Saturday, October 18, 2014

“Alone” On Simchat Torah?

[explanatory note to non-Jewish readers: On the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, which this year fell on Wednesday evening and Thursday day, it is customary for the men to dance and sing with the Torah scrolls. Women often watch from their section.]

     As I mentioned a few days ago, we had no guests for the first day of Sukkot, and only on Shabbat. Then on Simchat Torah we were again “guestless”.
    Somehow, being by oneself for the holiday is worse than not having guests for Shabbat. On the holidays, nearly all my friends had oodles of visitors. Many had to limit the number of couples coming, due to the logistics of fitting everyone into the succah.
    I understand very well why my children were unable to attend. They all had excellent reasons. Yet I still felt rather “stuck”.
    Somehow, we all tend to base our “simchas yom tov” (holiday happiness) on the externals: the food, the clothing, etc, which is OK, up to a point. After all, there is a REASON why our sages tell us to honor the day with wine and meat, and tell men to buy presents for their wives. The externals affect us.
    However, that should not be the entirety of our pleasure in the holiday. A good friend asked which synagogue I would be attending Wednesday evening for the dancing with the Torah scrolls. My reply was that I saw no reason to push myself through a crowd of other women to watch THEIR families dance. If I have no husband, children, or grandchildren there, why should I bother?
   However, on Wednesday evening I felt differently. I decided to YES go to the synagogue, to hear the dancing and singing. The simcha (happiness) of the Torah is also mine. I have participation in my offspring’s Torah study. And I have made sacrifices to keep the Torah as well. My happiness on the holiday should not disappear just because I have no one dancing downstairs to point to (and brag about). Even if no one will notice the delicacies that I cooked for the holiday, nor the new dress I purchased for myself, I can foster my own connection with G-d, based more on internals than externals.

   So I “invited” G-d for the holiday, and I was not alone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Sukkah Table Porter

    During the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles), we eat for the entire week in a “sukkah” (see HERE if unfamiliar with this).
[image: our sukkah]
     Although I had no guests expected for the first day of the holiday (there might be a blog on this later….), for Shabbat (the Sabbath) I was expecting our son and his large family to come spend the day and a half here. So at noon on Wednesday I decided to set up one table, planning to open my second folding table on Friday. One table is in good condition, the second is getting old, and I knew that it was on its “last legs”. I decided to open the second one… and I am glad that I did, as it promptly broke. “Broke” as in: “died”, “croaked”, “kaput” and “terminally finished”.  It was 12:30. Stores were closing, and would not reopen that day , or on Friday.
   Sizing up the specter of everyone partaking the Shabbat meals without benefit of a table, I grabbed my purse and dashed out the door. The first two stores I tried had no folding tables left, with trepidation I headed over to the third (and last) hardware store in the area. It happens to be my favorite; the manager there is both honest and helpful.  He informed me that I was in luck. He had a final table in his storage area, and sent his brother to haul it out for me.
-          “But how in the world will you get it home?”
-          “I’ll carry it. I only live three blocks away.”
-          “You don’t have anyone to carry it for you? It IS pretty heavy….”
-          “If necessary, I’ll take a taxi.”
   Well, the second I lifted it, I realized that a taxi was definitely in order.  I turned around , heading away from home, and towards the taxi, when an eighteen year old asked “Hey, do you need help with that lady?”
-“Oh, I think I will need a taxi.”
-“A TAXI? In this traffic jam??”, as he gestured towards the street. “Which direction do you live?”
-“I live three blocks away, THAT way.”
-“I’ll take it for you.”
   I agreed, after ascertaining that he would let me pay him, although he refused to take more than a Taxi (in non-traffic jam situations) would. In addition he lugged it up the three floors to my apartment, as well as the additional flight to my roof.  I offered him a cool drink and suddenly he said “I know you from somewhere.  Do you maybe know my mother, H___?”

   Yes, I do. And he is just a “chip off the old block”. She is also the active, impulsive type, eager to help anyone that she can. (After he left I gave her a quick call just to let her know how fantastic a teen she has…….)

PS. By the way, HE could walk faster WITH the table than I could WITHOUT it. He kept telling me I didn't have to try so hard to keep up. (I was carrying his bags for him, so I was not concerned that he was going to take off with it.)  Women, men are a different species....

Resilience defines RESILIENCE as:
the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

  In Wikipedia the following points are made:
“Resilience should be considered a process, rather than a trait to be had. There is a common misconception that people who are resilient experience no negative emotions or thoughts and display optimism in all situations. Contrary to this misconception, the reality remains that resiliency is demonstrated within individuals who can effectively and relatively easily navigate their way around crises and utilize effective methods of coping. In other words, people who demonstrate resilience are people with positive emotionality; they are keen to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.”

     I believe that a large part of this flexibility and inner strength can come ONLY when you have come to accept yourself as an imperfect human being. When we expect ourselves to be perfect, not acknowledging the pain of certain situations, we are sitting ourselves up for self-bashing. [When talking to parents of new infants with Down syndrome, I worried most about those who were in the “Gee I’m so grateful G-d chose us!” mode; those who admitted to the pain where better able to take the steps needed to keep their families emotionally healthy.] When we engage in overthinking how terrible we are, we waste our energy there, instead of taking active steps to cope.
    Here are my ideas on weathering challenging foibles of life:
    First we need to ascertain exactly what is bothering us, what is the situation. Is this caused by something you have control (even partial) over, that you can rectify? Is this caused by someone else that you cannot control (or choose not to control)?
     If the distressing situation was caused by something you did, you need to forgive yourself for not having been perfect. (This does not mean absolving yourself from taking rectifying action in the future, by the way….) For example:
1)       I think I should have done more fun things with my children when they lived here, and been less concerned on accomplishing my “to do” list. This does not make me a bad parent (I DID do things with them, just not as much as I think I should have) or an evil person. I was trying my best, and there were definite reasons for what I did. (However, this does not mean that I shouldn’t be careful not to let my “to-do list” preempt time with my grandchildren!)
2)      I was terribly overweight for many years, and that was because I made poor choices. It does not mean that I was an un-worthy human being. It means that I needed to take action, but that means NOTHING about my value as a human being.

    If the situation is caused by someone (or something) you can not control (including   G-d), you can acknowledge that the situation hurts, and that you wish things were different. You need to accept the fact that you can not necessarily change the situation.  Your Uncle Al may one day wake up and decide that his low opinion of you is wrong (and therefore stop criticizing you), but it may not be likely. Neither is your teen likely to become more neat, nor are you very likely to win the lottery and become rich. YOU can only decide what you are willing to live with, which may often be things you do not like, but the ramifications of change may be worse (ie, “jumping from the frying pan into the fire). The major point here is that you do not need to feel bad that there IS the situation, that you don’t like it, and that you are doing the best that you can.  For example:
-          Shortly after  Ricki was born, I was at a friend’s new baby’s son circumcision feast. Several people there praised me for being so “upbeat”. I turned to a good friend and confided “Sometimes I feel like SCREAMING that this was not the baby I had prayed for.”   SHE had a baby with cancer; she understood, nodding. She said that “accepting G-d’s will” does not mean saying that everything is great. It is simply keeping your connection with G-d, and not throwing everything out the window.

     Some situations are very painful. Acknowledging that you feel that way is what allows you to move on and deal with it.
    Once we have accepted our feelings, and recognized ourselves as fallible human beings, we can move on to the next step. The next step is to make an action plan to deal with the situation. I will not go into great detail now, as I have covered this before  HERE and HERE:   

    But let me add that when dealing with stressful situations, part of the plan needs to be dedicated to reducing contributing triggers (ie, the need to eat healthy, sleep well, etc). And try to be kind to yourselves as well.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My New Goals for the Next Several Weeks, Plus a Mazel-Tov

    Unfortunately yesterday evening I overate again… this overeating Saturday evening has become a vile habit… I was confident that this week I would lick it, but I didn’t completely. But I am not giving up and I have to try to think up some strategy that will work.
    It’s as if a sudden mood of madness envelopes me.
   Thinking deeper, I think that it is related to being on the computer late at night, which is often a trigger for overeating for me. I always get plenty of sleep Friday evening plus a nap on Saturday, so I am wide awake at 10 PM. So I get on the computer, and the snacking begins.
1)        Set a clock by the computer with a firm resolution not to go beyond a set time. No watching true crime shows (WHY in heaven’s name do I even WATCH this junk??? The plot is always the same: spouse kills partner due to lover…. BLEECH).  I will need to push off ALL non-essential computer stuff until Sunday day.
2)        Don’t rely on my general “be-good before and during-the-holidays-prize” that I have lined up. (Which is expensive enough that it SHOULD be doing the trick, but it isn’t.) Choose a prize to enjoy Sunday if I do OK.
3)        After set time on computer finishes, read a book in BED.

    I really am determined that now is the time to finally get rid of the last two-three  kilos to get to the upper limit of my maintenance weight range. And preferably, I want to reach a few kilos below that.  I plan to maintain my weight over the upcoming holidays (which will be a feat in itself; I always gain holiday time….), and thenover the next month and a half after that to lose and get into, finally, my goal weight range. It’s about time.
*  *   *   *
Mazel tov to me! I have a new grandson!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ballet / Making Time for Ourselves

[Image: Ballet dancer Anna Pavlova]

     When I was a kid, not only was I overweight, but I was “klutzy” as well. My mom, hoping that ballet lessons would help me, sent me to learn to dance. And I loved it. All through the years, even when I weighed the most, I enjoyed dance . And my all-time favorite music to dance to was Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”.   And as a child, I often wished that I could see a REAL ballet performance.
   The reason I put “Anna Pavlova’s picture here was that as a young girl, I had read about her, and I adored the image of the poor girl who by hard work had pursued her dream and “made it”. To me, she is the image of ballet. Yet I also remember the shock of realizing how correct my mother was when she told me that in reality, Anna had made a wrong decision when she refused needed medical treatment (thus hastening her death). Anna said that her life was not worth living if she could not dance. As my wise mother pointed out: She could have taught. Her life did not need to be devoid of meaning just because of physical limitations.
    As our life progresses, eventually we all come to a point where we must face the fact that we cannot physically do all of the things we would like to do…. And when that happens, we need to internalize that our worth is not dependent of our physical body, but on our character.
    There are so many things that keep us busy, and often we get caught up as well with things that other people expect us to do. Those “other people”, perhaps not knowing how “stretched” we actually are, may not see the entire picture. But we DO, and if needed, we need to make our limitations known.  I see so many women my age struggling to “do it all”, doing everything that they have done in the past.  (And often this pressure to do it all is a stress that we put upon ourselves, not  even a burden from outside sources.) Sometimes we may need to re-evaluate our situation and make allowances for our lack of youth.
        In practical terms, as we plan for the approaching holidays, we may need to question if the elaborate cooking (and more) that we do is truly needed… or if this is simply an unwillingness to be less than “stupendous”.  We need to realize that if we overload ourselves, if we make no time to take care of ourselves, the damage can be considerable. An example: this week I have been very busy, so I thought that I could skimp on sleep. The two nights that I didn’t get enough sleep were each followed by a day where I gorged after 8 PM.

    And how did I pamper myself this week? I went to see a performance in Tel Aviv of the St. Petersburg ballet company performing “Swan Lake”.  I figured that it was about time to actualize that childhood dream.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Yelp and a Scream

    Today (Wednesday, theoretically yesterday) I had a busy, lovely day. I started the day by walking to my hydrotherapy session, which is about a fifteen minute walk from my home. Afterwards I circled around my town, removing the special containers of Psalms I had placed at bus stations about two and a half weeks ago (so that people could easily say a quick chapter or two while waiting for their bus).  If the situation here deteriorates I will need to replace the Psalms, but in the meantime at least, I decided to store them away.

[picture: Tehillim (Psalms) at a bus stop:]

    By the time I had completed those rounds, and bought the day’s groceries, it was noon. I started some housework, and put on some music. For the last three weeks I have not been listening to any real music, because of religious custom, and today I was finely able to. I like to listen to music a lot; it encourages me to move around more, and be more active.

    By 5 PM I had finished most of the pressing matters for the day, and I already had my daily step quota of 15,000 steps done. But I was eager to get out for a good quick aerobic walk… so I took off to the Yarkon park. It was so different than in the last three weeks, to walk without serious fears of air raid sirens. I was able to work up to a very quick pace, as I was on the smooth “walking sidewalk” in the park (as opposed to the regular sidewalk next to the buildings at the parks edge). [During the last several weeks, on the few occasions that I walked in the area, I tried to stay within quick running distance of buildings, in case of a rocket attack.] In addition, I was able to play some REAL fast aerobic music on my MP3 player, which also encouraged a quicker pace. It felt SO good to be out walking in a scenic area, without needing to scout out the safety of the path ahead, that I started SKIPPING. And I was gratified to see that I CAN skip…..and it’s fun!
    As dusk neared I reached the beach boardwalk, and turned southwards, to walk beside the beach until I would reach the location where I need to turn inland (to catch my bus home). The boardwalk had a fairly decent number of  both “walkers” (sport enthusiasts) and families. The previous times I had been there in the last three weeks, the boardwalk had been very sparsely populated. Today the numbers were not yet up to par, but even so the improvement was dramatic. At one point the waves were, on occasion, dashing over the restraining wall.  I stopped for a bit to marvel at the expanse of waves before me, and moved on. Then I observed two children standing adjacent to the guard rail, and as a sudden wave doused them, and the two boys yelped in surprise and delight.
    Suddenly my mind flashed back to Friday evening two and a half weeks ago. As dusk fell, I was out walking, in my neighborhood. Suddenly the two girls before me jolted, screamed in terror, and jumped into each other’s arms. As they did so, I heard the “boom” of the iron dome missiles intercepting a rocket attack. [We had not heard an air raid siren, as the rockets were over a town to our north, not over our region.] Several nearby bystanders were pointing to the spectacle they had seen in the sky; I missed the fireworks.

    But here on the boardwalk, I noted the difference in the children’s reactions. In both cases they were surprised. In one the situation was delightfully exciting. In the other, it was a not a yelp, but a scream of pure terror. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Definition of “Cease-Fire”

cease-fire  [sees-fahyuh r]  
1.a cessation of hostilities; truce.
2.Military . an order issued for a cease-fire.

UMMMM I think we need to add one more:

3. Hamas. a possibility of throwing slightly fewer rockets

You see, this is my “red alert” app since 15:00, when the latest cease-fire was supposed to start:

A Smile in the Stairwell

    The day had been relatively quiet in the center of the country, but at 10:13 PM, as I was ladling out some soup for supper, the sirens started their own late evening “lullaby”. I quickly checked that the gas was off, covered the pot, and dashed for the stairs.
     Most of my neighbors suffice with entering the stairwell, and going down a floor or two. I often go down to the underground shelter. However, the last bit of stairwell before the shelter is near the glass entrance, and thus a very dangerous place to stand. As I entered that area, I saw an older man slowly going down the shelter stairs, and there was a woman waiting to go in behind him.
     At this point, time was running out, so I yelled at the lady “You’re near the glass! Come up a floor in the stairwell, away from the glass!”.  Simultaneously I did an about turn and ran back up a half floor, away from the entrance-way.
     The lady , who I didn't know, followed me. I turned and gave her a smile. “You were passing by on the street?” I queried. She answered, “Yes, I was passing by in my car, and stopped when the siren sounded.” She then pointed to her not-so-modest clothing and blushing,  added  “I guess you guessed from my manner of dress.”
    “Actually I assumed that because you’re not one of my neighbors.” Her reaction of visible relief was palpable. I hadn't even noticed her dress (which wasn't all that bad) until she had pointed it out.
       After  we heard the two missiles being neutralized by the iron dome, we waited a few moments, and I started going upstairs. “You should wait a few more moments before going out to the street”, I warned her. “Debris could still fall…… but you’re welcome to come up for a cup of water… or even coffee.”

    “Thanks, but I’m fine.” She replied, flashing me a smile in the stairwell.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Winning Over the Terror Within

    One of the most striking events of the last few weeks was the funeral of Staff Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli. A dual US-Israeli citizen, originally from California, he was a “lone soldier” (ie, a soldier with no family living in Israel). At his funeral, thousands who did not know him came to express their thanks, and support for his grieving family.
    This moring, I turned on the (radio) news, and caught the tail end of the previous program. Someone who had been at the funeral (and apparently who has written a song about it) said (approximately) the following:

“What is terror? Terror is the sowing of fear and hate. Hamas wants us to hate and live in fear. Instead they are bringing out the ‘ahavat chinam’ (love of our fellow man) in us.”

   Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Yes, there is a very large consensus in Israel that we are behind our troops. We pray for their safety, weep over every loss. For most people, there is no such thing as skipping the hourly news updates. There is also a widespread unanimity that this time we need to take enough action that we will not be replaying this movie in another two years… and that the constant “dribble” of rockets aimed to our south needs to be stopped.
   But here’s the rub. “Everyone and his uncle” has a different idea of exactly how to achieve this. And this has brought out a certain ugliness, discord, and polarization between various segments of Israeli society.

   So I call on all of us to not let Hamas reap the victory of building an internal divisiveness amongst us. Let us answer their terror with trying to hear our neighbors, our colleagues, and encouraging more “ahavat chinam”. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Walk, and the Tragedy at the UN School

    This morning I had decided to go walking in Tel Aviv. There had been fewer rockets attacks and thus less chance that I would have to lie on the ground somewhere. (If caught by an air raid in a non-built up area, or while riding the bus, I would need to prostrate myself on the floor to help avoid shrapnel injury; for TEN minutes…..)
   I was about to leave at eleven AM, but exactly then the quiet was broken, and there were, in a few minutes, several rockets over the area. (The booms were pretty loud.) I considered not going, but since I would be in a built up area 97% of the time, I decided that I didn't give a #%&*#** and went anyway. I stayed within running distance of buildings as much as feasible, but I guess Hamas had used up their quota for Tel Aviv for today because until I returned there were no sirens (IN MY AREA; IN THE SOUTH THEY HAD SEVERAL SIRENS, AS ALWAYS).
    The walk was not as nice as I had hoped it would be. I was on the beach area very little (not enough buildings). I also pittied the store owners in the area. The normally bustling boardwalk was not quite a ghost town, but customers were VERY sparse.
    However, while living under air raid threat is disquieting*, I am thankful that I am not a Palestinian.  I just now heard about the numerous civilians killed at the UN school. I don’t care what “side” you are on… it is a tragedy. That said, I will wait until the Israeli Defense Forces makes an inquiry before jumping to any conclusions….
      However, even if an Israeli shell hit the school, it seems that the school had been used by the terrorists. (If so, I trust that we will have the camera footage to prove that.) And even the head of the school admits that they were warned to leave. (Why they did not do so in time remains to be explored.)
     UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented the other day on Hamas using the UNRWA schools to store weapons:  "those responsible [ie, Hamas] are turning schools into potential military targets, and endangering the lives of innocent children, UN employees working in such facilities and anyone using the UN schools as shelter."  Unfortunately, today’s scenario proved him right.
   Yes, it is a tragedy. It is a shame that this occurred. It is a bigger shame that Hamas seems Hell-bent to stick to their radical ideology, and their desire to destroy Israel. If they desired peace, we would have had it ages ago.  

*In Tel Aviv it is disquieting. In the “sfala” and southern areas of Israel, the constant barrage of rockets makes normal life absolutely impossible.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Walking tests, Sirens, Weights, and Geocaches

Today's aerobic walk was a real comedy of errors.
I had decided that since I was fed up with walking in Bnei Brak (it is NOT very scenic compared to the Yarkon Park or the Tel Aviv coastline...) I would take the bus to Tel Aviv. There I could walk along the built-up part of the Tel Aviv port, as well as the next-to-buildings side of the Yarkon park up to Namir road.  95% of this route would have buildings within a 90-second running distance.  Add to that the fact that there had been no sirens in Tel Aviv for about 24 hours, I felt I could risk it. I wasn’t going to walk in the open areas of the Yarkon park, after all. I was itching to go, and considering the very low level of risk, I was not going to let unwarranted fear (or Hamas) to rule over my life.
   In addition to the above, I wanted (for an online group I am in) to do a one-mile walking test. I do these tests periodically, always along the same stretch of the Yarkon Park. And while that area was off limits to me (ie, an open area with NO buildings), I decided that I would do the test in the other, built-up end of the park. Maybe the results would not be exactly accurate, but it would be good enough, considering.  I felt good about this, as I had told my friends not to expect me to do the walking test, as my running track was shelter-less.
   I took a bus most of the way to the port; I got off about a forty minute walk away, in order to “grab” a geocache. The cache was blessedly easy to find, and I was off walking down an avenue in the direction of the port. On reaching the port area I was enjoying the view when the air raid sirens started screeching away. I dashed into the nearest building, and a couple exiting from an office told me “This way!” as they (make that “we”) dashed down the stairs to an underground parking area. The area filled up quickly as tourists and locals hurried to safety.  In sort order we heard two missiles being shot down. At that point one man tried to leave, but he was restrained verbally by someone who reminded him that we need to spend ten minutes in the shelter, until all the debris from the rockets and anti-rocket  hardware would fall. So we waited, and people slowly relaxed from the tenseness that had been there a few moments before.  When  I finally was able to leave, I saw a bunch of ten year olds,  exiting from a different building. They were starting to set up chairs for what appeared would be their lunch break, chatting away. If you had not been there you would never know that they had just emerged from an air raid shelter.
    From there I turned north, striding  along the sea shore……. and on reaching  the glatt kosher coffee store there, I bought a coffee “to go”, just to give them some business. (Business is down there due to the “situation”.) Then I passed a sports store, and I remembered that my 4 kilo weights are getting too light for certain arm exercises. So I entered the store, bought a 5 kilo weight, and, in addition, an itsy-bitsy one kilo weight for when I will be allowed to start doing weight lifting with my left arm. (Two months ago I had surgery on that arm due to torn tendons.)  As I exited the store, 6 extra kilos weighing down my back pack I swiftly realized:
1)      There is no way that I will be able to get accurate results on a walking test, schlepping along an extra 6 kilos of weight.
2)      If a siren would sound again, those 6 kilos just might make running to shelter a *bit* more difficult!
    I decided not to fret. When I reached the Yarkon park area (where the buildings would be running distance, rather than closer, as previous to then), I simply held my (expensive) phone in hand, and decided that I would merely pitch my backpack into some bushes if needed (ie if there was a siren).  [I trusted that no one would haul it off all that quickly anyway, and the contents were not all that expensive.] I DID time my walk… it was definitely longer than my previous score of 16&1/2 minutes, but was a decent (considering) 20 minutes. What DID strike me was this: if a measly 6 kilos can slow me down that much, HOW in heaven’s name, did I manage to even MOVE when I weighed 80 kilos more than I do today!?!?!?! (After all, 80 kilos = 13 times 6 kilos!!!)

   So that was my “saga” for the day!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Son's Facebook Post..&. NOW is the Time

   A few days ago one of my sons posted an item to facebook.  The source of the item was a left-wing Israeli newspaper, and it seemed to indicate him being against Israel's actions up to that point in Gaza. 
    Immediately several of his Israeli friends posted some very nasty comments, including "death to the leftists", and cursing him and his "neturi karta" family. [The "neturi karta" group is a very small anti-Israeli Jewish Orthodox group. It is not representative of the general attitude of the Orthodox community, even of those who do not "hold" by the Israeli government (like Satmer).]
    I know my son well enough to doubt that he meant his post the way it was being taken, and in the end, I was correct in this.  I wrote a comment, mentioning three things:
1) I was pretty sure that the post was not meant as it was being taken
2) statements like "death to the leftists" are loathsome. Groups like Hamas like to kill people who disagree with them; we need not fall to this level.
3) My son's family are NOT "neturi karta", and even my son who does not "hold" by the Israeli government, is NOT pro Arab, and is worrried and concerned for all the Jewish  residents of aretz (Israel). He said Tehillim (Psalms) daily for Gilad Shalit, and was heartbroken over the death of the three teens. [I have no doubt that he will be saying Tehillim tomarrow for the safety of the soldiers who are entering Gaza.] 
   The reaction was swift in coming. ... further explosive statements, name calling.  [This is typical of online discussions. People VERY RARELY listen to each other online. It tends to generally be a simple shouting match.]
   At this point my son noticed the hornet's nest that his post had caused. He posted an explanation, and shortly afterwards deleted his post. (This was probably because he wanted both not to be misunderstood, as well as to keep his crazy mom from mixing in.....).

*    *    *    *    *    *

    I feel very strongly that right now as Israeli troops are entering such a dangerous action, we need G-d's favor.  Sinking to the level of prejudice, hate, and name calling is not going to endear us to the Almighty. Now is not the time to be divisive, but to unite. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Magic Dancing Smartphones (in Israel)

How to teach your cell phone to dance:
1) download an application to notify you of air raids
2) set the application to all areas (of Israel)
3) set the application's sound setting to "vibration"
That's it! Hamas will do the rest!

Like His Father, My Son

    I want to share with you something that happened a few days ago, that I had wanted to write about, but this got pushed aside by “war” blogging.
    One of my married sons called me; I suspect to be sure that I wasn’t freaking out from the rocket attacks. After talking a few minutes about shelters, politics, and the like, he gave a little laugh and said “Mom, you won’t believe what my son did yesterday. He did something fitting for me once to have done. He lit a fire.”
     This son as a child had an absolute fascination with conflagrations. He was an excellent student, a very well-adjusted kid… but he LOVED looking at flames.     As an example:
      I used to have a friend who came to visit me nearly every Friday evening, after the Sabbath evening meal. Once we were sitting in the kitchen, sipping some tea, and I mentioned that I was a bit concerned about my son and his over-enthusiasm with anything that was lit. She was “poo-pooing” me, until my “pyromaniac” son entered the kitchen. At that moment, the lit fire on the stove (under the cholent pot) happened to let off a few extra flickers. My offspring’s immediate reaction to the spark was to start singing a bon-fire song, “Bar Yochai”.   “Hmmm…. I see what you mean” my friend admitted.
    Anyway, amazingly enough, my son grew up to be an exceptional fellow,  and today is not, to the best of my knowledge, lighting fires in the Jerusalem forest or committing any acts of arson.
    So returning to the phone call of a few days ago….. it seems that my grandson lit an area full of thorns, causing a fire. Luckily it was in a place where the flames could not cause much real harm, and it was extinguished fairly quickly.  My dear son was pondering about how to handle the situation……

    I hate to admit it, but as long as things are kept under control, and dealt with, there is a certain amount of grandmotherly pleasure when one of our grandkids pulls a stunt that their parents used to do (or easily could have done). The feeling of “Gee, now my kid will realize what I put up with, with him….” is, I think, a hope that our grown children will realize that our role as parents was not that easy. It’s almost a prayer that they will forgive us for any lapses or mistakes that we made, as they comprehend just how easy it is to not be a perfect parent.

The Dream

     I usually don’t remember my dreams. Even after Ricki’s death, when all my family members shared dreams where they had seen her, I was a bit disappointed, wondering what was “wrong” with me that I had no dreams to share. I finally made peace with this, realizing that I probably just didn't remember any dreams I had, and that even if I did not dream of her, it meant nothing about my feelings for her.
    But last night, not too long after falling asleep, I woke up in muddle of thoughts. I had dreamed that I was striding down a street in nearby Ramat Gan when an air raid siren sounded, and had started looking for a safe shelter. As I awoke, I quickly realized that there was a good chance that there had been a sounding of the air raid siren (since we often dream about sounds we hear while asleep).  IF this was the case, since I wasn't hearing the warning screech at that moment, it meant that I was in the near-to-the-end-period of the 90 seconds I had to reach safety.  So I ran to the stairwell, and when I saw there were no other neighbors there, I gratefully realized that it had been just a dream, and my adrenalin levels started climbing down the ladder that they had been scrambling up.
    So  then, before returning to sleep, I finally downloaded to my smartphone an application that sends alerts in case of a missile attack. I even left the application on “silent”, I just wanted a list of recent alerts, in case I ever again have a doubt about whether I need to dash for safety. In addition, I can see on it when the towns my kids live in have had a siren. [An extra tool to help me be a more worried mom and grandmother……]

[But, by the way, they DID throw rockets at us already this morning. I woke up VERY well to that (real) siren, thank you!]

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Taste of Life Under Rockets

      Amazingly, except for when the air raid sirens sound, life here in the Tel Aviv area has been going along fairly much as usual. [Note that in places where there are more sirens than here this is not so. It is hard to live a normal life when you need to drop everything several times a day to go run for your life...]   

Some Basic info:
Very old buildings have no shelter whatsoever, and the residents of these buildings need to run outside to a public shelter. If this is not feasible, they would go to the stairwell of the building. Newer buildings have, by law, a reinforced “safe roof” in each apartment. For parents of young children or those with elderly  parents, this makes getting to shelter (like at 3AM) much easier. My married son who lives in Beit Shemesh has such a “safe room”, and he has chosen to put his kids to sleep there…..which makes middle-of-the-night- sirens much easier.

 Our building, which is “middle-aged”, comes from the period when the law called for constructing an underground bomb shelter for the use of all the building’s residents.  Since we live on the third floor, I am grateful that we (living in the Tel Aviv area) have a full 90 seconds (and not 15 like in some places) to reach the shelter.   The time it takes, from reacting to the siren, and running down four flights of stairs, can easily reach a good minute. [However, my husband, who has Parkinson’s, cannot make it all the way down in ninety seconds, and he has to be content with reaching the middle floor stairwell, which would protect from shrapnel and pieces of rockets falling,  but not from a  direct hit on the building.]
*  *  *  *  *
      [By the way, the main reason for the “lop sided” death statistics shown to the world is because we in Israel have consistently spent money to build shelters in nearly every building, using our resources to protect ourselves. That, plus the fact that we do NOT use our women and children as “protective human shields” for our armaments. It is not because Hamas hasn’t been trying to kill us.] 

 But even here there are some interesting side effects to living under the shadow of missile attacks:
1)  It is nine PM. It has been a long hot sweaty day, and coming back from a brisk walk, I am drenched. I definitely need a shower.  HOWEVER, what if an air raid siren will sound when I am in the shower? I can hardly go dashing down the stairs to the shelter,  in front of my male orthodox neighbors, in my birthday suit.   In the end I decide that since the statistical chances of a bomb hitting exactly my building is zilch, I can settle this once with reaching the middle of the stairwell. So I proceed, but being as careful as possible to be ready at any moment to participate in the Olympic who-can-get-presentably-covered-in 15-seconds competition.
2) I have temporarily given up all my scenic walking to Hertzalia and such. Not only are there no shelters in these open areas, but since it IS an open area (and the iron dome anti-rocket missiles cost a fortune), the area will not be covered by the anti-missile system. Yes, I miss the nature areas, but it simply isn’t worth taking the extra (even if minuscule) risk.  But even in city areas, I am not able to just “go walking”. As I walk I keep an eye open for what type of buildings are around me, and plan my walks accordingly. I will choose a regular street with houses over the playground, and a newer neighborhood over an old decrepit one. I simply try to ensure that I am, at any given moment,  within a 90-second dash distance to the nearest shelter.  
3)   Even with all of number 2 above, walks in the city can be “entertaining”. IF there is an air raid siren in my area, I hear the siren, seek shelter, and prepare myself for the load “boom” that we will hear when (hopefully) the rocket is shot down by the iron dome system. [Actually, there would be just as loud of a boom if the iron dome missed, but so far, thank G-d, I have yet to hear any real falling of a rocket….] 
   However, we receive sirens only when OUR part of Tel Aviv is targeted, but not if the missile is headed to another part of the metropolis. So I can be walking along, trying to have a nice evening walk, when a “BBOOOOOOOMM” assaults my ears, and perhaps I even feel the shock wave from the explosion. Did you ever on a sunny summer day hear very unexpectedly, a huge roll of thunder?  It’s a bit unnerving, like that, but add to that the feeling that someone is really trying to kill you.   And that the falling pieces just might kill some poor soul who could not reach shelter.

4)  Income for many people has gone down, as people stay home more. Even I have had several cancellations, as students stayed home with their kids rather than leave them on their own.

Finally a joke…. People who laugh as Hamas threatens a big barrage of rockets at XXX hour. The joke is:
    Hamas is threatening to send rockets tonight at 8:15 and 10:00. They will broadcast an televised replay at 3 AM for whoever misses it…….

   I would like to add that I DID look at some of the photos from Gaza today. I do NOT want ignore their plight completely.  I do not want to become a non-thinking, prejudiced, type of person.    Yet I must rank my safety, and that of my children, and grandchildren, first……
      (I will just mention that part of the lack of electricity in Gaza is due to rockets HAMAS sent which hit the power lines from Israel to Gaza.) [Also, it is sad about the four kids killed in Gaza today, but  NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin said that Hamas calls the Israel’s warnings to evacuate certain areas psychological propaganda and that they urge civilians not to leave ……… so they should be honest enough to admit that they are largely to blame for this.(Because they told people not to evacuate, and also because they locate army supplies in a city center.)

Monday, June 30, 2014

May We Be United, in the future, for Good Things

    I am assuming that my readers have heard the terrible news, that the bodies of three youths, undoubtedly those kidnapped 2 1/2 weeks ago, have been found. It is a sad day, and I feel literally ill.
    To lose a child is hard enough. To lose him as the result of a brutal atrocity like this must be absolutely heart wrenching . My condolences to the families.
    I rarely write political things on this blog, feeling that the chances of me changing anyone's mind is probably nil. I see that with on-line discussions people very rarely listen to each other; the modis operendi seems to be name calling. And I am not going to go into politics now…. Now is simply a time to be unified in our mourning. I am leaving the politics to those more knowledgeable in that area than I am.
    But I would like to note one fact. Sometimes the different streams of Orthodoxy here in Israel distrust each other. Some feel that others are not religious enough; some feel that different groups are shirking their duties. But in this, we ARE united. A few days ago my granddaughter had an end-of-the-year program at her school. When I went to take the bus home, I was pleasantly surprised to see next to the bus stop (in a chareidi –ultra Orthodox -  area), a table piled with Tehillim booklets (Psalms), so that people could pray for the boys' safe return while waiting for the bus.
    And just now, my oldest son (who does NOT vote in elections, and the like), who I knew had been praying for the kidnapped teens, phoned me. "I heard the terrible news. Please tell me details." He does not own a radio… but he heard… and simply had to know. Because he really, really cared.

   My prayer for the future is that our communities can be united to celebrate happy occasions, and not be united only in sorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons From the Titanic

     Today I did something a bit interesting. I went to see the exhibition of artifacts from the "Titanic", which is currently in Tel Aviv for a two month stay. I went with my husband, purchasing tickets as a special treat for him (knowing that he would enjoy viewing the display)
[Note to Israeli readers: the tickets are 154 shekeks; the exhibition is NOT shomer shabbas. Be sure to buy tickets including the audio earphones, which add a great deal to the visit. ALL of the exhibition material is in English/ Hebrew/ Russian. The entire show is wheelchair accessible.]
[image: myself, standing in front of a model of the grand staircase]

   The display was very well done, giving one a definite feel of life on the ship, and of the various types of people aboard. This is the emphasis of the material shown, rather than the sinking itself (although the sinking and aftermath ARE also covered). In addition, there is an added-on part about Jewish victims/survivors.

  Having spent so much money (three tickets---I had a married son come along to push my husband's wheelchair -=, plus an outrageous 50 shekels for parking= almost $150), I wondered what lessons I can take away from this experience.

Here are a few thoughts:
1) Even the glitzy is often tarnished if you examine it closely.  The first class passengers paid $2500 for passage (equivalent to about $57,000 today), enjoying the most luxurious amenities available at that time.  Yet the gossips, the mistresses, and the card sharks were there as well.
2) Try to keep in mind that the things we feel are stable and permanent in our lives may very quickly turn out not to be so. Life can be fragile. Let your family know how much you love them.
3) And finally, I noted one more thing: The first-class section had a gym room with state-of-the-art (for that day) equipment. If the rich (those who can afford the equivalent of over $50,000) understood the need for exercise, why are we shirking…..???????

   And just to prove that I am not shirking, I went walking afterwards from the exhibition center to Reading power station and from there to Tel Baruch and back to Reading… And here are a few pictures from there:

[image: sea view near sunset ]

[image: rocks along the shore ]

[image: yellow blossoms]

Sunday, June 15, 2014

WHERE are They?!?!?

WHERE are all the people who bemoaned the inability of the Palestinians to ship in concrete, as they criticized Israel for enforcing a blockade?

WHERE are all the people who bemoan the difficulties Arabs have in traveling to work in Israel, when they have to undergo security checkpoints?

WHERE are all the people who cry over the loss of "freedom of movement" that the security wall  causes?!??

   What about the lives and freedom of the three teens who were kidnapped? Why do all the people who championed the above causes not raising the roof?

     And of course, there is NO comparison to any of the above and the targeting of children.
    See also this post by Paula Stern.