So many things to catch up on!
We're mostly unpacked. Let me rephrase that: I'm unpacked. One of us has an awful lot of boxes of computer and electronic parts with nowhere to put them. The house we're renting is MUCH smaller than the apartment we left (I may have already mentioned that) and we've been really creative in finding all kinds of nooks and crannies to put things. But David's office/Beis Medrash (the third bedroom) has bookshelves on 2 1/2 walls crammed with seforim (religious books), a window on the other half wall, and an aron (wardrobe/closet) on the fourth wall that has his clothes and also a couple shelves of some of his computer stuff. But there really isn't any more room to put the rest of it. The shed we bought outside is packed. David's solution is to buy another shed, but we're spending what little savings we have left at an alarming rate and another shed is not a priority.
We wanted to put in a patio outside the sliding doors of the salon, until we heard how much it would cost. Right now the whole yard is just dirt. We paid 700NIS (about $175) to have all the weeds pulled; there was never any grass. And then we paid 1000NIS (about $250) to have the yard (on the side of the house facing the street) be leveled, then covered with plastic, then covered with little white pebbles so we could put the shed on top of it. We've spent another several hundred dollars buying cabinets, shelves and closests, and having pictures and shelves hung. It's a lot of money to put into a place we're only renting, especially since the landlord told us that when his wife finishes nursing school in 4 years they'll be moving back (I need to daven that she gets a really juicy job offer in Haifa or Tel Aviv or Netanya -- somewhere so far away they'll have to sell the house!). So we probably won't put in a patio, even though the landlord (he's very sweet) said he'd pay half by taking it off the last month's rent, and we probably won't grow grass which is problematic right now anyway since the shmitta year starts in September (there's a 7 year cycle that the Torah commands in which we don't work the land every 7th year in Israel. Hashem promises us that there will be plenty of agricultural goods in the 6th year to tide us over through the 7th and even into the 8th when we begin planting again. It mostly pertains to fruits and vegetables, but there are laws pertaining to lawns and gardens as well).
Another big ticket item is an air conditioner. It almost hit 100 degrees today and we have no air conditioning. Apparently there are all kinds of tricks people employ, like keeping the treesom closed (kind of like heavy duty outside blinds that all windows have) and running fans in all the rooms. Even Emma slept all afternoon. It should be a little cooler tomorrow; it's only supposed to be 90! I really don't want to spend the money, although it would be something we could take with us if we have to move.
Sorry, Mike -- we haven't taken any pictures yet. First we have to get more settled and get everything in place. I may be a little reluctant because it's not as pretty here as it was where we lived before. It's hard to explain: Kochav Yaakov is attractive in other ways that Ramat Beit Shemesh isn't; private homes for example, instead of apartments. I'm just feeling a little isolated in a place where most people speak only Hebrew, and all the notes and newsletters we get in our mailbox are unreadable. Lots of kids come over to play with Emma, but they ask lots of questions and I haven't the foggiest idea what they're saying. There was a certain comfort level in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Even though everyone came from all over the world (all over the US, Canada, England, South Africa, Australia), we at least spoke the same language for the most part. And it was the only city in Israel where the phone book was printed in both Ivrit and English. There's an email list for the English speakers here -- we just met very few people yet. David's still on crutches plus the heat's been horrific, so we haven't been to shul yet; they're down the hill and we're up on top.
The good thing is that we met a couple across the street from us, from Baltimore, and we've been spending at least 2 out of 3 meals together for Shabbos since we've moved here. Shaya and Miryam are just a little older than us, and of the English speakers on the yishuv, were the only older couple here. Their daughter and her family made aliyah about 6 months ago and live down at the bottom of the hill, so they have family here. This past Shabbos we ate lunch by them, then we all took naps at our respective homes (it's nice to age gracefully, isn't it?), then they came over and the four of us actually played mah jongg until Shabbos was over! Shaya remembers his mother letting him play when she had her group over (up until the time he was ten), and Miryam also played a long time ago. So this week was just reacquainting them with the game. I seriously doubt that David will want to play mahj every Shabbos, but I'll take it as long as I can get it! Miryam's daughter is in the states right now, but she wants to play when she returns, so we just have to find a fourth for a weekly game.
Okay, let's move on to the less mundane topics! I've wanted to write about this for a week and I'm just now getting around to it (did I ever tell you that my former husband's father once gave him a "round tuit" to carry around, so he would never have an excuse for not doing something? Didn't work...).
Anyway, David and I went to a wedding a week ago tonight that was so unbelievably breathtaking it's going to be hard to explain it. The choson (groom) is the brother of one of my son's closest friends. In fact, they have a whole group of friends from St. Louis and NCSY, and later from all their various yeshivot, and the boys (young men) have stayed close and in touch. So I knew many of the guys that were at the wedding, not to mention the choson's mother who came from St. Louis. My son, unfortunately, couldn't make it, which was the only thing that marred the event.
The kallah is a baali teshuva (she "returned" to her roots) within the last couple years or so. Both of them had been going to a yeshiva in Bat Ayin, a settlement in Gush Etzion just south of Yerushalayim. I don't know if my description of Bat Ayin can do it justice, or even if it's very accurate -- it's just my perception of what this little place is. I would have to say that it's comprised of some very special, young, laid-back individuals who would have been very comfortable living in the hippie world of the 60's. It sounds as if the rebbeim have made many shidduchim (matches) between the young ladies and young men attending their (separate for each) yeshiva. This particular choson will be getting smicha (becoming a rabbi) in about three years, and is part of the kollel there. The married couples are given caravans (trailers) to live in, and they're all so caring about each other. It was so beautiful to see this exquisite kallah giving all of her friends beautiful and heartfelt brachot for their own futures, and to hear these young people praise Hashem over and over, and to hear the enthusiasm as they poured out their love for each other and for Yiddishkeit. What special rabbis they must have there! The chupah was held outside under the stars, on a hillside overlooking the lights of Bat Ayin, and Beitar in the distance. I felt so close to my Creator there! And when the dancing started, and the singing, David and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes and felt that here was the future of our people. It was an evening so heimish, so full of emotion, so full of love. Earlier when the choson came to the bride for the bedeken, no one could breathe as the kallah was so overcome watching her choson walk toward her with a smile on his lips. The Rav finally had to take the choson by the arm and lead him to the chupah, or we would all still be standing there!
Last night we were invited to the last sheva bracha in Ramot. It was at the house of another one of my son's friends and his very sweet wife. We didn't even start until 11:30 PM since it was the longest Shabbos of the year. Again we ate outside and the apartment had an unobstructed view of the entire city of Yerushalayim. How beautiful is this country we've chosen as our home! We didn't get home until almost 2. This morning I drove David to work and then, for the first time, I drove alone into Yerushalayim. I went to pick up Caren, the choson's mother. The plan was to take her to see Ramat Beit Shemesh because she goes back to St. Louis tomorrow, but it seemed that Hashem needed another one of those "I need a good laugh" days. By the time I navigated the right streets to pick Caren up at her hotel and then tried to figure out how to get out to highway 1, and getting stuck in some really nasty traffic, it was too late to go that far. So we just went into Givat Shaul and walked around Kanfei Nesharim and Defus, two streets with lots of stores. It was basically just someplace to walk and talk before we had to say goodbye.
It was so nice to have a friend from St. Louis come. Of course, she was very busy with her sons and the wedding and meeting her son's new family and going on all kinds of tiyulim (field trips), but we still got to see quite a bit of each other.
My company isn't giving me much work; I think summers are kind of slow. I've been giving some thought to maybe going back to the organization I sort of worked for a couple of times over the past year, that raises money to feed hungry Israelis. I'm much closer to the office now, and I could drive in with David and then just take a short bus ride down Shmuel Hanavi. We definitely could use the extra money.
Although -- I'm going to another one-day writer's workshop on July 9 in Har Nof. Leah, the woman organizing it, feels that if I get the right training I could make money by writing a couple of articles each month. I would love to do that! I play around mostly with autobiographical stuff; I don't know how I'd do with non-fiction. Wait -- does that mean my life is fiction? What I meant to say is that I don't want to have to research stuff to write about it. Or maybe I do; who knows? We'll see how the workshop goes.
I'm up pretty late for having had about 3 1/2 hours of sleep last night. Emma seems to like our new arrangement here in our new home. My computer is now in the guest room; it's the only place for it. So she has her pick of either twin bed to sleep on while I'm typing. Sleep on the floor? Not for our princess! She seems to have attached herself to my hip. Emma won't go to bed when her daddy goes to bed; she has to wait for me. If I leave for five minutes or five hours, she acts as if I've been gone for a year. Oh! If I had forgotten to write this, I'd be in really big doggie doo-doo - bigger than Emma's, anyway. On Friday, David spent his ENTIRE day off building a really nice gate to keep Emma in the yard. Our little hussy's been sneaking out to visit Rusty across the street. Let me explain something: Emma is about 10 pounds - wet. Rusty is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150. He's very gentle, but one overexuberant swipe of his paw would put Emma in traction (or worse) for a year!
So now I can let her out in the mornings and not worry that the wind blew down the board we had up. We still have to paint the gate, but it's a really cool shape; pointed at the top with vertical slats, and one long diagonal one. My eyes won't stay open and I can't stop yawning. Could that mean something?