Breakdown in the Shoe Store

Even as I write this post, I can’t decide if I’m writing it with pride, humiliation, or both. You see, I’ve been living in Israel for nearly

Itiel summer 2013

It's a good thing he's cute, or I might consider selling him to buy a new pair of shoes!

10 years now, and I’ve never purchased shoes in this country. I know that sounds somewhat awful, like I’m eerily dependent on DSW and Target, despite the fact that they’re 6,000 miles away. I know it sounds like I’m snobbish and materialistic – but that’s not actually it at all.

For starters, I seldom buy shoes for myself at all, unless some that I own happen to break (which only happens about once every 2-3 years). Secondly, I’m a very overt anti-shopper, and avoid stores like the plague. As it is, my own wardrobe comes nearly entirely from hand-me downs from my sisters-in-law and gifts from my generous mother and mother-in-law who both know that I have basically no fashion sense as well as a pathological anxiety related to spending money on things that aren’t 150% necessary. It’s an illness, I know…certainly one that deserves an entire blog post in its own right. But that’s for another time.

I do have less trouble buying things for the kids, but since I work full time, I find that I barely have time to get to the grocery store or the doctor, let alone the shoe store or clothing store, or seamstress or bank, or anywhere else. It seems much easier to ask my very helpful (and devoted) mother to just swing by the children’s shoe section at Target next time she passes by, and to bring next season’s shoes next time she comes (yes, I do pay for them…most of the time). Co-dependent? Definitely. Convenient? Absolutely!

But though we just spent two months in New York and I managed to buy shoes for the four big kids, the one thing I didn’t get was shoes for Itiel, who wasn’t quite walking when we left. He does walk now, however, and I thought it might be a good idea to get him some shoes. So, for the first time in my parenting career, I packed him up into the car and took my child for a shoe fitting. (Yes, I know you’re theoretically supposed to do that for every kid. But don’t worry, the older four seem to have survived just fine despite the fact that they didn’t have proper shoe fittings).

Since I’ve never been to a shoe store around here, I figured that I’d head over to the local store, where I’ve heard a lot of people shop. It’s called the Naot outlet, and outlets are supposed to be affordable, right? RIGHT?!

I got some help from a salesman who looked about 12, who informed me that the cheapest first baby shoes are 200 NIS, and the most are 260 NIS. That’s about $56-$72. But they didn’t have any of the 200 NIS shoes in Itiel’s size, so the best he could give me was some for 240 NIS. I don’t think I have a single pair of shoes in my closet that costs that much. Who pays that much for shoes for little, tiny people whose feet are growing quicker than their hair is?! And we’re not even talking about designer shoes here. Just plain old baby shoes, very similar to these that cost a mere $19.99.

How many nights have I held my babies close, whispering in their ears that I’d do anything for them? If that’s really true, why on earth couldn’t I bring myself to buy my baby shoes for $70? I just said, I’d do anything! And so, the breakdown began. It involved a serious amount of deep breaths, a few tears as I called Mordecai in a panic and then an overzealous scroll through my phone book trying to figure out who would be the next commuter I know coming from the US who could potentially bring back some baby shoes. All while Itiel cried in my arms, traumatized at having to stick his feet in these strange, uncomfortable new shoes. It was certainly not the highlight of my day.

I left the store feeling defeated as a mother but proud as a price-conscious shopper (not to mention extremely grateful that I have a way to get the things that I need without selling my firstborn). I was (IE, am) also rather baffled as to what regular Israelis do when they can’t just run to a discount store? A few friends have subsequently told me that there are some bargain basement options around here – there’s even a Payless now…but that the quality isn’t worth even the discounted price, and that you’re still paying more – way more – than a comparable store abroad.

An hour after I left the shoe store empty handed and entirely bereft, I got a call from a woman I know from around town, who happened to be in the store at the same time as we were. She said that the store was having a sale – buy one pair, get the second for 50% off. So for 180 NIS, or a paltry $50, I could have the shoes for Itiel, and she could save on the shoes for her daughter…was I interested in going in with her?

And so, this is how I agreed to overpay for shoes while still managing to ‘save’ $20. I’m not going to lie – I still feel like a sucker. But on some level maybe I’m more Israeli now. Or maybe only Itiel is, as he’ll be sporting the latest in Israeli shoe fashion while I’ll still be wearing American sale rack fashion from 2009. Either way, I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and I hope nobody will judge me if it takes another 10 years for me to head to an Israeli shoe store.



New Challenges and New Perspectives in the New Year

For a change, it’s been a while since I’ve written on this blog, but not for lack of ideas – as usual, lack of time is the culprit. I have tons of things that I want to say/write, and hopefully I will one day. About motherhood. About daughterhood (which doesn’t come up on spellcheck so I assume is a word?). About some really divine things that have happened to us in the past few months. About living in Israel, and living in a ‘faraway place’ which isn’t always as fantastic as the fairytales would make it seem. But those posts are not for now.

Now it’s a new year, and even though the year is less than a week old, I’ve learned a lot in the past few days. A lot. About my making peace with the challenges of daily life, and trying to see the good in every situation. And Lord knows, that is hard. But I guess it’s part of life. And so, without further ado, I’d like to share with you some of the challenges (aka crises) we’ve been facing lately, and the flip sides to these potential disasters. I certainly don’t mean to speak from a soapbox or to make my challenges seem worse than someone else’s – I just hope that these slightly odd perspectives will encourage you to find new perspectives during the tough times. Even when that seems nearly impossible.

Challenge #1 – Two beloved family members in the hospital at the same time. On a different continent.

My first response – Panic, fear, frustration at being so far away.

My new perspective – Well, at least I’ll know that they’ll be near the phone when I call! What a great captive audience for all of my other sob stories! Or cute-child stories! And, perhaps a bit more seriously, what a great opportunity to take the 10 days of teshuva a bit more seriously. After all, we pray about health, life and death constantly during the High Holidays, but how many of us actually internalize it? Now I’ve had a real chance to think about these prayers and to mean them when I say them, even if it’s one I’d have been happy to live without.

Challenge #2 – My cell phone simply stopped working one day.

My first response – How will I call everyone before the holidays? And why, oh why, do I have to pay for another phone when I just replaced it a year ago? And where can I store all of the numbers that seem to fly around at the beginning of a new school year (will I have to actually find a pen and paper? Do those things still exist?)

My new perspective – Instead of calling everyone in my address book, I can enjoy the quiet in the hectic pre-holiday days (and I am, though I’m still happy if you want to call).

Challenge #3 – Two broken ovens at once. In the days preceding a week-long holiday that generally includes hosting lots of hungry guests.

My first response – Crap, I really didn’t feel like paying for new ovens this year (which is why I didn’t fix the first one when it broke a few months ago). I REALLY REALLY don’t feel like paying overinflated Israeli prices to replace my American ovens. Oh, and how on earth am I going to cook normally for the upcoming holiday? (Perhaps) worse, how can I replenish my rapidly-depleting cookie supply?! Should I suck it up and get a tiny Israeli oven instead? Then I’ll also have to replace all my pans, since none of them fit in there. Did I mention I’m not very good at making decisions when it comes to spending money? Especially when I’m cookie-deprived?

My new perspective – Firstly, I feel grateful for my fantastic friends who invited the family for the upcoming holiday, so that I don’t have to rush into a decision quite as quickly. Though I always appreciate our wonderful community, I have another opportunity to be especially grateful now. And hey, maybe it’s not so bad if I can’t bake cookies. My thighs (and cholesterol) might thank me later. That is, if I survive the withdrawal (which is slowly setting in). Also, now I finally have the opportunity to try out all of those crock pot recipes that I’ve been hoarding for the one-day that hadn’t yet arrived…until now.

Challenge #4 – Azi lost his hearing again (no, just because this is last doesn’t mean it’s the least important).

My first response – My poor baby…he hears a fraction of what everyone else is hearing, and is slowly going insane from frustration (so are his parents). It’s no wonder all he says all day is WHAT? WHAT? And that he doesn’t respond to over half of the questions directed his way. It’s no wonder he cries so much more than he did before this problem returned, and that he screams at the dinner table instead of speaking in an indoor voice. (Boy, have these things been difficult for us all).

A simultaneous first response – OMG, a third surgery in 3 years?! And when it takes so long to get appointments for everything, it’ll take forever to get to the doctor, get a confirmation for the hearing test, take the hearing test, go back to the doctor, get on the surgical schedule, get another confirmation for the surgery and then do the surgery…and then go back for more hearing tests and follow ups. (Gosh, just reading it all is exhausting!).

My new perspective – Well, at least his brother’s coughing and crying in the night isn’t waking him up! And, at least he doesn’t hear when I kvetch about his newly aggressive behavior on the phone…This challenge, though hopefully temporary, also provides an excellent opportunity to connect with my son on a closer level, to take him on my lap and to speak directly into his ear, allowing me to sneak in some extra snuggling.

Are these things the normal stressors of life? Probably. Am I one of the few that freaks out quickly rather than remaining level-headed? Likely. Maybe by next year I’ll be able to get over this ‘personality quirk’ (there’s a good new year’s resolution!). But until then, I’m satisfied with just the ability to find a new perspective and hopefully to learn something from each experience. And I’m continuing to look forward to the day when these simultaneous nightmares will be something to laugh about, rather than to stress about.



The Age-Old Conflict That Nobody’s Talking About

The decision to have a child is, by all accounts, an intensely personal one. In fact, many women, especially in my social circles, areThe birthday boy so private about this decision that they don’t even discuss the option until they’re well on their way to new-motherhood, or until they hit middle age and it becomes apparent that the baby ship has sailed. And though such privacy is certainly warranted (and, perhaps, even worthwhile), it doesn’t leave many doors open for consultation in cases of doubt. At a time when the average fertility rate worldwide hovers well under 3 children per women, couples who choose to have more than 2-3 children often face judgment from a plethora of sources; grandparents who think that their children are overextended with the children they already have, teachers who think that their students aren’t receiving enough attention at home, employers who are afraid to hire women that may opt to take maternity leave on a semi-regular basis. In contrast, women who can have more children but choose not to seem to struggle with the unspoken pressure of others who are still opting for more, and even more difficult ‘what if’s. What if an unborn child was destined to be the president? What if having another will fix the family’s current gender imbalance (on the other hand, what if it won’t?)?

My baby is turning 1 this week, and through all of the preparations and the excitement generated by the other kids, I can’t help but feel a bit conflicted at the arrival of this pivotal milestone. Perhaps that’s my generally nervous personality. But perhaps not. It may be the realization that since Itiel is my fifth, I’m not actually sure if I’ll be celebrating another first birthday of my own child. It may be the idea that despite my completely irrational desire to have another baby, it may not be the best thing for the kids we already have. Or for our bank account. Or my stress level. (But honestly, is there ever a truly convenient time to have kids? Are these valid reasons not to have more? You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? And thus, the ever-evolving dilemma continues).

Not surprisingly, publishing my inner conflict for all to see hasn’t answered any of my questions. But I hope that it will help others debating this issue to realize that it’s an issue that at least one other person is thinking about, and that perhaps it may be one worth discussing beyond the confines of couplehood. It may even be a good idea to ask for advice from others who have made the decision (or haven’t yet), though I wouldn’t know since until now I’ve been too shy to ask around.



Leaving Good Enough Alone

You know those days where everything seems to be going right? The sun seems a bit brighter, the kids seem slightly less cranky, and maybe you’re even feeling that much skinner? I’ve been having an entire week like that – but for some reason, my ecstasy is

Cute Holtzes

Yup, like I said, 'darn cute'

tempered by this horrible nagging feeling.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a pessimist (at all!), but for some reason, I just feel too skeptical that I could be ‘just that’ lucky. I mean, I’m already lucky enough to have a fantastic family, a beautiful house and great friends in a wonderful neighborhood. But to also have so many unbelievable opportunities presented at once seems almost entirely unbelievable. Because I’m also inexplicably superstitious, I’m afraid to say anything about what’s going on. And it’s nearly irrelevant. I felt fantastically blessed yesterday when I managed to get rides with two strangers from the train station practically to my door. And that’s not even such a big deal (or maybe it is?).

I can’t help but wonder what is wrong with me, that I can’t seem to relax or to enjoy the ride when so many things seem to be falling suddenly into place. Is it normal to be so uptight for no rational reason? I have no reason to think that anything will go wrong, or that my good fortune will suddenly reverse. But I also have no reason to think I deserve any of the miracles that have recently come my way.

I’m really not looking for any pats on the back, or anyone to say that of course I deserve good things. I don’t doubt that I’m a relatively decent person, and that I always mean well (even if it doesn’t come out that way). And I think I’d really be fine if everything just continued on its merry way of being good, instead of great. It’s not that I’m aiming for mediocrity, but rather that I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with good. I’m cool with having a job I love, even if it won’t make me a millionaire (yet). I’m ok if my kids aren’t the best athletes on the baseball team, or the best singers in the choir, or the absolute smartest kids in the class. As long as they are generally happy and well-adjusted (and also, darn cute). I can live with my totally scratched and mangled glasses that survived being toasted and run over by a car, as long as I can continue to see out of them (and don’t have to waste time or money going to replace them). For me, good really is good.

So why is it then that when a few really wonderful things start to happen all at once, I start to feel tense and more than a little bit panicked? Why is it that I start to wonder when something terrible will happen when there’s no reason to think so? Is this a normal behavior or some sort of psychotic paranoia? And how on earth can I learn to just let go and relax a teeny, tiny bit? For my own sanity, if nothing else?




Why I Won’t Save the World

Everyone has a dream. For my four year old, it’s to be the Karate Kid. My six year old dreams of being a ballerina. And if not that, a ballet teacher. Our 9 year old dreams of never having homework – or curfew – again. I’m not sure about the 8 year old, but I think she dreams about being a butterfly.

My dream, until recently, was to save the world. And if not the world, then at least my country. And if not my country, then at least my community. It sounds almost laughable to admit that out loud, but it’s true. I really thought that as a student of politics (and an extreme idealist) I’d be able to make a real contribution to society – to do something that would impact thousands of people, if not more. I thought that if I coupled my overpriced book smarts with my natural charm and sharp intellect, voila! I could turn myself into the next Golda Meir. Or, at the very least, Tzipi Livni.

But dreams change, it seems. Sometimes, they even die. And other ones appear.

Immediately after grad school I took two very brief turns working in NGOs, two excellent and highly reputable organizations that do, in fact, do wonderful things for Israeli society and for people throughout the world. When those positions didn’t work out, I did what every responsible mother would do, and took the first job I could get. It happened to be a work at home position in the marketing department of an online company. I must admit it wasn’t the do-gooder job of my dreams, but it kept me out of trouble. And before I knew it, I got hooked.

It’s been 7 years since then, and none of my jobs since then have been very altruistic, except perhaps a rare freelance project. I have not worked towards the cure for cancer, nor have I helped people make aliyah or return to the Jewish faith. I haven’t helped crippled children walk, and I haven’t obliterated poverty, illiteracy or obesity. I certainly haven’t reduced the corruption or insidious bureaucracy of the Israeli government or made the country a more tolerant place (tasks which, incidentally, are still high on my list of priorities).

But…I come from a long line of professional do-gooders. Rabbis, teachers, communal servants, social workers, lawyers…you name it, my family has it. For this reason, and many others, I feel like I’ve spent the last 7 years defending my choice of profession. But I’ve finally made peace with my career, something I’m saying publicly for the first time. I love the fact that I can have a full-time career (is there such a thing as more than full time career? If so, I may have that), but that I can still be around and available (for the most part) when my kids, family and friends need me. And it’s not just that I’m ‘ok’ with my profession. It’s that I honestly, truly and seriously love it. Even though I don’t have a real job title (I mean, I have one on my business card, but that’s not all that I actually do).

For perhaps the first time in 9 years of motherhood, I’ve realized that I need not mourn my dream of saving the world. Because my new dream is to help build it. And I like to think that by raising a family, I’m doing just that.



Forgetting and Remembering

I forgot to bring something important to work today. I also forgot my lunch. In recent weeks, months and years, I’ve forgotten things on my grocery list (many times). I’ve forgotten to turn off the outside light before bed. I did not remember to call my mother in law for her birthday, and my brother, and my sister-in-law, and my… you get the idea.

Believe it or not, there have been times when I’ve forgotten to pick up my kids from a play date. And occasions when I’ve forgotten to take them there. I’ve forgotten about dentist appointments, parent teacher conferences and homework assignments. It isn’t entirely surprising that I’ve forgotten passwords – to my bank account, to my email account and, with surprising frequency, to my Snapfish account.

I can’t remember phone numbers (largely thanks to the ease with which virtual address books are accessible), and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten to serve something on Shabbat because I didn’t have a written menu.

But there is one thing that I don’t forget, and that’s the memory of our ancestors, of MY ancestors, who were brutally murdered during the Holocaust. Or the unspeakable things that happened to my relatives that survived. I can’t honestly say that I remember these things on a daily basis. What I can say, in all honesty, is that I honor them daily. By raising my children as proud Jews. By choosing to live in Israel. By teaching them that no matter how many times we forget to take out the garbage, there are certain things in this world and certain people in this world that we will never forget, even if we never really knew them.



Saying Goodbye

I’ve sat down to write this post multiple times. Probably dozens. It feels like hundreds. I’ve saved many drafts, reviewed, rephrased and revised, and nothing seems to be just right. I suspect this isn’t either, but it’s all I’ve got.

It’s been just more than 2 weeks now since you whispered that you loved me, three words that were among the last you ever spoke. It’s been only 2 weeks since I held your hand as you took your last breaths and passed gracefully from this world to the next. On one hand, it feels like a year. I can’t count how many times I’ve opened my email to shoot you a line, wondered what you’d think about my latest escapades or the children’s developments. Do you know that Tzofi is getting braces? That Hollie just ordered her first pair of glasses? That Itiel can now pull himself up?

On the other hand, it feels like only moments ago I was standing at your bedside where your loved ones sang songs to beautify your journey, to help you know that you are loved, to remind you, as you have reminded so many others, that even in the hardest of times, G-d is there. The pain is still so raw, it’s hard to imagine how it will ever fade, how the world will function without your wisdom and your humor – how I will manage without it.

My neighbors, friends, family, ask me how I’m doing. I tell them I’m fine, because I know that’s what you’d want me to say, and how you’d want me to be. But as I sit here, stifling my cries and wiping the tears silently from my cheeks, I know that I’m not.

Your death wasn’t sudden; there were no words left unsaid between us. And yet, every word from that moment on will be left unsaid, in a way that feels oddly uncomfortable and unnervingly surreal.

You taught me so many things, too many to be listed here, but still not enough. I yearn to hear what you’d say about the future of our country (and the current coalition negotiations), your opinions on the way your final projects will materialize, and what you’d think about this blog post.

I can honestly say that your death was a true celebration of life. That you died surrounded by loved ones, on the holiest day of the week, and that you were buried on Purim, one of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar, no small irony since you only wanted your family to be happy. These thoughts bring me peace, but little comfort.

I feel somehow that ending this post without mentioning every thought or memory running through my head would be negligent, like somehow such omissions would be a form of dishonor to your legacy. But I hope you’ll know that I mean no disrespect, and that I will do everything I can to honor you now, as I did during your life. You’ve not only been my Poppy by blood, but you’ve been my neighbor, my confidant, my mentor and friend. I am different because of you, and I will be forever changed because you are no longer here. I didn’t just love you when you were alive, I love you still. And I always will.



Flying Solo

When Mordecai and I got married, 10 years ago this month, we dreamed of honeymooning in Thailand, where we’d heard that thoughKosher ice cream in Macau the airfare is expensive, the hotels are cheap, and everything is breathtakingly beautiful. The trip never materialized, unfortunately, since we found ourselves saving money for aliyah, for a house, and for the expenses that come with having kids. We tentatively rescheduled the trip as a post-graduate school celebration, until I found myself pregnant with #3 just days after finishing my final semester. Plus, by then we were house-poor, after buying the house we wanted to fit all the kids. And so, we thought, maybe for our 10th anniversary…until real life once again got in the way.

And yet, in what can only be considered a divine twist of fate, I did step foot in Thailand this week, on my way to Macau, an island off the coast of China, which has been dubbed the Vegas of the Far East. Sound exotic? It is, sort of. I must admit that I dreamed of this trip for weeks, envisioning myself relaxing in my sprawling hotel bed and catching a glimpse of the beauty that is the Far East in between business meetings. But it didn’t quite work out that way.

Throughout my brief stay in Asia, I found myself surprisingly lonely (though I did enjoy the relaxation, I must admit). As the only one from my company that came, I didn’t have the companionship of others that I knew – and since I would consider myself slightly socially awkward, I didn’t quite ‘make friends’ until the second day; by then the conference was just about over. I didn’t have anyone to sit next to me on the hour ferry ride required just so I could say I was ‘in Hong Kong’, nor did I have anyone to bounce ideas off of when doing my souvenir shopping (and if you know me at all, you know I simply don’t shop well alone). And I certainly didn’t love taking self-portraits, or bothering others to photograph me.

I know you’re thinking…boo hoo, poor baby, stuck in an opulent, gilded, 70 sqm hotel room with a bathroom bigger than a bedroom in our home (seriously!). But it should be said on record, for those who don’t often have this experience – ‘exciting’ business trips aren’t always the non-stop party that those left behind are imagining (at least they’re not if you’re a conservative, over-tired and antisocial mother of five who keeps kosher and can’t make easy small talk over the shrimp cocktail or the open bar).

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the experience – of course I did. Was it a once in a lifetime opportunity? Maybe. But I’m hoping that I’ll have the chance to visit the Far East, and that maybe next time, or some other time in the future, I’ll be able to share the experience with the people I love.

Lastly, a few things of note/interest that didn’t seem to make it into the text of the post:

– The ticket agent in Macau asked me if Tel Aviv is part of Thailand. That was certainly a new experience.

– I got my spicy mayo confiscated at security in Macau, but not in Tel Aviv or Bangkok. They spent about 7 minutes looking for the ‘other’ liquid in my bag. What they didn’t realize is that I got Azi liquid soap in a car-shaped container…so they kept finding it, but not realizing. And no, I didn’t tell them.

– The ‘Far East’ doesn’t seem so ‘far’ when it’s 10 hours from Tel Aviv to Thailand, and 12 hours to New York.

– People in Macau and Hong Kong seem to drink a ton, but there are no souvenir shot glasses to be found. Perhaps more interesting is that apparently in Asia, ‘shotglass’ sounds like ‘chocolate’. Every time I asked for a shot glass, they sent me to the chocolate section…until Mordecai emailed me a picture of a shot glass to show the store workers. When I finally found one in Bangkok, I had to cough up $12 USD. For a glass shot glass. Definitely the most expensive one I’ve ever bought.

– It’s REALLY weird (and I mean intensely, ridiculously bizarre) to be on an El Al flight that is not filled with families, charedim and hat boxes flying everywhere.

– Haagen Dazs, like Coke, seems to be kosher worldwide. The server in the Haagen Dasz store in my hotel even knew what I was asking for when I asked to see the box of the ice cream crate. She asked if I was kosher, and pointed to the OU. Then she proceeded to serve me ice cream in a round bowl…with a square fork. (Needless to say, scooping was not as easy as it should have been).

– Apparently people find it weird that mothers with children travel for work (or even work). I can’t help but wonder why that would be OK for men, but not women? (Note: at least 75% of the 1,200 conference attendees were men. Is it the business, or the fact that women should be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen?)

– It’s very common to see Asian people walking around randomly with medical face masks. And it’s also oddly frightening. Do they have SARS? Or are they afraid of catching it from those of us dumb enough not to wear face masks? One of life’s as of yet unsolved mysteries. I guess we’ll find out if I start coughing tomorrow.



15 Lessons from the Past 9 Years

Just a regular Neve Daniel sunset

On December 31, we’ll be hitting 9 years of living in Israel. A lifetime, for some people (especially four of our children that were born here). When we came, Nefesh B’Nefesh was just starting out and had limited availability. So we came unaided, without receiving tactical, practical or financial assistance. We came with few relatives here, certainly no immediate family members. 9 years later, our family here numbers well over 50 people, including my grandparents and Mordecai’s sisters and their families, as well as many of our cousins with whom we have grown infinitely closer since we’ve made the same (crazy?) decision. I think this alone is pretty amazing.

Everyone learns things over nearly a decade; but I think the lessons we’ve learned as olim are quite different than those we would have learned if we’d stayed in America. And so, I’d like to share some of these lessons with you.

1 – Graduating college in the US does not guarantee that you will pass 4th grade math in Israel.

2 – Rolling your RR’s must be acquired from the time of language development, or you’re stuck for life.

3 – You never get used to planning your showers in advance so that the water is properly heated. NEVER.

4 – Navigating Israeli bureaucracy is both unavoidable and extremely unpleasant. But it’s kind of like giving birth – it makes for great stories (and blog posts), and makes you a stronger person.

5 – It’s entirely possible to live without Entenmann’s donuts. And even (gasp!) without Krispy Kreme.

6 – Despite the intermittent fear of terrorist attacks, there is a relatively low fear of pedophilia and kidnapping, and somehow, it’s socially acceptable (and perhaps even legal) to let 5 year olds walk to neighbors’ houses (and sometimes the park?) alone. This phenomenon never gets old.

7 – It may take 3 weeks for your mail to arrive at its destination within Israel, but if your parking meter in Jerusalem expires, you will get a ticket within 1 minute.

8 – First grade plays in the US may teach children about Abraham Lincoln or classical theater, but when they celebrate Jewish heritage and are held at Ma’arat Hamachpela, they never get tiresome, no matter how many times you sit through it.

9 – Salaries in Israel are just about as miraculous as the Chanuka oil that burned for 8 days, but only had enough for 1 night. You pay ridiculously high income tax, 17% VAT, and over $8/gallon for gas, and somehow, most people manage to stretch it until the end of the month.

10 – You never really get tired of having a kosher butcher, baker and fresh cheese counter at the local grocery store.

11 – It gets easier over time, but sometimes it’s still OK to cry when your family goes home after a visit.

12 – When you don’t have blood relatives nearby, your friends become your family – and that’s pretty amazing.

13 – When things are hard, being located so close to the holiest city in the world makes it that much easier to remember that G-d is omnipresent. And sometimes that helps.

14 – Israeli sunset are always breathtaking (except when hidden by the Neve Daniel fog).

15 – Once an olah, alays an olah. No matter how well you roll your RRs.



Are We OK?

When I logged onto Facebook right after Shabbat tonight, I was barraged with dozens of messages; my friends from throughout the country alerting their family and friends that they’d survived the weekend intact, despite the fact that Hamas rockets have now reached Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem outskirts and yes, even Gush Etzion where we live. “We’re OK”, many of my friends noted, “and praying for peace to come quickly to Israel.”

I’d like to counter, however, that while we are fortunate to be alive and well, are most certainly not OK. When the air-raid siren went off shortly after Shabbat came in, I ushered the children into the safe room, and we waited there for a few minutes, until we figured it would be safe to come out. I tiptoed out first, heading to the back porch, where I often meet my building-mates for a quick schmooze or exchange of items. The children, however, were not quite as brave. They opted to stay in the safe room for another hour, afraid that the siren might once again wail.

When it came to bedtime, the two older girls were downright petrified. They ended up sleeping in the same bed, ostensibly because one had things in her bed, and it was too dark to move them…but I knew better. Odelia opted to sleep in the boys’ room because it’s closer to the bathroom, where the lone light shines on Shabbat night. And of course, don’t you know that light in the night scares away those nasty rockets?

When sending the children to shul alone this morning (yes, it’s perfectly acceptable and even legal around here to send children out in the streets alone!), I gave them a quick lesson about what to do in case they heard sirens on the way.

The engagement part that we’d been invited to tonight was cancelled because the new groom was required to stay in the army. Tonight’s Bnei Akiva (youth) event was moved from its normal venue to a new one, because the neighborhood basketball court is too far from buildings, which may leave hundreds of people vulnerable in case the siren sounds. Public bomb shelters are being opened in Tel Aviv, a city long considered immune to warfare. The siren went off last night in Jerusalem, for the first time in over a decade.

Last night Odelia told me not to worry – if we pray hard enough, G-d will protect us against the Romans. And then, in the midst of my first security crisis, I experienced another first – I laughed heartily, despite the dire situation. Then I explained to her that it’s no longer the Romans who are trying to kill us. And that while we must pray, prayer is not enough – we must also take action to ensure our safety, which means deploying our soldiers and heading to the bomb shelters when necessary.

Does this sound like things are OK? I think not.