Saturday, July 28, 2007

I have so much to do in the next couple of days; I leave for St. Louis on Monday. Between making sure the house is cleaned, the laundry's done, David has all the provisions he needs, my clothes get ironed, arrangements made for the dog, and a myriad of little details - plus making sure I don't forget anything, I'm a little stressed. I really hate the flight, but I'm looking forward to going and seeing everyone. My grandson won't even know me; he was only 11 months old when I left last year. I got him and his sister, Zoe, huge, colorful towels with their names monogrammed on them. I probably should have gotten my sons presents as well, but money's pretty tight.

The past few days have been excruciatingly HOT. Even though we have ceiling fans and floor fans, it's just been horribly uncomfortable. We decided today that we're going to have to get air conditioning. Even though people are saying this is an unusually hot summer, I just don't think I can live with this heat. Even Emma has been panting and sleeping under one of the beds in the guest room. I gave her some ice cubes throughout the day and she licked them up in no time. David and I had lunch together and then I walked down the hill to Penina's to play mahj with her and her mother and daughter. They have a window air conditioner in their salon and it felt so good! I think that one of the medications I take says that I shouldn't be in heat while on it, so I think that justifies the cost of the ac. Not that we need to justify it, but our cash supply is dwindling fast.

David has decided to start taking the bus to work instead of driving. Gas has been costing us around 300 NIS a week which really adds up. It's over $6 a gallon here. David is still on crutches but he sees the doctor tomorrow and hopefully he won't need them anymore. His knee has been feeling much better the last few days so we're hoping it's healing finally. It's been almost two months, so it's about time. He's felt pretty handicapped and is itching to start using his rather extensive tool collection to build things for the house. The gate he built is really beautiful; he bought some green paint to make it the same color as the fence. Our landlord should be pretty happy with all the improvements we're making to the place, although I have to admit that we hope they decide not to come back and eventually sell the house to us.

I can't forget to take all my notes from ulpan to hone up on the plane. My friends in St. Louis are going to think I'm proficient in Ivrit when in fact, I haven't had any pressure to be speaking it and have forgotten most of what I've learned except for the basics.

I probably won't get a chance to write again until I get back the middle of August so this may be it for awhile. !להתראות

Monday, July 16, 2007

As of last Friday, we have been Israeli citizens for a WHOLE YEAR! Is that totally amazing or what? I am so very grateful to Hakodesh Baruch Hu for making it possible for me to be here. And also for our friends (all over the world) and our family and our home and our puppy and our car and our parnassah and our health -- we may not have much money left but we are so wealthy, it amazes me! I don't particularly enjoy hearing gunfire and firecrackers nearly every night from neighboring Arab villages, but I love this yishuv and our life here.

Let's recap the last week's events.

Last Monday, my neighbor across the street, Miryam, and I took David to work and then went to a women's writing seminar in Har Nof. It was a really nice day; the speakers were wonderful and gave over a lot of useful information.

On Thursday afternoon I took a bus from Kochav Yaakov into town. I left the house at 4, intending to take the 4:10 PM bus, but no bus showed up until 5:30. Apparently a bus broke down, but I'll never know because everyone else waiting at the bus stop found out what happened and were telling each other -- in Ivrit, of course. A lot of people "tremped" (hitched) rides, which is very common here, but I stuck it out. David and I were meeting Tzi and Toby from Ramat Beit Shemesh at The Red Heifer for dinner at 7. We've been wanting to eat real steaks since we got here, and boy, did they have good ones! Tzvi also offered me a job while we were there. He's director of one of the Aish learning programs for women and while I would love the job, I don't really want to work full time. He wants me to work 9-5 Sunday through Thursday. I wouldn't have time to do anything else! When I get back from St. Louis I'll go in and speak with him and we'll see what we can work out. It sounds like something I would enjoy and be good at and he even said I could bring Emma as there's a yard in back! But I think she would be a pain and want a lot of my attention; she'd be better off at home. I'm not going to think about the job yet.

While we were in Yerushalayim, we got two Shabbos invitations by phone! David and I had planned to have two quiet meals at home on Shabbos and then go to a neighbor's down the street for Seudat Shlishi, but apparently people here decide on Thursday nights to invite guests. So on Friday night we went to the home of the Ashkenasi rabbi. The rabbi's wife is very personable. After we benched, David and I sat speaking with her for a long time. Four of their kids were there; the oldest three are married. The two older girls at the table (post high school age) couldn't stop giggling and laughing; they were so cute! The rabbi learns a perek of Mishlei with his family every Friday night and we enjoyed listening to them learn together.

For Shabbos lunch, we walked to the totally opposite corner of the yishuv to the most beautiful house. Deena, the wife, also works for the transcription company I work for, and her husband, Jordan, is the brother of someone we knew in RBS who went to our shul. They added rooms to their house when they bought it and it was so lovely. Their kitchen was double size; one side was fleishig, half the other side was dairy and the other half parve. Three separate sinks, 2 refrigerators, two stoves and two dishwashers, plus six bedrooms upstairs. I tried really hard to stuff that green envy stuff way down in my innards... They were such nice people and their children were so cute. How is it that each family we meet is nicer than the one before?

After lunch we came home and rested for awhile, and then Lisa, Miryam, Penina and Penina's daughter, Rochel, came over for a couple hours of mahj. We would have played longer, but David and I had been invited to an early Seudat Shlishli. Julia and Eliyahu had a funky house (they decorated their kitchen with really cool cabinets from Ikea) and some little, active kids. We stayed there a long time talking.

The English speakers in the yishuv are really close with one another, maybe because there are so few of us. Last night I actually hosted a women's Rosh Chodesh program. It was called for 8:30 PM but no one started showing up until about 8:40, and then they just trickled in. By 9:15, thirteen women had showed up, which was good because I made a lot of refreshments. The speaker was great; she spoke about women and the Mikdash, and it was sort of interactive with everybody throwing in their two shekels worth. Afterwards they stayed for awhile and ate and talked. I'm getting familiar with the faces now that I'm meeting more people. Baruch Hashem! Poor David was stuck in his office with Emma for a couple of hours; I think he fell asleep in his chair.

Emma seemed to need a change of scenery this evening, so I took her out on the leash for maybe the second time since we moved here. We walked to the end of our street (we're the fourth house from the end) where there's an open fence leading to higher up on the hill. I can't believe I hadn't gone up there before now. The view was spectacular! You could see hillside after hillside with small settlements on them (mostly Arab). I can't wait to take my camera there tomorrow. In fact, we haven't taken any pictures here yet. I'm waiting for David to have some time to hang up three curtain rods for me so I can hang the curtains I bought, and that's really the last thing I have to do on the inside of the house. The women last night couldn't believe we were totally moved in already. Some of them said they still have stuff in boxes after living here for a long time. I like to feel moved in as soon as possible. It definitely feels like home now!

It's just so wonderful to be living in Eretz Yisrael. I was supposed to take a bus into town this morning with Penina and we were going to spend the whole day there shopping, but I had a bit of a stomach bug. Hopefully we'll go later in the week.

Th -- th -- th -- that's all, folks!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What a great Shabbos this week! We were invited to a family two streets down for dinner last night -- quite an experience. She's from the States, he's from England and their five kids (ages 10 and under) are all sabras. We realized when we got there that we should have worn earplugs! The kids were all extremely cute and really, really loud. When you don't live with little kids it's hard to get used to the noise level that a lot of little ones make. But they were all very sweet and we enjoyed ourselves.

Today we had three families for lunch; there were fourteen of us. Lest you think I misled you about the size of our dining room, let me assure you that we could never fit fourteen people in that room. On Friday David put up a tarp from outside our front door, connected to the wall on one side and to the top of the fence on the other side. Then we set up a six foot and an eight foot table and put fourteen chairs around it. We couldn't put a tablecloth on because of the wind. Before lunch today David had to wrap twine around the table to keep the tablecloth on. We set the food up inside buffet style. We had such a good time! Miryam and Shaya across the street, our friends Lisa and Dov and their two sweetie pie children, and Pnina and Pinchas and their four teenagers all came. Pnina made extremely delicious challahs and also brought some lavender sorbet that she had made (from lavender that grows wild in the yishuv). David had asked me to make Mediterranean dishes from a cookbook he'd given me, and I have to admit that I had a pretty good spread: 3 kinds of shnitzel (honey-mustard, plain with spices, and cornflake coated), stuffed whole peppers (with couscous), sweet 'n sour baby onions, avocado/orange/tomato salad (without the avocados because they were still hard as a rock after sitting in a paper bag all week), really good eggplant salad, crunchy cabbage salad (okay, not everything came from the same cookbook), and some other things. It was unfortunately hotter than the forecast predicted, but I think I was the only one "glowing" because I was running in and out of the house so much.

After lunch the menfolk left, and Miryam, Pnina, Pnina's daughter and I taught Lisa how to play mah jongg. At 5:30 we went to a women's shiur very close by. That's really the only learning in English for the women on the yishuv and I've been wanting to go but it's been so hot since we moved here. Okay, fine. The אמת (truth) is that David and I have been playing mah jongg with Miryam and Shaya on Shabbos afternoons, but hopefully we'll play earlier in the day so we (the girls) can get to the shiur. There were about 15 women there and I knew 3 or 4 of them from visiting the yishuv before we moved here. Hopefully we'll get some more Shabbos invitations now. All of the women were close to my age and very friendly. I think meeting more of the English-speaking families who live here will help us feel more at home here.

Miryam and Shaya joined us for Shalosh Seudas, as they've done every week since we moved here. It's so nice to have friends right across the street.

Did I mention that Rusty came over to play with Emma today (the dog who weighs 150 pounds) and after he left, Choko (Pnina & PIncha' dog) came over. Choko is more Emma's size and they had a great time running around the yard and house. Something tells me Emma is going to sleep really well tonight!

As I'm sitting here, I'm listening to fireworks in Ramallah. This is the third night in a row. On Thursday night it went on for at least four hours, and you could hear music and shouting, and some of the noise could have been gunshots. They were talking about it at the shiur today. Apparently there are a lot of weddings there, and they shoot off guns and firecrackers. As long as they're not lynching Jews, I guess I can live with it.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I've been told that my font size has been too tiny so I've moved it up a notch. Is this better?

Happy 4th of July! And Happy 27th birthday to my older son! I spent practically two whole days trying to find him a present online. All he wanted was $$$ but I'm fresh out of that these days. Besides, I wanted to get him something just for him; not for his family. In the end he got a cookbook. He enjoys cooking and is good at it, so I hope he likes it. I haven't gotten in touch with him yet. With the 8 hour time difference and him working nights, I have to wait until it's late at night for me to call and be able to reach him when he's not working or sleeping.

And we actually had a 4th of July celebration here today. The transcription company I work for invited all the employees to a baseball game and BBQ. This is the first year Israel has had a national baseball league. The baseball park we went to (one of three in Israel) looked literally like the one in the movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner. It was way off the beaten path, near a kibbutz called Gezer, in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wheat fields. We watched the Modi'in Miracles beat the Netanya Tigers 6-1 in a crushing defeat. Our office manager did a great job of setting everything up. We and our families (David couldn't take off work so he didn't get to be there) got one set of bleachers to ourselves. Thank G-d there was a tarp over it because it was pretty warm today. We all got vouchers for one free ice (like a popsicle) and one free bag of chips. Our company also brought bottles of soda and water for us. After the game, when all the other spectators had left, we had lunch sponsored by Burgers Bar, a well-known chain of restaurants here in Israel, consisting of burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken fillets, fries and onion rings. Then whoever wanted to get on the baseball field got out there with some of the players who had stayed and played a little ball. They had a clown there all afternoon for the kids who painted their faces, made balloon animals, read them stories, did some arts & crafts with them, and played with them on those huge blow-up things that the kids go inside of and jump around on. So, all in all, it was a very nice day!

Earlier this week we had another first, although one I could do without. Someone we knew from St. Louis was נפתר (died) at the end of last week, and her husband and family flew with the body to Israel to bury her. The plane landed at Lod Airport near Tel Aviv at around 7 PM on Monday night and the לוויה (funeral) took place at 9:30 PM in Yerushalayim. It was nice to see so many St. Louisans there; people who just happened to be in Israel visiting as well as people who live here now, who were able to be there with the family. The family then got on a plane the next morning to go back to St. Louis to sit shiva. I can't even imagine how exhausted they must have been, flying for pretty much 36 hours with little more than half a day here inbetween.

What amazes me so much here is the "connectedness" we all feel. Even meeting all my fellow employees today (we all work from home so it's the first time most of us have ever met), we all spoke with someone who knew someone we knew. For instance, there was an older couple there who have lived in Israel for several years whose son and daughter-in-law had lived in St. Louis for a short time, and I knew the young couple when they were in St. Louis. Another person who had been at the training session several months ago was originally from St. Louis and is even related to a good friend of mine. I could give you example after example, and it happens every time we go anywhere. A couple weeks ago David and I were sitting at the license bureau and met the sister of a rabbi who had worked with me at Aish in St. Louis. It's like being part of one family that reaches across the globe.

It looks like I'll be making a two week trip to St. Louis at the end of the month. It's not that I want to leave my home and it's not that I feel an urge to see the good 'ole US of A again. But I miss my boys and my granddaughter, and my grandson turns two this month and I haven't seen him since he was 11 months old. And the daughter of my close friends is having one heck of a bat mitzvah celebration. And I do feel the need to see all my friends and play mah jongg with my group and even to get a Slurpee. I think leaving Ramat Beit Shemesh even after only being there a year was kind of traumatic for me, after just leaving St. Louis a year ago. I think I'm the kind of person who likes roots; I need to feel settled. Packing and unpacking, and then packing and unpacking again eleven months later... As much as I've grumbled, I see that Kochav Yaakov is a good place for us to live and a good fit for us. And yet, the move was overwhelming for me. Now that the unpacking is finished, it's time to find new doctors, new pharmacy, new hardware store, new places to buy all the things we need. I had just figured out where to do all those things in Beit Shemesh, but living here, one has to go into Yerushalayim for most things, so it's time to figure it all out all over again. I don't want to do this time after time! In Beit Shemesh we had that "softer landing" -- many things were in English, like the phone book and advertisements. Here it's all in עברית (Hebrew). We can't read a single thing in our mailbox. Obviously we'll be forced to learn the language quicker, but it's very isolating not to understand a lot of what's going on. At least we're meeting people in the same boat we are, so I don't feel quite as alone as I did a month ago. I just have to give it time. Baruch Hashem there are English speakers here, and people our age, and we have a car. Baruch Hashem for so many things! Our health, our ability to pay our bills, our cute little Emma, our computers, our yard, etc., etc., etc. So many, many things to be grateful for! I know I'm going off on tangents, but I think I'm giving myself some חיזוק (reinforcement?) here. Okay, let me think this over for a few minutes and try to rephrase what I think I've been saying.

(brain working overtime ... okay, just working)

So here it is: I'm going back to something familiar for a couple weeks to give myself some נוח (strength) to get through this point in my life. There it is, David. I didn't understand it myself until I wrote it all out. I know you'll need to do this, too, when the time is right for you.

Did I mention that next week I'm going to another writing seminar? Miryam (who lives across the street from me) is going with me. There will only be about 35 women there this time, and it will be more writing than listening to speakers. I'm looking forward to it.

We're having guests for the first time this Shabbos. Last week we went out for dinner and lunch, and this week we're invited out for dinner, but we're having twelve people for lunch. Unfortunately, our salon won't hold more than eight, and that's pushing it, so we're going to set up tables outside. David is going to put up a tarp so we'll have some shade. We invited the family who lives here that we know from St. Louis (four of them), Shaya and Miryam from across the street (that's two), and their daughter and son-in-law and four teenagers (six altogether), so it should be an fun afternoon. David wanted everything I made to come from a Mediterranean cookbook he had given me, so we're going to have some rather interesting dishes. Miryam's daughter, Pnina, plays mah jongg (as do all four of her kids). Actually, Miryam, Pnina and Rochel are coming over tomorrow for a game or two. At least it only took a month to get a group together here as opposed to about three months in RBS. Yea!

Well, David's been asleep for awhile now and Emma is asleep on the bed behind me (my desk is in the guest room), so I think it's about time to get there myself. A handyman's coming in the morning to put up our ceiling fans which should help with the heat. See you next time!