Thursday, December 28, 2006

SNOW

There is one thing that is hard to replace from 'the Old Country' for many Olim and that is snow. Our kids (at least the ones who lived in America) have been desperate for some snow since we moved. This is our third winter here and they have been regularly asking, 'when is it going to snow?'. Well, yesterday after much build-up, the kids of Gush Etzion and Jerusalem (along with the North and even into the Northern Negev)got their wish. It snowed! To be sure, it wasn't the type of snow that our kids expected based on their experiences in our last two winters in America where we had really big snowstorms both years, but it really was snow. In fact, everything was completely covered with 3 or 4 inches of snow. The road to Jerusalem was closed for hours by the army and we had to abandon our car at the top of the yishuv for fear of losing control as we descended the very steep hill that leads to our street (a wise choice as there were a couple of fender benders and almost fender benders on that hill). During the height of the snowstorm yesterday evening I just assumed that the snow covered everything, not just in our area.
> Neve Daniel is known to be cold and windy and will generally get more snow than the surrounding areas due to its altitude (980 meters; 3,000 feet above sea level). So, when I walked Matan all the way up to the top of the mountain to catch his bus (doubting that it would come down the hill to pick up at his normal stop) I took along the camera to take some shots of the surrounding hills covered in a white blanket of snow. Upon arrival at the top, I looked west toward Betar and was stunned to find that the hills were green! The snow line apparentely began only a few hundred meters west of Neve Daniel!

Needless to say, the kids were absolutely ecstatic. They were practically jumping out of their skin with anticipation of playing in the snow, along with every other kid in the area; this, of course, excludes Amichai who was a bit perplexed by the entire experience. He kept looking at the snow and asking 'Ma Zeh?' (what is that?) and then saying, 'wet...wet'. The kid does not like wet floors at all. He won't walk on anything wet and had absollutely no interest in going out to play in the snow. He just stood at the front door saying, 'wet...wet'. Anyway, back to the kids who actually wanted to play in the snow. This being the Middle East, the kids aren't exactly equipped for snow. Every family pulls out whatever they think will slide down hill to use as a makeshift sled. We had brought a sled from America, so our kids were all set. We saw boogie boards, cookie sheets and all sorts of other things, but the best makeshift slide, by far and away, was debuted by our next door neighbor, Asher. Asher's dad owns an appliance repair service and offered Asher a piece of an old washing machine. This thing was totally uncontrollable but boy could it slide!!


Needless to say, the kids were out bright and early this morning swooshing down the hill behind our house with absolute glee, but were absolutely dissapointed when they got home from school (the start of school was delayed two hours) to realize that much of the snow had begun to melt and the streets were basically clear.

Much fun was had by all; the kids had a blast and we were all treated to the beautiful sight of Gush Etzion covered snow!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Visiting the sites of the Tanach....priceless!!

When we were contemplating Aliyah on and off over the years, one thing that was always part of the discussion was having our kids grow up in Israel. The country is an amazing place to grow up, a veritable Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) for kids. In our first weeks of Aliyah our kids sampled the best of Israeli junk food in ecstasy. It was the first time that they could ask for things and we didn't have to say 'sorry, sweet heart, it's not kosher', so we were very liberal in allowing junk food for the first little bit in Israel. After a few days, our oldest said, 'You know HaShem must really want people to live in Israel...because He made great junk food for the kids to have!' I'm not so sure that is the reason for the amazing array of popsicles, ice creams, lollipops and other assorted candies, but it certainly gives a nice glimpse into the 'minds of babes'.

As the months have passed and turned into years, our decision as it pertains to our kids has only been been strengthened. Our oldest, Matan, now in first grade, is working his way through Sefer Breishit (Genesis) in school. Of course the early stages of Breishit focus largely on the stories and exploits of the Patriarchs & Matriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak,Yaakov, Sarah, Rivka, Leah and Rachel. Living along Derech Avot (the Path of our Fathers) offers many opportunities to enhance the learning that is done in school. One night, Matan was reading about Avraham and Yitzchak's journey to Har HaMoriah where the parsha tells about Avraham seeing 'the place from afar' referring to Har HaMoriah. There are those who argue that they first saw their destination from the high point in Neve Daniel (being the highest point in the area, there is some logic to this thought). So, without further ado we put down Matan's Chumash and went for a brief, spontaneous trip to the top of the yishuv where we could look out at the distant lights and envision ourselves as Avraham and Yitzchak, where again Matan read the appropriate lines from the Chumash.

A couple of weeks later brought us to Parsha Chayei Sarah, which has become a traditional Shabbat for people to spend in Hevron praying in the Maarat HaMachpela (the Tomb of the Patriarchs). As a treat for finishing the Parsha, Matan and I set off for Hevron on the Friday morning of Chayei Sarah with a group of guys from Neve Daniel. What a way to bring Matan's learning to life!!

This week, on our trip to the Negev, we took the opportunity to bring the Torah to life again by visiting Avraham's Well in the southern part of Beer Sheva. Again, Matan and Yehuda's minds were brought to new heights as they intelligently discussed the life of Avraham, the ancient history of the area and the significance of wells (and how to dig them).

They could certainly be learning the same information in school in America, but they would be learning it in a foreign language (English) and they wouldn't be able to walk out their back door to experience the land of their Forefathers.

Once again, we are left saying...only in Israel!

Chanukah Greetings from our Holy Home!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chanukah Sameach--5767

So, shame on us is definitely in order. I can't believe how long it's been since we've written,but hey, we've been very, very busy (moving, starting the school year and having a baby will do that to a family). So, we are finally trying to commit to check in every once in a while. It's Chanukah break for the boys right now and a few cute things have happened this week and a few meaningful ones as well.


First of all, we never mentioned that Eliav Yitzchak came into our lives on 4 Tishrei (September 26). He is a beautiful, sweet little baby and we are all thrilled to have him. We have to watch that the boys don't smoosh him with love - other than that, we haven't had any adjustment problems!

So, the boys were sitting around the other day drawing Chanukah pictures. There was music on and the song suddenly said, Nes Gadol Haya Sham, A Great Miracle Happened There. One of the very cool things about living in Israel during Chanukah is this saying. In the rest of the world when you buy a dreidel, you see that it says "A Great Miracle Happened THERE" and if you buy one in Israel it says, "A Great Miracle Happened HERE". We have discussed this with the kids a number of times, pointing out how cool it is that they live in the only place in the world where the miracle happened and where their dreidels say HERE and not THERE.

So, back to the story. The song said that the miracle happened there. Matan suddenly jerked his head up and said, "Hey - this song isn't from Israel. You know, Huda, we live in the place where the miracle was. The song should say "Nes Gadol Haya Po" and not "Nes Gadol Haya Sham". This is one little, amazing example of living a miracle and living in the midst of history. We are in THE place where all of this happened. We daven each day during the Chanukah and thank Gd for the miracles that happened on this holiday - that happened here - exactly in the land we are in. Even after two and half years here, this is still amazing to us.

We spent the day today enjoying a day of Chanukah break as a family. First we went to the Airforce Museum in Beer Sheva which was a great place. The boys loved looking at the planes and climbing in the old ones that were there for them. Afterwards, we went to Sderot for a brief solidarity visit. Sderot has taken the incredible brunt of the withdrawl from Gaza onto each shoulders having withstood a near constant rain of rocket attacks (numbering in the thousands) since the Disengagement was completed last September. Since there is no longer a buffer, or a group of Jews and army in Gaza, Hamas, Fatah (yes, those 'moderates' of Fatah are terrorists too) and Islamic Jihad have managed to send thousands of rockets into Israel. Sderot has taken the brunt of these attacks, and no one seems to be particularly outraged or willing to do much to stop the constant terror that they are experiencing (even during the current 'cease fire'). I read recently that the children of Sderot hadn't been allowed to a playground for over a month. Can you imagine?

Well, Yehuda's school has been collecting candy to send to the kids of Sderot and we figured that it would be nice to go there to show solidarity and to connect the place with the name for our children. Huda was very cute - he wanted to meet THE kids who received his candy. He didn't quite get the idea - but he was very earnest and wanted to talk to kids who needed comforting (of course he refused to say a word while we were actually there, but that's another story). We had a very nice lunch there and talked with a few locals about how tired and exhausted they are of the situation. May things improve soon.

Chanukah Sameach to you and yours!