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.
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.
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.
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.
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.