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Thursday, August 30, 2007

back again

Returned from the expedition happy (the kids) and relieved to be home (me). It's good to get away sometimes, but honestly, I'm happiest at home, and my idea of a great vacation would be to shut the gate and stay in the house for a few days with some good books.

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.

Smile, smile

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.

http://www.jta.org/cgi-bin/iowa/news/article/20070828safedmadonna.html

(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
Published: 08/28/2007
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

Encounter

For the past few months, I've been saving a bit of money each week so that, at the summer's end, I could take a short vacation with the kids and have some money for shopping for school supplies, Rosh Hashana clothes, etc.

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

Vacationtime



There are 2 more weeks left of summer vacation, and if I do say so myself, we did a pretty good job of getting through it. Between a membership to the Rimonim pool, next door to our house (how lucky can you get?), lots of work for the kids (Hagai worked with Livnot, digging out the ruins of the Old City with a group of teenagers, Yochi worked in a gallery, and both helped me at the Visitors Center and cleaning Livnot in-between groups) and lots of friends (Margalit and her pack of little neighborhood girls that she's been running with since they could crawl).
During the Klezmer Festival, Hagai, Avishai and Avishai's friend Hoshen ran a "basta", selling brownies, chai tea, and sushi. The sushi bombed (OK, that was my idea) and the chai and brownies didn't do much better, but they had fun listening to the music and meeting people. I figure that I lost about 50 shekels on their "business", which isn't bad. Both Avishai and Ariella almost got sucked into selling Herbalife in a pyramid scheme over the last few months, and the only thing that saved them from loosing some serious money was their need for investment money, which meant that they discussed it with me, which meant that I was able to save them from some serious loss.

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

Summertime



I've said this before, but it always amazes me, the schizophrenic manner of the Jewish year.
The weeks and then days leading up to Tisha B'Avi are to intense...no hair-cutting, no meat-eating, no swimming or music....and then Tisha B'Av itself, with its fast and somber atmosphere.
And then, bang! The day after Tisha B'Av, summer vacation hits. Everyone starts smiling, swimming, travelling, singing, getting married -- a turn-around of 24 hours that leaves one breathless.
Anyway, last week my brother Dov and his wife Michal came up to Tzfat for a few days with their 2 little boys. It was really nice to see them, and I appreciated the effort that it took for them to schlep to little boys up on the bus and train. Our house is no longer child-proof, which must have made it difficult for them, but every once in awhile, it's nice to remember that one has family around.
Margalit left with her friends today to head down to Rishon L'Zion. It's going to be VERY quiet in the house for a few days, and I'm looking forward to the break. Maybe I'll get to start exercising or walking a bit, which has been on the back burner for quite a while now. I'm still guarding my weight loss, and constantly checking to make sure that it doesn't start creeping back up, though honestly, there just doesn't seem to be time to do everything. I finally found a website with back episodes of M*A*S*H, which I've wanted to see for years -- it's so much fun to see that old show -- and I have about half-an-hour a week to sit and watch a show.
Another show that the kids were watching incessently was "Friends". Margalit used to watch several episodes a day. Finally, I started watching it, and was stunned to see how sexually explicit the dialog was -- I hadn't realized what she was watching! So I flipped out. My son removed the episodes from the computer, but I feel terribly guilty that I didn't stop it earlier.
Once upon a time, I was much more on top of what was going on in my house. These days, I leave the house when everyone is still sleeping, come home after a full day to start running around and taking care of shopping, cleaning, errands, cooking, etc., and am NOT the hands-on mother that I once prided myself on being. Sigh. My friend, who was raised by a working single-mother, tells me that the kids learn self-reliance and independence, and that I shouldn't feel guilty. But....I do.
In other facinating news of the Rappeport family, I will be taking Miranda, the cat, to the vet for a cat-dental-check-up. She cries every time she eats, and I've put it off for quite a long time ($$$, you know) but the time has come to deal with her. I don't envy the vet -- Miranda isn't an easy character.
I'm hoping for some reasonable rentals this next week-and-a-half, so that we can take a family vacation after Klezmer Festival. Don't know yet where....maybe an overnight of camping, and then down to Jerusalem for a few days. Just the gas will cost an arm and a leg! But I haven't had any kind of vacation for years (unless you count the war, which I don't, since I was an emotional basket-case during the entire month) so it's time to do something fun.