Archives for March 2009

So what’s so great about taking an organized tour?

I’m glad you asked that question. Oh… I mean I’m glad *I* asked that question! I have loved traveling from the very first time that I was lucky enough to venture out to see new people and places. My very first trip was to Israel and Europe when I was 19 years old. I was one of about 30 college students who were in an all-inclusive tour. We went all sorts of places I never would have gone– to museums, concerts, and even to the opera. I loved it! I developed, that summer, a love for classical music, Impressionist art, Botticelli paintings, and the sights, smells, and sounds of foreign lands. I enjoyed having a group of friends (for after the first week or so, all of us became friends) to share the experience.

Now, as an adult, I realize that in addition to organized tours providing many more and varied sights and sounds than one would plan for oneself and in addition to providing quick and easy transportation and entrance to all sorts of attractions, that much of the fun comes from sharing the experience with compatible people who not only like traveling, but who kid and joke and enjoy life together.

My daughter was kind enough to send me a link to this article that reminded me of this.

Of course, for me as a systemic therapist, a family systems person, a social worker– forming and nurturing the group experience is one of my most important jobs as a guide. As we travel in China and in Vietnam/Cambodia, we enjoy the group experience as well as the unique experiences of the sights and sounds of the places we travel. We make sure, on our Shai Bar Ilan tours, to take our people to places where they can meet local residents and connect with them as well and so at the end of the trip, we can look back not just on the pictures we took, but on the people we met (both local people and those on the group) and experiences we had that are unforgettable.

And as I prepare for Pesach, I am dreaming of my next trip. Come along with DrSavta to China this summer!!!!

I’m shy

Before you start laughing, like everyone I know does, I need to tell you that it’s true. One on one, with friends, I am not shy. When asked to speak or teach, I have no trouble getting up in front of a large number of people, to speak, to joke, to talk extemporaneously. But put me in a social setting where people are milling around and speaking with each other, I’m hugging the wall. Set me down in a room full of people talking about more or less anything, and I’m silent- taking out my notepad and making grocery lists.

I sometimes think about this, but not often. It’s the way I am and my life is full and happy despite that. But yesterday I was sitting across the table from a woman who I’ve known for a few years and mentioned that virtually no one from my youth has any memory of me. — It’s true. My very best friend from when I was 15-18 years old had no recollection of who I was when I contacted her after a hiatus. My NAME wasn’t even familiar. A co-counselor at a camp I worked at- a woman who I had shared a room with for 8 weeks, had no idea who I was years later. In our family, we have decided that I was invisible in my youth. But the truth is that it didn’t end then. A few years ago, on line, I found a professor who had taught me and my husband when we were taking a masters class in Germany. When I contacted him, he said he remembered MY HUSBAND!

The woman across the table who shared a similar experience, told me that when she was a teen, she participated in a once a week sport practice and each week she had to re-introduce herself. She said she too had been invisible and shared with me that she too was seen as unfriendly and a snob.

The truth is that neither of us is unfriendly nor are we snobs (OK, I am a little bit of a snob; I refuse to waste my time with people who are petty or mean or excessively stupid)- we are just shy. So, if you see me and I smile at you (I do that a lot to look less snobby), come on over and we’ll talk.

Believe it or not, another movie review

My sister is SOOOO going to be moving to Modi’in when she hears that on a regular basis Israeli films have premiere showings here. Last night, the director of a new Israel film (so new, it’s not yet showing up on Hebrew or English Google), came and spoke about film making and showed his film “Ben and Eli.”

His talk was very interesting, talking about how a well made film can encourage us to root for the scoundrel, even for the murderer. He spoke of how it was done and gave us a few examples. Clearly, he did it because it made us aware of our shifting loyalties in the film that he was presenting.

The film stars Lior Ashkenazi who is a well known Israeli actor who is easy on the eyes. It deals with the relationships of fathers and sons– chiefly his relationship with his son, but also his relationship with his father.

Eli, the son, is a mischievous redheaded schoolboy of about 12 years old. Ben is an architect and the city engineer of Herzliya. As the film progresses not only does their near idyllic relationship undergo changes, but so does Eli’s personality as he gains insights and experience in fairness, justice, truth, and human relationships.

All four if us agreed it was an entertaining film that engaged our minds as well as our senses. Four thumbs up.

Welcome home!

Tomorrow we will be welcoming two new olim to Israel. These are a couple who we do not yet know, but who will be staying in the apartment that we just finished renovating. Over the past few months, the wife and I have been corresponding and she seems to be a lovely person. In the last couple of weeks, we have finished furnishing the apartment, putting in the linens, the kitchen equipment, cleaning– and finally tomorrow, they will arrive.

I have been thinking about the fact that it is a lot like giving birth… the anticipation, the preparation, and “due date” and the meeting of unknown people who will be a part of your life. Like every new mom, I wish them an easy birth, a worry-free toddlerhood, and a happy life here.

And I am pretty certain that they won’t be getting up in the middle of the night and crying. At least I hope not.

Welcome home!

Nothing to say

This week has been a difficult one. My daughter and her husband are faced with a difficult decision. A child in our city was killed in a traffic accident. People I know have lost loved ones. And I feel impotent- unable to provide the right answer, the right words. And who should know what to say? Surely a family therapist, an “expert” in human interactions, a person who should know how to phrase things properly, how to say exactly the right thing, surely I should be able to respond in a meaningful, thoughtful, helpful way.

But I can’t.

Because, there is nothing to say. There is nothing that makes a difficult decision easier other than expressing one’s confidence that whatever people choose to do will be the right choice for them. There is nothing to say that removes grief. No one else can feel the pain of the bereft. No one can know what that family member meant to them. No one can know what words might heal and what words might hurt.

A long time ago I worked in the intensive care unit at a hospital. My supervisor, a chaplain, had talked to us about “a ministry of presence.” He told us that just being there and being with was in itself, a ministry. There was one very old woman (I think she was 92) who was in a coma. Each day I went and stood by her bed. I would take her hand. I would sometimes talk to her, although I knew she most likely wouldn’t hear me. I would stay there for 5 or 10 minutes and then I would wish her well and leave. One day I came to the unit and she was gone. I thought she had died. I was about to leave the unit after visiting some other people when one of the nurses came to me and told me that the woman had awakened. She told me that the family had asked her to thank me for being with their mother and for having been so kind. I never thought to ask how they knew. Did she hear me? feel me? Had the nurses told them? I don’t know.

But after that I understood that sometimes, when there is nothing to say, being there, being with is the best thing we can do.

With apologies to my sister

My sister is the film maven in the family. She just is. If you have a question about films, she can probably answer it. She’s been to film festivals on 4 continents- one in a place I had never even heard of.

So, it seems somewhat presumptuous to give a movie review on my website. However, I think she may forgive me. We’ll see.

A couple of nights ago we went with friends to see “Bruriah” – an Israeli film recently released that builds upon the story of Rabbi Meir’s wife, Bruriah, who was known to be a very learned woman. Perhaps you remember the story of the two sons of Bruriah and Rabbi Meir. According to the story, their two sons died on a shabbat while Rabbi Meir was not at home. Bruriah covered them in the next room. When her husband returned, she asked him a question. She posed this situation: someone came and left precious possessions with her. She kept them and cared for them. Finally the owner came back. Should she return them? Her husband said, “of course” and then she led him to the other room where his two dead sons lay.

The film was inspired by another story about Bruriah- one in which she is tested and ultimately fails. The story is filmed in a contemporary context. Modern-day Bruriah is the daughter of a man who has written a book about Bruriah that is thought to be heretical and as a result he and she are shunned. The film begins well. By about halfway through, it has become enjoyable. There is good acting, realistic costume and scenery, and even a little humor. But somewhere, the screenplay or the editing went awry. Suddenly it’s unclear if the film is a parable? a slice of life? a fantasy? And it is not clear that the actors or director knew either. We never really understand what was so heretical about the book. We don’t understand the motivation of the characters. We have difficulty having any sense of who the characters are inside. They seem to act without any observable motivations. By the end of the flim, all four of us were shaking our heads “no.”

Four thumbs down.

Keeping on keeping on

My grandson Ephraim had his surgery 2 weeks ago. Last week, we returned to the doctor to see how he was healing post-surgery. He was doing fine. We were surprised that he had us make an appointment for this week. My daughter and I went today and thank G-d, he is still doing fine. This time it was not the doctor who has been caring for him and we both worried that the 4 hours we spent waiting would be wasted, but they weren’t. The doctor we saw seemed very much on board with his condition and we gained a feeling of confidence from her. We again were surprised that we were asked to make another appointment with his doctor for next week. These appointments are at Tel HaShomer Hospital which is on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

We are in a territory that we are unfamiliar with– his condition is not something we had ever hear of before and although we are learning more about it every day, we don’t know the ins and outs of what the medical people will be doing for him and how his appointment schedule will look and whether or not they will decide to put in a contact lens or patch his good eye… we are simply relying on the medical people to lead us through this step by step.

We are grateful to the lay people here in Israel who have given us support through the yahoo PHPV email group. They have helped us to feel comfortable with the expertise of the people who are treating Ephraim. But what is fascinating to me is that although I have had many experiences in my life, this one is totally new. It requires patience and trust and a willingness to accept what is happening and to walk confidently one foot in front of the other, knowing that ultimately, what his parents are doing for Ephraim is providing the very best care available anywhere.