Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Visiting Sister Sarah

The entrance to Rosh Ha'ayin from 444 takes you into the city via Rehov Yehuda Halevi. The street meanders through the East side of town taking the car around various roundabouts and over far too many speedbumps - Rosh Ha'ayin's idea of traffic control. There are very few traffic lights in town. I drive by Golan's Studio - he's the jeweler who sends his work in with Sarah every summer. It's the late afternoon, and the temps are hot and most people are still inside and will stay there until 4:30-5:00pm when they'll start to venture out for errands, shopping and a bite to eat.

It takes about an hour to drive from our house to Sarah's place. The big boys are there - they went hiking (the Arbel) and kayaking (on the Jordan) with Jonathan and his 2 younger kids yesterday. Today, Sarah took 2 of her kids and gathered mine and some of Jonathan's and took them to the local pool in Jonathan's community. Sarah brought my boys back to her house and I decided that Akiva and I would take a little road trip and pick them up. The ride is a fast one. From our house, you get to Begin North - an intercity road that cuts across Jerusalem and exits you on Route 443 which takes you out of town quickly and without going on the main Jerusalem/Tel Aviv Road. 443 heads down the hills leading out of Jerusalem - the car zips down the hills, picking up speed to the tune of of Akiva's pick for the ride. Dan Zanes's first album.

We arrive at Sarah's. Akiva is delighted. It's Aunt Sarah's house. He walks in, pulls off his sandals, walks around the house, checks out the rooms, the beds and the various inhabitants. He finishes his tour with his arrival in the kitchen and his pronouncement that he is hungry and would like lunch. He ate lunch already but is pursuaded by the offer of toast and a veggie burger and whatever else passes by (others are eating as well) that seems of interest. Elisheva passes by in a towel - post pool shower. Benjy wakes up - the soldier boy has been sleeping in today and doesn't have to report until 6:00pm. Noam, Gabe and Natan are watching a movie - they're all using headphones, a great invention for a small house with the tv in the living room. Sarah and I take Akiva for a walk to the local mall. Akiva's needs new sandals.

Understand that Sarah lives in a very small town - really, a backwater. The mall, such as it is, boasts a pizza and felafel/burger stands in the front. Inside there a various shops - art and school supplies, florist, health food/vitamin shop, shoe store, simple clothing store and a small grocery store downstairs. Unlike Jerusalem, this is really Israel. Meaning, people actually speak hebrew in the streets and in the mall. We walk into the shoe store and from the look of what's on display, I'm not expecting much. I am pleasantly surprised and we find a simple pair of sandals for Akiva - in his size, not a bad fit and he even deals with the annoyance of trying on shoes and being forced to walk about in them, with unaccustomed aplomb.

We palm Akiva off on the boys, including cousin Noam and they take him to the playground and to toss a basketball around. Sarah and I pass a pleasant time with a good friend of hers whom I've known for years, Debbie Zahavi. The boys return, Akiva decides it's suppertime, Benjy and I discuss what car we should look for used, Elisheva sits with Debbie's daughter, Efrat, yapping in hebrew, and I pack up the boys stuff in the car for the ride home.

We ride home to Kiss Me Kate, the original stage version. Alfred Drake's mellifuous (sp?) baritone and Patricia Morrison's incredibly deep alto woo us back up the hills. The car coughs a bit as it gears it's way up the mountain from the deep valley below. We drive past town that have seemingly sprouted up from nowhere in the last 5-10 years - Elad, Shoham...Modiin and it's surrounding villages. The sky darkens, the air cools as we get higher. The city lights twinkle in the distance. We exit the highway and turn at "Teddy Stadium," as it's called. We circle around the business district of Talpiyot, which is gritty and busy and always makes Ira and I happy and I make my way back on the road that I hoped to take - success.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Yesterday, I got to the pool for the first time since I left Bklyn. Breichat Yerushalayim - The J'lem Pool, is a huge place but as most things in Israel, it's crowded into a small space. There's the main pool, a 50 meter pool with lap lanes in the middle and splashing areas on either side. Then, there's the side pool with a big, curvy slide and billions of kids splashing into the water with screams of joy and fear. There's a smaller, kiddie pool as well. Along the sides of the pool, on a sparse but vaguely grassy area, parents sit dispensing bamba (the nat'l snack, a sort of peanut butter flavored cheese doodle), pretzels, called beigelach here, money for ice creams and arteeks (ices) and drinks.
The crowd is mixed - the pool is located in Emek Refaim, along a busy street with shops, restaurants and cafes of all sorts. It's an upscale neighborhood, but the pool caters to Jerusalemites of all sorts.
Pool etiquette is limited. Kids cross the lap lanes at all times and you have to swim with an eye towards who might in your lane at any time. There are many novice swimmers in the pool who get into the lap lanes and rather creatively maneuver their way around. It's the "backstrokers" who are the most unusual in their choice of stroking style. I spend most of my time swimming around them and hoping that I won't crash into them. There are also the swimmers who get tired and just stop midlane to chat with someone in the next lane or just to walk for a few steps.
Tonight I went swimming with Jessica. It was ladies night and that meant the pool was filled with religous women and girls in lots of layers - although many swam in standard suits - and they really swam all over the place. It was a big slumber pool party. I managed 24 laps today and figure that's about 50. Pretty much what I used to do at the Y in Brooklyn.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Israel has the best coffee. Starbucks really doesn't have a chance. In fact, Starbucks failed a few years ago but I hear tell that they may try again. After my iced coffee and sandwich in Aroma today with Jessica, I reflected on Starbucks's anemic food and pastry offerings to go along with coffee. I shared a portobello sandwich with Jess - lovely, fresh, whole wheat bread with grilled portobellos, fresh onion, greens, tomato and pesto. Aroma's coffee is always good and well-brewed as well.

I drink too much coffee lately. It's hot and there's nothing like iced coffee on a hot day. Coffee always seems like the right treat after coming out of government offices. Had a good day of Israeli beauracracy - rented a car, drove downtown and found parking and unannounced, had a meeting with an Oleh Counselor in order to discuss a few things and dealt with some paperwork. Followed that up with some iced coffee, a visit to our favorite kipa guy on Yaffo Street just to tell him that we had made Aliyah ("Kol Ha'kavod," he said, or "Good for you!") and then some banking.

Banking, as everyone warned us remains somewhat mysterious. Today we picked up bank cards (they won't mail them), checks (they won't mail them) and discovered that our wire transfer of money from America arrived. Yea!


I am tired everyday. Whether it's language, sun, lack of water or "fish out of water" cultural fatigue, I am always tired. Going to bed early would be a worthwhile thing to do but it is almost impossible. Tonight, after Shabbat ended, for example, we came home, put Akiva to bed and then went through papers trying to determine what tomorrow's jobs are. Lists were compiled, papers shuffled and now I get to think about it until morning.

I could go to bed but the bed, such as it is, is a mattess on the floor. It's a nice mattress as mattresses go but it does not compare to my lovely, natural latex mattress that is currently floated somewhere out in the Meditareanean Ocean. I wake every day with a back and hip ache that makes me feel a bit like an old lady.

When we picked up our Teudat Zehut - ID cards last week, I picked up some information at the Nefesh B'Nefesh offices about how to reduce stress after making Aliyah. Ira and I are failing on some big items like eating and sleeping normally and getting enough rest. But it's been getting better. Fridge has food or the potential of food and the house feels more and more like somewhere recognizable. We need our stuff for it to be home but it's a start.

I cooked a couple of times last week - rice and beans, a quick stir-fry and lots of toast for Akiva in our "toaster," a nice frying pan. Camping out has it's plusses in that's it's reduced us to the most important things that we need for survival - let's see, laptops, ipods, cellphones....
We can go over to my sister's when we need such niceties as a sofa and washing machine.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Shabbat #2

I have things to say about the last week and a half but thought I'd start with what we did this Shabbat.

A good Shabbat for all. Went to a local and very standard in feel, Orthodox minyan. Plenty of English speakers on hand and met a few nice people. All wished us well. Friday night dinner at my friend Karyn's house. While this may come as a shock to some, she is my most long-time friend in the world. We met at the tender age of 6 1/2, when I moved to New York from Alexandria, Va. She made Aliyah about 15 years ago and lives about 7 minutes on foot from our new digs. She has 5 kids and we've made a concerted effort over the years to make sure our kids know each other and spend time together whenever we would find ourselves on the same side of the the world. Interestingly enough, our kids all like each other. Her oldest, Ayelet, is Natan's age and they've always had alot in common. Her next two, Hagit and Gad are a bit older and a bit younger than Gabe and he enjoys both but is alot like her third, Gad. He has, shall we say, the same joie de vivre, that Gabe has just a bit too much of at times (for his parents that is). The next two kids, Michal and Dan, are younger, Dan having just been born this past Pesach. She and her husband, Asher, wined and dined us (I emphasize wined - we opened a '93 Yarden Cabernet that was excellent and also toasted our arrival with some lovely bourbon) and fed us a lovely Shabbat dinner. Akiva was particularly happy to have found himself in front of a plate of chicken and other like delicacies. We laughed and yakked and it felt quite normal.

Saturday morning, we davened at Ma'yanot, the local egalitarian place. Felt so much like Kane Street that I wasn't sure I wanted to be there each Shabbat. The familiarity was quite intense from the copies of Sim Shalom available for use in shul to the tunes sung to the almost completely American crowd. Interestingly enough, they do speak in Hebrew during Torah discussions and annoucements but it's clearly an Anglo crowd. While I do miss Kane Street and while I do want an egal community, I also want to feel my way around some different shuls and get a better take on what I'm looking for and what's best for the family. Ma'yanot will be good for the boys because of it's familiarity. NO KIDDUSH but I'm told that was an anomoly. The shul is in the middle of a bit of a transition due to the fact that they have to move to a new space. We heard some shul politics and it was refreshing to feel completely relaxed about it - meaning, we were interested in the local gossip but not invested at all other than being concerned that they don't move to a far off location from us. Walked home from shul with a homeschooling family that we've met here before - her oldest will be in school this year, the same school as Natan and Gabe. More on that decision at another time.

Lunch at Jess and Daniel's place. We picked up some fun, stuffed and fried things in Mahane Yehuda (outdoor market in J'lem) as well as the obligatory sweet, Jerusalem challot and a very tasty chocolate roll. I personally wanted a roll filled with poppyseeds but lost out to the chocolate hounds. Daniel's mom, Rita, joined us and over the course of the afternoon Daniel's daughter, Amira, came and hung out as well as his nephew, Adin, who is in the middle of his army service. Akiva bonded with Rita over "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge," his current favorite (it has even overtaken the yellow books at present). We left their house at 5ish and walked to my parents. It was a pleasantly gritty walk - down through an industrial zone and across defunct and overgrown railroad tracks, up through a fairly ethnic neighborhood of Jews from Yemen and North Africa and then over to my parents. We had a pleasant couple of hours eating and chatting. It's a long day for them. My father isn't well and my mother won't leave him even to run over to their local shul for services. They do have friends who drop in on a Saturday and check in on them but it was nice to be able to show up and bother them for a few house and then head out just as my father was tiring and itching to get ready for bed (once Shabbat had ended).

Home by taxi - such excitement for Akiva. Great taxi driver. Suffice to say that we talked real estate, car models, who lives on our block that he knows (he's a born and bred Jerusalemite) and we walked upstairs to the apartment with a piece of paper bearing his name, Moti, and his number. I could post his number right now to all of you and Moti would be delighted to hear from you. He said, "Call me if you need a taxi and if you just want to call and ask a question, just say, Moti, I have a question."

Boys are in bed. Akiva is sleeping with the boys in their current room of choice (with the best breezes upstairs). Ira and I are sitting, as all modern couples should, I guess, with our laptops side by side, entering these, our first posts. Time for tea and bed. Shavua Tov - A good week to all.