Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Sunday, July 27, 2014

War Drains Your Creativity

There is so much more I could say to support Israel's war against the terrorists. I could justify the use of force, argue for the right to self defense, but not now. I will not use these lines to mourn the lives of Israeli soldiers, or the horrific loss of life among the Palestinian civilian population. I will not ponder the possibilities for peace between the sides. This is not that article.

I cannot claim to be suffering. Lives have been lost, homes destroyed, but I'm okay. While there have been rocket attacks and sirens that have sent me running for cover, the dangers have been minimal. I live in a community far from the front. From my backyard I can hear the distant thunder of the Israeli army's artillery as it pounds into Gaza, and the boom of an occasional rocket interception overhead, but I live in relative safety.

Still, this war is affecting me. I find it hard to concentrate, to come up with new ideas, or to revise old ones. As a writer currently editing a new novel, I cannot escape what is happening and dive into my writing wholeheartedly.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Driving through Gaza City at Midnight

I remember that the streets were very narrow, very dark. The mosques were empty and the stores had their shutters down. It was quiet; there was no one about in the middle of the night. And, I remember feeling very safe, sitting in the back seat of an Israeli army jeep driving through Gaza City, even while wearing the green uniform that identified me as an IDF soldier.

This was long ago, in the late 1970s, when I was doing my three years of conscripted service in the army. Some ten years after Israel captured the Gaza Strip in the Six Day War, the area was mostly peaceful. Israeli soldiers had frequently fought Palestinian militants based in Gaza, but when I arrived, I really didn't have anything to fear.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Yesterday Evening, Hamas Fired Rockets at My House

I was driving home from work yesterday with music playing on the radio when the announcer broke into the broadcast with urgent messages. "Red Alert in Jerusalem; Red Alert in Beit Shemesh; Red Alert in Maale Adumim." A 'Red Alert' notification indicates that a rocket has been launched from the Gaza Strip and is bound for part of Israel, warning citizens in that area to run for their bomb shelter or safe room. The announcer continued to list communities endangered by the incoming rockets. "Red Alert in Abu Gosh; Red Alert in Nataf; Red Alert in Neve Ilan."

Neve Ilan! That is the name of my small community in the Judean Hills, west of Jerusalem. While I couldn't hear it while driving on the highway, an air raid siren had sounded in Neve Ilan and other places nearby. My wife went to sit in our stairwell, as with the lack of any other shelter, it is supposedly the safest area of our house. And then she heard booms.

The rockets launched from Gaza were intercepted in the sky over our area by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system. The Hamas has launched hundreds of rockets at Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, and even at Haifa. But when the rockets exploded in the sky over my home, it was a bit frightening, to say the least.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Incident with the Solar Garden Lights

Sunlight. If there is one thing that Israel is blessed with, in abundant proportions, it's sunlight. High tech companies are busy developing ways to best harness Israel's solar riches. In the Arava Valley, in the southern desert, Ketura Sun is the country's first solar field, consisting of 80 dunams (8 hectares or 20 acres) at Kibbutz Ketura. The field is made up of 18,500 Suntech photovoltaic solar panels that produce a total of 9 million kilowatt hours per year. Residents of Kibbutz Yahel, where my wife and I were founding members, have solar panels covering their roofs, not only to produce electricity but also to keep their houses cooler.

On the roof of our home in the Judean Hills, similar to houses and buildings all over Israel, we have solar panels to heat our water. We don't have as much sunlight as in the Arava, but still there is more than enough to go around.

During the spring months, sitting on our patio for breakfast, barbecues, or to read, or chat is a very enjoyable experience. Recently we planted additional spices in our herbs garden, cut down the tree that died after being severely damaged in the December snowstorm, and as a special treat, we purchased four small solar garden lights, to enhance the garden at night.

After a full day's exposure to strong sunlight, the garden lights failed to light up. What had we done wrong?

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Incident with the Beard

So, who knew that shaving a month's growth of beard would clog up the bathroom sink?

And who knew that pouring some Plumber's Aid down the drain wouldn't do a thing?

And who knew that trying to loosen the plastic pipes under the sink would just cause it to leak?

And who knew that pouring industrial strength drain cleaner down the pipes would burn holes in the tubing, only making the leak much worse?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Comfort of Jewish Mourning Customs

My mother died last week. She lived a long, full, happy, independent life and just a short while ago, celebrated her 88th birthday. A week later, her health deteriorated rapidly. After a visit to the emergency room and hospitalization in a geriatrics hospital, we said goodbye to my mother for the night and she went to sleep, and she was gone.

In Judaism, the custom is to bury the deceased very quickly, the same day if possible. We waited until my sister Debby arrived from New Jersey to join me and my sister Judy in Israel. My parents, as organized as they were in life, had already purchased burial plots. My father died nearly seven years ago. Now, all it took was one phone call and everything was arranged for my mother.

Losing a loved one is never easy. As difficult as a funeral may be, the mourning period afterwards, when the loss is really felt, can even be harder. Thankfully, Judaism has specific mourning customs which make the transition easier for family and friends of the deceased.

Monday, December 16, 2013

We Survived Jerusalem's Snowstorm of the Century

I know what snow is. I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and experienced many blizzards in my childhood. My wife grew up in Ithaca, New York, which had very white winters as well. Living in Israel, we thought that we would escape harsh winters, yet we still have strong memories of the storm that struck the country in 1992, which blanketed our home in Moshav Neve Ilan with half a foot of snow and knocked out the electricity for three days. And then recently, we lived for two years in Bulgaria, where the winters are quite cold and snow is very common.

We didn't know that the worst snowstorm in some 150 years was heading our way. The first snow fell on Thursday morning, but then the storm struck in force overnight, knocking out our power and leaving us without heat as well. We assumed the electricity would go back on right away, but another night of heavy snow hit us.

We are just now recovering from four days without power and heating and beginning to deal with the severe damage caused to our house by a falling tree and a leaking roof.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Joy of Kosher, a Tasty but Slightly Salty Review

I don't cook, let's make that clear, but I do enjoy eating. Does that qualify me to review Jamie Geller's new cookbook? I think so!

How does someone who doesn't cook review a cookbook? By enlisting the wife of course. My wife selected a number of dishes from Geller's Joy of Kosher cookbook for our Friday night dinner and I, of course, volunteered to eat them.

But first, a word about the book. Geller's previous cookbook, Quick & Kosher - Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing, was published in 2007. That book was called an "autobiographic cookbook" by one reviewer on Amazon. This cookbook is a worthy sequel, as Geller's family takes center stage. It features Geller's husband and her five children in pictures and stories accompanying the various sections of the book.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Granddaughters Are Passionate About Passion Fruit

Israel is known for its wide variety of delicious fruit. In the winter months, citrus is prevalent with tasty oranges, grapefruits, and clementinas providing ample amounts of vitamin C. During the summer months, the markets are full of apricots, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, watermelons, melons, and figs. Pineapples are homegrown, apples are available all year round, pomegranates play a role in Rosh Hashanah traditions, and etrogs mark the Sukkot holiday. There are bananas, cherries, dates, kiwifruit, guava, pomelos, strawberries, and avocados! And isn't the olive also a fruit?

I apologize if I may have inadvertently offended fruit growers in Israel whose specialties were not mentioned in the previous paragraph. With so many types of locally grown fruit, what do you think is the one my two granddaughters most enjoy?

Monday, September 16, 2013

40 Years after Yom Kippur

For a 16-year-old new immigrant, the siren interrupting Yom Kippur prayers was very unexpected. The war took the entire country by surprise.

The siren blared suddenly, unexpectedly, just after 2pm. Like many other observant Jews in Jerusalem at that moment, I was in synagogue, anxiously waiting for the Yom Kippur Musaf service to end so that I could take a break from the never-ending prayers. I was  totally unprepared for a siren on the holiest day of the year. The other congregants were unprepared as well.

I had made Aliyah the previous year from Sioux City, Iowa, where nothing ever happened. In my first months of living in a new country I was initiated as an Israeli. There was a horrific terrorist attack at Lod Airport, and a few months later, Palestinian terrorists killed our athletes, including a classmate's father, in Munich. I grew up quickly.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The 21 Shekel Tip

How much should you leave on the table when the service is slow and the food is mediocre, but you enjoyed the meal?

Last night my wife and I met with an old friend and dined for the first time at the First Station, located on the tracks of Jerusalem's old railroad station. The setting was beautiful - wooden planks covered the area where we used to board the train on scenic, but aggravatingly slow rail journeys to Tel Aviv and Haifa. Carts and stalls were aligned in readiness for the biweekly farmers' market, and a large drive-in-like screen stood stiff against the evening breeze, waiting for the next free film show.

There are a number of restaurants at the First Station and many of them are also open on the Shabbat. Only one eatery carries a Kashrut certification and that is where we sat down at an outside table with our friend, whom we hadn't seen in 24 years. Nearby, couples, families and the occasional cyclist made their way over the former train tracks. It was a lovely evening for catch-up conversation and what we hoped would be a pleasant meal.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Water Envy

My wife and I just took a trip down memory lane. Well, actually they were her memories, not mine, but after being married for 35 years, I guess I have adopted them as well.

My wife grew up in Ithaca, New York, and for over three decades she has longed to take me to her old stomping grounds so that I could understand her roots. Somehow she was not very impressed when we visited Sioux City, Iowa, where I had lived until age fifteen before making aliyah.

"Ithaca is much more beautiful," she told me repeatedly. "And there are so many waterfalls."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Granddaughter Wants to Be a Hammer for Purim

Or an air conditioner. As long as it's "something scary." I'm getting scared wondering where she is coming up with these ideas.

Okay, let me admit it right from the start. I'm not a big fan of Purim parties. There's something about everyone dressing up in costume, trying to outdo each other in original ideas and creativity, which disturbs me. There's also something about not knowing who people are. Friends and neighbors are in disguise, putting me at a serious disadvantage when I'm talking to them. Take off your masks please so that I can identify you!

I despise dressing up in a Purim costume. The sensation of swishing around in gowns, sheets, and bulky pants - it's almost painful to think about. Trying to balance a loose-fitting hat on my head makes it difficult to dance.

And then there's the whole idea of makeup. Why cover one's skin in shoe polish or exaggerated eyeliner beards and mustaches? It doesn't make sense.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Snow in Israel, Snow in Bulgaria

I awoke early Thursday morning, ate breakfast, and prepared to leave the house for the drive to my office in Ramat Gan. A look out the window, however, slowed me down. As predicted by the weathermen, the ground was white and snow was falling steadily. A quick check on the Internet informed me that the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway was closed in both directions. It looked like it was going to be a snow day.

Snow does not often fall in the Jerusalem area, and snowfall at our home in Moshav Neve Ilan, which is at a lower elevation, is an even rarer event. But when the snow falls, Jerusalem shuts down. Politics, war, the economy, religious strife - everything is forgotten for the day as idyllic scenes of the Old City walls, churches, and mosques covered in white make everyone sigh.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why I'm Voting Meretz

There have been a number of heated political discussions around my family's dinner table in the last few days. "What do you think of Yair Lapid?" my children asked. "What about Tzipi Livni?" they questioned. "Surely, a vote for Labor will strengthen that party and give us a real chance of changing the government," they argued. "No, your father is voting for Meretz," my wife said. "Why?" they asked. Why indeed.

I looked at my children, and at my granddaughters, who are too young and innocent to care about politics.  I was suddenly filled with a sense of failure. My generation had failed to deliver peace. I had raised my children in a country constantly threatened by cycles of meaningless violence, Suicide bombings, rocket attacks, wars. Whatever happened to the hope we had for the future?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Upside Down Sukkah

When you purchase a sukkah in Israel it's supposed to be a lifetime investment. The so-called sukkah l'netzach is easily constructed and then stored away after the holiday for future use. How is it, then, that I've gone through four or five of the contraptions over the years?

The first "ever-lasting" sukkah I bought was nothing more than a set of irrigation pipes. The end of each pipe had to be screwed onto the next pipe's connecting threads with the help of a monkey wrench. This sukkah swayed dangerously in the slightest breeze. After one or two holidays, the end of the pipes broke off, effectively shortening its shelf life.

Friday, September 14, 2012

No More Shana Tova Cards in the Mail

How can you decorate your sukkah with Shana Tova greetings received by phone and email?

My mobile phone buzzed to announce an incoming text message. “To all the residents of the Mate Yehuda Regional Council: The coming year should be a year of health and success, prosperity, peace, security, and…”

The message was cut off, but then my phone buzzed again as I received the second part. “Always at your service,” the message concluded, listing the head of the council in the signature.

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Dinosaur Era Mobile Phone

The other day I attended a company meeting and watched a laptop presentation projected on a large white screen at the front of the room. When discussion turned to a video about the product, a video that was hosted on YouTube, we tried to access the Internet via the company’s wireless setup. Unfortunately, the connection was very slow and we all sat for several minutes while the content buffered on the screen.

“Wait, I have it on my phone,” the person next to me stated, and indeed, the video was being broadcast faster on his smartphone than it was through the wireless connection.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Aliyah Circa 1972

Moving to Israel is not easy, and never was. Take it from an oleh vatik who is this year celebrating forty years in Israel. Looking back, one sometimes wonders how such a life-changing move like aliyah is even possible.

The Greek cruise ship Queen Anna Maria served as the Mayflower for many Americans making aliyah to Israel in the early 1970s. After a week-long crossing of the Atlantic and making port calls in Lisbon and Athens, the ship delivered its ambitious, idealistic passengers at the docks of their new homeland.

My first home in Israel was a third floor apartment on Bar Yochai Street in Jerusalem's Katamon Tet neighborhood. From inside the tiny, spartanly furnished rooms I could hear the calls of the watermelon merchant, “Avatiach!” as his horse-drawn wagon made its way down the street with huge, tantalizing melons. Children from the tenement buildings ran alongside to the parking lot, where a few shoppers approached, eager to taste the merchant's fresh produce.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Becoming a Grandfather, a Second Time

How is it possible to fall in love at first sight with someone before you’ve had a chance to see her? How can you cherish in your heart a newborn baby who has not yet been named? How can one take pride and joy in a birth without being responsible for it?

The miracle of life is so precious and never ceases to amaze. Yesterday, my second granddaughter arrived in this world, and from what I’ve seen of her, she’s a pretty talented kid. Her parents must still finalize her name but already she’s proven quite capable of breathing oxygen and nursing on her mother’s milk. And she’s pretty photogenic as well.