Saturday, September 30, 2006


Bat-Mitzvah kiddush today at Shira Hadasha. Tova Hartman's daughter, Shira. Tova is one of the founders of Shira Hadasha, a staunch feminist who teaches women's studies at Hebrew University. Anyway, what's a good kiddush after services? A real hodgepodge by my catering standards but interesting nonetheless; cakes and cookies, various crunchy stuff like bissli and bamba, chips and pretzels, herring and pickled salmon, mini quiches that were not that great and little muffin sized Jerusalem kugelettes that were good just not crispy. For the uninitiated, Jerusalem kugel is a noodle pudding with a carmelized sugar base. What makes the whole thing great is that one adds a judicious amount of ground pepper to the mix before baking and the result is dark, nasty and sweet/spicy and noodely (sp?). There was fruit and various drinks and the most exciting part, cherry ices on a stick - arteeks, which both kids and adults loved.
The kiddush was fine but shul was tough. Ira was off doing the Saturday shul gig with my parents. The boys and I got out late and Akiva felt unhappy at shul. It was crowded, we were late - seating is tight there when you're late. We got there in time for the talk - it was Tova's father, David Hartman, who is a known and acknowledged big kahuna here in the Jewish educational world so one had to be quiet. Akiva had to sit outside with the boys during the talk and he was highly offended not to get right inside when he arrived. Sometimes I really wish that he could just run around like a wild beast outside during services just like all of the other kids. But, Jess came and sat down next to us after the talk and between the two of us, we read some books and I managed a bit of prayer before it was all over.
The weather has broken. It was quite hot for a solid 3 days - 35 or 36 yesterday. We didn't go to the pool in the pm bec it was just too hot to be outside. Jess and Ira and I did manage a late day jaunt to pick up the paper, return deposit bottles and eat a sandwich and drink coffee at Aroma which was mercifully well air conditioned.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Missing the Coop

Tonight I shlepped Natan with me to shop at Rami Levy. Rami Levy is the Pathmark of the area. Perhaps it's the Grand Union of the Grand Unions. Israeli groceries go by a series of stupid names all having to do with being the largest, the cheapest, the best selection - you get the picture. They have names like, Mister Zol/Zol means cheap, Super Deal, Super Sol Deal, Mega, Super Moshava. Then, there's the grand master of the deal, Rami Levy. In newspaper articles, Rami Levy always takes top marks in the "cheapest wagon in the country." I've been there a few times. It's vast, not perfectly organized and always filled with people. First, one has to decide which Rami Levy to go to. There are 3 in close proximity to each other and each one feels a bit like a 3rd world country. I go to the one that is the most western, shall we say. The parking lot is sort of "come as you are," in terms of finding parking and actually parking. Many of the places that people park don't really seem like appropriate spaces but that's part of the charm of the experience.

The produce is excellent. It may not be organic but it's a good selection and always fresh and prices really are quite good. They have a good cheese counter with a nice choice of hard cheeses and a encyclopedic selection of creamy, white, spreadable cheeses in all kinds of fat percentages and with various flavors, as well as many types of fetas and salty kinds of semisoft cheeses. There is a fresh fish guy and a butcher area - kosher meat as far as the eye can see. You can even buy all kinds of wine and hootch at the grocery here which is always amusing to us westerners used to a segregated liquor purchasing experience. No one even asks for something as amusing as proof when buying such things either.

Still, the shopping takes forever. It's all in hebrew, of course and deciphering labels and figuring out costs in quite exhausting. Natan and I had to fortify ourselves with bourekas on the way home - kashkeval and bulgarian cheese (quite good). Spent about 1000kNIS at the store. It was a big shop and I did get lots of extras but food ain't cheap here but we did stock up in a big way as it's just too exhausting to got there too often.

One amusing thing. Every time I go there, I spend alot and consequently, qualify for various store presents on the way out. Last time, 4 pkgs of Malawach, a yemenite bread that you fry in a pan and eat lustily with ground tomatoes and hope not to have too much digestion. 4pkgs - it's enough for a long time. This time? 3 yogurts and a container of window spray. Not too bad.

I do miss the coop. I miss the simplicity, the smallness, the more laid back nature of not shopping in a big grocery store. Israelis are too enamored with big box shopping and that's just not my cup of tea. I am finding orgnanic grains and things and this week found tempeh, how exciting but it's not easy to come by and it's not cheap. Stumbled on a nice health food grocery that even has produce but need to find their other location that's closer to my house. Not cooking that much yet anyway as just don't have the time and inclination and it all feels too strange still in the kitchen. I miss my stove as well as this stove is dinky and small and clearly my predecessor was not much of a cook - at least not with the same sense of largesse that I am.

Next week, maybe I'll get back to the shuk where the shopping is, too my mind, more pleasant, despite the shlepping factor.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Plumber

So, we bought our Maytag w/d in NYC on Canal St. Avi promised us that installation would be a piece of cake and that our w/d costs included free installation on this end. Beware of "free" anything. We called the installation guys - not be confused with an "installator" or, a plumber, and a nice guy, Yuval, I think, came and took the machines apart (doors to narrow otherwise) and then brought the machines back in, put them back together and set them up. When we tried to run them, horrors, water spritzed up (he actually conjugated the word spritz in correct nif'al or something like that) and we were left with our machines in but not running. I called an "installator" that we had been recommended and he suggested that there might be a blockage or some other problem and that he was happy to come. This guy was happily a South African and we could speak English with him which was good as Hebrew in plumbing speak seemed a bit impossible. I called the landlord and told him that we'd be calling in a plumber and after first telling us that plumbing is our problem - actually, he said, "mah at hoshevet, zeh ma'lon?" or, "what do you think, this is a hotel?" meaning in terms of his assumption of responsibility which we've realized is virtually nil. Anyway, then he told us, no use my plumber please, who built the house and knows it well and as it turns out, is his first cousin. So, Shimshon turns up - a short, rotund man, who had to climb over the machines because he couldn't actually fit alongside them although I would allow that if one was pregnant, it would be hard to run laundry in our laundry room. Shimshon fiddles and declares, "eyn steemah," "no blockage." He also declared complete mystification as to why anyone would bring in a foreign machine - "these machines use too much lachatz/strong water pressure and a European machine would be just fine." Yes, they're fine but they take 2 hours to run a load of laundry. But that's not the point - just install my machine as my laundry is building. Shimshon leaves and says he'll come back and work on it in the morning. Dispair. Laundry piles building.
Friday. Shimshon marches in. I had called him in the morning after having consulted with Master Plumber and my mother's neighbor, Harry Levine. Harry tells me that there is probably a blockage and that I should tell Shimshon to bring an electronic snake. I tell Shimshon but from the silence on the other end, I can tell that plumbing is his business and that he's disinterested in what I have to say. I really want to have Harry come but we decide to let Shimshon save face and come back once more. Shimshon returns and as expected, cannot solve the problem. After a pleasant chat on his background - Kurdistan, our background - NYC and such, we wish each other a Shabbat Shalom and move on.
Sunday AM - I beg Harry Levine to come if he has time. Harry shows up. It is immediately apparant that he's the most entertaining plumber I've ever had the pleasure to have in my house. He comes in chatting about my neighbor across the hall - turns out he's done work for them and likes them and tells me to send his regards. We head upstairs discussing where he's from, Pittsburgh, and how long he's been here - about 25 years, I think, and how he got to plumbing - via an MBA that he long ago abandoned. He unleashes the electric snake and gets to work. Meanwhile, Gabe's school calls. He sustained an injury - a nasty thorn in his toe and can't walk home. Ira is dispatched to pick him up. Gabe arrives home with friend in tow and thorn in foot. He sits on the edge of the bathtub to soak his toe and listen to the Harry banter. I begin surgery on Gabe's toe without much success - this is a big thorn. Gabe is not convinced that I'm doing a good job. Harry wanders over to observe - the blockage has been found and dealt with (a 3" piece of rubber tubing that is my landlords problem, NOT MINE). Harry declares that we need nat'l light or at least a flashlight. He whips out a flashlight. I continue to probe but Harry states that he has much experience in such things (he's the father of 6) - I hand over the tweezer. Harry takes a few desultory swipes with the tweezer and concludes that a better tool is needed. He takes out his Leatherman pliers - Gabe blanches - from his belt holster - and continues to work at the thorn, which is visible but still stuck. Ultimately, the thorn is pulled out with the tweezer and Gabe breathes a sigh of relief (it hurt, that's for sure) and goes back to soaking the toe - which healed quite nicely, thankfully.
I'd like to remind all of you readers that we're talking about a plumber that I allowed to perform minor surgery on my kid's toe. I did it with pleasure and enjoyment. I hadn't laughed so much hin days.
According to Jess and Daniel, visits from Harry are always big moments, usually accompanied by various epiphanies - in the case of Jess, that she should date divorced men with kids and in the case of Daniel that he shouldn't worry about divorce and financial matters. Harry himself is divorced but that's another story.
Only in Israel.


Picture this. We're waiting today in the hospital for my father's bloodwork to come back. Each time he goes in for chemo, they check his blood, determine if everything's hunky dory and then, assuming it is, administer the drip. His hemoglobin was low today so it was decided that he'd have a transfusion this week and more chemo next week. They run so more bloodwork and we wait....Suddenly, the nurse arrives. She calls for me - first, G'veret Steinberg and then, ha'bat shel Shteinberg - the daughter of Steinberg. I, Beth, should go and get the blood on the 4th floor. I'm a bit flustered and inquire as to where I go? The Blood Bank, of course - just ask for the right person and make sure the label says Steinberg, Theodore. "That's it?," I inquire incredulously. "Yup, that's it," says the nurse. "Oh," the nurse adds, "I should warm the blood on my way back up to the 7th floor - just stick it under my sweater and make it nice and toasty." I head downstairs on my errand, find the appropriate office, smile at the person and am handed, without much fanfare or having to prove I am who I am - which is only the daughter of the person receiving the blood, and return to the 7th floor, warmish bag of blood under my arm, inside my sweater. The nurse greets me warmly and I tell her that I felt a bit like a mother hen but without any chicks to show for my effort. We hook my father up and he gets his blood - A+. He tells me that he's pleased to receive such an excellent grade on this blood.
I am amazed that I was allowed to do such a thing that in America, as a patient or relative of a patient, one would never do. And you know, it wasn't so terrible and this way I had a job and there were no nurses available at that moment to run for it and while I know we live in a world that doesn't trust anyone to do anything, I really wasn't planning on making a run for it with bag of blood in tow, ready to sell it on the open market.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Rosh Hashana

All these people doing the same thing that I was doing. That is, on Friday they were buying breads, or waiting on lines for the fresh whole wheat challot to come out of the oven. We tested out 2 different bakeries - Rafi's is better than Pe'air but I'm telling you that for some that is nothing more than scandalous to even think it. Everywhere you went, you thought, "gee, those cookies look really good, maybe we don't have enough cookies, muffins, rugelach, insert your favorite pastry. The mall had takeout stands with good looking and good smelling kosher takeout, mostly of a mizrachi or middle eastern nature - stuffed things of all sorts, fried savory pastries of all sorts and of course, humous in all it's forms. We went to the mall and had some good coffee and sandwiches at Aroma and then managed to buy new sandals for Gabe and Akiva. Everyone was out having fun and shopping as Rosh Hashana is a trad'l gift giving period as well.

Cooked a bit in the kitchen here. Discovered that the 4 burner cooktop is as small as it looks when needing to cook a couple of things at the same time. Made the really unfortunate discovery that my lovely baking pans that I use for everything will not fit in the smallish oven. Ah, to dream of my 36" 6 burner cooktop. One day.

Went to different places for services. No shofar blowing that matched up with Rena Schklowsky at Kane St but this is no surprise. Missed Ray Scheindlin's leadership of services as well. Enjoyed lots of lusty singing and harmonizing in all places and appreciated the enjoyment that many took in their prayer.

Weather was, as anticipated, sunny and lovely and not too hot. Should be getting hotter this week, just in time for Yom Kippur's fast.

A Sweet and Healthy New Year to all. Next week I'll tell you of our plumbing adventures.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Not Having Fun

Just in case you all continue to think that we're having fun all the time should step into our footwear (at least the pairs that are unpacked) for a few days. Mountains of boxes in the house. Stressed and cranky Beth and Ira, who have by now divined that settling in will take some time. Exhausted and sweaty Beth and Ira, who are so tired that they can't believe it. As a matter of fact, I tried blogging last night and fell asleep in front of the monitor and woke to discover a line of the letter gggggggggggggggggg. Needless to say, I waited until this afternoon to try again. Had to prop my eyelids up with toothpicks at Ulpan today but made it through - perhaps it wasn't worth it. Ira, as a matter of fact, went home. He's delighted to report that he survived his initial hayfever season without a problem but the honeymoon is now over and something's in the air the last few days and he's sneezing and dripping and I'm also aware of it physically, as is Akiva.

Last week was nightmarish. It was hard to get anything done as one had to shift boxes wherever you went. As the week went on, we become more tired, dusty and annoyed with one another - boys were great, unpacked boxes, moved and shoved and did their part. We got their rooms ready in a basic way and over the week as we discovered sheets, pillows and other bits and pieces of their lives in Bklyn, slowly their rooms came together. Ira built bookcases, slowly but surely each day and we continue to work thru our billions of boxes of books. By Friday we were at our wits end, sure that we'd never feel that things were getting better. I purchased Shabbat food for us and we planned nothing special for Friday night due to exhaustion. Then, late Friday afternoon, things began to calm. We set up the living room and it looked nice - still unfinished but it was suddenly a room that one could relax and enjoy on Shabbat. We unpacked the chaise that we bought before we left and arranged the new pillows and sat on it with great satisfaction. Ira was the only one to go to shul - he checked out the little Sephardic synagogue/shtibel down the block near Jess's house. He was the only "white man" on the premises and was amused that those sitting near him kep making sure he had his siddur open to the right page. We ate our Shabbat dinner - a Middle Eastern mix of meat moussaka (Ira is sure enjoying the kosher takeout and Gabe, after first thinking that his parents were now buying treyf/unkosher food, realized that all this takeout is kosher in our neighborhood - imagine that!), fish cakes in red sauce, rice and lentils, pickled salads and so forth. We especially enjoyed the Sephardic take on the potato nik - essentially a potato kugel that is more bready but in this case, seasoned, as everything else was, with cumin and cilantro and other interesting spices. Shabbat morning, I walked over to my parents with Natan and we escorted them to services, Natan pushing my father in a wheelchair. My father is improving, vis a vis, his hepatitis but he's weak and not handling walking distances well, especially up the steep hill to shul. Ira went to shul locally with Gabe and Akiva and even snagged a last minute lunch invite at a long-time folk dancing friend of ours, who lives with her South African husband and 3 kids (one more due this fall) down the street from us.

I was pleased to have people stop in late on Sat afternoon. Actually, it felt normal to do so. We sat outside on our balcony, with a pleasant breeze blowing and thankfully it was shady and welcomed Alan and Lisa and kids along with 2 friends of theirs. Jess and Daniel stopped by after lunch (they were eating where Ira et al ate) to see all of the home improvements. Natan and Gabe had the company of our friends 2 daughters and some of their buddies - basically, many cute teenage girls in nice Shabbat outfits. What could be bad? I didn't have anything fancy to put out - purchased cookies, bread and cheese and related stuff but again, it felt good to welcome guests on Shabbat.

Sunday morning the miasma had settled a bit again but I pushed myself through a bunch of phone calls and Ira and I went to the bank and properly begged to be given a credit card (that's another story but we were tough and did not accept no for an answer) and I felt suddently that we were doing ok. I also realized that I can live with boxes - this is big for me. That there is no option as I just don't have the NRG to unpack every day. Today, as a matter of fact, after resting and eating a bit after Ulpan, Jess and I went to the local pool and joined and swam and read the paper for a minute and planned the menus of Rosh Hashana. Not bad.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sept 11

It felt very far away. The morning radio broadcast made mention that it was 5 years since 9/11 and the Jerusalem Post Magazine section last Friday covered the topic with a few different related stories. I wondered if it would have felt far away even in Bklyn. That is, 5 years is not insignificant and we all move on in our ways. You look at the horizon and are reminded of the hole, the emptiness, the lack but the memories of that day seemed to have settled down, along with the dust, the smoke and the smell.

Then, I went to Ulpan. We were listening to the news and the teacher asked for comments and thoughts about 9/11. I looked around at the class - a bunch of young, Arab students, a young religous Belgian woman, a young South African couple, a young Aussie woman (notice everyone is YOUNG), a Korean woman (not so young but not so old) and a 21 year old young woman from Poughkeepsie (sp?), who reminds me of Liat Olenick. So, I dove in. I said that we lived nearby and that Ira worked very close to the buildings. The teacher wondered if he was there that day. I told of Ira's adventures and related some of the experiences of that day and that period. My stomach hurt. So, I guess 5 years isn't that much time. Ira also told some of his story in his class. I wondered if 9/11 helped us ultimately make this decision to come here. It's hard to say. Certainly, I didn't have fear about continuing to live in NY. Maybe, life is short and being closer to those here is good at this moment.

There's no easy answer about how it feels to be so far away from all that is familiar. I am lucky that I know this town as well as I do. I can get around with ease and that helps. I can maneuver is public settings from a language perspective and that helps. (I will say, that at the most unexpected times, one's language skills disapear without warning and that's annoying). I went to open school night and coped with language although it was amazing to realize that perhaps 1/2 of Natan's class have at least one English speaking parent. There are moments where I can't believe I'm not walking on my familiar streets. I miss the subway and rue the fact that I will have to participate in carpools. While the local bus system is good, some of the places that the kids have to go are not that easy to access except by car. I hate that. What helps now is the thrill of the new - shopping in the marketplace, discovering new foods and new tastes, learning a new city, learning a new language. being present at family birthdays and celebrations. How I'll feel when the thrill wears off? I'll let you know.

Monday, September 11, 2006

It's Sofa

That's what Akiva said when he came in the door from school and saw, his beloved sofa. He sat in it for the rest of the day, listening to music, while we sweated and shlepped and kvetched boxes from here to there and there to here. Our container arrived at about 9:30am and it was emptied over the course of the next 4 hours. Sweaty, nasty work, on a very hot day - a "hamsin" - heat wave or perhaps a "sherav"- a particularly hot and dry wind. We're unpacking but are exhausted from the day and are looking forward to some R&R tomorrow at Ulpan which will mean a few hours break from unpacking. Strange to see our NY things 6000 miles from home. Not sure what it really means. Don't want to think any further about it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I sense a certain burning curiosity about school and the children. Well...yes, they are in school. That is, the big boys. We chose the school carefully - we hope. Jerusalem is an interesting city in terms of schools. Israel is an interesting country in terms of education. Schools can be boisterious, overcrowded (especially in Jerusalem which is a poor city), underfunded and overwhelming. Needless to say, we viewed the notion of sending the boys to school with some trepidation - as did they. We looked into the local teen Ulpan (hebrew classes) and that was an excellent option. Attend hebrew classes, meet some other new immigrants, go on a couple of trips and then....when your hebrew is more developed consider school. School had the advantage of one-stop shopping. Attend, learn hebrew, meet some nice kids (the school is known for having a decent student population) and hopefully it will all gel nicely.

The boys are at Reut, a pleuralistic Jewish school. The school refers to itself as Kehillat Reut - the Reut community. Kids have Jewish studies as well as secular studies. Reut is also known for being a good place for kids interested in the arts and music. They have morning services each morning. Boys are requested to put on tallit and t'fillin (phylacteries) but are not forced to pray. But, each person should be respectful of the desires of the person sitting next to them who may wish to pray.

The school has a nice smorgasbord of interesting classes - at Gabe's level for example, he can choose from Spanish, Japanese or Sign Language. He also has a choice of music, media studies and/or computers. Possibly they can take more than one. I'm too much of a beginner at this point to know. His day starts at 8:00am with morning shacharit (services) and ends at about 3:00pm most days and on days with special subjects at about 4:40pm. He's already befriended two kids - Yitzchak and Eitan. He snagged a get together at Yitzchak's the other day. They went by bus after school, ate a snack of toasted pita and humus with spicey paprika (Gabe made me buy it the other day in the store) and hung out playing guitar, computer and watching a bit of tv (Gabe promised me it was only a little bit of tv). Eitan lives down the block and Gabe may hang out with him this afternoon. Gabe has been handling going to school with his usual aplomb. He's not great at waking up at 6:40am and has noted that he falls asleep in about 2 minutes at night. He is not using alot of hebrew yet in class but

Natan's day is a bit longer as he can choose special subjects to major in and if he does, he's got extra hours in the subject in the later afternoon. He's chosen music as his main subject and may still choose a second subject but maybe not as he's getting busy quickly. He's warming up to the kids slowly but at least has indentified the one other new immigrant in his class (unlike Gabe who hasn't a clue), a girl, Elana, who claims to understand what's going on in class but will only speak in English when speaking publicly. Yitzchak's (Gabe's new friend) older brother, Elchanan, mentioned that he's in Natan's class - "I lehrn vit your sun." He imitated Natan beautifully, indicated that he stood in his Natan like way on his own - arms folded, tall and imposing. I said that Natan was worth chatting with, that he's into music and has many interests but was likely to maneuver slowly when it came to social stuff.

Natan was pleased with his first week. He understood math and felt that he could even move up to the highest level math but was pursuaded by his teacher to review a bit and get used to the terminology in hebrew before considering the move up. He said that he understood about 30% of History as that teacher spoke slowly and clearly. Both boys said that they space out at times during class and that seems perfectly normal and reasonable, considering the effort and concentration it takes to focus on the language all the time. They both liked their English class (they study only with kids from English speaking homes who are fluent) and found it relaxing. Natan is jealous that Gabe gets to study Arabic but Gabe said not to feel badly as he had no idea what was going on and he was amazed by the squiggles that make up the language. Natan did say to me at the end of either day one or day two that he can't believe that he has to do this every day. It was one thing to do a bit of school, it's quite another to have to do it 6 days a week. Originally, we thought that Natan would be off on Fridays but as it turns out, he's got a short schedule, due to his music specialty but he doesn't have to be there until 9:30am. As for Gabe, he's got to be at school normal time but he's done after 12pm, so that's nice. I imagine that they both will start cultivating the Shabbat afternoon nap.

It's too early to say what going to school will be like for the boys. I think that the 6 day a week grind will be exactly that, a grind. If the school has the right attitude (as we're told) and really gives a good sense of community to the kids then it could be exactly what they need at this moment. Kids are encouraged/asked to choose a volunteer job within the community. The school itself runs a soup kitchen 3x a week and kids can get involved with that and have a chance to both help and make contact with the clients who come to eat meals. These will be good experiences for the boys and indeed will help make them members of the gen'l community and not just the school community which is certainly one of our beliefs as a homeschooling community. Ultimately, I don't need them to go to school forever, unless of course it's something that grows on them at this point, but I think that right now it gives them a reason to get up every day and do more than Skype their buddies back in the "homeland." As far as Natan is concerned, if it works for him, it lets him hook into a group of kids and given the fact that he's 16, time is of the essence in this instance. Reut has a huge population of kids from English speaking homes (Jerusalem has a large Anglo population) and that means that culturally the kids might be closer to what he knows from NYC. As for Gabe, one step at a time. If he likes it and gets brave enough to open up his mouth and speak Hebrew, hopefully he'll feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and hey, there's a basketball hoop out in the central courtyard of the school and that makes everything more palatable.

As for Ira and I, everything feels different. We all get up at the crack of dawn. Akiva goes on the bus (he's settling in nicely in school and the teacher already seems to know him better in 5 days better than last year's teacher figured him out in a year's time) at 7:10am and then the rest of us run around and get ready to run out at about 7:30am. For Ira and I, Ulpan (hebrew classes) start at 8am in town and we have to catch the bus. The boys walk to school - it takes about 30min on foot but they meet up with kids they've started to get to know and if it's the right day, they walk with their cousin, Amira (Jessica's stepdaughter). They look American as they saunter down the street but they've got packs and waterbottles just like everyone else. Israeli kids on their way to school, who'd've thunk it?

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Haval Al Ha'Energia

I walked into Ulpan today - Hey/Vav level (highest, I'm proud to say) and I apologized to the teacher for interrupting (I was late on account of Akiva's bus being late and the bus into town that Ira and I took was slow and schleppy) and she said, "don't feel badly, it's a shame to expend/waste the energy." The Ulpan organizer was delighted to send me to this teacher whom she described as a feminist. She said that we would get along because I still go by the last name Steinberg as opposed to having changed my name to Skop. She also informed that she would list me name as Skop with Steinberg in parentheses. I told her that that was not acceptable. She didn't seem to care. She also felt strongly about the spelling of my name in Hebrew and that I should change it from the way I've been spelling it. Let's keep in mind that the bank has already made one assumption and that I don't intend to go back to the bank, and wait on line just to satisfy this person but she did have a convincng argument.

We read the newspaper (a day late). Olmert wants to let everyone know that the continuation of the disengagement - but the word used last summer to describe the disengagement from Gaza is no longer used. It's a new word now. Anyway, whatever word you want to use, he has called it now, "irelevant." Politics.

We listened to the news, "hadashot," from the word new. As the recording is a day old, we call the news "yishanim," or "olds." The group is very mixed. Young Arabs studying for University, a few Russians, a couple of Americans and a woman from Korea and another gentleman who seems of Asian background but he also wears a kipa so I haven't figured him out.

Eyes closing. Ulpan tomrrow. More to reveal.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sheva B'rachot

Last minute invite over to Jess and Daniel's tonight. The barbecue was fired up - Ira was immediately intrigued. They were hosting a Sheva B'rachot for friends Clare and Jeremy who were just married this past Friday. Brief background. There are 7 blessings recited at a wedding ceremony and there is the custom of celebrating for the week following the wedding (for all sorts of reasons that I won't enumerate here) with the bride and groom. Every evening, friends and family gather to eat (of course), sing, do a little Jewish discourse and finish up with Grace after Meals and those 7 blessings.

The couple looked appropriately relaxed and happy. The friends were drinking and laughing and enjoying. Ira and I were greeted as celebrities - "Oh, you just got here, welcome, good luck with your k'litah (absorption)." One always feels sheepish about this but we are newbies, nothing we can do about it. We answer questions about our past, our present, our children, our new apartment (which remains unfortunately devoid of our stuff) and our the state of my father's health (everyone knows and everyone asks). I had a funny discussion with Jess's friend, Aliza, about joining the Ramat Rachel pool as a lesbian couple (with Jess, that is - more on this another time). With another friend, I discussed local schools and our impressions of the boys' first days of school (yes, yes, I'll handle that one day too). The groom's brother asked me about making Aliyah with kids - his are little and mine are big, I said, big difference in issues. It was all nice though, especially the singing and passing of the wine glass around to all of the woman who said the different blessings. It was a mixed crowd in terms of observance styles and in keeping with Jess's shul, which is "halachically egalitarian," that is egalitarian for women in a style that works for some Orthodox Jews. The women, who numbered at least 10, led the bentching and the blessings. I looked around the room at the women with both covered and uncovered heads, the women with pants and the women with skirts, the guys with beards and the guys without and I thought, "cool." It was lively and lovely.

The boys are in bed and it's early really for them. They're not used to this early schedule. Forget the whole school thing, Israel is an early AM country. Ira and I will try an "intensivi" ulpan tomorrow and see if will give us the right push in the language. We'll keep you posted.

REBANU Politi not Rabenu Politi

This just in from Debra Reed Blank who immediately went to work on the question of Who is Rabeinu Politi?

"Ira, your street is named after REBANU Politi, who was a wealthy Turkishbusinessman. Not Rabbenu Politi." Thank you, DRB.

Danny Magill, another NYC authority, has conferred with this opinion. Danny had already opined that Politi "is a Sephardi name, used in Italy, Greece and Turkey. One might susupect that he (Rebanu Politi) is local color and a got street named after him. " Danny added that there must be someone who keeps track of why streets get named such in such in Israel. (Shockingly, Danny didn't have any further information).

Next important question to be answered - Who will win the next Israeli election?

Testing 1,2,3

Ira here - fixed Beth's time zone, and hopefully comments. We'll see.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

S'licha G'veret - Excuse me lady

I'm walking along minding my own business when I become aware that a little kid is speaking to me. I focus - Excuse me lady, would you please walk me across the street, the urchin asks. I look around, no crosswalk nearby but clearly this is a regular thing for him. We stand in the street, watching the cars zip by on Derekh Beit Lechem and then, when the traffic clears, I walk him across. Does he walk with me nicely? NO. He darts across with his scooter, cutting in front of a lady sitting in her car, waiting to turn onto the street. I shrug to the lady and continue on my way, as he shleps his scooter onto the sidewalk.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Is Anybody There?

It's sort of wierd doing this as you don't really know who's reading the blog. Some people email me and say, Oh, I've read your blog but Ira loves to tell me that he's gotten all of these comments back to him. What to say to him? I'm not popular or interesting or whatever? Basically blogging is like keeping a journal that many people might read. Sort of interesting and sort of horrifying.

Briefly, had an excellent 2nd Shabbat here - a quiet Friday night and Natan and I got to Shira Hadasha for services. It was, as expected, long, slow, sometimes dirgelike, but the perfect Friday night experience. We had a quiet dinner just the family and then bed at a decent hour. Today, services at Ma'yanot in their new location. Not perfect but we'll reserve judgement for a few weeks. Lunch at Alan and Lisa, some bridge for those who wished and late afternoon with Jess and Daniel and girls and then Sarah and Michael. Now, Ira and I sit facing each other on our laptops - ode to the computer marriage. The boys are upstairs, hopefully snoring - someone definitely is - tomorrow is their first early school day.

Ira and I don't rush to bed. The beds, such as they are, mattresses on the floor, are hard and unforgiving to our older bones. We wake up rather creakily each morning and kvetch as we haul ourselves up from the floor to pee and so forth. Really, I need my nice mattress and new bed frame. Hopefully tomorrow we'll hear from the shippers and set up a moving in day.

My father and mother had the company of Sarah and Michael for Shabbat. Michael pushed my father up the hill to services - we borrowed a wheelchair - and my father enjoyed that very much although only stayed for a short time. He's very weak these days but more stable over the past week and he'll go back to the oncologist on Monday with my mother and Jonathan and Sarah for further followup.

Shavua Tov - A Good Week to all.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Shuk Shopping

It's an art. There's the arrival in the shuk area. One has to take park the car in the optimum lot. There are two right nearby - 8nis an hour. Park, shop and shlep to car. Repeat.

Agripas is a little bit like Chinatown during the summer - dirty, smelly, busy, people 3 deep on the sidewalk. We left Natan and Akiva at home. Gabe has come along in order to make sure that we buy the right amount of candy and cookies for Shabbat.

First one cases the situation. This involves walking the main covered walkway of the shuk and diving into some of the sidestreets and checking prices. Mangos are running 9.50nis a kilo in the main area but we find some nice ripe ones for 6.50nis on a sidestreet. I price some italian prune plums - my favorite plum, and the guy wants to pick them for me and I don't like what he chose. He tells me to shop elsewhere, and I do. We stop at the "best" salad guy according to Ira's cousin, Mark - Ma'a'danei Tzidkiyahu. We buy some eggplant liver, breaded cauliflower, pickles and a dark, nasty but delicious looking hunk of Jerusalem kugel.

Then it's the bread stop. Fresh, squishy pita. I choose the whole wheat much to Gabe's dismay but I remind him that we had white last week. We buy hallot but opt out of sweet, Jerusalem hallah for a more standard looking one, albeit whole grain and at least and egg hallah as Ira detests the basic water hallah (yes, yes, many of you know that). Za'atar bread and a sort of tomatoey looking bread (just like Damascus bakery but a little breadier) and we're off to the next stop, cookies. Cookies we buy at the healthy bakery where they have nice options in alternative flours and that makes me happy. This week we try a nice looking bread with onions an stock up on date cookies and oatmeal cookies and even a few chocolate chip cookies.

We walk back to the car, stopping at a Russian store with an excellent beer selection. The guy recommends a Russian beer that he says is "mi'u'leh" fabulous. Ira is skeptical but decides to try it. Lastly, we buy sweet wine and grape juice and to stave off complete hunger, excellent, greasy bourekas (very different than the regular type).

Final step after loading up the car. Coffee at Aroma.

Shuk shopping makes me happy.
Shabbat Shalom to all.