21 November 2011

Like Avraham Avinu

Walking along Keren Kayemet, the main thoroughfare in Rehavia, Jerusalem, my husband spotted a 'young' man engaging in conversation with some local school kids in the small park across from the public school. The young man was speaking to one of the kids, a young boy. Actually, my husband noticed, he was putting tefillin on this young boy. The young school girls with the boy were all smiles and giggles.

My husband noticed this same interaction by this young man with other school kids in the same park, on other days. One time he was just speaking to a few school kids that had gathered. My husband said, in praise of this young man: He must be a Lubavitcher. Here he is a young man himself but he is busy doing G-d's work, quietly and humbly. But he was causing a rash gadol in Shomayim, not affected by his surroundings, but instead, like Avraham Avinu, reaching out to unaffiliated Jewish youth to bring them closer to HaShem. It was during the parshios of Avraham Avinu.

In Rehavia/Shaare Chessed we have not one, but two ChaBaD centers, one for outreach specifically, but with daily minyanim, and another which is more of a shul and Beis Medrash. This Beis Medrash has a plaque dedicated to Miriam Swerdlov's grand daughter Alta Shula a"h, when she was here for the dedication last year. Both centers I'm sure are a strong contribution and magnet for the alienated Israeli youth and unaffiliated Jews who come to visit Yerushalayim.

Here we are around 5000 miles away from Crown Heights in the Middle East and there is one Lubavitcher young man doing what the Rebbe's raison d'être was and is.

17 August 2011

Mossad Agents?

My husband loves a little honey smeared on his morning whole wheat pitta. Mmm, delicious. He's not the only honey lover in my home. He has competition from the smallest critter I've ever seen. Teeney tiny they are, but they move very fast. That must mean many teeny tiny legs.

Well, their fast is not fast enough. I'm right after them. Washing the honey jar, scanning the table, checking the shelf, washing everything down with lots of water (which they don't like). Haven't found their entry hole yet but it's me against them and I'm out to win.

Of course you figured it out by now, tiny teeny little microscopic Israeli ANTS. Not your run of the mill kind, these must work for the Mossad. Undeterred in their mission.

Haven't seen any tennis rackets yet.

25 July 2011

Interesting Summer Dishes

*Eclectic Israeli Dining ... in your own home with Janna Gur

Photo: Daniel Layla (from "Fresh Flavors from Israel")

Chicken Patties with Swiss Chard, Leeks and Celery

Use beef or chicken, fried, grilled or steamed, served on a bed of rice or couscous, or even stuffed in a pita, meat or chicken patties are the very epitome of Israeli home cooking. In this light recipe, chicken patties are cooked in a fragrant, slightly sour broth brimming with leafy greens. (serves 6-8)

The Sauce:
3 tablespoons oil
2 leeks (white part only), cut into large chunks
1 bunch celery (stalks and leaves), cut coarsely
1 bunch Swiss chard (stalks and leaves), cut coarsely
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups clear chicken soup or stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The Patties:
500 g (1 lb) ground chicken
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Salt and white pepper

Prepare the Sauce: Heat the oil in a large wide sauce pan and sauté the leeks for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the celery and Swiss chard and continue sautéing for 5 more minutes. Add sugar, lemon juice and chicken soup, season with salt and pepper, and cook on low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Prepare the patties: While the sauce is cooking, mix the ingredients for the patties and knead well. Form small patties, slide into the sauce, cover and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and wait 10 minutes before serving.

*Chocolate & Zucchini offers interesting

1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 spring onions, chopped
1 tomato, juice and seeds removed, diced
one clove garlic, chopped thinly
salt, pepper
red pepper flakes (optional)
fresh cilantro

In a medium mixing-bowl, combine the rice, egg, spring onions, tomato, and garlic; stir until well combined. Season generously with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if using. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the rice mixture from the fridge. Use two tablespoons to form patties (about 3 inches in diameter) with the mixture, and transfer them into the skillet. Cook for five to eight minutes on one side, or until browned, then flip carefully with a spatula and cook for another five minutes on the other side. Serve immediately with fresh cilantro.

*Horseradish Spiked Red Potato Salad
from the Gluten Free Goddess

2 to 2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
Sea salt
1/4 cup fruity tasting extra virgin olive oil, as needed
4-6 tablespoons apple cider or rice vinegar, to taste
1 smallish red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1-2 teaspoons dill, to taste
1 teaspoon caraway seeds – optional

Wash and cut up the red potatoes, toss them into a pot of salted fresh water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain well.

Pour the cooked potatoes into a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. Toss to coat and to soften the edges of the potatoes pieces a bit. Add the diced onion, horseradish and toss to distribute. Taste and season with more sea salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper. Add the chopped parsley, dill and caraway; mix.

Taste test. Add more olive oil or vinegar, sea salt or herbs. Serve warm. Remember chilling potato salad will subdue its flavor considerably. Taste test after chilling, add more seasoning if needed. Serves 6 to 8. Optional – add sour cream or mayonnaise.

*Elanas Pantry has a Dairy Free & Luscious
Coconut Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ cup dark chocolate chips

Place coconut milk, eggs, coconut sugar, vanilla, and salt in a Vitamix.
Blend thoroughly until smooth and well combined. Briefly blend in chocolate chips, so that they are smaller pieces. Process according to the directions of your ice cream maker garnish with unsweetened shredded coconut if desired.

*All photos from each of the recipe websites
** All recipes are Gluten Free (except for the Couscous, Quinoa can be substituted) and Dairy Free

20 July 2011

This Year, Maybe ...

Walking down the sloping tree lined street, still feeling the depth and passion of the Rabbi's words about Yirmiyahu HaNavi, sadness slowly encircles me. Why so much tragedy, why so much suffering? A gentle breeze comes, scented with blossoms of healing fragrance. The air this evening is intoxicating and consoling.

Could this be the same coolness that accompanied the men of
Yehuda as they fought a relentless battle against the multitudinous and fortified Sancheriv's army?

Was this wafting air the same that guided
Yehoshua's scouts as they spied out the Land prior to bringing our ancestors across the Yarden? These early pioneers coming to claim their inheritance, the soon to be Shevatim of HaShem's nation on earth.

Is this the moist air that blessed and refreshed the early settlers as they fought the Jordanian army attacking them? Had these same inheritors been reincarnated into the Jews who selflessly cleared the Hula swamps? These European wanders returned to their
Yerusha and prepare the future Jewish Homeland for G-d’s children?

In layers of earth beneath this Rehavia street paved in the 1920’s, I envision covering thousands of battles fought for survival. My feet slowly pass over millions of ancient footsteps that went along this same path. The thoughts of our Jewish People and their long shadow of tragedy flows though the evening air. The sensuous aroma contrasts with the images of clashing swords, sand and dust. A capsule of time-travel. As I try to hold onto the images they keep becoming fainter and then fade into the glow of the evening’s moon. The combination of the Rabbi’s vivid details surrounding
Yirmiyahu captured my imagination and and set the scene for my short walk through centuries on the way home

Tuesday is a fast day and heralds the apex of the sizzling summer. Hot and humid and heavy with meaning. I don’t welcome the message, but I do feel comfort in the warmth of the sun. Nothing compares to the stimulation of living in Jerusalem, where every stone, tree, and the earth under your feet have a story of its own.

tzom of the 17th of the month of Tammuz foreshadows the approaching days known as the “Three Weeks,” building in intensity to its culmination on the 9th of the month of Av, called Tisha B’Av. Biblically, the saddest interval of the Jewish calendar. It always weighs heavily on my mind and emotions. A timespan swollen with denial, death, and persecution. One would think that after many years of reliving this, one’s emotions could glide through this sorrow. But no, each year the words of Eicha and its images return, to remind us of the spiritual pain, when our glorious Temple was destroyed. Our devastated and crushed people were dragged into the golus to wander through civilizations that are no more.

Once we have relived our shame, we are soothed by the nehama of Menachem Av and the
Haftorahs of consolation. Solace from Neviim that yet again Jews will return to our ancient Land. Children and old people will once again sit in its parks, the Temple will be rebuilt IY"H, and we will be embraced openly by G-d once more for all the world to see.

A recent wildfire in the Jerusalem forest sent billowing smoke into nearby streets and homes. People were evacuated. The acrid smell of the air from the smoke and fire made its way into Rehavia and filled my nostrils with a pungent aroma as if I were once more experiencing that 70 CE catastrophe. An instant of reflective fear, a flash of fright and I became attached to mourning our national calamity.

I have come Home, and now my eyes behold the rebuilding and flourishing of Yerushalayim, the city rising from its ancient ruins, blooming with precious children and vibrant life.

I don’t know why the Israelis I see and meet on the streets of Yerushalayim merit such a revelation. With their very lives they are the fulfillment of the prophecies. With their very lives they are rebuilding. The commentators of the Talmud, Sanhedrin, Prophetic Writings describe the era before Moshiach arrives. And say that this generation will be the reincarnation of those who stood at Mount Sinai. Where there is much holiness there also exists much
tumah, says the Torah. Deception is needed to confuse the evil forces so that the holiness can blossom under the nose of the Sitra Achra, so to speak. This is why it says we blow Shofar on Yom Kippur, to confuse the Satan. Therefore, beneath the seeming zenus (immorality) are neshomas waiting for Hashem to call them to teshuva so that the Geula can begin.

So it is during these hot, humid and profound days, a vision of the rebuilt Har HaBayit is granted to some on Shabbos Chazon, this year the 6th Av, Shabbos Devarim. I will await a glimpse of the future Temple and the coming of
Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

01 June 2011

Peeping Dove


Our first encounter with doves was with a pair I call lovey-dovies. They welcomed us to the neighborhood. "Our new neighbors." Having chosen the Abarbanel/Ibn Ezra area for themselves, they wanted to share their world with us. We gratefully obliged, spreading seeds for them in the mornings.

One day I noticed the curious couple peeping in when all of a sudden another dove swoops down right between the male and female and starts his mating dance right up to the female. Flutter, swoosh, and the sound of doves taking flight across my full-length patio windows, male pursuing female with her agitated mate close in pursuit. My startled eyes witness one male chasing after the intruder giving him a k-nock in mid-flight. I guess that was a "leave my mate alone" encounter.

I miss my lovey-dovey pair. Whenever they do arrive, in hot pursuit comes intruder-dove. This scene envelops me as I sit on the enclosed patio, sunshine glistening on the evergreens, pecking away sentences and thoughts into my iPad. What a scenario. A three way dove love tryst in motion. Who would ever have thought it?

I discovered intruder dove is none other than peeping dove. The poor guy is lonely and I would say heartbroken. He has claimed our mirpeset as his. Sparrows don't bother him and they are not fearful of him. But they hastily scamper when they see me. He stays not detered by me at all. In fact, we have a sort of conversation going. I give him Mussar now and then. He listens, with one black beady eye fixed on me. But I don't think it really makes a difference to him. He's very very persistent. I actually don't know who's watching who?

Now, our lovey dovey couple are another story. The female comes ever so quietly and modestly nibbles on her sunflower snack, looking at me often. She'll watch me and when I call to her, she ruffles her neck feathers which leaves me to believe she is responding in some fashion. She even walks along the sill where I'm sitting and peeps threw the window staring at me. Yes, there is a quiet verbal eye contact being made. They are quite inquisitive. We have that much in common.

One Shabbat they were sitting together up atop the two pipes attached to the air conditioner. These pipes formed a ledge of sorts and mrs dove was squatting there cooing. Her mate was flying up and down with twigs. I was so excited and tried keeping a subtle watch on the progress. This went on for a few days.

The next Shabbat they were there again. The big windows to the enclosed porch were slightly ajar, no screen. I find it obstructs the beautiful view of trees, birds, and majestic skies. Anyway, I was sitting at our Shabbat table during a seuda and my eye caught mrs dove flying thru the slightly open window into our enclosed mirpeset and atop a cabinet. Maybe she was selecting a new nesting place? Well, as delighted as I was by her admiration for a nesting venture, I didn't want the mess. I could see having to keep the window open for months while first her mate brings the twigs, then eggs arrive, then she "sits", then they take turns sharing shifts, and then the weeks of chirping and dodoo mess building up. Not to mention an array of twigs, papers, and feathers littering the floor, flying thru the air landing into the living room. An instantaneous flash of impending mess.

Slowly I got up and entered the mirpeset, she saw me and flew toward the outside mirpeset. The glass surprised her and she landed on the floor. I tried to soothe her by softly whispering not to get scared and that I was helping her. Ever so slowly I inched toward her and unlocked and opened the door. With an air of royalty she sauntered ever so slowly out onto the open mirpeset. She did look back at me though.

Now I understand how doves can be trained to be messengers ... "Homing pigeons" they call them. My mind pictured Noah carrying his dove to the tiny window atop the ark to send her out in search of a nesting branch after the flood. And her returning when she didn't find one. There is something special about doves. I love sharing my mirpeset with them.

But what will be with peeping dove? Will he ever find a mate? Did he ever have a mate? Maybe this female he constantly goes after was once his mate but she threw him out and found a new, more sensitive mate. And he can't accept it and keeps going after her. Deliberately swooping down between them. My imagination? I don't think so.

29 May 2011

A Peeping Dove

Now that is startling. I just witnessed a dove fending off a rival after his mate.

This forlorn male dove has adopted my mirpeset as his home. As soon as my husband rises in the morning, 5:30 or 6:00 am, he's sitting on the rail peering into our bedroom. My husband is very amused by this dove's antics.

It seems he has attached himself to the source of all delights ... delicious Israeli sunflower seeds.

He's a peeping-dove. Whether flying in from the left, deftly landing on 'his' rail spot, feet touching down precisely with wings spread in splendor. Or approaching the front patio, he zooms in from the building opposite. Sometimes he soars in from far atop a roof, wings guiding his landing on the windowsill inches from where I'm sitting. And then maybe he'll be sitting on a branch of the Evergreen waiting for me to show up. He sees me and swoosh, he's there on the mirpeset.

Yes he's quite entertaining.

However, I have started feeling quite sad for peeping-dove. He's quite lonely. At any time of the day he could be found hanging around my place. Even birds can be socially deprived, not just people.

Most doves are family birds. Finding a mate for life, they embark on nest building, raising fledglings, and so the pattern of life repeats itself. Building a nest is quite complicated. The female finds a spot and softly coos her intention. The male flutters back and forth, twigs in beak for the nest building. Precisely, he selects just the right thickness of the first twigs. First a foundation. The male picks up a twig in his beak, if not the right length and thickness he drops it for another, so goes the selection.  Then a slightly lighter twig for the base and each layer builds intricately atop the previous to weave a cushion for her majesty to lay eggs and sit.

It might be that the female decides on a different spot. So she abandons the half-started nest. On to a new ledge, or branch. And the male begins his tedious selecting process anew. Actually he brings the twigs to her and she puts it in place.

Yes, selecting a home is the same for birds as it is for us humans. We select according to the right combination of needs.

I've seen sparrows searching the flower boxes for the size twigs they need. There is even one daring sparrow who will sit on the flower box outside even while I'm on the enclosed porch. Usually if they see me, in unison they all take off to the branches. What is unusual about this one sparrow is that seeds were already dispersed hours ago, but he sits and waits like the dove. Not like the others that fly over,  peer down looking for seeds, and then in unison fly off. This sparrow is often the last sparrow to visit close to their "licht-bentching" bedtime. They seem to retire about the same time one would light candles if it were erev Shabbat. 

[to be continued]

06 April 2011


On my way home from some Pesach shopping, on Rehov Betzalel, I was shlepping my agalah and it was heavy. An agalah is a middle eastern shopping cart made from fairly waterproof fabric, on smooth gliding wheels that go over every bump, pebble, stone and hole with the ease of a Persian flying carpet.

I put out my hand to the approaching taxis and one stopped. The driver was wearing an interesting knitted kipa. He was old and I thought he was from Iran or Yemen. You know, one of those ancient Israelis that have stories about the good ole days - 1948 or 49. He lifted my agalah into the trunk and I got into the back. He "oyed" and I "oiyed". Off we went.

Something made me ask if he was a "Jew". He replied, but I couldn't make out exactly what. Next, I asked if he was an Arab.

We were nearing my street so I mumbled in choppy Hebrew for him to pull over. He then got out and asked if he could unload my agalah. I said, "yes, thank you" like a good exAmerican. All of a sudden my agalah was upside down in the street. Good thing it only contained a couple boxes of new appliances for Pesach. As I was lifting it up I couldn't find my parasol (that's umbrella in fancy speech).

At the same time another taxi pulls next to our taxi and the driver was asking what happened. Now mind you, all this was happening in quick succession. I have no idea if the second taxi was concerned for me or my driver, as I was busy straightening out my things. My driver was shrugging his shoulders, exclaiming innocence about my parasol, while his taxi was blocking the exit to my street with a car trying to get by honked, and the second taxi driver asking questions about what just happened.

He must have seen my driver turn over my agalah and perhaps really was trying to help me.

Anyway, now that I had time to reflect on the "incident" it is all coming together. Like what happened in
Wadi Juz and Hevron. (Hmm, doesn't that sound like, the 'Valley of the Jews'?)

I think I insulted the Arab by calling him an Arab! ... A stick is a stick, and an Arab is an Arab.

10 March 2011

Ode to the Sun

You've heard of "The land of the rising sun". (Japan)

And, "The sun is but a morning star". (Thoreau)
  • "Nobody of any real culture, for instance, ever talks nowadays about the beauty of sunset. Sunsets are quite old fashioned. To admire them is a distinct sign of provincialism of temperament. Upon the other hand they go on." (Oscar Wilde)
And of course, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" (Shakespeare)

Not wanting to sound provincial, let me expound on the sun.

The crimson setting sun is my absolute favorite horizon.
The morning sun's amber-pink glow awakens me with renewed energy
Between the clouds the sun breaks through giving hope
Hurricane winds aglow in sunshine
Raindrops glistening on sun soaked leaves
Hail and wind followed by the sun's warming rays

Where does one find all of these
In My Land of the Sun
In Eretz Yisrael,
Eretz HaKodesh

01 March 2011

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

We are swiftly approaching the
"cleaning marathon weeks"
so here are some helpful hints to make
the job pleasant smelling
and easier & cheaper

Alternatives to Commercial Cleaners:

Baking Soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.

Lemon – one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.

Borax – (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.

White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.

Washing Soda – or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.

Isopropyl Alcohol – is an excellent disinfectant.

Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.

Olive oil – Use to lubricate and polish wood furniture (three parts olive oil to one part vinegar; or two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice).

Potatoes Halved potatoes can remove rust from baking pans or tinware – follow with a salt scrub or dip the potato in salt before scrubbing.

Tea tree oil – Can be added to vinegar/water solutions for its antibacterial properties. Use it to kill mold and mildew, and on kitchen and bathroom surfaces instead of chemical products. Add 50 drops to a bucket of water to clean counter tops and tile floors.


For Laundry:

1 cup baking soda in the wash 1 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle to help soften

If an extra kick is needed for whites or rugs add 1/2 cup borax

Drain De-clogger:

1/4 cup baking soda 1/2 cup vinegar

Pour baking soda into drain. Follow with vinegar. Close drain tightly until fizzing stops. Flush with pot of boiling water.

Ant Traps:

1/3 C Molasses or Honey 6 T Sugar 6 T active Dry Yeast Mix together. Outside put the paste in a container near the colony. Inside put the mixture on a piece of cardboard in the areas ants come into the house.

Furniture Polish

1 T lemon juice 2 T olive oil 2-3 drops lavender oil or an essential oil you like

put in a bottle and shake. Apply with a soft cloth and wipe dry.

Lemon Mint Window Wash For the shiniest windows ever!

Juice from one fresh Lemon 2 Cups water or Club Soda 1/2 teaspoon Peppermint essential oil 1 teaspoon Cornstarch

Mix all ingredients and pour into a plastic spray bottle. Shake before using. Try using sheets of black and white newspaper, it shines without streaking. An old home remedy.

Citrus mint window spray

1/2 cup fresh lemon peel 1/2 cup fresh orange peel 1 cup fresh mint leaves 1 cup white vinegar

combine peels and mint in a jar/bottle, pour vinegar over and cap. let steep for 2 weeks shaking bottle every 2-3 days.

decant and strain into spray bottle. the liquid should have leached out the fragrance and color of the botanicals making a pleasant sent.

Sink & Shower Tile Scrub:

3 tablespoons of coarse sea salt 4 tablespoons of baking soda 5 drops of grapefruit essential oil 4 drops of lemon essential oil Enough water (preferably distilled) to make a paste-like consistency

16 February 2011

Inoculation of Humility

A milestone ... Or finding those Pansies.

My first debilitating cold since moving to the blessed Holy Eretz Yisrael. 

This is an inoculation of humility. Nothing more humbling than having a fat head, drippy nose, weak muscles, fever and no energy! Day one fighting.

Sniffle, sneeze, and a turn over to face the porch. New scenery, new ideas. Have to buy a flower box for the windowsill, some yellow Pansies with their sunny faces and deep purple hues. Little droplets of nourishment are hanging from everything. It must have rained overnite. Heavy heavy eyelids, time to nap. Blessed sleep. I'm waiting to awake fresh with vigor.

It was that @€%#<{* worker at my neighborhood markolet! Rubbing her nose, sniffling, and then touching each of my foods to ring them up! No, there was only one checkout. Day two flat, lost the fight.

I don't take OTC meds. They mess with your cognitive skills, if you have any. Time for some more of my home remedies. Oregano and oregano oil are good for infection. Start with probiotics in the am on an empty stomach, one twice daily, two when sick. Take oregano caps every 5 hours. Also, elderberry syrup is good for the feverishness, add to this one sizzllie aspirin with "C", lots of soup and tea, and then grab the tissues and wait it out. All you can do is treat the symptoms. Time heals all ....

Confined to being in a horizontal state of mind, covered from toes to head, it does leave one time to think. 

Oh, a myriad of things. Like which bookcase to buy, for the long wall or the shorter wall by the window? Where to find European love seats? Buy antique? But maybe bedbugs are buried within the wood? They are a major epidemic like disgruntled muslim neighbors. Whether to hang up pictures. If I make holes in the walls to decorate, I can hear my husband now, "Don't damage someone else's property." But bare walls!? 

The sun is pushing it's way thru the clouds sending me thoughts of spring, blossoming almond trees, and a faint splash of summer.

Who !Ah..choo! wants to think about politics. That seems like all anyone cares about here in the  Middle East. My husband eats the news in-between his am and pm learning schedule. I guess it gives him a bit of that excitement men need a daily dose of.

Day three and I can't focus on anything, fever, headache, turn left, turn right, ... Oh, just get me through this, dear Hashem! My poor husband has to fend for himself. He comes in now and then to see if I'm still there.

When you have the flu you don't care who is doing what to whom. Just get through this ... Can't take this fever another day.

Day four. Wow, I can feel again. My head is not pounding. And I can walk around a bit. I think I'm over the worse part. But still weak. Now don't overdo it, I hear a voice caution me. Ok, just let me make a fresh pot of soup. Day four and as we proceed into each hour I can feel a resurgence of familiarity ... my interest in the world around me. Where is my iPad? Day four brings the next and final stage of illness. It attacks me quickly ... The coughing stage.

(Intermission ... a coughing fit takes over)

That's actually a good sign, the road to beautiful recovery. Hashem created the immune system and various response systems to fight off invading germs, by the "T" cells. Then to put your body into recovery mode, and the cough is supposed to clear the lungs, of course a little syrup or honey helps in this area.

Anyway, there are two flower shops nearby. I"YH i'll go soon as I have the energy and get those Pansies. 

Oh, yes, and keep that lesson of humility in focus.

08 February 2011

. . . The Last Dance

Its the last dance
and as we gather
once more to enhance
our linguistic endeavor
we are reminded that
all to soon
it will be over

Thank you Tovah for persevering with your struggling students. For not giving up on us, for continuing to challenge us and criticize us in your inimitable fashion.
Even when we felt disheartened, you spoke to us through your journalistic idealism, and created the spark in our souls again, to try once more to capture our readers' minds and hearts.
You moved us to listen to the music of our souls, and express what lay hidden within. We hopefully will continue to dance to the music of creativity, even beyond your leading us, in this . . . last dance.

30 January 2011

Mazal Tov

It seemed like a regular Chassanah. There were the alta Bubbes and the Bubbes. Mothers of the couple gripping tissues to their noses right in front of me, and the young braided girls crying into their tehillim. The young children were pushing through the legs of everyone to get to where they wanted.

A white mesh mechitzah was between the women and the Chuppah. At the far end of the mechitzah someone lowered it so those ladies could see. But soon a white-knitted kippa-wearing chassid was tacking it back up.

I strained my eyes to peer through the mesh. There was the Kallah, a white mound of silk and satin draped over her. The Chussen was buried in a sea of black, difficult to distinguish through the mesh, one from another.

Omein! The women murmured. Ahmen I added. The next Brocha I actually heard and B"H could answer a true Omein. The glass shattered. But then there were more Brochos, the Ketubah reading, and then the grand
Mazel Tov. Soon the white mesh parted slightly and two women entered our side, beaming. Mazel Tovs, hugs, kisses and hand shakes all around me. Some women were greeting others, happy to see them.

I didn't know either family, it was a friend who invited me to see "something special" at this Chassanah.

Soon the women were entering the hall, through the kitchen door into a large room with many tables modestly set, no music. All the food was homemade. It looked ok, but I didn't want any. After all, I really wasn't invited and didn't feel right to partake. Children running all over, smiling, everyone was happy and full of joy. In place of music, some women were joyously reading with much animation a poem-like set of stanzas, some were bouncing for joy. I guess this was the feminine version of a badchan.

There was genuine joy for the Kallah and for the joining of two young people under the Chuppah and G-d.

This was not an ordinary affair, you see, because the women were covered from the tip of their toes to the top of their heads with layers of clothing, some with veils. Children were wearing the prettiest of capes, dark shades, lace, and maybe taffeta too.

Over on a couple tables you could see a few sheitels. These must be the ladies who lowered the mechitzah in order to actually see the Kedusha. But they knew women are not counted as aidem (witnesses). They were a definite minority. One had a camera and was sneaking pictures now and then. The other women got excited and annoyed, some screeched, and many pulled down their veils, not to be exposed to the flash. They were truly upset. This was a breach of their modesty.

These women were happy to be living according to the dinim (laws) given them by their Rabbis. If you asked, they could recite where it says to do "this" and "that", the Rambam, Chofetz Chaim, Chasam Sofer. I wonder why this is not taught in Beis Yaakov schools?

They genuinely felt they were helping to bring Moshiach. It is their way to counter the loss of modesty and tznius being breached by the outside world. They are very happy living in their inside world. Couldn't help notice that most of our conversation was precisely on this subject.

Who knows, maybe they are contributing to the elevation of Kedusha in the world.

However, I needed some fresh air, and bid my friend a
Mazel Tov, a congratulation, and headed for the door.

The night air was crisp under a sky of stars. Up there I envisioned Hashem looking down, watching his children, wishing them a Mazal Tov Meod, much good success in their endeavors.

Who Would Do Such a Crazy Thing?

Who would do such a crazy thing! Fly 1600 miles across an ocean to an empty apartment with no furniture?

Leave your home, family, friends, go to a new country, a new neighborhood, and especially a new apartment that you only saw pictures of on the internet? It had a fridge and stove but no furniture meant no beds.

The taxi was bringing us from the airport to the address in my Brownline. The driver started talking to us in Ivrit and I was answering him in Ivrit. I was shocked. It was over 27 years ago that I had gone to ulpan (Hebrew classes). I was atonished how my mind took control over my emotions. Or was it the other way?

When we arrived at the building on Abarbanel, waiting for us was the owner of our rental apartment. He was young, smiling and by default our second welcoming committee. My husband joined him dragging the suitcases up three flights of stairs into our empty apt.

However to my surprise, it wasn't so empty. It was full. Two men walking around, buckets, shmattas, brooms, ladders, and some toxic smelling fumes in the air.

My husband was zonked from the time differential, begging for a place to lay down. I was exclaiming my disappointment about the workers and the mess. After all, "you told me that you had two weeks to prepare for us, so why this?"

Just then, in walks a friend and her intended, she takes one look at everything and lets out a commanding appraisal that put it all into perspective. A brief back and forth and the whole thing got settled. Two days knocked off the lease and reduction in the first month's rent payment. So much for a powerful diminutive former real estate sales bargainer who knows how to get what Rachel wants. Out came the Lease. After weeks of emailing and reading and commenting, I was in no frame of mind to concentrate on all the details again. Getting my husband to hold the pen was another gargantuan task, but sign we did.

We left the owner watching our luggage and the workers while we all jumped into Avi's tiny car to transport one reluctant practically horizontal loudly kvetchy husband to a resting place before he flattened out on the ground.
The first and most important next stop was for a cell phone. Pay as you go was good enough for me. I didn't want to accumulate contracts and fees before my first good nights sleep.

From there we flew to the address in my Brownline to the one store I was told had American HiRise beds. I looked over the set and then pulled out the plastic. "Ok, when can this be delivered?" "Well, I have to check on where my guy is and what his schedule ..."

"I need these beds before nitefall, we just landed from the States, my husband and I are exhausted and we must have something to sleep on other than a dirty floor!"

My diminutive friend sized everything up, applied her persuasive dulcet tones, and the deal was done. Rachel to the rescue again.

We were promised the beds, installed and set up in the room of our choice by 7 pm. "Oh, thank you so much. You have no idea how happy you have made one exhausted husband, and his relieved wife." (Typical American polite and always thankful response.)

"You know, that's unheard of here. You could have waited a couple days." My gut feeling to Rachel's warning was that the owner is also American, and understands ... The person who told me about him said he was nice. And he sure was, because it took two weeks before the credit card arrangements finally took hold (tashlumim, or payment plan), and the whole time he accepted each of my explanations without a whimper. B"H for small things.

From there we bounced over to Rami Levi (suppposedly the cheapest food store around) for some essentials for the fridge that was stark naked. Again, my American plastic really was a life saver. Accepted in every store. Never appreciated it this way before.

All this B"H within a few hours after landing. Thank the Alm-ghty for things big and small.

Back to the apt. The workers were gone and Ari, the owner, was also ready to depart. Ari wished us a smoothe settling in and if there was anything we needed help with to feel free to call him.

Well, what now? as I looked at Rachel. "Oh my gosh, my husband!" We almost forgot about him. Again Rachel had it all planned. "Let's pick him up, come to my place and I'll make you a nice dinner." "But what about the delivery?" "Don't worry, I told them to call you when they're on the way, and Avi will drive you back in time, we're just a few streets away."

My husband didn't want to wake up, to put it mildly. After some gentle coaxing we got him into the car. "Where are we going, where are we, I want to sleep." Slowly we cajoled him up the 30 steps, promising a delicious salmon dinner, hot veggies and broiled potatoes, and a sweet dessert. B"H it worked, his hunger overcame his confusion. The hour long dinner was delicious and really made us feel warm and fuzzy, ready to fall asleep.

My pocket started vibrating then ringing. B"H it was the beds! "Yes, we'll be there in 20 minutes."

Shortly after that, back at our new (empty) home, the doorbell announced our first piece of furniture. I must say these guys were great, everything done in unison, quickly and efficiently.

"Where do you want them?" "Oh, just leave them here." (in the living room, the bedrooms didn't look like they could handle 2 beds.) It was already dark outside and everything did look kinda strange to us. I felt we should stay in the biggest room for our first nite. It was hot and steamy and I wasn't eager to sleep in what seemed like a closet.

The guys left. Rachel and Avi left. From the suitcases I pulled out a set of sheets and my pillow. We were all set. Quickly we dressed the beds and soon we were drifting. It was the middle of the summer, hot but with a cool breeze. I was already in heaven.

I can't explain how awkward we felt the next morning. A strange place, nothing that felt homey, although I heard birds singing. My husband was grouchy. He had to daven. We had an appointment. What to eat? How do we do this? I think I filed away the emotions of our first morning in that dark corner of one's inner recesses to be forgotten.

Coffee to the rescue. The aroma was soothing to my emotions. My husband however, did not find it so easy. Unfortunately he doesn't drink coffee. He began a very difficult phase of culture shock. It took several months of establishing a routine to be able to manage some type of comfort and acceptance. Finding a shul to pray 3 times every day was an adventure. Creating his appetite was insurmountable. Dialogue was painful. What was I to do? Nothing prepared me for this, even over 20 years of marriage.

I found a little natural take out, and then we were afloat in salads, brown rice, eggs and soups. The first couple months I wasn't even thinking about cooking yet. Hot water for coffee however was a must.

Slowly the summer moved into the Yom Tovim, I bought dishes, pots, silver, tablecloths and even invited a single girl and Rachel and Avi for Rosh HaShana meals. It was great fun. The days came and went, and my only solace was the sunshine that bathed me in warmth. My husband was still having those intermittent bouts of homesickness. I however felt at home and kept reminding myself that it was for really for real. Actually, that feeling immediately returned as soon as I saw the Tel Aviv landscape as El Al was descending for our landing. The joy was pouring out of me by the buckets full.

Thank the Alm-ghty, we are now here 6 months. A very difficult but immense milestone. During all this time, as new residents we needed to comply with certain legal requirements, fulfill some basic logistics, and only after that were we able to relax. I was operating in 'efficiency mode' making appointments, arriving at meetings, making lists, checking bank accounts, initializing utilities and setting our new life into motion. B"H we had divine assistance and things were falling into place.

But my husband is still so homesick for his hevra in the Lakewood Minyan on 16th Avenue, the 'always open' Shomer Shabbos minyan factory on 13th Avenue, our friends, and the familiarity and ease of shopping in Boro Park, Brooklyn. Nothing I could say or do seemed to phase him. Those are the emotions of a dedicated davener, one religious Jew attached to his way of life communing with Hashem in his corner of the world.

The sunshine continues to flood us with vitamins C and D, put color into our faces, strengthens our bones, and energizes us both, releasing a feeling of appreciation not experienced ever before. We realize that all beginnings are difficult, as they say, but we look for the positive in every day and the Hand of Hashem in what comes our way.

Today, now as February approaches, we continue to bless the bright skies and the skies covered with clouds, raining down the blessing of water to nourish the Land, feed the flowers, fruits and veggies. Hopefully filling the Kinneret, and bringing added strength to a weary nation.

We are now part of this regeneration on the stage of history's timeline. A Holy People, on a Holy Land, guided by our Holy Torah.

There's nothing crazy about any of this, it's part of a divine plan.

Bless the Holy One, forever and ever.

20 January 2011

Our Neighbors

In Jerusalem you are likely to find a lovey-dovey couple gracing your mirpeset (balcony) in the early hours. No, not some strangers in a stranglehold on your porch at 3am!

It's more apropos to find pinkish-brown doves coming to see who their new neighbors are. A little sunflower seeds is a great enticement. They snuggle together inside a flowerless flower box hanging over the railing. Peek at them from a safe distance and they immediately stare back, privacy broken, they fly to a nearby branch for seclusion. So tsnius those little doves are!

I put out sunflower seeds around 11:30 a.m. My husband comes home and curiously peers out on the mirpeset. The timing is good. My hungry fine feathered friends are nibbling away.

They must be the same twosome I see while heading for the bus. The vigilant guardians of Abarbanel Street. There they are, canvassing up and down on Ibn Ezra street, out in front of the shul, always within eyeshot of each other.

When you see one on your premises with twigs in beak, its a sure sign the male is searching for the perfect spot to construct his lovers nest. He'll fly back and forth with twigs all day long to create a cushion for his beloved to nestle. When the male takes off you can hear a musical sound from the air flowing thru it's wings. Once she's sitting, he will continue to bring her twigs to her cushion and protect their offspring.

Maybe I'll put out a basket to help the male find a spot for his lover. Or maybe they'll go for the flower pots? In any case, I'm awaiting the chirping of a couple tiny new neighbors.

Listen at the end of this video and you can hear the musical sound as he flies off.

12 January 2011

The Green Door

I felt an air of mystery with every step we took. We were about to experience a mostly unknown ancient remnant of the Kotel.

We turned the corner and I was suddenly shaken.
There was a Chayal, an Israeli soldier, weapon draped over his tall shoulders, eyes not focusing but taking everything in. He was guarding the small green door. It was open and inside I could see Arabs walking and some sitting and some folded over on the ground.

Quickly our guide led us into a small area to the left of the green door.

The air was very still, there was no sound, only the pounding of my heart. I felt the aura of holiness. I took my siddur (prayer book) and poured out my heart to the One Who was listening.

Our guide was explaining ... and here we were facing a remnant of the ancient Kotel that had been rebuilt by the wicked Herod. He then told us that this Wall "is even holier than the other Wall, because its location is practically opposite the actual site of the Holy of Holies" of our Holy Temple.

Twenty five years later I am now living in Eretz Yisrael with my husband and this memory returned as I read about the Israeli Antiquities Authority. They will be refurbishing this area, restoring some crumbling stones, a new floor plus more. Inch by inch, Israel is elevating and beautifying the stones of the Kotel with respectful renovations.

My hope is that the Green Door
will disappear and once again
our Leviim will be going to and fro
giving nachas to the One Above.

The Green Door pic from the mighty Elder of Ziyon blog

Old World Jew

11 January 2011


In the early morning cold, I peered out from my bedroom window. In a split second my eyes caught the silhouette of a man wrapped in black, both arms lovingly around tallis and tefillin bag as he passed between two houses on his way.

Dawn was on fire. A bright rich orange glow bursting onto the clouded sky captured me in awe.

This is the early morning that my husband entered on his way to converse with the Creator of earth and man!

05 January 2011

What Am I Doing Here?

What I first remember from being in Eretz Yisrael in the 80's was the sun embracing me in tremendous warmth penetrating my bones, and my Neshoma feeling "at peace and at home". That "Oooh this bed feels so good" homey feeling after being on a business trip, staying in hotels, eating someone else's idea of food.

I have always loved being outdoors in the sunshine, under leafy trees or in the blazing desert, under clear skies, or a sky filled with magnificent fluffy clouds playing havoc with the suns rays. The feel of the morning air, its water crystals capping blades of grass, or dangling off leaves bathed by the misty sun's rays ... A cool moistness carressing my face. This is a beautiful morning in Israel. But then every morning in Israel is beautiful!

Nearly six months my husband and I are living in Yerushalayim. It takes minutes, hours, days and weeks to slowly become familiar with very different and new surroundings, all the while giving conscious awareness of the hashgocha pratis (providence) in each new experience that one is brought into.

If one can be 'in love' with a place, then I am immensely in love with Yerushalayim and the whole of Eretz Yisrael.

World, I'm not going anywhere!