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Friday, April 26, 2013

Lip gloss, Pyromania and Emergency rooms

On our journey to absorption, adjustment, integration, whichever term fits we can now add another experience:  Home birthday party.  Wow, was that an experience.  Now is as good a time as any to recall the backyard obstacle course I built two years ago for N & L's birthday parties.  I love making creative home parties and I think our kids and their friends have generally rather enjoyed themselves.  A dear friend, B, once told me that she just loved watching Michael and me in party action.  Well, dear readers, ulpan doesn't really give you the vocab necessary to reign in thirteen 8-year olds.  It was a rather rowdy group and there were several little future criminals, lawyers in the group.  We had a lip gloss making dance party.  When it was time to break into small groups so that the girls could choreograph their performances the arguments began.  One group absolutely could not agree and when Michael went in to broker a peace deal so to speak, another girl came complaining to me "zeh lo fair, zeh lo fair" (does that really need translation?)  Apparently it offended her sense of fairness that an adult was helping another group and might give them an extra advantage in the final dance-off.  Or she didn't like the color of her lip gloss.  Beats me because she was talking so fast I didn't stand a chance.  The important part is that L had a great time and (I think) so did the rest of her class.  It has been rather remarkable to watch the transition as L has gone from new kid who doesn't speak the language to accepted girl with friends who speaks enough to participate.

Sunday Michael leaves for France for work.  Great timing for him as the kids don't have school on Sunday or Monday and apparently it will become bonfire city (countrywide) on Sunday night to celebrate Lag B'Omer  (Jewish holiday).  It's also great timing since the weather is projected to be over 90 degrees, perfect for dozens and dozens of gigantic bonfires consuming branches, discarded doors, and pretty much anything made out of wood that hasn't been nailed down.

Hopefully the hot day/cool night pattern will stick, because everyone is super excited.  The kids have been collecting wood with their friends for about two months for the huge group bonfires.  Will keep you posted.  N has an all day olympiad to participate in on Monday so I will get some downtime with just the girls.

Update on my medical licensing.  I received my license before Pesach which means I can now practice medicine in Israel.  This is great.  Now, in order to receive specialty recognition I need to work for 3 months in an emergency department (much less than what physicians from outside of North America need to do, and of note, foreign docs who want to get licensed in U.S. have to redo their entire training).  I met yesterday with the director of Shaarei Tzedek, which houses the busiest ED in Jerusalem.  Looks like a great place to do my histaklut as soon as I can find 3 months in a row which will likely be next Fall.  In the meantime I am hoping to start working at an urgi-care this summer, so that I can LEARN HEBREW and start to get the sense of how medicine is practiced here.

Friday, April 19, 2013


What a crazy week this has been.  It seems that the world is raging around us.  In the U.S., the horrible attack in Boston, poison sent to a U.S. Senator, and the fertilizer plant tragedy in Oklahoma seem to have come as a one-two-three punch to all of us.
On the Israeli end, terrorists fired rockets from the Sinai into Eilat.  Thank God everyone got to safety before the rockets landed.

It seems strange to blog about "everyday life" in light of these events, but everyday life must go on.  In fact, affirming everyday life may be among the best tools we have to deal with tragedy.  To that end:

Last week was Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) which is followed by Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day).  It is a difficult transition to go from a very sad day to a very happy day and L actually asked me as we were headed out for a Memorial Ceremony before beginning the Independence day celebration how people could go from being so sad to so happy.  The night Memorial Day started N went to a program with a friend.  I stayed home with the girls because A is too young to understand and I wasn't sure how much L would understand (especially as it is of course in Hebrew).   When N got home I sat down to talk about it with him.  He told me it was very sad because many young soldiers had died when they had their whole lives ahead of them.  He also told me that he felt scared because "when they were reading the names from the list I realized that my name could be on that list one day, and I don't want it to."  What could I say?   It's scary for all of us and something that I hope we never ever have to face.   The sirens sound for a moment of silence at night and once during the day.  It is a very powerful sound and emotion as an entire nation of people stops to recognize, remember and mourn those killed in action.

This is all followed by a huge celebration that marks Israeli Independence Day.  I had heard about how amazing Yom Haatzmaut is in Israel so I was sort of prepared to be disappointed.  I figured that reports had likely been exaggerated.  Boy was I wrong.  First we went to a Memorial ceremony at our local congregation.   I didn't understand all of it but they did a good job, remembering and mourning.  They read names from a list of people who had relatives in our congregation.  Unfortunately, with Israel being such a small country and so surrounded by enemies, many families had a loved one whose name was read. There was a drum roll and the raising of the Israeli flag from half mast.  Afterwards we all sang the national anthem and then the kids performed some songs and dances and we all joined in for some traditional folk dancing.  Next we headed to the main drag in our town "Rothschild Street."  It is hard to describe the scene.  What a feast for the senses.  It was like one long street fair/carnival.  There was music and dancing and street performers, fire eaters, jugglers, people on stilts, people as statues, balloons, kids carnival games.  And of course tons of street fair food.  I had no idea cotton candy was so delicious.  The excitement and celebration was unbelievable (and Tricia if you're reading---not like that.)  I don't think I have ever been to a party like that.  Our little town did an amazing job.  Savta Joanie and Saba Paul also had a thrilling time (Joan could have been hired as the town photographer).  We even met the mayor and told him that we were new immigrants to the town and had our picture taken with him.  We dragged the kids away at midnight but they were still going strong. 

Also, my dad who had been in the hospital a few days after his first chemo gained his independence and went home on Yom Haatzmaut.  Hooray!

The next day we went to an air force base across the street.  Five thousand of our closest friends had the same idea so it took about an hour to get to the base once we exited our town (normally perhaps a 7 minute drive).   It was super duper windy but that did not stop the air force from doing an amazing Red Baron air show!  We had fun again looking at all the different air crafts and exhibits (and of course eating the ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy!).  Interestingly, N proclaimed that he would wait to leave Israel for the major leagues until after his army service.  He even turned to L and told her "hey, we'll be in the army at the same time." 

A few days later marked the end of the visit from grandparents.  They took us out for a last night celebration dinner.  Funnily, the restaurant was called "Breishit" (beginnings).  But to be so cliche, I suppose every ending is a beginning.  Anyway, the restaurant was in a nearby town which is rather artsy and fun.  It was a very quaint, rustic setting and after a fabulous meal (who knew Israelis had so mastered fish and chips!) we went out to the courtyard where N filmed his first movie "Chicken and the Roosters."  It is about a man who is called Chicken because he is afraid of so much.  He must get an egg from the roosters in order to have a perfect breakfast.  It's a comedy.   He wanted me to post it to the blog but since Michael was the main actor and Saba Paul had a large role I'll need to get their permission.   L and A did some song and dance performances for us and then we went back to Mazkeret to have cake as a belated birthday celebration for N and L.  Was really a perfect evening.  It was hard to say goodbye.

Yesterday, we got back into some routine.  The kids took my ipad and were trying to get Siri (who can be addressed even when the ipad is locked) to give them the password for the parental lock.  At a certain point I think A was highly confused.  Wait a minute, she wondered, "how does it talk without a mouth?"  She was clearly recalling some theological questions she has been asking about how God can "speak", although incorporeal.   Is Siri. . . ?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

It's my party and I'll sit out if I want to

Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations have begun.  Israeli flags and blue/white banners are popping up everywhere and the spirit of pride and excitement is contagious.   This morning we went with Paul and Joan to a celebration at the community center with all of our town's pre-K schools.  There were apparently 720 kids.  It was quite a moving production with singing and dancing and lots of blue and white crepe paper.   Ariella participated for about half and then decided to join us.  I was more of a ham myself so it's different to have a child who prefers to observe and absorb than stand in the spotlight.   The mayor even came and after making a speech he released some blue and white balloons (to the ceiling--we were indoors so don't worry about the environment!)

After a few minutes, Ariella turned to Michael and asked "Whose party is this?"   Oy, I felt for her.  I don't think she has really wrapped her head around the idea of nations and independence.

Yesterday we went to "Mini Israel" with Joan and Paul.  It was pretty interesting and fun for the kids (who were particularly enthralled by a soccer match in a mini-Teddy Stadium).  After mini-Israel, N had a baseball game and according to Michael this one was actually pretty close.  His team (Gezer Bats) won 8-7 against the Bet Shemesh Predators.  First they were up, then the Predators tied it, and then they were up, and then the Predators tied it, etc., until the Predators were actually up 7-6 going into the bottom of the last inning.  Nehemiah handled himself admirably in the field as well as at the plate with a solid fly ball which was unfortunately caught.  Nonetheless, the Gezer Bats are actually undefeated this year.  I don't remember that happening with the Bad news bears but life doesn't always imitate t.v.

Meanwhile the last month has seen a real change with the kids.  I think we have gotten over the first hurdle (doesn't matter that there are so many hurdles still ahead).  Most of their friends from school live within a few blocks of us and now after school they are going to this one, that one.  In the US you might have called it "play dates" but here it seems more informal and is arranged by the children.  More like what I remember from my own childhood.   It is so nice to see them hanging out with their new friends and feeling included.  My Hebrew had better pick up fast or I will have no idea what they are talking about with their friends--though I must admit that this is already an issue!

We are currently in the time period between the Passover holiday and Shavuot holiday.  These two are very thematically linked and we actually count the days between the two each night.  Anyway, on the 33rd day there is a custom in Israel to have bonfires and I can not begin to describe the wood collecting that our children and all of their friends are involved in.  This is not the time of year to bring your wood working out because the kids collect any wood they find in anticipation of the bonfires.  It is commonplace to see gaggles of kids running around with tree branches,  door frames, beams.  Pretty much any piece of wood not nailed down is fair game.  You would need an elaborate court system to determine which wooden piles belong to which groups but the children's information network seems to do a pretty good job monitoring all of that.  Though just the other day we had to mediate a dispute where one group was collecting from a pile stashed by another group, and the object of the dispute was whether the hiding place was private property or not.  (We thought it was not, and Michael's brilliant counsel amounted to "stop involving us, work it out yourselves").

I'll post this now before it gets too late because as my dad used to say when we were kids "It's almost time to get up."

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Here we are

Empty parkings lots and stores completely closed at 7 pm on a Sunday night even though we were at a major outdoor shopping mall.  That's because Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial day) was beginning.  Savta Joanie and Saba Paul (grandparents) are visiting us and had taken the kids to Toys 'r us to each pick out a gift.  With all the activity of the last few days we hadn't realized what day it was until we saw everything starting to close.  We had stopped at a little felafel stand at the mall and watched the place empty out.   It's hard to explain in words how that felt but as we drove home past closed stores and empty parking lots the feeling that we are in deed living in a Jewish country sunk in because the entire country is involved in the memorial.  We were told that tomorrow at 10am sirens will sound and everyone will stop what they are doing (to include apparently drivers on the road) and stand at attention for two minutes of silence in memory of all the murdered victims.

Also of note, today was a day that a group of cyber hackers who call themselves "anonymous"  (really?) vowed to "wipe Israel off the virtual map" and tried to bring all the servers down.  So of course I specifically wanted to post my blog today as a way to say, be it eating felafel in our land or posting about it virtually----still here.