Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Easy" Mourning

Tonight the Nine Days are upon us in earnest. Some years are harder than others to really put ourselves in the mourning mode. But this year it's not going to be hard to mourn the loss of the Beis HaMikdash or the lack of Moshiach. Sadly, it's going to be quite easy to remind ourselves that we are indeed in the midst of a painful galus. It has been a hard year for Am Yisrael, and just revisiting the past year, we are reminded of just how painful our Galus is.

The tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people in the year alone are almost too many to list.  First, the West Bank shooting that left Kochava Even-Haim a'h, Avichai Shendler a'h  and Talya and Yitzchak Imes a'h all dead. Talya was 9 months pregnant at the time of her death. Talya and Yitzchak left behind six children, the youngest of whom was 18 months old. 

Then there were two Christian women tourists hiking not two miles from our home who were stabbed by Arabs and left for dead, one narrowly escaping, while the other one died of her wounds.

Shortly after followed the horrific killing of the Fogel family of Itamar, where Arab terrorists broke into their village and killed 5 out of 8 family members, including two young boys and a 3 month old baby girl.

In March there was the bomb that detonated at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station (at the Beit Shemesh stop) killing one and injuring 50 others. 

There was 16 year old Daniel Viflic a'h who was killed when a rocket hit the school bus he was riding on to visit his grandmother.  

Ben Yosef Livnat, aged 24, father of four children was murdered at Kever Yosef HaTzadik, while on his way to prayer.

Then came the brutal murder of Leiby Kletzky, a'h that shocked Jews all over the world. And while the pain of Leiby's murder is still fresh, none of us will ever forget what happened, not 20, 30 or 40 years from now.

And now this past week, the stabbing and death of the Baba Sali's grandson, R' Yisrael Abuhatzeira zt'l leaves us reeling yet again.   

If there are more that I have forgotten may they forgive me. It seems too many already. 

So, no. It will not be hard to sit on the floor during Tisha b'Av this year and mourn. We need only remember those we lost this year in "unnatural" circumstances. Those that were taken from us too early in heinous, horrific ways. The best we can do is use the pain that we feel and channel it to help us truly mourn the state that we're in; bereft of the BH"M, desolate and without Moshiach, and show that we are waiting and wanting. 

And this time may the answer be "Yes."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Are you ready for some Mil-Chigs? (TTO: Are you ready for some football?)

It is that time of year again, the 9 solemn days between the first of the month of Av until the 9th signify some very heavy days for us Jews. We will wash only when needed, wear no clean clothes, and eat no meat. 

Until recently, I never really understood the No Eating Meat part. I mean, let's face it, cold showers, no haircuts, and no clean clothes definitely make sense when we are in a mourning period. But no meat? Eh. Who cares. I could live on pasta. And so could most of us. Again, until recently. 

Until recently, I never understood why my mother would shell out a ridiculous amount of cash every week for Shabbos for a nice big brisket. Because it is meat. And I have six brothers. And chicken just don't cut it. 

Until recently, BAW used to silently suffer during the 9 days while we all enjoyed our spaghetti, fettuchini, salmon, fish and chips, ziti, lasagna, quiche, french toast, you name it. But not anymore. Suddenly, his minions have grown. Suddenly there is a choir of hungry men chiming in already kvetching about the lack of meat. "You mean, no hot dogs? What about burgers? Meatballs? Turkey? Schnitzel?! I need meat! I can't be without meat! I'll be hungry! I'll starve! I could die!" These are some serious concerns in our house.

The bottom line here is that Men Love Meat. Some men love sports, some men love cars, some men love money, but all men love meat. I dare you to think of 3 male vegetarians you know. I can't even come up with one. 

So although they are still young, and may not fully understand the state of calamity that we Jews are in even today in 2011, not to mention during the destruction of our Holy Temples, I hope that the lesson will start to become clear. We are giving up something that we really, really love because we lost something that we should be remembering and yearning for every single day. Something that we really, really love, and more importantly something that we really, really need. 

May Hashem turn our time of mourning and sorrow to happiness and rejoicing. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

If You Care

Whew, this blogging things takes D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E! Not one of my S-T-R-O-N-G points :)

The longer I don't write, the more I have to force myself to sit down and do it. No real ideas for a post today, just some random ramblings of the beginning of our summer vacation.

The kids were finally out of school Friday. Gasp! Through July! Yes, it's true. The beginning of July started the "Extra Month" program that is a mixture of camp and school. The kids go in a half an hour later (8:30am) and end a couple hours earlier. For the most part they are still learning (only Judaic Studies at this point, to everyone's relief we left General Studies in the dust at the end of June), but the days have more of a campy feel: Balloon Day, Drums Day, Baking Day, Kite Day, Talent Show Day, you get the drift. Several times they brought in huge inflatable water slides and had Water Day. The big trip of the month was to an amusement/water park. There was much less kvetching about getting up and getting off to school, and I was happy, they were occupied and still learning and now I don't really feel a pressure to force them to go to summer camp. It was a win-win.

The first two days of vacation have been good, we aren't ready to kill each other yet, so that must be good :) The readers in the family (um, that's everyone except N) have read a ridiculous amount of books this week, so it must really be summer vacation. This whole Get Four Books Out At A Time At The Library Thing is not really working for us. We go in groups since not everyone can get a book out :( and by the time we pull into the driveway the books are chucked at me with an exasperated, "Done!"

Yesterday BAW took the "big kids" to Jlem for the afternoon and the little guys and I hung out in the pool. Today we were all home, but everyone spent a good 2 1/2 hours in the pool. Tomorrow we'll have to get out again because too many days home is no good, but it's supposed to be close to 100 degrees and it's just no fun to go out in this heat. 

That's it, just a boring ole update of what we've been up to. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post by The One and Only "J"

My daughter has been on my case for me to add some more of her poems to my blog. Enjoy--she's awesome!


Life--You walk, you trip, 
You run, you skip, you do a flip.

Life-- You crash, you fall,
You smash that stone wall.

Life--You scream, you cry,
You let good times pass you by.

Life--Things happen, that's the way to see.
Just relax, let life be.



Let it fill you up
Musical notes drift through life
Forget--and listen.


The Friend Ship

A special ship leaves at half past three,
Let's be aboard it, you and me. 
We'll laugh, play and talk,
Snooze, gossip and walk.

It has no grounds,
no ends, no bounds.
It's made for friendly people you see,
maybe you and me. 

It's whistle is blowing,
It's confetti is throwing.
The flag is showing, 
Look! We must be going. 

Will you come?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MoBs Part 3: My Birthday "Present"

Last Friday was my birthday. It was a typical Erev Shabbos, actually more relaxed since we were invited out for lunch (shout out to my favorite next door neighbors!:).

After I clean up on Friday on the main floor, I usually stand at the bottom of the stairs, take a few deep breaths and attempt to arm myself with patience. I do this because I am aware that when you send five or six kids upstairs to shower or bathe themselves, you are going to be met with a mess. Usually a very large, very wet mess. So, like every other Friday, I trekked upstairs about a half an hour before Shabbos armed with saintly amounts of patience.

As I peeked into the "kids'" bathroom, I once again girded my proverbial loins. It was worse than usual. There was about an inch of water on the floor; books, toilet paper, shoes were ruined. The bathmat and clothes left on the floor (do you know just how many clothes are left on the floor in a family of eight on Friday afternoon?) were all soaked. I was mad, but  managed to clean it up and keep my cool when I was told it was *mostly* N. Can't blame big kids when little ones decide to chuck everything overboard into the tub.

That took me 15 minutes, and I only had about 15 minutes until shabbos to shower and get ready. Still doable for me, I'm always the last shower, I would just have to hurry. 

But then... I entered... the scene of the crime. I went into my bedroom, and without getting too dramatic I was seriously worried that someone was lying wounded somewhere in the house. My beautiful (expensive!) baby blue comforters were both (remember, we have two full size beds) covered in...blood. Yes, blood. 

Now, not the pools of blood type, but huge big stains of blood seriously covering my blankets, sheets, pillows, and...wait for it... there was even blood on the walls. No, I am not exaggerating,  and yes, after making sure everyone was still alive and not slowly ebbing away somewhere I cried. Long and hard I cried. 

We narrowed it down to two very guilty looking culprits who "did not realize" they were both (!) bleeding from recent cuts on their feet from a hike they had just returned from. For some reason unbeknownst to me and all humankind they decided to jump long and hard from bed to bed before their baths. And the wall? "I don't know, I think we were kicking the wall...?"

After a big speech by both Imma and Abba re: Caring About Other People's Property and Being Responsible for Your Actions I kicked them out of my room and started laughing. It was a scary high-pitched maniacal laugh, while BAW looked on nervously (presumably to make sure I wasn't going to jump off the mirpeset with just a few moments till shabbos to spare). The truth is I had no such thoughts, but the fact that my bed just looked like a dog had given birth on it or a young chicken had been recently slaughtered in my bedroom kind of struck me as funny.

This story ends relatively well. Somehow most of the blood is not noticeable after a good washing. At least it doesn't look like blood anymore. I'm hoping to get them in the machine a few more times and see if I can totally get it out. Why not just flip them over? Im glad you asked. Because on the other side is original artwork by N, in black permanent marker -- duh!

Hopefully, I'll remember the chocolate cake baked by my loving children, and decorated with an unnatural amount of frosting and sprinkles as well as the  beautiful and sweet homemade signs and cards. But I'm pretty sure I'll remember this particular birthday *present* for years to come. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gush Trip Part #2: Mitzpeh Avichai -- Hill 18

I'm in a bad mood today, so I'm glad I left the blogging of the other half of the trip for today. If I'm reminded about how nice it was, maybe I'll drop the grumpiness. But don't count on it.

After we watched the dog demo, we got back into our cars and drove another 15 min or so until we got to a little place called Ramat Mamrei, also another gated community over the green line. We drove through the town until we got to the edge of it where we hit a barbed wire fence and a dirt road. We drove down this narrow little dirt road (lots of rocks!) for about 5 minutes until the group stopped. We were on an outpost called Hill 18, and it was stunning. We were deep in the Judean Hills and everywhere we looked were more hills and nore mountains as far as the eye could see. Hill 18 is also known as Mitzpeh Avichai. I was going to Google Map it and show you a pic of where we were but two things are stopping me 1) Apparently those areas of Israel are not quite important enough to have detailed Satellite images 2) my mother would post probably kill me if she knew I drove out there with the kids. Shhhh! 

Mitzpeh Avichai is an "illegal" settlement and has been demolished more than once. Several of the dog handlers that we met are living here in one of the "houses" they have erected here. Not including these boys and men, there are 5 other families that live here. The tour guide took us to one family's house.  It is almost impossible to drive all the way up to their home, so we left the cars and walked the rest of the way. I can't explain to you what it was like to meet and talk to a woman who lives with her family out here. There are Arab houses almost 10 meters from their house. On the rocky walk up to the their little house are beautiful plants and flowers that have been very carefully planted; almost shocking among all the the rocks and dirt.

As we walked up to the house, my kids were astounded: "How do people live like this? What happens when it rains?" The house itself (and now I am kicking myself for not taking more pics) is quite literally made out of press board. Press board walls, ceiling, etc. The roof was tin sheets pounded together. The floors are dirt and covered in rugs. The furniture is sparse and mostly very warn. The house itself was originally one room (still some kids sleep in the living room, which is also the dining room, office and kitchen), but they managed to add on one bedroom in the back. The do not live like this because they are poor. They live like this because their home is often bulldozed to the ground, leaving them to start all over again.

The woman living here with her three children looks very much like you and me. She's in her early 30s was nicely dressed, had on beautiful jewelry and was very put together. She works in a museum nearby and her husband learns. She and her husband were the first ones to live on Hill 18, but since then another four families have joined her. She went on to tell us how she's lived there almost 3 years and how in that time her home has been demolished several times, and each time they pick up the pieces and they rebuild. She smiles a beautiful smile as she says that it's easy for the government to come and evict one family and kick them out of their home that is then bulldozed to the ground. "But now we are 5. Five strong families. It's a lot harder to displace 5 families."

When asked what we can do to help, so show that we care, she simply says, "Come. Come visit. Come see what we're doing. Come and spend time with us. 

I was blown away. I have been hearing about people like this for years, but I had a totally different picture in my mind. I hadn't imagined them to be so like you and me. To actually be there with her in her home was so inspirational. 

When I got home I did some research and here's what I found:

An excellent informative article on Mitzpeh Avichai's history here.

And a video showing the tenacity of this incredible crew:

It was amazing for me to meet these people and be there to see what exactly they are doing for the rest of us. But even more amazed were my kids. We had some very interesting talks on the way home. "Why don't we live here? Why can't we come and help them?" It was hard to admit to my kids that you have to be very, very brave to live here, and that maybe their parents are not so brave. "But you have all of us! That lady only has 3 little girls!!" 

It gave us all pause for a moment, and I let them digest all that we had seen on the way home. I am awed at how a trip to see some dogs turned into a tremendous inspiration as well as led us to have an appreciation for other factions of Am Yisrael and recognize how much they are doing on a daily basis.

Just another day in the life... :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Awesome Gush Trip Part #1: Couch Potatoes Beware

RBS has an email list where people can post just about anything (appropriate, that is: it's well censored). In any given email you can hear about a lost dog, someone seeking a ride, houses for sale, or someone looking for a book. It's a great way for the greater BS and RBS communities to connect and it's a real life-saver for some. 

Thursday night I was browsing the list and saw a trip listed that caught my attention: A trip from RBS (you could join on the van or drive your own car with the convoy) to Elazar, one of the settlements in the Gush Etzion area. The tiyul was "marketed" as a demonstration by dog handlers showing how they train dogs as guard dogs for the yishuvim. There wasn't that much info given, but I figured it would be perfect; anything dog related is right up our alley. My kids have been having WAY too much "screen time" because of "vacation" and the fact that it's so hot that no one wants to go out.I took the five big kids and left TPH to fend for himself under the watchful eye of N. 

I haven't really been out that way at all since we made Aliyah last summer, and I was amazed at how much Efrat has grown. It seems to be spreading all through the mountains, and it's a beautiful thing to see. I've always been a fan of the Gush region, and we have discussed moving there several times, but because of family, friends and schools we're here in RBS for now. Elazar, like the rest of the Gush is gorgeous. Houses, apartments, you name it, it continues to grow as well. 

We got out of the car and were treated to a very impressive demonstration. We were introduced to several Belgian Shepherds and their handlers, one only 13 years old. The beginning was "fine-but-I'm- starving-when-can-we-eat-did-you-even-bring-food-how-much-longer-is-this-when-are-we-going-home-(presumably-to-play-computer-games)?" My kids have had dogs; big dogs, small dogs, male dogs, female dogs, big whoop.

The showed us "Ragli" (heel), "Shev" (sit) and shh! don't tell, but even I was itching for my iPhone. 

This was cute, but we couldn't really think of any actual practical applications when one might need to use this:

Then they introduced us to "Chubby", a (you guessed it) chubby chocolate lab that was being trained for an autistic child. Going rate? Around $25,000 - $30,000. I have to admit, he was cute, I'll take one, please.

But then they started talking about how these dogs are training to protect the families on the yishuvim (settlements). They introduced us to a puppy that was actually born to one of the Fogel's neighbors and has been given to this group of handlers to train and return to Itamar. Some dogs will be regular guard dogs, others will learn to be search and rescue dogs. And next up...attack dogs

There is something about boys and violence (ok, I'll admit, they had mine and J's full attention by now, too) that makes everyone perk up. Even more ominous, the guide kept asking us to stand behind the line, and not make any sudden movements. Oooooh. The head trainer put on arm guards, and showed us how these dogs are trained to attack when either a) their handler is in trouble or b) the are given a command. 

Hmm..suddenly this was quite interesting, and no one was complaining about hunger/thirst/heat/boredom any more. Out of the blue, the main trainer yelled "Allah Akbar!" and this dog came charging at him like nothing I've ever seen before.

Suddenly my computer game-brained zombies were alive! "Imma! Did you see that??? He could've killed him! Please, please can we see that again?? That was awesome! Can we get one? Can I join this group? Can I do this in the army? Please, Imma, please, please, please!!" I have to admit, it was pretty cool. 

They explained to us that it is quite easy to train a dog to attack an aggressive target. But what about a passive one, say a guy holding a hand grenade that might be standing quite still? That's harder. But look what we got on camera:

Notice how the "target" is kind of just minding his own business? And she comes out of nowhere on command of her handler, who by the way is all of 17 years old. 

The funniest thing was that after watching this type of thing for about half an hour, my kids kept asking when we were getting one. My answer? We have one dog and one handler at home, and frankly, that's more than enough for me:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Happy Perfect Birthday to Me

Here it is again: July 15th staring me in the face. I love birthdays and am like a little kid when my birthday is on the way. But I have to admit that this is the very first one that I'm feeling a little...OLD.

I have had my birthday a ridiculous amount of time on Fridays. Fridays and Wednesdays. But Fridays, I mean, c'mon people! I don't know why, ask your local astronomologer or calendogropher. I can't make any sense of it, but it's really, really annoying.

I have very few regrets in life (that I didn't get a degree I can actually USE in Israel, that I left Shadow behind, that I moved back and forth, back and forth) and I still have goals (write a book, share as much of this country as I can with my kids before they don't want to hang out with me anymore, learn how to make a laining (learn a page of gemara), be less judgmental) so I think on a whole I'm doing ok.

I remember VERY clearly a few weeks after my 17th birthday thinking, "This is the best year ever. I'm about to be a Senior in high school, the world is mine. I'm old enough that I'm an adult (silly little girl!), but young enough to be strong and bold and free. Remember this age, it will be your best!" It was a very empowering thought. I even remember where I was; sitting on my front lawn picking the purple flowers that still come back in that same spot every year. Truth be told, that year was just perfect.

And then something happened. I turned 18 the following summer and was on my way to Israel for the first time to learn for the year. After that birthday there was a feeling of such potential, of being on the brink of the rest of my life, I was SURE that this would be the best year ever. And it was just perfect.

Honestly, 19 was pretty good, but suffused with lots of pressures. Go to school, find a job, live in the right place, start the dating process. I don't remember thinking that 19 was one of the best's hard for half of a whole to feel whole when she's missing her other half.

But then came 20, and with 20, the best thing that had ever happened to me. I met TPH. At the time he was only The Perfect Other Half, but I had a feeling of completion and wholeness, and once again I was convinced that this would be the best year ever. We shared our 21st and 22nd birthdays together, and I don't know about him, but for me life was perfect.

But you know, things can get better :) At 21 I was blessed with my first born, and all through that pregnancy I was more than glowing. I was thrilled and felt tremendously lucky.When he finally joined us and completed our little family unit, once again I was convinced that things could not get better because after all, things were perfect.

But they did. At 22 I was blessed with beautiful baby #2 a little girl who can still light up the room. So there I was, 22, married to the perfect man, with the perfect little family.

Things start to get fuzzy about birthdays in those years. Possibly because I was a newlywed with 2 kids before my 2nd anniversary, I don't know... ;) You could say I was a little busy.

But then shortly before baby #3 joined us and moved us from "Young Cute Married Mouple" to "The Big Leagues", we moved to Israel, and made Aliyah for the first time, on my birthday!, no joke. Seriously, there was nothing that could've been better and once again, I distinctly remember feeling so blessed on my birthday. What could've been more perfect?

The following year, TPH threw me my first ever surprise birthday party at my favorite restaurant in Jerusalem. He worked hard secretly inviting our close friends and I honestly had no clue. I remember sitting around the table with friends and family that night thinking, I am so lucky to be in Israel surrounded by such amazing people that I love. Perfect.

Again things get, two more babies, overseas moves, work, and let's face it...I was getting older. But for some reason birthdays have always held this magical appeal to me. I know it's cheesy, but it is what it is.

Last week one of my kids said, "Hey, Imma! Isn't your birthday next week?" And I was with a friend who asked how old I'd be turning.
"35." I answered without a moment's hesitation.
"Really?" She seemed surprised.
"Yup! I mean, wait. I think so. I'm not sure! Maybe 34?!" I did some quick math (who am I kidding, math is never quick for me) and was surprised to admit that I had no idea how old I was turning. There is only one answer when you're in that predicament: old.

In many respects been a hard year for us. Leaving behind many comforts of home and family, of familiarity and security. I've been knocked off my saddle, and have had a hard time getting back on. It's made me feel a  more vulnerable than ever before, and frankly, a little...old. I'd do anything for a visit from that cocky 17 year old.

So although the last few birthdays have been a kind of jumble in my old and confused mind, :) I do have one thing to report. Each year it seems to me that I have more and more to be grateful for. The bottom line is that even with things that I need that I don't have, or being so far from my family, I am ultimately happy to be where I am and so grateful to be here with who I'm here with. It's impossible to give my life a good hard look and not admit that it's been...perfect.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Garden of Emunah (R' Shalom Arush)

I was going to make an effort to stop posting about the recent tragedy in Brooklyn, but I know that many people are still asking Why? and How can we understand such a thing?

In our women's chaburah last year in R, we came upon a beautiful piece that illustrates that there are so many factors beyond us and our understanding. My mother recently mentioned how she would like to find it and read it again. The very next day, my SIL sent it to me in my email. It's worth sharing here. It's a tremendously deep level of emunah (faith and trust), but at least it may give us some comfort.

A special thank you to my mother for reminding me of this story and to AD who's post spurred the thought. And of course to my wonderful SIL for sharing.

From Garden of Emunah by R. Shalom Arush:

"Here is a story about a tragedy that jolted the very foundation of an entire Jewish community's emuna in Hashem A beautiful young lady- the daughter of one of the community's most prestegious and respected families married a righteous merchant, a man of charity and compassion.  The early years of their marriage were blessed with happiness, abundance, and children.  The modest wife became a wonderful mother, utalizing every free minute from her busy schedual to recite Tehilim or care for the community's poor and underpriviledged.  The husband ...never failed to fulfill a strict daily quota of prayer and Torah Study...   Suddenly disaster struck.  Their home, a bright beacon of charity, good deeds and loving kindness- became the scene of agony.  A drunken soldier viciously abused, mutilated and murdered the couples 3 year old son.  The entire community was appalled.  Thousands joined in mourning...How could Hashem do something so horrendous?...Shortly thereafter tragedy struck again and therightous merchant fell ill, and died....the tears of his thirty five year old widow tore at the communitiy's already perplexed and agonized heart."  A few years passed the widow resolved to overcome her sorrow.  That night her husband came to her in a dream.  In it she asked why their son had to die in such a grusome and horrifying way.  "Know,"  said her husband that the Heavenly Court had decreed - in light of the dire sins between man andfellow man in our town, that tall of our towns inhabitents wereto be destroyed in a catastrophic pogrom.  The rightous soul of our little one volunteered to die a terrible death as an attonement for the entire town.  He became a holy martyr and sanctified himself as a public sacrifice.  No one is allowed to reach his lofty abode except for me, since I was his father.  When your time comes, you, his mother, will also be allowed.  You cant imagine the bliss of the Divine light that surrounds our son."  ...The widow awakened and she realized that her questions, as well as the rest of the towns questions,were needless.  If the Torah teaches us that Hashem is Righteous and Just, then there is no need to wonder why Hashem does what He does."

New Rules

Here we sit, a day later still licking our wounds. We got up, we sent the kids to school, did some dishes, washed the floors. But it's still with us. If we dared, we've glanced at the funeral pictures. If we're human, we've been obsessing about it all day and all night, and for some of us already, the next day too.

After yesterday's horrific events, we sat down with our three oldest (8-12) and had The Talk. It was not a talk that either of us wanted to have, but it was a talk that we had to, as things beyond our control had forced us to speak to them. We didn't talk about the gruesome details of Leiby Kletzky's murder, but I do fear that they will come home today with more information than they had when we sent them off, and I'm betting there will be another talk tonight. 

Last night's talk was hard enough without describing in detail the events of young Leiby's murder. You don't imagine that it will be hard to talk about things like safety and strangers, and Jewish strangers. But once you start and you see the brief shadow of fear pass over their eyes, it starts to get tough. We walked a fine line between giving clear, straightforward information as well as instructions for specific cases, and assuring them that they are safe. It was not an easy balancing act, but between the two of us, and with lots of G-d's help, I think we did ok. They had questions, most of which I could answer. But the question that kept coming back (and I heard it even again today) was "Why? Why would someone do such a thing?". I think this is the question we've all been asking ourselves. For this question I have no answer.

Leiby did everything he was supposed to do. He really wanted to walk to meet his parents, and they went over the route with him. When he realized he was lost, he asked a "frum" person for help. Until yesterday, these were the instructions I would've given my own kids. But yesterday everything changed. There are now a new set of rules, and not just for the kids, mind you.

It is so, SO important that each and every set of parents out there have a talk with their kids. From what to do when a stranger approaches them on the street to what to do if someone molests them, G-d forbid. The sexual molestation out there is so prevalent it's terrifying, and yes, I mean in the Jewish community. I know teens and adults who were molested as children, and their pain will never ever go away. Most of these kids and adults were afraid to speak to their parents. Afraid to go to an adult. No one had ever spoken to them about such things or prepared them that these things happen. Please, please, please! Make your kids aware. Do it b'timimus and at a time that they feel safe and loved. But do it. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Leiby Kletzky, A"H

Yesterday things got busy, but today I had it all planned out. Today I was supposed to write all about the incredible Nefesh B'Nefesh ceremony I attended yesterday, about how inspiring and awesome it is to see a plane full of new Olim (245!) arrive. I was supposed to summarize the best parts of each speech, like how amazing it is that Natan Sharansky speaks to the Olim as they arrive, or how NBN will be bringing their 5,000th! immigrant to Israel this summer. I was also supposed to tell you how fantastic it was to see my friend come off the plane and join us, and how great it was to see another old friend whom I haven't seen since high school. But I waited too long, and we know that things can change in the blink of an eye, so today I have to write about death and loss and other terrible things that are too much to bear.

Most of you know by now about the 9 year old boy from Brooklyn, NY that went missing from his home Monday afternoon. Leiby left his day camp and was supposed to meet up with his parents for a doctor's appointment. Once again, the Jewish community came together in an unbelievable way. Over 2,000 volunteers hit the streets combing every inch of Brooklyn. Tips came pouring in, security cameras were watched and publicized for all to see so we could help. And the davening, once again the davening was amazing; not only did we all as individuals say tehillim, but a national teleconference was organized to say Tehillim together with thousands of Jews around the world.

But sometimes our prayers are answered as we ask, and sometimes they are not, and a little over 24 hours later, Leivy's remains were found in two different places in Brooklyn. This was the news that we read this afternoon, the news that made us come to a grinding halt, that we were forced to choke down moments before our own beautiful neshamos came breezing through the door. My 8 year old did not protest as I grabbed him and hugged him and breathed in his outdoorsy boy smell. He usually does, but today he must've understood that I needed that hug more than he'll ever know. It's hard to stay focused on the mundane when we hear of one of these tragedies, but I put my best foot forward and managed to put it out of my mind as much as I could while I made dinner and ran some errands. But now it's quieting down again.

Now I go back to FB and I see that yes, things can get worse. Another Jew was responsible for this brutal murder. All I can think of is how this little boy may have been lost and trusted another one of his "own kind", as the murderer was surely dressed the part. But little could Lieby Kletzy have known what wolves may lay in sheep's clothing. I don't want to say more, I don't want to think more about it, because like with Koby Mandel, A"H, all I can think about is the pain and fear that this little boy must've experienced in his last moments on earth.

I can only hug and kiss my own and give thanks for another day. I pray that the  Kletzky family knows no more sorrow and that G-d gives them the strength to somehow, someday move past this horrible tragedy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And a Hero Comes Along

When we conjure up images of bravery, we think of valiantly strong, often armor-clad individuals. I've been thinking about bravery a lot today, and I'm pretty convinced I've discovered one of the bravest people out there.

Tonight, Nefesh B'Nefesh's first charter flight leaves the US carrying a plane full of new immigrants that will please G-d land tomorrow morning bright and early. The trip ends with a huge ceremony welcoming these new Israelis home. It's a very large to-do, and you can watch it live (or later) on the NBN website. Tomorrow my good friend from high school arrives on the flight and I can't wait. I've been signed up (together with 2 of my kids) for a month, and I have been thinking about it all day. We ourselves didn't get the opportunity to come with NBN (either time!) and I'm very much looking forward. 

So back to the bravery part: this friend of mine is one of the sweetest, most wonderful people you'll ever meet. She's the girl who decorated every classmate's locker for their birthday, and is still the first one to remember my birthday to this day (without the help of FB, thank you vedy much). She is a tremendous baalat chesed and is a very integral part of her NY community. It's a wonder to many of us that she is still single.

So, when she told me last year that she is making Aliyah, I was beyond words. Make aliyah by herself, was she crazy? Did she not know how hard it is and what it entails? I came with an Israeli husband, a pre-fab family and in-laws built in, and still I struggle.

And then she said something to me that I'll never forget, and that made everything suddenly crystal clear. She said, "Listen, I always wanted to make Aliyah. I just figured I would get married, and then make Aliyah in that order, but obviously Hashem has it worked out differently, so why should I wait any longer to follow my dream? And yeah, if I move there and find my bashert, it's an added plus. But it's not the reason I'm going. I'm going because I love Israel and I've always wanted to live there."

There you have it; tremendous bravery. She's doing what she wants to do even though she knows there may be struggles ahead. She's far from naive; she's actually one of the most organized, calculated people I know. She isn't jumping blindly into this, far from it. She's smart, she's courageous and she is tremendously brave, and I'm very proud to call her my friend. 

You know who you are, have a safe flight and we'll see you on the ONLY side! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

We Made It!

Wow. Today I am amazed... at us. It's been exactly one year since we got on that plane and waved goodbye to our loved ones and started out on our journey. It's been a wild ride. It has been a very hard year in some respects, but for the most part it's been wonderful. I can't think of a better group of people I'd rather be sharing this journey with.  

To celebrate, BAW made Chinese for dinner, and we all sat down (for at least 5 minutes!) together. I tried to get each of the kids to talk about their experiences, good and bad this year, and to share some general feelings on moving to Israel. 

Here's what I got:

"Why are you asking me questions? That's weird."
"Her blog, for sure."
Ok, busted just a little bit. Undaunted I pressed on, and was happy I did. 

R: "I have the BEST Morah! And SOO many kids in my class, like 15! And there are like, wait (counts on his fingers), like FIVE doors to my gan!"

S: "It's good. I like living in R and I like living in Israel."

A: "Stop asking me! It'll take me like an hour and a half to explain it to you!" Um, ok. 

B: "Wait! I know just how to tell you!" Dashes from the room. Returns a few minutes later empty handed. He had been looking for a report he recently gave in front of the class (in Hebrew) titled, "My move to Israel and how it was hard." He can't find it because it was such a gem that I stashed it in his Memory Box. He continues on to say, "It's like amazing! There are so many kids, and so much to do and it's like so amazing!"

J: "What I realized after this year is that I can do anything. Anything. I mean, I moved across the world, walked into a classroom where I didn't know anyone, and didn't speak the language and I have good friends now! Not like I don't miss R sometimes, but living here is so different, there is so much to do, never boring like R was, and here you feel a part of the History, of the people, of the land. In a word: Awesome."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A few days of idle, but not for long...

This blog has been idle, and you know what they say about idle blogs...well, I dunno. Nothing devilish I hope. Not only has my blog been idle, but my dirty dishes, my mop and pail, my ever-filling hampers, and a whole lotta other stuff.

It's funny that my last post was about walking miles in any direction, as I've been particularly challenged in even walking downstairs over the past few days. I don't know if I've become particularly weak and kvetchy over the past year, or if the germs here really are stronger, or just different. This is twice now in a year, that I've been literally knocked on my back with some kind of illness. The first time was back in the winter when I had a terrible flu that lasted ten days, and took a full month until I was completely over it. This time it was a "simple" bout of strep, but seriously, there were moments that I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I'm not kidding. 

I spent most of three days in my bed whimpering in pain. Even with 4 (ok, 6, but don't tell anyone) Advil, I couldn't get my fever under 103 or my throat to stop feeling like someone was jamming a butcher knife down it. Even the unshakable PH looked kind of ruffled when I cried for him to take me to the emergency room and please, please get me an IV. Is that normal for strep? Is that normal for anything short of say, one's last dying moments?

Anywhoo, long story short I got a phone call from the doctor's office today telling me I have a strain of strep that does not respond to antibiotics and I have to wait for it to go away on it's own. Doctors and nurses alike out there, have you ever heard of such a thing?? I thought by definition strep is bacterial? Whatever. 

Thank g-d my strength is coming back, and I can stop texting my sisters goodbye messages. 

That's about it, just a quick update to let you know where I've been, and no more. Because you know what they say: A functioning blog means everything else around me is falling apart.