Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Rhythms of Life (Literally!)

I love the way that our lives in Israel are soaked in Jewish ritual. You simply couldn't live where we are without knowing which holiday is coming up and without being connected to the Jewish calendar. In Judaism, you are supposed to approach a mitzvah with enthusiasm, and do it as soon as you can. So, as soon as Yom Kippur ends and we've scarfed down some break-fast, it's time to take out the sukkah. Even if you don't finish building the sukkah that evening, there is an idea that you should begin to build it. This is showing Hashem how excited we are for the upcoming chag and that we run to do the next mitzvah (building a sukkah) as soon as possible after Yom Kippur.

While finishing our break-fast meal, we could already hear the hammers going in the yishuv! And since that point, they haven't stopped. Today, as I was taking my daily walk, I was delighting in seeing all of the sukkahs in various states of readiness. Some people had simply dragged the sukkah boards from their storage locations:

While others had begun building the frame, albeit in their parking spot!

Others, such as brothers Daniel and Jeremy Gimpel, were busy today discussing where to put everything and how to make the "bohemian" sukkah look its best. They stopped for long enough to smile for me as I made my way around the yishuv.

A few diligent families have already put together virtually the entire sukkah and are just waiting to put the schach on top to finish the process.

Walking around watching the sukkah process as it unfolds I could feel a sense of energy. There are hammers going everywhere and people climbing on high to secure a part of their sukkah to the wall. (Living in one of the most windy places in Israel, we have a special challenge to try to keep our sukkahs from blowing away altogether! But that's an adventure for another post.) Here are a few pictures to give a sense of the amazing views that we will enjoy from our sukkahs during the holiday.

May the rhythms of the Jewish calendar continue to guide us in our daily lives - and may we all enjoy this most festive chag and time together over sukkot!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Describe Your Life...

A long lost friend of mine from my camp days recently asked me to explain what life in Neve Daniel is like. Hmmmm...Describe your life in one email - not an easy task for anyone. So, it got me to start thinking about how I would describe life here, and how I would capture why I love living here so much.

I haven't thought about our lives in these terms too much in the past, but the realization suddenly hit me - Neve Daniel, and yishuv life in general, are like camp. I live in a camp setting - but I never have to leave my friends or go back home. I am home.

What did I love about camp growing up? Certainly, I loved the people. I enjoyed being with like-minded people who all came together to celebrate their Jewish identity in a beautiful setting. I loved waking up each morning and taking a walk in the familiar surroundings, running into people that I knew every time I turned. I loved the ritual of Friday afternoon, as everyone was busy getting ready for Shabbat, doing their hair, picking out the perfect dress, and anticipating the relaxing weekend ahead. I loved seeing the 100s of white outfits descend onto the grass, dancing and singing to welcome in Shabbat. I loved the ritual of summer life, knowing that there would be an opening day, certain weekly programs, Shabbat activities, etc.

It hit me during Yom Kippur how much my daily life is like camp. During Kol Nidre, while I was at the park with the kids (where else would I be : ) ?) I was stunned by the sea of white. It's a tradition to wear white for Yom Kippur, and everyone was arriving at shul in their flowing white outfits. It was a stunning, breathtaking display. And that's when I realized how much that moment reminded me of Friday afternoon at camp. It made me start to connect the two, and to come to a way to describe life in a yishuv in Israel.

Neve Daniel is like camp because:

I get to see my closest friends every single day of the week, and check in on how they are doing.

When I take my daily walk through the yishuv, I know everyone that I see. Every home is familiar to me, as is every car and every person. There is a deep sense of community in the familiar.

At the same time, there is a great deal of diversity. We come from many different countries, speak a slew of languages and have every profession from the solar truck driver to the neurosurgeon.

On Friday afternoons, I smell challah and chicken cooking in the ovens as I take my afternoon walk.

On Friday night, I can hear the davening from my house, and, should I get to shul, I can see everyone dressed beautifully and ready to greet the Shabbat bride together.

I spend my day off, Shabbat, enjoying time with good friends, eating delicious food and relaxing with my family.

I experience the rhythms of life here every day. The second that Yom Kippur ended last night, I could hear hammers throughout the yishuv. Everyone was moving immediately from one chag to the next, getting ready for the Sukkot holiday which starts on Friday.

I know that an entire community will come together for me, should I need it for any reason. I can enjoy wonderfully home cooked meals when I have a baby, and can offer the same to others in their time of joy and need.

Life it not always easy. What a gift to have figured out a way to live in such a comforting, warm environment. Children are told that they can enjoy camp while they are young, but that they'll have to outgrow it and learn to live in the real world as they get older.

Perhaps not, I've discovered.

Perhaps not.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Playing Ball

My kids never fail to crack me up.

Friday night, during dinner, Josh was having a great imaginary ballgame with Amichai (almost 5) and Eliav (3). They were really getting into it. Josh was telling them to "go long" and they were running to catch the "ball" as it flew through the house. They were working up a sweat to catch this imaginary ball - I was actually impressed with how well they were using their imaginations. They would catch it with their teeth, with their tummies, and with their hands, and then hurl it back towards Josh.

After awhile, Josh told me to pretend to get hit by the ball. So, I "got in the way" of a throw and let the ball smack me in the head. As I lay on the ground pretending to be hit, the kids were laughing and giggling. When I still hadn't gotten up after a few seconds, Amichai, looking at me like I was the biggest idiot in the world, said, "Mommy, you know, it's just pretend! We're using our imaginations. You can get up now."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Learning from the Little Ones

My first son, Matan, caught us by surprise when he was five months old. He suddenly started crawling and standing - all in the same day. Our house wasn't at all baby-proofed and we quickly scrambled to get everything done! From that day on, we started finding him in the bathroom sink (literally), and everywhere else. My next three boys were the same. They all moved quickly and were rambunctious balls of energy.

And then Zeli arrived. Zeli (actually named Azriel) likes to take his good 'ol time. He's a guy who wants to do things his way. He started sitting around 7 or 8 months and declared himself the king. At daycare, he would sit and let all the other kids bring him toys. We started physical therapy for him to get him to MOVE, but he just wasn't interested. He'd smile that "light up your life" smile at her and say with his eyes, "You know, I'm going to do this my way." And so he did.

Finally, at about a year, he decided that he could actually move. But, mind you, he decided that moving would work just as well if he were sitting as it would in a crawling position. So, he stared scooting across the floor. His brothers think it is the funniest thing ever, as does just about everyone that sees him. He has hated his stomach since he was born, and he just didn't want to figure out how to crawl. So, he figured out a way to move that would satisfy him (see video below). He still doesn't know how to turn over (at 13 months!) and becomes a beached whale if he happens to find himself on his back. In our house, you'll often hear one of the brothers saying, "Zeli...scoot to me Zeli...scoot to me!"

Why am I recounting all of this? Well, of course, since I'm his mom, I think it's the cutest thing in the world. But, as this is my blog, and I try to actually learn something from the events in my life, I'm seeing his decision to scoot in its own interesting way.

We can try as much as we want to conform our children to our ways. We can put them in physical therapy, push them in this direction and that, and teach them all sorts of things. But, the bottom line is that they make many of the decisions themselves. They all have their own personalities. My job, as a parent, isn't to cram them into the image I have of what they should be. Instead, my job is to see what each child is like, and to work with his strengths and needs to help him to grow and prosper. I hope I live up to the task as they grow, change and develop into their own personalities.

Lessons learned from a one year old scooter. Who would have thought?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shana Tova

Shana Tova to everyone! I wish you a fantastic year full of sweetness, health, safety and happiness.

My absolute favorite thing as we approach Rosh Hashanah is to see the rimonim (pomegranate) trees ripening just in time for the holiday all around Israel. How do they know it's time for their grand entrance?

We picked these right off of the tree nearby our house - and plan to eat them at our table tomorrow night. One of the great miracles in Israel. May it be a wonderful, peaceful year for us all.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Surrounded By Testosterone

I'm completely surrounding by testosterone in my house. Don't get me wrong - I love having five incredibly rambunctious boys...and I enjoy being the lady of the house. We sat down to Friday night dinner this week, and Josh pointed out that there were 8 guys at the table and me. And so it goes.

But, as a person who is really not competitive, I often feel that I'm from a different planet than everyone else. Today, I had to laugh and shake my head while having the following conversation with my oldest, Matan, who is nine.

We were walking home from the park and saw a group of little girls on their way to ballet lessons.
Matan: What are they doing?
Me: They are going to ballet.
Matan: What's the point of ballet, anyway?
Me: Well, sweetheart, it's an activity like anything else. Like your karate, or like yoga, basketball, gymnastics...
Matan: (after a long, contemplative pause) But, like, do they have races or something?
Me: What?
Matan: Well, you know, do they have races? How do they know who the best is?
Me: They have performances at the end of the semester or year to show off how well they are all doing.
Matan: Ok...but how do they know who is best?

Deep sigh...will I ever get them to understand that not EVERYTHING in life is a competition?

Probably not, but I will certainly keep trying...

Friday, September 11, 2009

What Makes Someone a Hero?

This week, one of my neighbors proved herself to be a hero. A few days ago, she unhooked her children from their car seats and was standing outside of her car waiting for them to exit. While climbing through the front seat to exit the car, her son accidentally pushed the gears from park to neutral. Although the emergency break was on, the car started moving in reverse, down the steep hill. With seconds to act, Elana made a jump for the front seat, and missed. After the door took off a good portion of her left thigh, the front tire broke one ankle and one knee. Fortunately, when the car crashed, the children were uninjured and recovered quickly.

I've been considering Elana's actions a lot since it happened. How many of us would have reacted in exactly the same manner, lunging for a moving car that might have crushed us? I'd like to say that I would, of course, do so.

But would I? In all honesty - I don't know. Elana said today that anyone would have done what she did, as if it simply went without saying. I beg to differ.

Yes, I love my children; and, certainly, I want them to be safe. But, would I do what Elana did? I certainly hope that I'll never be challenged into finding out what my nature is, but her accident has definitely given me pause.

And, of course, on 9-11 this topic is entirely relevant. I'm thinking today of the firefighters who raced up the burning building, while everyone else was racing down; of the amazing ordinary citizens who brought down the plane headed for Washington when they realized what their fate would be; and of the many other heroic acts that occurred that day.

What makes some people act like heroes in difficult situations, while others act to protect themselves? I am not, actually, in any way passing judgment on those who don't act heroically, as I think it is actually in our nature to be self-serving. And being self-serving is entirely justified and understandable - which is why I marvel when people act heroically.

I'm in awe of Elana's actions and at the lesson that she has taught her children. Sitting in her home in a wheelchair today with two broken legs, she has proven to them that they are protected - and that she would do anything for them.

I wonder if I would do the same thing in a similar situation.

Recover quickly, Elana, a true hero.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Thanks for the Reminder, Superman

Eliav gave me a great reminder today that even Superman needs some quiet time to recharge with his blankie every so often.