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.

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 #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.

No secrets!

This post will not make you cry. It will not make you laugh. It could, however, save a life.

Ask anyone about me and they will mention any number of things- positive and maybe negative- but they will not mention anything about my state of health. Aside from heightened cholesterol like a large percentage of people my age, I have no other medical conditions.

Or so I thought- until one day in July when my husband and I were walking in the mall and I suddenly got dizzy. I continued walking and didn’t think much of it, but then a week or two later, it happened again and seemed a bit more severe.

I made an appointment with my doctor (previously known as Dr. Nonchalant) and he suggested that I have an echo-under-stress test. Taking him seriously and because I had just a week before I was leaving for Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, I was able to schedule a test for later that day and had the results in hand by about 4 that afternoon. The doctor called me and said that what they had found was completely unexpected- my valves were fine, but now I needed an echo cardiogram to confirm the diagnosis. I scheduled that for 3 days later.

It confirmed the diagnosis. I have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder.
In most cases, an affected person has one parent with the condition.

Fortunately, this is a treatable condition. It is, however, often the cause of sudden death in young people after exertion. Think of the runners, football players, basketball players, etc. who suddenly keel over and die. These articles suggest screening young athletes for the condition. (Please don;t stop reading here- there’s more important information…)

Screening athletes for heart disease
Screening for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy in Young Athletes
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy screening program in the athlete

The doctor suggested that all of my children be tested and if any were affected, their children be tested. We are going through that process in an attempt to identify if any of them are at risk. My children who are not affected do not have to test their children because it being a dominant gene, if the parent doesn’t have it, the children won’t.

I spent a lot of time thinking about whether there were any deaths of young people in my family and remembered that I had two cousins, brothers, who died of heart attacks- one at 31 and one at 39 (I may be off by a couple of years, but I think it’s accurate). These are the sons of my father’s sister. That would mean that my father and his sister both carried this gene. There are other family members who could be affected- at least five young people- and I hope their parent/grandparent who is a possible carrier will choose to be tested.

So why am I writing this? People sometimes like to hide unpleasant things from their family members- but secrets, particularly those that could affect someone else’s health, are rarely a wise thing. What my children or grandchildren may have gotten from me genetically is not something I had any control over, but I can do whatever I can to make sure they are protected, don’t over-exert themselves, and make sure to have regular medical follow up. I hope that my cousins will take the same responsibility with their children and grandchildren.

May we all have a healthy, happy new year.

1976/2018

1976- we are in the Army. Well, actually, Aaron is in the Army, but the rest of the family is right there with him. We were getting close to 4 years in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Our children enjoyed playing in the swamp near our house, enjoyed the “Mother Nature Tree,” loved the freedom of running around the neighborhood with no fears. The Army base was a safe place. It had everything- an indoor swimming pool within easy walking distance, even a small convenience store a 5 minute walk away.

Like all Army families in our position, we were awaiting “orders” because 4 years in a place was a long time and the Army likes to move people around and we were expecting that soon we would be told where we were moving to.

This was the only home the children really knew. Our children were 8.5, 7, 5.5, and 4 years old. Moving was venturing into the unknown.

Word finally came. We were moving to Wiesbaden, Germany. We had only about 3 months to prepare. We would be leaving behind most of our furniture (furniture was supplied to Army families since it was cheaper than transporting it across the ocean twice- we would see it again when we returned), all of our friends, and yes, our family- our parents and my sister.

There were so many unknowns, so many fears- we had no idea what our neighborhood would be like, what our city would look like, how German people would treat us as Americans, as Jews, how much German would we need to use on a daily basis- in short, we were bewildered. And as much as we tried to reassure our children that everything would be fine, we ourselves were not all that certain about what life would be like for us and for them.

Our parents lived far from us- in New York and Philadelphia. We didn’t see them more than once or twice a year, but we could call them on the telephone and we knew that we could always get in a car and visit. Now we would be across an ocean and the price of telephone calls was outrageous and letters took days to arrive. I know they must have been upset, but they didn’t try to influence us to stay since it was not our choice.

Our time in Germany was pleasant. In some ways, almost idyllic. Anti-Semitism at the time was completely forbidden and when people asked us what language we were speaking to our children and we answered “Hebrew,” we never got anything but positive reactions. We were cushioned by the huge American military community which comprised at that time about 10% of the inhabitants of Wiesbaden. Our children went to US operated schools and had German enrichment classes. They learned rudimentary German and felt comfortable buying candies and sweets in local shops. Their schools took them on day trips to places in Germany. The country was beautiful and we enjoyed exploring it and participating in the recreational “Volksmarches” that were held in different locations where people would walk a circular 10-12 kilometer path that could wind through woods, vineyards, fields, and villages and end in a square with an “oompah” band! The German people were friendly and the landscapes enchanting.

Our parents, Aaron’s dad and my parents, (his mother had passed away in December of 1975) were still relatively young and healthy and they were able to come and visit us.

But now I am the parent and I am feeling sad because my daughter and her family are leaving for their adventure. They tell me that they will return from Austria in 3 years.

In some ways, their transition may be easier because they have seen where they will be living and they have rented a home they chose. Communication with family members here in Israel will be much easier. We are as close as the nearest wifi. The flight is shorter than a trek across the Atlantic and less expensive. In other ways, it will be more difficult. They will not have the cushion of a ready-made community with all of the support and structure it offers.

As I look at the next 3 years, I feel as if I can’t wait for them to pass, but I am conflicted because at this time of life, each day is so precious that each one must be treasured.

I wish for my daughter and her husband and the 3 children who are leaving with them (3 are already adults and will not be accompanying them) a wonderful adventure. We hope to visit you, Rachel, and we look forward to your visits with us. I will be very happy to reminisce with you about your adventure when you finally return home.

I’m going to the Temple Mount and I’m bringing…

Twenty years ago, exactly, my husband and I had our חנוכת הבית, the dedication of our new home in Israel. At that time, we realized that we ourselves were not fully responsible for the achievement of this dream nor should we claim it as our own. Generations before us longed to return to Zion. In their modest dwellings a vision of returning to the land gave their lives meaning and hope. We recognized that despite the hardships and dangers, our ancestors literally kept the faith and transmitted Jewish teachings, values, and customs to generation after generation. And so when we dedicated our home, we remembered by name our great grandparents, our grandparents, and our parents who all were part of the fulfillment of our dream.

Tomorrow, twenty years later, we plan to ascend the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. the point from which the holiness of the world emanates. Our ancestors have prayed for generations for the rebuilding of the Temple and we will not see the Temple rebuilt tomorrow, but we will stand on the holy mountain where it stood. And because the keys of the Temple Mount are still in the hands of the Muslim Wakf, we are prohibited from taking any religious articles with us. No prayerbooks, no talit, no tfilin, – even kippot (skullcaps) must be worn under hats that conceal them. But tomorrow, I will be taking something very special with me. I will be taking the names of my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents, and my aunts and uncles. They will symbolically ascend the mountain with me.

I will not be taking the names of my children or grandchildren, because not only may they visit the Temple Mount themselves, but I pray that they will be present to rejoice at the dedication of the Third Temple. May it be G-d’s will.

Remembering my Dad

Mom and Dad at my wedding

Mom and dad at my wedding

Be sure to click the link below:

If my father were alive, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday on December 21. Sadly, he was taken from us much too soon.

My father was a kind and gentle man. He was friendly and optimistic and he enjoyed being in the world. He saw beauty everywhere and he had an insatiable curiosity which led him to be constantly reading and learning. Deprived by poverty of an education, he became self-educated and took great pride in seeing me, my sister, and even later, my mother, graduate from college.

His grandchildren were a special blessing and he prized the time he spent with them- flying kites, telling stories, taking walks, and slapping high-five with the youngest. I am not sure he ever stopped smiling when he was with them.

In my mind’s eye, I imagine him embracing and interacting with the great-grandchildren he never got to see. I know how proud he would be of each of them. I can see him getting out his camera and taking endless photographs, freed from the cost of film!

I see his handsome face in my children and grandchildren and I see the kindness, the optimism, the love of beauty in them. He lives on in our hearts and his essence is part of us always.

Jerusalem

 

IMGP8666 IMGP8667 IMGP8680 IMGP8694 IMGP8684

Can it possibly be 50 years?

I was a newly married college student. We were living in Valley Station, KY, about 1/2 hour from Fort Knox where my husband served as a chaplain. We were awaiting the birth of our first child.

The tense days of May had us anxious and nervous. The Straits of Tiran were closed and Arab armies were massed on all of Israel’s borders.

We flew to a conference in Washington DC and listened to reassuring words from Hubert Humphry. But we did not feel confident. Meanwhile, inside, a new little life stirred, growing every more energetic as the days passed.

I flew to Philadelphia, My senior year of college was done at the University of Louisville- with the acquiescence of Temple University that granted my degree in philosophy, but in order to finish my degree in Hebrew Literature at Gratz College, I had to study with a local rabbi, with my husband, and on my own the same curriculum as my classmates and return to Philadelphia to take final exams.

June 5, 1967, I was sitting in the Gratz library taking my first exam when the librarian turned on the radio. I thought it was rude for her to do that while I was trying to write an exam, but then another person entered the library and they exchanged the information that the war had started.

What could I do? I wrote my exams while listening to the same news over and over again on the radio when suddenly the lights went out as did the radio and the air conditioning. Later we found out that there was a major power outage along the east coast and some wondered if it could have been related to the war.

News coverage was weak. The same news rehashed and rehashed. The Egyptians reported that they had shot down more planes than Israel had. They reported great victories. The Israel news stayed silent. None of  us knew what was happening.

After two days of exams, I sat in my parents’ house with the TV on embroidering a challah cover. I worked on it very slowly and carefully. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be an heirloom- something the little baby I was waiting for would treasure.

And then the word finally came. “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” I still get tears in my eyes thinking about that most miraculous day when finally Jews could enter the city that for 19 years they had only seen from afar. I felt such a feeling of completeness. The world was being repaired. The pain was being alleviated. The scars were soon to be healed.

Days later we watched on TV the thousands and thousands of people streaming into the Old City to celebrate Shavuot. What elation I felt! My baby would only know an Israel that was whole and strong.

I returned to Fort Knox at the end of June with the challah cover and the baby mostly completed. About 6 weeks later, our son was born. My heart was full. Here was a new beginning, the embodiment of a prayer for peace.