This has absolutely been the best Shabbos I think I've ever had. I think that every week, and every week it's true!
Last night we went to the home of one of my new mahj partners, Andrea, and her husband, Aaron David. They just got married three years ago and each of them has five kids from previous marriages. Andrea does cranial-something therapy and Aaron David works for a company in Ramat Gan that works with firewalls (computer security). That's something that David trained in this last year he was at Nexstar in the states, and they actually called this company in Israel for tech support. It's apparently a great company to work for, and they're looking for English speakers to hire. Aaron David suggested David put a CV together and he would take it to the powers that be. He would get a nice bonus if they'd hire David.
The funny thing is that yesterday before Shabbos I got an email from someone saying, "I heard you were looking for a job; I desperately need an assistant. Please call me if you're interested." I recognized the name from someone who had contacted Aish St. Louis to ask that Rabbi Grunberger contact her sister there and try to get her interested in going to Aish programs. I actually went to grade school and middle school with this woman and I remember her from Girl Scouts! She's lived in Israel for many years. It seems she was hired by a rabbi last September to do fundraising for his organization that provides food for hungry Israelis. She has a department of about 5 and needs an administrator to run the office. Right up my alley! It's in Geulah (in Yerushalayim), but it's right on the bus line and I wouldn't have to change buses. She thought the organization might even buy me a bus pass. I have an interview with her on Tuesday.
So here we thought we'd wait until after ulpan (January or February) to look for jobs, and on the same day, opportunities for both of us presented themselves. It's not so easy to find employment here, especially if you don't speak the language, but it seem Hashem is telling us to get to work! We'll have to do the 2 evening-a-week ulpan instead.
So anyway, we had a really enjoyable time with Andrea and Aaron David. We have so much in common with them and we stayed and talked until really late. When we got home, we sat out on our mirpeset and enjoyed the coolness and the view and the peacefulness and each other's company.
Today for lunch we had a family over who have six sons, four of whom are in the states (one married). Again, they were baalei teshsuva like us, former hippies (he hung around with Rabbi Carlebach in the late 60's - even tried to start a commune in Lake of the Ozarks!). The boys left after lunch and Naomi, Gedalia, David and I just sat and talked for several hours.
Naomi told me about a great shiur (lecture) at 5, so I found my way there and was so happy that I did! It was a group of 8 women at someone's house, and the woman who spoke was incredible (it turns out she's Rabbi Einzig's sister!). We talked about the month of Elul which just started, and about what we needed to do to "fix" ourselves before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Then we went around the room and each one of us spoke; we were supposed to give bracha to others and to ourselves. Each person told incredible stories. When it was my turn, I told how David and I had been planning our aliyah for the past two years and about the challenges we faced trying to get here. And then I said that after we moved out of our house in the states and lived in various places and traveled around before arriving here, and during the month we've been here, we have been surprised and saddened by discovering all the tsouris our friends have been having. Terrible illnesses, marital discord, loneliness, misunderstandings between friends and family members, financial difficulties - and of course the war in Lebanon and Gaza - sometimes the emails and phone calls I've been receiving just break my heart. I related that I felt guilty that we were so happy to be here, to be home at last, when others are going through so much, and that I wished for bracha and good health for all my friends and loved ones. I also know that when things look and feel especially bad, I need to remember that 1) Hashem is in control of everything and He knows what is best for us, and 2) that all of life is cyclical and that sooner or later (in my experience) things ALWAYS get better.
All of the women who were at the shiur go to the same shul we go to, and a couple of them recognized me from last week when I was there (didn't make it this week...), so it's almost like I'm getting a "circle of friends." Not that they could ever replace my dear friends back in St. Louis! But a whole new group of friends to start hanging around with and learning with.
You would think that all these nice things were what made Shabbos great. But there's more! For Seudat Shlishi (the third meal), our entire apartment building got together in the park in our front yard and ate together! Everybody brought something to eat, and tables and chairs had been set out and kids were running all over with balls and it was so nice! Our Vaad Habayit (the person who is in overall charge of taking care of the building) spoke for a few minutes (I have no idea what he said because of course, it was in Hebrew), and then everyone went around the circle and introduced themselves and said what apartment they were in. There are 14 apartments on five floors; we probably know or recognize about half the people. Everyone sang and talked, and when the men went back to shul for maariv, the women pulled their chairs closer together and kept on talking. They did havdallah together when the men came back, but David didn't know and went back up to the apartment when he came home from shul. By the time I came in, he already had the table cleared and things put away. It was very nice! (Actually, he even washed, dried and put away a lot of the dishes tonight - what a treat!)
So, from beginning to end, it really was a great Shabbos: meeting new people, words of Divrei Torah, relaxing. I feel so blessed!
I forgot to mention that on Thursday, which was Rosh Chodesh Elul (the first day of the new month of Elul), we finally went to the kotel. We got a ride with Chanoch and Yocheved in the afternoon, and spent a couple of hours there. Then we walked up into the Old City and met with Avital, a friend from St. Louis we hadn't had a chance to see since we've been here. She looks great! We had a nice visit and then David and I (we couldn't talk her into joining us), walked up Yaffo Street to catch a bus to the takanah merkazit (central bus station). There was a steak restaurant at Center One, a shopping center close by, but after we looked at it, we decided to grab another bus to the Malcha Mall and eat at a nice dairy restaurant there before taking the train back to Beit Shemesh. It was a nice day.
In St. Louis, we never went out to spend a day together, and here we do everything together. If one or both of us both start working, we may not have too many more opportunities. Sunday here is the first day of the work week. People have Fridays and Saturdays off, which doesnt' give you much chance to run errands and stuff. My mornings of sleeping in may be coming to an end...