Travels with my grandchildren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m offended

Do you want to know what offends me? People who are offended. By pretty much everything they don’t agree with. And people who therefore want to tell me what I may and may not say.

In the olden days, if someone found something offensive he/she might deal with it directly by informing the person that it was hurtful and having an honest exchange with the other person. If the “offender” were not someone who was open to speaking about it, then the alternative was to remove one’s self from the area.

For a couple of seasons, I watched a TV show that I felt was intelligent and entertaining. And then, it began putting forth political dogma that I didn’t agree with. When I realized that watching it was making me feel agitated, I stopped watching. I did NOT write the network and insist it be taken off the air. I am certain that many people enjoy the show and many people agree with the point of view it is advocating. And that’s fine with me. I don’t need people to be silenced because I don’t agree with them.

Years ago I was with a group that did the NASA exercise . Like most groups, what we found was that a free and open discussion led to decisions by consensus that were superior to decisions made by any individual. Open exchange of thoughts and opinions strengthens groups and societies.

When any point of view is shut down, it impoverishes discussion and limits knowledge. With the exception of calls for panic or violence, all speech should be permitted and if one finds it offensive, one can take responsibility for one’s self and remove one’s self from the situation.

Oh, and if you don’t like what I said, please ignore it (once you’ve considered it.)

Israel Independence Day- The defining of Israel’s unity and values

I am not fond of crowds. I also am not fond of cold- and last night it was cold. So, as we have done now for many years, we watched the official Independence Day celebrations on TV, at home.

We are not connected to a cable company and have no television, so I took my laptop and connected it to our projector and found the ceremony being broadcast over the internet and we had an instant wide-screen TV on the back wall of our living room.

As I watched the ceremony, particularly the lighting of the 12 torches, for me the highlight each year, I became acutely aware of the fact that this ceremony is not just about honoring the people who light the torches-through surely we do- and not just about honoring our country- though surely we do- but about defining what are the values that lie at the core of who we are in this country.

Yuli (Yoel) Edelstein, former Soviet prisoner, now chairman of the Knesset, our parliament, spoke about aspiring to goals and not giving up, achieving the impossible (something which he personally has done) and exhorting Israelis to keep going, keep working, keep dreaming.

And, as one by one the torches were lit we saw examples of people who faced huge personal challenges who not only survived, but transformed themselves as a result- doing deeds of kindness for others, dedicating themselves to working to make the country and the world a better place for everyone.

My dear cousins visiting the Kotel, July 2017

We heard about the unity of the people, sharing generously with each other. We saw the recognition of all of our citizens, Jews and non-Jews – all of whom work to make our lives better. We saw respect for others as the audience was with those who went off-script and saw how the audience smiled and cheered and stood to applaud.

I watched in awe. This amazing little country has achieved so much in such a short time in the face of such enmity. We have lost precious sons and daughters and fathers and mothers to war and terror, and yet we continue to strive and work and help each other like one big family.

I realized that this ceremony is a yearly public affirmation of what the country’s values are, what unites us. I feel so proud and privileged to be a part of this beautiful country. And I am happy that each year on Independence Day we publicly affirm our values and renew our devotion to our fellow citizens and our country and to making the world a better place.

Old City, Jerusalem

Welcome, little one!

Yesterday we entered a new phase of life. Our exquisite granddaughter, Elisheva, and her wonderful husband, Elad, became the parents of a darling baby boy.

When I think of the changes this birth brought about, it’s almost staggering. For the baby, of course, it’s the beginning of what we pray will be a beautiful life- filled with love and warmth and devotion- filled with happiness and light, filled with exploring and learning. For his parents, it is a step into a totally new life- of being a parent, of having the joy, and yes, the responsibility, of caring for a small helpless person who will provide them with surprises on a daily basis as he grows and develops and forms his own personality. (I always think of babies as surprise packages that we never fully know until close to adulthood.) For the new grandparents, they too are moving into a new phase of having a new person to love, to spoil, to smile at and play with. And for us, becoming great-grandparents- oh my goodness- how frighteningly awesome is that!!!

We pray that this new little one and his parents, grandparents, and yes, we and his other great-grandparents too will share many many warm and loving experiences and that we all value the miracle that we have been granted.

Idan Raichel Concert

Last night I went with my son, his wife, and one of their daughters to an Idan Raichel concert at Live Park in Rishon LeTzion. I have always enjoyed Idan Raichel’s music. The lyrics, the melodies, the fusion of cultures- songs in many languages, so when my son and his wife invited me, I was very happy.

It was a perfect evening. the weather was perfect, the amphitheater was perfect, and the audience was filled with the full range of ages, colors, religious persuasions – you name it. In the moments when the audience was asked to sing, it seemed that every single one of the thousands of people knew every single word of the song.

Raichel’s conversation with the audience was gentle, amusing, self-effacing, and lovable.

But what was going through my head the entire time was the human aspect of creating something so powerful, so entertaining, so perfectly timed and executed. I thought about how amazing it must be for him to heard thousands of people singing his songs, how he had assembled an extraordinary group of singers and musicians, how the entire performance was choreographed and timed to perfection how the lights, the video clips, the special effects, the photography were all perfect. I thought about the processes involved in creating such an experience, the thousands of details, the teamwork it required, the rehearsing, the mutual respect.

I thought this was such an awesome metaphor of what the world could be. How if the creative parts of us could work very hard, harmonize with others, abandon pettiness and work together- all of the pain and suffering that could be alleviated, and what an amazing creation we could all be part of.

It is not a perfect world. There are still those who prefer destruction to building and still those who excuse that as just a different culture.

I thank Idan Raichel and his entire team for giving us a taste of what could be and wish all of them success in the future.


Where am I going this afternoon/tonight?

The first person who answers correctly will receive a Chinese wine bottle cover.

Clue: Look at the calendar.

More when I get back (by then, the contest is over).

Matan’s Bar Mitzvah — Take 1

The third of our grandsons has become a Bar Mitzvah. The first one, Tzvi, celebrated in Kfar Etzion on a cold rainy winter shabbat. The warmth was provided by the large extended family. The second one, Daniel, celebrated just a couple of kilometers away in his home yishuv, Alon Shevut. The third, Matan, celebrated at the Kotel, the Western Wall– yesterday.

The Kotel, the place where Jews from all over the world come to pray, is, on Monday and Thursday mornings, the scene of non-stop Bar Mitzvahs. People come from all over the world with their immediate, or if they can afford it, with their extended family, to celebrate there. For us, it was a ride of about 50 minutes and a walk through the alleyways of the Old City of about another 10 minutes.

And what a scene it was with happy people from all over the world! Groups of tourists crowded the plaza.

IMGP3237Matan reading the Torah

We are anticipating another celebration of his bar mitzvah in the future with the whole family. Until then,
כל הכבוד
Way to go!



What makes me smile?

Well, the truth is that lots of things make me smile, but my biggest smiles are for the wonderful people in my life. I thought I would share some of them with you.

Abigail and Nomi

Abigail and Nomi

These two have got to be the cutest thing going… Both of them started talking before they should have and you never quite know what they will say next. The only thing you can be sure of is that it will be clever or amusing or both. These two little sisters are filled with energy and they have plans…

Tamar and Lilach

Tamar and Lilach

Tamar and Lilach are cousins. They love each other and always have big smiles when they see each other. Lilach is particularly talented at relating to younger children (she’s actually working in a day care center a couple of hours a week) and Lilach and sparkly Tamar are full of personality!



Kinneret is just becoming verbal. She has new words every day and so we’ll soon see what’s going on in that mind of hers. But she already makes me smile.

These are only 5 of the 15 granddaughters who make me smile… and the 14 grandsons are no less adorable and precious. There’s a lot to smile about.

Giving birth

Can you believe it? At my age? But it’s true. My incredibly talented doula has enabled me to give life to a new blog that is devoted to information and experiences related to travel to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It can be found here. This is not a replacement for this blog. It is an additional blog. Here at, I will continue to talk about life in Israel, parenting, spirituality, emotional health, and family life.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of last week’s Bar Mitzvah boy, my grandson, Daniel Michelson, juggling torches for the first time– at his Bar Mitzvah party.

Daniel juggling torches

Daniel juggling torches

What I did this weekend

The last few weeks have been very busy and somewhat disorienting and we’re not done yet. The back rooms upstairs are still in disarray and I am waiting for the day when I get up and tell myself that I am ready to start working on them. Today’s not it.

But this past shabbat, we took a real break. One of the big advantages of living in Israel is that you can get into your car and drive two or three hours and be in an entirely different world! On Friday morning, we drove two hours and were in the wilderness of Judea, along the Dead Sea, turning into the parking lot at Masada.

I had been to Masada at least four times before, but this was the first time that I ascended on the snake path. We were with a group of people all of whom were climbing. It was a warm, very windy , very sunny day. The path was long and winding (hence the name “snake path”). Much of the path has been widened and improved to accommodate tourists with steep inclines having been replaced by very steep steps. I am not certain that that constituted an improvement, because from the sound of my breathing, it seemed much harder to climb the steps than to climb the inclines. The walking itself wasn’t difficult– it was the breathing part- which I consider essential for continued good health (stop breathing and you are pretty much out of the game). Several times I stopped and rested and checked my pulse (the pulse was doing fine- registering aerobic activity, but not startling numbers) and drank some water. I had been fairly self-conscious about my heavy breathing (had I brought along a recording device, I am almost certain I could have sold the sound track for use in a stag film), but as I rested, I could hear the approach of people much younger than I as they panted their way up the mountain.

At a certain point, probably less than halfway up, I thought, “the is probably the last time I will be able to do this.” That thought was followed by a second, “I never want to do this again,” which in turn was followed by the pervading feeling “what am I doing here in the first place!”

I tried to tell myself that the view was gorgeous (it was.) I am awed by the desert and by the Dead Sea in the distance. But the truth is, that from the top, easily reached by cable car, one can see the same view without the huffing and puffing sounds.

But the bottom line is that I did it, and in a very short time, I was feeling fine.

The improvements made to the site are stunning! Many of the buildings have been restored, all the time preserving the original areas of the construction and having them marked as such. The explanatory signs in Hebrew and English and sketches of the buildings as they looked originally were very helpful in making this visit unique and memorable.

We returned from our visit to Masada and for shabbat, we stayed at a youth hostel just at the foot of Masada with a group of friends. It was lovely. The building was fairly new and the architecture and planning of the space was beautiful. There was a peace and serenity that was exactly what we needed. It was the most pleasant, relaxing shabbat we’ve had in a very long time.

And just as we approached home, we were blessed with a long awaited rain!