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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Musings on the first day of the new (Gregorian) decade

I really like the way my house looks on Friday mornings when I come back from my errands. What I DON'T like is the fact that, to get it that clean, I have to clean BEFORE I go out.

The segula (good luck charm, so to speak) of going to a gravesite of a tzadik (righteous person) for 40 days to pray really works. I did it this year and my request was answered, much to my surprise. Maybe a business idea.....I mean, honestly, I live within a 10-minute walk from the gravesites of dozens of really spectacular tzadiks!

I miss going out dancing. Seriously. Last night there was a dance in my neighborhood for New Years (Gregorian) and I was hopping around the kitchen at 9:00p.m, all excited....and by 11:00p.m. (when I should have gone) I could hardly keep my eyes open. And I knew that I'd need to get up early to cook and clean for Shabbat....exciting life here, y'know.

Echinaicia works. I took it for 2 days earlier this week when I felt a cold coming on, and the cold came and passed. I still spent a semi-miserable day dripping like an open faucet, but it didn't move into my chest and it was over in 24 hours. (and for another musing....how come my spellcheck helped me with echinaicia a few days ago and won't now?)

I'd love to end the week, just once, within my budget. Just once. It all comes together on Friday, when I think to myself "I'll just make it" and then everyone realizes that they need a schoolbook/snacks for an upcoming school trip/to pay off a bill/present for a really good friend's birthday

Happy (Gregorian) New Year and Shabbat Shalom.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday mornings

Made my regular shuk-walk this morning. I had originally said that I wouldn't go because my fridge is packed (new diet, lots of vegetables....sigh)but then I remembered that I need to get Gal some socks so I figured that I'd make a quick zip in and out. Ha. Half an hour later I staggered into work with all the stuff that I don't find (cheaply anyway) anywhere else....avocados, artichokes, green onions, mushrooms....

Walking into the Old City I saw the regular group of Ethiopian ladies crowded around the g'mach (second hand clothing store) at the entrance to the alley. One of the younger ladies had found a purple silk-type skirt and she was obviously thrilled with her purchase (usually for half a shekel). She was grinning from ear to ear and twirling around, letting the skirt swirl around her. It was so heart-warming to see.

On the other hand, I noticed that most of these women are still wearing sandals. With the temperature in the 40s, that can't be a lot of fun. A few weeks ago a local tzdekka organization put out a request, on the Tzfat english-speaker's newsletter, for assistance to buy the Ethiopian kids shoes. Dozens of families recently immigrated and are at the absorption center in Tzfat with very little beyond the most basic necessities (these kids also are known to come to school hungry). The tzdekka was collecting money (they still are) to get shoes for the kids -- a local shoe store will sell shoes to the tzdekka for cost, but it still costs quite a bit of money for several hundred pairs of shoes. I know that they didn't raise enough money for all the kids, and now I see the mothers who must be freezing too. You try to do what you can but it's never enough....

In my endless search for natural remedies and treatments I discovered, a few years ago, that if I take Echinacea as soon as I feel a cold coming on, it usually doesn't, or if it does it passes quickly without settling in my chest. Yesterday I finished my second day of taking echinacea 5 times during the day and sure enough--the scratchy sore throat that always used to turn into a cold....didn't.

My Kupat Cholim health fund should take note.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Y'all Know What

I've lived in Israel for 26 years, and for 26 years December 25th (and all the craziness leading up to it) has come and gone and I hardly notice it. If I do notice it, it's to think to myself "wow, December 25th and I hardly noticed it"

This year I'm doing evening work for an American website, writing articles. As I submit each article this last week, I've been writing to the editor who will be reading it "Merry Xmas" because chances are that the copy editor celebrates Xmas.

And I discovered that I enjoy writing that! It makes me feel like I'm enjoying their holiday vicariously, and that I can be a part of it while not being a part of it. Anyway I love where i live but I do like America too (love Americans -- when the copy editors write to me, they're always so polite and pleasant -- LOVE Americans) and get a kick out of being connected.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wednesday mornings

I left the house this morning while Gal and Hagai were still sleeping. Louie had just come in from a night of carousing (Louie is the cat) and Mica and Jenny (dogs) were curled up on the couch. So even though I left at 8:00a.m., relatively late, I felt virtuously early. Is that a sentence?

I did make it to the shuk (open-air market) first thing. I prefer to go in the late afternoon, after work, because the prices are lower. But in the winter, by 4:00pm, it's already getting dark and that's no fun. Also more rain is forcast and it may start today.

The shuk during any holiday is especially fun. Everyone is saying "Chag Samayach" ("Happy Holiday") to each other, even the Arab vendors say it to other arabs who come to buy from them! Though the Arab guy who sold me my raisins, after he said "Chag Samayach" to an Arab lady, turned to me and asked "which holiday is it? Chanukah?" It is indeed Chanukah and the strawberries are out in full bloom, adding one more color to the already-colorful show. As always my eyes are bigger than my stomach--I always think to myself "I'll make a soup" and get all sorts of greens and pumpkin and then have to push myself to make the soup.

Walking around the shuk in the morning, you also have to wait sometimes....the vendors (the Jewish ones) often take ten or fifteen minutes off to put on their tefillin and tallis and daven (say morning prayers). As you walk between the stalls, you'll see an unmanned stall here and there and sure enough, a few feet away there's the vendor wrapped up saying the morning prayers. I'm sure the open-air markets of San Francisco and other places are much more sophisticated and there's more to buy. But I wouldn't trade mine for theirs. The vendors know me (when I come to my regulars they immediately say "oh, here's the lady who doesn't want a plastic bag. The greenie" and then they start telling me what they do to conserve) and often, if I stand around a bunch of people who are buying something, I'll catch recipe ideas.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lights and Inspiration

Never let it be said that people are not becoming more aware of health and the environment.

Example: I went to the local bakery yesterday to buy donuts for Chanukah (a traditional Chanukah treat in Israel). This year there are baked donuts in addition to the fried ones, and the seller said that he's selling more baked donuts because people don't want to eat so much fried food.

Example: I had some pictures copied and when I went to pick them up the clerk started to give me a plastic bag to put them in. I said "I don't need a bag" because I try to do without whenever I can. "Oh, a greenie" she said. "Good for you. I try not to give them to people".

There's still a lot of work to do, but slowly people are starting to understand the importance of living with more awareness.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Back to the Basics

Readers of this blog might remember (2005?) that I did a successful diet several years ago, dropping about 15 kilos (30-something pounds). It was a weight-watchers plan which I was able to do on my own, since I have no time to go to meetings or self-help groups. I just got a copy of the plan and managed on my own.

Over the last few years I see the pounds creeping back on, although I try to maintain their "maintenance plan". For some reason, it doesn't work for me any more (probably my absolute love of bread contributes to this).

I saw a friend of mine awhile ago who went from, what I thought was a good weight to absolutely svelt and I asked her for her secret. She's been doing a 6-small-meals-a-day food plan (I don't want to say "diet") and she says that that's what did it. She gave me a copy of the plan at the beginning of the week, and that's what it is....six small meals each day, though the meals aren't so small. Each one basically is a protein, a carbohydrate (whole grains, which for me is no problem because I've gotten used to that)and tons of vegetables. IN ADDITION you can have 2 fruits, a glass of milk and a limited amount of oil or nut butters (yum....peanut butter)

The other catch is that you're supposed to drink between 2 and 3 liters of water EACH DAY. Well, with all of this food and a perpetually bursting bladder, I'm so full that I almost dread the next meal! Which is a shame because you can basically have good food (I've gotten used to eating low-fat food for awhile now and rarely desire baked goods or candy) and the meals are plentiful.

Will report back as time goes on but I'm hoping that someone will call me "svelt" sometime soon too!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Come Together

The weekly preparation for Shabbat can be quite exhausting, especially when, like me, you're trying to please everyone (except for myself....unfortunately I'll eat anything).

Shopping starts early in the week with a fill-up of vegetables that I don't find in the supermarket at Wednesday's shuk (open air market). This week I found some nice juicy artichokes which, thanks to writing in this blog, I just remembered that I have and I need to cook up.

On Wednesday I try to make sure that the meats are prepared and frozen, and the challah dough and cake dough are ready. Thursday evening is a marathon of peeling and cutting so that on Friday I can simply stick stuff into the oven and pull it out fresh.

That, of course, is where the fun lies. The basics have been prepared, so at that point I'm just plopping everything into the oven or on the stove, and as each thing comes out it's so fun to anticipate eating it. I also like when the kids come home after school and ask "what's for Shabbat" and when they hear that there are some of their favorite dishes, make some appreciative grunts.

The winter shuk is so much fun. I try to go in the morning before work. There are some regular items to pick up -- mushrooms, parsley, avocados -- but as I mentioned, sometimes there are some items that catch my eye, like broccoli (for tonight's dinner) and artichokes (tomorrow)and as I stuff my fridge I look forward to serving.

Many guests tomorrow, which is also always nice. Surprising to my offspring, who think that my 51-year-old conversation needs should be fulfilled by their bickering, I really look forward to having people my own age around to chat with. This is a friendly community and people like sharing Shabbat meals. I'm thankful that I live in such a great area.

My article-writing for a pay-for-content website is going well. Some of the titles that they give are quite, um, unusual (How to color your child' hair for Halloween with food coloring; How to do magnet therapy) but I can choose as many article titles as I want per week (I average about a dozen) and I've learned to, theoretically, paint a trailer, disable a GPS, find where someone may have stuck a GPS on my car, start a thrift store, make an Indian Ribbon shirt.......some of the topics are quite fascinating and I've learned to look at it as my hobby (which pays).

My hobby keeps me awake until midnight every night, which is another reason that I anticipate Shabbat. Thank goodness that the computer is shut off for 25 hours.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Building my Website

Website Building for Beginners



A Technological Novice


If you would have told me, fifteen years ago, that I'd be able to work with basic computer skills, I would have laughed.

For me, changing a light bulb is about as technical as I can get, and my entrance into the world of computer literacy was accomplished with much kicking and screaming.

Slowly and surely, however, I became competent on the computer, learning to navigate the internet and work with WORD, EXEL and even POWERPOINT, though only with much tutoring and hand-holding.

The world of websites and working with computer "languages" however, always seemed to be as far into outerspace as one of NASA's launches.



Baby Steps



So it was with much trepidation that I began to explore the possibility of building my own website several months ago when my former simple space on the web, a free website template, no longer seemed adequate for my needs.

"Build a site" my friends told me repeatedly, when I complained that I had amassed a ton of material which would assist visitors to my city, as well as lead them to my own rental guest room. I just chuckled. Me, build a website? My 13-year-old helps me when I get stuck on computer issues!

Slowly though, I began to research the possibilities, and found a well-respected "how-to" site which gave a list of 10 recommended website hosting companies. I looked up each company's listing with the Better Business Bureau, and found that only one, Lunar Pages, had not only received accreditation, but their review by the BBB was excellent.



A Solution with LunarPages



I slowly looked through the Lunar Pages site, and did several cost-comparisons with other web-hosting companies, including the company which had hosted my freebie for a number of years, and with whose webbuilding program I was comfortable with already (which says a lot, considering that I was quite nervous about tackling something new).

I was also pleased to see various options which gave me different alternatives for my site. The were various time frames that I could sign up for, as well as different programs designed to meet alternate needs. In the end, I chose one program, and when, after starting, it seemed to be the wrong choice for me, the LunarPages staff immediately offered me the option of switching, even though it meant that I would receive a refund for the difference.

LunarPages costs were extremely competitive and favorable in comparison to what other companies were offering. In addition, from the moment that I started the process of registering with them and as I began to ask my numerous questions about getting started, their support team was always available and willing to assist, even with questions with must have seemed ridiculous to them for their simplicity.


Every issue that I was struggling with, every new "oh no, how am I going to figure THIS out?" that cropped up, they have been with me, patiently teaching me how to set up my site.

I don't think that Bill Gates will be looking to hire me anytime soon, but I am thoroughly satisfied with LunarPages, and highly recommend that anyone building a website or looking to host a site, rank beginners as well as more advanced builders, consider their company.




Check out LunarPages Website Hosting



Check out LunarPages Website Hosting

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Nights

There are some habits that are hard to break.

One of which is Saturday Night's bedtime. All week I wait for Shabbat to catch up on my sleep. So what do I do as soon as Shabbat comes? Sleep late, take a nap, and then on Saturday night....go to sleep at 2:00a.m. And what happens on sunday morning? I'm tired again. Go figure.

The other ritual is food--I start out on Friday thinking "wow, I still have a full fridge/pantry.....I don't think that I need to go shopping next week". And by the time everyone's done eating, noshing and hoarding to take back with them for the coming week, I'm back to making my shopping list.

We had great guests staying in our guest room over Shabat. Nice family from Los Angeles. I did some laundry for them this evening and assured them that if I hung it out tonight it would be ready by tomorrow morning. Then, I took in the laundry that I'd hung out yesterday afternoon and noticed that it was NOT dry. So theirs won't be either, tomorrow.

I had a "Tzfat moment" on Thursday. I was sitting in the post office waiting for my turn, along with another half a dozen people. It was taking awhile and one of the ladies who was waiting decided to say her afternoon prayers while waiting. So she stood quietly on the side and prayed. In the meantime her turn came up and everyone noticed that she was missing her turn, but they were all aware of why. So someone else went in her place, and as soon as she was done everyone readjusted their turns so that she could get back in line.

The news reports are sounding optimistic that Gilad Shalit, the soldier who's been held captive by Hamas in Gaza will get out this week after three years of captivity. I'm sorry to say that I didn't have the same understanding of the trauma when Ron Arad or any of the other soldiers were missing years ago, but now, having had a son who served in the army and having "been there" as a worried mother, I felt differently about Gilad Shalit, as though he was the son of us all. His family is amazing....they kept up the pressure on the government relentlessly. Please let this be the week that he comes home.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Payments

Just saw this:
The US Federal Trade Commission requires full disclosure in blogs, review postings and comment postings if the writer has received compensation, including free products. Failure to fully disclose can result in fines up to $11,000 per posting.

So, I will declare now that NO ONE IS PAYING ME BUBKES TO WRITE THIS BLOG.

My ramblings are uncompensated.

Though, if someone wants to compensate me, I will forward the details of where and how to leave the money.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tzfat Stone Mezuzza Covers



Mezuzzas and Kabbalah


The Kabbalistic Explanation of the Commandment of "Mezuzza"

The cornerstone of Luranic (Tzfat) Kabbala is the concept of “tzimtzum” or the concealment of the Divine Light. When God chooses to withdraw his light from the world a void is created, allowing evil to enter. According to Kabbalah man's task is to break through the darkness to discover the light and, or course, God.

Light will disperse the darkness. Kabbalah teaches that wisdom, learning and good deeds are all part of that light. These attributes are seen most clearly in the home.

Battling Evil

The forces of evil are always lurking outside the door. A mezuzza on the door of the house acts as the ray of light which prevents the darkness of evil from penetrating. The mezuzza protects the home and those in it.

What is a Mezuzza?

A mezuzza is a small piece of parchment with a the Biblical verse from Deuteronomy 11:20-21 written on it, It is affixed to the doorpost of a home. This parchment is enclosed by a mezuzza cover which can be simple or a beautiful piece of Judaica.

The Torah promises long life to the homeowner and the homeowner's children when a mezuzza with this verse is affixed to the doorpost of the house.

Tzfat Mezuzzas

Tzfat, the City of Kabbalah, offers mezuzza cover-Judaica made of Tzfat Stone. These mezuzzas are crafted in Tzfat by local artisans from the authentic stones of Tzfat. With a kosher klaf (the klaf, the inserted parchment, must be written by a Jewish scribe in the tradition of the Jewish Torah) these authentic mezuzzas from the City of Kabbalah will bring the blessings and protection of light and goodness to the home and those in it.

Mezuzza covers made of Tzfat Stone – $90

Mezuzza parchments written by Tzfat scribes – $60

To order, contact laurierappeport@gmail.com


Source: www.kabbalaonline.net

www.safed-home.com


Cat is neutered. I've slept for two nights straight without being woken up by him and his friends "arguing" on my porch, on the wall of the yard or in the yard. Best 200 shekels I've spent in a long time.

November hasn't arrived yet but the rains have, which is a good sign for our drought-stricken country. It's early to celebrate, but there does seem to be hope for the Kinneret, our lowest-water-level-on-record fresh-water lake. Now I have to buy the kids some winter boots, get a coat for Gal and try to find some good umbrellas for us all. The umbrella dilemma is a tough one. On the one hand, the cheap ones don't last very well. On the other hand, they all tend to get lost or left behind frequently. I'm one of the first to admit my guilt in forgetfulness. But....I don't have a car anymore so we walk everywhere.


A local craftsman started making mezuzza covers from Tzfat Stone. They are some of the most unique pieces of craftsmanship that I've seen in a long time -- hand-carved Shins "ש" on real stones from Tzfat's wadi. I took some pictures yesterday and am selling them for Shimon. He's a wonderful artisan but doesn't know how to show his work widely. I don't either, but I'm going to plop it up on a few sites to see what the interest is. More people than ever are looking at Judaica and Jewish traditions and connecting, and putting a mezuzza on your door is the first step -- it demonstrates a committment to the outside world while offering a sense of fulfilling a commandment within.

I listed it on EBay yesterday and did a little research so that I could write a bit about the Kabbalistic meaning of mezuzzas. I'm not an expert, but it was so interesting. Here's what I wrote (thanks to Ascent's kabbalaonline for their explanation)



Mezuzzas and Kabbalah

The Kabbalistic Explanation of the Commandment of "Mezuzza"

The cornerstone of Luranic (Tzfat) Kabbala is the concept of “tzimtzum” or the concealment of the Divine Light. When God chooses to withdraw his light from the world a void is created, allowing evil to enter. According to Kabbalah man's task is to break through the darkness to discover the light and, or course, God.

Light will disperse the darkness. Kabbalah teaches that wisdom, learning and good deeds are all part of that light. These attributes are seen most clearly in the home.

Battling Evil

The forces of evil are always lurking outside the door. A mezuzza on the door of the house acts as the ray of light which prevents the darkness of evil from penetrating. The mezuzza protects the home and those in it.

What is a Mezuzza?

A mezuzza is a small piece of parchment with a the Biblical verse from Deuteronomy 11:20-21 written on it, It is affixed to the doorpost of a home. This parchment is enclosed by a mezuzza cover which can be simple or a beautiful piece of Judaica.

The Torah promises long life to the homeowner and the homeowner's children when a mezuzza with this verse is affixed to the doorpost of the house.

Tzfat Mezuzzas

Tzfat, the City of Kabbalah, offers mezuzza cover-Judaica made of Tzfat Stone. These mezuzzas are crafted in Tzfat by local artisans from the authentic stones of Tzfat. With a kosher klaf (the klaf, the inserted parchment, must be written by a Jewish scribe in the tradition of the Jewish Torah) these authentic mezuzzas from the City of Kabbalah will bring the blessings and protection of light and goodness to the home and those in it.

Mezuzza covers made of Tzfat Stone – $90

Mezuzza parchments written by Tzfat scribes – $60




Why won't the counter viewpoint push my apparent sketch?

Tzfat and Mezuzzas


Cat is neutered. I've slept for two nights straight without being woken up by him and his friends "arguing" on my porch, on the wall of the yard or in the yard. Best 200 shekels I've spent in a long time.

November hasn't arrived yet but the rains have, which is a good sign for our drought-stricken country. It's early to celebrate, but there does seem to be hope for the Kinneret, our lowest-water-level-on-record fresh-water lake. Now I have to buy the kids some winter boots, get a coat for Gal and try to find some good umbrellas for us all. The umbrella dilemma is a tough one. On the one hand, the cheap ones don't last very well. On the other hand, they all tend to get lost or left behind frequently. I'm one of the first to admit my guilt in forgetfulness. But....I don't have a car anymore so we walk everywhere.

A local craftsman started making mezuzza covers from Tzfat Stone. They are some of the most unique pieces of craftsmanship that I've seen in a long time -- hand-carved Shins "ש" on real stones from Tzfat's wadi. I took some pictures yesterday and am selling them for Shimon. He's a wonderful artisan but doesn't know how to show his work widely. I don't either, but I'm going to plop it up on a few sites to see what the interest is. More people than ever are looking at Judaica and Jewish traditions and connecting, and putting a mezuzza on your door is the first step -- it demonstrates a committment to the outside world while offering a sense of fulfilling a commandment within.

I listed it on EBay yesterday and did a little research so that I could write a bit about the Kabbalistic meaning of mezuzzas. I'm not an expert, but it was so interesting. Here's what I wrote (thanks to Ascent's kabbalaonline.net for their explanation)



Mezuzzas and Kabbalah

The Kabbalistic Explanation of the Commandment of "Mezuzza"

The cornerstone of Luranic (Tzfat) Kabbala is the concept of “tzimtzum” or the concealment of the Divine Light. When God chooses to withdraw his light from the world a void is created, allowing evil to enter. According to Kabbalah man's task is to break through the darkness to discover the light and, or course, God.

Light will disperse the darkness. Kabbalah teaches that wisdom, learning and good deeds are all part of that light. These attributes are seen most clearly in the home.

Battling Evil

The forces of evil are always lurking outside the door. A mezuzza on the door of the house acts as the ray of light which prevents the darkness of evil from penetrating. The mezuzza protects the home and those in it.

What is a Mezuzza?

A mezuzza is a small piece of parchment with a the Biblical verse from Deuteronomy 11:20-21 written on it, It is affixed to the doorpost of a home. This parchment is enclosed by a mezuzza cover which can be simple or a beautiful piece of Judaica.

The Torah promises long life to the homeowner and the homeowner's children when a mezuzza with this verse is affixed to the doorpost of the house.

Tzfat Mezuzzas

Tzfat, the City of Kabbalah, offers mezuzza cover-Judaica made of Tzfat Stone. These mezuzzas are crafted in Tzfat by local artisans from the authentic stones of Tzfat. With a kosher klaf (the klaf, the inserted parchment, must be written by a Jewish scribe in the tradition of the Jewish Torah) these authentic mezuzzas from the City of Kabbalah will bring the blessings and protection of light and goodness to the home and those in it.

Mezuzza covers made of Tzfat Stone – $90

Mezuzza parchments written by Tzfat scribes – $60




Why won't the counter viewpoint push my apparent sketch?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cats

Seems to me that these days, whenever something happens everyone wants to let the world know about it.

D'ja get up on the wrong side of the bed? Twitter it.

Did you have an especially great peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch? Status update on Facebook.

Three of my kids are my friends on Facebook (I'm actually surprised that they befriended me) so I'm hesitant to do ANYTHING there, besides for work (which is what I mostly do with FB). And I've never felt comfortable tweeting. So this blog will be my forum for today's status update, which is that I am VERY ANNOYED with my cat.

Louie is, as one might guess by his name, a male. Every night Louie goes out and dukes it out verbally with the other local males. They're all too well-bred to actually fight, so they sit on my wall and wail. Loudly.

Thus, aside from my sense of duty to prevent more unwanted neighborhood kittens, I have a vested interested in getting Louie neutered. Once demasculated, he will not be competing with the other local toms for the tomisinas. And I may be able to sleep through the night.

So this morning I was pleased when Louie showed up for breakfast, which he doesn't always do. I had a vet's appointment, a borrowed car and a cage lined up, and all I had to do was to shove Louie in and get to the vet by 8:15a.m.

Or so I thought. Halfway to the car, Louie managed to open the cage door and off he went. Now I have to start the whole process over again. But I will prevail! In the meantime, Louie is still out there, balls intact.....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I had been expecting my cousin for Shabbat. She and her husband, from Toronto, are in Israel for their first-ever visit. She's actually my father's first cousin. She has been in tons of places throughout the world, usually some far-off village in South America or Africa doing aid work. My father's whole side of the family is very into "social justice" and "human rights" and this cousin, now probably in her late '60s, has never been interested in making her donation and going home. She goes to these little places and does whatever she can to alleviate suffering.

This time, the Canadian Government (they're from Toronto) sent her to Georgia to help -- not Sherman's Georgia, but Shevernatze's Georgia. Anyway, she was "in the neighborhood" so she's finally here in Israel! Unfortunately by the time they'd finished traveling (her husband met her here) they were wiped out so they spent Shabat in Tel Aviv and are on their way up today.

It's so exciting to have family come to visit. First of all, I just enjoy it. And secondly, it gives my kids a sense of family that I think is really important. Of course, it's hard for them to put it all together ("she's who's sister? And how is he related? And your grandmother had how many siblings? And where does everyone live?) because they don't know very many of the relatives -- when I was growing up, we knew the basic lineage of the lines of my great aunts and uncles because they all lived in the same area. But it's changed a bit -- we obviously don't live near anyone, and actually the extended family which was once centered in Detroit, dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles, has now mostly left.

On the other hand, that's life. And you never know.....last week, I went to the wedding of some friends' daughter -- #6 of 7 kids. The first 5 are all married with children, and all through the wedding, the grandchildren, numbering over a dozen so far, dashed in and out between legs and under tables. So establishing a new line is another way to express the importance of family. Someone just told me that the American Jewish birthrate is 1.1 children per couple. And that's INCLUDING the 6+ kids-per-family of the average Orthodox family.

Really sad.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Vacation Days

According to my contract at work, I'm entitled to half of the intermediate days of the holiday as vacation days (Chol HaMoed). This year, Chol Hamoed is the whole week, from Sunday - Friday, so I get 2 1/2 days off. These vacation days are a problem, because I get used to getting up late, having my coffee leisurely, wandering around to the stores that I want to go to, making myself a yummy lunch....yup, I really get used to this type of life. And then I think "how am I EVER going to go back to work?"

My soldier-daughter was in Tzfat yesterday with "her" soldiers, the ones who are doing the course that she is working with. It's called "Nativ" and is for soldiers who aren't Jewish and are thinking of converting -- mostly Israelis who have grown up in Israel and are very Israeli, but whose fathers are Jewish and mothers aren't (mostly from the Former Soviet Union) so they will need to undergo conversion if they wish to be Jewish. The course takes them on trips and teaches Zionism and Judaism as a preparation, for whoever wants, to do the conversion seminar afterward.

Last time they were in Tzfat, Yochi didn't bring them to the Tourist Center where I work, but this time she did, and of course, I wasn't there. I felt a little bad.....she finally brought them to my place of work which is actually quite interesting. But gee, I loved my day off! (She came home for an hour for a shower and to check her Facebook)

We had renters for a few days this week, so there's a lot of laundry. Yochi is bringing a friend for Shabbat/Simhat Torah, and my nephew and his friend might stay too. So I need to do the sheets NOW. But before I do anything else, I will go up to town for some vegetables and some new scarfs......Mica (the hat-eating hound) has gotten ahold of two of my hats this week and I need some replacements.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Succot. Succas all over the city, every walkway, every sidewalk, even on some streets.

As one walks along the street, you pass by families who are eating their meals in their succas, kids who are playing games with their siblings and friends in the succas, and even sometimes you can see someone snoring away in their succa. Very different from America, where everyone's succa is in their backyard.....here, no one thinks twice about erecting their succa on the sidewalk next to theri house if they don't have another spot available.

We're lucky. Not only do we have a porch where we can build our succa, but it's a 2-second walk from the kitchen, making it incredibly easy to use. I worked for the first 3 days of the holiday, but now I have 2 days coming up, and I'm looking forward to just sitting in my succa to read, have a cup of coffee, or hang out with a friend. Problem is, I have so many other plans for my days off....

Hagai is around most of the day, but goes out with his friends at night. Margalit has been shipped off to Tel Aviv for a day with her sister, which is kind of fun for me too.....it's so QUIET and I don't have to worry about what a horrible parent I am because she's spending so much time on the computer. (Of course, I'm sure that while she's with Ariel in tel Aviv, she's watching a bunch of TV and playing on the computer there too, but such is life) My nephew just showed up with a friend from Jerusalem, and even with the room downstairs rented out, we found a corner for them.

My Moroccan neighbors are having their yearly Succot Simhat Beit HaShoeva, an evening of food, music (LOUD) and entertaining. WHY do Moroccans have to be so loud? This year, I found a new method of self-preservation. I just drank a bottle of wine, and for some reason, the loud music doesn't bother me too much. Wonder why....

I'm fading....time to go to sleep. Happy succot. (I guess that I'm not drunk enough to spell badly....so far, so good, huh?)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Afterward

"Why did you make chicken? Nobody likes chicken except for you."
"You need to move the furniture in the living room around. The room looks disgusting"
"Did you wash your hands before you made the food?
"Who washed these dishes?
"Are these sheets clean?"
"You could easily fix the enamel on the bathtub with a special paint".
"There's so much wasted space here. I'll show you how to rearrange the furniture"
"Did you put the vegetarian hamburgers on grill first, or after the meat ones?"
"Who are the guests?"
"Why do you let the dogs on the furniture?"
"You're always complaining that you have so much to do. Anyone could spend a little time and
paint the room".
"I hate when you put the dog's food in the kitchen".
"If you'd just listen to me, I could help you make better use of the space in the house. We only
need to get rid of these shelves, this bed, this cabinent ....."
"Don't use the plastic dishes for the first course. I'll show you how to serve it."
"Don't you ever clean the stains off these dishes?"
"Why do you.....?"
"How could you....."
"I hate when you....."
"You don't know how to......"
"You don't know the right way to......"

Thanks for asking. It was a wonderful holiday with the family.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Erev Rosh Hashana

1. Shop
2. Bake baked goods (including b'day cake for Ariel and Hagai)
3. get tofu for veggies
4. drinks
5. Bake chicken
6. cube meat and cut vegetables for meat dish.
7. grill red peppers for same
8. make potato puff mixture for same
9. cut potatos, sweet potatos, and apples for tzimmis. Season and bake
10. Challah dough
11. molassas cookies (since no one eats honey cake here)
12. rice (sauteed onions and carrots, mixed with cooked rice, olive oil and chopped nuts...yum)
13. Tabouli fixings
14. clean floor -- hasn't been washed all week, yuck, Mica sheds a LOT
15. Simanim (symbols) for the table: apples and honey, dates, gourd, carrots, beets, cabbage, fish,.....
16. green beans with sauteed (fresh!) mushrooms and onions. Yum.
17. make lasagne (meal for the veggie crowd)
18. make salmon (well, not COMPLETELY veggie)
19. bake burekkas
20 wine and grape juice
22. bake challahs
23. second lunch -- barbque? Thundershowers are expected. Prepare alternate.....meat ball sauce, to be ready if necessary.
24. phone Safta, brothers, Jerusalem relatives, grandparents
25. make beds for visiting kids and their spouses/guests
26. floor in Hagai's room
27. salads: egg, avocado, vegetable, humos
28. last minute shopping -- milk, etc
29. Candles
30. Toilet paper, cut
31. electrical appliances set for Shabbat settings
32. a nap?
33. SHANA TOVA TO ALL, especially anyone who has never thought about this before -- you know who you are (and so do I).

Rosh Hashana in Tzfat

Rosh Hashana is tomorrow night, and the amount of shopping, cooking and cleaning that still needs to be done is staggering. One daughter is bringing her roommate (and the roommate's father) and another daughter may be bringing a friend as well. And, of course, my son is coming with his wife! I also invited some neighbors and friends for a few of the meals, so between everything, there's quite a bit to do. But it's such a happy time, and there's always such a feeling of renewal in the air at this time of the year (and satisfaction that I did manage to reach some of my goals from last Rosh Hashana -- my kids might not think so, but I do believe that I've yelled less) that I'm in a great mood.

While I work, there's a guy walking up and down the street outside, saying Tehillim (Psalms). And many of the beggers that I try to give a couple of shekels to every time I walk down the main street have given me new years blessings -- one guy goes on and on, and insists that I say "amen" after each part of the blessing. Passing these people in the street and engaging in conversation with them humbles you in a way that a check to your local charity doesn't -- you're forced to come face-to-face with the people who, for whatever reason, haven't "made it", even minimally, in today's society.

There's been a debate going on our local discussion board . It was set off by a letter from a local mother whose son was told by a neighbor that her (the neighbor's) children would no longer be able to play with this child because he was not religious.

Aside from the ethical question of the neighbor confronting an 8-year-old to tell him to stay away from her precious children, the question has unleashed a storm of controversy. Those who support the mother say that a parent must do whatever possible to bring up their child to keep Torah and mitzvot, including keeping the child away from improper influences.

The opposing view, of which I count myself a member, says that if a family feels that their education is strong enough, they shouldn't have to ban their kids from play from anyone who is different. Secondly, it's important for all of us, children included, to realize that there are different ways of looking at the world, and to respect and honor people who see things differently.

The dialogue between the two sides has brought on its share of secular-bashing and haredi-bashing, which is unfortunate, because it takes the discussion into a space where each side feels its back against the wall.

Reminds me of the story of the messiah coming to earth, and being tossed out of synagogue after synagogue because his head-covering was never the right one for the synagogue in which he was visiting. Finally, he left -- mankind wasn't ready for him.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

If You Will It.......

Theodore Herzel famously said, when talking about creating a Jewish homeland, "if you will it, it is not a dream" (or something like that....I get fuzzy about these things).

I'm sure that that's not true 100% of the time, but I noticed that it worked for me, when I was faced with a dead bird in my yard the other day.

I have to back up and say that of all the things that I find to be difficult to deal with, dead anythings is at the head of the list. I can happily grab the biggest and hairiest spider and toss it out the door without a second thought. I won't kill it though because then I'd have to deal with a Big Hairy DEAD Spider, which gives me the creeps.

I managed to bury our dogs when they died, but in general, I stay away from anything that's not alive. That's why, when I noticed a dead bird (a big raven, not a little thing either) laying between the bushes 2 days ago, I just thought "I'll deal with this later". And when later turned out to be nighttime, and I couldn't see the thing and realized that it would take another day, I wasn't disappointed.

But throughout those two days, I kept imaging scooping up the bird with a shovel and putting it into a box, and then taking the box up to the garbage can. Over and over, the image played on my mind. So when the time actually came for me to do the deed, I wasn't as flipped out as I had been, and managed to send the bird onto its final resting place (the garbage can.....I'm not a saint). Now, maybe I can image a full-to-bursting bank account?

Rumor has it that Madonna, who was playing concerts in Tel Aviv this week, is expected in Tzfat. I'm playing it cool......she'd certainly want to stop in at the Tourist Info center, right?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Passing along emails

I'm generally not a fan of passing along emails, but every once in awhile, someone sends me something that's especially worthwhile. The following message is one that everyone should take seriously:

Please read!!!
If you are an owner of a dog that belongs to a 'dangerous breed' category and you also have a child or a visiting small child please take this as a warning.

Don't leave your dog with a small child unattended under any circumstances!!!

Only one little moment was enough for the following to happen.
See the photo below .....






Sunday, August 30, 2009

Resolutions

For a full year, I've been using my son's upcoming wedding as a border, as in "we'll xxxxx After The Wedding".

Well, the wedding has passed, and I need to regroup and:
1. Diet
2. Do some home repairs (I mean, com'mon, a bit of paint would make a big difference on the walls that have had posters torn off of them, and after that, I can worry about polygogging -- patching -- the roof. It won't rain too soon, will it?)
3. Upgrade the ol' computer (considering that I do a fair bit of work from home, not to mention the kids' use it a lot, it's ridiculous that it moves as slowly as it does)
4. Diet
5. Get back to daily walks (I know two pooches who will be pleased with that resolution)
6. Get back to genealogy research
7. Get rid of all my old clothes that have stains that I never see until I'm out of the house, in the sun, and it's too late to turn back and change


That's enough to get started.

The kids go back to school this week. Hagai has decided to return to his conventional high school for 12th grade. He had enough of riding horses and having puppies follow him around the hallways of his "alternative" farm/school. He's thinking of adding Physics to his curriculum, and doesn't envision any difficulty in catching up with the material that everyone else has been learning for the past 3 years, and he probably won't. Intelligence is NOT his problem. Fitting into The Box is.

Gal is starting Junior High School. She's going to the AMIT school to begin with, and may transfer to the Ulpanit (more religious school) after the first few weeks. It's up to her -- I'm not sure whether to encourage her to switch or not. On the one hand, I'd like to see her in a framework with girls who are more committed religiously than the regular AMIT kids tend to be. On the other hand, if she feels pressured to conform (which the Ulpanit is famous for), she may just chuck the whole thing.

I did go out and spend 500 shekels on new Ulpanit-appropriate clothes, so I guess that I'm not giving up all-together......

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mary Mary, Quite Contrary, How does your Garden Grow?

In my case, it's not my garden that's growing (though the window box with the mint is doing nicely, thank you).

It's my family, and not only are new sprouts sprouting, but old branches and tangled leaves are becoming intertwined with the trunk that we once thought that we knew pretty well.

Growing up, my father's maternal side of the family was pretty tight. Seven siblings had come from Belerus (Bobroisk, near Minsk)during WWI (they had to travel through Japan, because the Atlantic was closed to civilian shipping) and most lived in the Detroit area. Cousins grew up near each other, and till today, there's a family newsletter that comes out fairly regularly and a family reunion every few years.

My father's paternal side was looser -- my grandfather came from Lithuania (Birzai, we believe) with his sister and a cousin. There was some contact between the cousins on that side, but as the first generation has grown older, the connections are lessening. Even more frustrating is the fact that two sisters were left behind in Lithuania, and we know almost nothing about them, their families, or anything about them so that they can be memorialized, as they almost certainly were killed in the Holocaust.

My mother's maternal side was similar to my father's....The Aunts made sure that we cousins all had ample opportunity to socialize and feel the importance of family, and I even had one cousin who was my age and who I was very close to as I was growing up.

My mother's father came to the states from England in 1918 (or thereabouts). His wife, my grandmother, was the family correspondent, and the decades that she wrote and kept in touch were rewarded in 1977, when I first met my aunt and her family while visiting England. They wouldn't have known me if I would have fallen on them otherwise, but just the knowledge that I was their cousin was enough for them to welcome me into their home, their lives, and their family. We've remained in touch ever since -- some of the family came to live in Israel before I did, and for a long time, they were my only relatives in Israel -- they made a big effort to come to our family affairs, important, since no one else really could.

The recent (last week) wedding of my son has made me reflect on family connections and their importance. A number of cousins turned their lives upside down to come and celebrate with us, and it's given me a whole new outlook on the concept of family.

I'd dabbled in genealogy in the past and even tracked down some information. Mostly, it's my cousins (some of whom were at the wedding) who have done the massive research that is allowing us to slowly put the pieces together that allow us to learn about our roots and heritage.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One Down, Four to Go

So, did I mention how great the wedding was? I can hardly believe that it's over!

To recap, my son, Avishai, married his young lady, Leibat, on Wednesday, at a lovely garden wedding hall just north of Tzfat. The couple organized everything, choosing the place, food, 3-piece group that played during the reception....everything. So I didn't know exactly what to expect, just that I was responsible for getting my other children (and myself) outfitted, made-up, hair-styled (DON'T get me started on that.....I caved in) and there on time.

What can I say? It was so great! Very mellow, great vibes, everything went smoothly (I did have a moment of blanching when the rabbi, under the chuppa, explained to everyone that the ketuba was to protect the woman in case of a divorce -- being a full month after my divorce, I thought that that was a little iffy, but the rabbi couldn't have known)and terrific melding of all the different groups.

Avishai and Leibat left for a week in Rhodes on Thursday, so the Shabbat was with Leibat's family and my relatives who had come for the wedding -- my mother and brother from Detroit, my other brother and his family with our niece and her husband and baby from Jerusalem, cousins from Rananna, cousins from LaPorte INdiana(!) and my newfound cousin from New Zealand(!)

That story deserves its own posting, but it should be said that family is family, and this cousin and his wife, whom none of us knew about until about a year ago, melded into the family like butter on toast, and it was exciting and wonderful to have him join us. (And I'll be that he'll have a lot of stories to tell when he gets home!)

Tomorrow, back to the real world. I"M NOT READY!!!!

Laurie

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wedding

Tomorrow is my oldest son's wedding. I've taken the week off to get ready. Most of the work involves preparing for the Shabbat after the wedding -- the bride and groom are leaving for a week away, but many guests will stay over and we'll do Shabbat together. So I've been madly cooking and freezing for weeks, and ony hope that everything works out well. I don't know if there's just so much to think about or what, but I've been sleeping A LOT lately.

Three nice young people rented my guest room for 2 nights, as a surprise -- I hadn't been expecting anyone this week. They told me that they'd be back last night at about 7:00p.m. after a day at the Kinneret, but when I went to sleep at 10:30p.m., they hadn't come back yet. So I worried -- had something happened? Were they OK? Talk about needing to get a life! But I guess that once a mother, always a mother.

As of this morning, they're back. For anyone who wondered....

Woke up this morning to find a couch pillow had gotten in a fight with Mika, and lost. Pillow stuffing was all over the floor, and Mika was laying there like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. I think that the time has come to chain her to a central spot at night -- as it is, I have to put our shoes and my hats up high before I go to sleep, and make sure that all newspapers are out of reach of her mouth. What else?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Klezmer etc

By Friday of last week, I was almost delirious in anticipation of a Shabbat when I could do zero. Between work (the 3 weeks following Tisha B'Av are the major vacation time for the religious public; August is the major vacation time for most Israelis, and Klezmer week brings thousands of extra people to Tzfat, where the Festival is held -- at the Tourist info Center where I work, I didn't stop talking for a moment!), my own rental unit (full, full, full, though I had to keep running home every day to clean it and get it ready for the next guests), selling beer on the street (a friend's Dancing Camel, which he brews in Tel Aviv and which I'm supposed to be marketing in the North -- no time, which is too bad, because it would be a nice sideline, but in the meantime, I sell it from my house) and just trying to keep some sembelence of a home/family life, I was EXHAUSTED.

The only bad thing about Shabbat is that it ends, and then the treadmill starts up again. Everyone asks how I'm doing, as we prepare for my son's wedding this Wednesday. I have a bunch of lists, and as long as I stay on top of my lists, I'm fine. The major part of the preparations involve the Shabbat following the wedding, when my out-of-town family will be staying over, and I'm preparing Shabbat for them. So much food! Plus, I invited my new in-laws (the bride and groom are slipping away for a week in Rhodes, so we'll all be there without them) to join us, so I want to make a nice impression. I know that everyone will help out, but I'm trying to cook and freeze as much as I can beforehand. Tomorrow will be a busy day because I'll be shopping, and then have to get everything to the Livnot campus, where we'll be doing our meals and where the guests are sleeping.

I have been considering opening 2 of my old pensions which have relatively small sums in them, but would be helpful now. It involves a ton of paperwork to do, but would give me a few thousand dollars to give me some breathing space -- fix the computer, buy some paint for the bedroom, pay the kids' school bills for the year, etc. My natural inclination is to be cautious and save, but there's something in me that says, "you know, you could drop dead tomorrow and then how much would you enjoy that money?" Natural inclination is loosing out here.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Henna









I've lived in Tzfat for 24 years, and have heard, often, that so-and-so is going to a "henna". But I never had much of an understanding of what it was until last night, when my son's in-laws-to-be hosted a henna for their daughter and her intended (my son).

We were invited to a local restaurant where we (the families of the hatan and kallah -- bride and groom -- took the obligatory pictures, and then mingled with the arriving guests as they began to arrive, with Avishai and Leibat greeting everyone at the door. Since the "mechutunum" (in-laws) come from not-small families (Leibat's father is one of 10 siblings, and her mother is one of 4) we were, as one can imagine, completely outnumbered. The Rappeport extended family in Israel is quite small (my brother and wife/kids, a niece and her husband/baby, and some scattered cousins in Tel Aviv) and they couldn't come anyway, so we invited some neighbors who are like friends, and just gave outselves over to the fact that the evening would be mostly Dahans.

When everyone arrived, we sat down to the first course, home-baked pita bread and some amazing salads (I HAVE to learn how to bake a mushroom like that!). Then, the party started. Avishai and Leibat made a formal entrance, and the music began, with everyone dancing to a mix of Moroccan/Tunisian music (her parents are Moroccan and Tunisian....I don't remember who is what, and I'm not sure what kind of music it was, but it was lively and fun!). I was quite suprised at how great my kids danced, especially Avishai, who can boogy Sepharadi-style with the best of them.

After a LOT of dancing (my feet were killing me....wrong shoe choice) we had the main course, which was delicious. Then, the main ceremony started. Avishai and Leibat sat on chairs in the middle of the room, and her mother and I gave her jewelry which we'd bought for her (in our case, Avishai picked everything out). Then we all went outside and took platters of cakes which had been prepared, and to the accompaniment of more music, brought them in, held high, like an offering to the couple. At the head of the procession was a bowl of something that looked like chocolate pudding with candles stuck in the middle of it.

After a LOT of more dancing, this time with the platters of goodies, (and this time, I took off my shoes) Leibat's aunt started scooping out the "pudding" and placing it on everyone's hands, Avishai and Leibat first. The "pudding" was henna, a kind of dye, and it's supposed to signify good luck. Then, everyone got henna blopped on their hands, and after a lot more dancing, the henna ended.

I asked Leibat's mother about the significance of the henna ceremony. She said that she didn't know a lot about it -- it's a type of engagement ceremony. I know that Moroccans and Tunisians do it, and Yemenite Jews as well, often with entire traditional costumes which the bride and groom wear, with the bride DRIPPING with gold jewelry (borrowed). Some families do the henna just with the bride and her mother/sisters/other women, closer to the wedding. In our case, because Avishai and Leibat will observe the tradition of not seeing each other for the week before the wedding (and because next week is Klezmer Festival in Tzfat, when the logistics of getting in and out of the city in the evening hours are impossible) and they wanted to do a mixed men/women ceremony, they did it like this.

There will be professional pictures coming, but in the meantime, I got a few snapshots to share.

Now, if one of my kids marries an Ethiopian Jew, I wonder what to expect then?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ah-h-h-h-h-h-h

The culmination of the 3 weeks of mourning in the Jewish calender is Tisha b'Av, a fast day, and by the evening, when we sit down to eat, we really feel like we've been through the wringer. The last 9 days are no-meat days (not hard for us, because we mostly eat dairy anyway), no pool, no showers (for some -- we have never been able to get through that), no laundry......so right after the fast, when everything is wide open once again, it's a tremendous feeling of renewal. Of course, one can't help but to reflect on how many people don't have that renewal.....just as in our history, there were days, months, and years of no easing of the harsh conditions that people lived (and still do) under. How many people never had a meal to sit down to after a day of fasting? How many people still don't?

One of my biggest struggles is to get past that constant worry about what will be tomorrow (mostly when I wake up at 3:00a.m. thinking about my bank account, what's coming in, what needs to go out, and how it's going to balance) and live the day. It's something that I need to learn, to learn that I can control what I can control, and what I can't control needs to be left to Whoever Does Control.

The days after Tisha B'Av, it's a bit easier.....after such intense controls on our lives, it's easier to just say "OK, this year I was able to afford pool membership for my kids, so yalla.....let 'em go and don't drive yourself nuts over feeling guilty about everyone else.

So, if anyone is looking for us, we'll be at the pool this afternoon.

Another bunch of thoughts that keep me awake at 3:00a.m. is everything that I need to do during the next few weeks. Son #1 is getting married, and there's a lot to do. I still need a hat and shoes, need to work out the girls' hair issue, need to prepare for the bride's henna (I'm frantically polling my Sepharadi friends, since it's a Sepharadi custom, about what I need to prepare), need to cook for the Shabbat after the wedding (I'll have guests who have traveled from all over the world, and I have to feed them!) and organize who's coming for the wedding and who is staying over, and where they're staying.....

Anyway, this afternoon.....the pool!

Monday, July 27, 2009

For Fun

Sometimes, for fun, I make lists.

Mostly they're lists of what bills need paying, but sometimes, they're wish-lists. I'd like to upgrade my computer (which I can justify, since I do a good deal of work there), upgrade my camera (not as justifiable, though if I tried I could figure out a way to explain it -- mostly it's that we have one camera that 5 people use, drop, lose, overcharge, etc), things for the house, a bit of jewelry (OK, I'm not completely unmaterialistic).

So.....am I a complete jerk for telling my daughters that, for their brother's upcoming wedding, I don't want to pay a ton of money to have their hair puffed, pushed, creamed, curled, twisted, barretted, weaved, and whatever else they want, since it lasts for an hour or so, and I'm out hundreds of shekels for a few hours of vanity?

Or, should I just swallow and pay, and put my wish list on hold for awhile?

Something to ponder when I wake up at 3:00a.m. to bring in the barking dog who someone has left outside. And then she goes on to eat a shoe, sandal, hat, blanket....all of which items she's gnawed at this last week)

Yesterday, outside my office, a local who had set up a "basta" (stall) on the street became annoyed with one of the shopkeepers on the street who sells Yemenite pancakes (Lachuch). He became very agitated and aggressive, and I thought that he was going to start punching. He was drinking and was completely out of control. So, I called the police.

And, any idea what they said? They said "we won't send the police unless you come here to file a report". I, of course, said "what the......? I'm sitting here with a guy who's about to start a war right in the middle of the tourist area of Tzfat. He's swearing, cursing, and out of control. You won't come?" And the dispatcher got mad at me for assuming that the police will come to check out a situation without me coming to the station and filing a report, a process which, previous experience has taught me can take hours.

I really live in a Third World Country.

On the other hand, yesterday morning I bought some rolls at the bakery and discovered that I had left my wallet at home. So the clerk just said "bring it later". So, six of one and half-dozen of another.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting (and Staying) Organized

A constant source of conversation among my friends is how to manage a household while working. I thought that, after 24 years of being a working mother, I had found most of the tricks of the trade, but an interesting book with some ideas and and helpful suggestions is
JewishLifeOrganized by a "Jewish Organizer".

A lot of it is common sense. I'd always prided myself on having figured out what's needed to keep everything running properly (especially as a single mother), and was proud when my friends would tell me how organized I was. The book, however, has some new thoughts and suggestions that I hadn't considered, and the time that one can save by implementing many of these ideas make the price of the book worthwhile.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walking in her Sleep

Every morning, I come to the living room with trepidation. Our still-technically-a-puppy-but-should-have-grown-out-of-puppy-like-behavior, Mika, gets busy at night, destroying shoes, my hats and scarves, and periodically other clothing. We've learned to keep shoes on a high shelf at night, and I'm trying to remember to keep my hair-gear away from her, but somehow, she often finds new projects. Last night, she discovered a roll of toilet paper, and I came into the living room today (after waking up in the middle of the night to hear her munching on one of my scarves....another trash can filler) to find a DEAD roll of toilet paper. Of course, the entrails of the T.P. were all over the couch and living room.

The stupid dog spends the day quietly resting or sleeping, and looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. But at night......I can't leave her out at night because I don't want her barking during the night. She actually rarely barks, but does sometimes, and that's not very nice for the neighbors, or my guest room guests.

2 days later....
Friday morning...all is quiet in the house. Why not? everyone went to sleep hours after I did! Even Gal, who, at age 13, has joined the midnight-and-later sleepers. Last night she came home after midnight. She had been out with her friends helping the mother of one friend at work. I'm just thankful and relieved that our neighborhood is such that she can easily run around with her pack of friends and there's still enough to do here so that she doesn't go looking for action somewhere else, a worry in residential neighborhoods.

I spent half-an-hour listening to the tales of Ariel's kitten who seems to have come down with hepititis, and is quite ill. In addition to the 850 shekels that she's already spent on the cat (which she can ill afford, and I suspect that I know which mother the next loan will be coming from)we can add up the cell phone bill. I just paid our last phone bill, which keeps climbing every month. I rarely use it, unless it's for a quick phone call to make some arrangements or something, but the kids are always calling their friends. Last month, Yochi came home from the army and spent a Friday afternoon calling all the soldiers that she'd worked with in her previous group (she teaches soldiers who are thinking about conversion). 13 soldiers, each with their own cell phone....I know that it's tzdekka, because she's helping them feel a connection, but still....

My feel-good experience of the week was also animal-related. Last Saturday night I was taking a walk with the dogs about midnight, and some people asked me if I'd seen their lost puppy. Well, I had....saw it walking in our neighborhood that morning. So when I saw it again on Tuesday night, I knew exactly whose it was, even though its identifying purple collar was, by then, missing. Brought the puppy home and fed and watered it until the owners could come and collect it the next morning. VERY pleased with myself. But, also thinking about "coincidences"....if I hadn't been out walking at midnight, I wouldn't have met the people who were looking for the dog, and if I hadn't been on the street at exactly that moment on Saturday morning ( I went out for 5 minutes), I wouldn't have seen the puppy when it was walking by, so I wouldn't have been able to recognize it when I saw it for the 3 minutes that I was walking on the street on Tuesdayk. They say that some animals have reincarnated souls, gilgulim....considering all the coincidences involved in bringing this puppy home, I wonder....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The 'hood

I was privileged to raise all of my children on a quiet street where they could easily walk to friends, to town, to stores....anywhere that they wanted to go. They all had friends in the neighborhood, and all of them are still good friends with many of the kids that they grew up with. My 21-year-old daughter in Tel Aviv rooms with a girl who grew up down the street from here, and my son, who is getting married next month, has asked 2 boys who live within spitting distance of our house to be his two witnesses.

So I can't complain too much that now that summer vacation has arrived, my youngest daughter, aged 13, is out every night until 11:00 or later. She's down the street -- last night was a neighborhood bar-b-que, tonight is a birthday party....and the kids are all neighborhood kids, good kids, and I'm pleased that she's got so much action so close to home.

But....I want to go to sleep!

We went to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for 3 days to look for clothes for the wedding. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that we found very little, and are back to square one, this time, doing our shopping in the North. It was a tiring trip, but I did get to see my daughter in Tel Aviv. After 3 years, she had a right to expect a visit, and we had a nice time. But I should have listened to my gut instinct regarding buying clothes. Tel Aviv is for anyone who wants nice material, but very little of it. Which isn't me.

Tomorrow is my last day off, which is hard....I could get used to living like this.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Guests

Shabat lunch guests were really pleasant and interesting....a couple who lives nearby, and 2 young women who are doing the Livnot program. One of the subjects that we touched on was the way that young Jews see Judaism, and Jews, in America. The girls spoke about what I've heard so often....young Jews see Judaism as boring, and see Jews as JAPS (Jewish American Princes and Princesses) who flaunt their wealth.

Aside from a few pangs that I don't have so much wealth to flaunt, it saddened me, because it's not the first time that I've heard that thought expressed. It was brought home even more sharply later in the afternoon, when I hosted 20 teens who are visiting Israel on a teen program through their camp. This is the fourth year that I've hosted them for a short afternoon "get-to-know-a-local-resident", and I always ask them to say a a few words about their Israel experience.

The first year, I hosted 4 kids, and 2 of them said that their parents had chosen to live in an area with few Jews because they didn't want to deal with the Bar/Bat Mitzva year -- they didn't want to have to shell out thousands of dollars for the expected Bar/Bat Mitzva party, so they chose to move their families to places where there just aren't many Jews!

This group of teens, obviously bright and open, went around the circle, each one saying what a great time they were having in Israel, and how much they enjoyed being around other Jews. Which was expected. What they also said, not unexpected, but still depressing, was how many of them had few Jewish friends at home and no real Jewish community. Only now, in Israel, they were beginning to feel the pride and affinity of being Jewish. A couple of them mentioned that, when they attend Shabbat services at home, it's a boring service -- certainly not anything that would encourage a young 16-year-old to look forward to Shabbat.

So, are any of us suprised that when Jewish kids go to college, few look for Hillel or Chabad House, few search out anything (or anyone) Jewish, and many end up with non-Jewish partners?

Lots of work to do.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Everyone gets to be a sucker sometimes

When I made aliyah in 1983, the process was relatively easy and painless. I came with a group that was making aliyah together, and we were welcomed warmly, rushed through immigration paperwork, and met by a representative of the Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) which made us feel rather....well, wanted.

Fast forward to 2009, my 26th year, when aliyah from North America is handled by the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization. Not only do they give good advice and guidance to people planning aliyah while they're planning (if I had a nickel for every horror story I'd heard about bad advice given to immigrants who were planning aliyah in previous years...the slichim, emmissaries, used to tell the olim anything to get them to come, whether it had a kernel of truth in it or not)but they offer financial assistance and a lot of support for the olim (immigrants) who are on the way, and once they're here.

NBN brings their immigrants in planeloads, so everyone feels the excitement of being around hundreds of other people who are doing the same thing that they are. Aliyah buraucracy is taken care of on the plane by representatives of Israel's Interior Ministry, and when they arrive in Israel, they already have their paperwork in hand. The planes are met by friends and relatives on the tarmac, which is filmed extensively by NBN, and a welcoming ceremony in the airport is addressed by all sorts of dignitaries.

For the last few years, I've watched the broadcasts, sometimes live and sometimes after arrival, on internet. The NBN PR people must be some of the best in the business, because they insure that everything is thought of, and every smile, wave, tear, and excited comment is filmed and broadcast. I, of course, am a complete sucker for this, and always tear up a bit when watching the immigrants who are coming with the exact same sense of excitement and anticipation that I felt 26 years ago, and that olim have been feeling for hundreds of years.

This morning, while listening to the arrival ceremony while I was working, I thought to myself "I wish that my kids could understand this". They're pretty blase about the things that I get emotional about, and I don't even mention most of these kind of incidents to them any more.

This evening however, my daughter Yochi, who is in the army now, called and told me that she was brought to the airport that morning to welcome the new olim. She was excited to have been part of that day, to have danced and hugged the new immigrants and welcomed them to their new home in Israel, and I was moved to hear that, sure enough, some of my emotions were shared by at least one of my offspring.

I'll bet that she didn't get too teary-eyed though.

Report on Aliyah Flight which landed in Israel July 7, 2009


Maybe we'll see some of them in Safed

Monday, July 06, 2009

Klezmer Festival

Every year for the past 10 years, I've unofficially translated the Klezmer Festival schedule for the city. I do it as part of my work for the Tourist Information Center which, while not officially part of the municipality, is run in conjunction with them. So I usually spend a few hours figuring out how to write the names of the bands and musicians in Latin letters.

This year, I called the city and offered to translate it for them officially. They were quite pleased, especially since I said that I'd do it for free. So I figured that I'd try my new trick.....someone told me about Google Translator, which translates documents within seconds.

Sure enough, I plopped the webpage into the Translator, and within 20 seconds, an English page showed up.

Only problem is, it's illegible. The "Simply Tsfat" band became "Simple Tsfat", the Ma'ayan HaRadum Square, which is known as the Ma'ayan HaRadum, came up as "Dormant Spring Square" (not only unromantic, but unrecognizable to anyone who happens to be looking for a performance there, "Saraya Outside" became "Except Saraya" and the "City Park" became "Garden City". Isn't that in New Jersey?

And that's only the first line of the 3-day Festival schedule.

So, it's my turn. Should be up at Safed-Home site (under "Klezmer Festival") in a few hours. If I can figure out how to make a nice table on my site. Translators shouldn't have to be web-wizards, right?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Birthright

Spent a good part of the day looking down into the wadi, watching the forest fires burning. There were 3 different points, so it was pretty clear that it had been started by someone. The news also noted fires in other areas of the country....purely depressing. The one outside of Tzfat was put out by evening, but the destruction is awful.

I had a guest who stayed in my guest room last night from Australia. I didn't have much time to speak to her, but she told me that her father was Jewish, but the family never knew it until after he died. She is in Israel connecting to her heritage. For some reason, in a a number of different ways, I've heard this story several times just in the last week; not always people discovering their Jewish ancestors, but people discovering their heritage which, because of disinterest, neglect, fear, or pure ambivilance on the part of previous generations, they'd been distanced from.

A co-worker who is transcribing the evaluations of the last Livnot program that just finished (a Jewish experience program that I work with) noted that a new theme that she sees is how many participants say that they've been embarassed or ashamed of their Judaism. After the program, they feel proud and want to continue to connect, but one wonders.....how many other Jews out there are feeling the same, but don't have an opportunity to look at their Judaism with pride and understanding (not to mention a bit of knowledge)? Another depressing thought.

But since it's Wednesday July 1st, and everyone is healthy and happy around here, i want to close on a high, so I'm going to share this video that my friend Mikimi sent to me. Few videos actually make me laugh out loud, but this one did.
video

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Divine

One might ask why I am awake at 11:30pm. when
1. I'm tired
2. I need to wake up at 7:00a.m.

I decided to "get ahead" a little bit by cooking the Shabbat chicken early (Tuesday) and freezing it. I do that whenever I am organized enough to think about starting Shabbat preparations early in the week so that I'm not frazzled on Thursday -- especially when I know that I'm having company.

I haven't cooked a whole chicken in a long time -- the kids don't like chicken, and if I buy chicken, I usually buy the breasts. But this time I bought 2 chickens (guests this week) and, being little Suzie Homemaker, covered the pan with tin foil to "keep in the juices" while it was cooking(all right, a secret....I usually just shove the pan into the oven, and when the chicken gets a bit dry, try to disguise it with more gravy).

So, when I went to take out the pan at 10:00p.m., figuring that 1/2 an hour of cooling would bring me to my bedtime, I saw that somehow, covering the pan prevented the chicken from baking as quickly as it usually does. It was half raw. So back in the oven it went, and here i am.

These last few weeks I've been noticing something interesting in my little neck of the woods. It's nothing new, but I never really thought about it before. It's about some oft-used phrases that one hears a lot around here.

Religious Jews often use the phrase "Baruch HaShem", "thank God" when talking.

How are you? Baruch HaShem. How's work? Baruch HaShem. What's the exchange rate today? Baruch HaShem.

Also, there's a lot of "B'Ezrat Hashem", if God wants.

Will you be at the library this afternoon? B'Ezrat HaShem.

Etc.

Well, all of a sudden, I started noticing that EVERYONE is using these expressions. One expects it of the Holy Rollers, but I started noticing that it's a phrase that people whom I wouldn't expect to give much thought to The Heavens use too. Women in clothes that you'd expect to see on a beach, men with earrings and tattoos.....everyone seems to be invoking His name when planning for the future or noticing that things in the present are OK.

It could be something new -- a new feeling of spirituality. But I suspect that all along, the very people whom are sometimes dismissed as being far from tradition are those who are quite close, and less likely than some others to take their spirituality for granted.

Chicken's cooled. I'm gone.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Return visitors

I hadn't had guests for a Shabbat lunch for quite a while, but today we had a full table. Margalit invited several of her friends, and there were some grown-ups too for me....an old friend who came with his daughter and lady-friend, 2 people who are presently doing a Livnot-volunteer program, and a Tzfat neighbor.

In the afternoon, I took the dogs out for a long walk around town. When I'm feeling energetic, we walk up to Biriya, a forest just to the north of Tzfat. The roads are fairly empty at that time, so I don't have to worry too much about people being frightened of the dogs....who happen to be two of the most pathetically scardi-cat-canines in the city. But there are always people who act as though the mere presence of a four-legged creature is going to give them a heart attack, so I try to walk them at times and places when we won't meet too many of these folks.

While walking, even along empty streets, I kept meeting people who I know. And, of course, each meeting demands a bit of "stop-and-talk"....by the time I'd finished with my one-hour walk, almost two hours had elapsed.

Living in a small town has its ups and downs.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dog Days, Dog Nights

Shortly after we moved to the Artists Quarter, we got a dog. Sparky was a little terrier that I found wandering outside the city, and I brought her home. We became the only people in the neighborhood with a dog, and our reputation was "the family with a dog".

Fast forward 20 years, when there are more people around here with dogs than not. Aside from our two (Sparky and her sidekick Angora are no longer with us, but after a number of strays passed through our doors, we are now settled with two new ones, Jenny and Mica) there are about half a dozen other hounds on the block, most mutts like ours. There are still plenty of neighbors who look at dogs with horror, but most are, if not happy, accepting.

Every evening, one of my neighbors and I meet out at the local public square to let the dogs have their last fling before settling down for the night. We're often joined by other neighbors, both with dogs and without, and it's a nice way to end the day. The dogs roll around with each other while the kids play on the side and the grownups drink their coffee and review the day.

There are plenty of evenings that I have to drag myself out there -- after going non-stop for 12 hours or so, I have little energy. But after a hot day and plenty of work, it's a good way to unwind and I look forward to those last 15 minutes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Swine Flu

Sometimes, I can't believe what a baby I am.

Yesterday I felt lousy, and the lousy feeling increased as the day wore on. Fluey, you know. Feverish, stomach churning, no energy, achey.....in short, I had the flu.

Which, when you read it, sounds like "ho hum". Except that when you're used to feeling fairly good and energetic, like I am, is kind of a sign that the world is ending. By the evening, I'd convinced myself that I had swine flu and I was counting my accumulated vacation and sick days. What a baby.

Of course, by the time I had woken up this morning after a good night's sleep, all was, thank goodness, behind me, and I was ready for my morning cuppa. But once again, I'm reminded of how important it is to say "thank you" every once in awhile for our good health. Even something as mundane as the flu (swine or otherwise) can really stop a person in their tracks....how much more so a chronic illness, or a serious disability. We just don't appreciate good health when God gives it to us.

The last week has been very busy. My 6th grader is finishing elementary school this year, and there are all the ceremonies and plans that accompany that event.

Last week, we sat in the school's courtyard for the final party. The kids had been practicing a play, based on the story of Shmuel-the-Prophet, for many weeks, and we were treated to a real theatrical performance of about an hour, complete with dancing, singing, dialogue, and even "special effects" (goats grazing during a pastoral scene, a pony which was walked through the stage when a king arrived, etc).

This kind of performance is quite a regular occurence in Israeli schools. Israeli kids learn to perform from kindergarten, and the ability to organize these performances is a major requirement of Israeli educational staff. I've never seen a stage-frightened Israeli kid....they all take these performances for granted, and will get up in front of an audience at the drop of a hat. I've often thought that it's one reason that Israelis, in general, are so "in-your-face" -- it's a learned behavior that stems from these school experiences.

I saw in the audience of parents with my soon-to-be mechatunim, the parents of my son's fiancee, whose son is graduating this year as well. In addition, I chatted with parents whose older kids had gone to school with my older kids, and with teachers who had taught all my kids, and with whom I'd taught english as part of the school staff a dozen years ago. (Discussing the experience of teaching in an Israeli school is one that would take, not only it's own blog, but it's own encyclopedia!). A true small-town evening.

One thing that I was particularly grateful for was the existence of digital cameras. I filmed a good bit of Gal's performance, and she was thrilled to review the clip on the camera afterward. But as soon as she headed off on her class trip, she was just as happy to erase that clip and replace it with new pictures, and I was pleased that I hadn't wasted too much money paying for film development.