Archives for April 2009

Yom HaAtzmaut

Yesterday was Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day, and although I have been living in Israel for almost 14 years, I still am completely amazed every Independence Day at the vitality, the excitement, and the strength of this country. No one who watched the opening festivities from Mount Herzl could fail to be moved.

Most Israelis make sure that on Yom HaAtzmaut they get enough meat “al haEsh” – on the grill- to up their hemoglobin for the year. People get together with family and friends to barbecue together. Now in Israel, barbecue has not quite gotten to the level of sophistication that it has in the US. Here the process is 1. Buy briquets. 2. Soak them in at least half a can of charcoal lighter fluid 3. Light 4. Fan (often with electric fans, but sometimes with large paddle-like devices) 5. Add more charcoal lighter 6. Repeat 4 and 5 many many times.

Our family got together yesterday morning for a champagne brunch in the nearby park. We had bagels and lox and cream cheese and cut up veggies and a number of different soft drinks and “milkies” for the children (chocolate pudding in a cup with a whipped topping), chocolate cake for the adults and, um, no champagne.

The children threw frisbees, juggled, climbed trees, and played twister. The little children were treated to rides in a cart attached to the back of a bicycle. My son-in-law enjoys taking his three young children for rides– one on the back of the bike and two in the cart behind it. My oldest granddaughter, Hadas, had lines of little children (most of her cousins under the age of 7 or so) waiting for her to take them on short rides in the park. After a while, her cousin Tzvi gave it a try too. It was an enjoyable day.

Ohad and the cutemobile

Ohad and the cutemobile

In the evening, my daughter Rachel invited us and others to her home for a traditional barbecue. Fortunately, she and her husband are acquainted with better fire starting methods.
She was, as always, gracious and the food was excellent!

I don’t know a way to describe the day to Americans. It’s the way the 4th of July was meant to be. If you saw the movie “Avalon,” you might remember the colored lights and fireworks on the 4th of July in that film. It feels like that– an indescribable feeling.

Happy Birthday Israel! Happy Birthday to the people of Israel, Jews around the world, and ALL who wish her well.

Yom HaZikaron

Just when I was beginning to feel a bit cynical about governments and politics and self-flagellation, along comes Yom HaZikaron- the day when Israel remembers those who died in her wars and those who were victims of terror. Children from nursery school on are taught the significance of the day. Yesterday, soldiers swept the country and placed flowers on every military grave from all the way in the north to Eilat in the south. To a large extent, the country is united. Shops and places of entertainment are closed. The radio and television air stories of the lives of our fallen soldiers and civilians, play sad songs. All of the commemorations are done with great sensitivity.

The people Israel unite as one and not only metaphorically, but physically “hug” the families who are bereft. Our respect for them is authentic and enduring. May the memories of their loved ones be blessed.

Spring in the Galilee

Spring in the Galilee


It’s been a very busy week, what with the launch of my new web log and learning how to arrange text and pictures and making tons of mistakes and uploading the same pictures 3 and 4 times without understanding that once they are there, they are there…

But it’s an adventure and what’s making it all the more pleasant is the prospect of actually being able to let people see why these tours I do are so incredibly fascinating.

But that’s for the other site..

After all of the excitement of greeting the new Olim who are living in our upstairs apartment and helping them get settled in, preparing for Pesach, having guests from outside of the country, and the Bar Mitzvah or our grandson Daniel, I was under the impression that things would settle down. But no. This week we have Israel’s Memorial Day and following that, Independence Day. That means that two and a half days (remember, Memorial Day starts the evening before) this week will be taken up with these commemorations. And it’s not like the US where you can ignore these days. The stores close. And EVERYONE is involved in one way or another.

Of course the traditional way of celebrating Independence Day here is by having a barbeque. And the truth is that most people do that. Our family, instead, will be meeting for a picnic brunch so that the children can play soccer and generally run around and have fun. Later in the day, I suspect that most of them will be at traditional barbeques while I recover.

Rachel and family, Independence Day, 2008

Rachel and family, Independence Day, 2008

I always wondered how I would deal with the boredom once all of my children were out of the house. I still haven’t gotten to the boredom part. I am indeed blessed!

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


It’s a lost art, appreciation. People who see something beautiful such as a beautiful house or a palace, may know that it’s beautiful, but they don’t usually appreciate all of the thought and hard work that went into planning it and building it. People who see great performances often don’t appreciate that the performer has spent hours and hours learning, rehearsing, and improving his/her performance. When food is delicious, we often don’t appreciate the wonder of beautiful fruits and vegetables growing from seeds out of the ground in a rainbow of colors and a variety of shapes and sizes. We don’t appreciate the person who peeled and cut and arranged the food. We don’t appreciate the minutes or hours spent mixing, dicing, sauteing, kneading. When the table is set, we don’t appreciate the thought given to settings and colors and table accessories. When we see a garden, we don’t praise the gardener. When someone we love tells us he/she loves us, we hear, but often we don’t really hear. We don’t fully understand or appreciate the importance of ourselves in that person’s life or of their importance in ours. When people die, often survivors then begin to see the kindness, the warmth, the sacrifice of their deceased relative. Then they realize what they have lost.

Sometimes when I wonder what all of the traditions we as Jews observe are about, I remember that there is a large component of appreciation– for the food we eat, for the land we were given. These prayers should serve to sensitize us to the gifts we have been given, whether by G-d, by the people we love, or by those who work to make our lives better.


This is a post that will need to write itself since I want to write about the seder, but have no idea of where to start. First of all, the logistics: Israeli homes are on average, the size of US elevators so our seder configuration was roughly equivalent to an elevator at Macy’s on the day after Thanksgiving, except that the average age was about 15 months. OK. I exaggerate. The children’s ages: 15, 15, 12,12,12,11,9,7,4,4,3,1.5,1,7 months, 3 months. The fact that the youngest 5 were 3 and under led to a substantial amount of motion and noise. The truth is that all of them were super-adorable. But imagine 5 super-adorable puppies… you get the point. This entailed less barking and a bit less biting, but just as much action.

But all that aside, the family was beautiful. Each and every one of them looked wonderful. We enjoyed reading and chanting and singing together, even when one or more of us were off-key and/or making up our own melody that was similar to but not identical to the ones we are accustomed to singing. There was a feeling of happiness and a real sense of tradition. It all really was worth it. I only pray to enjoy many many more with the ones I love!

*That was the seder that was


A sigh of relief. It’s almost done. Can’t wait to see all of the happy smiling faces. It’s worth it. All of it.

Pesach Cleaning

So what else is new? I am happy to report that I am not afflicted with PPCD this year. I actually am pretty calm and relaxed. I may have perfected denial to a new level. However, for those of you suffering, I would like to re-publish this diagnostic material that I wrote about 10 years ago, but somehow remains relevant. The prognosis is good.

New diagnostic category added to DSM-IV-R
PPCD: Pre-Pesach Cleaning Disorder

This is a recently discovered disorder, recognized as a seasonal disorder, usually coming in early spring. It is characterized by obsessive thinking about cleanliness, far out of normal proportions. It is distinguished from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 300.3 by several symptoms.

1. Obsessive focusing on small particles of food throughout the house to the extent of climbing onto bookshelves and behind toilets to ferret out particles smaller than the eye can see.

2. Compulsive washing of objects that are ostensibly clean (e.g., one patient was found putting her children’s Legos into a sock bag and washing them. This was discovered by a disturbed neighbor who couldn’t figure out what could possibly be banging so loudly and incessantly in the dryer. The patient, when confronted said, “Well, what did you expect– for me to put them in the toy box wet!”)

3. Incessant moving of common objects from their normal places (e.g., dishes, silverware, etc. are wrapped up and/or banished from their normal shelves and drawers.)

4. Talking with friends and acquaintances about topics formerly of no interest (e.g., effectiveness of different oven cleaners, location of most pungent horseradish.)

This disorder seems to occur in a social context. Frequently groups of women become pre-occupied with cleaning simultaneously.

Presumptive symptoms:
1. Spring time frame.
2. Patient is a woman.
3. Patient reports insomnia.
4. Patient has red hands.
5. Patient has a heavy odor of cleaning substances.
6. Patient does not have time to talk about it.

This disorder has a guarded prognosis. Although patients uniformly recover within several weeks, they tend to relapse around the same time each year.

There are reports of cessation of symptoms if they are taken away for a week to a hotel each year.

Israel and the Arabs

I was going to post the following even before yesterday’s horrific attack by an Arab on two children in a community adjacent to where my own grandchildren live, killing one and fracturing the skull of the other. But now more than ever, I need to talk about how wrong-headed the advocates for Arab “rights” to the land of Israel are.

In 1978, we visited Israel with our 5 children. We walked through the Arab shuk in the Old City of Jerusalem. We talked to the shopkeepers who were friendly and welcoming. One invited my husband for some coffee and they sat and talked about the things that one would talk about with friends. We went to the city of Hebron, visited the cave of the Patriarchs, walked through the Arab market there, and felt accepted and safe. When we spoke to the Arabs there, they said life was good.

Left alone, the Arabs living in Israel would have become happy, productive members of society. The Arab community and the Jewish community were interacting on the basis of equality and mutual respect. But then Arafat and his minions reared their ugly heads and began to radicalize their population. Suddenly the Arabs in Israel and in Judea and Samaria were being taught to see their goal in life as “driving the Jews into the sea,” as eradicating the Jewish presence from the land of Israel.

Where has this gotten the average Arab? Not very far. The leaders have taken away their incentives to work and be productive. The land they have could be farmed in the same way the land we Jews have is. We export produce throughout the world. They complain that they have nothing. Their leaders have taken the substantial fund granted through the United Nations, the US, and other nations and have built themselves beautiful homes and large bank accounts. In cities where the Arabs have complete autonomy, the roads are pitted, the sidewalks broken, and the garbage lies in the streets. Their leaders have robbed them of self-respect and of hope for the future. No wonder they are willing to go out in a “blaze of glory” by murdering innocent children.

This article, from Haaretz, a fairly left-wing Israeli newspaper shows more clearly than most why our chances for peace with the Arabs in the near future are dim. Wafa Younis is an Israeli Arab.

PA expels founder of Jenin youth orchestra to Israel
By Yoav Stern

Wafa Younis, a musician from northern Israel who founded a youth orchestra in the Jenin refugee camp, was arrested there on Tuesday by Fatah militants and sent back to Israel from the West Bank. Last week the orchestra played for Holocaust survivors and elderly Arabs in Holon, news that ignited passions in Jenin.

On Tuesday, Younis had been meeting with students’ mothers when about four armed men in civilian clothing surrounded her. The militants were led by Zakariya Zubeidi, head of Fatah in the camp, who demanded that Younis go with him in his car to the camp’s police station.

“The police chief, who is familiar with my activities, said he would prefer that I leave because those are the instructions regarding anyone with an Israeli identification card,” Younis told Haaretz Thursday.

“Zubeidi offered a hudna, where we would suspend our activities for a time, and I agreed. I’ll return to Jenin at the right moment because the children are waiting for me, because the community is waiting for me. And if I can’t teach them in their classroom I’ll teach them in the center I founded in A’ara [where she lives].”

Younis’ work in the camp has made her a household name there. After teaching more than a dozen schoolchildren to play the violin, oud, drums and other instruments, she arranged performances in Israel for the orchestra, Strings of Freedom. A year ago it played in A’ara for the families of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, Israeli soldiers who were abducted to Lebanon, and of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

On Thursday PA officials said they and Fatah were under heavy pressure from Hamas members in the camp as a result.

“On the Internet there are pictures of the children under photos of the Israeli prisoners, and they performed for Holocaust survivors,” one Fatah official said. “Hamas accused us of normalization activities, of identifying with the enemy, so we were forced to expel Younis. The subject is now closed.”

Younis, who was interviewed by Arab and foreign news outlets Thursday, told Haaretz that she would appeal directly to the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “I’ll ask him to appoint a genuine commission of inquiry that will hear the children and their parents, too,” she said. “I will wait until the issue is thrashed out because I cannot continue my work with these interruptions.”