Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My 2010 Tisha B'Av Experience

Tisha B”Av 2010, An Experience to Remember

Dear Family and Friends,

There are many things in life that really touch a person and since our aliyah 10 years ago, we have had the privilege and honor to participate in and observe many many amazing things here in Israel. Tonight, Monday July 19, 2010, Tisha B’Av , I decided to join the Women in Green’s 16th year of walking around the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.

American Consulate in Jerusalem
I took the bus from Modi’in and ate my dinner on the bus. Now that was a new experience. I took a cab from the central bus station in Jerusalem to hear Eicha read in the park across from the American Consulate in Jerusalem (the embassy is in Tel Aviv because the USA doesn’t believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel).

After the reading, where thousands of people sat on the grass and listened quietly with opened Eicha books and flashlights, davening Ma’ariv, a guest speaker Yoram Ettinger formerly Minister for Congressional Affaris to Israeli Embassy in Washington spoke (our Gideon works with him as he studies political science and international relations at Bar Ilan University).

Yoram Ettinger
He spoke about an undivided Jerusalem and how Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Levi Eshkol, stood up to Washington and said Jerusalem is our capital and we would not divide or sell it. Today our political leaders must be strong and stand up to the world that Jerusalem will not be divided or sold out. It is our eternal, undivided, unquestionable city.

We began our march with hundreds of flags held high and lead by shofar blowing, bull horn carrying speakers. We were guarded every inch of the way by policemen on horseback, helicopter security, soldiers at every corner and intersection of the blocked off roads and motorcycle guards as well as undercover men with radio connections hanging out of their ears or standing on the walls of the old city.

this crowd was over 4 blocks long when we started & grew!
My friends from Modi’in started the walk with me and we thought that the group looked small. But as we turned the corner at the new Mamilla Hotel away from the Jaffa gate we were able to get a better picture of the size of the crowd. Behind us and now we were able to see in front of us, we saw throngs of people, thousands and thousands walking together, respectfully and with great courage to make the walk while fasting. There was no age group left out. Infants in strollers, young children, teenagers, adults of all ages and octogenarians all walked with the streams of people in the middle of the streets of Jerusalem towards every gate in the walls of the Old City. There were people with canes, walkers and people with walking sticks indicating they were blind being lead and guided by sighted friends or family. I overheard French, Russian, German, Spanish and English in a variety of dialects from countries that were clearly Britain, South Africa, Canada and America, as well as Hebrew. There was every color skin representing the true colors of the Kibbutz Galiot and I was so proud to be a part of this march. I had taken my camera and though it was night time I tried at least to take pictures of each gate or sign to each gate that I could. Buses were held at abeyance while the marchers filled the guarded streets and veered into the Arab section of Jerusalem. I was walking in streets that I had never been on before.

Arabic sign over building in E. Jerusalem, Northern Wall side of Old City          

Arab Hotel in East Jerusalem, Northern side of Old City
As I stopped to take pictures or look at the Arab street vendors or the streets that were so new and unfamiliar to me I lost the group I was in and I ran into other people I knew. Several times I just walked alone taking in what I was doing and trying to reconcile my emotions with the most somber and sad day on the Jewish calendar. Somehow I didn’t feel so sad. I felt hopeful. I felt encouraged and I felt proud. I was actually witnessing the entire old city like never before. I was in a crowd of mostly Jews (there were Christians who joined the group to show support) who all felt the same way I did about Jerusalem. I was thinking that if Hashem punished us because of calamities we brought upon ourselves He could certainly reverse His decision and we could turn this day of sorrow into a day of joy and gladness. So my thoughts were of how could I help to reverse Hashem’s decision. For me it wasn’t going to be by sitting on a floor and crying, for me it was going to be through action and this march was the first step. I have to figure out the rest….it will take some time as I don’t work as well on an empty stomach!

Directional Signs I'd never seen, E. Jerusalem, Northern Wall

The crowd was stopped at the Lion’s gate and there my favorite Rabbi spoke, Rabbi Shalom Gold. He was passionate and powerful and he spoke of what Tisha B”Av means and what we can take away from its meaning and how we can make a difference and change things. My favorite line was that we should do what is good for the Jewish people and the state of Israel because “nobody in this world likes us anyway so no matter what we do we will be judged unfavorably so we might as well do what’s good for us.” Hooray Rabbi Gold keep saying it until our leaders both political and spiritual heed those words!

Rabbi Sholom Gold speaking at Lion's Gate Jerusalem

Nadia Matar

The next speaker was a member of Knesset who also spoke passionately about Jerusalem. The last speaker was the daughter of the founder of Women in Green, Nadia Matar. She is now the head of Women in Green and is one of the most inspirational women I know. She is smart, pretty and passionate all rolled into one. She speaks several languages and devotes her life to Israel. Her speech in Hebrew was the most passionate. May she be blessed with long life and good health to continue to make events like this happen and change the tide of events for Israel through her passion.

My favorite sight while listening to her speak was to watch her mother, Ruth Matar, shep nachat and kvell while taking pictures, listening and watching her daughter speak. It was something to warm everyone’s heart that a mother was so proud of a daughter and clearly they were both passionate about the same thing.

Ruth Matar

Entrance to Ir David

As we ended our walk we passed the entrance to Ir David and a great amount of new excavations below the southern wall. It stirred great emotions within me to see that below the wall was what looked like a city and that part of the city was clearly connected to Ir David, the City of David. I smiled as I walked by the new street paintings at the entrance of Ir David knowing that my good friend was one of the Directors there. She leaves her family here in Modiin monthly and travels around the world raising money to support the fabulous work Ir David accomplishes as it validates history and our Jewish experience. She is a mover and shaker and lives her passion of Israel. I am so proud to know her.

Southern Wall of Old City before Shar Ha'ashpah(Dung Gate)
We ended our walk around the old city at the Shar Ashpah, Dung Gate which leads into the Kotel Plaza. Our thousands of walkers now joined the thousands of people going to the Kotel and I had never thought that this lively sight would take place on Tisha B’av. I must admit it was a bit confusing for me. Instead of people from every stripe of Judaism sitting somberly in silence they were gathered as if it was a holiday of joy. It was THE ”happening” place and it was certainly jumping. I will have to think about how I felt about the liveliness of the Kotel but what started to enter my mind is that maybe these people represent the possibility of

Kotel Wall Plaza taken fromYeshiva Ha Kotel

change. Maybe within that sea of people a leader will stand up and bring all of B’nai Yisrael together. Maybe in that throng of people a new visionary will work to reverse the tide of Israel bashing, or Jewish history denial. Maybe there was a political leader in the making who will reunite all of Klal Yisrael and maybe our sorrow is now being turned to joy with all the potential that was in that Kotel Plaza. We walked through the old city to the Jaffa gate as more and more people walked pass us with pillows, books and friends towards the Kotel. We walked to our friend’s car and on the way home I could only think, ”For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still.(Isaiah 62:1). I’ll have to see where that takes me………… and the Jewish people.

Banner carried in front of marchers
Ronda(with flag) & friends after walk around old city walls

Have an easy fast.
Ronda Israel
Marchers walking around the Old City-Tisha B'Av, Jerusalem 2010
Mural at Entrance to Ir David
Shar Shchem Gate-Northern Wall

Church in Valley outside Eastern side of Old City Walls on Derech Yericho

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Are You Ready for Pesach 2010---We are!!

26 March 2010

We’re Ready for Pesach 2010 ….are you????

Dear Family and Friends,

I love Israel‼ I love Pesach in Israel‼. I am sitting down to write to you on Friday, 4 days before seder night, and basically except for Pesach cooking I am ready to leave Egypt…or make a seder!
This year I have gotten myself ready in an orderly, timely, calm fashion. All the kids are, basically, out of the house during the week so I have no little ones/big ones running around with cheerios or cookies to clean up after. The house was a breeze to clean, the windows are washed, the balconies cleaned, the car is washed and sparkly new and we had a new kitchen installed in December with a new chocolate workshop room for me with cabinets for Pesach. As they say, I am good to go‼
So why do I love Pesach in Israel? Let me explain my week. In America the grocery stores put out their white paper lined shelves Passover foods a month before Pesach. When we left in 2000 even cheeses, frozen turkeys, chickens and ducks, all kosher for Pesach, were in abundance in all the large grocery stores. Entire store sections were packed with the newest “must haves” for pesach which were just a reconfiguration of matzah, potato starch and sugar. If you didn’t buy your pesach groceries at least 3 weeks before pesach, you would find the store shelves bare, not to be restocked again for Passover (until the next year!) and you were out of luck.
Alas, not in Israel and this is what I love about this country (or one of the things)! This morning I awoke at 6 am…which because of the new daylight savings time was really 7 am. I jumped out of bed, dropped Aaron off at shul and hurried over to the grocery store I love called Rami Levi, that I have lived in for all this week. Well, counting today 3 days of this week. Pesach items started appearing in the grocery stores only a week ago. Because I had a plan of how to get our house ready for Pesach with my almost gone American mentally, I went to the grocery store on Monday to buy all non perishable items for Pesach. Thinking everyone is out to lunch and I would be the sole shopper at Rami Levi I arrived at 12 noon. Wrong‼ Every parking space and every shopping cart (agallah) was taken and we are not talking small store here. It looked as if they were giving away food……and in fact they were. With every purchase you received a free box of matzah. Produce like huge red, green and yellow peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, ripe and succulent, and eggplant, huge and purple, were going for 25 cents (one skekel) a kilo (2.2pounds). Each person could buy one kilo (2.2 pounds) of a certain meat for 25 cents (one shekel). I suppose that a person could truly make Pesach for very little money here but think of the extras you would miss out on‼!
Before filling my cart with my Pesach groceries on that fateful Monday I ran to the meat department to take my paper number from the ticket machine so that by the time I finished my basic shopping my number would be up….well in a manner of speaking. I looked at the number the machine issued me and saw that I was 532. They were currently serving 458. I had plenty of time to shop. Going up and down the aisles in the brand new location of this favorite discount store, I smiled at the abundance of stuff to choose from in the land where the entire country is shopping for Pesach….even if you don’t want to. Ahhhhh the country where the Arab inmates in prison are petitioning the Israeli high courts to be served bread on Pesach….they’re no dopes, they ain’t eating cardboard for a week….no bread of affliction for the criminal Arabs.
I digressed. Upon filling my cart to the brim with olive oil, potato chips, chocolate bars (my chocolate business is closed for Pesach) and foil pans, yogurt and matzah meal I hurried back to the meat department to see if my number was close to being called. Whoa‼! There we a ton of people just like me with filled carts waiting for their number to be called. It was like the lottery. And after all that time they were only on number 477. I really had other things to do so I decided to check out with my order and come back to buy meat the next day after my freezer was cleaned. But this time I would come really early.
Wednesday I was physically and mentally prepared to meet the meat department head on. I called a friend to ask if she wanted to join me and she said yes. That would make any waiting more pleasant and fun. On the way to Rami Levi she told me she needed to do all her shopping for Pesach. She hoped there would be food left for her as she had been delayed in buying her Pesach stuff weeks in advance. She was new to Israel and this was her first Pesach‼! Was she in for a surprise! When we arrived at 10 am the parking lot was spilling out into the other streets and parking lots. While I waited for a parking space I told her to get a cart, go straight to the meat department to get a number and I would meet her inside at some point. In situations like this I was tempted to offer exiting customers a ride to their car in exchange for their parking space and cart. But I didn’t. I had to maintain some dignity! Once my van was squished into my parking space I negotiated my way into the store to find my friend and help her navigate the Pesach items and see what number we had at the meat counter. We had number 427 and they were now serving 349. OMG‼ As we went up and down the aisles my friend marveled at the abundance of Pesach stuff. I asked her if she shops Ashkenazi or Sephardi. Her questioned expression indicated that checking the labels with or without kitniyot was going to make her nuts …as it does me. In fact this kitniot thing here is enough to put you over the edge. The Sephardim eat corn oil, rice crispies, rice cakes and delicious cookies, cakes and candies all with things we Ashkenazim are told not to eat. BUT, being the wife of a staunch Ashkenzi boy I showed my friend all the unexciting foodstuffs we Ashkenazim buy. Believe me the choices are paltry in comparison. So my question is, if by accident of birth my relatives were born in the dreary, cold, stringent and poor vodka swigging Russian and Polish countries where corn oil, string beans and rice cakes were a no no, do I have to give up the great sunny, abundance of yummy offerings that those born in Spain, Iran and Greece get to eat??? After all I am from the south….Virginia‼!
According to my husband….yes.
I am still waiting for my number to come up at the meat counter. Now mind you people are not just buying a chicken and hamburger. We are talking major meat consumption. Number 379 was now being served. My friend decided I should stay at the meat counter and she would stroll up and down the aisles looking for goodies novel to her in her first year in Israel. By then I was hungry, so I left the cart and went over to the bakery department which was cranking out chometz rolls, bourekas and cinnamon buns. I got an assortment and returned to my cart to eat lunch. Now serving 391. My friend returned with arms filled. She joined me in a boureka and we laughed at the craziness of this scene eating chometz while waiting for Pesach meat‼! We watched happy customers and angered customers who left the meat counter. I was just hoping there would be enough chickens once it was my turn. I told my friend we should make a meat list together so when our turned came we would be ready to order. This was definitely not a browsing crowd. No more shnitzel, no more chicken thighs with legs, the crowd was going crazy. More is coming hollered the 6 butchers behind the counter. Crowd control was needed. I went and got a soda. I needed a drink but diet coke would have to do. Now serving 418. My heart started racing. Only 9 more customers before me but no schnitzel in sight and no thighs. I did not want to come back again. I rethought my list, chatted with my friend and “Now Serving 427”. Bingo! I yelled. The crowd laughed. We inched our way up to the butcher –Haim- we got real chummy for the 20 minutes we worked together here. And at that exact moment the schnitzel, chicken thighs and legs arrived‼! Yippppeeeee! Thank you Hashem. You have spared me another trip to Rami Levi - or so I thought. As I was about to make my request Mister Number 421 nudged his way to the counter and said (in Hebrew) that when he was here a few minutes ago there was no schnitzel etc., could he just get 4 kilos of chicken without waiting again, please? Being Mrs. Nice guy I said sure. He then started reading off his list. “Excuse me, I thought you only needed 4 kilos of Shnitzel” No he said I need 4 kilos of all the chickens that they were out of. OY‼! I am a patient woman. Now, said the butcher, what would you like? I want schnitzel, and he had to pound those chicken breasts with a huge mallot to flatten them into schnitzel. As he did so I clutched my chest. As another butcher cut up turkey necks with a cleaver my hand gravitated to my throat. I then asked for whole chickens, and asked to have the tushy removed. I didn’t grab anything at that point!
Well, finally we were ready to check out. That hadn’t been sooooo bad. The 15 checkout aisles were 7-10 carts deep. I spotted a shorter line and told my friend to run over and get in line and I would meet her there with the cart. She did. It was hot in the store and just as I mentioned that it would be a good idea to have a hot dog stand with waiters serving those of us in line the manager started handing out ice pops. I guess they felt the natives might be getting a little restless.
Did I mention to you that between Pesach and Lag B’omer this country consumes two thirds of all the meat that it eats in a year? So that is why all the aluminum bar-b-que grills in everyone’s carts. They are all making their very own Korban Pesach bar-b-que! Yep we are ready for the third Beit Hamikdash‼
Once home, I asked my vegetarian daughter Batsheva to help put the meat in the freezer. As she rarely touches meat she opted to do other things rather than put a whole farm and aquarium (I bought fish too) into the freezer for safe keeping.
Now it is Friday morning. I decided that by Saturday night I would start cooking for Pesach so I borrowed my friend’s Pesach food processor to make carrot kugel, potato kugels etc. but alas, I had no veggies or fruits because I had wanted to get the freshest produce at the last possible minute. So, at 7:30 am guess where I was? Yep, you guessed it. Rami Levi. …..and so were a thousand others. I thought I’d be the first one there……so did they. Well it was ok, all I needed was all the produce for Pesach and eggs, ok maybe some kosher l’Pesach Ben and Jerry’s. mmmmmm.
As I stood in 8 deep line of carts at the checkout at 10am hoping my ice cream wouldn’t melt I marveled at the way Israelis shopped. They have their husbands or kids stand at the checkout line with the empty cart and they and the other members of the family go to different aisles and load up with foodstuff returning with loaded arms to the cart. By the time it is their turn to check out they have completed their ingathering of stuff and it takes them much less time. I wonder what they do about meat? Anyway, chomping on my freshly baked cinnamon bun, I finally checked out, was handed a free newspaper (in Hebrew….which would take me 40 years in the desert to finish reading) and was on my way. I calculated that I spent a total of 12 hours in Rami Lev this week. No wonder I am a card carrying member of the Rami Levi discount club. We’re buddies! I am a veteran card carrying member of Pesach shopping once again in this amazing country. And once again I am happy that after 40 years in the dessert my original Sephardi, kitniyot eating relatives finally arrived to this crazy country we call home. I am once again looking forward to my one seder and once again looking forward to the family trips on Chol Hamoed visiting new places in our beautiful country.
I pray that all the Pharoahs, Hamans, Hitlers and Obamas and Clintons fall by wayside as evil tyrants do in our long history and that years from now we will be living in our united capitol of Jerusalem filled with Jewish homes singing Dayenu. So from our Pesach table of Rami Levi laden foods to your table the Israels in Israel wish you and yours a very happy, healthy, peace filled Pesach. Shalom b’vracha.

Ronda Israel
The Israels in Israel

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

About the Writer
the Israels in Israel
Born and bred in Norfolk, Virginia, Ronda Kruger Israel is known as Mrs. Aaron Israel, Ema, daughter of Frances and Leon Kruger, the Chocolate Lady(owner and founder of the Chocolate Dreams Company), Savta,to Mia Hadassah(so far‼), group pilot trip leader in Israel, blog writer(I can’t believe I’m doing this), good cook and proactive Israeli citizen. Now you know all about me!
In the hottest summer on record, July , 2000, the Israels made aliyah from Highland Park, New Jersey and went straight to Modi’in. I had gone on a wonderful Tehilla Pilot trip in February of that year and fell in love with the brand new city of Modi’in. We are still as happy as the day we arrived and we have been through 9 fun filled, challenging packed, incredibly awesome years. Our four children are no longer children and they are fully integrated into Israeli life.
When we arrived in eretz yisrael I was compelled to write back to the states to family and friends to let everyone know what we were going through and what was happening to us of cosmic (in)significance. There was no Nefesh B’Nefesh when we came, and our experiences were /are a lot different than the people who come on the NBN flights these days.
We don’t regret one moment of taking buses to government offices in various cities, standing in lines with our children to get official papers, walking all over the city without a car, busing it for a vacation or riding a train to visit family for Shabbat. I vowed that I would keep my letters positive and upbeat and for the most part I have succeeded. However, we are/have lived through some very challenging times (and certainly continue to do so politically and economically).We have seen amazing changes in our homeland since our arrival and changes in ourselves.
I invite you to read some or all of my letters and articles (please feel free to share my blog with others who may enjoy a good laugh or cry or who are thinking of aliyah) posted here and share in the lives of the
Israels in Israel.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our First Letter From Home

written 17 Septemebr 2000

Dear Family and Friends,
It is motzei Shabbat and I have read Ari Glazer's parsha hashavuah D'var torah which talks about renewing ourselves each day in the service of Hashem , to do things in life B'simcha and to increase the role of Torah and mitzvot in our lives. With this in mind I would like to tell you of our adventures in Israel(from my perspective) since our arrival. It is truly B'simcha(with joy) that I do so as I have enjoyed almost every minute of this experience thus far. Some people say I am still in the "I made aliyah" euphoria that lasts for each person a different amount of time. The next stage I am told is the let down and "this is reality of living in Israel" stage. The final stage they say is when you wake up in the middle of the night sweating and panicked saying "What the hell did I do moving to this God forsaken place ? ".
As you know we took two separate planes to Israel, one with Michael and myself and the other with Aaron & Batsheva. Both planes were due to land within 5 minutes of each other so that we could go through our immigration process together as a family. However...the best laid planes.... my plane had to make a detour stop in Newfoundland for about three plus hours to extricate a passenger who seemed to be on drugs and out of control.. his luggage also needed to be found and removed while all the passengers had to remain on board with no a/c or entertainment etc. An interesting stopover since we had never planned on going to Newfoundland for vacation. Michael and I were fully stocked with food and games and so the experience seemed less irritating for us than most. We did get to see fuel being dumped out over the Atlantic since the plane could not land with so much fuel. I felt they should have dumped the guy rather than the fuel. So much for my vote.

We finally arrived well after Aaron and Batsheva and as if I had anything to do with the whole ordeal Aaron says "where were you?...like I detoured in Paris to go shopping !! A lovely lady from an organization AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel) who whisked us through passport control and up to the aliyah-immigration area met us. Where else but a Jewish country would food await you as you meet with the immigration person putting together your immigration information and your new identification for your new life. Seeing my name in Hebrew on all my documents was exciting as I began to realize these new papers were the beginning of a new existence here in our new home. I really thought of others who have had to immigrate from their homelands around the world and how scary it could be... for us it was, thank God, by choice and really quite exciting. After the paper work was completed at what was now 9am(we had left USA at 12 noon the previous day) we had to collect our luggage.... All 12 large duffel bags bursting at the seams. Thanks to Rhoda and Herman Cohen for helping us tag each bag and to Ben Levine for helping us pack! Your help was invaluable. We then were waved through customs and were not given a second thought as to what might be in our bags. The Sherut driver we got to take us on our one free ride to our new apt was "overjoyed at the sight of these bags however when we arrived at the apt two full flights down stairs he was thrilled to know that he could charge us for shlepping these bags down. Aaron thought he wanted too much for this task but when I asked him if he wanted to do this he quickly changed his mind.... And boy was it hot. Now this was the first time the children and Aaron had seen the apt and they were quite excited. While the stairs down seemed a bit much they were overjoyed to see the space...5 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms a kitchen, living room/dining room and a backyard/patio and an additional porch off the master bedroom. The whole yard/patio overlooks the city of Modiin and we are taken by the beauty as it twinkles at night and looks so stark and white by day in the glowing sun. In thinking of how we spent the next few days are blurred by the extreme heat that greeted us. We were told that we were experiencing a "heat wave" or " Hamseen" in which the very hot air from the Sahara desert blows over from Africa and heats us up real nice!!! We immediately went to find food and water and explore the city we had chosen to live in. We slept at friends that night who had no a/c and the next morning we were on a bus to Jerusalem.... for two important reasons one to go to the Kotel to thank Hashem for our safe arrival and to pray that He accompany us throughout our adventures and guide us safely to successful conclusions. The other reason was to arrange for the delivery of the beds I had ordered when I was here in June. Both tasks were successful I was so enthralled by the children’s reaction to the Kotel and then the mundane of getting the beds. They were excited by everything and always hungry. Pizza was all Michael ate anywhere we went. Batsheva was much more daring and we began our new life in eating mode exploring every new eatery with a teudah Hakasher(acceptable kosher certificate) While we were informed that our lift would be delayed because it wasn’t being unloaded at the dock we used our time to get all the formal immigration tasks taken care of. We used buses as mode of travel as well as taxi’s and found that getting there was half the fun. My “thing” upon arriving in Israel was to say Shalom to everyone. This was interesting because most people just go about their business and don’t seem real friendly…but once someone says something to them they seem to light up and become happy. I found this fun to see all the reactions. My second words were to tell everyone who would listen that we were Olim Hadashim(new immigrants). Comments ranged from Welcome, you are so brave, it should be with mazal, can I have your USA passport, to you are crazy. People in the neighborhood that we moved into had heard of our arrival and our lack of anything in our house so we received food, a fan, a couple of chairs, an n electric teapot. We also became good customers of the Home Center, which is fashioned after home depot. It was always a costly trip there as we began putting the bathrooms, kitchen and house in order. Israel is short on wood but big on plastic and so ones life can be a collection of everything in plastic with the greatest colors. I was in heaven as one bathroom would be the turquoise room, the kitchen accentuated with lime green, another bathroom in peach/orange etc. I was having a ball. It was still hot and we went to Ramla(not to be confused with Ramallah-yasar Arafat’s hangout) for our immigration papers. We were in and out of that place in 40 minutes, which after hearing horror stories about how long everything takes we were amazed. We then proceeded to…..EAT. another new exploration of the Ramla shuk and various stores…ending with the purchase of ice cream. That always seems to top off the day….COLD POPS!! We also acquired a second cell phone so we were so Israeli already with cell phones, bottled water and a pocket full of shekels. We opened a Bank account only to discover the wonderful world of banking here. Overdraft is the rule because no one seems to know what they have in their account…. there is a charge for checks, a charge for deposits, a charge for withdrawals, a charge for a statement showing your account activity and you only get your statements every three months. Also post dated checks are the norm for everything. You buy something and if you want you can pay with three months of postdated checks with no additional charge. Every time I bought food in the grocery store I was asked if I wanted to charge it over 3 months. This seemed ridiculous as you could be paying for September’s food in Dec and Nov. ‘s food in January, etc. The grocery store is another wild experience as the stores in Modiin are under the supervision of Rabbi Lau, the son of Israel’s chief Rabbi…, which is ok by me. Everything in the stores are Kosher and you have to decide which hecsharim you will use or not but in the mean time I just had to get through what was in the package let alone the hecksher. Thank heavens for pictures, but that didn’t tell you if it was sweet, salty, fat free, sugar free (no such thing here) or on sale. I quickly learned about sales and wanted to stock up only to find that there was no place to put multiples of grocery items and that kitchen space limited what you bought. I asked people for help in the stores and they were always so nice even making recommendations at the bakery counter as to which rugalach was better..chocolate always won.. I made friends with the lady behind the cheese counter who spoke english. Esther was not only helpful in shredding cheddar cheese for the kid’s macaroni which she knew instantly that I needed but she was a wealth of other useful info. I was always glad to see her and we have become close as she is looking into cheap air flights for Yona to come here…she used to be a travel agent in the states. I must say that to describe our “office-business-immigration experiences would seem boring as they were easy, quick and non eventful…except everyone was helpful and kind to us. They escorted us to other offices if we were in the wrong office and would direct us to the proper places when we were finished. Of course I attributed it all to my winning “Shalom” that introduced us, followed by” We are Olim Hadashim and my charming smile…. but in truth it was probably Aaron’s really good Hebrew that made things go so well. Well our lift finally arrived and a few days later Aaron left for the states to finish his work at Lucent. He was gone for over two weeks in which time Yona, Batsheva, Michael and I unpacked the boxes, and turned a room full of boxes into a house. We hung pictures, arranged furniture and had central air conditioning installed in the upstairs which was the biggest mess possible but we are now cool and the house looks great. We are ready for the hordes of family and friends who are eagerly waiting to arrive at the Modiin Motel. A friend lent us a portable a/c for the downstairs and we are now really cool. So I will stop here and continue at a later time. May you all be well and happy and remember to smile, say Shalom and make someone happy today.
The Israels in Israel

The Israels in Israel -- How Did This Happen???

This entry to our "The Israels in Israel" letters was written in July 2000 but now after 150 letters I have my own new blog(how did that happen???)!!! Enjoy our history and antics throughout Israel!!! Stay Tuned for more adventures!

The Israels in Israel – How Did This Happen???

Ok, so we were just leaving the Tower of David Museum after an unbelievable tour of the exhibition. The air was crisp and windy, in the end of January winter weather. We were feeling exhilarated as I linked arms with my husband, Aaron, and my daughter, Yona, as we proceeded to leave the Jaffa Gate of the Old City in Jerusalem. It was at that moment that I turned to Aaron and said, “Let’s do it!” He stared at me, wondering what I was referring to at that moment and I knew he was clueless as to what I meant. “Let’s make aliyah. It’s the perfect time.” He looked into my eyes and smiled and said in his usual agreeable manner, ”okay”. It was as simple as that.

I could certainly attribute this heady feeling to the fact that I was seeing my precious oldest daughter for the first time in 5 months, as she was learning in yeshiva in Jerusalem in her “post-high school / pre-college” yeshiva experience. I could say that it was the first time in years that Aaron and I had been on vacation and the fact that I didn’t have to make beds or cook for 10 days was euphoric. I could say that being away from the stresses of work and motherhood was enough to make me think of staying. Or was it the pure, holy air that permeated my body and soul after praying at the Kotel? Could it have been the fact that I love walking through the Old City, imagining which Prophet walked these same stones? I love to see the Jerusalem stones as the sun casts its golden rays throughout the city at sunset and the countenance of Hashem grasping every one of your senses and hypnotizing you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. It might have been that at last, after envisioning myself as a sort of Golda Meier at age 13, I would finally be able to come to Israel to link my future to my people’s past. Or maybe I could grow up and someday be the second woman Prime Minister in Israel’s history. It was a thought.

But for that moment Aaron and I were in agreement and our new goal upon arriving home was focusing on coming to our new home, where we belonged and “Just Do It!”

Before the Israel’s Came to Israel

Part 1 - Jack, Jack, Can you hear me?

The day Aaron and I decided to make aliyah was jam packed with touring and sightseeing. We wanted to take Yona, our oldest child, to see the Tower of David Museum. I don’t think there was a special exhibit going on, but we had never been there. I hadn’t been in Israel for 18 years and I wanted to see it all. We had booked spaces on the English tour and arrived a bit early so as not to miss a moment of the tour. There was a chilling wind that blew your scarf off and put a blush on your cheeks as you ascended to the entrance of Migdal David (Tower of David). We waited as the members of the tour gathered and, of course, we bought the book about the museum. Truly a comprehensive guide that we needed like a hole in the head. But wouldn’t it be nice to bring it home to show the kids? They would look at it with the remark, “you couldn’t bring home a T-shirt?”

Anyway, we were ready to move ahead and we gathered around our British accented tour guide whose wealth of information was astounding. I hung on her every word and often looked at the other people on the tour to see if they felt the pain and anguish of our troubled Jewish people throughout the ages or if they felt the exhilaration of the Hebrew conquests that were truly miraculous? I listened with baited breath and continued to scrutinize the others. One couple in particular became the focus of much of my attention. They were an older couple clinging to each other in the drafty rooms and refrained from climbing onto the rooftops of the museum because there were too many stairs for them to climb. The husband often seemed out of breath and would lean up against a wall during the tour guide’s monologue. Yona and I, enjoying the moment, held each other also, arm in arm like best of friends enjoying the exact same things, but in fact we were mother and daughter, loving every moment of being together and sharing these meaningful moments. I often glanced at her in concentration of what she was hearing and I too clung to each word as I continued to look at this other couple, usually next to us. After about an hour of the tour I noticed that the husband started leaning against part of a lighted exhibit in the middle of the room as the guide continued her speech. She was wonderful, but there was something about this man that didn’t look quite right. His breathing was becoming labored and he was rather pale. No one else seemed to notice. Then I saw him slowly lean to his left and within an eye blink he was laying on the floor. His wife started to scream incessantly, “Jack, Jack, it’s my husband Jack, Oh my G-d, Jack, Jack! “ Yona, a practicing Paramedic fresh out of CPR training went down to the floor as did another young student who said he was a Paramedic from Arizona. They hollered to call Magan David Adom (Red Star of David) and Hatzallah (first aid squad). They were sure it would take time for anyone to get to the museum inside the Old City and up all the steps. So these two young people started working on the man who seemed to be unconscious. Yona, started to unbutton the man’s coat, take his scarf off and open his suit jacket and shirt. While she was trying to get a pulse the young man whipped out of his backpack a stethoscope. He asked Jack’s wife to please calm down so he could hear her husband’s heart. Yona started to yell, “Jack, Jack, can you hear me? Jack, Jack can you hear me?” The woman looked at Yona and in a very curious tone asked, “Honey, do YOU KNOW my husband?, You seem to KNOW his name.” “No I don’t know your husband, but YOU keep yelling Jack, Jack, so I just thought that was his name!” No one could keep a straight face in the group and before the woman had time to mull this answer over Jack was coming to. He seemed to be okay and as he looked at Yona and smiled the first aid squad rushed in. What a welcome sight. They were young, energetic and took right over. Within seconds they whisked Jack and his hysterical wife out of the museum. We resumed our tour with no other interruption other than the fact that we ran into friends from our hometown at the end of the tour and excitedly told them of Yona’s heroism. Well, it was to us anyway. We left the museum, left the Old City and exited by the Jaffa Gate where I popped the question of making aliyah to Aaron, but in the back of my mind I wondered if Jack was ok. It made me sad to think that someday I would be older and maybe not as healthy. I wouldn’t be able to climb the stairs or take the chilling wind of the Old City in the winter. A shiver ran up my spine as I thought of countless people who postpone satisfying their dreams until retirement and never get to realize the wonder of their dreams, always saying “we’ll do it when we retire or the kids leave home”….but in my case that would be years from that moment. Nope, too much adventure rested on those dreams of mine and I wasn’t about to let old age and infirmity make me regret not having acted on my heart’s desires. I wasn’t going to let old age or sickness steal those memories away before they happened. It was something Aaron and I would definitely talk more about.

That Shabbat in Jerusalem, two days after our tour with Jack, our friend Naomi said we should stop by the Jerusalem Plaza to see if there was anyone she knew to say Shabbat Shalom to. So we left shul and walked over to the Plaza. As we walked to the back of the lobby there was a very familiar face standing near a window. “Jack?” I said, “Jack is that you?” “Yes, I’m Jack but I don’t think I know you”, he replied. “No you don’t, but this is my daughter who was one of the paramedics who helped you when you fainted in the museum the other day.” He warmly thanked Yona, explained that he had come on the tour with a fever and must have just fainted. He was fine but he was leaving Israel earlier than expected with his wife after Shabbat. We wished him a Shabbat Shalom and a safe trip back to the states. “Thank you again young lady,” Jack said, “But how did you know my name?” Yona turned and smiled, “Just a lucky guess!”