Seeds and seafaring

This is a week of anticipation. On Sunday we will be taking 6 of our grandchildren on a cruise. This is not only a very exciting adventure, but it is a lesson in what we therapists call “seeding.”

Our grandson Daniel had his Bar Mitzvah a couple of months ago. Like his father, Daniel has a good sense of humor, and as he spoke about himself and his family, he mentioned something to the effect of our being tour guides and traveling and joked that for our information, he’s free to travel at the end of June.

We came home that night and the seed that he planted in my mind began to grow. Two years ago I had the opportunity to take my oldest grandchild with me on one of the tours I guided to China. We spent 11 days in Beijing and it was a completely wonderful experience. I was lucky enough to have some other young girls on the tour. The girls were 12, 13, 17, 22, & 24 — and amazingly, they really enjoyed being together and formed a little subgroup. Staying in the same hotel gave them an opportunity to get to know the neighborhood and feel at home there. We saw some magnificent sights such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City- which I talk about here and here and here , and the Summer Palace- a place where the group had a lot of fun! My granddaughter learned to bargain (she’s much better than I am) and she learned some Chinese words, and best of all, we now have a shared experience that was very very special.

It seemed to me that Daniel’s joking about a trip made sense and that there had to be a way that we could treat him to something special. My first thought was that my husband could take him somewhere. Unfortunately, an opportunity like the Beijing trip doesn’t come along very often– perhaps never again since it was pre-Olympics and now everything is much more expensive. Then I began to think, “why should he have all the fun!” and the idea began to form in my head. Finally we decided that we could go on a cruise and take advantage of the fact that the 3rd and 4th passengers in a room were half-price. So we decided that my husband would room with three boys and I with three girls. Our oldest grandson was unable to come with us because he has a bagrut, a Regents- type of exam on Sunday, the day the cruise leaves. So, we looked for the next younger grandson. Unfortunately, he had an end of the year celebration during the time we will be away, so we went for the next one. In the end, we will have three 13 year olds, one 12 year old, and two 11 year olds. We will have two brothers, two sisters, and boy/girl twins with us.

We will be visiting for a couple of hours each in Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. We think it will be wonderful!

And the most amazing part is that the whole idea came from a little seed that Daniel planted in my brain. See how powerful offhanded jokes can be?

We know we belong to the land…

Tonight my husband and I went to Modi’in’s Cultural Center where a visiting troupe was performing the musical “Oklahoma.” We actually had seen “Oklahoma” a few times before. Both of us had seen the film when we were young. We saw it on Broadway in the early years of our marriage. We saw it again when we were living in Oklahoma. Each time we enjoyed it, and seeing it while living in Oklahoma was particularly fun.

But tonight’s performance was amazing. The troupe consisted of old and new olim from many different countries as well as native born Israelis. The lead, “Curly”, was a student from the US currently studying in Israel. The singing and dancing were wonderful and the acting was terrific.

During the intermission we spoke to the couple sitting to our left. They were friendly and nice, She asked where we lived and I said -in Modi’in. I asked where they were from and she said “Gush Katif”- currently living in a “caravilla”.

For those who don’t know, Gush Katif was one of the Jewish communities in Gaza that was brutally evacuated by the Israeli police and Army and razed to the ground in order to guarantee peace with our Arab neighbors. The inhabitants of these communities had begun living there over 30 years before, encouraged by the Israeli government to develop the area and to make it beautiful. And they did. We visited Gush Katif in 1994 and it was beautiful. They had made gardens and greenhouses, had friendly relations with the Arabs in their area, and were living peaceful, happy lives. When the Army evacuated the residents of each of the 17 Jewish communities, they carried men and women and children screaming and crying from their homes and within days the homes were rubble while the people were dumped into hotels and temporary dwellings. Subsequently, the Arabs burned down and destroyed all of the synagogues. The evacuees were promised quick resettlement which some received, to “caravillot” – a contraction of “caravan”, the Israeli term for trailer/mobile home and villa/ot, the Israeli term for a private home that only people with means can afford. The name was just as cruel and ironic as the rest of the evacuation. Almost 4 years later, these people are still living temporarily in these tiny trailers. Many of the farmers who used to export large quantities of food products to Europe and around the world are still out of work. It is an ongoing tragedy.

And tonight, there I sat next to two people who I later found out have been articulate spokespeople on behalf of the former residents of the Gaza communities and together we listened to the people on stage singing out with their whole hearts “we know we belong to the land…”

We do. It is ours. And all we want to do is to continue to live our lives here at peace with our neighbors. May that day come soon.

Matan’s Bar Mitzvah — Take 1

The third of our grandsons has become a Bar Mitzvah. The first one, Tzvi, celebrated in Kfar Etzion on a cold rainy winter shabbat. The warmth was provided by the large extended family. The second one, Daniel, celebrated just a couple of kilometers away in his home yishuv, Alon Shevut. The third, Matan, celebrated at the Kotel, the Western Wall– yesterday.

The Kotel, the place where Jews from all over the world come to pray, is, on Monday and Thursday mornings, the scene of non-stop Bar Mitzvahs. People come from all over the world with their immediate, or if they can afford it, with their extended family, to celebrate there. For us, it was a ride of about 50 minutes and a walk through the alleyways of the Old City of about another 10 minutes.

And what a scene it was with happy people from all over the world! Groups of tourists crowded the plaza.

IMGP3237Matan reading the Torah

We are anticipating another celebration of his bar mitzvah in the future with the whole family. Until then,
כל הכבוד
Way to go!

Matan

Matan

Today at the hospital

I’ve been pretty lucky. I raised 5 children and never had to endure surgery on any of the children. My daughter is not so lucky. Her son, Ephraim, 5 months old, had his second surgery today. He is fine. He was back to himself in no time and he is a healthy little boy who has every chance at living a perfectly normal life. But today was hard.

Yesterday, I referred to the prep day at Hadassah Hospital for children about to have surgery. I thought that it was wonderful for the older children although Ephraim much preferred to think about drinking milk and manipulating his little teething rings.

Today we saw all of the same parents and children. Two by two, children were sent up to the operating suites accompanied by family members. When Ephraim’s turn came, his mom was able to enter the operating room with him and to stay with him until the anesthesia took effect.

Then we waited. The truth is that the surgery didn’t take very long. I think he was out of our sight for about a half an hour. But it was a difficult time. My daughter went to get some coffee, anticipating a much longer wait. While she was gone, the doctor came to call her to be with her child. I went with him and when I heard Ephraim crying I got tears in my eyes, grateful that he was awake and alert and hungry. I started feeding him the milk his mother had expressed and when his mother came in a minute or two later, he snuggled into her arms and continued to feed, feeling safe and secure.

The staff was amazingly kind and friendly. The doctor explained what he had done and assured us that everything was fine and he should have no problems in the future. The clown from yesterday returned to spend time with the children in the recovery room and although Ephraim was not old enough to appreciate him, my daughter and I appreciated his clever way of dealing with us and the others. He was funny and gentle and caring.

Once we left the recovery room we went back to the children’s area where we had been yesterday and where we started out in the morning. The nurse there, the other parents and children, the national service volunteer, all made the stay pleasant. When finally the anesthesiologist came to release the children, we left with our little Ephraim, relieved.

Notes I could have written today

1. Dear Hadassah,
You certainly have a lovely hospital out there on Mount Scopus, but would it hurt you to make it accessible to people with disabilities and mothers with strollers? It seems a bit unfair that the only way to avoid flights of stairs from the parking lot to the hospital is to use the very narrow sidewalk that contains one of those revolving gates into which one has to put a stroller between an adult who can push it through the bars and an adult who can pull it through on the other end.

2. And while I’m writing to you, Hadassah, may I add that the program devised for helping little children overcome fears about surgery is wonderful. It was delightful to hear the story of how an operation is carried out and to see the masks and monitoring equipment and to see the children play with modeling clay and eat breakfast together and to have a clown visit, but I am guessing that the 5.5 hours we spent there were pretty much lost on Ephraim who is 5 months old and is made to feel safe and content by drinking milk.

3. Dear Notebook Club,
Remember that computer we bought from you in November with the 22 inch monitor? Remember we were supposed to get in-home service for 3 years on the computer? Remember how suddenly when our monitor stopped working you told us you had nothing to do with it and to take it to the Dell place located in the bowels of Tel Aviv? I’ll bet you want to know what came next. Well, a week later, we picked up what they told us was a new monitor. However, it was unwrapped and had a sign on it that said, “Ready.” We brought it home. It worked for almost a week. I hope you have a creative solution for us that involves delivering a new monitor to our door or we will be looking for every opportunity to tell the world about your great service.

4. Dear President Obama,
I sure feel a lot safer today now that those outposts that were preventing peace have been dismantled. It’s amazing what destroying just a few homes can do. Wow. Peace is on its way.

5. Dear G-d,
It’s been kind of a rough time around here what with health issues and other complications. Could you not have picked a better time for the reappearance of my husband’s gout?

6. Dear World,

Would you please remember to pray for the safe recovery of my grandson, Ephraim Yehoshua ben Leah Gavriella?

What makes me smile?

Well, the truth is that lots of things make me smile, but my biggest smiles are for the wonderful people in my life. I thought I would share some of them with you.

Abigail and Nomi

Abigail and Nomi

These two have got to be the cutest thing going… Both of them started talking before they should have and you never quite know what they will say next. The only thing you can be sure of is that it will be clever or amusing or both. These two little sisters are filled with energy and they have plans…

Tamar and Lilach

Tamar and Lilach

Tamar and Lilach are cousins. They love each other and always have big smiles when they see each other. Lilach is particularly talented at relating to younger children (she’s actually working in a day care center a couple of hours a week) and Lilach and sparkly Tamar are full of personality!

Kinneret

Kinneret

Kinneret is just becoming verbal. She has new words every day and so we’ll soon see what’s going on in that mind of hers. But she already makes me smile.

These are only 5 of the 15 granddaughters who make me smile… and the 14 grandsons are no less adorable and precious. There’s a lot to smile about.