Eliezer Bar-Ad Z”L

Today marks shloshim, 30 days since Eli’s untimely death. It is very hard to believe that he is no longer with us.

I first met Eli shortly after I moved to Modiin in the spring of 1998. He was one of the first people I met here. With his friendly manner and contagious smile, he was immediately likable and as time passed, I got to know him better and better. He and my husband became fast friends, and whenever they were together there were deep discussions and lots of laughter. Eli had a smile that lit up the room. He was active, curious, interested in everything. He loved serving as a volunteer for the local police and would stop by our house on many shabbatot when he’d go to the station to see what was happening. He was always full of enthusiasm, and excitement.

People in Modiin in the Anglo community knew him and everyone felt his warmth and kindness and enjoyed being around him. He taught English in local schools and enjoyed his interactions with his students. He loved to teach and he loved to learn.

After his wife passed away, he came one day to our house and asked if I would give him my sister’s telephone number. Of course I did! The two of them couldn’t have been a better match. When Eli and Vicki were together there was lightness and happiness. I never saw him smile as much as he did during the times he and Vicki were together. Months later he came to our house and explained that since our parents were no longer alive, he could not ask them for her hand in marriage, but since I was the older sister, he could ask me.

Of course I said yes. It was obvious that they would be very happy together.

We went with them to make arrangements for the wedding- and what a wedding it was! It was so very happy with very special flower girls and a juggler who put on a great act and amazing music from a Dixieland band. And most important, our family embraced their Uncle Eli!!

Eli and Vicki made the most of their time together- traveling to Canada and the US, India (twice), Crete, Germany, England, and Austria. We were with them on a couple of their trips and Eli seemed to enjoy every minute of them. He was particularly enthralled by a little girl in the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamshala, India, who took him by the hand to show him where she slept.

On many shabbatot, Eli and Vicki would come to have lunch with us. His eyes sparkled as he looked at Vicki- as did hers when she looked back at him. They were always together- a couple, a team- and their love for one another and their happiness was always evident.

All of us will miss Eli, that is certain, but for my sister, the loss is beyond words. I pray that she will find comfort in the memories they made together and in the knowledge that the time they spent together was the happiest time of his life.

 

 

 

Stay home! – No, I mean it STAY HOME!!!

All of us vividly remember when we were locked down and only essential workers could leave their homes and cities to work. We were an obedient people then. All of us longed for things to get back to normal. The economy was tanking, so the government let up- too soon, for sure, but that’s not the only reason we are where we are today. People simply are ignoring the three simple requests- wearing masks, maintaining social distance and washing hands. Teenagers are having parties in the woods, adults are sitting in cafes, socializing, and having demonstrations with thousands of people, and our numbers are growing alarmingly.

Meanwhile, no one can travel abroad to many many countries.  The airport is mostly abandoned. The outbound and inbound tourism industry is comatose. Thousands of people employed in that industry (travel agents, tour companies, tour guides, hotel personnel, restaurants, bus companies, etc. etc.) have no income because other people don’t like the rules. Many of us long to embrace our children and grandchildren, and to celebrate smachot with them.  If we all followed the rules, we could lick this in a fairly short time. If we don’t, it could be a very long time that a lot of people will suffer. We are all limited now because of others’ selfishness.

And if you think that Covid 19 is like the flu, think again. Do some research. Look at the articles about long term effects, even in those who are thought to be asymptomatic. Read about what happened to participants in Covid “parties.”

Nobody likes being restricted. Nobody thinks it’s cool to walk around in a mask, but if you are anxious to start living normally, follow the rules. Go to work, shop when you must, but avoid large gatherings. And remember, you and I and everyone you care for is safest when you are at home.

It’s not over

Friends, all of us are tired of this Covid thing. It’s been going on way too long. There are little people we need to hug. There are big people we need to hug. There are places we want to go, friends we want to see. Enough with the frightening statistics! Enough with the distancing! ENOUGH!!!!

But wishing it away isn’t working. And pretending it’s over is actually prolonging it. All of us who’d hoped that by summer things would ease up are still sitting at home. Part of the reason is that people are not being careful. Good people, people I respect, are wearing their masks on their mouth, but not their nose or on their nose but not their mouth. They are getting too close to each other.

Because this virus can’t be seen or sensed, we think that we and our family and friends are clean, uninfected- but this is an insidious, wily virus that sneaks its way into people, unrecognized until it begins to do battle with us. For some people, it seems there are no discernible symptoms, but this nasty virus can attack parts of the body so stealthily that harm is done before it is detected.

And the news media- even they are tired of this. Remember in the beginning there were heart-wrenching stories of people becoming very ill or dying from Covid-19? That’s still happening, but they are tired of reporting. If we don’t see it on the news or hear it, then it must be rare, we think.

Friends, it isn’t over. There is even reason to believe, say some, that it is getting worse. Guard your lives and those of the people you love- for yourself, for them, and for all of us. This will pass eventually- let’s at least do our part.

Pandemic Fatigue

Early March: We realize that this virus that started in China has reached other countries and seems to be very contagious. Visitors from affected countries are not welcome to visit us. As the awareness grows, returnees from affected countries are asked to quarantine for 2 weeks- and then, as the virus spreads, the country all but closes down. People are permitted to go out only for essential needs: food, medical care. assisting older relatives, visiting non-custodial children. We stay home. We play video games, call friends, zoom.  Some finally get around to doing things they’ve been meaning to do for months or years. Others realize that it wasn’t the lack of time that was keeping them from those chores.

Most of us are good-natured about it. We joke about home-schooling, about having to cook, about finally recognizing that the person we share our life with is fun to be with- or not so much fun. And it goes on and on.

And then governments begin to realize that it can’t go on forever without devastating consequences. Not everyone can work from home. People have lost their income. Farmers can’t harvest their crops, get their produce to market, children (and their mothers) are climbing the walls. The numbers of sick are diminishing. This has to end.

Early May: The powers that be in many countries realize that the lock-down has to end. They devise criteria and timelines in order not to put too many people at too much risk. The formerly empty stores now can have limited customers as long as they are masked. Slowly take-out only food sources become open air restaurants. Schools are open on a part-time, distancing basis.

But people are people. Children want to play together. Preteens and teenagers hug the friends they haven’t seen for 6 weeks. Little ones chase each  around the playground. Friends meet for lunch or dinner. Masks are forgotten. They are uncomfortable,  The virus time is over.

If only the virus itself knew that. If only the invisible droplets that cause such illness and death just disappeared. But as much as we wish it away, it doesn’t seem to be leaving. and now that we all (here in Israel and throughout the world) have contracted Pandemic Fatigue, we are less careful and are assisting this virus by our nonchalance. We are used to things happening fast. How many times have you started to read an article and stopped because it was too long? (Guilty as charged). How many times have we yelled, “Hurry up!” or turned the A/C down to a low temperature or pounded an elevator button because we just can’t wait?

Unfortunately, we cannot hurry this virus along. We can defeat it only by protecting ourselves and others steadily and consistently. A bit of prayer might help too.

A Fable

Once upon a time there was a 20 something young woman- white, Jewish, and from the north living in a city in the south with her husband, (a rabbi) and her small baby. The downtown area of the city was a wide street with two lanes of traffic in each direction and nose-in parking on each side of the street.

One day she decided to go shopping. She saw a parking space on the opposite side of the street. She made a left turn to the other side of the street and pulled into the space. Immediately a policeman came and issued a ticket. She asked why. There was no line in the street and no sign indicating that one couldn’t cross from one side to the other. He told her that she could fight it in court.

A few weeks later she showed up at the courthouse with her infant (now about 7 months old) and sat waiting patiently for about 2 hours. Finally her name was called, the citation read, and she was allowed to speak. But before she spoke the judge said, “Where are you from?” She answered that she lived in the city. He then asked, “No, I mean originally. Where do you come from?” She told him the name of the city where she had been born and raised. He next asked, “So what are you doing here?” She said her husband had a job there. He asked, “And what is your husband’s job?” She answered that he was the rabbi at House of Peace Synagogue (yes, that was its name). He asked if in the city of her birth one could make such a turn on a major street. She said, “Yes.” He said, “Give me the name of a major street you can make a turn like that on.” She did. He said, “We’re going to call the police in your city and check with them.” She relaxed. She knew that they would confirm that what she said was true.

Another 1.5 hours passed. Finally the judge said, “You owe us payment on your ticket.” She said, “But what did the police tell you?” The judge said, “We decided not to call them because we don’t believe you. You can pay now or I can add additional fees for taking up our time.”

She paid. She took her baby and went home.

The moral of the story: There are nasty, prejudiced people in the world. You don’t have to be black, gay, Muslim, or Jewish to be a target. Haters are haters and what we need to do is not join them in their hostility.

Life in the time of CoRONA #4

I want to write about something that left me speechless, so it may be a bit difficult.

First I have to reassure my children (read “jailers”) that I took every possible precaution and made sure not to be in any danger. Remember, one of my finer qualities is paranoia.

We realized that we were missing a very few things, so I got into my car and drove to the mall (about 1 kilometer from our house.) I put on my gloves (I took 3 pairs of gloves for this mission) and pressed the button to take the ticket at the parking lot.

I headed straight for the pharmacy where I had heard they had a supply of the N95 masks. They also had cleaning sheets impregnated with bleach and thermometers. I purchased what we needed. In the pharmacy was one cashier and me.

The mall was empty of people. The escalators were not running. Aside from the pharmacies (I only saw one, but I am certain the other was open too), the supermarket, and a health food store, everything was closed. It was silent.

I stopped at the supermarket – to purchase that all important granulated garlic- there were perhaps 10 people spread over a huge area and spots on the floor near the checkout counters instructing people to stand on them in order to keep a safe distance. Everyone I saw was wearing gloves- most were wearing masks too. Of course once I purchased the masks, I was wearing one also.

No one spoke except the checkout clerks at the pharmacy and the supermarket. They were friendly and helpful.

But the truth was, I had entered a completely alternate reality.

We have traveled a lot- to many different countries. We are not surprised that people have different customs and folkways- but this was so very different from everything else I have ever experienced. It is as if the life has been sucked out of us and we are going through the motions like people on a treadmill who walk and walk and get nowhere.

I know- I firmly believe- that what we are doing is preserving life and it is necessary and important.

But it feels so weird.

Life in the time of CoRONA #3

Let me say from the outset, this post is purely an exercise in thinking and does not represent my specific belief system (which, by the way, even I am not sure of). But travel down this path with me and see what thinking it evokes in you…

When I was a young teenager, more than one person (maybe in the neighborhood of 25) told me that I thought too much. I would ask questions that really didn’t have answers and that I only asked because they were matters of curiosity for me- and I really didn’t expect to get any satisfactory answers. However, the adults around me somehow felt that they needed to give me some response- so usually it was “you think too much.”

One of the things I used to think about was the whole concept of the Messianic Era. How could it possibly unfold? I mean here we are billions of people on earth. Even with all of our modern communication, how would the world get prepared? How would the messiah (however one conceives of such a being) make him/her/it/self known and even be accepted. How would the whole scenario unfold? I simply could not conceive of any mechanism that would work.

And now what is happening? People who were traveling have returned/are returning home- business people, tourists, and yes, even the young Israelis who go traveling after the Army. Students in overseas programs are returning to their homes. Not only that, but people are working from home. Parents are dealing with their children day after day with little respite aside from electronic media. Restaurants, pubs, movie theaters, bowling alleys, gyms, swimming pools- all are closed.

People leave their homes only to buy food and pharmacy items and for short walks. We have cars, but nowhere to go.

Those who looked forward to traveling and/or going to hotels for Passover, will be at home with the nuclear family.

We have no need to dress up to impress others or put on makeup. Appointments and activities that filled our days are gone. Our calendars are blank.

We are hoping to stop the spread of this virus. But, are we in preparation for something bigger, more important? Is this the world’s “wake-up call?” Could it be that we are on the verge of a fundamental change in the world and how we humans act in it? Now that we know that we all are vulnerable, now that we know that we need to protect each other, now that it’s quiet enough to hear that still, small voice- is something extraordinary in store?

Life in the time of CoRONA #2

Musings:

Human beings have a desire to understand the world. Hence all of those cute little people who as soon as they can talk begin asking “why.” OK, sometimes it’s why can my big brother or sister have some treat/experience that I can’t. But some of us have noticed that “why” is a generalized attempt to make sense of the world.

Well, folks, here we are in the time of Corona. Even were my father alive, I doubt if he would be able to remember the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. He was born in December of 1917. So pretty much none of us have vivid memories of that time. It was also an age before mass communication so even through millions of people were affected, there was little awareness of the massive scope of the epidemic.

So I have been mulling the “why.” Here’s what I have some up with so far- and I invite you to add or comment:

  1. Maybe we are being taught that all humankind is in one boat. No matter where we live, what color our skin is, what language we speak, whether we are rich or poor, young or old, no matter what our skills or disabilities, no matter whether we are educated or illiterate, beautiful or ugly- all of us are at risk. We also are learning that all of us can be helpers and that all of us are responsible for the health and well-being of others because we know that we can, just by our presence be exposing a friend, a relative, or a stranger to an illness that may cause them suffering and even death.
  2. Maybe the earth needed a bit of rest. We have been driving our cars, flying around in aircraft- maybe slowing down, taking a rest, is allowing the earth too to renew itself.
  3. Maybe we are being taught humility. Somewhere in the late 60s or the 70s of the last century, there blossomed a self-esteem movement. That was when teachers were told to praise children’s work so that they would feel good about themselves and supposedly achieve more. No more was there a winner and a runner-up only. Now there were all sorts of participation certificates and trophies. Children were encouraged to feel proud of whatever they did whether they really worked at it or not. That education accomplished its goal. More and more of the population believes that they are stellar in their knowledge and performance. People who don’t are embarrassed that they can’t be a Van Gogh when they are painting or a Yo Yo Ma when they are playing an instrument. People speak as if they are experts despite having little knowledge and training in the field that they are declaiming about. Oh yes, many lay people these days are sure about the Corona virus (Covid-19) when they have read the opinions and estimates of experts who themselves are not sure. Or how many people are certain that this is a plot by the government/the media/ who knows? for some nefarious purpose? How about an honest “I don’t know, and I don’t like the uncertainty.” How about a little humility?
  4. Maybe we are learning that who really counts is our family. Forced family time can at first seem daunting, but as we actually spend time with these people when we have the time for them, we may discover that we like them a whole lot more for the clever, funny, sweet people they are. (OK, granted some family members may not fill those descriptions, but hopefully once you’re stuck with them, you will find a way to co-exist that is acceptable to all parties).
  5. Maybe all humankind needed a global slap in the face to get its act together- to stop hurting each other, to stop finding meaning in murder, terror, deception, and violence. Maybe we should be learning that we need to have kindness and compassion and work cooperatively for everyone’s good.
  6. Maybe we are being taught to live in the moment- because at this point it is impossible to plan for the future. We don’t know when the pandemic will be over and we don’t know what the condition of the world will be when it is. Will we ever return to the world we were used to?
  7. Maybe it’s just a virus.

Life in the time of CoRONA

Although people are posting endlessly on Facebook, much of what they write is lost after the first day or two. It occurs to me that what we on this planet are experiencing is so different from what any of us have experienced before, that sharing information, thoughts, ideas, feelings- might be helpful and I welcome input.

I’ll start by saying that awareness of this virus only began for me as something vague and unrelated to me. Although I have visited China many times and have some wonderful Chinese friends, I never visited Wuhan. I do remember feeling sad that the Chinese people were going through this.

A couple of days before we left for our most recent tour to India, I received a call asking if I was available to lead a tour to Australia and New Zealand because the assigned guide was unable to go. The tour was to begin on the same day as our India tour. Of course it was impossible, but subsequently we found out that the tour had been cancelled because the cruise on which participants were scheduled to sail was cancelled.

By the time we came back from India on February 24, people were already talking about the virus having spread and indeed, when we arrived in Cochin a few days earlier, all of us were checked for fever.

It wasn’t until the quarantines began that I really became aware of the extent of the contagion. The week they began quarantines for people arriving from specific countries, I had one son and his children arriving from Bulgaria, one son from the US, and one son from Romania. Two of my grandchildren were quarantined- one had arrived after a visit to Italy and one from Austria. Then came the mandatory quarantines for everyone arriving in the country. When they announced no gatherings of more that 5000 people, then 1000 people then 100 people, the situation became more and more a serious matter.

Just last week we attended a concert; this week, we wouldn’t think of it.

The strangest thing for me is that this is literally worldwide. There is no place to go. All of us living on this beautiful planet are sharing this experience.

Here is what I have observed:

Disbelief- there are people who are sure this is all media hype. How sad that the media have so distorted the truth in the past that people can’t believe them.

Wishful thinking- “It’ll be fine. No one will get hurt”

Compliance- We should just listen to the folks who know more than we do about this. (Respect for education and experience)

Kindness – Granted HS age kids can’t stand to have nothing to do, but the offers to run errands, babysit, tutor, walk dogs, etc. are heart warming.

We are in a new world now. When I was taught family therapy I learned that when there is a crisis, given proper supports, a system will reorganize itself at a higher level of functioning.

Let’s hope that is what happens in our world….

You are invited to join a discussion with only three ground rules:

  1. No politics (no mention of political parties or politicians)
  2. No foul language
  3. No insults

Let me hear from you!

Travels with my grandchildren

My husband and I travel a lot as tour managers, mostly to exotic places, but it is a different kind of tour that I want to tell you about…

When we first started traveling, our tours were almost exclusively to China. By the second trip, our oldest granddaughter started asking me if I could pack her in my suitcase and take her with me. Imagine her surprise when in 2007, a year before the Olympics in Beijing, there was a tour that was ridiculously inexpensive, and I decided to take her along.

We were fortunate that on the tour were several other girls in her generation- one a year younger and the others a couple of years older.

We spent 11 fun-filled days in Beijing. We learned together, laughed together, and had all sorts of adventures. It was a trip of a lifetime for me (and maybe for her…)

A couple of years later, a grandson mentioned in his Bar Mitzvah speech that he liked the fact we traveled all over and, by the way, he was available at the end of June. He planted a seed in our heads and we couldn’t ignore it. What about taking him somewhere? At that time there was a kosher cruise company with reliable kashrut supervision and so we took him, his brother, a boy cousin, the cousin’s twin sister, and two other girl cousins on a short cruise on the Mediterranean. I shared a room with the 3 girls and my husband shared a room with the 3 boys. We traveled to Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. Both we and the children had a great time. The children enjoyed being with their cousins and discovering new places. They loved bargaining in local shops and realized that one of the boys was an expert bargainer and he became spokesman for all of them. They climbed on statues, took photos, shopped and laughed the entire time.

One grandson did not have a passport when it was his turn, so my husband took him on a tour through northern Israel while I was away on a group tour.

Well, now that we had established the practice of taking the children on tours after Bar and Bat Mitzvah, we took two boys, brothers, to Barcelona; three girls, cousins, to Amsterdam; three girls, cousins, to Venice; two boys, cousins, to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands; and two boys, cousins, to India.

All of these tours had one thing in common- we got to spend real quality time with our grandchildren. We enjoyed traveling with them, watching them learn and experience new things, and just listening to them and learning who they were in an atmosphere of zero pressure. When else could I learn of random thoughts and ideas or hear stories that lasted an hour or more? But as we walked along a shoreline or across a desert island or through a mountain village, there was plenty of time and no interruptions.

After each trip we make a photo book for the travelers that will help cement the experience. I would say that these experiences are wonderful for the children and surely they enjoy them and talk about them, they connect on a new level with their cousins, and the tours give us a common frame of reference, but the most important aspect of it for me is to really get to know and appreciate these precious grandchildren. If you’re a grandparent, treat the grandchildren; you’ll end up treating yourself!