Thursday, January 24, 2008

I've been telling myself for days to write in my blog, but I don't seem to listen to myself very well. It's the same problem when I say (actually, when I think) to myself, "Vickie, you need to exercise" or "Vickie, you need to dust." Sound familiar?

We keep a white board on the wall by the kitchen to write down things we need to buy or things we don't want to forget. Yes, it is a very large board. Anyway, there's been a list there for a week that reads Red Heifer, goats, guns. Those are three things that I didn't want to forget to blog about. (You may have noticed how the word "blog" is used as a noun in the first paragraph and a verb in the second. According to Wikipedia, both are correct. I thought it important to mention that in case either a teacher or an English major might happen to be reading this.) (It's also possible that you're in for a very long blog tonight.) (Or a weird one.)

There are more things that I plan to blog about than those three items; however those are three more "only in Israel' stories I want to relate. The first item concerns a couple, Tzivia Rivka and Shlomo Chizkiyahu, who got married on our yishuv last week after a 2 1/2 week engagement. Perhaps I already told you about this? Ah, yes, I just read my last blog. I ended up going to the girls' high school on the afternoon of the wedding to help set up instead of going to the kotel with the kallah (bride). The women who formed the committee that planned the entire wedding, from kabbalas panim to chupa to seuda to dancing to sheva brachot did a fabulous job; everything turned out perfect.

The night after the wedding the couple went out to dinner with the kallah's family who had come from America. They went to a very nice restaurant, the Red Heifer. (editor's note: This place has great ambiance and delicious steaks!) At the conclusion of the meal, the choson (groom) stood up and announced that he and his wife were newly married and could the men in the restaurant join in their bentching for the second sheva brachot? Shlomo and Tzivia (pronounced Tzvee-ah) Rivka told us that all the men and the waiters came to the table and enthusiastically joined in. After they bentched, all the men started singing Mazel tov usiman tov, and dancing all around the restaurant! Possibly this same scenario could have played out in Brooklyn or Lakewood or Monsey, but since I've never lived in any of those places, I would have to add it to my "Only in Israel" stories.

Penina and Pinchas hosted the third sheva brachot in their home. Penina did a fabulous job, not just with the food but also with the decor. It looked like we were at a fancy restaurant! And the fact that they'd had no water for six days (half of the "dudes" - hot water heaters that are located on the roofs of most houses - on our yishuv had frozen and burst the previous Shabbos - thank G-d ours was not one of them) didn't deter her from using her best china for the nineteen people who fit comfortably in her salon. I'll put some pictures in a separate blog because the pictures never go where they're supposed to when I add them.

Penina's family came for Shabbos lunch. Her oldest son, Daniel, is in the army. Hold on - here comes the second Only in Israel story. You know, I think we're going to shorten that - whenever I have one of these kind of stories, I'll label it an Oi (shortened from OiI. Then I can write, "Oi, do I have a story for you!").

Hmm. As I was saying, when Daniel walked in the door I was surprised to see him carrying his M-16. It seems (Oi, here it comes) that the gun has to be disassembled in order for the soldiers to be able to leave it at home. If they forget to do that , then even if it's Shabbos they have to keep the gun with them at all times. The funny thing was that my friend, Rachel's, son showed up later with his gun also slung over his shoulder. My only surprise was that they could carry them on Shabbos. It's commonplace to be anywhere in Israel - bus stops, walking down the street, in restaurants and stores, the central bus station - and see many young men and women in their army fatigues carrying guns that are sometimes longer than they are. Some of these kids don't look old enough or strong enough or even knowledgeable enough to have one, but in a country where war is a possibility twenty-four hours a day, the military is always in a state of readiness. When I think about the maturity level of the eighteen and nineteen year olds back in chutz l'aretz, I'm amazed at the difference. I guess it's all about what you're raised to believe and know what's expected of you.

Erev Shabbos last week (Friday afternoon) (Oi, here comes another one), I was driving up the hill to the yishuv when I had to slow down because there was a huge herd of goats about to cross the road in front of me. There were two young Arab boys holding them back so that my car and the one behind me could get by before they crossed. You know, that doesn't sound as exciting now as it was when it actually happened. Maybe YHTBT (you had to be there...)

The last week has been extremely interesting for me. I pulled three diaries of mine out of my file cabinet; diaries I don't think I've ever read since writing them thirty-seven years ago. Can I really be this old?! The diaries start January 1, 1971 when I was 15 1/2 years old in 10th grade, and I wrote one page every single night until December 31, 1973 when I was 18 1/2 in the middle of my freshman year of college. It's fascinating reading, although I suppose not for anyone other than me. The first diary is mostly about classes and school and friends and boys and fitting in and things I did with my family and all the fun I had in BBYO (B'nai B'rith Youth Organization), which was my whole life back then. I was a pretty secular teenager (I didn't become observant until I was 38). It's amazing how similar my writing style was back then to how I write now. My only connection to Yiddishkeit back then was BBYO and going to a reform Sunday School and getting confirmed in 10th grade. It sickens me to read how each week we went to a different church to learn "comparative religions." Why would they do that? Why not teach us about our OWN religion? I couldn't wait to get confirmed and have a party and get presents, and most of all - never have to go back to Sunday School again! There's so much to learn about Judaism; one can learn for hours every single day (and many do) and still not learn it all. And yet, people who don't know any better aren't engaging our young people to ask questions, to encourage them to keep learning, to teach them our traditions and laws. One day in my first diary I actually wrote (after reading Mila 18 by Leon Uris - my all-time favorite novelist - for the 5th time) that I wanted to be an orthodox Jew and move to Israel and fight for our country. It only took me 36 years to do it!

I've only read through August of the first diary and about half of the last one. I've actually started typing certain days and am thinking of writing a book with the theme something like How I Got Here From There or possibly How Did A Girl Like That End Up In A Place This This? G-d willing.

Did I tell you about our new hot water pot? For the past year and a half we've had a water urn plugged in 24 hours a day so we can have hot tea and coffee, but we never had an electric hot pot. It's so cool! You add water to it, turn it on, and in two minutes or less you have boiling water, much hotter than the urn which we'll now use just for Shabbos. You know, there are certain things I still miss from back "there", but there are definitely things here that are pretty useful and actually work well.

All right, time to end this blog and post some pictures.

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