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.

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.

A paradigm shift

Thomas Kuhn in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, speaks of the need from time to time for a paradigm shift. It is needed when the existing paradigm becomes inadequate to explain things or to be employed when solving a problem.

I have come to believe that we in Israel are at the point of a paradigm shift. Our foes in Gaza, Hamas, terrorists whose goal is to eradicate the Jews from the land of Israel, are widely seen as a cancer. Now cancer is usually thought of as lethal. Certainly cancerous growths must be excised, irradiated, or chemically destroyed. And so it was when we had to stop the rocket fire on our country last week, that people were ready for the Israeli Army to enter Gaza and wipe Hamas out. Reservists expressed frustration, others said that we needed to get the job done. People were critical of the Israeli government for not putting an end to it in a decisive manner.

But look at the facts: a ground invasion would surely have cost lives including those of innocent civilians and our own soldiers. How many lives would have been lost to “teach them a lesson”?

But suppose Hamas is not a cancer. Suppose it is, instead, herpes. Herpes is forever. It erupts, it causes pain, we treat the symptoms, and then we are free of the symptoms for a long period. Oh, maybe it’s not long enough, but every time it erupts, we do what we need to do in order to eliminate the pain.

Perhaps someday our enemies will figure out that we are not going anywhere. Maybe they will understand that they will not provoke us into being savages. Maybe they even will figure out that building a society is a more worthwhile endeavor than creating a culture of hate. But until then, we will treat the virus whenever if rears its ugly head.

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.

Slow motion

At times when I am very busy, when the tendency is to become unsettled, upset, panicked, I employ a coping mechanism that works for me. I think the idea actually came from the opening of the old TV show, the Six Million Dollar Man. Whichever show it was showed someone running very fast, but in slow motion. He’s making all of the rapid moves, but slowly.

I picture that slow running man when I am in situations that require a lot of thinking and a high level of activity. I picture myself slowing down, taking things much more slowly than usual. The background music becomes slower, softer, more gentle. So do the thoughts swirling around in my head. By slowing down, I avoid all of the hazards of haste- the frenzied movements, things being misplaced, bumping into things, feeling stressed.

I have my list. I do things one at a time. And I take my time.

Hanging out with my buddies


(and I stay less focused)

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.