She got in!

Two postings today…. for a very special reason…

Hadas was accepted to IASA – Israel Arts and Science Academy!

(This is the same Hadas who is my oldest granddaughter and my travel partner to China this past summer)

I am so very proud to be related to her. Kol HaKavod, Hadas!!!!!

You can see some pictures of her here.

A word about Tibet

I will admit it. I am not an expert on Tibet. However, I have studied about Tibet and spent a few days there this past spring. Here is what I know about the situation there:

Lhasa, capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, is experiencing a renaissance. When we were there last spring, the streets were clean, there was bustling traffic, people moved about freely. As we drove through the streets, we saw Buddhist pilgrims who were coming on foot to the main temple from places that were so far away that the treks took close to a year. We saw monks walking on the streets and in the many temples and monasteries. Religious items were on sale and prayer wheels lined the streets that surrounded the largest of the temples in Lhasa. People walking around the temple would spin them as they went by, thereby repeating a prayer said earlier in the day.

In addition to its airport, Lhasa has recently been linked to the rest of China by a fabulous railway that travels 1110 kilometers (over 600 miles) between Qinghai and Lhasa, crossing the frozen tundra at enormous altitudes while preserving the wildlife.

While in Lhasa we went to a monastery where there were tens and maybe over a hundred young monks dressed in their crimson robes outside in the shade of trees debating and trying to understand the holy ideas- one questioning the other in pairs of two or three. It was like nothing so much as an active yeshiva where the men were studying with their “chevrusa.”

In a tiny village outside of Lhasa, we asked a local family to allow us to come into their home. Outside in the courtyard of the U-shaped home, the woman was boiling water using a solar reflector. Inside was a fairly primitive kitchen with a large water container and with preserved meat and cheeses hanging from the ceiling, a few sleeping rooms, and a living room with a large screen TV and a DVD. And yes, there was a satellite dish outside. There was no bathroom in the house, entertainment having won the battle of priorities…

In Lhasa, there are luxury hotels. Our hotel was exquisite. Our hallway was decorated with highly polished woods and there were showcases with local artifacts in them. As we walked down the hallway, the lights would increase in intensity in front of us and dim behind us. Every room had a computer and free 24 hour internet access. When the computer in my room gave me trouble, they simply replaced it.

The man at the hotel who we interfaced with about the cooking and set-up was a very young man who had been trained in the hotel business and did all he could to please us going so far as to put plastic wrap over each of the 27 placemats we used at each meal! He had grown up in Lhasa, but was looking forward to going to Shanghai and learning more about the hotel business and then returning to Lhasa to manage one of the luxury hotels. He spoke of hope and a bright future.

Was every Tibetan we saw happy? I don’t know. I do know that they smiled and were friendly and did not seem to be suffering. Economically, they have never been in better shape. How many of them really want the Dalai Lama to come back to be not just the spiritual leader but also the political leader of Tibet is completely unclear to me.

The Chinese have taken pains to allow people to worship as they wish. They have created a magnificent Tibetan Museum in Lhasa.

And now that the Tibetan monks have started rioting, the people of the world have a knee-jerk response “the Chinese need to give Tibet its independence.”” The Dalai Lama refuses to tell his people to stop rioting, but he fears a bloodbath and “cultural genocide.” Were the Chinese to leave Tibet, would the people be better off? I seriously doubt it. Now they are enjoying the fruits of Chinese prosperity. They have limited ability to provide food for themselves because of their harsh winters and short growing season.

I don’t know what is right, but I do know that a lot of people who know less than I do are very sure. Just as they are sure that Israel should just give up its land because the Arabs are rioting and lobbing rockets into our civilian populations. They are so sure. They can’t find Israel on a map. They have no idea of the size of our country or the population. They don’t know that ceding land here is not possible when those who would take it are bent on killing our population.

It’s so easy to know what’s right when you are ignorant.

Packing up

Having just caught our breath from our trip to Tiberias Wednesday and Thursday, once again we packed up and left– this time to Jaffa, for a shabbat with the Shai Bar Ilan “family.” It was wonderful to be with a group of really delightful people and to enjoy a guided tour of Jaffa. We returned home last night and now today, we are once again packing.

This time we are going on a real adventure! So far, we have guided kosher trips in China. China, if you hadn’t yet noticed, is almost an addiction for me. A few weeks home and I am ready to travel again. I spend hour and hours of my own time finding people to go on these tours because I can’t get enough of China and never have I had a traveler say that it was any less than I had promised. More frequently I hear at a beautiful site or after a wonderful performance, “If only for this, the trip was worth it!” And our trips are filled with moments such as those. There will be four different China trips for English speakers this year– China and Hong Kong for 17 days, Classic China for 17 days, Shanghai and Beijing, 11 days and Beijing 11 days. Come one, come all!

So what does one do for a traveler who would like to have another amazing experience with the same tour guide? Well, we are going to scout out and learn a new location. We are traveling to Vietnam and Cambodia.

My husband quips that he almost visited Vietnam all expenses paid in the late 60’s.

I will be attempting to blog while we are away, but there is no guarantee that I will be able to get to a computer or to this site. I am hoping that I will be able to access my gmail, so if you want to reach me, my gmail account has the same name as I use for myself on this blog.

I wonder

I just today read an article in the China Daily, a site I read daily to keep up with what’s going on in China and which, like China, fascinates me. (We will be doing two Kosher English speakers’ tours to China this spring for Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours– come join us). In the article, the problem of the panda population was once again addressed.

As you may know pandas are an endangered species and only in recent years has China been able to successfully breed pandas so that finally the panda population of the world is increasing. Even those pandas that are rented to other zoos for 10 years (at a million dollars a year!) must be bred and the resulting pandas too eventually become the property of the Chinese.

Having visited the breeding ground outside of Chengdu more than once, I was impressed with the care taken in providing a healthy environment for the pandas and the precautions taken to safeguard the panda babies. The tiny babies may be seen only on closed circuit TV and those in the toddler stage, only through the cage which is inside a heated building and where visitors must wear coverings on their shoes to prevent the spread of germs. The rest of the panda reserve is lush and verdant with bamboo everywhere. Pandas are fed a variety of food to help them muster their energies… In the wild, pandas spend more energy eating their bamboo than they replace with its nutrition!

The problem the Chinese are facing now is that the first panda they released into the wild Xiang Xiang was found dead with injuries that seem to attest to the fact that he was unable to defend himself. Now they are wondering how to teach these animals who are used to a controlled, safe environment, to defend themselves. The current plan has to do with having a dog live with them and that perhaps they will learn survival skills from the dog.

It set me to thinking about the current stream of pacifism that has been pervading and growing in Western thought. Since the end of WWII, Western Europe and the US have been spared from any direct and imminent threat to their homeland. Korea and Vietnam are not in the backyard, nor are Afghanistan and Iraq. People do not feel personally threatened and have not for years, generations. Is it no wonder that they are ready to say that just talking will solve problems; that all people when reasoned with want the same thing? In our protected environment, war and aggression are so much NOT the point. We don’t feel it; we don’t see it; we just want it to stop.

But maybe we are like those pandas who were born into a peaceful, nurturing environment. And maybe outside, there really are dangers that we are ill prepared to meet.


I am not a theologian. My belief in G-d changes with my circumstances. Sometimes, it feels as if G-d is very close and sometimes very far. I don’t conceive of G-d as a big puppetmaster controlling each and every thing that happens on earth. I think of G-d as bigger than all that- a macro kind of manager rather than micro. But sometimes…

Sometimes things happen that make me wonder. A number of years ago we sent two of our sons to a school in St. Louis, 800 miles from our home in Oklahoma. They were to board with two families who offered to take them in for the year. We had never met the principal of the school nor did we know anyone in the community. However, when our sons arrived, one gave us a call to tell us that the people he was living with were cousins of friends of ours from Boston and the boy he was rooming with was the nephew of an old friend from South Carolina.

Coincidences like that have happened to us over and over again and sometimes it feels like it couldn’t possibly be a chance occurrence.

The most recent one happened when I was returning from China and Hong Kong. I had changed a lot of money to Hong Kong dollars because I thought I would have to spend it on transporting some of my travelers by taxi from one area to another and perhaps buy them lunch. As it turned out, the program went well and everyone’s needs were met and I had a lot of money left over that I didn’t want to re-convert and that I didn’t want to take home. I was already carrying 4 currencies (sheqels, US dollars, euros, and Chinese RMB) and that was quite enough. So I went out and spent money on all sorts of fun things- placemats and “silk” sheets and a scarf and outfits for a couple of granddaughters and a maternity shirt for my older daughter, but still, at the airport, I had a little money left. I went to the bookstore and they had a very large selection of books in English. I looked through a lot of books and finally chose one, “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.” After I got on the plane, I saw that the dedication was “to Abigail and Naomi” (my older daughter’s two younger girls’ names). Later in the book, the protagonist ends up “taking a group to China,” something I was just completing. And the icing on the cake was when I returned to Israel and told my younger daughter about it, she said she had just finished reading that very same book!

I understand, it is all happenstance. But I prefer to believe that G-d is peeking out from the curtains reminding me that He still is around.

I would love to hear about other people’s amazing coincidences. Please feel free to comment!

Once again, back from China

I returned from China on Friday morning, bringing with me a lot of souvenirs, including a French couple who had not known that the time of our arrival had been moved back 24 hours and who could not make it back to Paris before shabbat. Fortunately, they, like the others who traveled with me this time, we completely delightful people who were very considerate of me and so when I conked out at dinner Friday night and then at lunch Saturday morning, understood that it wasn’t personal.

Unpacking is always an adventure since in China one always picks up a little bit here and a little bit there and the prices are so reasonable, we find ourselves going and buying even more when it dawns on us that we can get many many items for not so much money. And always, there is the excitement of finding out just how many little ethnic doll keychains or little girls’ purses or magnetic bracelets I have managed to accumulate here, there, and everywhere.

And every item is happy! A couple of years ago when we traveled to Hungary and Austria, even the few souvenirs we could have afforded were dour, heavy, muted– like the experience we had traveling there. China is full of light and life. In the nooks and crannys of little villages, there is light and color and joy. Red “good luck” tassels and lanterns dot the landscape. Drying on the roof are corn and red peppers. The children smile and say “Hello!” The adults gladly pose for pictures, often displaying the “V” sign with their fingers. Men and women carrying heavy baskets laden with fruits and produce from poles suspended over their necks smile and bow and one feels from them a joy in their lives.

The Chinese people have been through terrible times. Between the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, they saw starvation and death and devastation that dwarfs the experience of other nations. But there seems to be such a sense of happiness and purpose among the people. They are kind and helpful and despite having no language in common, they communicate with their visitors.

I always return from China with a feeling of wholeness, and each time I go, I anticipate it even more excitedly!

So now I am home, in the loving arms of my family, and looking forward to Thanksgiving and Hanuka but with the faint sound of the Chinese flute still echoing in my ears.


Just got home from the city of nine dragons and now I’m draggin’ too! China was once again beautiful beyond words and Hong Kong was, well, interesting…

More when I wake up…

Where I am today…

It’s not that I have nothing to say; it’s that I have too much to say. Life gallops along at such a pace and in so many different ways that it’s hard to saddle it or begin to describe the path.

In the last few weeks I have been working with clients and feeling very gratified with their efforts to change. A long time ago I told my husband that I wanted to sell a needlepoint to therapists that said, “There are no good therapists; only good clients,” and it seems that recently, after not providing therapy for a couple of years, I have been lucky enough to be chosen by good clients.

At the same time, I have been getting ready to teach once again. When I entered the classroom a week and a half ago, I was gratified to find a group of intelligent, motivated women ready to seriously tackle the knowledge and skills needed to become therapists. Teaching them is a joy.

And, of course, there is China. Once again I am readying myself for an adventure. Already I hear the echoes of Chinese music that is relaxing and calming. In my mind’s eye, I already see the gardens. I see myself on a boat on the Li River viewing the magnificence of the Karst mountains. I am already picturing the Stone Forest.

I can’t help but smile remembering the man on the trip last spring who pretty much took everything in stride. He was enjoying the trip, but in a low-key way. As we rode in the little open air cart through the Stone Forest, he sat behind me. As I was once again appreciating its beauty, I heard him say in ever-rising tones, “This is fantastic; this is fantastic; this is fantastic; this is FANTASTIC!”

And I suppose that is what sums up my feelings about my trips to China.

I love being with people who are truly enjoying themselves, experiencing things that are new and nourishing.

And so as I pack and prepare for the trip, I have a high level of anticipation and excitement.

The Tour Guide

In the old days in the old country we used to have two cars. Sometimes when one had to be serviced, I would forget that I couldn’t take the other one and pick it up. I would often have the image of driving two cars home— magically stretching my one very versatile leg all the way through the doorway of one car into the other and somehow twisting it, enabling me to drive with both feet at the same time. The steering part was a challenge and the measurements were problematic. And so, it did always take two of us to bring home the car.

Well, today I am driving two cars home.

This morning, class begins at the Neve Yerushalayim campus of the University of North Texas, and I will be teaching the first session of the basic counseling skills class to a group of women who will be setting off on their journey to become family therapists. They are likely to arrived excited and curious about what type of experience this will be. As their tour leader, I will tell them what to expect, what they need to bring with them, and what it may feel like to be on this journey.

In the afternoon, I will be meeting with the people who will be going on my next trip to China. They are likely to arrived excited and curious about what type of experience this will be. As their tour leader, I will tell them what to expect, what they need to bring with them, and what it may feel like to be on this journey.

I feel happy and exhilarated. It’s going to be a great day!


As a rabbi, my husband often would teach children basic theology. He would talk to them about the things that we see that are beautiful and wonderful and talk about the feeling we get when we experience them. He would talk about the trees and flowers and mountains and waterfalls and how they are really special creations. He would talk about the stars and the planets and the wonder of their creation. He would talk about the miracle of the birth of a baby. Through the years, I think I appreciate all of these creations more and more. As we travel through the world and see magnificent sights and experience the wonders of the world- both natural and manmade, I am awed at the beauty of the world.

But in the last several days, I felt a wonder that I never knew before. Our group that traveled to China was made up of 19 people. Think of a descriptive term for a person (e.g., age, gender, religious affiliation, country of birth) and there was an enormous diversity in every description, yet these people became the most caring, kind, loving family group that one can imagine. Older and younger, they became each others’ family members. From caring for each other (holding me up when I almost fainted at the Great Wall) to bargaining together (a bargain basement price for massages) to buying dozens of items for the “best price,” to making sure that we had a proper birthday celebration for one of the group, to singing together as we rode in rickshaws through the hutong — they were the most amazing example of what goodness exists in the world- of how people can come together and care for each other and have a really good time together.

So to the group, I say “kol haKavod” (way to go!) and to the rest of you: here’s an example you should follow.