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 drsavta.com, 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!

The brit

The last of the babies due in this very productive 10 month period had his brit today. His name is Ephraim Yehoshua. He’s a very sweet baby and so are all of his playmates (and there are 4 who are just about his age in the family!)

Pictures of some of the family are available here: at this site


Yesterday I had the privilege of being an observer at one of the polling places in our city for the local municipal elections. After all of the voter fraud stories coming from the US, I took special note of all of the safeguards that are in place to prevent it here in Israel.

Each citizen has an ID number (roughly equivalent in the US to one’s social security number.) Each person above the age of 16 carries an identity card with his/her picture. This identity card is supplied by the Interior Ministry which also keeps on file every person’s legal address. Before each election, every citizen gets in the mail a voting card that tells him/her where his/her polling place is. Except for soldiers, there are no absentee ballots. No one votes early and everyone must vote at his/her polling place which has a list of all of those permitted to vote in that district. There are at least three other people in the room when the voting is taking place. One takes the identity card, calls out the person’s name and voting number on their list, and marks through the name. A second, with a duplicate list may do the same. A third has stickers with each voting number on them and removes the corresponding sticker from the sheet where they were printed and places it on another sheet that has the numbers in order of people’s appearance at the polls. Another person checks off the number of the voter on a chart to ensure that the same number is not used more than once. Voting is done one at a time behind a carton that is set up at a distance form the observers. Behind the cardboard partition, there are a number of white papers– one for each party with the party letters written on them. One is placed in the white envelope. In addition, there are a number of yellow papers, each with the name of a mayoral candidate, and one is placed in the yellow envelope. When finished, the voter places both envelopes (in full view of those working and observing in the room) into a slot in a cardboard box. Observers, appointed by the parties running for city council, are able to check periodically to make sure that all of the printed ballot materials are arranged properly and that there are sufficient notes with each party and candidate’s name.

As I watched the people come in to vote, one by one, I was struck with how seriously Israelis take elections and how it was a very orderly process. We may be the homeland of people from all over the globe who speak different languages and have different customs, but come election day, we all are Israelis. And we should be very proud of this process. This is something that our country knows how to do right!

Prayers for the chief

Having been through the US election process here in Israel– having been overloaded with information from the internet, I am finally recovering. Like everyone else, I am praying that the next administration will be one that helps the US recover economically, maintains the values that made it a great country, and keeps the US and all of its citizens safe.

I worry that this administration may be like others who have forced upon Israel “agreements” that from the outset everyone understood would be binding on Israel, but not on our still sworn enemies. Every “agreement” had the Israelis ceding land and control and had the Arabs being responsible to stop terrorism. We all know how that has worked out. Since September 2000, over 1,000 Israelis have been murdered in terror attacks and a countless number have been seriously injured with the result being amputations, blindness, and paralysis. Children have been orphaned, parents bereft, and whole families destroyed. Our dear friend Chana, injured at Sbarros in 2001 has still not regained consciousness and her daughter, then 2.5, knows her mother only as someone who lies in bed connected to tubes and machines. More about her: here

Our separation from Gaza, involving the destruction of 21 communities and the removal of all of their inhabitants could not have been more ill-advised. Now, over three years later, there are thousands of displaced people, still living in trailers, still paying the mortgages on homes destroyed by Israeli tanks, still unemployed. The profitable greenhouses that were left in Gaza so that Gaza farmers could grow vegetables for their own people have been destroyed or abandoned. Israelis had exported millions of dollars of produce raised in those greenhouses. On the security front, Hamas came into power and has lobbed thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel from the area where the communities had been.

I pray the the next administration will understand better that it’s not a matter of sitting down and making nice- it’s a matter of our seeing a real willingness to put aside hatred and violence-inducing rhetoric both in English AND in Arabic. We need to see a real commitment to stop the teaching of hate in the schools. As long as the curriculum in Palestinian schools prescribes that children be encouraged to be martyrs and kill the Jews for the greater good, we really have nothing to talk about.

And I sincerely hope that the new president will understand that Iran is a threat not just to Israel who he may think of as expendable in a first strike, but also to Europe and to the US itself. Israel *is* the canary in the mine. When terror against Israel began, everyone else believed that terror was an Israeli problem. Now it has become a worldwide epidemic. If Iran successfully strikes Israel, the West will not be safe.

So yes, I worry and I pray.