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?

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.

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.

 

 

Be careful out there

There are a lot of tragedies that are totally unpreventable. People are struck with illnesses that happened without cause or warning. A person walks down the street and is struck by a car that veers onto the pavement. A terrorist decides to murder a bunch of people and you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But there are tragedies that can be prevented. Adults can be mindful of carrying or drinking hot liquids when there are small children present. One can equip one’s home with smoke detectors. One can drive safely paying attention to the road instead of the mobile phone. One can check the car before leaving it to make sure there are no children left in it– And there are lists of many such safeguards.

What prompted me to write is a recent tragedy of a young person who had gone on a trip far from home. In Israel it is common for young people to travel after high school or Army or university. And every year we hear of healthy, beautiful young people dying tragically on these journeys. Certainly, not all of these tragedies could have been prevented, but people traveling need to pay special attention to their healthy and safety.

1. As many books as you have read and people you have talked to, you still don’t know this foreign country that you are visiting. You don’t know where it is safe to walk and where it is not. “It feels safe” is not a good measure of safety. A few years ago my husband and I were in Peru. A friend had told us that we should check out the Inquisition Museum in Lima. So one bright Sunday morning we set out on foot to find the museum. We were in the center of town and we knew the museum was only a couple of blocks away. We walked across a bridge onto a pedestrian mall and stopped to get a coke and suddenly two people came to us and said, “You need to leave here.” We were puzzled. Who were these people and why were they telling us to leave? Were they going to strong-arm us into some alley and take our papers and money and camera? They were very insistent and we were in public in full daylight, so we walked with them. As we walked with them they explained that locals target tourists in this area, knock them down, and take their valuables. As we came back to the bridge, our companions wished us well and left. Would someone have attacked us? I don’t know. I do know that we thought that where we were walking was safe and that the people who stopped us had no ulterior motive.

The dangerous pedestrian mall The dangerous pedestrian mall

2. Because you don’t know these countries and most likely don’t speak their native language, you need to make sure that you are in good physical condition before you leave home. Check with your doctor to see if there is any reason why this travel might not be advisable. Make sure you check as to whether you need inoculations for the area you will visit. Make sure that you carry in your hand luggage any medications you regularly take and bring along over the counter remedies for things like headaches, upset stomachs, and digestive disorders. ALWAYS buy medical insurance before you travel anywhere. Once we had a woman traveling with us in Hangzhou, China, who missed a step of the side of a very gradual incline. She broke her leg! Because she had medical insurance, the ambulance to the local hospital, the treatment there, the ambulance back to the hotel, the ambulance to the ambulance plane and the plane ride to Beijing as well as the doctor’s visit in Beijing (to certify her worthy to fly back home) and two first class seats home all were paid for by insurance. The insurance probably saved her tens of thousands of dollars, and such an accident could happen to anyone.
Hangzhou

3. Different trips present different challenges. If you are traveling to a place that is sunny, sunscreen, sunglasses, and appropriate clothing are important. If you are traveling to a cold place, of course you need cold weather gear. Travelers can become dehydrated, so carrying a bottle of water with you and DRINKING from it is important!! If you are going to high altitudes, read up on symptoms of altitude sickness. Understand that it can be fatal. It’s not something you can “tough out.” There are medicines that doctors prescribe to counteract the effects of altitude and getting to altitude slowly over a period of days may help, but at the first sign of altitude sickness, it is time to move lower, immediately. In Kathmandu, the local Chabad emissary lends satellite phones to trekkers so that they can be rescued in the event they are suffering from altitude sickness or exposure to cold temperatures. Recently the rabbi sent a helicopter to rescue two girls who are now alive because they were smart enough to take a phone with them.

Mount Everest as seen from the air Mount Everest as seen from the air

Chabad House, Kathmandu- doing mitzvot at the top of the world!

4. Many people, particularly young people, enjoy extreme sports. They require special insurance coverage. Without it, in the event of an accident, they have no one to come and rescue them and no medical coverage. It is important to note that safety standards in some countries are not as strict as in others. Regular inspections of zip lines (omegas) and bungee apparatuses are common in many countries, but there are countries that rely on good luck. A few years ago I had a great time on a zip line in Mindo, Ecuador. About two years later, the apparatus failed and someone was killed. Would I go on it again in Mindo? Not so fast. How can I be sure that the authorities are more conscientious than they were then? In addition, many times young people do not listen to instructions for safe conduct on extreme sports. Before we rode on our snowmobile in Finland, we were outfitted with proper cold weather gear and helmets and we listened carefully to instructions that ended up keeping one couple safe when their vehicle overturned. They were fine, but listening to the instructions is what saved them from broken bones. A recent tragedy while white water rafting could have been prevented if the young people had listened to a local person who warned them that the water was at that time much too rough.

The zip line that later failed The zip line that later failed
Our snowmobile adventure Our snowmobile adventure

Travel is fun! Adventures are the best! But be cautious. Even if you are young, you are not indestructible. The people who love you are waiting at home for your safe return. Please please please…. stay safe!!!!

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.