Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

…it is a relief that the natural world doesn’t care for politics.

…it is a relief that rain and sun just do what they do.

…it is heartening that flowers can be cheerful and coexist.


Happy February, everybody. Take a walk outside.


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Seven years, two months, two weeks, and three days ago, I got on a plane with my family.


We had eight suitcases, containing clothes and shoes, linens, toys, books, laptops. Everything we would need to sustain us until the rest of our things – our beloved dining room set, bookcases, kitchen items, even more books and toys – arrived at our new home, that we had previously selected and rented. We had assistance on the ground from family and friends as we got through what I jokingly deemed “the worst vacation ever – we’re spending it in banks and offices.”

But my immigration story is not like many stories. It started in safety and comfort and ended in safety and comfort. I have two passports. My new government offers me money for my children, gives me health insurance at affordable rates, and allows me many freedoms.

My old government also allowed me many freedoms. I lived there in safety, had jobs and friends and a place to live. I worshiped as I pleased. Privilege can cross continents.

This isn’t about me.

This is about the people who are fleeing for their lives because their countries are literally burning down around them.

This is about the people whose religion, gender, race, orientation, political affiliation, or status are persecuted in their hometowns.

The people who just want to be able to see the sun and walk around without fear of being hurt. Who want to be able to get a job and put food on the table. To practice their religion, raise kids, love, learn, and live.

While my privilege as an immigrant is so obvious it’s nearly blinding, I think these are some things that I share with other immigrants:

  • I want to “do right” by my new country.
  • I want to serve it.
  • I want to make it better.
  • I see its flaws, but I am nevertheless so happy to be a part of it.
  • I want my children to be a part of it, to be fully fluent in its language and culture in a way I will never be.
  • I want to be from here, not see this place as a way station.

The idea that immigrants, especially people who are seeking refuge, are poison is poisonous to me.



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February Flowers, Resurrected

I just can’t stay away! (See my posts from 2014 for oodles more.)

It’s been a rather wet winter, judging from the number of times AM’s tennis class has been cancelled. But never mind that – it’s February, so when it’s not storming, it’s gorgeous and every hillside and roadside is blooming and lush.

It makes me very happy.

Last week, I shoved the kids into the car and trundled them out to a little patch of nothing. But this tiny mound has sandy soil and is home to a rare iris, the Iris HaArgaman, named after it’s burgundy color (referred to in Exodus 24-28, among other places). This iris is found only on “Iris Hill” in Nes Tziona – where we were – and along the Mediterranean coast near the city of Netanya. My children, of course, know this and were properly gobsmacked by its appearance. (Squealing and pointing! Over a flower! I am so proud.)


The rare and beautiful Iris HaArgaman – its name reflects its rich purple-red-black color.

I was then treated to a lecture about Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Earlier this month, on a quick Friday hike in the northern Negev, we also saw the low-growing and much more common Iris Eretz-Yisrael. But a great gathering of them.


The Iris Eretz-Yisrael, now appearing on a hill near you. (If you’re lucky enough to be here.)

And now that we’re past the Ides of February (the 13th, by the way), we are beginning to see poppy flowers, which are refreshing the reds of the increasingly bedraggled kalanit. (It’s hard to be a national symbol.)


Poppies are just coming into season.

Another spring is hurtling towards us – and it’s going to be busy – so for the moment I’m thrilled to brandish my camera and to go hunting at a slow pace.

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Once upon a time, several weeks ago, I started a Facebook thread in a group I belong to. It’s mostly moms, all very smart, thoughtful people. Most of them live in the United States, though there are a sprinkling of us from Elsewhere, or expats, or temporarily assigned abroad.

I mentioned that AM, who is now 9 — “almost 10,” he says, as one does who is nearing one’s half-birthday — has started riding his bike one kilometer to his twice-weekly tennis lessons, thereby allowing me to take Miss M across town for a class that begins at the same time.

tennis class

After-school tennis class, comprised mostly of 4th graders. AM in is the green shirt.

It was meant as an “it gets better” post, to give hope to the people who feel as if they are drowning in the never-ending demands of their tiny despots and the society that expects us to chauffeur them everywhere, while holding down a job and keeping a spotless house. On Sundays, when both my kids have these simultaneous after-school activities, I actually have an nearly an hour TO MYSELF. In the middle of the afternoon! It’s a whole new chapter, let me tell you. (I don’t spend it cleaning. What am I, crazy?)

People mentioned that Israel, in their minds, was an unsafe place, but are wise enough to know that they are under the influence of the photographs and descriptions that make the international media. Suicide bombings, war operations, major riots, be they Palestinian or ultra-Orthodox, make it through, of course (and well as LOOK AT ALL THAT TECH IN TEL AVIV AND ALSO BEACHES WITH HOTTIES), but not wildflowers and cool graffiti.

I described my boring giant suburb, where there are dozens of parks, and horrible traffic during school dropoff and pickup hours, and they roll up the sidewalks at 9:30 at night, but obviously it’s a different experience from an American suburb with the same vibe. So I volunteered to take pictures.

And I did. But then I got busy with holidays and the kids were underfoot for two weeks, and I was trying to work, and the general mess of life took over before I got a chance to post the pictures.

And then Israelis started being attacked. It started with a shocking murder of parents in front of their children, and then within days the entire country was on alert. There have been stabbings, Molotov cocktails, and giant rocks being thrown at cars and busses. The flash point is allegedly the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the location of the Al-Aqsa mosque and under control of the Waqf, and the fear that Jews will be allowed to visit in larger numbers and pray there (they currently cannot, under threat of arrest), although the Netanyahu government has repeatedly stated that there is no intention of a change to this policy. Regardless, this is being used as justification to rally the hatred of many people, some of whom have literally taken to the streets with knives and rocks and intent to kill.

(NB: It is pretty difficult to obtain a gun here, hence the weapons of choice.)

It is too much to go into the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here. Let’s just say that it goes back much further than the Gaza withdrawal, the Sinai withdrawal, the wars of 1973, 1967, 1956, or 1948, or the Balfour declaration. People of different religions and different (though similar) ethnic backgrounds sharing this space goes back for many generations. Jews have been in the historical record here for more than 3,000 years, so I don’t really like it when we are told to go back to where we came from. (Also note that if you’re talking recently, the Israelis who have come from Arab lands have nowhere to go back to – they are unwelcome in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, north Africa and elsewhere.)

Please note: I am fully aware that many people who live in the Palestinian Authority have difficulties, be they economic or otherwise. Some of these are brought on by their horrifically corrupt governments (Hamas and Fatah), that glorify violence and give payouts to families of terrorists and take away their international aid in order to build more terrorist infrastructure or build luxury palaces in Ramallah or Qatar. Some are brought on by the Boycott, Sanction, & Divestment movement, which alleges to want to help them but instead takes away their jobs. They feel trapped. This is understandable. But it’s not about “settlers,” because we are all settlers to the Palestinian Authority government.

As I pointed out on Facebook, ridding Israel of its Jews would not, I’m guessing, bring a utopian peace to the land, because all those Arab countries that are now empty of their centuries worth of Jewish communities – Aleppo, Damascus, Sanaa, Baghdad, Cairo, and others –  are experiencing civil and religious unrest even now, decades later. Imagine that!

Ok, back to right now. Things are very tense. Even in my boring, “undisputed” (although Arab governments like Iran and the Palestinian Authority, would gladly have it, and me, gone) city there are now checkpoints and beefed up police presence, because we are at no less risk than Tel Aviv, Afula, Kiryat Gat, Petach Tikva, and all the other previously quiet places that have suffered from vicious attacks lately. (I know, I know, you’re thinking: Where on earth is Afula? It’s a little industrial, mixed Arab-Jewish city in the north of Israel, home to an amazing cafe that we try to stop at every time we take a trip even vaguely in that direction.) And now there are revenge attacks in Jerusalem, Dimona, on the roads. It’s horrible.

So I have been putting of my show of normalcy. (Although, to tell the truth, what is mostly making the news is only when the terrorists are taken down, now with extra slant!) But if this is an intifada, when is the right time to explain to people that I am ok? That we are taking safer roads to Jerusalem, but I still worry about my kids’ teachers, who live beyond the so-called green line? That the idea of pulling up stakes now and deserting the country that would have me under ANY circumstances is just not going to happen?

How about right now? Yes. Right now. Here is a slice of my neighborhood. (And, full disclosure, the next one over.)

The city I live in is in a landing path for Tel Aviv”s Ben Gurion airport. Which is actually in the city of Lod, but Tel Aviv is way more sexy. Sometimes the planes fly very low, and the 747s sound like they are going to land in my backyard.

flight path

This large apartment complex might be an architectural eyesore masquerading as a nod to the Romans (it’s an aquaduct! it’s a plane! it’s terrible!), but it’s a great landmark when giving directions.


This is a fantastic park. Americans might see it as a lawsuit waiting to happen, I don’t know.

high slides

This is a complex of kindergartens for age 5. They feed into the elementary school next door, where my kids attend.


An elementary school with different types of residential buildings rising on the hill beyond. The sign is warning you to go slow because there is a school.


A cute park for smaller kids, in the shadow of three high-rise apartment buildings.


My city’s branch of Yad Sarah, a wonderful organization that loans medical equipment to anyone who needs it, including breastpumps, crutches, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and about a million other things. It has a big volunteer base and services people all over the country.


A synagogue that prays in style of Jews that came from north Africa, mixed with Israeli customs.


A meditative spot that is a memorial for fallen soldiers and residents killed in terror attacks. It is carefully tended and has signs up forbidding dogs and ball playing.

memorial site

I joke that these are the native birds of Modiin. (Cranes, get it?) The city is still under construction and allegedly will keep going until it’s home to 250,000 people. This is shocking to me, because we’re only at 90,000 and it’s already impossible to find a parking place at the mall on Friday morning.

the birds of Modiin

Dinner rush at the city’s best falafel place. That’s Miss M in the middle of the scrum.


Did someone order a ham with his falafel? Nope. Just pickles and hummus and fries.


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So I am a bit slow on the uptake. Additionally, it’s hard to let go of preconceptions.

The communities I was raised in took Yom Kippur seriously. They were not traditional communities, in that people drove, the rabbis/cantors could be women, and the prayerbooks were often mimeographed pages from various sources (mostly English), stapled together. But a lot of people did fast on Yom Kippur, and it was celebrated on the proper day, meaning that people had to take off from work and school to make it happen.

Even when I began to pray in Orthodox communities, Yom Kippur was serious business. Hours and hours of prayer, much of it standing up. A thick prayerbook, used only for this day, that felt so heavy in my hands.


Joy or distress? It might depend on your perspective.

Then we moved to Israel. Where things are lighter. Literally – so many people wear white. With flip-flops (leather in your shoes is a no-no). Prayers are long, to be sure, but the services we attend are punctuated with singing and joy. And I realized, the hard work of this season is really Rosh Hashana. That is the day of judgment, but we try to beat it into submission with festive meals. In the days that follow, we scramble to give charity and make apologies.

But on Yom Kippur the burden is lifted, and it really is a holiday in the deepest sense. When the kids eat on Yom Kippur, they first must sanctify the day with grape juice and challah, as we would for Shabbat. (Now it’s only one kid eating on Yom Kippur. Bat mitzvah on the horizon.) That didn’t used to make sense to me – possibly because my grandfather, when he became too ill to fast on Yom Kippur, viewed his non-fasting status as a failure. But in reality I think it meant that he had to make a different approach – and people are slow to change.

May this be a year of acceptance of change and new perspectives for all of us.

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So in Israel there are really two calendars. There is the Jewish calendar, which has 12 months (sometimes 13, in a leap year), and the secular calendar, which also has 12 months. They don’t run exactly parallel. But it doesn’t matter, so much, because unlike other parts of the world that have four seasons, you don’t have to bother with that. September is never “fall,” because the weather is usually as warm as July, just the sun sets a little bit earlier.

So the practical Israeli calendar is sort of a…melange, if you will — a mix of the calendars and seasons and holidays.

old watch

Your former ways of keeping time have little relevance here.

Ready? Here’s my version:

  • Chagim — this starts with Rosh Hashana and ends with Shimini Atzeret / Simchat Torah (in Israel this is one day…one very, very, very long day)
  • Acharei haChagim — this is as much a time period as a state of being, because everything of importance gets pushed to this, from dentist appointments to job interviews
  • Choref — winter, extending from acharei hachagim to when it stops raining
  • Chanukah — self-explanatory, but can start from when the donuts start appearing in the bakeries
  • Adloyada — technically the costume parades for Purim, but people start planning costumes from way before
  • Pesach — from the day after Purim, when you realize how much chametz junk is in your house
  • The “Yom Ha”s — Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, Yom Haatzmaut – if you have kids, you’re constantly laundering white shirts
  • Kayitz — from when it stops raining
  • Yuli — July
  • August — August
  • Elul — the month before “Chagim,” when you’re supposed to be spiritually preparing for them, but instead, because of overlap with “August,” you spend a lot of time at the pool/beach, watching TV, and eating ice cream with your bored kids

Do you live in Israel? How did I do?

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Murphy and his law are alive and well here in Israel.

Yesterday (literally!) I said to Gila, “The good news about blogging for so long is that you’ve already covered all the feelings.”

And I thought I had a good grasp on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). My post from 2011 is still applicable. I am desperately grateful to be here. I am more aware of the sacrifices with each passing year.

But this year Miss M’s class, the 5th grade girls (the kids’ school divides by gender for 5th and 6th), presented the tekes (ceremony) for Yom Hazikaron. 10952862_10153137452351708_161916310873038842_n (2)

Because there is no school tomorrow, Yom Haatzmaut, the tekes touched on both the grief and joy that encompasses this time of year.

There were slow songs and solemn readings; the flag lowered to half-staff; the lighting of memorial candles for fallen soldiers from our city.

And then the music turned upbeat. The girls lined up in rows and took flags. Big, proud Israeli flags. A young woman, who is doing her National Service in the school, led 33 girls through complex formations. My girl, who breezes through academics but struggles with many other things, couldn’t stop tapping her feet and had a gigantic smile on her face.


She was so happy that I cried.

Finally the formation broke apart into rows. Each girl, gripping her flag, stood and sang “HaTikva” with the entire school and guests. Gets you right in the gut, 400 kids in white shirts pledging their allegiance to their land.

Highly recommended. Not to missed.

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