Ki Yachol Nuchal!

New olah; mom and wife. In small ways, every day, trying to rectify the error in judgement of my zaydies, the meraglim. "See these big grapes? We can make really big wine!"

Archive for June, 2009

Cherries! Like little hearts bursting wth love for this Land…

Posted by rutimizrachi on 25/06/2009

Yom chamishi, 3 Tamuz 5769.

I did not pick these cherries at the currently ongoing Gush Etzion Cherry Festival. A sensitive anesthesiologist-cum-blogger nicknamed QuietusLeo (aka “The Sandman”) took the shot on a recent trip with family and friends.  I easily convinced The Sandman to share his excellent photograph of the cherries with the promise of a story…

The Dearly Beloved brought me to Israel for my first visit in 1991.  This little vacation of nine days (from July 4 until July 13 — it was so special that I still have the dates locked in memory!) was to replace the honeymoon the US Army didn’t schedule into its plans six years earlier.  By now, we had two little kids.  We could not have made this trip without the loving and competent help of my dear Mama, a”h, who kept the kids fed and entertained while we were away.

My dear husband wanted to show me the exciting tourist vistas of Israel that he had seen on his two previous visits.  He wanted to show me Masada and the Dead Sea, and the locale of The Good Fence.  His memories there in the Eighties were very powerful.  With the knowledge he possessed as a US Army officer, he argued with the old fellow in the kibbutz about the sounds he had heard the night before.  “Why were track vehicles [Army lashon for ‘tanks’] moving late last night?  And where are all your young men?” the Dearly Beloved asked his host.  “Ehhhhhh…  those weren’t track vehicles you heard.  And our young men are… you know… just out and about.”  But my husband knows his stuff.  Only later did he learn that he was an aural witness to the beginning of the 1982 war in Lebanon.

But that was history.  I wanted the “now” of Israel.  I was already imagining living here.  (I promised I would visit the tourist places with him after our aliyah.)  I wanted the “thrill” of visiting the kupat cholim clinic with my friend, as she took her child for a checkup.  I wanted to wait in line at the bank, just to see if  I could cope with Israeli bureaucracy.  (Fortunately, US Army bureaucracy, with its “hurry up and wait” regimen, had prepared me to survive here.  Insider’s tip:  bring a thermos of coffee, a good book, and a positive attitude.  You will meet nice people, and actually have time to get time to know them.  Don’t expect to accomplish anything in less than two visits; and don’t try to cross more than one bureaucratic hurdle per day.)

I shlepped my long-suffering husband around with me and our friend, Naomi, as we visited the makolet, the health clinic, the bank, and the shuk.

The shuk is why this story is all about cherries.

Our Israel-savvy, holy-but-worldly hostess showed us from which stalls in the shuk to buy.  She picked up vegetables at one stall, fruit at another…  With her guidance, we bought grapefruit that was so perfectly ripe, it seemed to fall open in our hands; and the sweetness made it taste closer to its cousin the orange than to its sour brothers we had encountered in the States.  But it was the cherries that made Naomi cry.  When she watched The Dearly Beloved — no longer a lad at 43 — turn into a small, delighted boy when he tasted those cherries…

You have to know that my friend Naomi doesn’t cry easily.  She isn’t one of those folks who sees a Hallmark card commercial and gets all misty-eyed.  But when she saw forty years drop from my husband’s face at the remarkable sweetness and holy perfection of a cherry at its peak of red, ripe lusciousness, as if he’d never tasted anything so unbelievable, a tear came to her eye.

To this day, nearly twenty years later, Naomi gets a bit emotional when she buys cherries.

And she and her love of this Land and what G-d causes it to produce get a big chelek in our success here.  She taught us that what makes a successful aliyah isn’t how well you can transplant your little chunk of America in Israeli soil.  What matters is how much you respect what Hashem gives to His Land, and His people in the Land, just as it is.

What if the meraglim had said, “Hey, Moshe!  See these really big grapes?  We can make really BIG wine…”

Kupat Cholim:  health care provider
Makolet:  neighborhood grocery store, a “mini-mart”
Shuk:  open-air marketplace
Chelek:  portion
Meraglim:  the Spies who came back from Canaan with an evil report about the land, planting doubts about their people’s ability to wrest the land from the indigenous peoples  — forgetting that G-d had told them to do it, and that He was on their side 

Posted in cherry festival, Gush Etzion, meraglim, shuk, The Sandman | 3 Comments »

Driver’s Ed, Yishuv-Style

Posted by rutimizrachi on 21/06/2009

Yom rishon, 29 Sivan 5769.

Driver’s education starts very young in Neve Daniel.  There is so much to learn, waiting until a person is 15 or 16 is just too much of a gamble.  What with all those signs in Hebrew — we expect them to learn this language so young! — and dealing with drivers who clearly grew up with a culturally different set of rules of the road — Arabs think nothing of driving on the highway using a method that would have been considered “playing chicken” in my day — driver’s training really must begin right alongside toilet training.

As always, Israeli inventiveness keeps us ahead of the game.  Since teaching one’s teenager to drive using the security road is frowned upon (you haven’t experienced the Gush until you’ve had Yoel pull you aside for unauthorized security-road driving, or been arrested for climbing the water tower… but that’s another post) — we’ll have to check with the local gan to see if they have a car big enough for Stunt Man.

Drive responsibly, kids.  And remember that famous slogan from the Old Country:  “Friends don’t let friends drive junk.”

The latest edition of Haveil Havelim, #222: The The The The The Edition, is available at The Real Shliach’s blog.  It is a great way to get a sampling of the Jewish Blogosphere — and for my money, the first place to go for “what is really happening” in Israel and on the Jewish scene in general (along with IMRA: Middle East News & Analysis).  Speaking of not driving junk — there is no excuse anymore to rely on the MSM for your Jewish news.

Yoel:  Neve Daniel’s long-suffering head of security
Gan:  kindergarten
Closing Baltimore-insider joke:  Great slogan used by Maven Motors.  Second in coolness only to the Brody Brothers’ extermination company slogan:  “Nice Jewish boys, licensed to kill.”

Posted in driving in Israel, Haveil Havalim | 2 Comments »

A heartfelt plea from an exhausted mother

Posted by rutimizrachi on 19/06/2009

Yom shishi, 27 Sivan 5769.

Okay, gang.

I’m calling in any markers I have.  This is serious.

The Sports Guy (pictured below with his beloved Rav from the Old Country) is down to his very last Gush Katif kipah.

As the mother of any teenangel knows, when they get an idée fixe, nothing will get them off of it.  (Maybe they’ll outgrow it; but I wouldn’t bank a good night’s sleep in the near future on that.)

As you can see, the kid is cute, but the kipah is looking just a little bit ratty.  It’s time for a change.

“Let’s go shopping for a few different kipot!”  I said cheerfully.

“No thanks, Ema.  I like this one.”  This response is delivered sweetly.  No teen “‘tude.”  Who can complain?

The truth is that I started scouring all of the kipah shops in the country as soon as he was down to only one left, because I remember how he was about giving up certain “comfort toys” as a little kid.  But I have not been able to find a single Gush Katif kipah  (large size, not the little knit doilies — he doesn’t like those either) anywhere in Israel.

“Here, Honey.  Here is a kipah your brother gave you, from the IDF.  Won’t that be a nice occasional substitute, just so I can wash the other one now and then?”

“Sure, Ema.  But just until you’re done washing it.  Thanks!”  No soap, pardon the pun.

Now I get a little Ema-‘tude on.  “Okay, young man.  It is very nice that you are comfortable with your ‘look.’  I’ve always been proud of you that you kept your peyot when some of the kids your age were making fun of you, and trying to get you to cut them.  I like that you wear the kipah you like, even if it isn’t like everyone else’s.  (Besides, I can always find you in a crowd.)  But it’s getting beat-looking.  Couldn’t we shop for another nice, big, orange kipah?”

Now he looks a little thoughtful.  And my fourteen-year-old gives me a lesson in purpose, and in dedication.

“Ema, it’s not about the orange, or that it’s kipah serugah.  I don’t want to stop wearing it until we get it back.”

So here’s my request:  Somewhere in Israel, or in America, there is a Gush Katif kipah not unlike the one my young hero currently wears.  I really need a replacement, folks.  If you happen to have a spare one lying about, let me know.

The future peace at Chez Mizrachi may depend on it.

Thanks for listening.  And may Sports Guy’s determination pay off.  May we share the good news of the rebuilt Gush Katif, speedily and in our days.

Gush Katif:  a group of Jewish communities begun over 40 years ago on the empty sand dunes of Gaza.   In those days, the Arabs welcomed the Jews there, wondering why they would want to build homes on such “godforsaken land.”  Four years ago, these beautiful communities were destroyed, and the land upon which they were built was made Judenrein.
Peyot:  the long (or short) sidelocks worn by many Torah-observant Jews
Kipah serugah:  a knitted kipah — in Israel, very symbolic politically

Posted in Gush Katif, kipah serugah | 10 Comments »

It’s not about the Holocaust, Mr. President.

Posted by rutimizrachi on 18/06/2009

Yom chamishi, 26 Sivan 5769.

The following poem is reprinted with permission from the author, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo.  Please see more of his very thoughtful and uplifting essays at his website, The David Cardozo Academy: Jewish Education for a Complex WorldIn a world I could affect, I would ask President Obama to sit quietly with his Secretary of State and listen deeply to a reading of this poem, read with all the feeling it engenders by one of my many dear Baltimore friends whose hearts weep with a desire to live in the Jewish homeland.  Would the message be heard?  I cannot know.  But I know that you, dear reader, will hear it.

To President Barack Obama

I am a Jew.
I stand at the Western Wall.

How long do I stand here?
Nearly 4000 years,
since the days of my grandfather Abraham
when he nearly sacrificed his son
at Mount Moriah.

I see the Wall with its frozen tears,
and passing clouds with many sighs.
I read millions of names:
in Egypt, Babylon, Rome, Poland,
Spain, Hungary, America and South Africa.

But that was only in a dream.
In reality
we Jews were all born in Israel, and then exiled by Titus.
Although most of us began our childhoods
in foreign countries,
we merely camped in these places, but never dwelled in them.

And at the end of our lives,
Though our tombstones may stand in Exile,
our bodies are buried in the dust of Israel.


The return to Zion is unprecedented.
It is sui generis.
The State of Israel is a surprise,
a shock,
for it is the story of a nation in exile
which never had to return because it never left.
It lifted its Holy Land from its native soil,
transformed it into a portable homeland,
carrying it to all corners
of the earth,
only to replant it again in its native land
when the students of Titus can no longer prevent it from doing so.

Mr. President,

Israel was not built on the ashes of Auschwitz.
It is founded on the Bible,
a divine text rooted in the Jewish experience of nearly 4000 years.
A Heilsgeschichte, a Redemptive History
for all of mankind.

Israel was not created because of the Holocaust,
but rather despite the Holocaust.



Only the Jews, for thousands of years, prayed and continue to pray for its rebuilding.

No other people.

Only the Jews mourn its destruction of nearly two thousand years ago.

No other nation.

It is only they who weep, sitting on the floor on the date of the Temple’s desecration
in the month of Av, year after year.

No other people.

It is only they who for two thousand years break a glass under the marriage canopy, an expression of sorrow for Jerusalem.
(How many millions of glasses were broken throughout exile?)

No other nation.

It is only the Jews who for thousands of years build their houses but leave a part of the wall unplastered because of the loss of their Temple.

No other people.

It is only Jewish women who do not wear all their jewelry at once, in deference to the destruction of the House of God.

No other women.

And it is only the Jews who cover their dead with the dust of the land of Israel even when they bring their dear ones to their final resting place outside the land of Israel.

No other burial society.

Neither Titus’ offspring,
nor Saladin’s descendants,
nor Godfrey of Bouillon, the crusader, nor his children,
ever mourned, prayed or buried their dead in the Earth of the Holy Land.

This, dear President, you must learn.

For without this knowledge,
there will be no way to make peace.


Thank you, Rabbi, for making it as clear as it can be.  May the Borei Olam cause that these words be heard by all Jewish hearts — for, at the end of the day, these are the only hearts that matter.  Once we know that these concepts are true, then Hashem will turn the hearts of our enemies, and even the hearts of our friends.

Posted in Hillary Clinton, Israel, Jewish history, Obama, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo | 4 Comments »

Two Bees or Not Two Bees?

Posted by rutimizrachi on 18/06/2009

Yom revi’i, 25 Sivan 5769.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Colorful Street People

Posted by rutimizrachi on 01/06/2009

Yom sheni, 9 Sivan 5769.

It’s true that a really nice post could be written about the colorful street people you thought this post was going to be about.  One of these days, I’ll be worthy of writing it.  The fact is that I am firmly convinced that the prayers and brachot of some of Yerushalayim’s street people have kept my kids healthy, out of serious trouble, and on a Torah path.  (There is one holy lady in Meah Sha’arim whose prayers — said with my children’s names tucked between the pages of her Tehillim for over a decade — have felt to me like the prayers of a beloved grandmother.  I believe that Hashem surely has counted them as pure love from a pure heart.)

But this post isn’t about Leah and her holy ilk.

It is about the joyful metal artwork on Ha-Zehavit Street.  We are privileged to travel this street any time we drive or ride the bus from the Gush into Yerushalayim, via Gilo.  Delightful, colorful and playful characters people the grass strip between the lanes of traffic on this well-traveled road, reminding drivers that there’s more to do in life than rush to the office.


Avi and I reminisced about the Alte Heimland.  How might such statuary fare in Baltimore, Maryland, or in Lusk, Wyoming?  In Baltimore, these colorful cutouts wouldn’t have lasted a month before they were covered with crude graffiti and — uh — anatomically-correct Magic Marker appendages.  In Wyoming, the temptation to shoot the cast iron critters full of holes would have been irresistible.  But in Yerushalayim, at least thus far, the only additional artwork has been provided by an errant fowl.

Not bad for one of the most controversial cities on the face of the Earth.

Haveil Havalim #219, the Kakol Hevel Edition is up at DovBear‘s place.  Give it a read.  Some of my favorite writers pop by to share their opinions on politics in Israel and the US, and on Jewish life.

Posted in art, Haveil Havalim, street people, Yerushalayim | 11 Comments »