Shabbos was so nice this week (and last week, and the week before...). Miryam called me Friday morning to say she'd just found out that our street was having a "block party" for Seudat Shlishli (the third meal of Shabbat), and that I needed to contribute some salads and a dessert. Oh, wait - let me start with Friday night.
David and I went to the Ashkenasi shul's rabbi's house. We'd been there a few weeks ago. The rabbi used to be the chavruso of someone we knew from St. Louis, and he and his wife and father-in-law (and married son, daughter-in-law and grandson who live in Beitar) were staying here in Kochav Yaakov with them for Shabbat, so they invited us as well. It was a great time; Mordechai and Jonathan go way back and had a lot of private jokes. We really like the rabbi's wife, Chanie, and it was great to see Jonathan's wife, Chanie, and her father, Perry, as well. David walked over the next morning to take Perry to Chabad; they used to daven together in St. Louis.
Our friends, Howard and Lisa, came with their kids for lunch, so Emma had a great time. She loves to lick Hudi and Chanita all over and run around with them in the yard. Miryam and Shaya came also. Unfortunately, it was in the mid-nineties and HOT. We had all the fans going at full speed and I froze a lot of ice before Shabbat. I made a fruit soup which I don't normally do, but it was kind of refreshing on a hot day. I also did something I'd seen Ellen do in Ramat Beit Shemesh; instead of cholent, I bought a huge rolled roast (I have no idea what it was other than a #17) and cooked it in the crock pot with just onions, garlic and onion soup mix. The smell Friday night and Shabbat morning was heavenly!
Around 5:15 PM David took two of our folding tables up to the street and I followed with potato salad, crunchy cole slaw, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a few other odds and ends from lunch. Just about everyone on the street came. David went and got Shaya and Miryam's new puppy, Coco (not the same one from RBS) to play in the yard with Emma. A lot of the kids congregated in front of our fence to watch the dogs play. Everyone put their food on a couple of tables and then everyone just helped themselves. I met a new friend who lives a few doors down and across the street. Her name is Ilanit and she's a speech therapist. Her English is only slightly better than my Ivrit. She says she wants to have us for Shabbat, but the rule is that conversation will be in Ivrit and that they'll help us. I was hoping to meet someone like Ilanit! Professor Bashari and his wife kind of organized the whole block party, and he spoke at the beginning - in Ivrit, of course. Then he introduced us as the new kids on the block, and David told a little about us which the professor translated for everyone (unfortunately he didn't translate anything anyone else said for us!). Several people gave dvrei Torah (we just sat and smiled). Professor Bashari apparently has an extensive wine collection and was going from table to table pouring drinks for everyone. When the men all gathered under a street light to daven maariv, Miryam and I went over to sit with Leah, Nava and Julia - the other three English speakers on our street. After davening, someone did havdalah for all of us, and then we all gathered up our stuff and headed home. It was so nice; the feeling on the yishuv is that all of us - the French, Israeli, South Americans, North Americans, English - are one. The yishuv really promotes that feeling of אחדות (unity). I have to admit that I miss how easy it was in Ramat Beit Shemesh, like being able to know what was going on at all the shuls and in the neighborhoods because it was in English. It's so hard not to be able to read our mail or know what's going on. Miryam, Shaya and we were talking about hiring a private ulpan teacher for the four of us and anyone else on the yishuv who needs it. Otherwise, the ulpan is in Yerushalayim, and none of us have any time to go there on a regular basis.
Last Wednesday I got to go somewhere sooooo fun! A friend took me to Rimonim, which is a another yishuv close by. We took the road towards Beit El, but turned to the right almost immediately (from the entrance to the hill leading up to Kochav Yaakov). Then we just drove through the most beautiful countryside you could ever imagine. Everything was stark; we drove around desert hills on a nice highway - I can't even describe the beauty to you. Next time I'll bring my camera. It was a little disconcerting to see white and green license plates on the road with us, especially when there weren't so many vehicles on the road. My friend pointed out that there are many Arab villages and beduoin tent cities in this part of the "Shtakim" (territories), and there was at least one sign commemorating the site where a settler was murdered by Arabs.
Okay, but now the good part. We got to Rimonim in about 15 minutes. They had the most beautiful, refreshing swimming pool! It's the first time this summer I've had a chance to go swimming. There are different hours for men, women, and mixed swimming. We were practically the only women there for the first hour or so. The pool was HUGE and clean and sparkling, and the view from the hill was spectacular. There was a covered children's pool, and all kinds of other recreational activities. It's probably best not to mention that I could barely swim one lap before I thought I would drown, but I did built up my endurance somewhat while I was there. While my friend swam lap after lap (show off!) I did all the water aerobics I could remember from about 20 years ago when I took a class. And I only sat out in the sun for a total of 15 minutes but of course it was enough that I got a slight burn. The Israeli sun is like no other place in the world, and being on the top of a gorgeous hill - the feeling of closeness to Hashem is just overwhelming. Lately I've been stressing over the problems of family members back in chutz l'aretz, but lying out there in the sun and feeling Hashem's warmth enveloping me, all I could do was say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you" over and over. I am so blessed. I just can't believe that He's showered me with so much abundance. So maybe air conditioning would be nice, but I sure wouldn't trade it for living here. Not that I would ever, ever give up living here (b'li neder), unless it could, in some way, help my sons and nieces and nephews be happy, healthy and productive. But that's all in Hashem's hands as well.
David will be home from work any minute. I'd better go get supper going.