Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shabbat as Shabbat

I would like to start tonight with a list of some of the things I have learned so far about Israel:

1.  all new towels of any color other than white run the first time they are washed (even light yellow) even in cold water  (This is particularly problematic if your husband limited your quantity of clothing and one of the five long sleeved shirts you brought with you which happens to be – have been – white was in the wash with a yellow towel.)

2.  not all humus is made equal

3.  doctors make less money than nurses

4.  lice is inevitable and you just have to live with it (ugh)

5.  almost nothing is easy to do 

6.  at least in Jerusalem, there are as many English speakers as Hebrew speakers

7.  it is NOT unbearably cold and gloomy in Jerusalem in January

Tomorrow is a big day for us.  Elliot is starting school.  After much discussion, thought and consultation, we have decided to send him to the preschool one block from here.  It is a private, religious one room preschool with two teachers and 25 kids.  Jim took Elliot to visit there today and he loved it.  It is completely Hebrew speaking, but the head teacher is fluent in English so Elliot should be fine.  He is very excited to go.  I just hope the enthusiasm doesn't wear off overnight.  I don't know about anyone else, but my anxiety level is sufficiently high such that for the first time since the flight here I took a klonopin. (For those not in the know, klonopin is a drug in the valium family and I highly recommend it.)

Everyone else continues to do great.  In fact, Jim and I cannot help but continue to be shocked at how well the children are adjusting and getting along with each other.  Their favorite thing to do is go to playgrounds with spinning equipment.  Unlike the U.S., in Israel most playgrounds still have metal equipment and most of it is an accident waiting to happen.  A perfect example of this is my kids' favorite thing, a merry go round of sorts.  As Sabrina described it to her Aunt Julia today, it is basically a stationary tea cup (think Disney World).  They sit in this thing and then use arm strength to turn it round and round.  Unlike the tea cup, it is made of metal and has no sides so children are at risk of slipping through and falling to the ground at any moment.  Of course, the ground is concrete with a thin layer of sand - no wood chips for Israeli kids.  I guess they make them tougher here.  I am starting to understand why all my Israeli friends think I am off my rocker half the time!

We are beginning to see real progress with everyone's Hebrew. It is amazing what one week can do!  It is also a relief since we have decided pretty definitively to send Bennett and Sabrina to the neighborhood public school - Yehuda Haleivi.  In Israel, most (perhaps every) neighborhood has two public schools - one religious and one not.  We have decided on the religious school.   Among our reasons for selecting this school, is the fact that we have been told that the teachers are nurturing.  In terms of the religious aspect, we think it will be no more than the kids are used to from JPDS.  The only change is that Bennett is going to have to wear tzitzit.  Interesting he is fine with that, he is just not fine if he has to wear a kippa instead of his beloved green hat.  I am going to work on that tomorrow.  Another reason we are in favor of this school is that we have been told that there are a critical mass of Anglos at the school such that the kids should each be able to find an English speaking friend - if necessary. 

Speaking of friends, I need to tell you about our fabulous shabbat this past weekend. After a week of intensive hebrew classes and continuing jet lag, we were all looking forward to a little r and r.  In all my life, other than perhaps when I was at Camp Ramah, I cannot remember a time when I enjoyed Shabbat in the true sense of the holiday - until this past weekend.  We had a nice relaxing day on Friday with a trip to the zoo.  Elliot of course loved the zoo, but so did the other kids.  In fact, Bennett proclaimed it the second best zoo he has ever been to - with the Allentown zoo coming in as number one (go figure).  We came home too late to go to Kabbalat Shabbat so we just changed and headed out for a nice walk to Rob and Camille Kahn's for dinner.  Donna Rudolph, Bennett's wonderful hebrew teacher at JPDS, hooked us up with the Kahn's.  After our dinner Friday night, I can see that it was "beshert."  They are warm, smart, wonderful, inviting people.  In addition to being wonderful people, it turns out that before making aliyah this past August, Rob and Camille did a six month sabbatical starting three years ago.  During their sabbatical their children were similar in age to ours now so they have a wealth of information to share.  Most notably, they sent their kids to Yehuda Haleivi (the elementary school we selected) during the sabbatical and were so happy with it that one of their kids is back there now.  Thank you Donna for the introduction.  I am sure we will remain friends (as you suspected).  In fact, I have a piece of trivia for you Allentown readers - Rob is the Rabbi who officiated at Anna Geller's wedding.  How is that for coincidence!?  

Moving on with Shabbat...we didn't get to bed until after 11 Friday night, so everyone slept in Saturday.  Jim tried to rouse everyone for Shul, but to no avail.  And so, as one would expect from Jim, he set off alone on the walk to Kol Haneshama.  He arrived just before 11 only to find that the service was just about over.  Lesson number 8 - Shabbat services start and end earlier in Israel than in the U.S.  So Jim returned home a bit disappointed.  Around noon, our neighbor came by and invited us for a shabbat walk.  I will digress for a moment and describe these neighbors (who I alluded to in the previous entry).  The Arbels are a family of five.  Daniel, the husband/father, is a pediatric surgeon who longs to be a professional artist.  He spends what little free time he has studying Talmud and painting.  Jim has already enjoyed many spirited, intellectual conversations with him.  Revital, the wife, is a gynecological surgeon.  She is also brilliant.  I thoroughly enjoy her.  She was my biggest help in terms of choosing schools for everyone as she understands my style of mothering (yes, overprotective, neurotic, etc).  They have a 16 year old son who is an aspiring musician, a fourteen year old daughter who is an aspiring artist, and 11 year old daughter who is social in a mature sort of way and excellent at Judo, a 9 year old son with whom Bennett has become fast friends and a 4 year old son who Elliot loves.  As you might have guessed, Sabrina is perfectly happy playing with the older daughters so we do quite well together.  Back to the walk...we got ourselves together and went down to meet them.  We had a wonderful walk to an Israeli style park - a large open space filled with lots of rocks. The park is actually a garden in memory of a boy named Oori who was killed by a terrorist while walking to school.  Revital told the story to Bennett and Elliot, which of course led to lots of questions from Elliot.  He was so affected by the story that before he would go with Jim to look at the school today, he insisted they write letters to the "bad guys" which they would give them should they see them.  The letters asked the "bad guys" to leave them alone.  After spending so much of my life as a mother shielding my children from the horrors of terror, it is hard to make the change that one must make here.  The war and terrorists are ubiquitous and so everyone just knows about it.  It is a way of life.  This probably sounds odd, but in a way it is liberating for me to stop the shielding.  

After the walk, we found ourselves sitting down to a feast with the Arbels.  The kids ran back and forth from our apartment to theirs, while the adults sat and talked until sundown.  It was a perfect day.  I actually felt rested and almost ready to resume my classes. 

I have so much more to tell, but it is late so I must sign off.  Regards to all.


Jennifer said...

You write so vividly; I feel like I was right there beside you as you were making new friends and even seeing yourself in a new light. I can't wait to join you all, even for a brief time.

I find myself eager for each new installment. You've got me hooked!

stan said...

I love learning of your great experiences and your pioneering spirit. Your Dad E-mailed me your blog after he mentioned your move when we attended a Sunday morning meeting(Federation).
I recommend that you visit the great market in Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon. It is a wonderful and exciting place to be before Shabbot.
Stan Wax