Archives for June 2008

…gone to look for America*

The crush of yesterday and today was to organize all that we need for our excellent adventure*. We have packed clothing, costumes, gifts, and assorted electronic equipment. I was told by one of my children that my all-purpose crocs sandals which I had planned on wearing the entire time were not suitable attire for a Los Angeles synagogue service. I would have a “Aaron, I don’t think we’re in Israel anymore*” experience or perhaps a Beverly Hillbillies* flashback. In any case, I reluctantly packed my only pair of closed shoes and I suppose we are about ready to go.

Not having been in the US for 6 years, I am guessing it will be like discovering a new place– since we’ll be coming home to a place we’ve never been before.*

So in preparation, we went out this evening to the local [kosher] Burger King to get one last long look at Israel as lived by the Israelis– for comparison’s sake. In fact, we think the calories probably won’t count since we were engaged in scientific research.

Here is what we found:
1. Lots of women 35+ who are unable to get shirts long enough to cover their waist.
2. One woman whose two year old spent time taking apart the wet floor barrier sign and opening the fire hose box when he wasn’t standing on the chair and reaching across the table.
3. A Russian woman who when she took her children to wash their hands, took about 2 yards of paper toweling for each child.
4. Four bouncy little girls ranging in age from about 5 to about 8.
5. Lots of noise.

Now at 2 a.m., we take our cab to the airport and travel via Zurich on to America… the adventure is just beginning.

* For some reason I am channeling American cultural icons from past generations

Coming to a town near you

Well, final preparations for our road show* are underway. We will be setting out for: Manhattan, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Philadelphia (yes, again), Newburgh NY, New Rochelle NY, Staten Island, Philadelphia (yes, yet again), Omaha, Phoenix, & Los Angeles (and places in between… as we drive cross-country like a couple of teenagers/Israelis). We will then treat ourselves to a cruise to Alaska, a couple of days in Seattle, and then back to LA to spend some time with our son and daughter-in-law and their children who vacation there each summer (at her parents’ home.)

I will be reporting from the road as we (re)discover America. Having lived in Israel now almost 13 years and last visited the US 6 years ago, I imagine there will be surprises.

So stay tuned…

*We will be presenting a fun-filled travelogue of China and Tibet and bringing along some treats for some of those who we will entertain. It is only a sample of the amazing time people have when they travel with us and Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours, the finest company providing kosher/shomer shabbat tours throughout the world.


It’s not that I have nothing to write about. Life here has been busy. Shavuot was delightful with pleasant guests and good food. I made blintzes for the first time in years and it was fun! Preparations for our trip to the US are continuing with all sorts of details to be nailed down and papers and props to pack (we are bringing all sorts of surprises.)

But what has been occupying my thoughts and has been the subtext of my life for the last few weeks, and particularly for the last couple of weeks is a struggle that someone I know is going through. Her friend is dying. And it isn’t at all like Hollywood where all of the process takes around 2 hours. It’s a process that is excruciating. Her dear friend has ALS and it is cruelly snuffing out life- a bit at a time. No longer able to walk around or talk, her friend can still write notes and they are the only way out of the prison that ALS creates. For everyone- for her dear friend, for the family members, for friends, and for people who are only secondarily affected, it is a terrible, emotionally painful time. Fortunately, the family has the services of dedicated hospice workers who help lighten the emotional burden with their caring.

Last night I saw a former student of mine at the bar mitzvah party of the son of a mutual friend. This former student and her husband, an oncologist, have started an institute in Jerusalem that trains professionals and lay volunteers in ways to assist people with terminal illnesses and their family members. They have been able to receive funding from outside sources and are helping tens of families at any given time. I realized once again what a wonderful thing they are doing.

This is one of the absurdities of life. As the same time most of us carry on our daily activities with the joys and the frustrations that accompany them, others are sitting at the edge of the universe and feeling the pull of inevitability.

The bunion saga: Part II

The big day arrived. Finally, I was going to the hospital that fices ugly (and painful) feet. My appointment (in case you forgot) was for 8:16.

I left home at 7:00 a.m. because I was worried about traffic jams and other sundry conditions. This is a country where a “chefetz chashud” (suspicious item) can have rush hour traffic ground to a halt for the better part of an hour. However, yesterday there was clear sailing and I arrived at the hospital about 7:45.

I found the outpatient clinics and took my number to check in. In Israel, the idea of taking a number has really caught on. And it is a wonderful invention. Before that you could be standing in line at the bank for 15 minutes and suddenly someone can walk over with coffee in one had, a croissant in the other and tell you that he was ahead of you because he was here “before.” Right.

So now there are the little number stubs like they use at the bakery in the US (or used to, at least) and they [are supposed to] keep people honest. I checked in, had all of the right paperwork, and was handed my file to lay on a table outside of room 32. Paper clipped to the front of the file was my bakery number. I was the first to arrive.

One by one, the other patients arrived. Nice people. There was the man who had made aliya from “the Belgian Congo” who lived in Modi’in and was now managing a hotel in Jerusalem. There was the restaurant owner from Tel Aviv. There was the Israeli woman whose son lives in Queens who was looking forward to a trip to visit him. Oh yes, and there was the diva.

The Diva was a woman of about 60 who came into the foot clinic wearing stiletto sandals and a strapless tight lavender dress with cut-outs that extended in a triangular pattern from the hem of her dress to her panty line. Can we all say here “inappropriate”? She sauntered in at about 9:15. Oh, how would I know that if my appointment was at 8:16? Simple. The doctor who was supposed to examine the gathering hordes was not coming in. The doctor who was replacing him was stuck with an emergency [cup of coffee? use your imagination; this blog is G-rated]. So we all waited. We got to know each other. Didn’t sing any folk songs, nor did we dance the hora (remember, our feet hurt). But was did get talk. With the young soldier male and the young soldier female (who was so very pretty that I couldn’t imagine her looking any better had she been dressed like the Diva), with the other female soldier, Svetlana, who was there with her father (as Israelis would say, “like two drops of water” — they looked so alike) who was fragile and delicate and lovely too.

It was only 11:15 when finally they got down to business. The nurse came out and called in…. Diva!!!! Immediately Queens mother, hotel manager, restaurant owner, and yours truly called out, “Hey! We all were here before her!!!!” (There were others too, but those are the ones I remember.) The nurse informed us that we were wrong; she had been there long before us. We objected, but there was no convincing her.

A few minutes later, I and hotel manager were called into the other two examining rooms while Diva was examined by the one doctor. Diva not only was inappropriate in dress, but she proceeded to take close to 25 minutes asking stupid questions (they were walk-through examining rooms and all of the doors were open). I had a barely controllable desire to go stomp on both of her stiletto shod feet.

Finally the doctor got to me. Professional and thorough, he told me that:
1. After surgery I would be able to walk around on my heel.
2. I will not be able to wash my foot for 4-6 weeks.
3. I should be ready for 6 months of strong pain.
4. There are no surgeries scheduled for the summer.
5. I will receive a date of their choice for the surgery.
6. If I cannot make that date, I must come in for another appointment just like the one I washaving yesterday.

He then walked over to hotel manager leaving me with the nurse. I asked her why I would need to come back for the same exam if I didn’t have the surgery the date they gave me. She explained, “We can only remember you for three months.” It was clear to me that with the volume of patients, it was likely he wouldn’t remember me by the end of the hour. And, there is this neat invention called the x ray that could provide clues as to the bone structure of the foot…

Oh well.

The State of the Bunion

What’s going on with me, you ask. OK, you didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway…

Having returned from Crete feeling as energetic as some of the statues we saw there, I sat down and started to work on the presentations we’ll be making in the US on China/Tibet and Vietnam/Cambodia. The problem I have is not that I don’t have enough to present. I have way way way too much. And it’s hard to leave out beautiful, scenic, interesting, exciting places, but if I don’t want to have our audiences bring pajamas and pillows, I need to cut out a lot!

In addition to dealing with the logistics of the trip (flights, car rental, flights from LA to and from Seattle for the one-week Alaskan cruise!!!!!!!!) we have been going through a big repair on the house (now finished), my husband had a root canal early Sunday afternoon and then the first part of a dental implant procedure (that necessitated lots of stitches) late Sunday afternoon, and we have to prepare for Shavuot next week (hopefully some of our family will be joining us for a meal). And………

Tomorrow is the next installment of “The Bunion Blacklist” saga where we find out if making the appointment with all of the correct documentation and x rays but not having 6 weeks to spare to stay off my feet will land me right back on the famed list. Let’s hope it’s not the same doctor I saw last time I went to this hospital. Shortly after that visit, someone beat up a doctor at that hospital and I couldn’t but wish it had been he (it wasn’t). Of course I was not encouraged by the appointment letter I received on special hospital stationery that stated that my appointment was set (by them, of course) for 8:16 a.m. (no, that’s not a typo… 8:16) and to “come prepared for a wait of several hours.”

More tomorrow.