Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bummer, dude and dudettes! Big time bummer! For the first time in the 10 months, 2 weeks and 4 days since we've made the Holy Land our home, I have met disappointment. It only lasted about 10 seconds before I acknowledged the fact that in the scheme of things, it was so low on the totem pole of meaning as to be, well, meaningless.

It seems that the word "Slurpee" in the land of Israel, like so, so many other things, is relative. Whereas in chutz l'aretz (outside of the land), it's that wonderful thirst-quenching brew with exactly (if one happens to be lucky) the right concoction of coke and ice blended together. Here, I found out today by making my way by bus to the Takana Merkazit (after trudging through Emek Refaim in the heat to buy freshly-ground coffee for my hubby), the term "Slurpee" means the same fruit flavored slushy that every other store and kiosk sells.

Heaven forbid, I don't want to discourage anyone from making aliyah, but I think it's important that one should be aware of this sad truth ahead of time. As I said, it's totally meaningless in the scheme of things. It was just that hopeful expectation that got squashed in the space of a second... May this be now and forever the worst disappointment I'll experience here!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We just finished our first Shavuot in Israel -- I counted the Omer every single day since the second night of Pesach for the first time! I wish I could say that my middos improved and that I learned Pirke Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) during that time, but I'm working on baby steps. Itty bitty baby steps.

I actually finished reading today one of the most awesome books I've ever read: Holy Woman by Sarah Yocheved Rigler. She's an incredible writer who wrote about an incredible woman, Chaya Sarah Kramer. Chaya Sarah and her husband, R. Yaakov Moshe, lived their lives with the only thought of what they could do for others. They gave and gave and gave, while they themselves had nothing materially -- and everything spiritually. It was such an inspiring book! It made me ashamed of all my pettiness and selfishness and made me realize how very much I need to improve my speech and actions. I espouse ideals I don't bother living by; I hurt people without meaning to and don't learn from my mistakes; I sometimes don't take responsibility for the things I do wrong or haphazardly -- the book really puts a mirror in the reader's face and makes you think.

So last week we had our interview at Kochav Yaakov. You have to be accepted into the yishuv. While we didn't really feel that there would be a problem, we were still on pins and needles until we called on Sunday and were told we'd been accepted. Yay! In case it wasn't clear in my last posting, we're renting the bottom half of a house which includes the yard. Tomorrow I'm taking the bus into Yerushalayim, and David and I are meeting with Yeron, the landlord, to sign the lease. Then the work begins. I called two different moving companies and hopefully they'll get back to me tomorrow. Then I have to find boxes and start packing. Funny, seems like we just unpacked! I am so not looking forward to the packing. Even though our lease where we live now doesn't end until the middle of July, our lease in KY begins June first. I'm hoping if we can get moved by the middle of June, somebody else can take over our lease in Ramat Beit Shemesh and maybe we can get a month's rent back (we had to give our landlord a year's worth of post-dated checks last year).

There are so many people trying to find housing in Ramat Beit Shemesh -- they say about 40% of the 10 planeloads of new olim Nefesh B'Nefesh is bringing this summer are moving here. There's a lot of new housing going up, but it won't be ready for at least a year or two. There are desperate pleas on the RBS email lists for people who need a place to rent or buy. Our landlord won't have any trouble leasing our apartment, even if he raises the rent.

David's been having a lot of pain in his left knee the past few weeks, and hasn't had a chance to see a doctor. He used crutches last night and today to take some of the pressure off -- good thing we brought some with us. Tomorrow night we're supposed to go to a vort in Har Nof (Jerusalem) for our friends' daughter, but David won't be able to go. I'd like to go, but it means staying in Jerusalem all day and evening, and we're moving in 2 weeks! Plus I'd have to take a bus to another bus to get back home tomorrow night. My mind right now is asking, "What would Chaya Sarah do?" and the answer, of course, is - she would go to be b'simcha for her friends. Sigh.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Busy, busy, busy. I'm working a WHOLE lot more hours for TAB Services now; I've already typed 10 or 12 transcripts this month. And they're getting longer. I have two due on Wednesday - one is 33 pages and the other is 47. They're already typed and at the editor. She'll make needed changes and send them back to me, then I'll make the changes and send them in. It takes a lot of discipline to sit and type for hours at a time -- discipline I don't have! If the quality of the audio is good, I can get a good rhythm going, but some of the audios I've had lately are really bad. It's up to the court reporter to make sure the microphones are positioned correctly. However, sometimes you just can't hear either the attorney or the witness. Sometimes someone is shuffling papers, a lot of times they speak while the other one is still speaking, and many times also they just plain mumble. Plus, depending on the deposition, you have to be familiar with either medical terms (if it's a worker's compensation case or an insured person who had a car accident) or legal terms (if it's a criminal case). It seems like an awful lot of time to put in for only 80 cents a page. Of course, the advantages are working from home. And the disadvantage is -- you're working from home. You know, the place that's way too close to the refrigerator when you're just sitting for a lot of hours each day. Need I say more?

Let's see. Oh, the really big news. We're moving! As much as I want to stay here in beautiful Ramat Beit Shemesh, we seem destined to be part of the "settler movement." Lest that sounds scary and ill-advised to you, I'll just say this: it's probably not so wise if you're thinking totally rationally, but if you believe that this land was given to us (the Jews) by Hashem, and if you believe that all's fair in love and war (meaning even if you don't believe we have the G-d given right to the land, we at least won it fair and square -- every other country in the world has the right to keep lands they win in wars), then the land belongs to us and is legitimately a part of Israel.

Kochav Yaakov is a nice-sized yishuv just 6 miles north of Jerusalem. After a lot of deliberation and ALMOST jumping into buying something we really couldn't afford (but really, really wanted because of our deeply-felt American convictions that we totally deserved and were entitled to have a big house that we could fill with all kinds of things we don't really need because we still haven't learned to control our need for gashmius - material possessions), we found the only piece of rental property currently available in the entire yishuv. And it's perfect for us! A young couple own the house. It's a 3-bedroom on a nice-sized lot with a huge fenced yard on all sides. They built a 2nd story on top to rent out; many people do that to help with the mortgage payments. The family who live on top don't get to use the yard at all; they go up a flight of stairs to their front door from the street. I'm not sure they even have a back door. The couple who own it are living in Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim for the next four and a half years while she goes to nursing school. They may not even move back to Kochav Yaakov, so we can probably stay there a long time.

The street is very close to the mikolet, small grocery store. And David called me tonight from the class he's taking at the Nefesh B'Nefesh office to say that a woman who lives right across the street from our new home is in the class with him. She and her husband are a little older than we are; their daughter and son-in-law made aliyah this past December from Baltimore - and we had met their daughter in Baltimore on our Farewell Tour just before we made aliyah! Small world. In fact, we taught her daughter how to play mah jongg -- and both mother and daughter play! Two thirds of a mahj group already! If that don't beat all.

Before I sat down to write I had so much to say. But now I can't think of anything else. Perhaps because it's 11:15 PM, my allergies are driving me crazy, and I've been working like mad all day. I think it's time to say goodnight.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

It's just past midnight, motzi Shabbat, and there are at least ten fires visible from our mirpeset. No, it's not terrorists - it's Lag B'Omer and the whole country is partying!

People, mostly kids, have been dragging whatever wood they could find to open sites all over Ramat Beit Shemesh (and all over Israel) since Pesach ended. Wooden teepees were everywhere. After Shabbat, people started arriving by cars, by bicycles, by skateboards and by foot, and lighting up. We had to finally close the windows and turn on the air; I haven't stopped coughing for the past hour. We just happen to live on the edge of the city, so there's lots of room across the street from us to build the fires. But Emma and I walked one street over earlier to the empty lot where 2 shuls will be building their new buildings soon, and that fire was HUGE! There was a cotton candy stand and a popcorn stand on the street, men were dancing, the music was blaring. Here, near our building, lots of people brought guitars, and further down the street a whole lot of yeshiva boys were dancing around their fire. People are set up for picnics; they brought tables and are roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Quite a scene. If only I could stop coughing!

It was on Lag B'Omer that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed the Zohar, so we celebrate this "light" of Torah 17 days before Shavuous. Also, in the time of Rabbi Akiva, his students (12,000 pairs of study partners) died because they didn't accord proper respect to their friends. It was on Lag B'Omer that they stopped dying. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is quoted as saying that it is better to burn in a furnace than to embarrass a friend in public, so the light of the fires reminds us to treat others with respect.

David has to be up at 5 to go to work tomorrow; it's still pretty noisy outside...

So, let's get you caught up on the news here in our neck of the woods. David and I had decided to buy a house in Kochav Yaakov until we actually sat down and looked at our finances. It didn't take much for us to realize that we just don't have enough money to buy anything. We could do it but it would take every penny we have, and I don't want to be without some sort of cushion. Plus we'd buy the duplex and wouldn't even have any money to fix it the way we'd want it.

So we're waiting to hear about a house for rent in Kochav Yaakov instead. It's the only thing for rent there, so if that falls through, we're going to have to look into renting something expensive in Har Nof or Ramot (in Jerusalem) where we wouldn't need a car.

(It's 12:30 in the morning and someone is outside in a van with a microphone and speakers and being extremely loud and obnoxious. It's stopped on the street and cars are honking at it to move. Don't they care that some people have to be up early to go to work tomorrow? Oh, wait - this is Israel. Silly me.)

Earlier this week I did something really, really fun. I went to a Jewish Women's Writing Seminar at a hotel in Jerusalem. It was a whole day affair, and the speakers were writers and editors for Mishpacha and Binah magazines, and other well known authors, like Sarah Shapiro and Yaffa Ganz. Just before lunch (very fancy) they drew names for raffle prizes and I won the book "Holy Woman" by Sara Yocheved Rigler. I love her writing! The book was even inscribed, although obviously not to me personally since she didn't know who would win it. It's an incredible book; I read a lot of it over Shabbos. I highly recommend it!

If only I had time to write more, especially now that I've got all these pointers from the seminar. But I've been pretty busy with my new job of typing legal transcripts. At first they were only giving me small jobs and only one at a time. But I have 5 due this week! And the audio quality on two of them is terrible. I keep listening to the same sentence over and over, but the voice "wobbles" or is drowned out by papers moving or other people talking or the speaker not speaking clearly. I can tell this is not going to be as easy as I thought. I think my boss is going to complain about this particular court reporter in Florida who doesn't do such a good job of recording the proceedings.

So, I believe I told you about Lucky, the abandoned dog who's been hanging around for about a month now. Oh, I forgot to tell you - I named him Lucky. I've been feeding him twice a day and taking water to him every time I take Emma out for a walk. The poor thing has burrs stuck all over him and he's so filthy. I posted an email on the RBS list to see if someone would adopt him, and even though two families came to check him out, no one's willing to take him. David said we could take him to the vet and check him out, and if he's okay, we can bring him in and clean him up and then maybe someone would be more willing to consider taking him. But of course, my neighbor, Shaina, was going to drive us to the vet Friday morning and Lucky was nowhere to be found. He showed up at 3:30 in the afternoon and the vet closed at 2. I told David I was going to bring him in anyway, dirty and all, but we couldn't coax him into our apartment building. I had bought him a collar and he was really excited when I put it on, but he was too scared to come inside with us. I've tried several times since yesterday and he gets so close - but then just lies down right outside and won't budge. I don't know how we'll ever get him in a car. Poor thing. I'm almost ready to give up on him, but I don't want to do that. I guess we'll just keep trying to win his trust. I hope he found a good place to sleep tonight; usually he's in the empty lot across the street from us, but there's an awful lot of smoke and people there right now.

It's 1 a.m. I'd better get to bed. I still have to count the Omer - it's the first time I've made it this far! I'm so proud of myself!