Archives for January 2009

Renovations update

The Dr Savta house is still being renovated. I suddenly became inspired to rename my humble abode “the Dr Savta House” having watched Dr Phil this week while stationary bicycling at the gym. The thing that distinguishes it from the “Dr Phil House” is that here at Dr Savta’s we do not have drug-addicted people or people engaged in loud shouting matches (if you discount some of the gnashing of teeth over some of the renovation-related mis-adventures). We also have a smaller number of hidden cameras.

So where are we with the renovations? Well, the upstairs apartment is painted, the bathrooms are in and functioning, the lighting fixtures are hung, the counter between the living room and kitchen is in and we have most of the furniture either in, ordered, or identified (so that we know where to go to get what we need). Unfortunately, the bathtub was removed from the bedroom before I had a chance to take a picture to put on the wall labeled “the Kyle Room.” But life goes on…

In the downstairs apartment (where we have valiantly attempting to live our lives for lo these many weeks of upheaval and dust), we have the steps installed (all but the top one which had to be removed because the contractor still had to replace the marble he had removed from the landing when we discovered all of the electrical cables were running through the former steps and we had to have the house rewired and the cables had to go somewhere…) The uprights for the rail have been put in, but the rail, which will be glass, will not arrive for another week. The kitchen window area is still boarded up, but the window guy tells me that we will have it on Sunday. The new window sill that we have looks gorgeous. It is the same black granite as the rest of the kitchen counters and I love it! We also have to replace the windows in the laundry area of our kitchen. I hope that will happen sometime next week as well.

The piles of assorted household stuff remain a challenge. My office is finally straightened out– I threw out vast quantities of papers that had no future use… and now the big challenge is getting the library corner and the two back bedrooms straightened out. It’s daunting, but it will get it done. The whole house will eventually look great because it’s all freshly painted and soon to be neat.

Can Dr Phil say the same thing? I think not.

Rachel in Gaza

Since the military operation in Gaza, there have been rumors of a woman appearing to the Israeli troops and guiding them away from danger. David Hazony has written this most beautiful piece about the belief that it was mother Rachel, protecting her children. The original appears here on the Commentary web site

This is his article:

Did Rachel Appear in Gaza?
David Hazony – 01.25.2009 – 1:37 PM

For weeks now, we have been hearing rumors about a mysterious woman who appeared before Israeli troops in the thick of the Gaza battles. Not just any woman, mind you, but the biblical Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, matriarch of Israel. (My nine-year-old daughter gave me an excellent speech about the pluses and minuses of believing these rumors.) Israel’s former chief rabbi, Mordechai Eliyahu, announced that he himself had sent her. And now another former chief rabbi and Shas spiritual leader, Ovadiah Yosef, has confirmed these reports.

This is the point where I’m supposed to say how ridiculous it is. A hoax, or a superstition, or something. But I’m not gonna do it.

I don’t care if you call the appearance of Rachel a metaphor or a miracle. There is a point in rabbinic discourse where miracles and metaphors all mingle together, where the word “literally” loses its meaning, making room for midrash — the art of saying something illiteral and literary. To say that Rachel was with our soldiers, that our matriarch was protecting her boys, is a deeper statement than anything that can be made by a professional reporter with a camera.

Let’s give the religious spinmasters the benefit of the doubt. Of course she wasn’t there. But, of course, she was.

Blown away

Sometimes I am so very proud to be an Israeli! Israelis can be brash, intense, and rude, but they can also be the most loving, giving people on earth.

Yesterday they proved that again. Israelis turned out in droves to have their blood tested so that they might possible be able to provide bone marrow. The two hopeful recipients are children and the crowds of people came out in the hope that someone will be found for each of the children and for many more who are waiting here. When I say “in droves” I am not exaggerating. This is a country of just over 7 million people. Twenty eight percent of our population is under the age of 14– and therefore unable to provide donations. Nine point eight percent are over the age of 65. They were not collecting samples from anyone over the age of 50. Of course, some people registered during previous drives. So, the number of those who were tested is completely unbelievable. The best hopes were that thirty thousand people would show up. In fact, OVER SIXTY THOUSAND samples were collected. SIXTY THOUSAND– in one day… in a country that has only a bit over 7 million people! The malls were crowded with people standing in line waiting for testing. It was an amazing sight.

Kol HaKavod!

It may have been worth it

The news from the Dr Savta house is that Dr Savta finally is able to walk up a proper flight of stairs. This is very exciting. Of course, there is no railing which means that although it is safe for us, until the man comes to measure and makes the large glass panels that will protect people from falling off the ends of the stairs, grandchildren under the age of about 10 are not invited to visit. (That means that about 19 little children will find themselves banned from the premises.)

But that’s OK, since the air pollution level in here is probably at the toxic waste dump level. Everything (and I do mean everything) is covered with white dust. Depending on how many times I have cleaned the surface, the amount of dust ranges from unbelievable to alarming. Take for example, the bathtub… My husband made the mistake of walking into the bathroom on the second floor yesterday. He said, “Oh no, what happened!” I went to him. He said, “Oh, it’s only dust.” The dust in that bathroom was so thick and beige colored that he thought they had painted the bathtub, sink, and toilet beige. But it is not wise to clean up there because there is still construction on its way. Today they painted the door frames throughout the house and now we have no doors hanging– not in our bedroom nor in our bathroom… another reason why grandchildren (and children as well) including those from 10-15 (that’s 10 of them) also are banned from the house.

But wait… there’s more! We are lengthening the area of our kitchen window. So, for now, the wall has been cut almost all the way through– meaning that the entire dairy side of the kitchen is mostly defunct (yeah, more prohibited people).

Today, I met with a man who is moving from the US to Modi’in. He works in the therapy field and wanted to know if we could chat a bit about the realities of providing therapy in Israel. When I told him that I would invite him to my home, but that we were doing renovations, I am pretty sure he didn’t believe me. So to food court we went. If I never eat at the food court again this year, I still will probably break the frequency record for 2009 for most meals eaten at the Modi’in Mall.

But I digress…

The steps look really good. The walls look clean and pretty. The electricity is all working. We probably have 2 more weeks of this to go, but I think in the end, the Dr Savta home will be beautiful.

Renovations 3: The horror

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Early one morning we moved all of the pictures, knicknacks, and other movable objects our of the living room, dining room, kitchen, and all of the bathrooms (there are 4) so that the painter could wield his magic brush. Well, to be brief, everything that we removed to all places that we could get them to were already bathed in a layer of dust that rendered all of them white. But, last night and this morning, one by one, we brought items back into the living room and dining room and dusted and washed and shone and repositioned them where they had come from. And then I made a very very bad mistake. I went upstairs.

We had moved books from the bookshelves in the hall into the back bedroom as well as some pictures we had hung on the walls. Also, the lamp from my office was there as well as other objects. We left the floor mostly free. Today, that room looked as if some evil gang had come into it and spread everything around to destroy it. The electrical equipment was scattered, a wire that had been attached to the phonograph was cut, the phone plug pulled out of the wall and missing, and numerous books, papers, framed pictures, and other easily damaged items were out on our screened porch. The room next to it was no better. It was as if someone very angry had decided to do as much damage as possible to someone’s home without setting fire to it.

Now this all worries me because the gentle, calm, painter is not an Israeli and although he might rationalize his actions by saying we didn’t move all of that stuff and he was in a hurry, to my eyes, it looked like “in a hurry” is not the full story.

In any case, I do not have the stomach to go upstairs for another couple of days. I am not overestimating when I say that I have more than a week’s worth of work to do in order to get the upstairs looking anything like home. The downstairs is still a work in progress, but I am hoping that in a couple of hours, it will look ready for shabbat.

So here is the moral of the story: do everything you need to do to a house before you move in and when it starts looking like it really needs improvements, call a real estate agent and find a new home. Take it from me. Moving was never this hard.

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

More happenings

It’s been a busy time. Our daughter gave birth to a baby boy in Monday night. Wednesday I brought her back from the hospital to her home where waiting for her were her husband and her 18 month old daughter who was running a fever. But nonetheless, I took off for home and packed my bag (unfortunately leaving out warm pajamas) because my husband and I were accompanying my oldest son, his son, and another grandson (the son of our older daughter) to Tiberias where our son was going to run his second marathon!

We drove to Tiberias which took more time than we had anticipated because we ran into traffic that was backed up for multiple kilometers, and by the time we arrived and checked in, we were ready for dinner. After dinner we went to the entertainment that is included at the all-inclusive “Golden Tulip” Tiberias. It was exactly the same entertainment was we had last year– the same young enthusiastic girl in the pseudo-military uniform (short skirt, of course) exuding charm as she ran slides that asked trivia questions about Israel and played a soundtrack with popular Israeli songs. We stayed about 10 minutes and opted for the room.

Our son and grandsons were in one room and we were in the other. We had forgotten that the hotel was blessed with neighbors (outdoor eateries) that blasted music until about midnight. In addition, the brilliant, energy-saving heating system that we had trouble getting to work blew cold air on us all night.

But morning finally came and despite the forecasts, the weather was perfect for a run! The start was exciting and the finish even more so as our son not only reached his goal in terms of time, but cut 11 minutes off his previous marathon!

We arrived home Thursday night tired, but happy.

Friday I had two goals: to make a really nice shabbat dinner and to help my daughter and her husband get ready for a shalom zachor. Fortunately, both of those things happened. My sister, who had wanted to learn to make potato kugel, was with me as I cooked which made it all much more fun. Helping with the cleanup at my daughter’s house (we’ve been changing her electric to three-phase which mean that the electrician has been drilling holes in her walls thereby making piles of dust) was satisfying and it gave me the opportunity to spend some time with my granddaughter and with the new baby.

In the evening, they made a lovely Shalom Zachor hosting some of their friends.

Today we went to a “Bubby-Mitzvah” of one of my friends. She chanted the haftarah beautifully and it was lovely to see her honored by the presence of her family and friends.

In the evening, we went to the engagement party of my distant cousin. His mother and I are third cousins, once removed, but partially because she lives here in Israel, we share a closeness and friendship that is very special. We wish the young couple, Avi and Shira, much happiness!

Oh, and the house…
Upstairs apartment now has tiled hallway and bathrooms! We still have no stairs. My sister is still sleeping on the sofa.

Life is anything but dull.

Two more things: Special thanks to my daughter Rachel and my son Akiva for their kindness and caring this week. I always love them, but this week, both of them showed themselves to be very very special people.

It’s a boy!

My younger daughter gave birth last night. Pictures are available here

Renovations III

The update is that the staircase will be delayed by yet another week. The tiling in the upstairs apartment is moving along slowly. The bedrooms there are painted (at least the first coat). The electrical work is still not completed (perhaps on Tuesday). We are still living in two areas: our living/dining/kitchen (where my visiting sister is also sleeping) and our bedroom. We finally have lights in the bedroom meaning that candlelit showers are now an option, rather than a requirement.

The larger renovations are taking place about a 2 hour ride south of us. We have the best of our youth and lots of moms and dads of young children working hard to prevent the killing of our civilian population. Interesting how everyone feels suddenly bad that innocent people might be hurt. Where were their bad feelings for the last 8 years as thousands of rockets and mortars were being lobbed into houses, kindergartens, shopping centers and other places that normal people frequent? How long would any civilized nation take random armed attacks on its population that resulted in death, destruction and serious trauma? How many countries would tolerate a situation that leads to a whole city full of children who are frightened to go to bed at night and need to sleep in their parents’ rooms and who are wetting their beds while the rockets and mortars continue to fly?

Here is what the news media aren’t telling you (and we civilians don’t even know all of the details). Before the home of a Hamas leader is struck, (remember, they are the ones who want all of us dead, the sooner the better) the army calls and warns them. They (the Hamas guys) then normally send their women and children up to the roof to act as human shields (nice, eh?) The Israel Army then sends a non-lethal missile that will explode nearby (not injuring anyone) to scare the women and children off the roof. After they leave the building, it is destroyed.

Now let’s think of other ways of stopping the violence:
1. Talking — they don’t want to talk to us; they want to destroy us.
2. Negotiating — uh, ditto
3. Begging — uh, double ditto

It is with a heavy heart that we expose our young men and women to the possibility of injury and death. But for us, there is no choice. We pray that the Hamas government will fall and that the Palestinian people in Gaza will have the chance for a future whose meaning does NOT all derive from our destruction, but one in which they will live their lives in happiness and strive for those things that enrich and ennoble one’s soul.