December

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).

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