Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'll Never Actually Be Israeli

I realize today, with humor, that I'm simply never going to be Israeli. Nope - it's not because I'll never perfect this darn language. And it's not because I refuse to drive like a maniac. I'll never be Israeli because I simply can't perfect the way that they say telephone numbers!

It's so amazing to me how many little things there are that separate one culture from another. Why would it be that Israelis say numbers in a different way than Americans do? But it's true. I was thinking about this today when I saw someone's email. She was advertising something and said that people could call her at 9933-373. That's simply not how we cluster numbers together in America. If I were to say her number it would be 993 (pause) 3373. The same goes with cell phone numbers. I recite my cell phone number as 054 (pause) 222 (pause) 2222, while an Israeli puts the pause in a different place.

I actually find that this matters on a regular basis. Whenever I have to give my phone number to an Israeli, they often ask me to repeat it. They were expecting a pause in a certain place, and I threw them off by pausing elsewhere!

And, try as I might, I simply can't get myself to place the pause in the "Israeli" place. It's simply not going to happen. I find, with great interest, as well, that as my children learn our phone numbers, I hear them reciting them with the Israeli pause. Amazing.

Just one of the many, many small details that are interesting to note, as an immigrant - and that will, forever, set me apart from native Israelis. As if the accent wasn't a dead give away - you can easily tell that I'm American from hearing me say 7 numbers!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chanan's Memory

Yesterday, we gathered at the cemetery, as we've now done for three years, to remember Chanan Sivan (Chanan Yitzchak Chaim ben Pinchas and Tzipporah). Chanan was Yehuda's first friend in Israel, and he died at the age of four, three years ago. It has been amazing to watch this family rise from such an incredible tragedy and continue with their lives. Since his death, they've celebrated a bar and bat mitzvah, and welcomed a new daughter, Halleli Shir, into their lives.

As we stood at the cemetery yesterday, around Chanan's beautifully designed grave, Halleli Shir (who is now about one and a half) was dancing around the grave. She kept saying, "Ma Ze?" which means "What's This?" and pointing to the grave. What a strange thing it will be for her to grow up visiting this site that holds so much tragedy for her family - and that means nothing to her individually.

Pinny, Chanan's father, spoke beautifully, as always, as he tried to explain the weird juxtoposition of feeling like Chanan has been gone forever - and for only a day. He remarked about all of the wonderful things that his family has celebrated - and that they've done so without their son at their side. While Pinny spoke, Halleli was singing and moving about, and someone tried to pick her up so that she wouldn't disturb her father's speech. "No," Tzippy, Chanan's mom, said. "Please don't move her." I was feeling the same way, and knew that Tzippy would have this reaction. It was such a beautiful thing, really, to hear the laughter of a young child at the gravesite. Here was Chanan's sister, breathing new life into the family and filling the home with such happiness in the face of such grief.

Pinny mentioned that he often thinks about where Chanan would be now, what grade he would be entering, etc. I, too, often think about Chanan in this way, particularly as I watch Yehuda catch a ball, enter another grade, complete a task, or win a belt in karate. If only...if only...if only. And, of course, I felt guilt, mixed with gratitude, when I returned from the grave to kiss my little boy - the one that I'm lucky enough to still have here, at my side.

As Pinny said - you absolutely and completely never know what life is going to bring. All that we can do is try to live each moment as well as possible. May Chanan's family continue to gain strength from his beautiful memory and to carry on in their lives as an amazing example to the rest of us of faith, compassion, trust and belief.

And may we only be together in the future for smachot (celebrations).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hashem Speaks In Mysterious Ways

So, it's certainly been a long while since I've posted and I've missed noticing interesting things in everyday life. Well, at least I've missed writing about them. When you are shlepping five children under the age of nine across the world for two weeks, there isn't always a lot of time to admire things. And what a trip it was.

We certainly enjoyed seeing our families and getting to reconnect with parents, grandparents, cousins and more. We had a wonderful time in both L.A. and San Diego.

The flights, on the other hand, were not exactly easy. Two hours before leaving for America, our two year old managed to fall off of the couch and crack a tooth. Picture blood everywhere, a screaming two year old and a plane to catch. It wasn't a pretty scene. I rushed him to the neighborhood dentist where he was declared fit to fly - although not fit to suck his thumb or eat solid foods for three weeks. As such, Eliav had a miserable flight to the States, with no way to sooth himself and no medicine that seemed to take away the pain.

We figured, after surviving that flight, that nothing could top it. But, of course, the flight back did. During the return flight, while I juggled our one year old who refused to sleep for more than five seconds at a time, Josh was busy tackling (literally) the two year old who was throwing packaged pretzels at sleeping passengers and screaming at the top of his lungs.

At one point, as I retreated to the back of the plane to look for an escape route, a woman was standing near the back cabin. She approached me, in my haggard and completely overwhelmed state, and said, "I've been admiring you and your children. What lovely kids you have and what a beautiful family." I must have laughed, or cried, or indicated in some way the difficulties that we were having, because she suddenly said, "Let's pray." The next thing I knew, she was bowing her head and saying, "Lord, please give this woman the strength to care for her five beautiful boys. It's not an easy journey she's got Lord. Give her patience and help her to get through the flight and to enjoy her time with her boys." She went on and on, and I stood there in awkward disbelief. It's not often that you get a Christian woman on a plane talking to the Lord for your benefit. I was a bit dumbfounded, and unsure whether to say "Thank you" or "Amen" or something else when she finished.

Eventually, I returned towards my seat to find that Eliav had taken up my seat and his. Nowhere to sit. I turned around and crashed into Yehuda's seat (who knows where he was), only to be suddenly confronted by the 20something year old guy sitting in Yehuda's row.

"You know what you need?" He began.
You've got to be kidding, I thought to myself. Another one? What is this - an infomercial or something?
"Yeah, I know what I need. I need sleep!" I replied, in a rather snippy voice.
"No," he continued. " You need Emuna (faith)."
Ok - I thought to myself; where are the cameras? This has got to be a joke.
"No, actually," I continued. "I haven't slept for the 12 hours of this flight yet, and I need SLEEP."
And then, he proceeded to pull out a book called The Garden of Emunah and to explain to me how it would solve my problems.
I wasn't sure whether to laugh, punch him, or throw him the baby and tell him to take THAT Emunah and see how he liked it. He seemd to get the picture and stopped offering me further advice.

I had a few reactions immediately after these encounters, and more as I've retold this crazy story. They are as follows.

1. Only on a plane going to Israel would you get encounters of this sort! I knew, with these people on board, that I was certainly heading back home - to the Holy Land.

2. It's amazing how much people in Israel care about each other. On the flight to America we definitely garnered attention - but it was hostile attention. Here, I encountered people who were truly trying to help my journey - even if they were doing it in ways that I found unusual.

3. With time, I've come to think that maybe, just maybe Hashem was having fun with me on the flight and was trying to reassure me. A few people have heard this story and remarked, "Oh my gosh - that is just amazing how Hashem was sending you a message and trying to get you to relax and to hear the prayers that he was sending your way." While I thought these people were totally crazy at the time, the story is so eccentric as to make you stop and think. Two people - back to back - throwing themselves at me to discuss how I could make it through the trip with Gd's help? say the least.

Monday, August 03, 2009

On a Wing and a Prayer

Yesterday, the birds were all aflutter. They were flapping their wings all morning and strutting back and forth on the little perch where they were born. From where they've hatched, there is a two story drop to the ground, and I had to laugh as I watched them peering warily over the precipice contemplating flight.

And then....I left the room and came back to find only one bird! I was so scared that one of the babies had attempted flight and not made it. I went running outside to check the ground. All clear. Sigh of relief. I found her (her? him? how does one know?) perched in a window about 15 feet away, across our courtyard. Then, I noticed that both the mom and dad birds were around as well. They were perched on our car port, with a direct view to the little birdies about 20 feet away.

It was flying lessons day!

Little birdie #1 spent all day flapping her wings and learning to fly. She certainly seemed proud of herself, if a bit tentative with her flight. The more interesting part of the show, however, was watching birdie #2. From the day they hatched, we noticed that birdie #1 was larger and stronger than #2. Aren't we all different from the moment we are born?

And so, birdie #2 spent the day watching her sibling. She poked her head about, looked down at the drop often, and sat...and waited. She somehow knew, intuitively, that she wasn't yet ready for flight and she respected the process and the limitations of her still-forming body. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could all accept ourselves and our development this gracefully?

I've been amazed by this process. How do these birdies know when it's time to go? How do they have the faith to leap, literally, from a two story window and assume that they can fly? How do they take that first step? These, of course, are the same questions that we all must ask of ourselves on our journeys through life, and that we must face as we wrestle with obstacles, accomplishments, and faith.

So, birdie #2 spent the day watching her sibling and admiring her efforts. When it got dark and she got ready to sleep, I was sad for her. Her sibling was nowhere to be seen...and after weeks with her mommy and her sibling, she was suddenly alone. But, then birdie #1 came home to sleep beside her sibling and the two have been happily flapping about today.

Hopefully, birdie #2 will soon realize that she is ready, as well, to fly away and their lives will begin outside of the sweet little nest where it all started.

Fly well little birdies! Thank you for the invaluable lessons that you've been teaching me about parenting, nurturing, strength and self awareness.