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Monthly Archives: February 2013

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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Week of December 2nd
Sunday we had a conference with Dina’s teacher, her Ulpan teacher, and her tutor. It was a productive meeting, and we talked to Dina about having a better attitude and improving her penmanship. They are also going to give her different work and have the tutor go over some different subjects.

Tuesday we had the gutters cleaned. During the first major downpour a couple of weeks ago, it sounded like someone was running the shower full blast in the house. It turns out that the water was blocked in the gutter, and it comes out right in front of the door to the upstairs porch, where there is a little hole. As I checked on that, I saw that the porch was filling up with water. I called the neighbor and asked, “Is the porch supposed to be filling up with water?” In her usual calm, forthright manner, Tami said, “No, it should drain or it will start leaking into the living room.” As it starting leaking slightly (there is still a mark there), Chaim went out to the porch to see what was happening. Someone has stopped the drain with a plastic stopper. He took a plastic screwdriver, popped the stopper, and the water went gushing from the porch down a pipe to the street. We followed the path of the drain and realized it came out at the bottom of the steps at the entrance to our house. Then Chaim stuck the screwdriver into the hole where it was draining and pulled out plastic cups, pantyhose, and several clothespins.

We informed our property manager, and it took him three tries to get a drain cover that fit the hole in the porch.
The gutter cleaner came, but his ladder was not tall enough to reach the gutter, so his assistant went in through the attic, lifted off the roof tiles, and they cleared the gutters that way. They were filled with dirt and rocks. The next day, Chaim checked the other drain pipe and emptied more dirt and rocks.Of course, now that all the pipes and gutters are clear, it was not rained hard.

We started getting reading for Hanukkah. Chaim bought the boys new menorahs that will hold oil. To my great dismay, I unpacked the Hanukkah bins and everything has “Shins” instead of “Peis.” Some people will argue that you could still use them, but I can hardly wait to get new “Israeli” dreidels.

My first batch of latkes tasted alright, but they did not come out the way I like them. On my next attempt, I will drain the potatoes before I start frying.

Week of December 9th
Yehuda went back to school after Shabbat. He has school Sunday, Monday and part of Tuesday, then he has a Hanukkah break. Dina had a Hanukkah party this morning, and Moshe has school until 1:30 PM.

Moshe’s choir had a concert in Bet Shemesh on Monday night. We only drove around in a circle once before we found the Matnas. The boys did a great job. They also showed a slide presentation of the menorahs some of the kids that go to after school programs made. There were a lot of pictures of Yoni Netanyahu, and one menorah was made out of syringes.

Tuesday night was the big concert in the Ulam Sport in Ramat Bet Shemesh. There were tons of kids there, and the boys sang nicely. There was also a play about Hanukkah. It seems like in many performances here, especially for kids, the voices are weird and exaggerated. We saw some neighbors and some friends from Ulpan.

Saturday night’s latkes were a little well done, as were the first batch of gluten-free sufganiot. Sunday night’s latkes were much better, but a bit more of a procedure because first I grated the potatoes in the food processor, then I had to drain them. Monday I used a mix, which wasn’t bad, but not as good as the fresh ones. Because of Moshe’s performance, dinner Tuesday night was catch-as-catch can.

Wednesday I decided not to make latkes. Instead I fried up some schnitzel. I had promised chicken curry, but Moshe is having a hard time finding things we wants to eat, so I decided to make something I know he likes. Then, using the oil (and some of the leftover cornflake crumbs that were in the pot), I made curried cauliflower instead. Chaim had steamed a pot of rice, which completed our dinner. Dina ate the cauliflower and admitted that it tasted good. For dessert we all shared a giant pomegranate.

I thought Hanukkah in Israel would be sort of like “Jewish Christmas,” with a lot of decorations and fanfare. Where we live, it’s been really quiet. It’s nice the see the menorahs in the windows, and all the stores have sufganiyot and tops for sale. It’s also nice NOT to see Christmas stuff or to constantly hear carols on the radio starting from the middle of December.

It has also gotten colder here. It’s not that it’s so cold; it’s just that in a stone house without central heating, it feels much colder.

Thursday Moshe began his Hanukkah vacation. We decided to spend our first Hanukkah in Israel in the place where it all began, Modi’in. Of course, we know that the modern city of Modi’in is not located where the ancient city of Modi’in was, but it was fun to walk around the mall and buy some doughnuts. Then we went to the Hasmonean graves, which are really Byzantine, not from the Hasmoean period. Finally, we took a long walk from that site to the grave of Matisyahu haCohen ben Yochanan. That looked pretty old and authentic.

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Thursday brought a lot of simcha as Ahuva Grunberg got engaged and the boys went to a Hanukkah party at Aish Kodesh.
Friday was a short day because of Shabbat and lighting Hanukkah candles, and we spent much of the day cooking. I made a roast in the crock pot, gefilte fish, some coleslaw, a salad, and the string beans with sesame oil and soy sauce. Chaim made some spicy chopped meat, a cholent with meat, and some spicy avocado.

Shabbat went by quickly, and we lit all eight slots of the menorah and ate the last batch of latkes.
Sunday we went into Jerusalem. We ate lunch at an Asian Fusion restaurant, Sheyan. It was delicious. We arrived just before a bus load of Asians, so it must be a good place if they bring them there. The restaurant is in the windmill in Rechavia, and everything was great. We then drove over to Mamilla to park, then walked through the Arab shuk to the Kotel. There were a lot of Nigerian tourists looking around. After the Kotel, we walked around the old city a little bit.

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We then drove to the Grunbergs to wish them a mazal tov. Then we came back to Bet Shemesh and took Yehuda to get new shirts. I think he got every label – Hollister, Ralph Lauren, and Nautica.

Tomorrow it’s back to reality. Ulpan resumes, school resumes, and we have to make an appointment with the Ministry of Absorption about unemployment benefits and creating an occupational profile.

Week of December 16th
Back to Ulpan. It was very nice to have a break, but it’s also nice to see friends and get back to a routine.
On Wednesday we went to the Misrad HaKlita, or Ministry of Absorption. Since we’ve been here six months (!!), our monthly allotment from the government has run out, and we are eligible for employment until we find jobs. It’s different than the United States. Since we are of a certain age, we have to check in every other month. Also different, if one spouse is working, you are not eligible for unemployment. Also different, the maximum allotment, which assumes a couple with two children, is about $800 a month, which hopefully will cover the groceries and the bus fare.
We also discussed are employment plans. Chaim is probably going to continue with Ulpan, then look into doing a supervised stint at a hospital so he can be certified. Then the counselor asked what I did in the United States. Me: “I was a librarian.” Adela: “Oh. Well, you can retrain to do Shiastu massage or reflexology. A lot of haredim want reflexology.” I was completely dumbfounded. Besides the fact that I have advanced degrees and experience, and besides the fact that librarianship has nothing to do with alternative therapies, I cannot imagine myself earning a living touching other people’s feet. But I signed up for an appointment for free vocational testing, which will probably prove my unsuitability for anything to do with science or the healing arts.The irony is that the same day I received noticed from the Association of Jewish Libraries that the proposal to the World Congress of Jewish Studies had been accepted, and that I will be giving a presentation at Hebrew University in June.

Still waiting for notice from my employer. They promised a project would be starting after Hanukkah. When I was doing it in October and November, I was getting a little bored and I felt like I was missing out on doing things instead of work, but now with the cold weather and rain, it’s kind of nice to sit and the computer and do something productive. I guess it’s also good for my ego. Between the challenge of learning Hebrew and the job prospects through the Ministry of Employment, it’s nice to know I have some competence in something.

Week of December 23rd
We had another week of Ulpan. The amazing thing is that Christmas was on Tuesday, and you would have never known: no decorations, no advertisements, no music on the radio, no nothing. It was a very weird feeling, but I guess a good one. The only thing I truly missed was my annual get-together with Lucille. Although there are many cats here, I miss her felines, as well as visiting and chatting (and the tree!).

We had a meeting with our financial advisor in Jerusalem, and, as usual, we are thinking until we change our strategy. After the meeting, we walked around a little bit. We were looking for a used book store that probably went out of business, but I love the shops on Yoel Salomon Street.

On Saturday we had lunch with the Steins, and it’s always nice to commiserate with other recent olim. We also learned a trick which we will try next week – putting heads of garlic in the cholent – delicious!

Last two days of December
Again, there is no hoopla leading up to the secular New Year. Sunday night we went to Elinoa Schaeffer’s wedding. This is the second wedding we’ve attended in Israel, and it was very lively. Her friends did amazing job of dancing and “being sameach with the kallah.” As seems to be usual, the women’s attire ran the gamut from evening gowns to jean skirts and Crocs.

Monday we had a meeting at Moshe’s school. He was sent home early on Friday for throwing a rock. On Saturday night I had called his rebbe and told him that Moshe threw the rock out of frustration, and that he wasn’t aiming at anyone and the rock didn’t hit anyone.

With the aid of a translator, we discussed what was going on. They actually pulled in the two boys that Moshe complained were constantly teasing him and being mean to him. Put on the spot, both of these little brats were lying and trying to deny what they were doing. The shifty eyes and the body language were a dead giveaway. I was amazed that one of the boys gave the “shniyah” fingers to the rebbe. We left the meeting somewhat satisfied that they were aware of the problem and that the teasing would stop.

As we were leaving the school, we saw some of the kids playing during their recess. They had all found big sticks, and they were fighting each other with no supervision. I was ready to run back and ask how they could complain about Moshe when this was going on, but Chaim said to leave it alone, so we went home.

We had left Ulpan early, but it turns out there was a lecture after the break, so we didn’t miss anything in class. The next day people complained about having an event in English during Ulpan hours, but the staff argued that they wanted everyone to understand because it was about Israel’s history. Oops! They forgot about the French speakers and the Russian speaker (who was very upset).