Monday, January 23, 2012

200 Strong

I already had my next post all planned out, but when I opened Blogger today I was stopped in my tracks. To date I have posted 199 posts, and if all goes well this will be my 200th post! (girly shriek here)

It's kind of amazing since I started years ago with not much to say. I woke up in the middle of the night one night and starting making The Lists. The lists that you make when you can't sleep. The lists that have hundreds of things to do on them, of which only tens will actually come to fruition. It was brilliant--#759: Start a blog! Why? Because everyone is doing it! 

The name came to me immediately (oh boy, did I think I was clever!). Nekuda Tova literally means "good point", an excellent name for a blog. But I would put a little Bresslov twist in there. Rebbe Nachman of Bresslov is famous for seeing the good in all Jews and reminding us all that we all have a Nekuda Tova, a "good part". And hence my tagline was born: Nekuda Tova: we've all got one. 

Cut to the next groggy morning. I signed into blogger, set myself up, and there I was! Viola! My own platform from which to shout my many opinions! My own soap box to stand upon and declare my views! 

But then something funny happened. I realized I had absolutely nothing interesting to say. At all. Not only was I not feeling funny or interesting, I was feeling downright cowardly. Who was I to think that anyone actually wanted to hear what I have to say? Won't it be weird to put my whole life out for public viewing? Ew. Thus my very first writer's block was born. How I wished to write something funny, witty, interesting! I would come back day after day, take a deep breath and...give up. Nadda.

You can look back at the first posts, but I'm pretty sure it was more than a full year from the time I opened my blogger account until I actually put something out there. And it was rocky at the beginning. I had no idea where the blog was going. I was unsure what my actual point (good or bad!) was. I would carefully, cautiously type out every sentence; checking, double checking not to reveal too much and yet keep it interesting. 

Gone are those days, let me tell you! Boy have things changed. As I sit here on my 200th post, I write with reckless abandon. It usually takes me no more than 15 min to throw you something to read and my only regret is that I wish I had more time to write. The biggest obstacle I've overcome is WHO I'm writing for. While I started out nervous to impress, or anxious about my audience, I now realize that I write for one person, and one person only, and that's me. It's very freeing to put "pen to paper" at the end of the day and actually come up with something coherent and expressive. 

But, some things actually haven't changed at all. I still love the blog's name. And oh boy, do I still think I am so clever. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No More Excuses

The Abuse Scandal in Nachlaot has become fully exposed in the the past day or two thanks to A Mother in Israel's translation of the Israel HaYom article. I warn you in advance, it's terrible. It will leave you reeling, and if you can't handle it, you shouldn't read it. 

I can't (won't) post a link here because my kids are my biggest blog fans and I don't want them reading details or anything about it. A and J, you are young. There is much time to hear horrible things. And there are plenty of horrible things to hear. You will thank me later, I promise. The rest of you are savvy enough to do your own internet search and find the article that A Mother in Israel has posted on her blog. A and J, don't even think about it. 

That said, and you now having read it, take a deep breath. Cry a little and have some tea. That's what I did. I heard about it over a week ago, so I may be ahead of some of you and behind a lot of you. Now, after your cry, come and get angry with me. Get angry for those kids, and their parents and the fact that they can't even promise their babies that these monsters are in jail. 

We all have a lot of questions: How could this have gone on for over a year and no one noticed? How could these same monsters have been one and the same people who the parents welcomed into their homes week after week. How could such things have happened right under the parents' noses? How could such a thing have gone on, period?

I don't have time or the heart to get into it again. Like I said, every time I dwell on it, it only saddens and depresses me. I think simply that we are a trusting people. We trust our neighbors and our fellow Jews. It's a lesson that Leiby Kletzky a'h helped us learn the hard way. Maybe we need to stop being so trusting. Maybe we need to talk to our kids more about the realities of our sad, sad world and tell them not to be too trusting either. 

The hardest thing to stomach is that most of these "people" (if we can call them that) are still roaming the streets. Due to the parents "tampering" with evidence (by questioning the children themselves before they were brought to the police, or even showing them pictures of the suspects), most of the testimony of the children has been thrown out and is inadmissible in court. In the article it says the testimony of one 3 year old victim was thrown out because the parents gave her candy so she would speak to the police. Bribery? Coercion? Who the H knows. But it's maddening. 

So here we are again. There are lunatics down the block from me burning trash, slashing tires of buses as they go by, harassing young girls, and generally abusing passersby. The police have to be begged to interfere, and do so only after they received some really bad PR on several news channels. And  once again, in this horrible story the law actually stands in the way of true justice. I wonder how these detectives or interrogators can sleep at night. Maybe I've watched one too many a cop show late at night, but I always understood justice to be something that the police WANT. Something that in this case they will stand up for and get these losers off the streets. 

Honestly, Israeli police, I've had it. Find a way. Get past whatever legalese or fear of "wrongdoing" that's holding you back. Risk losing your job. Show some moral conviction and some strength of character. Get this scum off  of the streets, period. Case closed. No more excuses. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

What's Going on in Bet Shemesh, You Ask?

So, a lot of people from afar have been asking me what's going on in Beit Shemesh. (And please don't ever, ever call it BaiS Shemesh.) The answer is a whole lot of nothing and...everything.

When I leave my house I don't have to dodge rocks or spit or other unmentionables. No one ever yells "SHIKSA" at me when I go shopping, at least not in my neighborhood. My kids b'h are not victims of any sort of religious harassment. So don't worry, we personally are not under siege. (You might be curious: on a personal note, we are not on the ultra-frum side of things. But don't worry: my hemlines are still ok and even though TPH now wears a Kippah srugah, yes, we are still Jewish. Shocking, I know.)

On the other hand, a whole heck of a lot is going on just down the hill and it's too close for comfort. In Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, a mere 15 min walk from where we live, worlds are colliding and it ain't pretty. The most recent wave of protests started in September when a National Religious school opened up near an ultra orthodox neighborhood. Today's and yesterday's news out of Bet is that there are many ultra-orthodox men protesting. But by protesting I don't mean marching with signs. In RBS B protesting means burning and flipping dumpsters. It means pouring gallons of oil onto the roads to make driving dangerous. It means blocking traffic by sitting in front of buses at crowded intersections. It means throwing cinder blocks into car windows, with or without children inside. And it means more verbal abuse to anyone different who dares pass through their neighborhood. 

So what exactly are they protesting? Well, tomorrow it might be something else, but today they are protesting the arrest of 6 of their community members who have been arrested for tax fraud, money laundering and collecting money under the pretense of charity. What exactly is there to protest? That we live in a country governed by actual (gasp!) laws? That we don't live in the wild west? That swindlers have been caught? What exactly IS there to protest? Maybe they do really feel that these individuals are innocent, but I fear that in this case "protest" means "display our anger and frustration in any way we deem appropriate". 

What starts to get scary is that the Aida chareidiS  (yes, that one's fine with an S) reportedly took a stand today and said that as a group they do not follow Israeli law and will not abide by laws or enforcement by police. That above all, Torah is law. This particular usage of Torah scares me because I'm not quite sure where they've found in the Torah that it's ok to spit on little girls, harass grown women, or to make the roads (in their own neighborhoods?) dangerous to drive on. 

We had an interesting conversation on Shabbos regarding the Parsha. There are 70 years missing in Moshe Rabeinu's life that is not chronicled in the Torah. Every year, (Shemos, Va'era, Bo) we like to take down the Midrash and find exactly what Moshe was up to during those years. Pretty interesting if you ever want to take a look. 

This year TPH drew our attention to something very specific that actually is in the p'sukim. In the Torah that WE learn in our house, it says that Moshe fled from Paroah to Midyan. There the daughters of Yitro were trying to draw water from the well and were being harassed and chased away from the well by the local shepherds. Moshe (and I'm pretty sure we all hold of Moshe Rabeinu) didn't spit at these non Jewish girls who were most probably not dressed according to the "frummest" of standards. He didn't sit from afar and yell "PRUTZA" at them. Instead, he stepped up to the plate, er, well and did what any real Torah abiding frum Jew would do. He helped them. They weren't Jewish, but he stepped forward and helped another person in need.  I'm pretty sure the word used there is "and he saved them". 

These are the type of people that I see when I open the Chumash. To me Moshe Rabeinu is somebody that my sons can model their behavior after. Now, I'm not sure what Torah these other folks are learning or where it says in their Torah that they are justified to act the way they do, but once again I know that the best I can do is teach my kids that in our Torah we act like Moshe Rabeinu. Simply? Be a mentch!

So while things are coming to an ugly head down the road, I applaud and thank those people who are brave enough and invested enough to take a stand against this craziness in any way that they can. And to those people who just sit on the couch and watch what's going on with a "that doesn't affect me" eye, you are so very wrong. Today it's just down the road. But if it's not stopped soon who knows where it will be tomorrow? 

So that's what's going on in Bet Shemesh. In MY Bet Shemesh however, it's the same old, same old. Grocery shopping, working, homework, cleaning the floors, the occasional breakfast with friends or husband if I'm lucky. Oh, and teaching my kids that no matter what, in OUR Torah we learn from the best, and if nothing else, we are mentchen. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gang Wars

A peaceful Shabbos afternoon....

I was just drifting off with N and TPH both snoring gently nearby. Suddenly, the  main door flies open and I hear B stumble in sobbing. Before I even open my eyes, somehow BAW is awake, dressed and down the stairs to investigate. B who is turning 9 this week is gasping for air and can't catch his breath. He's sobbing and wailing like I've never heard before. By now I've grabbed whatever sweatshirt and boots (boots?) that are lying nearby and am on my way downstairs. BAW has already run out the door, while B lays looking wounded on the couch. He still can't catch his breath. When he does he wails, "The Arabs! On Tzeilim! Are beating up A!"

With an animal-like roar I scream at whoever is in the house "DO NOT LEAVE THIS HOUSE!" I am out the door and on Tzeilim in less than 10 seconds. No one. Nothing. My heart is pounding, I can't breathe. I move faster than I have in a long time. Hashem has mercy on me and I see friends of B brandishing 3 foot long metal poles. They look scared but ok. "WHERE IS A??"

And suddenly he's there, loping towards me in a way that only pre-pubecent boys can; awkward and growing, light on their feet but heavy all at once. He is not bleeding, he looks fine. Oh thank G-d he looks fine. 

BAW is a step behind and he's looking determined. "A said some kids were beating up B and his friends."


"No, no, just some neighborhood kids." 

And I sigh in relief for only second until my Mama Bear claws come out in earnest. "WHO? WHERE?  HOW?" BAW and A look really scared now because once I am unleashed, that's it, and they both know it.

The story starts to unfold. There have been these "gang wars" (for lack of a better term) going on between my B and his friends and another group of 8-13 year olds in the neighborhood. It started a few months ago with a clubhouse. "Our" boys built themselves a treehouse and one day the other boys saw them and decided to yell at them and threaten them until they left. It was the only other time I have seen B this hysterical. Apparently, "our" boys had found another spot and had stocked it with sticks, poles and piping in case the other boys decided to stop by. Which they did. Insults flew, and some of their boys held our boys' hands behind their backs while others punched them in the stomach. 

Arabs, no. But not good either. I literally chased the kids down. I found one on his porch and yelled up to his father about what had happened. I only stuck around long enough to hear the kid crying and screaming while a very embarrassed father came back to the porch to tell me "it was taken care of and it wouldn't happen again." I tracked down another group who I told that if they touched any kid I know again I'm calling the police. Most of them looked nervous enough and went on their way. 

And then there was the instigator. A little shrimp of no more than 9 or 10. Who got right in my face and told me to call the police, "What will they do to me anyway? They won't believe you. I'll just make up a lie about how they started with us!" This was the one who punched my B while the bigger one held his hands behind his back. It took every ounce of strength I have not to pick him up by his collar and slam him against the wall. In retrospect, I'm sure it was a bit of a scene especially because it was mincha time and every man in RS was on his way in or out of shul. But I don't care. Seriously, you don't mess. 

Once everyone seemed to disperse, (Oh, and BAW magically reappeared after ducking in for a quick mincha, "What? I knew you had it under control!") we took ours home and had many, many long talks. We talked about the type of "friends" who get you into sticky situations like that. We spoke about all being part of one community, one neighborhood, one "Am". 

We closed with self defense lessons. You'd think that there would be a lot of joking around. Not this time. This time the instructions were given clearly and concisely, and were first demonstrated by BAW on A. Then they each had to try to break out of an arm hold or other type of hold. 

A few lessons learned: My gentle, nervous American boys have got to learn the difference between Arabs and 12 year old street fighters. Next time I cannot promise I won't have a genuine heart attack. My sweet American boys have got to become a little more street smart. And I never thought I'd say this, but my peaceful American mentchen have got to step up their game and they have to learn to fight. If not to fight, then to at least defend themselves. Hey, Big Mama K can't always be on the prowl. Sometimes a girl just needs a shabbos nap!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Changes for the Big Ones

Making Aliyah at any age is tough. Making Aliyah with kids is tougher. Making Aliyah with medium/large kids is really tough. 

BH my brood has settled in nicely even if we could still used a few good Hebrew lessons every week. In Israel most elementary schools end in 6th grade, and 7th-8th although middle school are attached to the high schools. So, 6th grade is a big year for girls and boys alike. For the girls it's a year full of bat mitzva parties, entrance exams and visiting prospective schools and then making the big decision. I'm finding this year a bit more stressful with J in 6th, more than when A was in 6th last year. For A, this year of 7th grade has been more challenging; a new school, longer hours, bar mitzva practice and increased learning and school. 

Back to J: she's been pining to go visit Chorev in Yerushalayim to check it out. I've been pretty much against it. It's far; it would mean a 40min to 1 hour commute each way every day ("But there are vans that go from RBS every day and I'll be with friends during the ride!"). It is very academic and although I think she's just about the smartest girl on earth, I wonder if she'll be able to hack it. IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE. ("Remember Imma, I've been here for a year and a half! I speak Hebrew!")

Long story short, I was blown away. I have heard only good things about the school, but unless I see something for myself I am the forever-skeptic. What impressed me most was not the gorgeous multi-building campus, nor the highly academic courses, or even the top notch staff. It was not the fact that we met in the science building in one of several auditoriums. What impressed me most was the girls. Now, I'm not an idiot; I know they bring their finest girls to answer our questions and to represent. But I was struck at how refined each and every girl we met was, and how articulate and mature. 

After we left there were two girls from Michlala standing outside who asked us for a ride towards the central bus station. Once they got in we they asked if we had just been to the open house and what we thought. They told us that they themselves were Chorev graduates and again, we continued to have a frank, mature conversation about the pros and the cons of the school. 

It won't be such a hard sell on me anymore. I'm still wary of her traveling so far away every day. The size of the school (750 girls!) freaks out this small town girl just a tad. But being there, looking at that school and the quality of those girls reminded me that although making Aliyah may have been one of the hardest things that we've ever done as a family, it's good. It's really good. 

Here's to hoping that Hashem will once again guide us and help us chose the right thing so that each one of our children will grow in every way and each one of them will reach their true potential. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

My New Life as a Working Woman

I cannot count the times I've opened up this blog template and tried to start...something. ANYTHING! But alas, as always, real life comes before pen to paper. Sigh.

I got a job in mid-October and if you'll notice, it's just about the same time I stopped writing. Recently during one hectic morning while I was putting in a load of laundry, I was trying to explain (to the child gagging on toothpaste) what a "necessary evil" is. Well, this job is one. I'm pretty sure all jobs are necessary evils. Necessary, but evil nonetheless.

On the "pro" side, I get to chose my own hours and work from home. On the "con" side, well...I get to choose my own hours and work from home. I never understood when people who work from home complain how hard it is. Puleeze. It's the perfect balance, I thought. Type a few things on the computer, throw in a load of laundry, make a few calls, do some dishes, right?

Wrong. Oh so wrong. Maybe it's because this job involves all sorts of deadlines and pressure and people waiting on me, and me pressuring people, but to say the least it's been a stressful transition for everyone. It's hard to know when to step away from the computer and do what absolutely has to get done at home. It's also hard not to answer those phone calls when I know someone needs something from me at work. I have to often remind myself that 7 people also need something from me here, too.

It's also hard not to play hooky once in a while and head out with TPH for breakfast or to take one child out of school for some one on one time when I really should be working.

And it's REALLY hard not to feel like a shmatta all the time :( My migraines have increased three-fold at least, I never get out to walk or exercise anymore and my house looks like a tornado hit. Because I work both opposite and Israeli office and an American office, I don't get to bed before 1am and it shows. I tried starving everyone the first few weeks but that didn't go over too well, so I did start making supper again recently. Like all beginnings it was hard. But like always, we get over it and move on and keep on movin'.

On the positive side, the people I work for are wonderful, and to show their thanks for my hard work, they treated me and TPH to a shabbos up North in one of these hotel/resort places near the ocean. It was a perfect chance to recharge our batteries (even though N joined us :) and we had a really nice time. But here I am again, deadlines to meet, phone calls to make, dishes to wash and laundry to fold! Perfect balance indeed.