50 years!!!!

On July 3, 2016, my husband and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of our marriage with our family and friends.

Rona & Aaron

 

For the occasion, I wrote a poem with poor rhyme and worse meter to quickly summarize the last 50 years.

Here it is!!

In the summer of 1961,

They went to camp Ramah to have some fun.

 

He as a counselor, she as a camper,

At times they spoke but then had to scamper.

 

Camp life included classes, sports, and plays,

But at summer’s end they went separate ways.

 

Occasional letters, clever and witty,

Went between Philadelphia and New York City.

 

One day 4 years later while eating bagels and lox,

She saw news blurb saying he was at Fort Knox.

 

That prompted letters in a constant flurry,

From September until February.

 

Actually, they continued into July,

But that didn’t rhyme, just you try.

 

Because they weren’t living side-by-side,

Rona became a “mail order bride.”

 

Thus on 3 July 66 in Army dress blues,

With Rabbi and chuppah and various Jews.

 

The wedding took place, Philadelphia the venue,

Rubber chicken the mainstay of the menu.

 

Concomitently without any kibbitzen,

That was the day Rona became a rebbitzin.

 

After a honeymoon in Manhattan,

They went to Fort Knox, home to tankers like Patton.

 

Studying philosophy that year, Rona became “well rounded.”

For a reason that provided joy unbounded.

 

In May 67 fears became heightened,

The threats against Israel had us all frightened.

 

Israel’s victory filled all with elation,

And added to the anticipation.

 

And 2 months later Benjy was born,

On 2 August at 5:10 in the morn.

 

Less than 4 weeks later began the roam,

To Columbia, South Carolina, their new home.

 

House of Peace was the synagogue’s name,

As the new young rabbi, Aaron achieved fame.

 

The people in town had a southern mentality,

and racially there was no equality.

 

But a year later, showing their parents merzi,

They moved closer to them, Somerset, New Jersey.

 

Near to parents, not far from the ocean’s water,

The highlight of their time there was the birth of Rachel, a daughter.

 

In 70 they moved to Pittsburgh, all of the famuel,

And shortly thereafter welcomed new baby Samuel.

 

At his brit someone asked “next year will there be another?”

So 16 months later along came Akiva, his brother.

 

By this time civilian life was getting smarmy,

So Aaron decided to head back to the Army.

 

They filled up their cars, rather than amble,

And moved right along to Kentucky’s Fort Campbell.

 

It turned out to be a momentous decision,

As Aaron joined the 101st Airborne Division.

 

Life on the post for the kids was full of glee,

And they played at the swamp and at the “Mother Nature” tree.

 

From where hundreds of copters flew over in harmony,

From Campbell the family moved next to Garmony.

 

They landed in Germany with their pans and their pots,

And taught the children “wir vohnen in Wiesbaden auf dem flugplatz.”

 

Life there was good, they never were sorry,

As Akiva went to preschool with Timmy, Tumu, and Jabari.

 

One day in July the kids called a vote,

“We want a little sister on whom we can dote.”

 

The vacation in England all would remember,

Back in Germany there was good news in September.

 

With walks to Luley’s they were all in cahoots,

And they befriended the “geezer” who let them pick fruits.

 

In springtime near Pesach when trees start to blossom,

Baby girl Leah was born- how awesome!

 

The next summer with 2 month old Leah they flew,

To spend 4 weeks in a place where all spoke Hebrew.

 

Dressed alike the 4 big ones wearing bandanas,

On bus trips sat on strangers and were fed bananas.

 

2 summers in Israel, for children used to roam,

Convinced them that someday, this would be their home.

 

3 ½ years in Germany came to an end,

To Fort Monmouth New Jersey their path did wend.

 

In a big Ford station wagon that sure was a beaut,

The gate guards on the post would smile seeing the children salute.

 

Attending a day school, but not in the groove,

6 months later, it was time to move.

 

Fort Benning Georgia was the next abode,

In the beautiful house on Sigerfoos Road.

 

(Yes, Sigerfoos, not a joke it could be-

But he was not friend or confidante of Robert E. Lee).

 

When Ben entered high school, instead of dealing with Santa,

He went to Yeshiva High School in Atlanta.

 

Meanwhile they raised children, led the Jewish congregation,

And Aaron served soldiers of all kinds for their nation.

 

During three years of this place the children were fond,

With forays to the minimarket and to the pond.

 

The football field near their house for the boys was a dream,

As they made their fortune selling cokes and ice cream.

 

But being stuck down in Georgia for them was exhaustin’,

So they were thrilled when Aaron was sent to study at Harvard in Boston.

 

No matter from where in Boston the children were hailing,

On the Charles River they were offered lessons in sailing.

 

For that year in Boston all of them were learning,

While Aaron from the Army a salary was earning.

 

At the end of that year the Michelson aliya got started,

As Benjy for Hebrew University departed.

 

It was time to get on again with their roam-a

And they set out for their new home in Oklahoma.

 

Aaron taught ethics at the artillery school,

Rona opened her family therapy office, how cool!

 

Over the next 3 years, Rachel went to Israel- at 16,

And Sam and Akiva left the scene.

 

They studied at a yeshiva in Texas, in Dallas,

And lived in a home that was not a palace.

 

Later off to St. Louis the two boys went,

While in a 5 bedroom mansion the last 3  lived content.

 

Time in Lawton Oklahoma had lots of fun in it,

Concerts, and shows and traffic’s rush minute.

 

After being rural of civilization they needed a fix,

So were happy to receive orders to Fort Dix.

 

Their home was happy, full of jokes,

And only an hour and a half ride from the folks.

 

Rona studied at Penn, Aaron paid the bills,

In summer Akiva worked at Great Adventure a park for thrills.

 

Ben and Rachel were in Israel, Aaron worked as a clergyman,

Rona & Leah visited Israel, Sam was in St. Petersburg or Kyrgystan.

 

Visiting Israel a lot whet their desires,

On Tower Airlines they became frequent fliers.

 

Akiva and Sam made aliya,

Leaving Leah at home with ma and pa.

 

In 93 for sukkot they traveled to Israel in anticipation,

And met Hadas, the first of the next generation

 

Two months later came Tzvi, bright and curious,

After that came more and more, fast and furious.

 

In 95 when Leah came to study at Bar Ilan,

Rona arrived in Israel too, a hanger-on.

 

For 4 years Rona & Aaron commuted across the Atlantic,

The frequent reunions were very romantic.

 

When they bought a home in Modiin,

Aaron’s father agreed to come too, sight-unseen.

 

The rest of the story’s full of nachas embarrassing,

So for you dear people no more harassing.

 

As you know they travel far and wide,

For 50 years, it’s been quite a ride.

**************************************************************************

Now here is  the whole family minus three grandsons- Matan, Yonatan, and Shlomo. Fortunately, Yonatan joined us later in the evening.

The family

 

 

 

 

Apartheid

I live in Modiin, a new city, soon to celebrate 20 years of existence. We have watched the city grow, seen the trees mature, and watched a large shopping mall spring up in the center of town. It is not unusual to see Arab workers there- serving food,  and cleaning, or Arab men and women shopping, and eating in the food court. In our local shopping center, there is an Arab dentist. To us, this is perfectly normal. Often, I just want to take photos so that the haters will see what Israeli life really is like- that we mix freely and are pleasant and respectful. Of course, the Jews here in Modiin are not of a sort. We have native born Israelis, English-speaking immigrants, and immigrants from  Russia, former Soviet republics, France, Morocco, Mexico, Holland- and the list goes on. And somehow, all of us, Jews, Arabs- Muslim and Christian, get along. The atmosphere here is relaxed and calm.

But this week, my husband and I decided to go on a short vacation to a hotel at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea, is of course, the lowest place on earth and the Dead Sea waters are full of salt and minerals. You probably have seen the photos of people sitting in the water reading the newspaper. It is true. You can literally sit in the water. It is warm and pleasant, and there are those who will swear to its medicinal properties.

When we checked into the hotel, we were a bit surprised to see that we were among the only English-speakers and that there were not many native Hebrew speakers. In fact, most of the guests at the hotel were either Russian speakers or Arabic speakers. The hotel was filled with Arab and Druze families. Oh yes, we also had some visiting Koreans with us. Again, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed- with helpful conversations as to the hotel’s facilities, with smiles in the dining room and and laughter.

View of the pool

View of the pool

Arabs and Druze sitting in the lobby

Arabs and Druze sitting in the lobby

Druze woman at the coffee bar

Druze woman at the coffee bar

I wanted to film it, to show the world that this is the real Israel- a place where we don’t just talk about accepting each other, but a place where it happens- where people spend their hard-earned money on a vacation where they know that they will be among people who are different from them, but ultimately, with people who share the same values and are looking to build a future together.

A few years ago we took a short trip to Bulgaria on an Israeli charter flight. At our hotel, there were other Israelis. We signed up for day tours. In our van of about 10 people, there were 4-6 Druze, 2 Arabs, and us. We had a great time together. This is the real Israel. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. I am here and see it firsthand.

 

 

Mint Juleps with Mom

As a new bride, I joined my husband in Kentucky. He was serving as a US Army chaplain at Fort Knox. His thought, when we got married, was that he would serve his 20 years in the US Army and then retire in Israel. I, of course, had other plans. It wasn’t that I thought the Army was so foreign to my experience- it was, but my concern was that I didn’t want to have an unstable life, moving from place to place. Fortunately, I found an ally, my mother-in-law, who was not keen on her only child perhaps being sent to Vietnam where the war was in full swing.

Married in July, by the following May I was 7 months pregnant and my husband had agreed to look for a civilian pulpit. He was asked to fly out to Spokane, Washington, to interview there.

When I told my mother, she insisted that she come to stay with me while he was gone- from Thursday through Sunday because  she was afraid for me to be alone.

So that Thursday I literally walked to the gate on the left side of the corridor and watched my husband get on the plane and then turned to the right side at the gate directly across from it, and within minutes, my mother arrived.

It was the first time she had seen me showing- and by 7 months, I was pretty large. She noticed. We drove to my home and I cannot recall any details about our discussion nor about anything we discussed for those 3 days. I do know there were lots of smiles and laughter.

What I can recall is feeling very special, carrying her first grandchild. I can recall our going out once for ice cream sundaes at the local Howard Johnson’s and laughing when we heard a  group of women order large ice cream sundaes and diet drinks. I remember that Saturday night, we decided to check  out the place on Dixie Highway that was advertising mint juleps- the Kentucky Derby was that weekend and mint juleps were all the rage. I remember we went into the place that had them and we sat down and ordered them. She sat with her back to the door and I sat across from her.

I don’t remember what they tasted like. I don’t remember what we said. I just remember that the time we spent together that weekend was probably the best time we ever had together.

On Sunday afternoon, my mother left and a few minutes later, my husband returned.  A bit over 2 months later our oldest son was born.

mom

Twenty-six years later, I visited my own daughter in Israel when she was pregnant with my first grandchild. I hope she also experienced precious moments.

May 27 2014

Most of my life has been a surprise.

I was surprised when I found out other children came from loving homes that were not at the whim of a mother’s radical mood swings.

I was surprised, that despite what my mother told me, I found someone who was happy to marry me and stick with me through the years.

I was surprised at the depth of love I felt for my babies, my children, my teenagers- even when I was pretty sure they would cause me to go out of my mind.

I was surprised that I was able to fulfill impossible dreams- it was as if everything I imagined I could never accomplish became possible: Teaching Lamaze courses, becoming a doula, becoming a family therapist, becoming a supervisor and teacher of family therapy, and becoming a tour guide in exotic places!

I was surprised that when my children grew up, they would have lots of children and amazed at what good parents they became.

I was surprised at how easy my transition to living in Israel was and am constantly surprised at how much I am aware of the blessing of living here.

I was surprised each year on my birthday, because the years are flying by and while I still think of myself in my 20s or 30s, most of my children are older than that.

My life has been filled with surprises, and I am grateful.

Surprise! It's a begonia!

Surprise! It’s a begonia!

Update: April 2 2014

Family, Traveling, and Pollard

The Family
Family
It’s been a long time since the whole family was together at a time when we could take a picture. This one was from last year’s Shabbat HaGadol weekend at Yad Binyamin. Interestingly, this year’s pictures will have a lot to do with Binyamin as well. Tomorrow we will be gathering for my son, Benjamin (also known as “Ben” and “Benjy”) and his bride Shlomit as they get married! We are very excited and happy for both of them.
Traveling
I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about lots of things. We have done a lot of traveling in the last year- China in May, Tibet and Nepal in August, China again in October, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore in January and February- and we are looking forward to a lot of traveling in the coming year as well. We still have space on our tour to China, leaving on May 7 and guaranteed to go. We also are looking for adventurous people to join us in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru in June/July. All of these tours are in English and kosher, of course.
Random Thoughts
Pollard: Jonathan Pollard has been in jail for 28 years. Those in the know, even those who wanted him to have a harsh sentence, have said enough is enough. It infuriates me to see the US wanting to demand a price for his freedom.He has served a longer sentence than anyone else in a similar position. Anything he knew when he was jailed is old news. Much of the damage that he was purported to have caused was in fact found out to have been done by Aldrich Ames. So instead of doing the right thing and freeing him already, the US is offering us the opportunity to have his freedom considered if we release terrorists? Does this make sense in any universe? Have we all gone so amazingly liberal that we think that sworn murderers will suddenly play nicely if freed? The evidence is solidly against that. We have seen terror perpetrated by former prisoners and we have caught others as they were preparing to kill innocents. Why do we even need to pay a price for the Palestinians to talk to us? What price have they paid for the privilege of talking to us? Would you negotiate with someone who is unwilling to say that at the end of negotiations there will still not be a cessation of hostilities? What is the point? and how does Pollard even become related to all of that? Oh, I know… Israel/Jews/what do they care about?/other Jews/who is a Jew that we can offer them to exact a price? I get it. Sounds to me like the thinking of a criminal.

Moving trauma, vicarious, 2014

Almost 15 years ago, my husband joined me in Israel- he and a shipping container full of stuff. I had already been living in our home in Modi’in with pretty much everything I needed. We rented a nearby storage room and little by little, emptied the contents of the storage room into our home- pretty much filling it up.

That was my last move. Since we married, I had moved 18 times. Every time, it was traumatic.

But it has been almost 15 years. This time it is my daughter who is moving and all I had to do was to see if the packers had finished their job and to lock up the house.

As I looked around the house that profound sense of loss that I had with every move returned with the same strength it had had in the past. It was just so sad. It hurt to see their life packed up in a bunch of boxes and all of the attendant mess that moving engenders.

I began to think about what it was that was so sad for me. I remembered our moves. I remembered leaving the home we lived in when our first baby was conceived and born. I looked back at the living room and saw the people gathered to celebrate his brit. I remembered the apartment where he said his first words and took his first steps. I remember the home where on a sunny spring day bushes full of white blossoms greeted me as I brought home my new daughter. I remember the house with the two yellow bean bag chairs that sat just a little too close to the baseboard heaters and the enormous effort I had to make to get out of them heavily pregnant. I remember piling into the station wagon with four little children and saying goodbye to the home we had painted and papered and carpeted. I remember our oldest son leaving his vegetable garden and my daughter leaving her plant and all of them leaving the “Mother Nature Tree” and the swamp where they played. I remember leaving the apartment where we voted on the fifth child and then the new one where she was born after a cold winter with only the fuschia-colored potted cyclamens brightening the snowy view. I remember the birthday party with my parents visiting and three of the children down with chickenpox, and I remember how the children loved to go to the orchard to see the “geezer” and to pick fruit. I remember the tiny home in New Jersey when we returned to the States and the beautiful big house we had after that. I remember the parties we had there for our family and for the soldiers and my parents’ visits and the joy at the big children’s return home for shabbatot. I remember the house in Boston where everyone had bedrooms, but most nights people were sleeping in the living room- and how if you ran the dishwasher and microwave at the same time the fuse two floors down in the basement would blow. How many times we forgot! But there was also sailing on the Charles for two of the boys and living close to good friends. I remember saying goodbye to our oldest as he left for Israel, the airline security man remarking that he was afraid he would drown in our tears. I remember the small house in Oklahoma with the swimming pool and the big house in Oklahoma where we had to explain that “yes, only one family lives here.” I remember leaving our next home and memories of grad school and sons visiting from high school and college. I remember leaving the next home and memories of a bat mitzvah and the births of two grandchildren.

And then I realized that the sadness is only a function of the fact that every place, every time in my life, was a good time, a happy time- filled with a beautiful family, caring friends, and happy experiences. Closing the door on each chapter was saying goodbye to beautiful times, but every new home brought its own new memories.

…and what more is there to say but to wish my daughter and her family and others going through transitions that the future be filled with beautiful moments they can cherish forever.

I miss it

Today I was folding laundry and I came to a shirt that I have that is similar to one that a woman might wear when she is pregnant. I had noticed that there were stains on it before I washed it and I held it up to see if the stains were gone. And suddenly I was remembering looking at my maternity blouses, also stained by my clumsiness when I was pregnant. I remembered looking down on my rounded belly and seeing the remnants of breakfast, lunch, midday snacks and dinner. I remember taking a dress to the dry cleaner and explaining what all of the stains were and the clerk saying “sounds like a good meal.” I thought about the feeling of a little one moving around inside. I remembered that my mother referred to the first awareness of the baby’s movements as “feeling life.” I recalled how amazing it was to feel a new life inside of me, to think and wonder about who that little person would become. I remembered feeling such love for someone who I had never seen, never met. I remembered the excitement of anticipation and the weeks and then days of waiting. And then there was the reward of spectacular births! I loved being pregnant.


*Note: This picture almost survived a fire

After the birth of our youngest child, we never thought of having another. Our family was exactly what we wanted. Now, all of the children are grown and have children of their own. I have no regrets, but every once in a while, I miss it.

To B- or not to B-

This week should be a very happy one. Our wonderful grandson, Yehuda, will be celebrating his becoming a Bar Mitzvah this coming shabbat. He has worked very hard, learning to chant two full torah portions (it’s a combined reading) and a special maftir and his haftarah- quite an accomplishment for a boy of 13. We have been looking forward to spending a happy, peaceful shabbat, the whole family together, at kibbutz Ein Tzurim.

So what’s the problem? Well, for about a week, the people who wanted Gaza to themselves, the ones for whom we uprooted thousands of Jews from their homes, have been firing rockets at our cities and communities that are within firing range of Gaza. They are aiming for our civilian population- firing, hiding behind their own children, safe in the knowledge that we will not target the innocent.

On Ein Tzurim, there have been sirens and people have run to shelters.

So what do we do?

Oh, I know. Both sides should show restraint. Thanks, world.

Sisters 3

This is my third post about sisters.

There was this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2007/07/23/sisters/

and this one http://drsavta.com/wordpress/2009/10/07/sisters-2/

because to me, this relationship is very special.

If  you have been reading my blog, you probably know that in December, my sister finally made aliya.  After over 45 years of living very far away, my sister is a 5 minute car ride away.  I can bump into her at the mall, we can see a movie together, and we can sit and talk about things that no one understands the way we do.

When she was far away, we kept in touch.  She was great about making sure to visit no matter where we were living.  She was present at most of the important times in my life.  I appreciated her and loved her.

But now, I know what a wonderful thing it is to have her here, nearby, and to not have to think about when her flight home leaves.  She is home.

If you really loved me…

I have been a family therapist for a very long time. I should have figured it out sooner, but only yesterday I realized that I had been missing something very important when thinking about certain types of cases.

From time to time I would have cases where one family member would say about another “if s/he really loved me s/he would…”

Tests of loyalty, to me, seem so beside the point. In fact, they seem foolish. Why would we expect someone to “prove” they love us by performing a specific task or acting in a manner we prescribe?  The people we love are separate from us. They have their own loves and hates, likes and dislikes, ways of expressing themselves. They show us love in their own way.

However, in this type of a relationship, they may show warmth and consideration, but heaven forbid, if they fail the litmus test the other has created, the whole relationship is at risk.

Sometimes, couples, in order to feel more appreciated and loved,  have to adjust the ways in which they show love. She would like flowers. He shows love by filling up the car. He would like homemade soup. She lights romantic candles. They clearly love each other, but by asking for the show of love to be more in line with their own concept of love, both members could feel more valued and cared for.

,

But that is different than a test of love.

Tests of love usually involve one person expecting the other to know what s/he wants and to do it, despite any obstacles. And then, if it doesn’t happen, well, then “s/he doesn’t really love me.”

But let’s look a little closer…

Who is making the relationship contingent on specific behaviors. It’s not the “uncaring” husband or wife or friend or relative. It’s the person who has decided that the relationship consists of a series of tests all of which must be passed for it to continue to be loving.

Who has the problem?

As a therapist, it seems to me that the person who is making the statement “If you really loved me…” is in fact the person with the problem. S/he has not learned the nature of relationships. Relationships are formed between two individuals, both of whom have wants, needs, and limitations.  Appreciating the other person as a distinct individual is the only way to have a truly satisfying relationship.

When ultimatums exist in relationships, it is not the person who fails to meet them who is the problem.