Life in the time of CoRONA #4

I want to write about something that left me speechless, so it may be a bit difficult.

First I have to reassure my children (read “jailers”) that I took every possible precaution and made sure not to be in any danger. Remember, one of my finer qualities is paranoia.

We realized that we were missing a very few things, so I got into my car and drove to the mall (about 1 kilometer from our house.) I put on my gloves (I took 3 pairs of gloves for this mission) and pressed the button to take the ticket at the parking lot.

I headed straight for the pharmacy where I had heard they had a supply of the N95 masks. They also had cleaning sheets impregnated with bleach and thermometers. I purchased what we needed. In the pharmacy was one cashier and me.

The mall was empty of people. The escalators were not running. Aside from the pharmacies (I only saw one, but I am certain the other was open too), the supermarket, and a health food store, everything was closed. It was silent.

I stopped at the supermarket – to purchase that all important granulated garlic- there were perhaps 10 people spread over a huge area and spots on the floor near the checkout counters instructing people to stand on them in order to keep a safe distance. Everyone I saw was wearing gloves- most were wearing masks too. Of course once I purchased the masks, I was wearing one also.

No one spoke except the checkout clerks at the pharmacy and the supermarket. They were friendly and helpful.

But the truth was, I had entered a completely alternate reality.

We have traveled a lot- to many different countries. We are not surprised that people have different customs and folkways- but this was so very different from everything else I have ever experienced. It is as if the life has been sucked out of us and we are going through the motions like people on a treadmill who walk and walk and get nowhere.

I know- I firmly believe- that what we are doing is preserving life and it is necessary and important.

But it feels so weird.

Life in the time of CoRONA

Although people are posting endlessly on Facebook, much of what they write is lost after the first day or two. It occurs to me that what we on this planet are experiencing is so different from what any of us have experienced before, that sharing information, thoughts, ideas, feelings- might be helpful and I welcome input.

I’ll start by saying that awareness of this virus only began for me as something vague and unrelated to me. Although I have visited China many times and have some wonderful Chinese friends, I never visited Wuhan. I do remember feeling sad that the Chinese people were going through this.

A couple of days before we left for our most recent tour to India, I received a call asking if I was available to lead a tour to Australia and New Zealand because the assigned guide was unable to go. The tour was to begin on the same day as our India tour. Of course it was impossible, but subsequently we found out that the tour had been cancelled because the cruise on which participants were scheduled to sail was cancelled.

By the time we came back from India on February 24, people were already talking about the virus having spread and indeed, when we arrived in Cochin a few days earlier, all of us were checked for fever.

It wasn’t until the quarantines began that I really became aware of the extent of the contagion. The week they began quarantines for people arriving from specific countries, I had one son and his children arriving from Bulgaria, one son from the US, and one son from Romania. Two of my grandchildren were quarantined- one had arrived after a visit to Italy and one from Austria. Then came the mandatory quarantines for everyone arriving in the country. When they announced no gatherings of more that 5000 people, then 1000 people then 100 people, the situation became more and more a serious matter.

Just last week we attended a concert; this week, we wouldn’t think of it.

The strangest thing for me is that this is literally worldwide. There is no place to go. All of us living on this beautiful planet are sharing this experience.

Here is what I have observed:

Disbelief- there are people who are sure this is all media hype. How sad that the media have so distorted the truth in the past that people can’t believe them.

Wishful thinking- “It’ll be fine. No one will get hurt”

Compliance- We should just listen to the folks who know more than we do about this. (Respect for education and experience)

Kindness – Granted HS age kids can’t stand to have nothing to do, but the offers to run errands, babysit, tutor, walk dogs, etc. are heart warming.

We are in a new world now. When I was taught family therapy I learned that when there is a crisis, given proper supports, a system will reorganize itself at a higher level of functioning.

Let’s hope that is what happens in our world….

You are invited to join a discussion with only three ground rules:

  1. No politics (no mention of political parties or politicians)
  2. No foul language
  3. No insults

Let me hear from you!

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 https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/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.

Question

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!

Matan

Matan

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

Kinneret

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.