Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lag BaBuchman

I know this post is a little overdue, but what can I say, I'm a busy lady...
In one of my recent posts I described how the kids prepare for Lag BaOmer. I forgot to mention how the kids transport all their wood. Think about it, they don't drive yet! So instaed, they take the shopping carts from the supermarkets, and they put all the gathered wood in there. Ayelet's ganenet was telling me that the country loses a lot of money from this holiday because of all the "stolen" wood and shopping wagons. I asked, "Don't they return the wagons?" She said "No, they get thrown into the fires!" Theres only one word for that: pyromaniacs! Anyway, now that the chag is over, I can actually say- that if only we all prepared that intensely for Mashiach, and got as excited about it as these kids are for Lag BaOmer, he'd be here in a second. The investement of effort devoted to Lag BaOmer is realy unparalleled. And I finally got to see what comes of all of it: Bonfires. Humongous, 20 ft. bonfires!
We had plans to go to our shul medura (bonfire). Before we set out we closed all our trisim completely- as we had been warned, so that the smoke doesnt penetrate and stink up the apt. We set out and arrived at the medura site. This is how you can tell that our shul is all American: we get to the site, and everyone is just standing around. Some people start spreading out their blankets, start feeding their kids snacks etc. But there is no wood in sight! Here I am mocking the 2 week search for wood, but now I can say understand why its necessary. So finally, one mom starts taking kids with her to go scavenging for wood. Thank Gd the neighboring Israeli bonfires had pity on us and gave us some of their stash! There was about 10 other bonfires going on around us, in this big open space. Seeing what some of these people planned on putting in their bonfires what just incredulous- broken furniture, wooden cabinet doors, mattresses, and of course the shopping carts too! The fires lasted all night, but we got out of there relatively early. It was a great night, and I can certainly consider it a true chavayah!

Sof-Shavua Raguah (Relaxing Weekend)

Every Friday, on my way home from school, I hear on the radio an advertisement that says sof shavua raguah... in a singy songy tune, and I always sigh and say to myself, "If only my weekend realy was relaxing..." My weekend is a one day break from school. By the time you start to forget about school, shabbat is over, and I'm planning lessons again. But, last week I actually managed to have a relaxing weekend! The trick was to DO SOMETHING on Friday afternoon. That is, aside from preps for shabbat and Ayelet-naps. Early last week, we decided that we would go to the beach Friday afternoon. That meant that we got all of shabbat ready before. Yaakov picked me up from school and we went straight to Bat Yam, the closest beach to us. We had a fabulous time. With Israeli disco music playing in the background, Ayelet and Yaakov played in the sand and ran alongside the water, and I got to take a nap in the sun. We had fun watching how the locals were enjoying the beach too. One of the men there was particularly interesting... A chassidish looking guy in his twenties- beard, payot... ran onto the sand, stripped down to tighty-whities and ran into the water. A couple of seconds later, I see him using my beach a a mikveh! Yup, thats right. It was quite methodical, actually. After he finished undressing, dunking, and re-dressing, he ran right back out of the water, quickly put on pants and ran off, just like he came. It reminded me of the Batman movies- Batman appears out of nowhere, takes care of business, and then dissapears into thin air the same way he came.
Anyway, it was wonderful to be there, despite the naked chassid, and it really felt like a getaway. Now I know what a sof shavua raguah feels like!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

City That (never) Sleeps

Yaakov and I have started thinking about communities in Israel that we're interested in checking out before we settle on Modiin. Don't get me worng, we like it here very much, but we just want to see what else is out there. I was talking to one of my dati co-workers who happens to live in Jeruslaem, in a part called Rosco (which always makes me think of chocolate syrup!), I think its next to Katamon. I was asking her, as a veteran Israeli, how she interprets Modiin, how she would categorize it, how it compares to other places where datiim live. She said she doesn't really know Modiin well enough, but there's something about it that's very unique. Aside from the fact that its brand new, that everything is clean, and white, and planned out well.... thats not what necessarily makes it unique. After all, there are many new areas that are going up all the time... Whats unique about it is that its an almost unnatural place. Its Never-Never-land. No one is old here. no one. Not one cane, or waker, or Philipino aid. This is a city of youth. Its also not a busy city. Here, you have a city, but its quiet. Why? Because, she explained, its an "Ir Shayna"- city of sleep, (not to be confused with "Ir Shmayna"- city of fat). Ir Shayna means that people leave Modiin during the day, they travel to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for work, and then they come home to ... sleep. Regardless of the point that she was trying to make- that it will take time for Modiin to become a normal society- I just couldn't get over the fact that here I was thinking that I was moving to the closest thing to suburban New York. But in truth, I had gone from the City that Never Sleeps to the City that Sleeps. How did that happen??!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Its coming

It all started about a week ago. I was at the park with Ayelet at about 5 PM. Out of nowhere, I see a group of 5 or 6 teenage boys shlepping wooden beams. I was tempted to yell at them, they had clearly stolen them from the construction site across the street. But I held my tongue and figured, why start, let someone else yell at them... then a couple days later I saw kids hanging out at the construction site. Rolling over stones, climbing on the mountains of dirt. I was actually begining to see this almost daily. I was a little suspicious, and again, tempted to speak up, but I just minded my own business and continued on my way. Finally last week, on Friday, the principal was making some school-wide anouncements, as she does every Friday. One of her announcements said essentially the following: "Remember to be careful not to get hurt by splinters or nails when collecting branches and wooden beams for Lag Ba'Omer..." A light bulb went off in my head! So thats why the kids are now all of a sudden hanging out at construction sites! They're on the prowl for wood... and everyone knows that wood doesn't come easy in Israel. This was such a new phenomenon to me! --that kids of all ages, from the day after Yom Haatzmaut until Lag Ba'Omer turn into hunters and foragers! I couldn't help but wonder if their parents knew where they were, or whether they supported these actions. Here's the answer: Monday night I was walking home at 10PM from a lecture I had attended. I get nervous walking the streets alone at that hour, but it was literally down the block, so I assured myself. I was already halfway home and I saw a white car driving very slowly up my block, on the side of the construction site. At first I thought, maybe its an Arab driver, coming to take home the Arab workers (they do stay pretty late, and sometimes sleep over!). This made me nervous, so I studied the car a little more closely. I saw that next to the car, on the side of the construction site was a young girl, walking at the same speed of the car. Guess what she was doing? Thats right! looking for wood, at 10 PM at night, with her father, on a construction site! So the answer to my question is YES!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli style

We've had a busy week here first commemorations, then celebrations. For Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron, it was a lot of blue and white uniforms. A lot of sirens. A lot of somber testimonies. A lot of sad songs (I think Israel specializes in sad songs. They love to make you cry. They wait all year just to cram all those sad sad songs into 2 days..). But theres always that light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, it was Yom Ha'atzmaut. A lot of flags, a lot of BBQs, a lot of fun, and no blue and white uniforms- but I'll get back to that later... Everyone keeps asking, how was it to celebrate your first Yom Haatzmaut as an olah? Well, to be honest, I was thinking to myself that this is the first year I actually don't have to celebrate Yom Haatzmaut. I mean, now that I live here... I have nothing left to prove. I always used to feel a huge responsibility to go to the shul or school programs, and surely to the Israeli Day Parade, and always to march no less. Sure, all these things were fun and nice and interesting, but year after year its the same old, same old. Nevertheless, someone like me never let herself miss any Israel related event. Never ever, period. I always felt obligated to demonstrate my love and support of Israel in public. Finally, I live here, and its the one time I don't need to do it. Its just assumed. So it took a bit more effort to get me off my couch on my one free night of the month, but it happened. I went out with a friend to all the local mesibot (parties), saw some beautiful fireworks over the city of Modiin, and it turned out to be a nice night. At one of these mesibot, the band was singing a new remix of the classic "Am Yisrael Chai". There were tons of people- mostly kids and some adults, singing and dancing to the music. The band leader sang, "Ani Chai, V'Am Yisrael Chai". It suddenly hit me... that me, living here, is significant. Not just personally significant, but nationally. Ani Chai- I live, I live here. This is my land, and I have a stake in it, and I'm not going anywhere. Needless to say, it was a powerful moment for me.

The next morning we went on a short hike at Sataf, and then met the Goldbergs and crew in a park near Bar Giyora. It was a wonderful day, the weather was perfect, and the Israelis were perfect. Smiley, friendly, and relaxed. I loved watching what they had brought for their barbecues- everything but the kitchen sink. Literally. We were at the Sataf hiking grounds, and though we were there to hike, many other families were there to barbecue and relax. As we stood online at the drinking fountain, (which was clearly labeled so), a woman approached the fountain to wash her pot and knives with a sponge and dishwashing soap! Well, when you barbecue once a year, I guess you have to get it right. Many people brought whole sets of tables and chairs, mattresses, tents, and hammocks. We even saw a family put up a zip line!The funny thing is though, while it was my first year celebrating Yom Haatzmaut as an Israeli, it was my first year NOT wearing blue and white on Yom Haatzmaut. For Israelis, blue and white is what you wear to a ceremony, or to a religous observance. The kids wear blue and white in school on Rosh Chodesh. Everyone wears blue and white on Yom Hazikaron. But Yom Haatzmaut is considered neither of those. Its really like July 4th. Its vacation, and no one tells you what to wear on vacation! So I come to the barbecue and I'm wearing yellow and black, Ayelet is wearing pink and white, Yaakov is wearing white and khaki. I see Zeva's whole family is wearing blue and white. So I say "Zeva, why are you wearing blue and white?" and she says, "Its Yom Haatzmaut!" and I say, "But look around you, you're the only Israeli family in this park wearing blue and white!" And I was right.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Matza and Peanut Butter

As I sit here writing this, some of you are eating a nice big bowl of Cheerios or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich, and some of you are still chowing down on some matza brei. Our religion is so weird, isn't it? This morning however, I ate none of those. I ate matza with peanut butter and jelly. Now, why on earth would I still be eating matza if I don't have to?! Maybe its becuase I wanted to know what it felt like to be able to eat kitniyot on Pesach. No, thats not it. Maybe its because I wanted to comiserate with all you chutznikim, and go for one more day. No, thats not it either. The real answer is that when the WHOLE COUNTRY plans on going shopping for chametz products motzaei chag, you want to stay as far away as possible. I mean, Israelis are unpleasant enough at Supersol even when they're NOT hungry. So I decided that I will hold off as long as possible. I figure I'll avoid the morning rush, and go out there this afternoon. I have to say though, that having one less day of forced matza makes all the difference. I'm so used to planning out that first chametz meal for hours and hours. You could go with the traditional pizza, or a bowl of your favorite cereal, or maybe just go out for some good ice cream. But honestly, I didn't feel that way here at all, which is why its 10:15 AM. and I haven't eaten chamtz yet, but whose counting?

As painful and exhausting as the pre game cleaning and cooking is, I'm begining to think that the post game is worse. I had a week off before Pesach. I cleaned and organized and bought and cooked leisurely. There was an excitement in the air. By now, I've had enough of all of that, but I can't go on eating matza and peanut butter forever. (I probably could last a while on that, but I don't think it would be very good for me). The real chametz has to come out sooner or later and that means everything else must be away. Who has energy for this? I don't think anyone does. Maybe thats why everyone forces themselves to turn over their kitchen immediately after Pesach, chik chok. If I didn't live in an apt. where the kitchen is 3 steps away from the lightest sleeper of all time, maybe I would have mustered up the energy to do it last night too. What did I do instead? Uploaded my pics! Its a good think I have a blog, or else what would I do to procrastinate right now? Back to the kitchen...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pesach highlights

Pesach highlights, in chronological order:
1. Having the best Rabbi ever- who says you don't need to cover anything! not the stovetop, counter, or sink!
1. Walking down Emek Refaim at 5:30 erev Pesach and being able to hear a pin drop... thats how quiet it was...
2. Being at the Bittons and experiencing a "sefardi" seder. Luckily they were nice to us and didn't sneak any kitniyot into the food. Yaakov and I were mesmerized and perhaps a bit obsessed with their charoset, which uses dates instead of apples.
3. Ayelet staying up for the whole seder and singing Mah Nishtanah- hows that for a non-religous gan?!
4. Keeping 1 day of yom tov (I just had to rub it in...) the only thing I missed on the second day was that Sefardi charoset.
5. Eating out at Burgers Bar.
6. In a makolet, seeing people who don't look the least bit observant make sure the ices were "kasher l'pesach".
7. Driving an hour on the highway and along the way seeing at least 50 cars pulled over just to take a random hike somewhere.
8. Spending Shabbat in Ramat Eshkol and succeeding in looking Chardei! (minus the Banana Republic belt).
9. Taking tiyulim with my family! (That includes husband, daughter and cousins!
10. Surviving Pesach without eating one egg kichel (no such thing here!) or matza pizza (couldn't find tomato sauce without kitniot)!!!!