...Ok, maybe just a year, but a pretty important year at that. The kids have almost another full month of school, but this past week we've celebrated lots of "endings", but as they say here in Israel, "כל סוף הוא התחלה חדשה" -- Every end is a new beginning.
I took the older kids to the Ulpan End of the Year Celebration which included a walking tour of the old city of Beit Shemesh. It started off a little slow (to say the least: imagine standing in the boiling heat for 40 minutes with NOTHING to do), but once it got started it was very interesting. The trip ended with everyone gathered at the first shul that was established in Beit Shemesh (after 1948), in 1952. It's a small building that has a short hallway with "relics" of the past, showing different things that immigrants brought with them from their "old countries". B wanted to know if "In the Olden Days, did you have a typewriter too, Imma?" Imagine if he had seen my Comodore 64, or horror of horrors, our rotary phone. They also showed the kids the old metal shanties (that were no bigger than 3ft x 10ft) that many of the immigrants lived in right off the boat due to the enormous housing shortage during those first few years.
After a light Israeli dinner of Chummus, bread, techina and vegtables, we went inside to hear the kids give their end of year performances. We sat on the most uncomfortable, hard, rickety benches you have ever seen. We mothers rolled our eyes at each other and tried to stifle our snarky comments. Tried.
And then the coordinator of the Ulpan started to speak to the kids about Aliyah. About how in the beginning of the year when we met her for the first time, the kids had no idea what she was saying, and how now things were much different. Not unlike the Olim of 60 or 70 years ago. She told the kids about how when these Immigrants arrived the very first thing they needed (wanted!) to do was build a shul, and if we looked closely, we could see that the very benches we were sitting on were made from the wood of the shipping containers they used to ship all their things over. Suddenly those benches weren't so uncomfortable anymore, as I thought of generations of Immigrants who just like us had sacrificed much to make E"Y their home. I don't know how much the kids got out of it, but when I took a good look at it, I realized that it had been a very meaningful tiyul indeed.
The next night, A, our bechor (firstborn) graduated from elementary school. Granted, it was *only* a 6th grade graduation, but it was a first for all of us. And I'll say it again, every time I go to one of these school functions I realize just how much I love our school, and how at home we all feel there. The main theme of the night was Rav Kook tz'l, as it is the 75th year of the anniversary of his death. There was a play (partially pre-recorded and shown as a video--very cool!), a choir and even a dance. It was really something spectacular. Like all Israeli performances, it was way too long, but how can you be grumpy when each person wants to stand up and talk about Ahavat Yisrael, Talmud Torah, and Love of Eretz Yisrael?
It's a place that I feel lucky that my kids are able to be a part of every day. And the graduate? He's sitting right here next to me after another full day of school ("I don't get it, didn't we just graduate?") and looking forward to a great next year in the AY Yeshiva. So it's true, these ends are not really ends at all, but rather new and exciting beginnings.