Week of June 2nd
Coming back to Israel is like losing a week. I got to the airport at 7:30 am on Tuesday for a 1:30 pm flight. I arrived in Israel at 7 am on Wednesday, and between unpacking and jet lag, it’s already Thursday afternoon, and I still feel tired and not ready for Shabbos.

Riding home in the taxi, it was pure joy to be back in Israel. I love looking at the mountains, at the planted feels, even the Nesher concrete plant. After spending time in other people’s homes, it was nice to be back in my own little dump. The shower may not be as nice, but my bed was very comfortable, and I could finally walk around in my slippers with no socks.

I took a call from work, and it seems like I will be pretty busy once the projects are approved. I’m still reading and working hard for my presentation, though I don’t have any details yet – it’s only two months away.

Week of June 9th
Started the week determined to get over the jet lag and back on schedule, but I’m still waking up in the middle of the night. Do I have insomnia, jet lag, or as one Neurofeedback trainer says, I’m sleeping “more efficiently?”

I got notification from the World Congress of Jewish Studies that I will be presenting on August 1st, between 5:30 and 7:30 PM. I hope this lights a fire under me. I just finished Davita’s Harp, which was sort of interesting, but not really pertinent to my presentation, although she does embrace Judaism. I don’t know why it is titled Davita’s Harp if the girl is named Ilana, nor why the Orthodox people keep coming in on Shabbos and letting the door harp make music, but I can’t nitpick every story to death.

Sunday was a nice Rosh Chodesh. I forced myself to get up at 6 AM, davened a little, made Moshe lunch, then finished davening. I scanned and emailed more documents for my mother’s aliyah application, then I said Tehillim with my neighbors. After that, I came home, did some exercise videos and then did Neurocare. After all these accomplishments, I did some sewing and “viewing.” Fortunately we had leftovers for dinner. Then I tried to read before I fell asleep.

During my middle insomnia, I was actually productive. I made a list of the books Dina wants to get rid of and posted an announcement on the local list serv.

Monday was a very social day. I met a friend for coffee. We had a “Jamie Geller sighting” in the coffee place. As we were finishing, we met a couple from Ulpan, then another woman from Ulpan walked in. After coffee, I stopped at the Matnas to pick up my book, but my teacher forgot it, so she’s going to drop it off. They moved around all the teachers because of the drop-out rate. Irit is teaching conversation and Vered is teaching Aleph. I guess Fahina is still teaching Bet.

From the Matnas, I walked to the Mercaz, where I met another woman from Ulpan. I then checked out a clothes Gemach on Sorek, which reminded me of the Salvation Army. I bought 3 shirts. I was doing to buy a duster, as my aspiration is to be like a grandmother, wear a duster, bake, and do needlework while I watch TV, but I’m seeing that I’m just a little young for this, so I passed on the duster.

From there I went and bought new shells for darling daughter and me, then mini photo albums for darling son, and then some frozen vegetables. I saw my neighbor, but she had to drive her daughter around. I was walking home, and I saw her again, so she gave me a lift home, and we got to chat a little bit.

The rest of the week went by quickly, and Shabbat provided another opportunity to catch up on sleep and readjust my clock. I’m still waking up at odd hours in the night and falling asleep during the day.

Week of June 16th
Supposedly a lot of work is coming down the pike, so I made appointments for the eye doctor, etc. this week.
Monday night was the barbecue and final get together for Moshe’s choir. It was nice to get together. Moshe sang a solo, and he is much improved since the beginning of the year. The group as a whole was definitely better and more confident. We had a long talk with our Nefesh b’Nefesh friend about all our frustrations with the bureaucracy and double talk here, and she again told us that everyone experiences the same thing.

Thursday marked one year since our aliyah according to the Hebrew calendar.

The air conditioner in the main room broke, and it has been very challenging. It’s not so bad during the week, but Shabbat it is very hard to spend the whole day in the bedroom, in which there are no lignts on Shabbat

Week of June 23rd
Another week of mundane activities, which have to be scheduled around my work day. I helped out with the RBS library, which is really shaping up.

Tuesday was the 17th of Tammuz. I don’t know why, but I find cooking a good outlet on a fast day. I baked the secret recipe blondies and a cheesecake. To break the fast I made gluten-free macaroni and cheese and fried fish. Delicious!
Wednesday I saw the foot doctor and got new orthotics. Chaim was supposed to pick me up, but I decided to walk home to try them out.

Shabbat we had a big crowd for lunch. I had invited friends two weeks ago, but they could not come. The wife, ever assertive, called on Sunday to invite themselves for lunch. Then, my sister-in-law’s friends are renting a place for the summer down the street from us. I had extended an invitation, but they said they weren’t sure what they were doing. By the time they decided they wanted to come, the other family was already coming, so we had a total of 16 people at the table.

These people, which included 5 little kids, had small appetites, so we will be eating leftovers all week – works just fine for me.

Week of June 30th
This week marks our one year anniversary in Israel according to the secular (Gregorian) calendar. I can’t believe it passed by so quickly.

Some things never change. I went to pay the municipal tax bill on Tuesday, and the clerk is not there on Tuesday. I went to the post office, and the number dispenser was broken. A woman was there keeping track of who was last, then she got a phone call and let everyone go before her. As I was leaving, two Chasidim were blocking the door. Why do I have to say excuse me when you see me coming? Should I just walk into you? And I’m not supposed to walk between two men, so why are you moving to the right instead of to the left?

For further updates, please refer to my regular blog: Life Is Like a Library.

Week of May 4th.
Lots of appointments this week. Sunday we need to go to the Licensing Authority with the form from the Tax Authority to change the car registration. Then we have an appointment at the Ministry of Absorption about our unemployment and Chaim getting paid for his “histaklut” (supervised rotation) in a psychiatric hospital. Both appointments were a bust. The Licensing Authority clerk said it’s impossible to add my name to the registration because there is a bank loan for the car, so now we have to go to the main office in Talpiot for help. The Ministry of Absorption said there is no money in the budget for anything, and that we are not entitled to a bonus for completing Ulpan because we are not part of the special “Young Family Program.” Don’t we get a bonus for being an “Old Family?” I think we need the bonus more than they do. So, we’re still on unemployment.

Monday we met with the mortgage representative at the bank to see if we qualify. We have to gather some papers together for documentation. After the bank, we went to the supermarket in the business center, where we picked up a few things. In Clifton, I used to go to at least three supermarkets a week because I liked different things at different stores and different things were on sale at each store. I’ve been trying to avoid that in Israel, but before a holiday I end up going to quite a few places. The store in the business center has some things cheaper, including potatoes and dairy products, but the rest of the produce is not so nice, and they don’t have all the dairy products we like to eat. Then, of course, there are the lines. People leave their stuff in bags in the floor near the register, shop for more stuff, and then come back and cut the line saying they were there first. We had quite a character behind us. I wasn’t even finished putting my stuff on the checkout when she dumped her stuff. Then she went back to shop some more. In the meantime, a man came and started unloading his groceries. The woman came back with more bags of stuff, and complained that she was there first. He fought right back and said she stepped away and he doesn’t have to wait for her. He piled his stuff OVER hers on the conveyor belt. We finished up and walked out, but Chaim was very proud of the man for screaming back and holding his ground. What amazed me was that the woman was screaming at the man “You are not normal.” Yea, lady. It’s normal to be self-absorbed and entitled and then yell at people when they assert themselves.

Tuesday was one of those busy, get things done days like we had when we first moved. We started out at the Licensing Authority in Talpiot. We took a number, and the line was moving pretty quickly because the clerk kept hitting the button for the next number. It turns out if you go to her window in 5 seconds, she called for the next number, so soon 4 people were standing there because she passed their numbers. We got called up for the next clerk. She didn’t say anything about the bank loan, she was waiting because the Tax Authority filled out the form and put my name as “Chava, Kathe” instead of “Chava Pinchuck.” She said to wait for the supervisor, whom she addressed as “Mommy” to make sure that it was okay. Sof, sof (finally), she printed us a new registration, which we had to take to the post office to pay. I will soon be able to drive, even though I probably can’t get out of our parking space!

After that, we went to the American Consulate. After our car was checked, we parked, walked down some stairs, and waited our turn. You must have an appointment to get in. We went through security and had to check our cell phones, the camera, and my embroidery scissors. Again, we took a number and waited to be called, went from the clerk, to the cashier, to another clerk, back to the first clerk, and then to the supervisor. This went relatively quickly, and we were soon finished. We decided to stop at the bathroom. The first stall I went to looked like a hole in the ground. When I found the toilet, I realized that that stall was for the Muslims to wash their feet. How considerate of the consulate, or I guess they don’t want them putting their feet in the sink.

Another example of how considerate the American Consulate folks are: they put the handicapped parking right near the stairs.

Another example of how considerate the American Consulate folks are: they put the handicapped parking right near the stairs.

After the Consulate, we saw a sign for S.Y. Agnon’s house, so we stopped there. There was a school visit, so they let us take a quick look at his library and his Nobel Prize for literature.

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From there, we made a quick stop at Kiryat Moriah, which we had passed on the way to the Consulate. Kiryat Moriah was the first placed I stayed on my first trip to Israel. I started taking pictures and security came out. When I told them that this was the first place I stayed my first time in Israel, and that I now live here, he told me to take as many pictures as I want.

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Continuing on our busy day, Moshe decided he wanted Chinese for lunch. We were going to go to the Design Center, but it’s in the middle of town, and there was no parking near it, and it was very hard to circle back on the twisting narrow streets. We ended up parking near Sheyan and going to Hechal Shlomo: the Center for Jewish Heritage. The museum is on the third floor of a massive building that also houses a few non-profit organizations. The museum houses many Jewish artifacts, some from famous luminaries like the Baal Shem Tov, and this building house the office of the late Rabbi Herzong, Israel’s first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. After a walk through the museum, we were able to go up on the roof for a beautiful view.

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We went to Sheyan for lunch then returned to RBS. I don’t know whether the food was really salty, or we were dehydrating from waiting in the sun and the Consulate and then running around, but we drank cups of water when we got back.

Wednesday was another busy day, but we stayed local and ran errands. We started by going to the grocery store that has a lot of American products and gluten-free products. I shopped while Chaim went to the post office to pay the new registration fee. We dropped the groceries off at home, then went to the bank to drop off the papers for the mortgage. After that, we looked at the nursing home down the road and spoke with the staff. It looks like Grandma will be coming here. Not that it is so wonderful – it is kind of run down, but it is close by, the staff was very warm, and she probably will not know where she is anyway.

I decided it would be better to get everything done in the morning, so we went to the clothes store for a refund, the housewares store for a wedding present (I ended up getting a little challah board that looks nicer than using the regular cutting board), then to the garden store to see if they had flowerpots. They did not, so we continued to Osher Ad, the third supermarket this week, where I bought cupcake holders for the special chocolate mousse. After a big holiday shopping, we went to the other housewares store to get a new tablecloth. It is interesting to see the displays before a holiday. For Shavuot, they put out pancake mix, a lot of tea biscuits with which to make a crust for cheescake, and pudding.

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Finally, we returned home and took a rest. I made taco salad for dinner. Then I decided it was time to rearrange the cabinets yet again. After that, the floor needed a sweep and a wash. Finally, a load of laundry before going to sleep.

Thursday was a light cooking day because we were invited to neighbors for lunch. Friday was another light cooking day. We had broth left over from last week, but not vegetables, so all I had to do was cut up vegetables and then cover them with the soup and reboil it.

Yehuda stayed at school for Shabbat, so it was quiet. We met some neighbors, and they were nice enough to have a variety of gluten-free foods.

Week of May 12th
Sunday I took care of odds and ends in the morning, then I took an online course from 7 to 11:30 at night because it was given from 12 to 4:30 EDT. By 11 PM, I could barely focus and keep my eyes open, and I woke up Monday morning feeling like I had a hangover. I also had my last cup of Folger’s coffee until I go back to the United States, so I savored it.

Monday I did a lot of cooking: 2 roasts, potato kugel, and cheesecake. I got a recipe for a noodle dish from a magazine, but it turned out to be too much work. I used three different pots and three different bowls to make this concoction. After lunch we went to the Chad Pa’ami store, which is one of my favorite places. I know they had stores like this in the United States that sold paper goods and disposable serving stuff, but I find the items more interesting here.

We were relaxing before dinner when all of a sudden it started thundering. Then I saw lightning, and then it started pouring rain, which is not supposed to happen after Passover in Israel.

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Tuesday was another day of cooking in preparation for Shavuot. We had friends over for dinner. I served lentil soup, 2 types of roast, popcorn cauliflower, cucumber salad, and potato kugel. I was surprised that almost everything was gone. For dessert I made chocolate cake and cashew ice cream, and a good chunk of that was consumed, too.
We finished dinner around 11 PM, and then Chaim went to learn. He stayed up the whole night. I woke up at seven when he came back, and we ate some cheesecake, which also disappeared at alarming rates. For lunch we had the noodle dish, Greek salad, and sesame salmon. I also made a chocolate mousse that I served with Oreo cookie crumbs, gummy worms, and a marshmallow flower. We gave some to our neighbors, so the remaining portion went very quickly.
Thursday the kids had off from school. Chaim took Moshe to the Kotel for aliyah laregel, and Dina and I stayed home. I had to start cooking for Shabbat because there were no leftovers.

Friday was spent cooking. Yehuda came home and we had a loud Shabbat.

Week of May 19th
After staying up late Saturday and Sunday nights for my neurofeedback seminar, and Shavuot, I think I am finally back to normal, which is good because there is a lot of laundry and cleaning. It looks like I will not have projects for a while, so I can work on my presentation and hopefully not be on the computer too much.

I started the morning with a healthy breakfast, and it was such a pleasure to say the after blessing: “for the trees and their fruit, and for the produce, and for the lovely, fine and spacious land which You graciously gave to our ancestors as a heritage, to eat its fruit and to be sated with its goodness.” It really changes eating to a spiritual experience when you eat fruit grown in Israel at your table in Israel, and the words of this blessing are so palpable as I look out the window at the beautiful landscape.

Next activity, a women’s hike to Tel Yarmuth. A group of one of the local synagogues organized a women’s hiking group that goes on local hikes on Sunday mornings. Eight of us went up to Tel Yarmuth, which is located on the entrance road to Ramat Bet Shemesh Aleph right near where they are building Ramat Bet Shemesh Gimmel. It is an Early Bronze Age Canaanite city, which means the ruins date back over 5,000 years. You can still see the walls of the city, things that must have been houses in the lower city, and the palace or acropolis at the top. The city was conquered by Joshua and it mentioned in Tanach. There were also a lot of great wildflowers growing. The hike was a little strenuous for me, but it was a very congenial group, and everyone walked that their own pace.

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After that, it was time for a shower, a trip to the market for fruits and vegetables, and some serious laundry. I think I washed, dried, folded and put away six loads, including linens. I went to sleep really early, but I ended up with the usual middle insomnia.

Monday was also a pleasant, kind of social day. I walked over to the RBS library on Nachal Ein Gedi and helped out with the library. I spent the afternoon cleaning the kitchen and then working to finish a cross-stitch project. I made one of our favorite dinners: soy schwarma with salad bar. Then Chaim and I went into Jerusalem for a lecture by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, who does reparative therapy for homosexuality.

Tuesday is shopping day. I took a walk so I could photograph the globe thistle by the highway. Then I did some organizing in the basement. The movers who packed are stuff in the United States must have gotten rushed, because I opened a big box into which they just threw stuff. Thankfully, the pictures that I cross-stitched, embroidered and needlepointed did not break. I found some of the stuff I wanted to find for Hanukkah, and the only thing that did break was the glass in the framed album that Bruce Springsteen signed, lo these many years.

We went to the supermarket shortly after they opened and stocked up on food for this week, next week when I’m away, and the following week when I won’t feel like cooking!

I’m trying to facilitate Grandma’s aliyah. I.just got off the phone and it’s very much like “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” So the person who deals with the elderly was good about information about the elderly. I had no idea there was a nursing home 10 minutes away. I started the aliyah process, which means you have to pay $50 to have them process your stuff. What if I went directly through the Jewish Agency, would it be free? Anyway, when I submit the documents, I get emails from Lior. Then I got an email from someone else that I can’t schedule an interview until certain documents are in. Then the person who deals with the elderly tells me I must schedule an interview for my mother, who cannot say a complete sentence, except, “No, I would not like to live in Israel.” Then she gives me the wrong number to call. I found the right number and left a message.

I had the same experiences when we made aliyah. I would get excited about coming, then I would get frustrated and pissed off when they kept losing our documents, making us submit the same thing at least three times, and screwing things up and spelling our name wrong.

Wednesday was my teacher conference, and it went well. I definitely feel for my daughter. It is hard to be 13, hard to be in a new country, and hard not to have options. I’m hoping she can understand that she has to just do the best she can so she can choose the best high school for her academic and social development. It looks like we will have to do a lot of work on our own to figure out what will be best for her.

Wrapping up loose ends and packing for America.

Week of May 26th
I guess going back to America to visit is also part of the aliyah experience. It was a very packed week, but I was able to see a lot of old friends, do some shopping, and attend a book event. What do I miss about America? I thought I would eat Chinese take-out every day, since we don’t have it in Israel, but it wasn’t that big a thrill the day I ate it. The new owners have completely torn down our house, so there’s nothing there. People kept asking if I was upset or angry. It was no longer my house. It was a pretty house, but they are getting their dream and I got mine, so what I think about their construction plans is moot. The one thing that is rather satisfying is that the neighbors who were so un-neighborly are VERY upset.

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It was very nice to see friends and feel like not time has passed since we last got together. I miss the Montclair library – the physical building, the staff, the patrons. I miss driving around, but I kind of like that I don’t have lists of errands every day.

I went to the mall several times for Dina, and I don’t miss that at all. Book Expo was nice, but I’ve even tired of walking the floor and fighting for swag. I waited on line for autographs from Lemony Snicket and Adriana Trigiani, and that was more than enough for me. I did bring back a lot of books, but I also left a lot behind.

It was nice to spend Shabbat with friends in Brooklyn –thankfully another instance where it was like time at not passed in terms of heartfelt discussions and some good laughs. Sunday was crazy in terms of driving. I left Brooklyn, went to Queens to pick up everything from Poppy, stopped by the Katz’s for lunch, then got back on the road to New Jersey.

Monday was also a very busy day. I went to the chiropractor, went up to Monsey to see a friend, and stopped by my mother to say goodbye. Then back to Montclair to print out by boarding pass and drop off all the excess swag from Book Expo. By then it was late afternoon and time to start packing everything up.

My rental car had to be back by 7:45 AM, so I spent a long time waiting in the airport. I left from the same gate that we did when we made aliyah.

Week of April 3rd

Dina and Moshe went back to school and Chaim went back to Ulpan on Wednesday. In the afternoon, we met with an investment advisor about how to invest in Israel, but it is going to take a lot of paperwork before anything happens. The Powers That Be are very wary of Americans investing in Israel in terms of trying to hide assets from the United States, so we are going to need a lot of documentation for our tiny, little nest egg.

Thursday and Friday were spent preparing for Shabbat, when we had our neighbors over and celebrated Moshe’s birthday. He chose the menu. Friday night we had chicken soup, grilled chicken with sesame noodles, potato kugel, sweet and sour meatballs with rice and homemade ice cream for dessert. For lunch, we had fish, salad bar, eggplant salad, kohlrabi slaw, potato kugel, and a cholent made with beef and a roast. We also had a chocolate, gluten-free birthday cake with chocolate frosting.

Week of April 7th

My work project ended, so I’ve been catching up on other projects, which, happily for me, includes a lot of reading.

Monday I went to the local book club meeting. The Hare with Amber Eyes was the topic of discussion. It’s about a collection of netsuke (small Japanese figures) that was passed down through the author’s family. I found most of the book rather dry and boring. The part I was most interested in, what happened to the Ephrussi family and their art during World War II, was a rather quick (and sad) summary. I also spent a lot of time looking up words in the dictionary. Now, we someone is angry or cranky, we can say they are splenetic.

The moderator did a lot of work to prepare for the discussion, and I think the author did some meticulous research, but the descriptions of art and décor did not hold my attention. It was nice to get out of the house, and I met my friend’s sister, who lives up the hill.

I was not going to go back to Ulpan, but some friends highly recommended the conversation class, which meets twice a week, so I decided to give it a shot. My favorite teacher is teaching the class. I sat next to someone from Passaic, and I felt it was a productive session. We did a lot of talking to each other, and almost everyone spoke in class.

Yehuda returned to school on Thursday, so we had a quiet Shabbat.

Week of April 14th

We were supposed to have a meeting at Dina’s school, but it was cancelled. I went to Ulpan, and already it is reverting back to everything I detested: people come late, people eat in class, people talk about nonsense and waste time.

Monday Dina had an orthodontist appointment, then we had to drive out to Ma’arava for a meeting with Rabbi Chait, which went pretty well.

Monday was Memorial Day. It is taken very seriously year. The siren went off on Sunday night, then again on Monday morning at 11 AM. There were ceremonies all over the country.

As Monday progressed, the mood changed for Independence Day on Tuesday.  What do Israelis do on Independence Day? Go to the park and barbecue. We barbecued on the back patio and then took a walk to the park. It rained in much of the country, which is unusual for this time of year, but here we just got a slight drizzle.

Wednesday was back to Ulpan, which confirmed that I will not continue after this month. More of the same shtuyot (nonsense) – new people coming, old people not showing up, people coming late and leaving early, etc. I feel stymied because I have the vocabulary; I just can’t the words out coherently and with proper grammar.

Thursday morning I had a driving lesson. The teacher was very nice, and I was not as nervous or as bad a driver as I thought. I thought it would be much harder because I haven’t driven in almost a year, and I’ve never driven in Israel, but it wasn’t too bad. Except for a few schmucks and some taxi drivers (who also fall in the schmuck category), most people drive carefully and with courtesy.

After my lesson, we had the rescheduled meeting with Dina’s teachers. We will be changing the routine around here. Since she had not been happy with her tutor, I will be tutoring her in math. (Who is being punished? We’ll see.)

Friday morning I made the secret-recipe garlic and started the challah. Then it was time for my driving test. In the car were a woman from Ulpan and a gentleman who was also the beneficiary of the hospitality of the Zilbers in Brooklyn.  I was hoping to go second, so that I would not have to pull in or out of the parking lot, but I ended up going last and having to pull into a parking space. A big thing for many people is the stop signs. The woman told me there are only 13 stop signs in the whole city, and luckily, we did not drive by anyone of them. She got to drive on the highway, the gentleman drove through town, and I drove us back to the parking lot.

The instructor called in the early afternoon to tell me that I passed. I don’t know how much driving I will do, but it’s nice to have the license.

I came home, did some more preparation for Shabbat, and then went to my neighbor for coffee.

Looking forward to hearing Rebbetzin Smiles speak on Shabbat.

Week of April 21st

We’re having highly unseasonable weather. I walked to Rebbetzin Smiles in the rain, and later Saturday it was pouring and thundering. It has been so cold that Chaim took his down comforter out of storage and threatened to turn on the heat.

Sunday started out not so good and got much better. One Ulpan teacher was sick, so my teacher had to combine the classes and teach everybody, which, quite frankly, sucked. We got in very little conversation and reviewed verb forms yet again. I left at the break because I could not stand it anymore. As I walked in the door, Dina’s tutor called to see if she should try and take Dina out of class. Dina refuses to work with her. I had to call later in the evening to thank her for her effort. Chaim barbecued for my birthday. We had hamburgers and chicken wings, and he bought a cake from the bakery.

Monday was an interesting day. I went to the Annual Jerusalem Writers’ Seminar. I had to leave the house at 7:15 to catch the bus. The driver was extremely impatient, but it afforded me the opportunity to learn some new vocabulary words, including “Metumtam” (fool). I got off the bus at the Givat Sha’ul junction and walk to the meeting hall to try to get rid of my nausea from the bus ride.

Once I seated myself, it was a morning of tips and writing exercises from all the women that write for Mishpacha, Bina, and Aim/Ami – Shoshana Schwartz, Batya Ruddell, Yael Mermelstein, etc. I sat with some great ladies, too. I met the mother of the inspiration for the Dina-Dee books, the grandmother of one of Yehuda’s classmates, and a friend of a friend. I was supposed to meet someone there, and I ended up sitting next to her – obvious hashgacha pratis.

I saw some people that I knew personally, and I saw some people I knew from their writing: Yaffa Ganz, Baasi Gruen, Miriam Zakon, C.B. Gavant.

Of course, there has to be a hitch – Lunch, as usual with food in Jewish events, was a free for fall with people pushing and grabbing. I stopped one woman from reaching past me, but I looked like the villain. I was starving from not eating breakfast and walking there, so I ended up sitting down with my salad and going back later for some salmon and potatoes.

The afternoon offered two workshops, which were okay, but hard to hear. I came home with a goody bag of free magazines and some swag from the publishers.

Now I have to face the music: two sinks full of dishes and a project waiting for approval.

Tuesday was an exciting day. First thing, we drove to the “Rishui” (Licensing Authority) and picked up my driver’s license. Then I went to the post office to pay the 458 shekels for the license. After that, I met a friend for coffee at Holy Bagel. As I walked home, I thought of a conversation I had with Ms. Powers a long time ago about how in Clifton, I didn’t socialize and I had no one with whom to have a cup of coffee. Here, Baruch Hashem, I have many people with whom I drink coffee. After my morning outings, I came home and caught up on the housework.

Be Careful with Fire!

Be Careful with Fire!

Getting Ready for Lag B'Omer

Getting Ready for Lag B’Omer

Wednesday was the last day of Ulpan for me. Again, more people came, more people left. My partner was someone who wanted everything explained and translated into English. Vered was not feeling well, so we left at the break. I lent her a book, and she kept saying I could read it next week, so I told her I was not getting anything out of class, and I needed to spend my time looking for a job. Meanwhile I have not heard anything about the project I started.

Thursday I stayed home and made kugels. Last week, I tried a different blade on the food processor, and the kugel came out completely different. This week I made two big kugels with the medium shredder blade, and two small kugels with the ricer blade. I also used up all the apples and made an apple cake, which went into the freezer. Dina made a struessel cake for Shabbos.

Friday was another opportunity for coffee, this time with my neighbor. She cooks while I drink coffee. I am amazed at how she whips through her kitchen making six things at a time. This week: chocolate cupcakes for her son’s birthday, challah, chicken, potato kugel, egg barley, and noodles.

Yehuda came home this week. I made a mushroom quinoa soup, the usual chicken, and popcorn cauliflower, which everyone devoured. I am amazed at how the family is enjoying new recipes and expanded their horizons when I made the same thing every Friday night for years in the States.

Saturday night was Lag B’Omer. We went to the Aish Kodesh fire, which I guess is redundant as Aish Kodesh means “holy fire.” I expected to see bonfires burning all over the hills, but there were several small ones in the area. The Aish Kodesh bonfire spread and the grass caught fire, so the fire department had to come and put it out.

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Rabbi Shapira

Rabbi Shapira

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Week of April 28th

No school on Lag B’Omer for Dina and Moshe. We had a relaxing day with a barbecue. There was a parade that started at the community center. Moshe came home with a little hat, and he reported it was a “battle” between the Chabadniks and the Breslovers for who could have more enthusiasm and make more noise.

Dina has the day off on Monday, so we took her to Jerusalem with us to run errands. First stop: the tax authority so we could add my name to the car registration. After several government workers passed the buck and told us we were in the wrong place, we found someone who helped us. From there, we stopped at a private Ulpan school, where Chaim is hoping to take classes. After the real business part of the day, we walked around Ben Yehuda and King George and bought some books. I still had my Shai Hachag (small gift that employers give for the holidays), so we used it at Stiemetzky to get some games and a video. I also bought a book about flowers of Israel and a book about trees of Israel, so I now know the beautiful purple ones are jacaranda.

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From there we walked to Mea Shearim and Geula and looked in more stores for books and music. After a brief ice cream break, we went to the final bookstore and found the book I needed for a presentation. We decided to return home for lunch. The GPS gave us the craziest directions ever. We ended up making a huge circle and then weaving through very narrow street until we met up with the main road.

The rest of the week was quiet. I have a little more work on the same project, which I will probably finish by next week.

Yehuda was home for Shabbat, but his grade had a Shabbaton in town, so he was in and out. Friday was more hectic than usual. We went to look at a house for sale, but decided it’s not exactly what we want or where we want to live. Then I cooked and made salads all day. In the afternoon, I helped a neighbor with a project she’s doing, and when Shabbat arrived, I collapsed. My neighbor made a bar mitzvah Saturday morning. My other neighbor wanted to hear the bar mitzvah boy read from the Torah, so we babysat her kids, then went over to the synagogue for the Kiddush. Rebbetzin Smiles spoke in the afternoon, and after Seudah Shlishit we played “Set” for a little while.

Week of March 3rd

Sunday we went to the Ministry of Absorption to sign for our unemployment check. There is no budget and no money, so the only things they are paying is unemployment and aliyah benefits. Even if you are entitled to other payments, they cannot put it in the system now for payment later, give you a voucher saying you are entitled and should get it in the future, or let you take training now and submit the bill later.

Wednesday was Moshe’s choir performance in a show called “Kol Ish,” which featured different male groups and performers. We did not know what to expect, but we were presently surprised with a variety of acts. The show was a benefit for Melabev, the senior services agency. First, a group of seniors that attends the day program sang some songs. Then another group sang, and there was an excellent juggler. Still another group sang, and then the Arayot Tzion break dancers performed. After a short intermission, Moshe’s choir sang. They were excellent, much improved since the Hanukkah performance. Still another band and choir performed. Then a cantor sang “My Yiddishe Mama” and “O Sole Mio.” The break dancers wrapped up the show.

It was very emotional for me. It was so wonderful to be sitting in an audience in Israel, with all different types of people. Even though all the acts probably did not appeal to everyone, the audience applauded enthusiastically for everyone. We saw several of our neighbors there. The auditorium is located across the road at Kibbutz Tzora, so we passed the Samson Beer Brewery and stalls of cows on our way to and from the performance hall.

For lunch on Shabbos, we invited Chaim’s friend from Ulpan. He and his wife came in November from Houston. Unfortunately, their one-year-old was sick, so we only had the pleasure of the husband and their four-year-old daughter.

Week of March 10th

A very social week before the cleaning crunch for Passover. Sunday I met a friend from Queens who is volunteering at a facility near Bet Shemesh. It’s also nice to reconnect with old friends, and she is exactly the same, living in Katamon and really enjoying life in Israel.

For Rosh Chodesh on Tuesday, I met another friend for coffee at Holy Bagel. I think that was the first time I actually ordered and ate there. Again, nice to talk with a friend and see her baby. Also amazing how budget constraints have affected my perception of prices. At Holy Bagel, one bagel is 5 shekel. When I go to the supermarket next door, I look for the day old bagels, which are 4 for 10 shekel.

Wednesday was an extremely challenging day. Chaim installed an update on my computer. Then I went to work, and I couldn’t access the website I need to look at to verify information. I keep trying, I emailed a coworker, I called the website help desk on the United States line – nothing helped. When Chaim returned from Ulpan, I told him my problem. In the meantime, we had to do neurofeedback for two clients. After that, Chaim figured out what something must have happened in the update. He checked the files, and it had update Microsoft Explorer to the next level, which was incompatible with the website. By the time he uninstalled it, I was too tired and aggravated to work on the project.

Then, there are big sales on Passover items. One sounds pretty cool. You put in your order, pay, and then drive around a circular street where all the stalls of items are set up. The deadline for placing the order was Wednesday at midnight, and by the time we figured out the computer problem and got dinner on the table, the order line was busy for 2 hours. I finally got through and ordered the potatoes, onion, carrots, horseradish, meat, etc.

Thursday, I had yet another “date” with a friend from Ulpan. We talked for a while, and hope to set up another date after Passover.

It is already Thursday, and I need to figure out what to serve for Shabbat.

Considering we are cleaning out the food stores, our Shabbat fare was excellent. I used up all the wheat flour and some of the gluten-free flours and baked challah for this week and next week. We had half a pack of meat that made an excellent cholent, and I used up the contents of the vegetable drawer by making grilled vegetables and cucumber salad. We had one potato kugel left in the freezer, which we had for lunch, and then I made tomato soup with rice for Friday night.

Week of March 17th

Another holiday passes without notice – I did not see anything to do with St. Patrick’s Day, even in the newspapers.

We did some cleaning. After a very warm Shabbat (with no air conditioning), it rained and the temperature decreased significantly.

We went to a very special wedding on Sunday. I’ve known the bride “since before she was born,” and it was wonderful to see all her brothers and sisters with their children. It was very emotional for me to be at her wedding, even more so as we stood in Jerusalem and I heard the words of Jeremiah (33:10-11): “let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride…” (I’m tearing up as I think about it now).

I met some interesting people and just enjoyed seeing the bride so happy.

Monday – back to cleaning. The kids loved going to the bakery to get their breakfasts of pastries and iced coffee, while Chaim and I cleaned up the living room/dining room area and some of the kitchen.

Tuesday – still more cleaning, a trip to the supermarket.

Wednesday – one of the things my husband misses the most is Costco. He wondered where we were going to buy economy size quantities of potatoes and onions for Passover. My neighbor told me about a big sale, which was kind of fun. I placed my order last Wednesday. Then I had to go and pay for the order on Monday, at which time I got a receipt.

The sale works like this: if you ordered a certain dollar amount of supplies, you are entitled to drive through. They close a street and the cars drive on the left, pedestrians work down the right. In the middle are the piles of supplies. When we arrived at the “starting line,” some boys took my multi-page receipt and taped each page to the side of the car. Then crews of boys kept checking the sheets and loading the items into the trunk of the car. We got our potatoes, onions, carrots, squash, herbs, beef and our trays of eggs. The line ran smoothly, and it was an excellent experience.

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We spent the rest of the week cleaning, turning over the kitchen, and anticipating only one Seder and one last day of Passover. Chaim sprained his ankle when he missed the last basement step, and our neighbors were nice enough to lend him a cane.

Week of March 24th

The week seemed to fly by. Our Seder was very nice. Everyone made comments and did some singing, and we still finished way before midnight. Our matzah was a little tough, but all the food was very tasty.

Tuesday we visited Ashkelon, which was beautiful. Unfortunately, I tripped on the walk, which made it a little hard to fully appreciate the ancient ruins and the sea.

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Wednesday was a rest day for our sore legs, and Thursday Chaim and Moshe went to a concert. Friday was get ready for Shabbat day and restock the food. The family ate their way through all the Passover brownies and blondies I baked, as well as the ice cream. This year I tried out two apple crumble recipes. The bottom is basically the same: apples, sugar, and cinnamon. For one, the top was made from potato starch and sugar; the other had crumbs made out of cookies.

I used a mixed to make “matzah” balls for the soup. They came out pretty light and fluffy, but they still tasted like potatoes. I made the special chicken with orange juice, honey and cinnamon that I only make on Passover, and I was pleasantly surprised that everyone enjoyed a kugel made with potatoes, carrots and zucchini (as well as eight eggs). We bought a special kishka to put in the cholent. That was gobbled up really quickly. Chaim commented that they put really good spices in it. When I pulled out the other package of kishka we bought, I knew why it tasted so good. The first ingredient is beef fat!

Week of March 31st

It seems like Passover flew by, but we wanted to make “aliayah l’regel” and go to Jerusalem during the holiday. We didn’t know how crazy it would be on Easter Sunday, so we went in early. We were able to find excellent parking in our usual spot at the Mamilla Mall. We walked in the Jaffa Gate, and while there were a lot of people, it was not too bad. We walked around the old city a little bit, and then we visited a friend, who has a spectacular view from the roof of the apartment:IMG_2068

By the time we walked out of the Jaffa Gate, the crowds were insane. The police closed off the shuk and St. James Street, so everyone had to enter from a different location. It took forever to get out of the parking structure, which was jammed with cars.

By the time we got home it was after 2 PM, and I still had to cook for the last day of Passover. I put up some potatoes and started a new chicken recipe with “onion jam.” Despite the rush, this was one of the best meals of the holiday. I think the recipe called for too much liquid in the “jam,” but everyone used it as gravy for the mashed potatoes. Even our all-skate for lunch the next day was not the usual dumping of leftovers on the table. We ate some hard salami, pastrami, and a fresh salad with olives and hearts of palm.

On Tuesday, we finished packing up all the Passover stuff and the kids went to the bakery to get some pastries for breakfast. In the afternoon, we went to the new fashion mall. The only thing we found was new Crocs for Yehuda. After that, I went to the supermarket to get some fruits and vegetables and a little bread. Once again, we are trying not to have so much junk food in the house. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Week of February 24th

Okay. Incredibly not happy with Word Press because I cannot see anything on the screens and there is no way to contact them for help. I really want to share the wonderful things we’ve been doing with friends, so I am “documenting” everything and hoping to post it later, maybe on my Life Is Like a Library blog.

PURIM

Purim was amazing. Right after Shabbat was over, we cleaned up quickly and went to synagogue. I was amazed at how many women and girls came in costume. There was a lot of noise when Haman’s name was mentioned, and at the end of the reading, they blew the shofar. We came home, then Chaim and Moshe went back for a party with a live band.  They kept telling me I should have gone because there were a lot of women there. What were the women doing? Watching the men! (I’m glad I missed it). Dina and I stayed home and got the bags ready for the next day.

Sunday morning we went to a different synagogue, so I got to sit with my neighbors. Again, a lot of women and girls in costume. After the reading, we came home and got organized. We handed out our bags, which had an iced tea, a plastic container of chick pea salad and some little chocolate bars. We got some very nice mishloach manot, including cakes, a potato kugel, and lots of candy.  Chaim took Moshe to see his Rebbe, and they tasted some of his 4-year-old wine.

In the afternoon, we went to the cousins for the meal. They outdid themselves yet again with a menu that included cabbage soup, brisket, chicken cacciotore with spaghetti, and fried zucchini. We provided the baked goods of gluten-free challah, peanut butter balls, blondies, and some misshapen hamentashen. As hard as I pinch them, they always fall apart in the oven.

On Monday, for Shushan Purim, we went to Jerusalem. We were pleasantly surprised that the traffic wasn’t too bad. Our first stop, Sheyan, for a delicious Chinese lunch. After lunch, we tried to find a parking space in our usual spot, the Mamilla Mall, but it was totally full. We drove to the municipality lot, and we found a spot there. We came out of the parking lot onto a plaza, where there was a life performance of some kind of story. There were tons of people dressed up and enjoying the day. As we walked toward the Old City, we saw a troupe of African dancers performing in another corner. Chaim and Moshe went down to the Kotel; Dina and I went to the jewelry store, where she used her gift certificate to buy a necklace.

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From there, we drove to Meah Shearim to visit Rav Hurwitz. As we tried to park, boys started hassling us for money and blocking the car. They really have no idea of the impact of a moving vehicle. Chaim was very happy to see Rav Hurwitz, and they had a lot of family and guests, so we stayed a while and then headed to other friends.

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By the time we got there, around 6 PM, everything was quiet. They had had their meal at someone else’s house, and the husband was already headed to the airport to return to work.

Tuesday it was back to work, school and Ulpan. We went to the supermarket in the afternoon, where they were already setting up for Passover.

Wednesday was a busy and somewhat frustrating day.  I had an appointment with the vocational counselor at the Ministry of Absorption. Seeing that the bus takes at least 45 minutes and my appointment was at 9:15, I figured it would be the same if I had Chaim drop me off when he went to Ulpan, then I could just sit and read or do cross-stitch until my appointment. Well, my lovely vocational counselor showed up at 9:50, so it was a really long wait. She reviewed my test scores, which showed that I am not a good artist and that the best job for me would be one that is social, involves organizing things, and involves some creativity. I think I already knew that before I took the tests, and I already figured out that librarianship is the perfect career for me.

Then she told me that there is no money in the budget for training courses, and that I know more than she does about where to look for a library job. As they say, you get what you pay for.

Thankfully, I did not get sick on the bus back. I got off early to avoid all the twists and turns around the traffic circles closer to our house, and I stopped and got some bagels and cream cheese for the family. I walked home from the grocery store, and continued to work on the project.

After Dina came home from school, we went to the orthodontist and she had braces put on her top teeth. She was not in the best mood afterward, and I gave her a note to leave school early on Thursday.

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I made some fried fish for dinner that was very tasty. I would definitely buy the sole again, maybe bake it in the oven with the crumbs.

Thursday we met with the accountant and found out that our US taxes are not due until June 15th, and that taking on this project work, even though the pay is just okay, actually helps us because now we can deduct our moving expenses.

Friday was a great day. I did a little work in the morning, then we went on one of our local tours. We love them because we only have to drive ten to fifteen minutes, and we love finding out about historical sites just minutes from where we live. Today’s destination: Tel Socho and the mountain filled with lupines.

 Sochoh was one of the cities alloted to Judah, it lay between Adulam and Azekah (Joshua 15:35). Most famously Sochoh is the place where the Philistines gathered their armies to battle with King Saul (2 Chronicles 11: 5-12). Yes, this is where David slew Goliath, taking the stone from the bed of a small creek. We arrived at the site and saw a lot of other cars parked there. We started walking up the trail and up some steep hills. Then we hit the jackpot: fields of beautiful lupines.

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We lingered and looked at the flowers, then we walked the rest of the trail and saw what looked like the remnants of ancient houses. There were a lot of caves and some very big holes – some even looked like the bell caves where they quarried rocks for construction. We had a nice walk, and when we returned to our car, there was quite a crowd. Most came with picnic lunches and their dogs.

After a great morning, we came home, finished up work, and got ready for Shabbat.

Week of February 3rd

What to do now that Ulpan is over?! I still have plenty of work on the project, and I can now start working in earnest on my presentation for June. I had to go through every book box in the basement to see if I could find some of the books I will be using. I found quite a few, and now the basement looks a little bit better.

I’m also doing a lot of sewing, trying to finish all the projects that I started and let “in process.”

We did some shopping. I love the paper goods store here. We got aluminum pans, some plastic containers and some plastic knives.  Then I went to the decorating store, which I love. Every time I go in there, I wish I had something to decorate instead of our present lodgings. I got a cookie tin for myself and my sister-in-law, a jewelry box for Dina and a “sweets container” for a bride. We also stopped at the big shopping center, and I got some shirts for Dina.

Monday was a gorgeous day. I walked to the commercial center, and I looked around in the stores. I was hoping the stores in the parking garage that sell head coverings and jewelry were open, but they opened later. It was very exciting to look around and see the stores full of Purim stuff.

The roof and attic man is supposed to come. Our gutter is leaking onto our neighbor’s property. We had been hearing “scurrying” above the bedrooms, and the property manager came over, popped the attic door, and saw four pigeons up there. We looked at the roof, and one of the screens on the holes had popped out. Hopefully Pinny will fix everything without charging, since he was just here in December. He doesn’t have the fancy equipment that the gutter cleaner in New Jersey had, so the gutters and leaders could still be clogged with leaves and dirt.

Tuesday was our regular trip to the supermarket. The aisles are filling with Purim goodies. We also went to the dental X-ray place with Dina. They took all kinds of pictures and X-rays, and they were sent almost immediately to the orthodontist. Dina is ready to have the braces put on; Chaim is waiting until we decide on a payment plan.

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Wednesday I went to the Ministry of Absorption to meet with the vocational counselor, who could probably be my daughter. We talked, in Hebrew, about what I liked studying in high school, and what I might like to do. She gave me a list of websites, in Hebrew, and a website of courses.  On the course website, a dialog screen popped up. I asked to speak to someone in English, and someone actually called me. All the courses on the website are given in Hebrew and only in Tel Aviv. I had asked the vocational counselor if I could get a civilian job in the army. She said no, but I could apply to the Mossad, so I filled out the application on their website. My next “counseling” session is in two weeks, and that is when I start to take the vocational tests.

Thursday was a nice day. Chaim continues in Ulpan, and he has the teachers that I had. I rode with him to the Matnas because I wanted to drop off a baby present on that side of town. I ended up visiting with my friend. She gave me a ride to the supermarket, and then a ride home. I started the cooking early, but I started working on the project a little late.

We heard the predictions for a major blizzard in the Northeast as we enjoyed a beautiful sunny day. We had a relatively quiet Shabbos. At Seudat Shlishit, we practiced spitting sunflower seeds, a rather disgusting part of Israeli culture.

Week of February 10th

Yay! When Adar arrives, joy increases! It’s very exciting to see all the Purim stuff all over the place – costumes, food, wine, music.   I am very happy to be spending my first Purim in Israel. The whole place has been a buzz since after Tu B’shvat with costume displays and candy displays.

My most recent reading, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (Doubleday, 2010), was very strange. When Rose Edelstein tastes the lemon cake her mother made for Rose’s ninth birthday, Rose discovers she has a talent: she can taste the emotions people were feeling as they prepared the food that Rose eats. Rose goes through periods of eating only processed foods or eating in certain restaurants. Meanwhile, her brother has a talent for disappearing (literally), her father cannot enter a hospital, even to visit an immediate family member, and her mother spends her time woodworking. As I mentioned, it’s a bit bizarre. Although the author is Jewish and the fictional family is Jewish, other than mention of a Lithuanian background, there is negligible Jewish content.

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What really stuck me is that my neighbor gave me lemons from her tree, and I baked a delicious lemon cake, and I was really happy baking in my kitchen with the gifted lemons. I wonder if anyone sensed that when they ate the cake?!  Here’s the recipe: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/East-62nd-Street-Lemon-Cake.

The highlight of the week: attending the Jerusalem International Book Fair. I saw some old friends, met some new friends, and I had a great day in Jerusalem. I thought it would be like Book Expo, but there was no swag or author’s alley. There was also a lot less pushing and shoving to get swag and it wasn’t so crowded. I walked around the booths, and then I went to The Literary Café. It was set up with tables and chairs for the audience, much like a café, and on the platform there were chairs and a table for the speakers. I was looking for a place to sit, and this woman thought she knew me because we were at the same table at a wedding and I was made because I put my coat down to save a seat for my husband and someone sat there. I told her I usually don’t sit with my husband at weddings, and she asked me why. When I told her that we usually attend weddings with separate seating, she realized she did not know me.

Any-who, the session featured Judie Oron, the author of Cry of the Giraffe, yes the 2010 Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable for Teen Readers. She was interviewed by Dr. Chaim Peri, the former director of the Yemin Orde Youth Village. I was very happy that I understood the Hebrew, but I think it was because Judie is originally from Canada, so she and her interviewer kept the Hebrew simple. The book has been translated in Hebrew, and they both emphasized that many of the Ethiopians have not told their stories, much like Holocaust survivors, because they are ashamed or guilty about what happened to them, or they think people will not want to hear the graphic details.

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After that, I walked around and looked at the booth. At the National Library of Israel booth, I told the man I wanted a job. He showed me the website, which is in Hebrew. He told me I would probably have to start out at 30 NIS an hour working with one of the collections in the basement. As I rode home on the bus (see below), I pondered why I would want to ride the bus back and forth to Jerusalem every day when I making more money sitting in the comfort of my own home!

Looking for a place to sit and relax, I went back to The Literary Café. I walked in on a discussion between Literature researcher (what exactly does she do? I would like that job, but only if I don’t have to work in the basement and it pays more than 30 NIS an hour!) Bilha Ben-Eliyahu and two Israeli authors: Ronit Matalon and Ariel Hirschfield. Together they created their novel, Undue Influence, by corresponding as the characters – Lori and Netanel. The Hebrew was a little higher level, so I had to focus, but I was impressed that I got the gist of what they were talking about.

The next session was supposed to be in English, so it surprised me when the interviewer started with Hebrew and the Norwegian author started reading from his book, in Norwegian. Then the interviewer switched to some very broken English, and every comment she made, the author contradicted. If she said, “the first line of your book is very simple,” he retorted, “no, it’s quite complex.” After 20 minutes, I could not take it anymore, so I went in the room and sat and waited for a seminar entitled “Literary Criticism.com.” It was billed as “an open discussion between bloggers about cultural criticism on the web.” The participants were Mark Sarvas, author and sometime blogger; Maud Newton, blogger; Naomi Alderman, author, game writer and sometime blogger; and Boaz Cohen, Israeli blogger. They discussed the merits of blogging and how Twitter and Tumblr are the “new way to communicate.” I would love to sit on panels on like and have the lifestyle of being “too cool for school” and having publishers send me hundreds of books because they wanted my expert opinion. I really liked Naomi Alderman. After hearing about her novel, Disobedience, I expected a more serious, kind of aloof person, but she was quirky, funny, smart, and very down to earth.

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After the session, I did a little more walking around. I was basically killing time for the big panel discussion: Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Professor Moshe Halbertal, and Dr. Binyamin Lau, who spoke about “The Leader, the Rabbi & the Professor: Varieties of Jewish Leadership.” People lined up an hour in advance, the room was standing room only, and it was really warm. It was definitely worthwhile.

After enjoying these brilliant speakers, I had to deal with the diametric opposite: taking the bus home. The Chasidim crowded the door, so by the time I got on the bus, there were no seats left. I stood the whole way back, not one person offered me their seat (I guess I should be glad or I would have felt really old). I got home after 10:30 – hot, nauseous and very tired.

I spent the rest of the week working diligently on my project and trying to think of a Purim theme.

I think back to two seemingly unrelated events that are, in retrospect (or 20/20 hindsight), weirdly related. First event: wandering the exhibition booths, I stumbled upon the booth displaying books from India. While many of the children’s books are about Hindu folktales with stories of their various and sundry gods, I love the colorful and imaginative illustrations. One book looked interesting – To Each His Own, which had a picture of a woman with fish on the cover. I read the story and it resonated: the fisherwoman ended up in the house of a woman gardener. The fisherwoman couldn’t stand the smell of the flowers and the gardener could hardly bear the odor of fish. Unfortunately, the book is not available in Israel, nor on Amazon.com or Amazon UK. It would fit many places on the list of books that illustrate verses from Pirkei Avos including giving the benefit of the doubt and not judging people until you are in their position.

to each her own

Second event: I wanted to get up to the lecture hall for the panel presentation with Rabbi Sacks. The Book Fair staff had someone lead a group to an elevator in the back of the building. As we were walking, the non-religious staff woman asked me what the big deal was about Rabbi Sacks. I was explaining how many books he had written, what a great speaker he was, and what an excellent role model for Jews, etc. She had never heard of him and could not understand why so many people were coming to hear him speak. After she led me upstairs and I was waiting on line, I related the incident to a woman on line. She was incredulous that the woman never heard of Rabbi Sacks. I told the woman that the staff worker would not be surprised the following evening when Etgar Keret was scheduled to speak. My conversation partner asked, “Who’s Etgar Keret?” Well, just as the staff person did not know who Rabbi Sacks is, this woman had no idea who Etgar Keret is – to each his own!

Another interesting phenomenon is the observance of Valentine’s Day in Israel. There were heart-shaped boxes of candy, flowers, etc. We went to the jewelry booth at the mall to get DD a belated birthday present, and there were all kind of Valentine’s Day things there, too. When I asked the sales lady, she said it’s a big holiday. I told her I didn’t understand since it celebrates a Christian saint, but she said people enjoy giving gifts, etc. I’m anxiously waiting to see what Israelis do for St. Patrick’s Day!

We went to our neighbor’s bar mitzvah celebration Saturday night. I was nice to see our neighbors, and the party was in a beautiful building with great views of the city.

Week of February 17th

The week started with a visit to the orthopedist at the clinic. She went over my X-rays and gave me a script for physical therapy. People ask if I mind going to the clinic when I had private doctors in America. Are you kidding? When I went for a blood test in the United States, I sat in the waiting home at least 40 minutes, with people with whom I would not normally interact, serviced by a technician with an attitude. Here I wait 10 minutes, with my neighbors, and the technician wishes me “Shabbat Shalom” when I leave. I can print out my lab results for myself. For today’s visit, my appointment was on time, and I spent the 15 minutes with the doctor that I would have spent in the United States, without the long wait.

In the afternoon we did our Purim shopping. We went to the paper goods store and bought containers and bags, and then to the supermarket for small beverages and the ingredients we need. I’m making chickpea salad for distribution, and I need to bake for the festive Purim meal, which we will have with the cousins.

Wednesday was my meeting with the vocational counselor. I thought she said 10:15, but it was 9:15 (I don’t know how I’m going to be able to work in Hebrew if I can’t even keep my times straight). She did a series of tests which made no sense, but she assured me that they were very going for assessing what my strengths might be. After having to draw pictures, including a tree and a person, it should be obvious that my strength is not drawing pictures.

After my meeting, Chaim picked me up and we drove to Tel Aviv. We ended up parking on the roof of the parking garage, from which we could see the Mediterranean Sea. We were hoping to go to a Chinese restaurant for lunch, but it closed a long time ago. We walked around and found a used bookstore where I was able to get a lot of the books I need for my presentation. We went to another book store which specializes in English books, but they did not have what I wanted.  They had a lot of medical textbooks. After that we walked around a little more to try and find a restaurant, but we realized we were in the wrong neighborhood for glatt kosher food. It was nice to visit, but Tel Aviv felt very much like New York City with Hebrew signs. Everyone spoke to us in English, and it was very crowded. After being in our little suburb for so long, we felt very out of place.

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We did a little more shopping at the end of the week for stuff for Dina to give out to her friends and for Moshe to give to his teachers. We stopped at a liquor store and bought gluten-free beer from Belgium to drink at the Purim meal.

We had a rather quiet Shabbos.

Week of January 1st

The neighbors are making sheva brachos for the new couple, and every day I have to do something in preparation. We already bought the beverages. Tuesday, I had to defrost the chicken; Wednesday, I had to marinate the chicken; and Thursday, I made four batches of sesame noodles. Friday morning  I sautéed the chicken. Friday night was really nice. Debbie set up her beautiful home with the tables and chairs, and then put out gold tablecloths and vases with white roses. Shana provided gold paper goods and plastic cutlery. Tami made delicious roasts, including a gluten-free one that Chaim and Moshe could eat. Debbie made soup, salad and chicken, and Shana made rice, vegetables, and potato kugel. For dessert there were brownies, apple crisp, and vanilla ice cream. We heard divrei Torah from Debbie’s ten-year-old son, from Rabbi Pogrow, and from the chasan.  The boys stayed after the meal was over and hung out with Debbie’s cousin and the other boys. The girls stayed a little while because it was pouring rain, but we left relatively early.

Before the meal began, Shana made a comment like, “I think this sheva brachos could rival one that was made in Passaic.” The sad, or happy, truth is that we have participated in more simchas in six months in Israel than we did in 14 years in Clifton. The only remote connection I had to a sheva brachos was when I made a dish for my neighbor to serve at a Seudah Shlishit for the chasan and kallah. Most of the weddings we attended were for people we knew from Queens.

At Shabbos lunch, we had a guest that we knew from Queens. Even though we hadn’t spoken in over 14 years, we had plenty to talk about, and he gave some excellent divrei Torah.

Saturday night we went for the initial consultation with the orthodontist. He looked at everyone’s mouth, and gave us referral forms for X-rays. For Dina and Yehuda, we expected they could use braces to close the gap between their front teeth, but the doctor also had that Moshe could use a palate expander.

Week of January 6th

Today I had online training for using the new time management system, but I have yet to get my project assignment, so I haven’t worked any hours to enter into the system.

Monday we went to the Ministry of Absorption and signed for unemployment.  My appointment for vocational counseling was postponed.

The big news this week was snow in Jerusalem. It was freezing here, and we got rain, hail and frost, but not snow. Jerusalem was basically closed, and they closed Route 1 to traffic.  We could see the snow on the hills to the east. We also got a sun shower and a rainbow in the afternoon. With all the rain, a lot of roads have been flooding and there have been a lot of accidents. We just have the gutter problem, where it sounds like someone it taking a shower because the gutter is spilling over.

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Week of January 13th

Yet another week of Ulpan. Our test is scheduled for January 31st, and I am getting a little nervous that we are not focusing on preparation. We do a few things, but we seem to waste a lot of time in class talking about elections. The Ulpan staff feels it is very important that we are aware of the propaganda on the radio, the different parties, and the history of elections.  I was not interested in American politics, but less Israeli politics in Hebrew.

We went to Chasmonaim for Shabbat. As usual, it was nice to be with family and eat amazing food. As we were driving on the 445 to get to the yishuv, people had parked their cars and others were walking down the highway to see the water flowing in the wadi. This year there has been record rainfall, and a lot of people can’t recall the last time things flooded or they saw water in certain places.

On Shabbos afternoon, the kids insisted we walk across the highway and see the Grunbergs. We walked around a little with them, and Dina got to hold the baby.

Week of January 20th

My project started this week with a new manager. I’m doing the same work, and I feel a little more confident putting together the information. I will have to balance working with studying for the Ulpan exam.

We had a rather eventful week. Tuesday was Election Day, which is a vacation day for everyone: no Ulpan, and schools and stores are closed. We voted early. I brought my camera and took a picture of Chaim. The poll workers started laughing, but when we told them we were new immigrants, they congratulated and welcomed us.

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Later in the day, we took a little hike in the area across the road from Route 10. We saw deer, goats, and quite a few almond trees. The weather was amazing, and we felt rather Israeli: voting, hiking, and seeing almond trees in bloom.

 

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Wednesday was our Ulpan trip. We went to Jerusalem and started at the Bank of Israel. We learned about the history of currency, and how all Israeli coins have symbols that were found on ancient coins, like the menorah and flowers. We also saw how the bills are made with lots of different patterns and symbols to prevent counterfeiting. The Bank of Israel is similar to the Federal Reserve in the United States, involving with stabilizing the currency and influencing economic policy. They did not talk about foreign exchange, nor did we get to see the gold.

From there we went to a small park to eat lunch. After lunch, we visited Moreshet Begin, which is a museum devoted to the life of Menachem  Begin. This was really interesting, and it really tells the history of modern Israel. Begin was born in Poland, came to Israel, and participated in seminal historic events including the Altalena, the bombing of the King David Hotel, signing a peace treaty with Egypt, and the war in Lebanon.

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Although he did so much, the end of his life was very sad. The death of his beloved wife, Aliza, was a tremendous blow, and he took the events of the First Lebanon War very personally. He retreated from public life and lived much like a recluse until his death.

It is very  frustrating is that we are doing almost nothing for Tu B’Shvat and the Ulpan is not having a gathering, even though they made big parties for Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah. Tanya and I organized a little party for our class. She brought raisins, I brought almonds, someone else brought dates, and someone else brought olives. One of the men gave a very nice dvar Torah. We did not have time to listen to the music I brought in. The teacher had brought in someone’s commentaries on Tu B’Shvat, and she was trying to get the class to explain them, but there was little interest.

Shabbat was Dina’s English birthday. Yehuda went up north with his yeshiva. They stayed at a hotel in Bet She’an, and they went swimming. Chaim has not been feeling well since Wednesday.  The only symptom he has is chills, besides feeling a little tired and under the weather.

We had an Ulpan friend and her family over for lunch. Lots of good food and fruits for lunch.

Week of January 27th

The last week of Ulpan!! The test has been moved up to January 30th. Chaim gave me the website where there are copies of previous exams, and I’ve been trying to do one a day. The class is doing other things: discussing the elections, etc., but I really need to review a lot of the material.

Monday we went to my Ulpan teacher’s house for a little party. We wasted a lot of time figuring out who was driving and who was going in which car, but we had a nice time once we got there. She lives in Neve Ilan, which has some great views. On a clear day, she can see all the way to Ashdod from outside her door, but the day was a little hazy, so we didn’t see anything. Her husband does ceramics, so we saw his studio with the kiln. Everyone ate and talked, and then Irit told us how they decided to live in the community and about what her sons do. Then a few people spoke.

After that, Irit put on some songs. The first one was so slow and weird that it brought down the whole mood of the gathering. Soon after that, we all headed back to Ramat Bet Shemesh, and I did some more studying.

On Tuesday, the day before the test, Irit was not well and Vered was not well. Irit taught until the break, but we really did not go over anything for the exam. She returned exams to Myrna and me. She gave Myrna’s back and said, “You don’t need to worry. You’re going to do fine.” Then she gave mine back. I said, “I need to worry.” She told me the part where you read essays and answer questions was fine, but the grammar was not so fine.

The test is a little weird. For the first part, you are given an hour and 15 minutes. There are three essays, of increasing difficulty, with questions to answer. This part of the test is worth 30 points. The second part of the test, after a 15 minute break, is also an hour and 15 minutes, but it is worth 70 points. This part has grammar exercises that included changing things from plural to singular, using prepositions and phrases, changing active to passive and completing sentences. You also have to write an essay on a given subject and a letter about a particular situation.

When Vered took over the second half of the class, we actually did something pertinent to the test: learning to change from present to future and using prepositions.

We came home and studied the rest of the day and the rest of the night. As I studied, I thought about my ambivalence about Ulpan. On the one hand, I felt that I wasn’t serviced, that other people were obvious favorites who were always called on to speak and comment. On the other hand, I did learn. On still the other hand, part of the experience is to meet people and learn about Israeli culture, and we did meet people, make friends, and take some interesting trips. As I remembered Pirke Avos, and how David was grateful to someone who turned out to be his enemy because this person had taught him something, so I knew I should be grateful for whatever I learned. I ended up making my teacher a personalized cross-stitch bookmark while I was studying.

Wednesday morning we studied for the test. I walked over early and recycled the bottles on the way. Chaim came later. I was put in the Aleph class room to take the test, and there were things posted all over the walls that would be considered cheating if they were on paper: use of prepositions, verb conjugations, vocabulary. Chaim’s room was jammed with people, mine was not so crowded. I was rather subdued, while other people were very chatty. I used all the time allotted, and I think I did okay. I was rather lucky in that one of the essays was about therapy with horses, and my neighbor’s son goes for horse therapy, so I had some clue what they were talking about.  I was not sure about one grammar exercise, but otherwise I knew what was expected in the rest of the questions.

We were hoping to have a fun day on Thursday, but it was raining heavily, and Yehuda came home from yeshiva. It seems he pulled a prank, and the rosh yeshiva won’t let him back until he is confident that Yehuda is not a psychopath. Between lack of sleep on the weekend away and the pressure at school, I think Yehuda was just totally stressed, but we are letting him rest and getting him tested for learning disabilities, in case that is why he is finding it so hard to learn Hebrew and keep up with his studies.

Our neighbors came to dinner Friday night. We had a very pleasant evening, but a lot of dirty dishes. Moshe asked our guests to make chocolate mousse, and the mother made a big bowl.

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