Monday, March 31, 2008

I davened at Shira Hadahsa

Yes, finally, I summoned up the uumph and led services at Shira Hadasha. It was really rather tame. Except for the one moment that I couldn't remember the currently sung melody of Mizmor L'david (meaning, I could remember the old favorite) and I looked over at Jessica and Tova and Tova started humming but I couldn't remember it again 2 seconds later. Of course, once I finished the paragraph before hand, singing with everyone, it flowed right in but for a moment...panic (or should I say, 'panica').

I was reminded of all the davening that I've done - from Shabbat evening (including Ma'ariv) to Shabbat mornings, to Yom Tov mornings to Rosh Hashanah morning (a big thrill) - but this was big crowd of singers and it's interesting trying to harness that big crowd to do what you want to do. I stuck to the standards and figured I 'll try something new another time. Got some nice comments which felt good.

Acoustics unfortunately are terrible at Hartman, so I was convinced that nobody was singing along, just like at Kane Street, except no Noah singing loudly in the back.

I'm reading Torah there in 2 Shabbatot - Metzora. Not too hard, should be a good intro for me. Working my way in slowly.

Akiva's Tune-up

There may be many things that are hard to get used to here, but this, I could grow accustomed to easily. That is, once I know to pack for a 'three-day tour.' Akiva went in for a tune up the other day - brakes, new tires, whole new getup. All except for a paint job - they don't do exteriors. (Sorry, that's a joke for those with a kid with special needs - hahaha.)

We made an appointment at Hadassah/Har Hatzofim for Tuesday. We had a made an appt at the clinic for kids with Down Syndrome (Tues is DS day and Monday is CF day, etc) in Feb but it was cancelled due to the inch of snow that fell that day. We rescheduled and went last week. We were told that it would be a long day and we packed what we felt was a respectable amount of provisions for Akiva - 2 small yogurts, sandwich, some fruit and a drink. For ourselves, we assumed that coffee or a bite of his sandwich would sustain us until we finished and dropped him off of school later that morning. BOY, WERE WE WRONG.

We arrived at 8:30am and staggered out at about 3:30pm. And here's the kicker, didn't pay anything - at least nothing extra for our pains, except for the few prescriptions the next day for his ear gunk (nis35, or about $10).

Akiva visited with (in addition to paperwork filled out and handled with the guy at the front desk, the nurse in charge of seeing that we went to the right stations, the nurse at the eye area....):
1. Ear Doctor - wax buildup (see, it's like a car) and some redness. Lots of drops for each ear and nose too and tomorrow he goes for a clean out.
2. Eye Doctor and optometrist - this was interesting because optho and opto don't get along but in this case, they conferred, discussed and Akiva will go back for followup once he gets his new glasses (tomorrow we'll order) and once we figure out what's next (maybe more surgery), etc, as he is very nearsighted.
3. Physical therapist. He could use more therapy - duh - and maybe new orthotics too - double duh - and otherwise looks good. Akiva meanwhile had begun to descend into that sort of deep quiet that he can do, accompanied by chewing on his fingers for enjoyment and making a loud noise to tune out all other noise. I was beginning to wish I could do the same.
4. Dietician. This was a bit of a hoot for me. In typical Israeli fashion, she informed me that he needs more dairy calcium. Why does he drink rice milk? Why would I do that? I told her that he is congested much of the year and that we're careful with calcium and there are other ways of getting your calcium than just in milk and dairy stuff. She told me a yogurt a day and what about hard cheese, etc, etc. I felt like saying, 'honey, you're preaching to the food choir here,' 'I know my stuff...' but Ira glared at me that I should be quiet and let her finish her lecture. I did.
5. Social worker. This was great. A nice religious, former American which helped in terms of language and talking. We chatted freely and openly about life with Akiva and the things we could use help with - life with Akiva and feelings of fatigue, finding after-school activities, help in the house, handicapped parking permit.....

In between, Akiva shuttled back and forth for his eye drops, eye exam and arm wrestles with Picado and his father, who's name I can't remember but it was something like Kussinum, which is thank you in Hungarian, a lovely Ethiopian duo. We talked about languages that we know and don't know - I know English better than Hebrew and he knows Hebrew better than Amharic.

6. The doctor. At the end of the day, we met with Dr. Tannenbaum, a lovely guy, who helped us summarize everything up and also talked with us about side issues, from toileting problems (still a work in progress) to other developmental matters. He ultimately drew blood on Akiva for a host of minor things to be checked and then.....we were done.

Yes, we had work to do and things to follow up on but we had handled everything....except the dentist. We still have to find out about that.
And because it was Hadassah, which is a Maccabi (our HMO), we didn't pay anything extra. Meaning, other than what we pay quarterly.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Blood? Delayed Post - Sorry

Note to my readers: This post was obviously delayed and I really struggled over writing it and thinking through what really was on my mind. Suffice to say that I am conflicted. This post was finished today, March 31st.

March 1.
The newspaper was really fun to read this weekend, although at least we had a few days to digest the events of Thursday night at Merkaz Harav Kook before seeing the pictures of the fresh-faced kids, the youngest 14, who were killed/murdered/gunned down while studying.

We were on our way to eat dinner out for Ira's b-day. Heard a billion sirens and saw a local ambulance whiz down our street. Alan confirmed what had happened the first. We drove downtown, listening to the news and Daniel working his 2 phones. Daniel's TRY-Ramah High School kids are here for 6 months of learning, enjoying the country, and events like this try the composure of all the parents. He likes to send out an email right away to reassure them but in this case, the kids were actually out having a free evening (with supervision of course - it's funny when I think of how free kids used to be on their trips - ask Ira about Ramah Seminar in 1978) and over the next hour, he spoke to staff, rounded up the kids who were either downtown, at the mall or at the Hartman Center (they all were sent them home in a taxi), drafted the email (after hearing from one parent) and breathed a sigh of relief when they were all back at the Havat Ha'noar, where they live when they're here. We stood and watched the TV in a few places and eventually went and had our dinner - Alan stayed home though (Lisa was with us and Jessica and Daniel) and Natan met up with 2 friends after his rehearsal and went home with them. His friends were downtown at the bus station, which is quite close to Merkaz Harav when they heard what had happened and decided not to hang around that area. They slept at our house on Thursday night, which they sometimes do anyway, as they live in a moshav in the Jerusalem hills. I was glad when they were all home.

We spill blood and call it a military action - collateral damage, to borrow a term I learned during the Iraq war (the bombing period). They spill blood and we are shocked and horrified - but is the Jewish country, the Jewish way? Are we fighting for our survival the way we did in '48? I don't think so. We have our survival to think of and we face the threat of universal hatred and muslim extremacy but we're not the few anymore or the weak. We have a powerful army - well-trained, impressive, with the ability to wreak havoc, especially in densely populated places like refugee camps and Gaza City. I'm glad that we have an army, a country, bad politics, good and bad Jews, etc, but I worry about the direction of people's thoughts, the level of their distrust, hatred and general belief that most Arabs are only capable of the most minimal kind of modern thinking towards others. I argued about this with my mother the other day. First we argued politics and the state of the upcoming election in the US. I'm proud to report that she called me a Communist (I'm not, but hey, it was my first time) because of the depth of my distrust of how big $$$ operates in the US and my feeling that there's too much collusion of the rich - they run the show an the rest of us just spin around in their orbit hoping for the best. And let's not talk about socialized medicine, etc.

Once we finished the election - trust me she won't vote for Obama, and that has a lot to do with his last name and possible Muslim connections - Israeli's are very jittery about this, regardless of how many articles have been written and I don't suggest that you speak to my sister Sarah about this as her views are fairly poisonous and she lives in the center of the country so my hypothesis may be shot to hell - we moved onto Israel. Needless to say, my mother feels that I am too free and easy and not willing to face the facts that are on the table - they hate us and we hate them and there really isn't anyone to talk to and never will be.

I wonder if this is the Jerusalem thing as I now know what a bizarre bubble I live in. Jerusalem, much as it pains me to admit, is not a normal place. Populated by the ultra-religious, Arabs, regular religious types and others, it is not a place of regular thinking. It is both alternative and conservative, hippyish and straightlaced. People are fairly bigoted here which always bothers me and yet capable of enormous kindnesses to each other, regardless of social group and ethnic background. They live here and never go elsewhere in the country - except to their home countries (if they're from the West) and maybe a bit to Europe. Israelis love to travel, mind you, but J'lemites are again, a different breed which yields a strange insularity not found in Petach Tikva or Ra'anana (forget about comparisons to Tel Aviv), for example.

I lectured Lisa Smith about this when we were in Rome together. Thing is, when you live in J'lem you can forget that problem and it's not a good thing.

A few weeks removed from the events of that night, I can still say that I shudder when I read the newspaper and think of how lousy it all seems lately. Those boy soldiers were kidnapped in 2006 and we're no closer to working out a deal? Sderoters are still getting bombed? Palestinians are still getting harassed by soldiers on their way to the hospital, or coming home from the store with new purchases (the dreaded washing machine story from Ha'aretz - I can't find the link to the story but it was a tale of abuse of power on the part of young soldiers - and this on a day that Natan had to go off to the Enlistment offices) and Gaza'ans have no freedoms. Doesn't anyone want to live differently in this part of the world?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Security Alert - Orange?

Received in my email box today.

"Warden Message -- Americans Reminded to be Security Conscious In Light
of Violence In the Gaza Strip
In light of the recent escalation in violence in the Gaza Strip,
American citizens are reminded to practice vigilant security awareness.
This includes maintaining a low profile, varying daily schedules and
routines, avoiding crowds and demonstrations and remaining alert for
people and objects that appear suspicious or out of place. While there
is no specific information indicating a threat to Americans or American
interests, there is the potential for heightened tensions. Random
checkpoints and closures of crossings from the West Bank into Israel
can be expected. In addition, planned and spontaneous demonstrations may
occur in Jerusalem, in the vicinity of the Old City and outlying areas.
American citizens are reminded of the current Travel Warning for Israel,
the West Bank and Gaza available at The
Department of State continues to urge U.S. citizens to carefully
consider the risks of travel to Israel, to defer unnecessary travel to
the West Bank and to avoid all travel to Gaza."

Yesterday, I had a meeting in Tzur Baher, a small Arab village right down the road from us (click link for map view) here in South Jerusalem. When I drive to Ramat Rahel to work out (almost daily), I turn right at RR and the cars heading to Tzur Baher turn left. My camp project, Shutaf, has been heating up as we attempt to come up with funds for the pre-Pesach camp and this summer as well. (I'm glad to report that we've had some lovely gifts from friends in Brooklyn and some in other places as well - for more information on how to get involved - you and your community, just pop me an email at We would like to involve the local Arab community - bring kids with special needs and their friends from local villages in our area and there are a few. Resources and needs are just as high there and as we all know, working together for our kids is not a bad thing. We've been chatting with a lovely social worker in Tzur Baher, Amahl and had planned a day visiting the school where she works - seeing the programming ideas she's implemented, and talking about feasibility of bringing in a group of kids to Shutaf. Unfortunately, she called to cancel, telling us that the mood of the kids at school was not a calm one given the IDF's incursion into Gaza and that we shouldn't come, it wouldn't be safe.

While I was happy that she had been thoughtful, and we will reschedule for next week to meet somewhere on our side of town - coffee, etc - I was disappointed. I guess I hoped that I would be able to make my small bit of difference, regardless of politics, emotions and ill will. I still think it's the work of ordinary people that will one day force their will on the government - somehow and someway - I was reminded of the facts on the ground and they're not easy ones. I can barely stomach reading the newspaper lately. I have my choice of anxiety, fear, destruction and death in Sderot and Ashkelone (where thankfully, the numbers aren't that bad) and complete and utter mayhem in Gaza. I know that negotiations probably continue on in secret but in truth, wonder what are we negotiating for? To continue to kill each other and make each other's lives miserable?

Natan received an invitation/order to go to an army meeting at the end of the month. It's a job connected with munitions - techie job having to do with modern military stuff. Might be interesting, he said 'if it wasn't the army.' While I am realistic about armies defending their civilians and countries defending their turf, I am reminded as always of Golda Meir's famous quote - 'We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours," but even a heart-rending quote like that becomes almost simplistic and naive in today's charged atmosphere of Hamas/Fatah/Israel and nobody seems to have an answer. What's with that?