I’m going to the Temple Mount and I’m bringing…

Twenty years ago, exactly, my husband and I had our חנוכת הבית, the dedication of our new home in Israel. At that time, we realized that we ourselves were not fully responsible for the achievement of this dream nor should we claim it as our own. Generations before us longed to return to Zion. In their modest dwellings a vision of returning to the land gave their lives meaning and hope. We recognized that despite the hardships and dangers, our ancestors literally kept the faith and transmitted Jewish teachings, values, and customs to generation after generation. And so when we dedicated our home, we remembered by name our great grandparents, our grandparents, and our parents who all were part of the fulfillment of our dream.

Tomorrow, twenty years later, we plan to ascend the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. the point from which the holiness of the world emanates. Our ancestors have prayed for generations for the rebuilding of the Temple and we will not see the Temple rebuilt tomorrow, but we will stand on the holy mountain where it stood. And because the keys of the Temple Mount are still in the hands of the Muslim Wakf, we are prohibited from taking any religious articles with us. No prayerbooks, no talit, no tfilin, – even kippot (skullcaps) must be worn under hats that conceal them. But tomorrow, I will be taking something very special with me. I will be taking the names of my great-grandparents, my grandparents, my parents, and my aunts and uncles. They will symbolically ascend the mountain with me.

I will not be taking the names of my children or grandchildren, because not only may they visit the Temple Mount themselves, but I pray that they will be present to rejoice at the dedication of the Third Temple. May it be G-d’s will.

My $.02

Since everyone else has written about the US operation that ended with the killing of Bin Laden, I thought I would add my little part.

For me, there is no doubt that the man needed to leave the scene. He caused enormous death and destruction for many years through his evil organization. He killed indiscriminately innocent men, women, and children. One can hope that perhaps his death will save some lives.

In the Jewish tradition, however, we recognize that even our enemies’ downfall is not a source of joy. In fact, at the seder each year, we spill out a bit of wine for each plague, for how can our cup of joy be full when others, G-d’s creatures, are suffering.

I feel very sad about Bin Laden and those who follow him and other people who have chosen evil. They too are G-d’s creatures. They were given human souls and human bodies that could be used for good, healthy, productive lives and they have used them to cause pain and death and destruction. How can we rejoice at the end that Bin Laden brought on himself?

Our Creator must be very disappointed in him.

Lesson Learned

This morning, just as the very first shades of orange began to light the dawn, my husband and I set off in the direction of Jerusalem. What a show we witnessed– the clouds were spread out like a comforter with small tufts in a pattern and room between for the light to light each individual tuft. The sky around the clouds was an electric blue and the clouds were lit flaming orange, finally fading into pink and as the sun came up higher, the sky was filled with pinks and blues and lavendars.

We were on our way to Hadassah Hospital where my husband was to have cataract surgery.

As we drove along the highway several times cars came up close behind me and flashed their lights even though I was driving at the legal speed limit. Apoplectically flashing their lights, they could barely wait to pass me quickly on the right, often getting themselves stuck behind slow trucks that were barely making it up the hills to Jerusalem. Had I made eye contact with them as they passed me, I am certain that they would have displayed their disgust with me.

For years I have not understood this behavior. In the case of driving to Jerusalem, how much time could one save by speeding? The whole trip takes a short time (from Modi’in, for example, it is about 30 minutes; from Tel Aviv, maybe 45 minutes). How much time could one save by speeding? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Is it worth having high blood pressure? Feeling hostility? Is it worth risking one’s life???

It occurred to me that I made a decision many years ago that really changed my behavior.

I was about 18 years old. I was driving my mother’s car. I was coming out of a parking lot and making a right turn. To the right of my car there was a telephone pole and I was too close to it. As I felt my car touch the pole, I thought about backing up and turning my wheel toward the left as I proceeded forward. But I was too lazy. I made a conscious decision to continue. So I did. And when I reached home a few minutes later, I saw that the thin metal strip at the side of the car on the right side was now sticking out at a point about 1/2 way back at a 90 degree angle. My mother was not pleased.

How I wished I could go back and make a different decision!

I couldn’t get the stupidity of my decision out of my mind, but worse, I realized for the first time how irreversible time is. Once an accident happens, it can’t be prevented. Once someone is scarred or maimed, it can’t be undone. So, perhaps it makes sense to be careful and not take dangerous risks.

Often I take my time when others would hurry, am more cautious when others would rush, but a burnt finger or a twisted ankle can cause a lot of pain and take a long time to heal. We are fragile beings. We are limited by our human capabilities, and so far, we cannot reverse time.

Oh, and according to the doctor, the surgery this morning went very well. We are home and the recovery is underway.

I wonder

I was brought up to be a rich girl.

When I was four years old, my mother sent me to dancing school where I was taught by a personal friend of Anna Pavlova. I danced a toe solo at five and a half at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, accompanied by the Philadelphia Orchestra. In the summer, we would go to Atlantic City, renting a home there for the entire summer and taking the maid with us.

By the time I was in my teens, I had not a room of my own, but a floor of my own in the house. I had a bedroom, a study area, a sitting room and a bath. My clothes were as expensive as the clothes I buy today– in 1960! I was taught to appreciate the finer things in life like fancy restaurants and new cars.

My mother dressed in clothes that were high fashion. She was always ahead of the trends and many times I went with her as she took her new dress or suit with her to the milliner to have exactly the right hat made to match it, often taking some material from the garment to draw the outfit together.

That privileged stance was in direct opposition to my experience at high school. There I was the outcast, not having moved into the same neighborhood as the other Jewish girls in our school. We Jewish girls were a real minority at our high school, the first of a vanguard breaking into the formerly pristine suburbs. In our class of 675, we were probably fewer than 20. Antisemitism was not encouraged by the school, but its subtle and not-so-subtle appearance among the other students was ignored. Being rejected by the small minority of Jewish girls was very painful.

I had most of my social needs met by my friends in Hebrew high school, and later Hebrew college. With them I was on an equal footing and their unaffected manner and their acceptance of me, the misfit, allowed me to feel normal for the first time.

It was probably through them that I acquired my values. They were kind, unselfish, open, accepting, and full of fun. By spending time with them, I began to realize that my discomfort with my upbringing was well-founded.

Shedding the privilege I had been given was liberating. Instead of disdaining the world as not meeting my expectations, I could appreciate it and even love it. Suddenly I could enjoy new things, new experiences, and new people.

Recently, I have been to the Galapagos Islands three times. It was interesting to see how different people responded to the experience.

Mother sea lion and newborn infant

Mother sea lion and newborn infant

I was overcome with emotion, actually each time I visited. I was astounded by the beauty of raw, unspoiled nature. I loved watching the birds and the sea lions and the iguanas and the land tortoises. Unthreatened by humans, they had no fear and allowed themselves to be photographed, even posing for us, it seemed sometimes. There I was with G-d’s creation. What could be more awe-inspiring!

Nazca booby

Nazca booby

Most of the people I was with reacted that way.

But some did not.
“Where are the flamingos?” “Why aren’t they here?”
“Why aren’t there more animals?”
“Why can’t I walk around alone instead of having to go with a naturalist?”
“I already saw a blue-footed booby; what’s next?”
“OK, so I have seen the albatross babies. Enough already!”

At first these reactions made me feel angry. What do they want! But then I just began to feel sad for these people. Their privilege was blinding them to the beauty of the world. They were unable to share the awe of seeing a newborn sea lion nuzzling its mother. They couldn’t enjoy seeing the boobies protecting their young. They couldn’t share the excitement of seeing the magnificent frigates puffing out their red pouches.

Blue footed booby feeding her baby

Blue footed booby feeding her baby

I am grateful that that veil has been lifted from me and that I can look beyond myself and share the wonder of the universe. I hope someday that our privileged travelers will be able to do the same thing.

Yom Kippur

It seems a bit absurd to write about how Yom Kippur was for me this year, yet I cannot help but write.  As a child, I only remember this about Yom Kippur:  My parents would buy tickets for services.  In those years, the synagogue was still small and there was not enough room inside for everyone who wanted high holiday tickets, so they would erect a huge tent that seated maybe 200 people, maybe more, and my parents would attend good chunks of the service leaving us outside to our own devices.  I didn’t want to enter because I didn’t understand anything anyway and inside the tent, it was invariably boiling hot.

Late in the afternoon, my parents and I would ride about a half hour to my grandparents’ synagogue and arrive just in time for Neila, the last service of the day.  My mother would walk with us up the stairs of the synagogue into the women’s section.  The women’s section was populated with women of my grandmother’s age, all elderly (in their 50’s!) immigrant women who spoke with heavy Eastern European accents.  My grandmother was always really happy to see us when we showed up.  My cousins and their mothers too would arrive and always there was discussion as to which of the huge flower arrangements my mother and her siblings had bought for the synagogue in honor of their mother.

After the service, we would return to my grandparents’ home with the flowers.  They always consisted of  a large percentage of chrysanthemums and the smell of chrysanthemums usually reminds me of my grandmother.

I am now older than my grandmother ever was.

I am lucky enough to be living in Israel where on Yom Kippur, the entire country stops.  There are no Israeli television channels broadcasting and no radio.  Aside from one police car, I saw no cars on the roads.  In the evening, the park was filled with adults and children.  It is amazing!

This year, at services in our bursting-at-the-seams synagogue, I was privileged to have 16 of my grandchildren.  I pretty much was bursting with happiness seeing all of their beautiful faces.  The older ones, serious about their prayers, remained inside for large parts of the services and some, notably, for all of them.  The younger children, happily wandered in and out.  The youngest were held in their mothers’ or fathers’ or siblings’ arms.  The language we prayed in was the language they live.  The synagogue held familiar people.  The melodies were ones the older children had sung many times before.

And the service…  I don’t think it was my imagination.  Our congregation has been going  for about 13 years.  I think it has come of age.  The singing of large parts of the service was no less than inspiring.  Just as we repented in group fashion as one people, we sang in one voice and if the heavens were open, I can’t imagine more sincere petitions or more beautiful sounds of praise entering the holy gates.

The family, unretouched, missing three children

The family, unretouched, missing three children

Missing: Amiel Michelson, Elazar Michelson, Shlomo Goodman

May all of you have a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year!

Shabbat in Meron

First of all, I am not going to tell you about Meron. We had a relaxing. pleasant shabbat with a group of friends at the field school near the city of Meron. It looked like nothing so much as a summer camp in the US. It was lush with trees and beautiful wildflowers with paths to walk and beautiful vistas. Although it was in the area of Meron, we were nowhere near the city. Secondly, the pictures I am going to show you were not taken there. Instead, they are among the many pictures I have already taken of our very special Israeli scenery.

What I am going to talk about is that very hard to describe love of the land that Israelis have. It’s not just that this is our home. It’s not just that we have dreamed of it, worked for it, fought for it, and sadly, many have died for it. It is a deep love for the land itself. We love this piece of earth. We love the trees and the flowers and the birds and the animals who inhabit it. We walk its paths. Every weekend when it is not raining (most weekends in Israel) thousands of people go walking on the paths that are laid out in nature. Everyone- from babies on their parents’ back to people with walking sticks and canes- walks through the beauty that is our land. They wear hats and carry water and generously apply sunscreen and often picnic and sometimes swim and some (usually children) even skinny-dip in the streams and pools along the way. And this is what we see:

April in the Galilee

April in the Galilee

Israeli flowers in the Spring

Israeli flowers in the Spring

Flowers in the spring

Flowers in the spring

Flowers in Emek HaEla

Flowers in Emek HaEla

Is it any wonder that we love this land?


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


One of the most amazing things about fulfilling a dream is that once fulfilled, one is again and again reminded of how it looked from far off and once again one can feel the joy of its having been accomplished.

One way in which I experience this is in my feelings for living in Israel. My first consciousness of Eretz Yisrael came when as a child I heard my maternal grandmother at the end of the seder tell the family that it was her intention to take the whole family to Israel next Pesach. I believed then and still believe today that that is what she truly wanted to do and probably would have, had she lived long enough.

In Sunday School and Hebrew School, we talked about Israel, but it wasn’t until I saw the movie Exodus that my longing to visit Israel began. It was only after a broken engagement that I got to see the land for the first time in 1965, and only after twelve years of marriage and five children that I returned in 1978. The real longing to live in Israel started then and intensified when our oldest son left the US to study at Hebrew University in 1984 and finally, after each child had come to live in Israel on his or her own, I joined them. My father-in-law and husband were the last of the family to arrive.

And you would think that after ten years in Israel, seven of them living in our own home, I would just take living here for granted. But you would be wrong.

Every morning waking up to the sweet smells of our garden, I am reminded of the beautiful place that I live. Each trip to Jerusalem makes me love her ancient stones more intensely. Our trip to Sde Boker and Ein Avdat brought me the awe of desert landscapes with colored sands and rich wadis and waterfalls. And last weekend, our shabbat at Karei Deshe allowed me to hear the gentle lapping of the waters of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) at night and to watch the sun shimmering in its waters in the day.

These places are not just places. They are spiritual landmarks, places where I meet God’s works face to face and experience a closeness to Him and a feeling of serenity and completeness.

And I think about what I hoped I would find when I got here, and I am awed that I have found so infinitely more.


I would like to welcome surfers worldwide to my new blog.

I will be writing on a variety of topics that are related to family life, child rearing, interpersonal relationships, and spirituality. I will be sharing experiences I have had that influence my feelings on these subjects and will be sharing the expertise I have acquired through my education and training.