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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