Monday, July 25, 2011

Those Rowdy Adults in Neve Daniel

Taking a walk through the yishuv last night was an invigorating process, and not because it got my heart rate up. As Josh and I headed out for our walk, we came across music blaring from a house.

I said to Josh, “Uh oh…which parents are away? Who’s going to get in trouble tonight?”

As we got closer, and were wondering if we were going to have to call parents, we realized that the music was….part of a Zumba class! The music was blaring, and the moms of all ages and sizes were Zumbaing away and having fun in someone’s basement.

Giggling, we kept walking, and came across another house with loud music pulsing from the backyard. Again, we assumed the kids were partying while the parents were away; and again, we were confronted by a family hanging out and enjoying the evening together.

And then we came to the real treat. Walking further, we were struck by the chords of blues music rising from deep in a basement. This time, we realized early on that it was our dear friends and their four person band. We descended the stairs and entered their house to find the foursome practicing some good ol’ fashioned blues. The wife had her harmonica set in front of her (with at least 20 harmonicas from which to choose), and her drum ready to go in her hand. They had pushed all furniture to the side in their family room/dining room and were belting out blues, tapping their feet and enjoying the summer night.

We stayed for two songs, deeply appreciating every minute of the fun and gaiety, before we proceeded back up the stairs with a wave and an extra spring in our step.

While we often assume it’s the kids making all the noise in the yishuv with loud music and too much action – it was a breath of fresh air to see the adults getting into the action last night.

The energy in Neve Daniel is alive and well. Even after the kids are in bed and dreaming about tomorrow’s adventures, the adults are making those adventures come true…today!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Of Chemo and Concerts

If the day could have begun with more knots, I would have been wrapped forever inside the blanket on my bed. Today was Stella's first day of chemotherapy and I was completely on edge last night and this morning, wondering what chemo was going to look like and feel like for her.

Thank Gd, it was so much "better" than I expected.

I knew from our last visit to the oncology ward that all of the patients receiving chemo sit in one room together and get their treatments at the same time. And I was worried that this was going to feel very invasive for Stella.

When I arrived, Yarden and Stella were lounging and surfing the web and checking email. They had already taken Stella's blood to the 4th floor to get it evaluated before she was able to start chemo today. And, as Yarden recounted, in typical "Stella fashion," she had forced him to use the stairs rather than the elevator. (Side note: on the day of Stella's diagnosis we had to go to a number of different floors in the hospital to book appointments. While Yarden, Josh and I all groaned and whined, Stella kept racing up and down the stairs and dragging us along. We kept cracking up as she zoomed past us and we must have yelled, "Wait" and "Where is she?" at least a few times each. Yep...the sick leading the lazy as you will.)

As they waited for the results to come back today so that Stella could start her first round of chemo, a charming woman came into the room and asked Stella if she wanted reflexology or a massage. They have a room next door where the patients can enjoy such nurturing activities and Stella bopped off for a bit of pampering (with only a slight need for coercion).

While Yarden and I were talking, a woman came by with a cart, offering all sorts of delicious foods to the patients. When we both deferred, explaining that we weren't the cancer patient (in our pathetic and broken Hebrew), she said, "We will all be healthy at some point. Everyone in the room will be healthy. We all deserve the food. Please take something."

It was such a stunningly beautiful way to describe the experience and such a positive spin on the events taking place.

Eventually, Stella started the chemo and we settled in to read humorous emails friends were sending, to chat and to relax. Yarden met the older man getting treated next to us, and six degrees of separation became one as he explained that he had taught a good friend of ours in the community.

I pointed out to Stella that the room wasn't filled with the images that I expected at all. Every single patient in the room looked healthy. I actually said at one point that I thought maybe they had created a Hollywood set for us. Each patient had his or her hair; each seemed to have nice coloring and to be in good spirits. And, of course, it was striking to see the cross-section of society here. The older Rabbi sat next to the young Arab woman, who was sitting near the 35 year old Moroccan woman, who was seated with the Japanese convert, who was positioned near the 60 year old Hassidic man.

The harpist came and went, delivering a beautiful, soothing performance. The room was chatty at times, quieter at others.

But there was always a feeling of hope.

********************************

In the afternoon, I took the boys to a fair that is held every year for a special-needs school in Alon Shvut. While sitting on a grassy hill, listening to a military band, Amichai and Eliav started dancing with me. What began as a quiet, sweet dance soon turned into a frenzied, wild display and we danced and giggled.

And as we swirled in circles and put our heads back in laughter, I felt guilt mixed with hope. Guilt that I should be enjoying the beautiful evening on the day when Stella started such a difficult process; but hope, knowing that Stella loves my children and that, of course, she would want us to be having fun for all of us today.

And as we danced and twirled, I prayed that the sounds of their joy and the hope in their young voices would open up the heavens and remind HaShem of the precious nature of life.

Of Stella's life and of all of ours as we pray and hope for a full and speedy recovery.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Magic of 7










Today is our 7 year Aliyah anniversary. People often talk about 7 as a monumental number. There’s the 7 year itch in a marriage, made famous by the movie entitled “The Seven Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe. Survive past seven and you’ve really accomplished something.

Judaism is surrounded by the symbolism of the number 7. Hashem created the world in 7 days; we count the Omer for 7 weeks before Shavuot; we observe Shmita on the land every 7 years; there are 7 guests who come to visit us in our Sukkoh during Sukkot; the Temple Menorah had 7 branches; there are 7 Noachide laws that pertain to people of all religions; 7 blessings are recited at a Jewish wedding and we sit shiva for 7 days; the first verse in the Torah contains 7 words; the Jewish New Year occurs each year in the 7th month; and we celebrate 7 days of celebrations surrounding a Jewish wedding.

Wow.

There’s something to this 7 thing.

And here we are – at 7 years.

It’s a bit hard right now in my emotional state to be reflective about something as celebratory as our 7 year milestone, but I think that I owe it to myself, to Zionism and to Hashem to recognize the importance of this achievement.

A little less than 8 years ago, we decided that we would pack up our entire life and move to the other side of the world. On the day that we told our best friends, they stayed up all night talking and decided that they would be following the year after.

At that time, we were leaving everything that we knew. Our families. Our language. Our very good and fulfilling jobs. Our community. Our friends. Our home.

7 years later, I have to laugh at how things have turned out so far.

When we stepped off of our Nefesh B'Nefesh flight and arrived in Neve Daniel, we knew one family in the Yishuv (neighborhood). One. They were our dear friends from Potomac, the Abbos, but they were the only family that we knew and one of only about 5 families that we knew in the entire country.










And then, 6 years ago today we stood at the airport and welcomed the Frankls into our embrace as they joined us on Aliyah and in Neve Daniel, fulfilling the dream that they had harbored for much longer than had I.










And then 5 years ago today (or around this date), we stood at the airport and welcomed the Levins into our embrace as they joined us on Aliyah and in Neve Daniel.










And then 4 years ago today (or so) we stood at the airport and welcomed the Levys into our embrace as they joined us on Aliyah and in Neve Daniel.








These were our friends from America; friends that we left behind. And today, they all live within walking distance of my beautiful home.

When I see Rivka Frankl in the park holding my baby, Yakir; or my son, Amichai, playing with Ellen’s son Yosef; or when I see Susan walking Tali down my block, I find myself catching my breath. It’s an absolute miracle to me that we have all picked up our lives together from Potomac and Baltimore and moved to the same neighborhood in Israel.

May this first 7 year hurdle that we’ve reached be the first of many such beautiful milestones. And may we all continue to support each other on our Aliyah journeys with renewed health, happiness and prosperity in the homeland of our people.

Amen.

The Magic of 7















Today is our 7 year Aliyah anniversary. People often talk about 7 as a monumental number. There’s the 7 year itch in a marriage, made famous by the movie entitled “The Seven Year Itch” with Marilyn Monroe. Survive past seven and you’ve really accomplished something.

Judaism is surrounded by the symbolism of the number 7. Hashem created the world in 7 days; we count the Omer for 7 weeks before Shavuot; we observe Shmita on the land every 7 years; there are 7 guests who come to visit us in our Sukkoh during Sukkot; the Temple Menorah had 7 branches; there are 7 Noachide laws that pertain to people of all religions; 7 blessings are recited at a Jewish wedding and we sit shiva for 7 days; the first verse in the Torah contains 7 words; the Jewish New Year occurs each year in the 7th month; and we celebrate 7 days of celebrations surrounding a Jewish wedding.

Wow.

There’s something to this 7 thing.

And here we are – at 7 years.

It’s a bit hard right now in my emotional state to be reflective about something as celebratory as our 7 year milestone, but I think that I owe it to myself, to Zionism and to Hashem to recognize the importance of this achievement.

A little less than 8 years ago, we decided that we would pack up our entire life and move to the other side of the world. On the day that we told our best friends, they stayed up all night talking and decided that they would be following the year after.

At that time, we were leaving everything that we knew. Our families. Our language. Our very good and fulfilling jobs. Our community. Our friends. Our home.

7 years later, I have to laugh at how things have turned out so far.

When we arrived in Neve Daniel, we knew one family in the Yishuv (neighborhood). One. They were our dear friends from Potomac, the Abbos, but they were the only family that we knew and one of only about 5 families that we knew in the entire country.

















And then, 6 years ago today we stood at the airport and welcomed the Frankls into our embrace as they joined us on Aliyah and in Neve Daniel, fulfilling the dream that they had harbored for much longer than had I.


















And then 5 years ago today (or around this date), we stood at the airport and welcomed the Levins into our embrace as they joined us on Aliyah and in Neve Daniel.


















And then 4 years ago today (or so) we stood at the airport and welcomed the Levys into our embrace as they joined us on Aliyah and in Neve Daniel. (no picture available : ( )

These were all friends from America; friends that we left behind. And today, they all live within walking distance of my beautiful home.

When I see Rivka Frankl in the park holding my baby, Yakir, or my son Amichai playing with Ellen’s son Yosef, or when I see Susan walking Tali down my block, I find myself catching my breath. It’s an absolute miracle to me that we have all picked up our lives together from Potomac and Baltimore and moved to the same neighborhood in Israel.

May this first 7 year hurdle that we’ve reached be the first of many such beautiful milestones. And may we all continue to support each other on our Aliyah journeys with renewed health, happiness and prosperity in the homeland of our people.

Amen.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Boy and His Horse


This afternoon Matan was bugging me to take him to the shoe store for some cool new tennis shoes. It's amazing (and scary) how quickly these kids' feet grow and how quickly they wear out their shoes. But that's another story. So, we drove over to the Naot Store and I quickly looked for a way to keep Zeli (who is almost three) occupied while Matan looked for shoes. They have these inflatable horses in the store that Zeli has always loved to bounce on and I handed him one.

He proceeded to bounce around the store, giggling as he jumped on the horse, fell off the horse, got back on the horse, and started the process all over again. He was having a ball.

Unfortunately, Matan was less successful. I was very excited when he found the perfect pair of shoes, only to have a heart-attack when they told me they were over 600 shekel (nearly $200). Who in the world spends that on kids? Or on themselves, for that matter?! I soon realized that we were not going to be finding shoes for Matan, and we got ready to leave.

And then the trouble began. Zeli assumed that we were leaving - with the horse in hand. And there was NO convincing him otherwise. I contemplated hurling him over my shoulder (have you seen what the kid weighs?) and storming out of the store, but then I stopped in my tracks.

You know what? It's been about the worst 10 days that I remember having in my entire life. And here was my adorable three year old, with tears streaming down his cheeks, yelling for a little fun on a red inflatable horse. And his birthday IS just around the corner. And he has LOVED this horse every time that he's been in the store.

And so, giving myself a break, and giving both of us just a bit of inflatable, bouncy joy, we drove home with that horsey on Zeli's lap.

And he smiled the whole way home.

And so did I.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

My Rock...and My Star









It's been a terrible week. Arriving at the emergency room with stomach pains, and the assumption that she'd be diagnosed with an ulcer...an infection...something of the sort...my best friend was, instead, diagnosed with something more sinister.

And as we get the boxing gloves out and get ready for the battle we are all preparing to make, I've had a lot of time to think.

Josh and I both found it funny that this week was the first time that we've ever heard Stella's Hebrew name. Hebrew names are used for official documents (like wedding contracts, etc) and for prayers when you are sick. Since she never gets sick and we've had no reason to check over their Ketubahs (marriage contracts), it's one topic that hadn't yet come up in our long relationship.

And we both found the name unusual when we first heard it - Tzuriya Kochevet bat Sara. We were sure that there was an interesting story behind the name, and made a mental note to ask Stella and Jordan (Yarden to the rest of the world) about it.

And, as usual, her husband beat us to it, explaining in a typically move-you-to-tears-while-you-laugh-your-heart-out blog how Stella chose her name.

In part of his blog, he explained that:

"At the Orthodox conversion, they asked her for her Hebrew name and she mentioned that she was already Tzuriya. One of the Rabbis suggested that she add a name to signify the second conversion. She was on the spot and couldn’t just come up with an appropriate moniker for life. So someone suggested she just use a form of the Hebrew word for “star” which is what “Stella” means anyway. So she chose “Kochevet.”

So when she finished with the Rabbis and told me her new name was Tzuriya Kochevet, I pointed out that her new name really meant ‘G-d is my rock star.”

And then, yesterday, when I was thinking about Stella, her Hebrew name, and Jordan's explanation, it came to me how I feel about Stella. While she is Jordan's rock star, Stella is my rock...and my star.

Let me explain.

For the 14 years that I've known Stella, she has always been my rock. Our friendship has spanned two continents, has watched the birth of 8 children, and has endured every Aliyah-related preparation-frustration-and-success you can imagine. And Stella is always there, as my rock, no matter what I go through. She stops what she's doing in half a second to join me on a walk, to meet me at the park or to sit around and talk; and her ear and her heart are always open and ready to help.

At the same time, she is my star. A star is a beautiful, twinkling light of inspiration that you look up to and that you use for guidance. I am entirely, utterly, and preposterously human, getting frustrated with my kids, gossiping about others at times, getting annoyed by this or that. And as we've walked together thousands of kilometers over the years, Stella has listened to my rants, my raves, my gossip and my frustrations without ever joining in. She's simply unbelievable. No matter what juicy piece of gossip I bring on the trail, or what frustration I spew on a given day, she listens with an open ear and a smile, but she rarely engages in such activities.

She is my shining star, reminding me of all of the good potential that I have, and showing me what purity of heart and purpose look like.

Yes, she's definitely a rock star to Jordan, and to so many people who know her.

But to me?

Stella is my rock...and my star.

Whether or not you know Stella, please keep Tzuriya Kochevet bat Sara in your thoughts and prayers.