. It's Hodesh Irgun, Movement Month, and Margalit is in the play (Mulan -- she's the dragon, Mushu), Yochi is painting, and Hagai is trying, unsuccessfully, not to get roped into joining. He's not a joiner...he'd love to spend all his time at home, strumming on his guitar, playing chess against the computer, and reading. But life intrudes sometimes....Yochi made him promise to come and help them paint today, so we'll see if this is the start of something.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Every night, I make a list of the things that need doing.
This is BEFORE and AFTER an 8-hour work day, in addition to the household chores.
- check out cell phone for Margalit
- 30 shekels for B'nai Akiva for Margalit
- Dentist appointments for all
- call Pamela about extra curricular group for Margalit
- 80 shekels for Hagai -- math book
- 200 shekels for Avishai -- books
- get Ariella's money to her -- Euros that she forgot in Tzfat, that she'll need in Italy
- Iron tablets for Yochi
- Kupat Cholim coverage for Avishai; to reapply after the army
- get back matress that we loaned to Shula
- check on digital camera, in shop
- fruits and vegetables
- Calgeron...Hagai's sore throat
- get back house key from Lowenthals
- Tuesday morning dentist appointment for Margalit. Panoramic X-Ray, then back to the dentist.
- Monday evening teacher-parent meeting
- Tuesday meeting at school with staff
- Blistex for all of us
- Pay bills at Post Office.
- Photo album. Make copies of pictures to send to family
- thank you letter to Aunt R.
It's now Thursday, and I have a whole new list.
I'm also thinking about how to make a new effort at marketing my t-shirts, which don't move much at the Visitors Center. E-Bay? I don't even know where to start.
The office where I work is being renovated. I'm so excited! There's another office moving in with me, KabbalahTour. The guy who runs it will be bringing touring groups to Tzfat to give them a "Jewish Experience" with a Kabbalah twist. The project sounds good, and I'm pleased that I'll be working in a more-professional-looking office.
A large part of my work day involves surfing the net to find where to put links for Livnot, and information about it. Problem is, once I start surfing, I jump from link to link and get involved in looking at the different sites -- never mind all the blogs. VERY hard to concentrate on what I'm supposed to be doing.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
It was also a lot of fun to go wherever I wanted to go, not have anyone insisting that we drive everywhere (I walked MILES today), and not have to cater my vacation time to anyone else's ideas of a vacation (reminder: when I came here with the kids in late August, we spent 2 out of 3 days of the vacation in the mall)
I also kept meeting people who I knew, which was funny. In 8 hours of walking around, I saw 6 different people who I know from Tzfat.
One of the reasons that I had wanted to come to Jerusalem was to see my friend, who I had originally run into when we were in Jerusalem in August. We had been eating supper in the mall, and she was walking around, collecting tzdekka. She told me at the time that they hadn't bought toilet paper in their house for 3 days, and she would be staying at the mall until closing, at 23:00, to take home leftovers from the Food Court.
I sent her a little money at Rosh Hashana, but the amount that I can send doesn't make much of a dent in her situation -- she told me today that she's thousands of dollars in debt (from special tutoring that she set up for two of her kids who are severly dysletic.) When she took out the loan, she had been receiving more money from the National Insurance, as a single parent, and had been able to make her payments, but when the cuts went into effect, she was, in effect, left penniless. She's been cleaning houses and babysitting for years, but it barely takes care of the household expenses, much less her debts.
I have been racking my brains for ways to fundraise for her. I can send her my own tzdekka money (instead of giving it to the local beggers, which I'd been doing up until now) but that won't help much. It's going to make sleeping difficult.
And Tzfat is no place to fundraise -- I can personally name several families that I know of who are in exactly the same boat there, and the resources to help them just aren't available. Don't know........
Monday, October 08, 2007
6:30a.m. Wake up, wash living room/kitchen floor before kids wake up.
7:00a.m. Wake up Margalit and Yochi. Get Margalit's lunch ready for school. Prod.
7:15a.m. Wash floor in boys' room, since Hagai has left for school and Avishai isn't here
7:45a.m. Grab lunch (prepared last night) and go to work.
8:00a.m. On time -- for once.
16:00p.m. Done with work. Stop at Botzers and Glazers to pick up their Shabbat leftovers for cats and dog
16:10p.m. Fruit and vegetable store
16:25p.m. pharmacy -- Yochi wants iron tablets. She's always tired.
16:30p.m. Housewares shop -- need knives and spatula
16:35p.m. Stationary store. Hagai needs lead for his pencil
16:40p.m. Grocery store. Jello (for Hagai) and apple cider vinager (for my sushi -- it's good in the rice)
16:50p.m. Post Office to pick up a package.
17:00p.m. Home. Where's Margalit? Track her down to a birthday party that she went to. Start list of what needs to be done the next time I'm in town, that I didn't get to this time (or forgot) List now on the fridge. Kids adding to it.
17:15p.m. Wash floor in Margalit's room
17:30p.m. Show apt to possible renters for downstair's neighbor
17:45p.m. Make french toast for Avishai. Try not to react when Hagai brings home a piece of pizza and, after my french toast, Avishai gulps down the pizza.
18:00p.m. phone calls
18:15p.m. Wash downstairs floor
19:15p.m. Eat supper
20:00p.m. Get ready for trip to Jerusalem tomorrow. Prepare lunches. Give kids money for dinner (falaffel). Give out assignments.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
THE HOLIDAYS ARE OVER! No more major cooking for 6 days! 5, if you consider that I usually start Thursday night for Shabbat, but still....a big improvement over the unending crush of cooking that enveloped the past month. For Simhat Torah, we had a big barbque which ended up going in shifts....the first group came about 14:00 and hung around for about an hour and a half, and just as they were leaving, the second group came. This worked out GREAT with the pace of the barbque, and in one fell swoop, I fulfilled quite a bit of hosting obligations. (and, Avishai and hagai did most of the cooking!)
So, back to normal. Avishai is now officially a civilian. He's thrilled....none of this "signing on for extra time" for him. He starts the local community college this morning to complete his high school matriculation exams, hopefully do the psychometric exam (for university) and just enjoy things. Of course, our food bill just doubled! I keep trying to encourage him to take a job where he'd be doing some renovation work (he could possibly get something at Livnot) just so that he can learn some skills along the way, but he is tired of the physical exertion that marked his 3 years in the army, and prefers something quieter. Up to him....
Have to get Margalit to the doctor this afternoon -- she's got a stomach ache that's now on its 4th day. Every time a glitch comes up, I twitch.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
for a good part of the day (till 11:00a.m., and then a nap in the afternoon) I can allow myself to stay up while everyone else has gone to sleep to surf, write, and generally allow myself some downtime.
So far, the holidays have been nice, though all the work has been kind of draining. Everything is double-time, the cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc. We had quite a lot of company during Rosh Hashana, so I haven't been inviting too much for Succot, though if anyone asks, they're welcome to come. A cousin who is studying this year in Jerusalem is planning on coming up for the Shabbat of Succot, together with some friends, and that should be fun.
Angora, our daushaund, died on Rosh Hashana. Sad. She just started breathing heavily during the morning, and while I was thinking about how to get her to the vet on Sunday (no car now, new story...later) we saw that she'd laid down on the porch and was breathing her last. Aside from the sadness of loosing an animal that we'd cared for for many years, there was also the practical aspect to deal with -- what do we do with the body? In the end, we wrapped her up in a sheet and laid her in a corner of the yard until Saturday night, when some neighbors came over to help me bury her. We buried her near Sparky, and Margalit made her a nice headstone (it was a shallow grave, because it's hard to dig too deep, so we put a lot of stones over her to keep any visiting creatures from digging her up!)
So, the car. The yearly expenses were coming up, and I just didn't have the money to cover my half, even though it's still half my car. So I gave Yoni permission to take it to his new home -- he said that he was moving to Mitzpe Ramon, in the Negev, though I'm not sure that that's where he ended up. No matter, the car is gone, and it's hard not having that freedom to run errands easily, get my shopping done quickly, or especially take the kids to where they need to get to. New reality.
Avishai gets out of the army in 2 weeks, and he'll be coming home to live, for awhile anyway, while he does his matriculations at the local community college and tries to save some money. That's got to be my next priority....finding him work that's flexible so that he can go to classes. It's on tomorrow's list.
List for this week:
- work for Avishai
- get pictures developed for relatives (I do this every fall -- hopefully they'll remember me a bit)
- shopping for Succot
- cooking for Succot
- lulav and etrog
- eggs (I get them separately from the regular shopping, since they're cheaper if I get them at the fruit and vegetable store)
- errands and bills at the Post Office
- blankets (need some new ones)
- winter shoes for Margalit (Hagai needs too, but he never gets shoes until it's so cold that his toes freeze in his crocs)
- get succa up
I'm sure that the list will grow as the week progresses. Truthfully, I always dread the closure of the english library every Tishrei....they close for 4 or 5 weeks. But at least for those weeks, I don't worry about working around that hour that I would otherwise be spending in the library on Friday mornings.
A friend told me about someone who makes sushi in JErusalem every erev-Shabbat and sells it for 25 shekels/roll. So I advertised to try doing it in Tzfat, for 15 shekels, which would still give me a reasonable profit. After all, no one else is doing it, and it's relatively easy to make. So we'll see if I can make it work...maybe earn a few extra shekels, which would be helpful.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The biggest hassle about the trip is the driving, and the inevitable (for me, anyway) getting lost. It's so stressful for me to drive in cities where I haven't a clue where I am, and I turn into a nervous wreck,though I try not to show it, because I remember how super-stressful it used to be as a passenger with a driver who would flip out over getting lost. So I just keep making jokes about "ok, who are we going to ask for directions now?". It was a little hard to make jokes last night though, when I was on my way to the wedding in Nes Ziona, and the directions that I'd gotten off the internet turned out to be completely off -- I drove for an extra hour, trying to find my way around.
Today, a few people sent me a newspaper article, from JTA, in which I was quoted. Only problem is, I was never interviewed by the writer, never said the quote, never met the writer, and don't know where he got my name from.
But it was a good, intelligent quote, so maybe I shouldn't say anything.
(here's the text, for when it goes off-line)
Slumping Safed hopes Madonna visit will boost local economy
The city of Safed is hoping that Madonna's Rosh Hashanah visit will help boost the region's economy.
By Larry Luxner
SAFED, Israel (JTA) -- When it comes to spirituality, Safed lacks nothing. But the Israeli mountain town has been struggling economically since last year's war with Hezbollah.
That's why local tourism
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authorities are hoping a Rosh Hashanah visit by the Material Girl will bring real material benefits to its 30,000 residents.
Madonna, returning to Israel for the first time since September 2004, plans to visit Safed -- the world center of Jewish mysticism -- along with Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and other points of interest as part of a tour being organized by the Los Angeles-based Kabbalah Centre.
The pop icon is expected to bring along celebrity friends Demi Moore, Donna Karan and about 3,000 Kabbalah Centre students from around the world who are participating in a 10-day pilgrimage to Israel that is set to end on Yom Kippur.
"From a business point of view, anything that brings people into Safed is desirable," said Laurie Rappaport, who has lived here for 24 years and runs the visitor's center for Livnot U'Lehibanot, a volunteer organization.
"A lot of people are looking for spiritual fulfillment and making themselves better. Once they get here, they're curious to learn more," said Rappaport, a Detroit native, adding that "this is a stop on almost every group tour, and a lot of shops try to bring people in using Kabbalah. If they don't buy a Kabbalah necklace, they'll buy something else."Yet not everyone is seeing the Madonna visit as a shot in the arm for Safed, one of Israel's four biblical "holy cities" and the site of historic 16th-century synagogues dedicated to Isaac Luria, Joseph Caro and other Jewish luminaries.
"The phenomenon of Madonna is not mainstream, it's just silliness," said Eyal Riess, the former director of the visitors' center at Ascent, a Jewish studies program in the center of town. "The way she acts and behaves is shtuyot," or nonsense, he said. "She is not a role model."
Ya'acov Kaszemacher, a bearded, 66-year-old Orthodox Jewish artist who incorporates mystical themes into the watercolors he sells to tourists, also complained.
"Kabbalah is too holy to be put into the hands of everybody," Kaszemacher said. "Even me, I'm a Jewish artist and I live in Safed, but I'm not a kabbalist because I'm not at that level."
Yet as more and more Jews -- and gentiles -- follow Madonna's example and take up interest in Kabbalah, Safed officials see a unique chance to revive an economy that's still recovering from the destruction caused last summer by Katyusha rockets fired from nearby Lebanon.
"We have a very beautiful and interesting city," said Amos Lotan, director of tourism for Israel's Tzahar region, which encompasses Safed and the adjacent towns of Rosh Pina and Hatzor Haglilit. "Here there's magic in the air. This could be the best place to create a world center for Kabbalah."
That's exactly what a Florida Jewish federation has in mind.
Since 1995, the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County has donated more than $8 million to fund development projects throughout the Tzahar region. Its latest project is the construction of an international Kabbalah center that would boost tourism revenues for Safed, which has few hotels compared to the nearby town of Tiberias.
The federation has donated $100,000 in seed money to get the center started. Several millions more will probably be earmarked in years to come, with other donors being sought, including some from Europe.
"Madonna's interest in Kabbalah has certainly helped focus a lot of attention on Safed internationally, but the project we have in mind is very different from the Kabbalah Centre with which Madonna is affiliated," said Sharon Levin, the Palm Beach federation's representative in Safed.
"We are a public organization dedicated to developing a pluralistic center for anyone, regardless of background or religious affiliation, whereas the Kabbalah Centre is a private enterprise with a very clear profit motive."
Levin said that while the structure still does not exist, it will include a visitors' center with audiovisual presentations, an auditorium capable of seating 100 or more for lectures and seminars, and smaller rooms that can be used for classrooms or workshops.
Jeffrey Klein, the federation's CEO, said that Safed has not fully recognized its potential either as a center of tourism or as a center of spirituality.
"In response to the terrible trauma that Safed suffered during the war, one of the things we can do is bring people to the region," he told JTA. "We're very concerned with the vitality of the Galilee. This is critical to the future of Israel. We want this region to be a tourist destination and not a two-hour stop on a tour bus."
The director of the new project is Riess, 41, who was with Ascent for 13 years before being selected from among 200 applicants by the federation. At Ascent, Riess supervised a $2 million-a-year organization run by Chabad with programs in English, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Russian.
"There is already mass tourism to Israel from America and Europe," said Riess, a Tel Aviv native. "A lot of this is Christian tourism, and I know for a fact that those Christian pilgrims are very much interested in Jewish culture and mysticism. So if we can draw these crowds to Safed, it will help us a lot. Those people do spend nights in hotels, so instead of sleeping in Tiberias, like they do, they can sleep here."
Madonna reportedly is thinking well into the future.
"The valley of Rosh Pina is the entrance to where the Messiah will come to Safed," said Lotan, the Tzahar region's tourism director, "and Madonna is negotiating to purchase a house there not far from where we are."
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Yesterday, after a half a day of travelling, I was worriedly checking my wallet, trying to figure out WHERE the cash that I thought that I had had gone. Gas, dinner, giving the kids some money for shopping.....wow! It disappeared so quickly! I was going to have to take out some more cash from my bank account, which I have, but had been hoping not to have to touch (the holidays are coming up, as are birthdays for Ariella and Hagai......)
Anyway, as we sat there, eating dinner, a woman came up to me and hugged me. It was a friend whom I haven't seen in years. We made aliyah together in 1983, and in the intervening years, she's been married several times, had several children, and always struggled tremendously financially.
Now she was in the mall with her older daughter, asking people for tzdekka -- they have no food in their house ("we haven't had toilet paper for 2 days" she told me), and she was planning on staying at the mall until 23:00 so that they could bring the leftover food from the restaraunts home.
Gulp. What AM I obsessing about? At what point can I just sit back and say "thank you God. I have enough".
More than enough, actually. My kids are happy, healthy, and we have what we need. I've even been able to provide many extras these last few months -- a pool membership for the summer, some day trips, assistance for Ariella and Avishai to begin studying.....and this woman, who was basically in the same space as me 24 years ago, has to beg for money for toilet paper.
May I never loose my sense of proportion.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Last night, Margalit and her friends had a pajama party. My rule was that they stay in her room, which is, thankfully, on the opposite side of the house from where the rest of us sleep. When I woke up this morning, they were all buzzing around, and said that they hadn't slept all night. Should be interesting trying to get them back on schedule!
Avishai is home again....he has a "gimel" until Friday, because he sprained his ankle chasing after terrorists who had crossed from Gaza into Israel. His girlfriend returns tomorrow from Thailand, and her parents invited him to come to the airport with them to get her, so I guess, if he had to sprain his ankle, it came about at a good time.
Tomorrow we're planning a kayaking trip, with a barbque. We're going with two other families from the neighborhood, so that should be fun. Next week, we're planning on going down to Jerusalem for a few days, stopping in Tel Aviv to see Ariella (finally!) on the way. On the way back, we'll go to the Kahan's son's wedding (he and Avishai were in gan together!) in Nes Tziona -- we'll see how many times I manage to get lost driving there. Honestly, sometimes I think that the only way I get to see the country is through all my driving mishaps.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
There's something about the days after Tisha B'Av that one really does feel a let-down after the intensity of the 9 days. Not "let-down" as
"depression", but a let-down as, "ah-h-h-h-h-h-h". Of course, 95 degree weather doesn't help much, but all in all, it really does feel a lot of an easing of the tension in the air.
These next few weeks are very busy for me, both in renting our guest room (seems to be coming along nicely....enough to pay for the things in the house that seem to be constantly breaking, like our electrical system last night -- 500 shekels, gone....and at work. Makes sense that the Visitor's Center would be busy during the peak tourist season, huh? Anyway, one way or another, I'm going to take time off here and there, and I'm training a number of the local teens to take over when I'm out. And after the Klezmer Festival, I want to take the kids away for a few days. I haven't had a proper vacation since I went to the States when Ariella was 12 (she's about to turn 20 in September!) so at least for a few days, I'd like to feel a release of some tension. Of course, travelling with the crew, there won't be a lot of opportunity to do what I want to do, but even so, at least we'll be away for a bit.
Avishai is in the last 2 months of his service, and he's straining at the bit. Most of his unit is now in Gaza, but he was assigned to "Bacum", the induction base, to walk the new recruits through their first few days of army life. He basically marches "his" recruits around as they receive their uniforms, equipment, shots, fill out papers, etc., until they're put on the bus to head to their basic training. A cushy month, especially since his unit, Golani, comes in on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, so on the other days, he's off. But honestly, he deserves a bit of a break, after all the intensity of his past 3 years of disengagement, war, border patrol, etc. He's going to start college in September to finish up his matriculation exams from high school, and, he hopes, learn how to invest and become a millionaire businessman. Sounds OK to me.
Ariel was here last Shabbat...I'm waiting to speak to her this afternoon, but as far as I know, she's enjoying her cosmetics courses. Phew. She's now moved in with her boyfriend. Not what I'd hoped for, but to be honest, it's a pleasure to see her happy and to watch them together. Avishai and his girlfriend too -- they buy each other presents, do nice things for each other, and in general, are good to each other. One worries that one's children will shy away from relationships after seeing their parents fail, but so far, my older kids seem to have healthy relationships with their partners.
My downstairs neighbor's walls are soaked with water, and they thought that it was coming from our house, so we had two plumber visits, pulled up a tile, made a hole in our wall....and finally discerned that the water wasn't coming from us. Thank goodness, though I feel bad for our neighbors, who now have to deal with another, less-friendly neighbor, to get at the root of the problem. I need to replace the tile, and simply haven't the time to do so -- it will involve a trip to the tile factory, about an hour drive from here. I crave TIME! The cat should see a vet, the dogs need their shots, and a hundred and seventy other things need to be done, but if it's off my regular route, I just don't get to it. Sigh.
Promised Margalit I'd come to see her dive into the pool. At least we have the pool.....
Monday, July 23, 2007
Never mind...I'm used to it. He decided to learn to play the guitar, so he bought one and is teaching himself to play. Doing quite well, I must add....he's already taught himself to tune the guitar and when he practices, it is quite pleasant to listen to him.
Tonight is Tisha B'Av. It's HOT. It's a day that is difficult to pin down. On the one hand, it's a fast day, so one has to anticipate being hungry and tired. On the other hand, it's a "Sunday", a day off of work when you can "do" everything. I have errands that I'd like to do that I never get to do, and a lot of catch-up, but it's hard to function when you're wiped out.
Walking to work, I saw one of the town drunks this morning. Typical "only in Tzfat" scene.....he was sitting next to his empty beer bottle, singing.....psalms. At 8:00a.m.
Monday, June 25, 2007
A new web magazine, Today's Israel, has been collecting articles from us wannabe authors for about 6 months, and now, in their second issue, their "eye on Tzfat" (or whatever they call their correspondent in the boonies) has printed one of the articles that I've sent them.
Truthfully, I don't think that my article was that good, and I have to look back to see if I can find the original, to see just how much the editor fixed it up.
But it has my byline, more or less my words, my idea, and, well, i'm pretty sure that I can feel a little bit pleased with myself!
Yochi is almost finished with her matriculation exams (bagruiot) for the year. Phew -- I'm not sure whether it's harder on her or on me, since I find myself tip-toeing around her while she's pressured to study. She does well on her exams though, and was offered to do a "atudah" from the army, meaning that she would study for her BA on the army's dime, and then commit to the army for 3 years. Great way to get a degree without worrying about the tuition, but she doesn't seem to be interested, if for no other reason than she doesn't know what she wants to study. Reasonable, but it would be nice to leave the tuition worries...
Ariella is going to start a course in a few months in make-up. I hear that it's a good course, and should give her some skills to make some money and hopefully also save for further studies, something that she'll never be able to do from waitressing. I have undertaken the course tuition, 10,000 shekels, so all I can say is that Hizbollah better not start a war until I've had a good summer of renting out our guest room! If anyone reading this can have a chat with Nasrallah....
Avishai has been home for 3 days, wounded in the line of duty....he fell over in his tent last Friday night and broke a tooth. They had to take him to the dentist on Shabbat because it was so painful, and then he got to come home for 3 days. Sunday he was a dishrag, sleeping and moving slowly, but today he went to the pool and then to his girlfriend, so he's on the mend. He goes back to his base tomorrow, so I hope that there's some motherly-type there to remind him to keep taking his anti-biotics!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Monday, June 04, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
Saturday night, she suddenly told me that the "something" that they were going to be doing included hosting them overnight, and that we'd have a young girl staying here.
Sunday night, Yochi showed up with three guests....one was one of the Israeli girls in her group, who would be staying overnight, one was the American guest, and the third was one of the group leaders whose promised arrangement for a hotel room fell through.
I just moved upstairs and gave them the downstairs, and the three girls got along very nicely, attending the Rememberance Day ceremony on Sunday night and going to school together on Monday. Truthfully, I hardly knew that they were there. And the madricha (leader) was a lovely young thirtysomething lady who was lively and easy to talk to....I enjoyed her visit very much. I'm not quite sure where 3 bags of milk and quite a bit of cereal went to, but I'm glad that Yochi feels comfortable inviting unexpected guests, and knows that they'll be taken care of here.
Today is Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. I call it my one Sunday of the year, because it's the one day that we have off of work that isn't a Shabbat/holiday (with its religious restrictions) or getting ready for a holiday/Shabbat (i.e. cooking). I could have technically slept in, and should have, since I stayed up late last night waiting for Margalit to come in from her wanderings around town (with friends) but my internal alarm clock woke me up at 7:00a.m., so before I start doing the things that I had planned for today (besides the picnic -- mostly early Shabbat prep) I am enjoying the time on the computer that I have with no one else saying "when are you going to be done?"
Yochi was supposed to join the march to Homesh, which is one of the West Bank settlements evacuated by the army last year, but their bus leaves early, and she got home late last night, so she decided to forgo that, and will be hiking to Meron with her B'nai Akiva group. I decided to join a group of friends who are going into the wadi beneath Tzfat for a picnic...aside from the lack of need to drive, this way I can help ferry out some of our neighbors who don't have a car. Margalit will have friends, but the "other" picnic, which is planned for farther away, has families with older kids, and Hagai and Yochi would prefer to go with them.
Frankly, I'm worn out with trying to make everyone happy. The endless worry that everyone's needs be taken care of. I could care less where I set up my barbque, or with who, but somehow I always feel as though I'm slacking because whatever I decide, someone isn't pleased.
On the upside, whatever we do, I'll have some nice pictures to upload afterward.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
So yesterday and today are the days that we have to take a trip. I'm supposed to work for part of Chol HaMoed, and I have the other part off as a paid holiday, so I worked yesterday, and today I'm off. Frankly, my idea of a wonderful vacation would be to stay and home and putter around, read, maybe take a walk, etc.
But no one really cares what my idea of a good day is. So we are off to the Banias National Park this morning with grill and food (YOU figure out what kind of food to take for a picnic on Pesach, especially non-meat!) because Hagai wants to hike. And then, we'll probably stop at the paintball hall for a few hours, because Yochi wants to "do something fun".
I'll take a book, I guess. At any rate, it'll be good for some new pictures to post.
Now the dilemna is when to wake up the sleeping tigers. It's SO quiet and peaceful here now -- but I don't want to stay out late, especially since I should get the Shabbat cooking started tonight. Plus some shopping. Plus I promised Margalit that we'd look for sandals for her. It's going to be a LONG 12 hours.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
- chametz stuff -- put away
- Pesach stuff -- taken out of boxes and shelved
- kitchen floor -- washed
- soup -- made (vegan)
- chicken -- made
- eggplant cassarole (vegan) -- made
- ratoutille -- (vegan) made
- roast potatos (v) made
- mashed potatos (v) made
- quinoa (v) made
- salad (v) made
- traditional Pesach strawberry Rappeport jam (v) -- made
- Pesach rolls (for the day-of-Seder-before-Matza-allowed) -- made (eggs)
- living room (where chametz was set up for the hours pre-Pesach, since it's freezing outside and the porch wasn't available) -- cleaned
- last minute shopping (milk stuff, drinks, Kosher-for-Pesach dog food) -- done
- laundry (2 loads) -- done
- Seder plate -- set up (including a spare zorah bone, since the cat ate #1)
- Margalit's room -- set up for 2 overnight guests
- lettuce (for Seder) checked for bugs
This included an 8-hour work day on Sunday, though I admit that I slipped out about 15 minutes early.
Anyway, do I deserve to be proud of myself, or what? This was mostly a one-woman act, and I didn't get upset even once, or even raise my voice. What I didn't do myself, I directed, and aside from a case of pure exhaustion, I'm rather pleased with myself.
The Seder itself was also nice. For the first time, I pretty much led it, though we shared tasks and didn't stand on ceremony much -- everyone took turns participating, and I offered 5 shekels per person to anyone who had a question that no one could answer, so the kids came up with some good questions, for the first time ever. I also prepared a trivia quiz for Pesach, and that was fun too, and added something.
We still don't compete with the folks who end at 2:00a.m., but I think that we can be proud of our Seder, and I'm pleased that we stayed home and ran our own Seder, rather than counting on someone with a "father" to lead. By golly, we're pretty good!
Next challenge....where to go for a tiyul?