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 the ‘aliyah’ Category

Farewell to the Land of the Free

Posted by rutimizrachi on 19/05/2009

Yom revi’i, 25 Iyar 5769.

When you prepare your file to make aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh, one of the requirements is to write an essay explaining why you want to make aliyah.  Several recent blog posts made me feel like digging out our old essay, to see if it still rang true.

It does. 
America is a terrific country; and we are blessed to live in a wonderful, warm Jewish community. We understand the language; and we know how the system works. So why would we want to leave, and make our home in Israel?

We want to live the Torah. That means participating in mitzvot that cannot be done in chutz l’Aretz. We want to live the shemitah year, rather than just read about it! We want to understand terumah and ma’aser, and receive the birkat Kohanim at the Kotel, with thousands of our fellow Jews. We want to stop practicing Judaism, and start living it.

In Israel, as holidays approach, cello bags of vegetables have recipes for the holidays on them. During shemitah, every discussion about food turns into a Torah discussion! Dried flowers replace fresh flowers as gifts, in order to respect the halacha. How beautiful is that?! People cry together, when Yom HaZikaron comes. (In America, we mourn at home, or in small groups, feeling very much on the sidelines, as if we don’t really deserve to participate.) And Yom Ha-Atzma’ut in Israel is filled with real pride and joy. We want to experience the Jewish holidays that we now can barely describe to our children.

In Israel, at Pesach, businessmen go to a lot of trouble to provide suits and food for Jews who cannot afford these commodities, without embarrassing the recipients. Beautiful Jewish girls read Tehillim on the bus. Jewish children discreetly give up their seats for the elderly at the bus stop, in a way that doesn’t highlight their elders’ infirmities. Young people work up their courage, and sit with people in their homes, recommending that they consider sending their children to learn Torah. And often the people let their hearts hear, and send their children to Torah schools! Many people’s lives are built around bettering the lives of others. Of course, this happens in America, within the Jewish communities. But in Israel, it is embedded in the national consciousness. In Israel, we are a family, helping each other. We want to be surrounded by our family.

In Israel, one learns to be humble about “judging the wine by the jug.” People can appear to be very secular; yet, they may say “Baruch Hashem” with as much kavanah as anyone in a shtreimel or a shaitel. Often, in Israel, we have met people with very deep faith, who don’t “dress the part.” We learn so much from every kind of Jew in Israel. We want to live in Israel full-time, and continue to learn from our brothers and sisters.

In Israel, when one packs clothing and presents and notes for soldiers, one feels he is part of the effort to protect the country. (In America, one only feels useless. The tiny amount of money we can donate is empty, compared to the work of our hands.) When one works in a soup kitchen, she feels she is giving back to her own zaydes and bubbies, instead of just “doing a nice thing.” (In America, the hungry in Israel feel too far away to help.) When one cleans rubble from a bombed-out seminary, or paints a wall, or even sweeps one’s own house, he feels as if he is doing a small part to help keep G-d’s house clean. You just can’t feel like that in the land of the free.

We want to come home, and bring our sons home, to add to our numbers, because we Jews belong in Israel; and because our enemies, and even many of our friends, don’t want our numbers to rise. And we want to be able to live in the country, rather than the city, and still have our sons marry Jewish girls! (No need to go into what happens in America, if one prefers a small town or country life.)

We want the terrible homesickness to go away, that has been torturing our people for millenia. We have been out here in the wilderness for far too long. Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim to be His servants in His Land. Time to go Home.

Baltimore, Maryland, Iyar 5767.

Chutz l’Aretz:  anywhere outside of Israel
Shemitah:  the sabbatical year, during which Hashem commands us to allow the Land to lie fallow
Terumah and Ma’aser:  laws of tithing produce that I STILL don’t properly understand

Birkat Kohanim at the Kotel:  a very cool experience, wherein many priests bless many, many Jews at the Western Wall
Yom HaZikaron:  Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars
Yom Ha-Atzma’ut:  Israel’s Independence Day
Shtreimel:  elegant round fur hat worn by Chasidic men at holy and special occasions
Shaitel: wig [Yiddish]
Mitzrayim:  Egypt

Posted in aliyah, Nefesh b'Nefesh | 10 Comments »

No pressure. But let the music speak to you.

Posted by rutimizrachi on 13/05/2009

Yom chamishi, 20 Iyar 5769.

 Years ago, a dear friend who was living in Givat Ze’ev told us about a community project that had to be called to a halt due to Jewish history.

Seems that the gas station that was being built had to be stopped, as the excavation of the site had dug up Hashmonean ruins.  We marveled together about how a Jew in Israel is blessed to set his feet down, over and over again, in the paths upon which his great forefathers walked.

When someone else says it best, I might as well take a break and let him talk.  The following pearl shone forth from Chez Treppenwitz yesterday; and I could not pass up sharing it with you.

The importance of having access to the piano  — David Bogner

As I drive to work each day through the breadbasket of ancient Judea, the ripening orchards, vineyards, and fields I pass remind me that just as in the days when the Temples stood in Jerusalem, the first wheat from the southern slopes of the Hevron hills will be ready just in time for Shavuot (signaling the traditional start of the wheat harvest).

Shortly after we moved here, our (then) 7 year old son Gilad made a memorable observation.

He had been taking piano lessons in the US, but was on a forced break in his musical studies due to our move. Even though he remained keenly interested in music, we explained to him that it made no sense to start his lessons with an Israeli teacher until our lift arrived and he had a piano in the house to play.

At the same time, being in an Israeli school with a strong religious Zionist curriculum, he was also starting to become aware of the direct connection between the land of Israel and the mitzvot (commandments) found in the Torah.

One morning after our lift had arrived and he had finally restarted his music lessons, he said to me, “Abba, being a Jew outside of Israel is sort of like someone taking piano lessons but not having a piano to practice on.”

From the mouth of babes…

As Bogner so famously says:  “Don’t thank me.  I’m a giver.”

 Hashem has been very busy beautifying the yishuv lately.  Enjoy!

Hashmonean:  the period during which the Chanukah story takes place

Posted in aliyah, Israel, Shavuot, Treppenwitz | Leave a Comment »

A little Pesach chizuk

Posted by rutimizrachi on 31/03/2009

Yom shlishi, 6 Nisan 5769.

My friend, Glenna, has a smile and a warm word or a story of encouragement for everyone.  Here is a story she sent to me.  She heard it from her friend, who heard it from her friend, who…

I’d like to share a favorite true story from a special friend of mine, Pearl K.  She uses the following to keep in a happy frame of mind while cleaning for Pesach.

Someone Pearl knows made aliyah.  She tells the following personal story:

“I was glad to be living in Israel, but one thing I really missed – besides family and friends I’d left behind, of course – was my washer and dryer.  I couldn’t afford those items as a new olah, and found doing laundry by hand an arduous physical chore.  I noticed, however, that my next door neighbor seemed not just philosophical about hanging up the wash — she seemed to really enjoy it.  In fact, she acted as if it was her own personal celebration!

“I was so curious, I got up my courage to ask her about it in my broken Hebrew. What was such fun about hanging out laundry?

“My neighbor explained:

‘I’m a holocaust survivor.  The concentration camp I was in was right near an ordinary Polish community.  I was a teenager, not at all sure that I would survive.  I’d look through the barbed wire enviously as Polish women nonchalantly hung out their wash.  I wondered if I would ever be blessed to get out of there, marry, have a family and the need to do large amounts of laundry.  It became my fondest dream.

‘Well, with Hashem’s help, I did survive and was blessed in all those ways.  Is it any wonder that I’m thrilled by the task of hanging out laundry?’

“When I face making Pesach,” continued my friend Pearl, “I think of that story.  It becomes not a personal chore, but a personal celebration.  There are, unfortunately, so many Jews who still have to hide to keep Pesach, and certainly more who had to in previous times.  Here I am, able to make Pesach openly, to go into major national stores and nonchalantly select kosher-for-Pesach items with no fear of a possibly-resurgent KGB or anyone else.  As I go through, cleaning out the junk from my life along with the physical chometz, how can I not – like my friend’s neighbor in Israel — make it a personal celebration of thanks to Hashem?”

In these changing times and times of change, may all of us continue to feel how holy a gift is the freedom simply to live as Jews; and may we remember Whom to thank.

Posted in aliyah, Holocaust, Pesach | 11 Comments »

A response to a heart-sick friend (with a few postcard hugs)

Posted by rutimizrachi on 04/02/2009

Yom revi’i, 10 Shevat 5769.

My dear friend, “Bat Aliyah,”

You know I love your writing, and your nearly palpable longing for the move to Israel.  When I read your most recent post, “Not in Kansas Anymore OR Grieving for Leaving,” I thought — no, I remembered how hard it is to be you right now. 

How do you explain your love for Israel without sounding to those around you a little mawkish and silly?  After all, they are worried about the global financial crisis.  How will they afford tuition for their five kids, and the mortgage on that house they thought they could afford a few months ago?  Israel is a nice dream — for after the kids grow up.  Unless they don’t want to move with the grand-kids, of course…  Israel is something we pray for at Pesach, with all our hearts.  But as a day-to-day actual, physical longing?  Maybe after the Moshiach comes…

There is no way to write a big sigh of sympathy/empathy…  so you’ll just have to hear it in your mind.

My heart hurts for you (and for my memories of exactly the feelings you describe, back in the day when I was walking around in your tennies).

My neshama is glad for one more island of proof for the Ribono shel Olam to see that there are those who love His gifts with all their souls.  (See, Tatte!  Don’t You think THIS is the last of the cumulative mitzvot You have been waiting for?  Can we have the Geula now, please?)

My heart leaps with joy for you, because few people know the pleasure you will feel when you finally, finally get your wish.  Maybe people who have waited a decade or two to have their first child.  Maybe they can understand what it feels like, when Hashem finally says yes.

Can’t fix it.  But I can hold your hand.    


neshama:  soul
Ribono shel Olam:  Master of the Universe
Tatte:  Papa
mitzvot:  commandments
Geula:  Final Redemption

Posted in aliyah, Bat Aliyah, Geula | 1 Comment »

Post-Gaza: A New Immigrant Mom’s Perspective

Posted by rutimizrachi on 21/01/2009

Yom revi’i, 25 Tevet 5769.

We made aliyah only a little more than a year ago.  And tomorrow our son comes home from his first war.

As my husband and I had served in the US military, we came to our decision with open eyes:  Israel has been a nation at war for as long as we have been alive.  While it is our opinion that there is no better place on the planet for a Jew to live, there is no sugar-coating the fact that all of our sons would probably wear IDF uniforms, and would probably experience the trauma of war.  Part of why we took so long to make aliyah (16 years) was dealing with this reality.

Did we have the right to put our kids into the apparent path of danger, simply to enhance our concept of a higher attachment to Torah?

We wrangled with this question through the First Intifada, through the Oslo War, through bus and cafe bombings, through the contempt of a “civilized” world that still smugly pontificates that “both sides must renounce the violence.”  We discussed the tragic decision to use soldiers as policemen during the awful and stupid “Disengagement” which laid the groundwork for this current Gaza War.  If we as soldiers had been asked to choose between our mission to protect and defend our citizens, and our responsibility to respect and obey the government we represented — what would we do?  More relevantly, what would our sons do?

It finally became clear that whatever tafkid (purpose, mission) we may have had in America was pretty well used up.  One day, as we listened to yet another ambulance shriek its way to the retirement home across the street, my husband said to me, “Ruti, I can’t just wait for my ambulance to come.  I have a little more adventure in me.”

Baruch Hashem, our sons had come to the decision that Israel is our true Home, even before we made the final decision.  So we did the move together — not just physically, but as “one man with one heart.”  One son even made the move a couple of years before the family — the “point man” of the operation, as we say in the Army.

When he went to war with the Golani Brigade, we and his wife glued ourselves firmly in front of our computers and radios.  We attended closely to each news story.  Wanting to know everything.   

Not wanting to know… 

In the evenings, the men in my house watched war movies.  I listened to old time radio.  Comedies mostly.  That is how we coped between phone calls.  During the day, I blogged, and read the blogs of others, most notably The Muqata (for a reliable play-by-play of the unfolding war) and A Soldier’s Mother (for damn fine writing about what I was feeling).  I didn’t write too much of what I felt, because it didn’t seem to be what my blog is about, and because my military training told me that staying positive through the mission is more useful than being scared.

Of course I was scared.

I have been worrying about that kid keeping his limbs attached to his body since before he was born.  It’s not like I was going to stop when people were firing projectiles at him, trying to hit him.  I worried about what would happen to his body if they got him.  I worried about what would happen to his spirit if he got one of them.  I felt his pain when he missed his wife desperately.  I felt his fear, even though he would not voice it.

He would call when he was “back from the office,” our code for when he was at the base just outside of Gaza.  We had lovely talks sometimes, philosophical grappling with the situation’s politics.  He couldn’t tell me much; and I didn’t ask.  We honored the rules.  “No civilian phone line is secure.”  Mostly, we just updated each other briefly.  I gave him news he was seeking; he just gave me his voice.

Every so often, we would get “the call.”

“Ema, I love you very much.  I really love you.”  He would say the words slowly and carefully, as if asking me to pay. close. attention.  This call was code for “I’m going back in; and I am terrified I won’t ever speak to you again.”  And my military/mom response was very cheerful, because that is my job:  “You are one of my heroes, Josh.  Your abba and I are so very proud of you.  You have been well-trained.  You know your job, and you are good at it.  Think about what is in front of you, and the guys on either side of you.  Remember For Whom you work.  That’s all.  I love you very, very much.”  This was the verbal form of polishing his shield and sword.  It was all I could do.

When I cried, after I hung up the phone, one of his younger brothers would come and hold me for a few minutes.

What do you say to your soldier son when he calls to fall apart over the devastating injuries sustained by a friend?  How do you comfort him when he shares his fear, his guilt, his empathy?

You cry with him.  You let him pour it all out.  And then you listen and silently applaud as he pulls himself together, as he sees visiting his friend and attempting to strengthen him as his next mission.  As he comes out of his pain, and comes back to life.  You know that his friend will probably end up comforting and strengthening him, as is so often the case in tragedy.  But you know that he will grow from this, as we are bidden to grow from the good and the terrible that Hashem puts in our path.

When the “cease fire” was initially announced, I was torn exactly in half.  I felt joy for my child, who would sleep in a real bed, inside of the first building that he had been in for three weeks.  I felt happiness for my daughter-in-law and for us.  But I was also disappointed, yet again, as our government ended another mission before it was completed.

Josh cornered the market on wisdom this time.  “Remember, Ema, that a Torah Jew knows that we can’t solve this.  Not with politics, and not with fighting.  We soldiers are only doing a ‘holding action,’ until Moshiach will come and fix it.”

We have all survived the first test of our commitment to this country.  How did this affect our younger sons?  One wants to come to Israel from the States.  “It’s time, Ema.  I can’t stay away any longer.”  One keeps checking the calendar, to see if he is old enough to go into the IDF.  Like his big brother.  The little one just keeps playing football, wearing his Gush Katif kipah, and listening.

Please G-d, help us to stay strong and positive, as we await Your intervention.  Please help us to never forget that You run this whole show — and that it will be all right in the end.  You have made certain promises to Your people; and You never lie.

Oh, yeah…  and please let our children grow to be really, really old men, intact and healthy, with great stories to tell their grandchildren.  Amen.

Posted in aliyah, Gaza War, Golani, IDF | 11 Comments »

Sunday Sojourn #2: Gaza War Inspired, Part 2

Posted by rutimizrachi on 14/01/2009

Yom revi’i, 18 Tevet 5769.

So, where was I, David?

Oh, yes.  The fellow who was “giving his father a lift” dropped us off across the road from the base.  After a short walk, directed by our dear daughter-in-law, we were outside the gate.  In a few minutes, my son’s familiar frame with his “conquering the world” stride came into view.

We had a terrific visit with him.  He looks good.  He is strong; and his confidence and sense of humor are intact.  Baruch Hashem!  May he come out of this “adventure” whole and healthy.  I could talk about him for a long time…  but this letter is about the angels we met, coming and going.

As the sun was sinking, our brief two-hour visit had to end.  We made our farewells, with hugs and smiles, and only a few tears. 

At the bus stop, we told Chana we would see her later.  “We’re going to see if we can find the camera.”  Yes, David.  My husband and I are a little bit crazy. But cameras cost money, and a quest is a quest.  We just had to try…

We wandered down the road for a bit, not sure of the distance.  After a pleasant hike, a young father offered us a ride.  His little boy’s face is the “wallpaper” on his cell phone.  He lives in the kibbutz nearby.  Former Golani, he expects to be called up soon.  “Where’s your car?” he asked.  His question made sense.  The only people who would be walking out here are folks whose car broke down, right?  We explained.  He found us amusing.  But he could not leave two people walking on the road; so he took us as far as he could.  Brachot were exchanged – for the long, healthy lives of his children, for the successful homecoming of our soldier son.
It was getting dark; and I really had given up on finding the camera.  Many cars had gone by without stopping.

And then you came along, David.

Of course you wanted to hear what the heck we were doing here.  We explained the whole story, to include the search for the camera.  You asked why we made aliyah.  Let me tell you the best reason, David.  I don’t know what your plans were for the evening.  But you spent at least 45 minutes with us.  You drove us to the place in the road at which we had lost the camera, near the “camel crossing” sign.  You shined your headlights on the road, so that we could look for white grocery bags.  You let us stop, three different times, to examine white bags by the roadside.  Each time, we told you that you had done enough; but you persisted.
The last bag had my rocks in it…  but no camera.  You waited as we searched the area, using your headlamps to light the side of the road, until we were sure it was not there.  “Thai workers drive up and down the side of the road, very slowly, to see what people may have dropped,” you explained.  As if to illustrate your point, a Thai went by on his bicycle at that moment.  We gave up on the camera.  But my husband was gratified at having found the bag with the rocks.  “See?  At least we know it wasn’t crazy to try.”  He was almost as happy as if he had found the object of our search.

I was happy to have encountered another angel.

You used your cell phone to check the bus schedule for us.  We didn’t even ask you to do that!  “There are no more buses,” you said.  “I’ll take you to the best place to tremp.”  Unbelievable.  May you have many brachot, David.  May you discover for yourself why living in Israel truly is the best way to spend your life!

Still, the night was filled with angels.  There were the two soldiers and the “hilltop youth” at the trempiada.  “Don’t take that car,” one of the soldiers warned.  “He’s an Arab.  You can tell by the black windows.”  Got it.  When a “kosher” car stopped, the “hilltop youth” gave up his place in line, and offered us the ride.  “Good luck!” they called after us.

This car felt like a tiny spaceship.  Very cool little car, with all the latest gadgets.  The Gen-X driver wore driving gloves and a Bluetooth.  He was constantly checking the news, roaming from station to station.  I could see that he was very into the drama of the war, of traveling in the south.  “The main road isn’t good.  No miklatot – no bunkers, in case of the ‘tzeva adom.’  I’ll take you to a bus stop in Ofakim with a miklat close by.”  As he dropped us off on a well-lighted street, he pointed to the bunkers on either side of the street, very serious.  “If you hear the warning, go there quickly.”  Off went the angel in his spaceship.

We enjoyed the silly, night-time teen life in Ofakim.  Young girls playing karaoke on their cell phones, singing and flirting with friends who passed by.  Yes, if they were our daughters, we would be freaking out (which is the main reason G-d didn’t give us daughters, I think).  But since they were just beautiful young Jews, filled with life and normalcy and a complete disregard for the serious adult world enveloping them, we could just take pleasure being near their exuberance.  It was a comfortably cool night; and when I remarked on the worrisome lack of rain, our young soldier’s father reminded me that sleeping outside in a tent, and fighting the enemy, are best done on rain-free, cool nights.  I made a silent prayer that Hashem would fill the Kinneret only after our soldiers’ work is finished, may it be soon.

We reached Jerusalem at around 9 PM.  Realizing that we had not eaten since breakfast, Avi offered to take me out for a bite of lamb at Burger’s Bar in the tachana.  We asked if they took credit cards, since we had never made it to an ATM machine.  The new employee said yes; so we placed our order.  Another young man came out of the kitchen to prepare the food; and I offered him my credit card.  “We don’t take.  No place.  See?”  He pointed enigmatically at the cash register…  Avi and I had a brief moment of panic; and then Avi went to get money from the machine.  “The teller is unable to complete your request at this time.”  [Note: refer to earlier note:  traveling on Sunday is not always the best idea…]

“Ehhhhhh…  we don’t have any money; and the caspomat is not working for us today.”

“Don’t worry.  Pay me tomorrow,” said the young man behind the counter.

Embarrassed, I accepted his offer, as the food was already on the grill, marveling at the “only in Israel” nature of the fact that he wasn’t disgusted by our lack of funds. We sat down to eat, wondering why our reasonably flush US bank account was letting us down.  “I’ll come in tomorrow, first thing, and pay this,” Avi said to me.

Our 14th angel arrived in the form of our landlord’s daughter, who was here for a friend’s birthday party.  She loaned us the money to pay the bill.

As I was paying, I explained to the delighted young man behind the counter:  “I just want you to understand what kind of day it’s been.  We went to visit our son, who is in Gaza.”

(“Golani?  G’dud Shteim-Esray? [12th Battalion?]  Wow!” he interrupted.  I didn’t mind.  The hero image of the Barak Brigade helps to ease the fear.  A little.)

“Nu?  So we had all these angels help us up and down the road.  You and the lady who paid for dinner are just the latest.  What makes a Jew an angel?  That he has a desire — no, a need — to help another Jew.  This is the best place in the world to live!”

This slender kid could have looked cynical in another setting.  He said to me, with deep sincerity in his dark brown eyes:  “Thank you for saying it.  I know what you say is true.  But thank you for saying it.  It is the best place.  You are a neshama tova.”

Our friend Marc says that if you scratch to just beneath the surface of any Jew in Israel, male or female, old or young, you will find a Jewish mother, who is dying to help you out.  We have found this to be true.

We took the 10:30 PM bus back to Neve Daniel.  Just so that the day wouldn’t end in a boring way, the gate was broken, and the new driver was afraid to take his bus through the narrow opening.  Let off at the bottom of the hill, Avi said to me, “I have been good all day.  We have walked miles; and I have kept a remarkably good attitude.  But now I am going to piss and moan my way up this hill.  Fine.  Just fine.”  I laughed, because I know him, and I know he was mostly kidding (although he really was looking forward to “slipper time”).

Just then, the 15th angel arrived.  Our landlady drove up.  “Would you like a ride?” she asked, in her musical and clear school-teacher’s Hebrew.

Would we ever!

David, I won’t pretend that any of the encounters we had today would not have happened in Chutz l’Aretz.  Hashem made beautiful people; and He placed them all over the globe.

What makes the country of your birth so special is that people like this cross our path every day.  And not just once or twice a day.  Some days, one is blessed to meet 15 angels in 15 hours.

Posted in ahavat Yisrael, aliyah, only in Israel | 8 Comments »

Fully Connected

Posted by rutimizrachi on 17/12/2008

Yom chamishi, 21 Kislev 5769. 

The Dearly Beloved always reminds the boys (and me, and himself):  “Attitude is everything.”  This is especially true in having a successful and happy aliyah.  Here is a guest post by a very creative new olah, Rena Chernin, writing at Sweet Home Yerushalayim, that says Avi’s expression in a very holy, poetic way.  Enjoy the read!



My Disconnect Week

Kislev 7, 5768
December 4, 2008

Dear Friends and Family,

It started one Wednesday when David was in America. First, the internet went down. Ok, it happens. Usually we are back online in 15 to 20 minutes. So I kept checking. Too soon, I began to feel a little disconnected. As the hours went by and I kept trying to log on, I began to feel quite out of touch. So I decided to call someone: Netvision, our internet provider. I am just familiar enough with Hebrew to figure out how to get to technical support. First question to the voice on the other end: “Do you speak English?” “Of course,” was his reply. I told him we were off line. He took me through all the unplugging and replugging of the modem, the Airport, etc. that I had already performed several times myself, of course. No connection. He said he would have to have a technician call me. We arranged a time frame for late that night, and I waited.

The time for my phone date with the Netvision technician came and went. So I called them. When someone answered, I asked “Do you speak English?” “Of course,” was the reply. I told him what was going on and that no one called me yet. He said, “I need to get someone speaking English.” Then I was disconnected. It was late, I went to sleep and hoped for the best tomorrow.

Thursday morning, still offline. When I called this time, they said it was not a problem on our line, but a Netvision problem and we would be up and running later that day. Good. I had a busy day until late that night, so I would not really miss it.

I was spending that week as a madricha (volunteer who helps a guide), with an Aish HaTorah Gem trip to Israel Eleven incredible women ages 33-88 toured and learned here for ten days and I got to spend every wonderful, memorable, inspiring, and exhausting moment with them. I was all over the city gathering food and running errands, shepherding stragglers and checking in with the rest of the group. My phone, as you can imagine was vital to the operation. And this was the day, after 4 years of almost perfectly reliable service, that it decided to completely die. No, it was not the battery. It was the whole thing. My phone numbers-gone. My access to the group-gone. My frustration-not gone.

It had been a great phone, that Blackberry. Sure, it was a bit complicated and certainly outdated, but it did everything, and much more than, I wanted. Without it, I was really disconnected. So I hurried to town to pick up a simple little phone. And there it was The Simple Phone. Little, too. The phone I’d wanted before inheriting the Blackberry. The phone of my dreams….Slip in the SIM card and-except for losing all those phone numbers-back in the business (of being a madricha).

So I gave the very pregnant saleswoman with about 17 earrings in one ear the 300 NIS (today that’s $75.00) thank you very much-and b’sha tova! She gave me a big smile and rubbed her tummy. Connected.

When I got home very late that night, I tried to check my email…but to no avail. We were still offline. Knowing that it was an attempt in vain, I called Netvision anyway. “Do you speak English?” “Of course,” I repeated the story and he said, “I will get someone speaking English.” This time I was not disconnected. The technician spoke perfect English accented with that delightfully, sweet Israeli accent I love. He was kind, too, when he repeated what I knew, that it was a Netvision problem, “we are working on it now and you will have service by the morning.” Flavoring my English with my newly acquired Israeli attitude, I asked, “What time this morning? The morning is just a few minutes away.” He was amused, but noncommittal. I was still offline, but we connected.

Friday morning, I woke and checked my email. 52 messages!!! I’d have to read them later. I was scheduled to escort our Gem Ladies on their Old City program. By noon-ish we were done, so I came home to clean and rest up for Shabbos. I was accompanying several ladies to host families for dinner & lunch, so I did not have to prepare meals, but I had Shabbos guests for sleeping. I made the beds, dusted and “sponge-ahhd” (Israeli mopping) and sat down to read all those emails.

Before I knew it, it was 3 pm, almost time for candles. I dressed and went down the list of things to do (lights, turn off dud (hot water heater), call David, parents and daughters-great the internet phone was working). As I set the Shabbos lock on the gate outside, I noticed our mezuzah, which has been lodged into a crevice in the stone wall ever since we have been here—was gone. I looked all around but it was mysteriously nowhere to be found. We have a lot less doors here than in America, which means a few extra scrolls were tucked away, so I quickly found one, and looked up the bracha. As I said it and placed a new scroll in the doorpost, I heard my neighbor in the stairwell say “amen!” Yea!, connected again.

My guests arrived with cookies and smiles. As we chatted in the kitchen before we lit candles, I washed a few straggling glasses and noticed a putrid but familiar smell. Then I heard the drain “gurgle.” The horrible sound that means: the sewer is clogged, again. Oh no… This time it was our courtyard neighbor who heard me. I was in distress. He was leaving for his minyan, but told his wife that first, he would go to the Muslim Quarter to find an Arab plumber he knows. It was time to light, and meet up with the Gem Group. I had to leave the gate open for the plumber and go. Had to.

The Arab never came and all Shabbos I tried not to worry about an overflow. I placed towels all around so we hopefully could contain a disaster, and we kept water use to a bare minimum. B”H, we were saved and Sunday morning the son of the Rova plumber showed up. He’s a great kid, knows what he is doing and made jokes about the nature of his work. He can certainly joke. Plumbers here get paid more than many doctors and I wonder if maybe they are even more appreciated. Within 15 minutes and 230 NIS ($58) later, we were unclogged.

Internet, phone, mezuzah and sewer. All conduits. Why, within three days, did these four things disconnect, disappear and clog up?

Then, I realized that it really wasn’t the things—the true conduits were open, they were the people Hashem brought to me. The essential Jewish kindness of the Netvision technicians came through over the phone line, no matter how much English they thought they understood. They really just wanted to help. The multi-pierced woman at the phone store was genuinely happy to place exactly what I was looking for in my hands. And she knew I was sincere about my little bracha to her. Her child is also my child, just like when I hung the mezuzah. My mitzvah was also my neighbor’s. And when the sewer scare began, my other neighbor did not think twice, of course he was going to help me, despite the inconvenience. I could not help but be struck by the sight of the darling plumber’s son, so refined as he went about his grubby work. Only a Jew could make this job seem noble.

They are all around, every day, ready for connection. On the bus, in the makolet (little groceries that are everywhere), the waitress, the pharmacist, and the beggar who looks up and smiles when I drop a coin in her plastic cup. Only here can I get a heartfelt bracha for a shekel. There it is: “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh le zeh,,” another connection.

All of those disconnects seemed like frustrating inconveniences that I had to deal with alone. It was really the opposite. Hashem was leading me to connect with others. I had to talk to Jews at Netvision and ask friends if I could come and check my email. I had to ask people about where to buy a phone, then share a bus ride to the store and share excitement with the mom to be. When the plumber’s father came to check the work, I got to tell a dad what a great kid he has-and because we are all connected, he was my kid, too.

It’s the same with these letters that I write to you. I do it so I can feel connected to you, and you to Eretz Yisrael–until you all come home, may it be very soon.

Renee & David

Posted in acquiring the Land, aliyah, attitude is everything | Leave a Comment »

Nineteen degrees is nice in Neve Daniel. I’m just saying…

Posted by rutimizrachi on 24/11/2008

Yom sheni, 26 Cheshvan 5769.

Today is one of those days that reminds me of some of the physical aspects I love about living here in Israel, especially on “my mountain.”  (Even though there are no Cascades or Rockies here, Neve Daniel — at 997 meters above sea-level — is the highest-elevation community in the country.)

At a crisp 66.2 degrees Farenheit, it is a good day to have a bite of breakfast outside. 

Dear Baltimore Homies (who have not yet decided that it’s time to be moving to warmer climes):

Is that YOUR house going up in my back yard?  Looking forward to seeing your name beside the door.

 Time to sit outside and learn a little Mesillat Yesharim with my best friend.  Join us for coffee and a learning seder soon?

Posted in aliyah, Israel, Mesillat Yesharim, Neve Daniel | 7 Comments »

Sunday Sojourn #1

Posted by rutimizrachi on 17/11/2008

Yom sheni, 19 Cheshvan 5769.

In 1991, the Dearly Beloved took me to Israel for the first time.

He wanted to show me all of the tourist sites that he remembered from his visits in the ’80s.  But I already had the seeds of aliyah sprouting in my soul; and I told him I wanted to spend our time experiencing the life of the residents.  He’s an understanding fellow; so, instead of showing me Masada, he let me drag him to the makolet.  Instead of visiting the banks of the Yarden, we were sent from teller to teller in the banks of Yerushalayim.  We visited families, and listened to them talk about what real life in Israel was like.  It was just as beaurocratically ridiculous as everyone said.  It seemed like an interesting challenge.  When we got back to the States, I told my husband that I would take the time to be a tourist when I lived in Israel. 

Over Shabbat last week, the Dearly Beloved informed me that it was time to make good on my 17-year-old promise.  And that Sundays would be “tiyul day” for the two of us.  After all, the kids get to go on tiyulim through their schools.  It’s not our fault we’re too long in the tooth for yeshiva.  And now we have these special bus passes for olim, that allow us to travel anywhere in the country (except Eilat) for a very reasonable price.  Why not use them?

The first stop was a visit to one of our favorite bakeries, very near the tachana.  The pastry is as good as is pastry everywhere in Israel.  What makes this bakery special is Amir, who makes a great cup of cafe shachor, and treats everyone like a mentch.  (Throughout my marriage to the Dearly Beloved, the guy who gets our money isn’t always the cheapest.  He is good at what he does, and treats us the way he would like to be treated.)

After that pleasant visit, we added another photo to our catalog of the “Most Exhaustive Photo Essay of Every Possible Angle of the ‘Bridge of Strings'”.  This project has picked up a more feverish pace since the new mayor-elect, Nir Barkat, has expressed his desire to tear the thing down.

In 2005, I sat at my computer and watched, day after day, as the soap opera that would become the nightmare of Gush Katif unfolded.  It was a surrealistic time; and the only people with whom I could relate on the subject lived in Cyberspace.  More accurately, they lived all over the world; but we shared the need to “live” the Gush Katif drama at a depth most people around us couldn’t seem to fathom.  So we became an internet support group, holding virtual hands throughout the trauma.  The Gush Katif Museum is tucked into Agrippas Street.  We discovered it quite by accident.  It is a stop we would recommend for every tourist.  We expected a small museum, filled with facts and photos.  There were those.  The time line makes it painfully obvious that Israel has built herself, only to tear herself down at the world’s insistence, many, many times.  My favorite photos were of children.  One was holding orange ribbons in each hand, stretched out to invisible hands outside the left and right frames of the photo.  Another shows rows and rows of young soldiers.  In the foreground, his back to us, is a tiny boy, offering a few cookies to the tenderly smiling soldiers in his chubby hand. We did not expect the poignant paintings, full of the intensity of the youth who stood their ground.  Nor did we expect to spend an hour sitting together and crying.  Whichever side of the argument you fell out on, you will find that the film is a fair representation of the good and bad on both sides of the struggle, and of some of the pain each side endured. I don’t usually suggest that people take time to be sad…  but there is a time for everything, as the wise king said.  And there are, unfortunately, more events in Jewish life to which the expression “never again” must be appended, and repeated to ourselves, in full video sound and fury.

Well, after that, a little fun was certainly called for.  We stopped into Emek Refaim at one of our favorite restaurants.

  After I seasoned both our dishes of Temani Meat Soup with a little charif, the Dearly Beloved said that he would prefer to handle this task for himself in the future.

Look.  My main job in this climate is to get a lot of water into each member of my family every day.  You can see, by the empty water bottle at his right, that I was very successful.  
Next week:  Tel Aviv, and the quest for the wily Dancing Camel pub. Stay tuned.

Posted in aliyah, Gush Katif, Jerusalem | 3 Comments »

Come for Yourself

Posted by rutimizrachi on 07/11/2008

Yom shishi, 9 Cheshvan 5769.

There is a saying that if you are very happy in a place in Eretz Yisrael, it is because Avraham Avinu met your neshama in this place when he walked the Land.

Hashem said to Abram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”

Come for yourself. Come for the world.

(Translation of verse from “Lech Lecha” from The Stone Edition of the Chumash)

Posted in aliyah, Israel, Lech Lecha | 3 Comments »