Sunday, September 23, 2007

I love this time of year! In my past life (you know, before last July...) it was the changing colors of autumn that really got me, but here - oh my G-d - the sounds of hammers and drills late into the night, people dragging palm fronds across streets, etrog stands on every corner - it's so awesome!!

Rosh Hashanah was enjoyable, Yom Kippur was breathless, and now Sukkot is only two days away. David drove to work today, so when he got home I jumped in the car to run a few errands. First I stopped at our makolet (small grocery here on the yishuv) for some fresh vegetables. Shmitta started on Rosh Hashanah and I'm all fahmished trying to figure it all out. Our friend, Dov, said he wasn't sure if we could buy veggies at the grocery store I usually go to but that the veggies at the makolet were otzar beit din. So here's what I understand although it's probably not totally accurate: Otzar beit din is when the farmers make their farms ownerless, then the rabbaim hire the owners to work on the farms. They get a set salary, and since the farms are ownerless, anyone can help themselves to the produce. Heter makeira is when the farmers actually sell their land to the Arabs (or anyone other than Jews). Vegetables with the bodatz hechsher, one of the "highest" levels to look for, are vegetables bought from either Arabs or chutz l'aretz. So that means that Jewish farmers are totally out of luck during shmitta.

So, after the makolet I raced to Sha'ar Binyomin, the little shopping area at the bottom of the hill (maybe a couple of miles from the yishuv). I was afraid the stores there would already be closing, but silly me! Two nights before a major chag (holiday) they apparently stay open pretty late. First I went to the health food store to get a certain flour for my challah. This store has mostly spices. I've been looking everywhere for dry mustard and also for chili powder. The owner said he'd never been asked for chili powder before but I was the fourth person to ask within the last week so he's going to order some. In case some of you were wondering - the Lecy minhag lives on. Yes, we WILL be serving chili dogs for the first night of Sukkot! Long and not very interesting story how that minhag (tradition) came to be, and stranger still that we've continued it, but a minhag is a minhag, after all.

Next door to the health food store is a hardware store, which in Israel means they sell just about anything and everything. I got two sleeves of large plastic cups (the only place I've ever found in this country to sell anything bigger than 6 oz.) and 3 meters of thick clear plastic to put over my Sukkot tablecloth (which our good friends, Albert and Shifra, bought us on their Disney cruise some years back).

And then I walked down to the lower parking lot to the grocery store. What a balagan! The grocery carts outside had all been moved to make room for the lulav and etrog sales. People were milling around, shmoozing, checking things out, shopping. As I drove home in the dark, I enjoyed the almost-full moon in a cloudless, starry sky and the lights of several communities atop all the various hills on every side of me. I love it here! I love this time of year! I actually live in Eretz Yisrael! I am so blessed; sometimes it just seems unimaginable.

And then I got home and there was David (with his faithful helper, Emma) working on our sukkah. After analyzing every corner of our yard, my husband realized the perfect spot. It's in our front "yard" (if, indeed, one would actually use that term to describe that spot). He's using two existing stone walls that make up part of the fence that circles our yard, and since you have to walk down six or seven steps to get to our yard, the walls are pretty high. Later this evening we heard that someone was selling palm fronds up on the main street of the yishuv so we hopped in our car and went down to get some. The boys who were working there put them in through the trunk which opens up into the back seat. We moved the front passenger seat up as far as it would go, but the branches were very long and hung down on the street behind the car. David drove home slowly. He, being the stubborn - oops, I mean independent - person he is refused help from neighbors (actually, wives were volunteering their husbands, but I'm sure they would have helped) and all by his lonesome threw the palm fronds on top of the sukkah onto the beams he'd placed there earlier. It was awesome! For the first time, we have a real, authentic sukkah! And even better, it's put together two whole days before Sukkot! Pictures will be posted sometime in the future.

So now that the sukkah is up, I can breathe a sigh of relief, although not for the same reason as David. What it means, of course, is that he will now be free on Wednesday to make the chili. You see, David is secretly a really good cook. I say secretly because he's always telling me all the things he's made in the past (read: before we married over nine years ago...) and all the things he's GOING to make (for which he buys ingredients in preparation...). But there are two things I know he can make really well because he has actually really made them during the past nine years, and one of them is chili. (The other is stir-fry but I won't get my hopes up on that one because they don't sell half the ingredients here that he uses for it). So now I only have to worry about boiling the hot dogs in beer (real all-beef hot dogs which are almost impossible to find here and real Michelob Genuine Draft - is life perfect or what?) and putting all the sukkah decorations up and cleaning the house and making challah and cooking the rest of the meal - I love it! I love all the preparation! I love the anticipation!

David took off all of Chol Hamoed (the middle days of the 8 day holiday), and after tomorrow he'll have eleven days off work. Hopefully we'll figure out some fun things to do that won't be expensive because we never get to do fun things and we don't have any money. Well, I get to do fun things but David hasn't had much time off so it will be nice that we can do some things together. Now that we have a car, I'd love to take some day trips to places we've not seen yet - and that's just about everywhere outside of Yerushalayim.

I had to call the vet to come out yesterday for poor Emma. The pads on her back paws, which should have been black, were pink and she couldn't stop licking them. Dr. Doni thought it sounded like some kind of contact dermatitis. He's only come to see her once but she apparently remembered him because when he came through the gate with his two suitcases (medications and supplies for home visits), she freaked out. I thought she was going to scratch me to pieces and I could barely hold her. He hadn't even touched her yet! We thought it best to muzzle her because she snapped at him the last time he was here. After he gave her a shot of cortisone and I put her down, Emma just circled around the dining room table while we talked. Then she went to the door to be let out and oh, what a mistake that was. As soon as I let her out, she just stood outside the screen and barked and barked and barked until Dr. Doni left. Even then I couldn't quiet her. When I finally got her back in the house, she stood staring at the front door, growling every few seconds. Somehow I don't think she'll ever let him come back again which is too bad because she's due for shots in a couple of months. I'm not looking forward to that!

Monday, September 10, 2007

I didn't realize it had been so long since I last wrote. Lately I've been getting ready for Rosh Hashanah; actually, mostly worrying that I'm not doing enough to get ready for the new year.

I quit working at my transcription job. It wasn't the right job for me. It seems I need a job with more structure rather than just waiting day by day for a job to show up in my inbox and then never being able to plan activities in case something was due right away. After the chagim (holidays), I'll make a concerted effort to start looking for something better. Unfortunately, we can't afford for me NOT to work even though I have no problem staying busy 24/7 without a job. Kids are back in school and everybody's back to a routine, and I've come to the conclusion lately that I actually would enjoy getting back to going to work every day.

On Shabbos it hit me that even though we love living where we do, it's basically a community of families. There are no couples our age to socialize and share Shabbos meals with, and I've really been missing the community we left in Ramat Beit Shemesh. We have a three-day Yom Tov (holiday) coming up, and none of my friends will be here to share it with. Families with kids don't like going out for the night meals because they start so late. We invited our upstairs neighbors (they're young, French, and have three little kids) for Shabbos lunch, and I just invited another family for another lunch. This second family has two older kids in the states and three still at home, plus the husband is in computers, so hopefully we'll have a nice time. I know Rachel through Penina, and we taught her how to play mah jongg. Miryam and Shaya are going to sleep at Penina's the whole Yom Tov, and we'll probably go there for a couple of the night meals. I walked there Shabbos afternoon to play mahj before going to the late afternoon shiur (talk by one of the rabbi's wives), and walking back up the hill was HARD. There were hills in RBS, but nothing like this hill we live on. SInce I've been sitting at my computer the last few months transcribing, and also since we've had a car, and also since we now have a yard and Emma doesn't need to be walked four times a day - I have totally stopped walking and am now terribly out of shape. Someone at the shiur told me that she and a friend used to walk down to the main street and then walk all the way up to the top of hill every morning for exercise. Now that it's cooled off tremendously, I think I need to make a concerted effort to do that every day. Isn't this the time of year for new year's resolutions? And, hmmm, doesn't everyone make the resolution that they're going to get in shape?

As much as I'd like to commit to doing that, I know there are so many other ways I need to think about "getting in shape" for the new year. Like, how am I improving my middos (character traits)? How much chesed am I doing? How much time am I wasting every day? What efforts am I putting into being a better wife, a better friend, a better person? There are so many improvements I need to make and lately I've been so sluggish about doing everything. I'm leaving in about half an hour to go to the kotel (the Western or Wailing Wall). It's been months since I've been there, and I have so much to talk to Hashem about. Living here on the yishuv, all I really need to do is go to the end of my street and look all around me, and Hashem is right here. But there's something about going to that holy site in the Old City of Yerushalayim, surrounded by other yidden (Jews) that makes it really special to daven (pray) there. If I time it just right, and get on all the right buses, I can get to David's office right when he's ready to go home and we can drive home together (he took the car this morning).

שנת בראות טובה ושנת שלום A healthy year and a peaceful year!