Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Eye of the Storm

Due to the magic of Facebook, I recently reconnected with someone with whom I worked over 30 years ago, long before I was religious and way before I had my first thought about Israel.  He recently wrote to me and asked, "In your current location, are you removed from the uprisings of surrounding countries? I have thought about you and your family often over the last few weeks. I am curious how life there is influenced by these current events."

With violent anti-government protests happening in the streets of Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Iran, Tunisia, Egypt and who knows where else tomorrow, it's a fair question. After all, it's possible to see us as terribly vulnerable here in Israel.  The whole region seems to be on fire.  I'm not among those who hold much hope for any of these countries transitioning into democracies of any kind.  It's going to get uglier and scarier.

The truth is, if one never read a paper or went online, but simply lived in my neighborhood, it would be utterly impossible to tell that the region is in crisis.

However, I do read the paper and I do go online.  But I don't worry.  Because I already live in Israel.

To some of you, that might sound insane.  Or foolhardy at a minimum.

But I am comforted by the teachings of my rabbis who point out, over and over, that these times have been predicted in the Biblical books of prophecy.  When the world goes crazy, the safest place for a Jew to be is here in Israel.  Yes, it's counterintuitive, but nothing in Israel ever works according to the normal rules of nature or history.  So much so that a number of my rabbis in Israel are now urging Jews outside of Israel to come here very, very soon.

There seems to be little or no controversy over the assertion that we are in the period known as the End of Days.  Whether it will take weeks, months, years or decades to unfurl, I can't say.  Nor can I say for certain that I and my loved ones will come through this tumultuous time unscathed.  But I can say this much.

I believe, with all my heart and soul, that our best chances are here, right in the middle of the chaos. Right in the eye of the storm.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blissfully Happy


I got an email recently from an old friend and former colleague who said she keeps hearing that I am blissfully happy here in my new life in Israel.

You know, I really am.

Which doesn't mean everything always goes perfectly smoothly. (It doesn't.)  But something I can't name opened up in me since I've been here, and I feel happiness/joy/bliss/simcha pretty darn often. Now that I live here, I love people more deeply.  Can't explain it.  I just do.

We just had a wonderful, amazing, heart-warming visit from my sister's younger son.  (I just LOVE him!) He came to Israel with Birthright Israel and stayed a few extra weeks to tour and spend time with us. He had already done a bunch of touristy things with Birthright and on his own.  Mostly, we just tried to give him a sense of our normal life here.  (Disclaimer: okay, so we don't go out to eat as much when he's not here :-)

We took him out to dinner a bunch of times, to a Jerusalem comedy show at Off the Wall, to the shuk for some famous underbaked Marzipan chocolate rugelach, to Malcha Mall, to the Hemp Shop near Ben Yehuda, Rami Levi, Burgers Bar and to Beit El for the taping of my husband's radio show.

First cousins at Pera E Mela, our favorite Italian restaurant in Jerusalem

See how much fun we had.
I made him pose for this.  He had already eaten his rugelach.
These two were a riot together.
Yesterday, we went to a community simcha - an upsherin (chalake in Hebrew) which is basically a modest ceremony where a 3 year-old boy receives his first haircut, his first pair of tzitzis and his first lesson in the Hebrew alphabet.  I looked around the shul and was warmed by the thought that, just 7 months after our aliyah, I easily knew half the people in the room.


Later in the evening, we went to the taping of the Season Premiere of Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem with hundreds of other English speaking olim and a few close friends.  Tuesday Night Live is a feel-good about Israel show that offers a media alternative to the CNN view of Israel that is always conflict-centered.  We have been to other tapings, but always as visitors.  Last night, I was proud, proud, proud to (finally) be Israeli.


After the taping, four of us walked to a small pizzeria for a light dinner.  The pizza itself was only moderately adequate, but the experience was a hoot.  We kept having extended conversations with the people at other tables, all of whom had just come from the taping as well.


My life is not all play.  I also think about work.  If Hashem blesses my efforts, I may soon have gratifying work that leaves me with enough flexibility to do some volunteering as well.  Now that the grueling ulpan schedule is behind me, I have a new chance to build a life for myself.  At my age.  What a blessing.


Every night, after I say the Shema, I thank Hashem for 10 things that happened during the day that I appreciate.  It's rarely hard to come up with 10.  Sometimes I hit 20.  I have so much for which to express gratitude to Gd.


I am blissfully happy.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Spiritual Charge in Jerusalem

When we moved to Israel, we bought iPhones for the whole family.  Lest you think this was a deep indulgence in materialism, in the end, the iPhone has a number of applications that I use all the time to help me learn Hebrew.  There are translation programs that work with Google Translate, Hebrew verb tables, an iPhone version of the Prolog Hebrew-English dictionary and a Hebrew keyboard.  There is also a map of Jerusalem bus routes, a siddur, a Hebrew calendar application and a host of other iPhone apps that actually add value to my day as a recent Israeli immigrant.

Needless to say, it's also my calendar, my phone book and my cellphone.  It gets a lot of use each day.

One downside of the iPhone 3 is that the battery life is not so good.  It needs to be charged every night. So I charge it near my bedside, because it also serves as my morning alarm clock.  No matter how low the charge at night, in the morning, it's always 100% charged.

The other morning, as a favor to my husband, I checked the iPhone to see which team won the Super Bowl.  I opened the New York Times website, saw the Packers won, and put the phone down.  Just a few moments later, I wanted to check something else, but the iPhone did not respond.  It was dead.  And I was suddenly very uncomfortable.

This is an understatement.

During my morning prayers, it occurred to me that maybe my iPhone malfunction was a message from Hashem that I am much too dependent on my iPhone.  Most mornings, I check my email before I get out of bed.  I spend way more time with an iPhone in my hands than a prayer book.  So I asked Hashem to please make my iPhone work and, in exchange, I wouldn't take it to my bedside at night.

But after my prayers, the phone was still dead.

I put my SIM card in a different phone so I could at least make and receive calls and I started my day, however uncomfortably.  On the bus into Jerusalem, I focused on the positive.  Thank Gd I had another phone to use.  Thank Gd I was able to remember a few important phone numbers.  Thank Gd it was just something material, and not my health, that was broken.  Thank Gd I was on a bus in Jerusalem. Thank Gd I live in Israel.

After we finished our tasks in the city, my husband took me to the cellphone service center.

We pulled number 350,  When we arrived, they were on number 296.  We were told the wait would be 2-3 hours.  It was every bit that.

As we sat there, we talked about how this kind of wait would really infuriate some people.  At that point, it was 4 in the afternoon and I had not yet eaten lunch.  There were dozens of people in a small, loud, crowded room.  The numbers seemed to crawl forward.

On the other hand, we were together.  We were indoors and the temperature in the room was comfortable.  We had chairs.  There was free coffee.  And we were in Jerusalem.

When it was our turn, we learned that the problem with the phone was that it was completely drained. Apparently, the night before, the phone and the charger were disconnected and, after using the last of the juice to check the outcome of the Super Bowl, the phone just shut down.

We had just spent 3 hours waiting to find out that we needed to plug the phone into a charger.

Instead of feeling like an idiot and having my husband yell at me for wasting his afternoon, we agreed that this was great news.  We had some time together.  The solution didn't cost us any money.  Since we were already in Jerusalem, we went out to dinner and spent the entire meal speaking to one another exclusively in Hebrew.



And the onion soup was delicious.