Thursday, March 27, 2014

Still, I Am Grateful






Many of us, when we first come to Israel, fall in love hard. We're like newlyweds who are still in the purest stage of love. Our heads are in the clouds and we just cannot believe we actually live in Israel. We notice everything. And everything is just so wonderful here!

Then, after a time, we get knocked around a little. We get cheated. Or stuck in a bad rental apartment. Or money starts to run out. Or we can't get something as simple as X or Y or Z done in this crazy county. Or we miss our loved ones. Or we actually calculate what a bowl of onion soup in an average restaurant in Israel costs in dollars. Or we still can't communicate well enough in Hebrew. Or we realize that we have chosen to live in a very, very complicated country in a very, very stressed-out region of the world. Or. Or. Or.

And we start to feel a little like this guy ---->

Today, DH and I were driving into Jerusalem and, without warning, I was smitten all over again. We're somewhere between our third and fourth aliyahversary. It's just an ordinary Thursday. And yet. And yet. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of how many things here are so precious to me. I asked DH if he also sometimes feels this way. And in under five minutes, we came up with a list of things we love, so much, about this country.

My computer sits on a desk right near a window that faces the street. Some evenings, as I work, I hear a man pacing in front of the shul across the street shouting, "Ma'ariv! Ma'ariv!"

When we drive into town to meet friends or run some errands, the sign that says "Bruchim HaBaim. Welcome to Jerusalem." still gives me chills.

There's a kelim mikvah right outside the housewares store.

On the way to do our grocery shopping, we drive past dozens of empty, densely-packed sand dunes. On my way to buy bread and cucumbers, I easily imagine Avraham and Sarah walking across these same hills.

On Shabbat mornings, around 10 AM, there is a Bedouin shepherd, a young teenage boy, who brings his flock near the edge of my community. He sits on a rock while his sheep graze in the grass and stubble that lies outside our fence. And I watch them as I pray.

The radio announcer tells people what parsha we will read in shul this Shabbat. And very early in the mornings, at the beginning of the broadcast day, he says Shema.

Directly across the street from my apartment, there are two shuls and a paper/bottle/old clothes recycling station. And on Fridays, there is a flower seller there. And erev Sukkot, someone sells lulavim at the same spot.

The streets one neighborhood away are named for Biblical instruments. In another neighborhood in another town, the streets are named for stones on the Choshen Mishpat. Our streets and our cities are named for Jewish ideas, Jewish personalities, Jewish history.

Every time I travel on one of the 66 buses a day that link my home to Jerusalem, I feel very acutely that I am part of the miracle of the Ingathering of the Exiles. I didn't just move to a new place. I am part of the fulfillment of an ancient Biblical prophecy.

Relatively often, I'll meet someone who doesn't yet live in Israel, or who is in process, but who isn't yet a Jew. I'll understand their longing. I don't know by what merit I was born a Jew. Or by what merit Hashem picked me to come live in His Holy Land. But I am just so grateful.

Because, despite it all, I so love my life here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Purim Photoblog with Rashi (Commentary)

Standard Purim costumes include princesses, clowns, cowboys and sports fans. But some Purim costumes need a bit of explanation. Here follow a handful of clever, creative, homemade costumes spotted this Purim that may need a little, ahem.. clarification.

waze is a combination GPS and social media app that was created in Israel and sold to Google for $966 million. Chana and Jeremy Staiman dressed as the waze logo.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Staiman
They even took the waze theme to the next level and included this sign with their mishloach manot. Since Jeremy owns a graphic design business, they really raised the bar beyond where we ordinary mortals can compete.



Lisa Cain's costume is punny. She's displaying a pair-o-ducks (paradox).


But wait! There's more! Here, she's wearing a shift (a loose-fitting dress) and a pair of dimes, representing a paradigm shift.


Dena Udren was pregnant this Purim, so she dressed as a shana m'uberet - a "pregnant year" which is how we refer to a leap year in Hebrew. When the Hebrew year is a shana m'uberet, a leap year, there are two months of Adar. She's wearing two of the kabbalistic/zodiac symbols for Pisces which goes with the Hebrew month of Adar.


Here, I'm wearing a Ki"POT" Barzel and an IDF t-shirt. In Israel, the Iron Dome, which intercepts and destroys short-range rockets, is called kipat barzel (כִּפַּת בַּרְזֶל). 


This one is... wait for it... a pop quiz.
Photo Credit: Laura Ben-David

Okay, this one had me scratching my head for a bit, but I think I got it. The caption is Gar'in Torani, which is a group of idealistic, young, Zionist, religious families and singles who move to a community together to try to strengthen the community's level of Jewish commitment. Gar'inim is also the Hebrew word for sunflower seeds. So this is a sunflower hat with sunflower seeds that look (to me) like a community of people. The tzitzit on either side is a symbol of the religious identification of the Gar'in Torani.

Thanks to Chaviva Braun for her commentary on my commentary. The picture is of her son who, together with his wife and 4 children, are part of the Gar'in Torani in Migdal haEmek.

Some costumes have an only-in-Israel political flavor. And in Israel, politics is generally bundled together with religion.

This one is a reference to the current culture war between those who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and those who don't. In Hebrew, this concept of social equality is called shivyon b'netel. Instead of b'netel, his sign says, "The people seek equality "b'petel!" Petel is an Israeli brand of concentrated drink mix. Notice the two bottles he's carrying around his neck. The one on his left is dressed in an army uniform and the one on his right is dressed in a black hat and the black clothes associated with the Charedim who generally oppose serving in the IDF.

Photo credit: Avi Staiman

On a similar note, here's DH dressed as "Charedi Chaim from Yereeshalayim" who is completely against the idea of yeshiva students being drafted and required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. He's holding volumes of books that yeshiva students study and his signs say:
NO DRAFT (only beer)
NOT DYIN' FOR ZION
No Uzis. No Floozies. Just me and my Chavruzees. 
(Uzis are submachine guns. Floozies is a tasteless reference to women and chavruzees are actually chavrusas or chavrutot which means partners with whom one studies Torah.)

When we delivered mishloach manot to a family with 2 year-old twins, they thought DH was Uncle Moishy.


This is the real Uncle Moishy.

One more on this same theme. This is Sandy Honigsberg dressed like someone opposed to service in the Israeli Defense Forces and in favor of continued government subsidies for yeshiva students. His sign says, "God is proclaiming, 'Death to Tzahal. Where is my money?'" Tzahal is an acronym for the Hebrew words Tzva Hahagana LeYisra'el which refers to the IDF.


Photo credit and photo identification: Yoni Kremer


This is our neighbor wearing an ironic t-shirt. It has very short sleeves and the words, "It is forbidden for Jewish women and girls to dress in immodest clothes," emblazoned across the chest.


Another neighbor is dressed as a member of Women of the Walla group of Jewish women who wear prayer shawls, pray and read from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. 


And just to end on a lighter note, here's my newly married daughter and her husband as Mario and Princess Peach.


Just kidding. Here they really are...


And because they are just so adorable, here they are again:




Hope you had a great Purim!