Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sunflowers of Our Lives

I love flowers - and I love having them in the house.

But, when you're on a tight budget, they are a bit frivolous.

So, for awhile now, a child in the neighborhood has been coming to our house on Friday afternoon, asking if we want to buy flowers. He's in sixth grade, and clearly very industrious (he works for someone older and he gets to keep 25% of whatever he sells). I've been turning him away for months because we really don't NEED flowers.

But then, one day, we must have been having company and I said "yes" to him. And after that, when he knocked, I started to feel badly. It was winter, and he was shlepping the flowers in the rain, wind and snow (ok - not the snow, really, but you get the idea).

So, I started buying flowers more often. And then, last week, he showed up, smiled, and said "I saved your favorite flowers for you."

I don't recall telling him what my favorite flowers were - but there, in his hand, was a gorgeous purple bouquet filled with some of my favorite flowers. And I just had to laugh. The kid's got game.

So, this week, when he came to the door, I couldn't believe the bouquet that he had to offer. And even more so, I couldn't believe that no one had snapped it up yet!

I love sunflowers.

And here was a vibrant, amazing bouquet of sunflowers.

I've been admiring those beautiful flowers ever since. I marvel that something so simple - so mundane - can bring me so much joy and can light up the house with such an aura of health and happiness. If only such little things could always fix our pain, create an aura of health and put a smile on our faces.

And while nothing can work miracles of this sort, it sure is lovely to have found a way to enjoy momentary joy from some of the more simple things in life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kale Fever

So, the grand kale experiment today was DEEElicious!!!! I went to buy the kale this afternoon and took a few pictures of their garden and surroundings.

I brought it home, looked at it and said, "Hmmmmmmm..... Now what?"

One of my friends (actually, a few of them!) recommended kale chips. So that's where we started. I cut the stems off of the kale, washed and dried them well, put them on a baking sheet and sprinkled olive oil and salt on them. Then I put them in the oven at 350 degrees (that's 175 to you friends in Israel) for 12 minutes.

So, they turned out a bit too salty, but I loved them anyway. None of the little boys wanted any, so we waited for the big boys to get home to see if they would like them.

I guess they did.

When he finished licking the plate, Yehuda said, "Isn't there any more we can make?" and ran to the refrigerator to get the rest of the bag. I made them, and they were gone in a flash. As I popped the last one in my mouth, Yehuda said, "Oh darn. I wanted to bring some to school tomorrow!" Kale chips at school...now that's a new one.

We also made kale and bean soup and it was fantastic. Not a drop was left after dinner. Here's the recipe for that one.

Next up? I've got no more kale, so I don't know what's next.

But when I get my hands on some more (hopefully next week), we'll try out a kale and pasta recipe and some other yummy delights.

Betaovon! בתאבון

Good Eating to You All!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What's Kale Anyway?

I’ve just ordered kale. I’d tell you how much I ordered, but I don’t really know. Nor do I know how much 100 grams of kale is. Come to think of it…I don’t even know what kale IS.

What I do know, however, is that my neighbors are awesome. I know, in the news, our lives in Gush Etzion and throughout Israel aren't portrayed accurately at all. These distortions make me laugh at times; other times, they make me cry.

What we are here in Neve Daniel is scholars, bankers, SEO specialists, writers, politicians, non-profit workers, speech therapists, physical therapists, accountants, social workers, and yes – even farmers.

One of my neighbors has a farm in their yard. They’ve taken a large area of land in their garden and they’ve grown an organic, completely pesticide-free farm. Each season they sell different items and they sell them throughout the area.

And this winter, it’s kale.

I don’t know why I’ve never purchased from them before. I’m actually embarrassed that I haven’t supported my neighbors in this endeavor. Never fear for them, however. I was late on the uptake with the kale, and when I turned around to ask if I could buy some, they explained that they had filled up with all of their regular customers already. Filled up? What do you mean filled up? Where's my kale?

I was kale-offended. Now that I’d gotten wind of this activity, I wanted in. So, I put up my best kale fight and put on my favorite kale face and they agreed that they could find a bit of kale to sell me.

So tomorrow, I’m picking up my kale. I don’t know what I’ll be making with it, and I don’t even know how much we’re talking about.

What I do know, however, is that I’m damn proud of the amazing people around whom I surround myself. And I’m in awe when I think of the incredible hobbies that many of my friends have. And I feel privileged at the thought that I’ll be eating organic, pesticide-free kale grown in the heart of Eretz Yisrael by my Israeli neighbors tomorrow.

Pictures of their garden, of my kale and of my first recipe to follow soon. Assuming I figure out a first recipe! All suggestions welcome, you kale lovers out there!
Kale and Onions...now that looks good!
Kale salad...hmmmmmm
And even Kale soup!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gift of Giving

“Mommy, this is the BEST activity… We should do this every holiday!”

Yes, these words are music to a mother’s ears. But they are music for more reasons than you might expect.

This Chanukah, while my in-laws were visiting, we made a number of plans. The kids went to the zoo.

They went to an amazing science center in Rechovot that is part of the Weizmann Institute.

And they climbed on tanks at the IDF Museum.

But with all of this fun, what was their favorite activity?

Collecting food for the poor.

There is an amazing organization in Israel called Leket that serves as the country’s National Food Bank. Started about 10 years ago by an American Oleh (immigrant)who was distressed by the amount of food that he saw going to waste after weddings, bar mitzvahs and conferences, he created a network to collect and distribute food.

Today, Leket rescues over 700,000 meals and 21 million pounds of produce and perishable goods for those in need. They supply over 1.25 million volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children at 7500 schools each day.

As part of their gleaning program, Leket has a relationship with farms all over the country to rescue unused food and to deliver it to the poor. The farm where we were is situated on 175 acres in Rechovot. They have fruit orchards and vegetable fields where food is picked and given to the needy with a 24 hour turnaround time. We were honored to be part of this chain. On their website, Leket explains that, in 2010, they rescued 9 million pounds of fruits and vegetables from over 300 farms throughout Israel with this project. The produce is delivered free of charge to more than 290 nonprofit organizations that serve Israel’s needy.

On Thursday, we spent two hours picking clementines with a few other families from Neve Daniel and many others from other locations. What other activity would please 10 family members who range in age from 2 to 69?

And, it was a dream come true for a mother of six rambunctious boys. For two hours, I didn’t worry about where my two year old had wandered or what trouble he was getting into.

He was busy picking (and eating clementines) while his brothers climbed trees to catch the best fruit, sat on their Daddy’s shoulders to get up higher, and worked incredibly hard.

While we enjoyed every minute, we could also see the fruit of our labor (sorry for the pun). We filled two enormous crates with clementines that would soon make it to someone’s table, and we talked to our children about the importance of giving, about poverty and about need.

And as we left, Yehuda turned to me and said, “How early can we make our reservation for Pesach?”

The perfect ending to a perfect activity. There is nothing as valuable as learning the gift of giving on a holiday that children associate with gift-getting. And with feeling the spread of the Chanukah lights and the chance for education that they bring.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Go Ahead - Prove Me Wrong!

A few days ago, Matan came home and declared that he wanted to run the 10K at the Jerusalem marathon…and that he wanted to do so for SHALVA. Now, Matan started running about a year ago and he’s completed a few 5K runs. We’ve been very impressed with his initiative and commitment and have cheered him on (ok, mostly from the sidelines) with these projects.

I was surprised, however, to hear that he wanted to run it to raise money for a cause. I don’t know why it surprised me. After all, Matan is being raised in a culture of giving and doing for others. Most recently, he helped us to raise thousands of shekels for Shaare Zedek hospital as part of the bike ride that Yarden undertook for Stella and the many other cancer patients at the hospital. Every month we walk up and down our street collecting food for poor families in the area. And once a month, if not more often, we bake desserts for the Pinat Chama, the small house near our home where soldiers can get free coffee and cake while they are serving.

The list goes on and on.

But I guess I’m always surprised when the things we are trying to teach our kids through example actually permeate and get taught.

So, Matan is training to do his first 10K, and he’s raising money for SHALVA. SHALVA is a leader in the field of disability awareness and intervention for children with special needs in the Middle East. Founded in 1990, they provide services to more than 500 people with special needs around Israel with round-the-clock therapies and tailor-made programs. They have every therapy imaginable to help children and young adults from hydrotherapy and music therapy to pet therapy, computer therapy, art therapy and beyond.

So Matan is undertaking his first personal chesed (charity) project right before his bar mitzvah. It’s funny - I had recently thought about the fact that I wanted him to do some form of chesed tied to his bar mitzvah, but I hadn’t gotten around to thinking about what he should do.

What a gift that he should come up with something entirely on his own and beg us to sign him up.

He’s checking the website every single day, by the way, to see if new people have pledged for his run. Matan would love your contribution – even if it’s only for a few dollars or shekels. To him, everything is exciting and every dollar/shekel makes a difference. We know many of you so generously gave to Stella’s Army and to Yarden’s bike ride. I reminded Matan that he might not get too many pledges as a result of that; that our friends and family might be burnt out after all of the fundraising that we just did for Stella.

Here’s an idea – Let’s prove me wrong!

Sponsor Matan Here!

Check out more on this video:

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Not Your Every-Day Olives

These were on our Shabbat table this week.

"Wow," you say, with your most sarcastic voice, "those look really unusual. So different than the thousands of olives people serve around the world every week."

But wait - they ARE different, and here's why.

This past Sukkot, in October, we went on a number of hikes with the family. On one of these hikes, we enjoyed an only-in-Israel experience. As we pulled up to our parking spot and got out of the car, we all bumped our heads on the branches of a tree behind us. We were giggling about it and trying to figure out what kind of tree it was, when an older woman started talking to us.

I had no idea what she was saying at first and couldn’t seem to grasp the context of the conversation.

But boy, was she intent on telling us something. Eventually, one of the boys whispered to me, “Mommy – she’s telling you about the olives!”

And, indeed, she was. She was explaining that we had parked below an olive tree. And then she proceeded to tell us what we should do next. We should, she explained, pick the olives and cure them. And she went into elaborate detail about exactly how to cure olives, how long to wait to try them, what to do if they don’t work the first time and on and on and on. And of course, for good measure, she squeezed a few of the boys’ cheeks and gave us some brachot (blessings).

It was adorable.

So, we went on our hike, and then when we returned to our car, we gathered together and picked olives. And when we got home, Josh followed her instructions and began curing them. The boys wanted to know when the olives would be ready, and we kept trying to explain to them that it would be months.

Every few weeks we would try one, and then make that sour face, shake our heads, and throw the olives back for some more curing.

And, I, of course, assumed that only little old ladies and those born of the Land could possibly make olives to perfection. I doubted that we would ever get it right. And then one day when we tried them, the olives were actually good! We had done it!

And this week, on our Shabbat table, sat home-cured olives picked from the Land and cured to perfection in our very own kitchen.

We aren't going to hang out an "Olives Made Here" shingle just yet, but it sure was a fun experience for all involved.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Passion, Love & Hope

Passion, love and hope come in many forms.

They come in the form of a man, willing to take his body to the absolute limit for the love of his wife.

They come in the form of a community, hundreds of people, who line the streets to cheer on the man who completes his mission.

They come in the form of a son, getting the call during services on Friday night, and then embracing his father and little brother before walking out to the waiting car that will take him to war.

They come in the form of a mother, rushing up the street to grab her 7 year old who has left for synagogue, while the sirens blare.

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

On Friday, Yarden Frankl completed the mission of a lifetime. Months ago, he devised a plan to raise money for Shaare Zedek hospital, where his wife, Stella, has been receiving treatments for stomach cancer for the last year and a half. He set up the team, he created the plan, and he trained. He left the Hermon, the highest point in Israel, in the darkest of night at midnight on Thursday and traveled with a team car and a friend on a scooter passed the Dead Sea (the lowest point on Earth) all the way until he reached the second highest point in Israel, our home in Neve Daniel.

At 9 am on Friday, Ruth, Stella, two of my boys and I met up with them in Almog, about an hour and fifteen minutes from home. Yarden was shaking, exhausted and fearful of the steep climb ahead to Jerusalem. I was very nervous. How in the world, after 9 hours of sleepless physical exertion, was he going to make it up that monster climb? We ate breakfast together with the team who came from Shaare Zedek (including Stella’s oncologist and his wife!) and we davened.

And then Yarden was ready. And we went on to another point were friends were waiting to cheer him on before we returned home.

When we got home at 12:00, I turned the computer on with trepidation. Would he really get up that mountain? And I looked, with shock, as I saw that he was already cruising the streets of Jerusalem – he had done it!!! We dashed out of the house, gathered up the kids, and stood with hundreds of our friends at the entrance to the yishuv to cheer him home.

It was incredible. It was awe-inspiring. It was what movies are made of, as Yarden charged up the hill with hundreds of kids screaming and cheering at his back and a camera woman hanging out of a car to capture the scene right in front of him.

Along with Yarden, Stella, Josh and David, the Rav spoke at our victory party. And what he said clearly made a difference to my children.

The next morning, on Shabbat, when I asked the kids what they had learned from Yarden’s amazing ride, Eliav (who is only six) said, “Yarden is the Rav (Rabbi) of bikes.”

Laughing, but knowing where he was going with this, I said, “What do you mean Eliav?”

“You heard what the Rav said, Mommy. We can daven with our mouths, but we can also daven with our feet. With our bodies. With our hearts. We can do anything Mommy.”

Oh, Yarden.

If only you can imagine the lessons you’ve just taught to my boys, to the children of the yishuv, to your own children, and, of course, to your wife.

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

On Friday night, while we were still basking in Yarden’s accomplishments, Josh and the older boys went off to shul.

And for the first time in my experiences in Gush Etzion, the siren sounded. The only time that we’ve ever heard this siren is on memorial days. On Holocaust Remembrance Day and on Memorial Day, they sound the siren and we all stand at attention in silence for two minutes around the country. But this was no remembrance day. And as I heard the siren, I looked in utter confusion and horror around me. What in the world was happening? What were we to do?

And then it dawned on me. And the need, as a mother, to stay calm for her children gave way in a heartbeat to the need to keep them safe. I yelled, “Get to the safe room! Go!” and scooped the baby from his play. We dashed downstairs, only to realize that Zeli, 4, was sound asleep in my bed. I needed to leave the 2 year old and make him stay in the safe room, but I needed to grab the 4 year old. How in the world do people in the South do this over and over and over again?

For ten years?

I heard later, of course, about the experiences of many others. The one that is the most poignant is that of my neighbor. She had just sent her 7 year old off to shul when the siren sounded. Looking at the door in horror, she wondered what she should do. Could she catch him and get back to the safe room in time? Would he know to find a home to duck into? She ran out into the street and saw him up ahead. He was completely motionless – just standing still in the empty street as the siren wailed. What was he doing? She thought he might be in shock.

Rushing to catch him, she realized that he was standing tall, proud, strong, for the siren that he had been trained to listen to, as one does on Memorial Day. As a bomb was about to fall nearby, this child was standing at attention, honoring his ancestors as he had been taught.

But this wasn’t a siren for honoring. It was a siren for running. She grabbed him and they ran, back to the safety of their shelter.

The stories go on and on…including the Arab from the village of Tuqua who called his friend, the Jew, in Tekoa as the sirens were wailing to find out what was going on. Including the children who burst into tears in the middle of prayers at Bnei Akiva, who didn’t understand what was happening. Including the many, many children who slept on the floor in their parents’ rooms Friday night and last night, trying to make sense of the world around them. And this was all a reaction to one siren – just one.

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

And then, Saturday night, our children had a culminating activity for their opening month of Bnei Akiva. I left the house early for it, thirsting for a Zionist activity – for a reason to celebrate and to enjoy with my community. And the children danced with their Israeli flags, and stood at attention as we all sang Ha’Tikva. The activities were not held in our open field, as usual, but in a more shielded area in case the sirens should wail. But other than this adjustment, they were able to momentarily enjoy being children again and to sing and enjoy in unison.

But in the South, the children didn’t sleep Friday night, as we did. And they didn’t celebrate, even in a sheltered location, with their Bnei Akiva groups. And for ten years now, they’ve been living with the sounds of those blaring sirens and the feel of the earth shaking beneath their feet as the bombs fall.

Our children – our community – were completely shaken by one siren. By one set of bombs that fell not far from our homes. This war isn’t about how many rockets have fallen this week or about our operation in Gaza. It’s about a decade – a decade – of rockets. Of citizens of a free country who can’t send their children to the park or to school without the fear of bombs falling and without the fear of their lives being shattered – physically and emotionally over and over and over again.

And so today, we continue to send our sons, our brothers and our fathers into battle. We do so with a passionate love for our people, with the hope for a better tomorrow for everyone in this country, and for the goal of finally having the quiet that we all deserve. We daven with our words that things will improve – that our boys will fight the fight they need to and then return home. But we also daven with our feet, with our bodies, with our commitment to make things better. And this can’t be done only through words, as Yarden has taught us, but through a commitment to action. With our whole being for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Birthdays, Bombs & Bikes

I am sitting in one of the boats at Disneyland, going through the "It's a Small World" ride. And it's not the enjoyable experience that it was when I was a kid.

Let me explain.

I grew up right near Disneyland and I used to love going there. My favorite ride was "It's a Small World After All" and my dad and I could ride it 10 times on one trip to Disney. If you haven't been on the ride, I'll explain a bit. It's a boat ride that takes you through a canal. Along the way, you go through various rooms where there are oodles and oodles of dolls in costume from every nation.

And my dad always used to laugh as I spun and spun my head, trying to figure out where to look first and what to absorb. It was sensory overload - there was no way to take everything in and there wasn't enough time to do so before the boat moved on.
And that is exactly how I feel today.

Except today it isn't an amusement park.

It's my life.

Today is my precious two year old's birthday. And I want to be celebrating and dancing with him; writing in his baby book and making him giggle.

But I don't feel like giggling while rockets rain down on Beer Sheva and as people crouch beside their cars in Tel Aviv, waiting for the air raid siren to stop.

Today, Yarden has set out on an amazing ride, covering hundreds of kilometers from the very top of Israel to the mountains of Gush Etzion, all for the love of his wife and for the benefit of Shaare Zedek Hospital.

And I'm so overwhelmingly proud of him. And of the men who are riding alongside him and making sure that he fulfills his goal.

But I don't feel elated, and I'm not even sure that this amazing task can distract me from the murder of a Chabad emissary who was pregnant, and visiting Israel to give birth and attend a memorial ceremony for other Chabad emissaries killed by terrorists.

And I'm pissed.

Because Yakir's birthday deserves center stage in my life.

And Yarden's ride deserves it as well.

I'm in the boat, heading from room to room of "It's a Small World" and I simply don't know which way to turn my head first, and I don't know how to absorb what is in front of me, to the side of me, behind.

I'm grateful, of course, that I don't happen to be in range of the missiles. But 1 million Israelis are sleeping in bomb shelters tonight and being fired upon over and over and over again for being Jewish and for living their lives in their Homeland.

As Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the US recently explained, having 1 million Israel citizens being forced into bomb shelters “would be the equivalent of 40 million Americans in bomb shelters.”

And I'm pissed that my newly married co-worker came to work this morning worrying about her husband who's in the army. And that many of my dear friends have that far away look in their eyes, as they try to get through every minute while wondering where their soldier sons are right now.

How do Israelis handle this barrage of information? This anger, frustration and grief?

What I'm going to do is the following.

I'm going to put blinders up to some of those sections of the boat ride. If I don't ignore some of the dancing dolls, I won't get through the day.

And I'm going to open my home to those from the South, inviting them to come and get away from the bombs and the devastation.

And I'm going to wake up throughout the night to check on Yarden's progress, and then dance and sing when he arrives back in the yishuv tomorrow. And I'll probably cry too.

And I'm going to kiss that beautiful baby in the morning, and wish him a gorgeous, glorious birthday. And place that crown that his brothers made upon his head, and celebrate with friends on Shabbat.

Because he deserves it.

And so do I.

And then I'm going to pray for all of our soldiers, and all of our citizens who are in need at this time. And I'm going to thank Hashem that I've been given the opportunity to live amongst these people, and to be part of history in the making as we defend our country, yet again.

Even if it brings me to fresh tears each day right now.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Moment of Perfection

Yesterday I had one of those moments that make for a rich life. We were at the park and Yakir was swinging next to Zeli. It was a crisp, beautiful Shabbat morning with a sky full of puffy-white clouds. Each moment, the sun would peek out from behind a cloud and then disappear again.

I gave Yakir a hearty push and he tilted his head all the way back in the seat and let out the laugh of a lifetime. He held this pose for three or four swings, back and forth, and as he did so I saw him as if in slow motion.

The sun peaked out just at that moment from behind a cloud, showering Yakir with a halo of yellow glow. His blond hair swayed back and forth as he tilted his head back as far as it would go and let the swing take him. And his laugh bellowed over the hills and back.

Watching him, I felt as if I were seeing a clip from a movie. It was the scene where the hero, recollecting about his early days, flashes to a moment of perfection in a park when he was two.

It was a moment, captured in time, of unadulterated glee, of sheer joy.

And then it was gone in a flash.

And I was left slightly off balance, wondering if anyone else had felt the momentarily slowed hand of time; or if I had been uniquely offered this moment.

And I felt blessed to have been part of watching a little two year old express the joy of being alive; the joy of swinging with the wind in his hair and the sun shining down on his little face.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Just Because

There are some truly amazing people in the world, and I feel blessed when I get the opportunity to meet one of them.

We’ve been leasing a car for two and a half years and our lease is just about up. It’s our first leasing experience and we are trying to tread through the waters of this process.

Yesterday, I spoke with a nasty representative of the leasing company who sent me into quite a tizzy. He led me to believe that we would end up in the red, owing the leasing company more money than the car was worth and without the funds to buy another car.

Resurfacing after my panic attack, I got in touch with Zvi Cars, who sold our Peugeot a few years ago for us (no small feat). Through my tears of frustration and fear, I painted a picture for Ezra of our future – of my carless children trudging to school in the snow, up hills, in both directions. Feeling intense pity for me, he told me that I should talk to his partner, Zvi, who is an expert in this area.

Ezra said that he would call Zvi for me and that I should then call Zvi myself a few minutes later. When I called him, Zvi picked up the phone and immediately said,
“Romi, before we talk about the car, I need you to remember that this is all shtuyot (silliness). This is a car we are talking about. Your family is healthy, you have a job. None of this really matters in the big picture and it will get taken care of.”
Is this the typical line that you’re familiar with hearing from your neighborhood car salesman?

I, for one, am definitely not.

We talked about my situation and I explained my frustration. Zvi offered to meet me at the leasing company any time this week to negotiate with them.

And so we did yesterday.

Zvi took two hours out of his own schedule, and potential sales out of his pockets, to help me with my predicament. He turned down payment; he turned down an icy cold drink that I begged him to take.

Nothing.

He wanted nothing from me.

I’ve never bought a car through him.

And he knew that I probably wouldn’t be buying one from him now.

When we finished with the leasing company and favorably resolved things with them, Zvi accompanied me to the Honda dealer where we were hoping to purchase a hybrid. He even went so far as to advise me against buying something from his company, saying that I had probably found the best deal possible with Honda. Now that's integrity.

He walked me through this process because I was financially worried and scared. And because he wanted to help out an Olah (immigrant) in need.

Amazing.

Thank you, Zvi, not just for helping me through a difficult situation, but for reminding me about priorities and balance and helping others, just because.

And now, we can start to dream about our little red sports car (ok, it's not a sports car, but a mother of six can dream)!

Should you need to sell a car or buy one at some point, don't hesitate to call Zvi and Ezra at Zvi Cars. Mentches aren't made everyday.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Banding Together

Sometimes the most brilliant ideas are the simplest. A few weeks ago, a teenager in the neighborhood, Noam Shire, had the idea to make bracelets as a way to support Yarden's upcoming ride.

It was brilliant.

And so an idea was born and the steps were quickly taken to make the idea become a reality.

It is such an amazing feeling for those of us who love the Frankls, from near and far, to have something to DO; some action to TAKE; a way to say "Yes, we are HERE with you."

And these bracelets do just that.

When the bracelets arrived, my kids couldn't wait to put them on and to proudly show that they were part of Stella's Army.



Yes, even the two year old is showing his spirit.

I sometimes forget that my children are going through this struggle with us. They love Stella just as much as we do, and they feel just as helpless as we feel at times. And so, this project has allowed them to get out and help. They've combed the yishuv, selling the bracelets to everyone in the neighborhood (and raising, 2480 shekel as of tonight!) and they've found a few interesting ways for us to use our bracelets.

These little yellow bands are, first and foremost, an amazing part of the fundraising efforts that Yarden has put into place for Shaare Zedek. Should we sell all of the bracelets, we will have raised an additional 50,000 shekel ($10,000)to benefit the patients at Shaare Zedek.

Even more so, on a personal level, they are a visible way to say that we are fighting, in a united way, against cancer. That we stand with the Frankls in their fight and that we are there for their family. When we were at shul today, the boys were pointing out all of the people that they saw wearing bracelets.

"There's one! Wait - there's another one. Look, there's one!" And on it went.

And this, really, is the point. How powerful will it be if we can show the Frankls a sea of shimmering yellow bands every time that they leave their house? Every time that they go on Facebook this week and see the bands being sold in Potomac, Pittsburgh, Texas, California, New York and beyond?

And, how amazing will it be, this coming Friday, as Yarden makes it back into the yishuv after riding half of the way across the country, for him to see his yishuv greeting him armed with Stella's Army bracelets.

One small idea with big potential.


If you haven't yet given to Yarden's ride, you can learn more about it here and make your donation.

If you'd like to be part of Stella's Army, you can find someone selling them at many locations. Drop me a line and I'll let you know where to get a bracelet.

The latest fashion statement - the latest way to tell your friends you love them while raising money for cancer patients.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Losing One of Our Own

Last night there was a shiur (a lesson about the Torah) given at a friend’s house. I wanted to go to it, but I got caught up in work and couldn’t get away. I understood, afterwards, that the basic message of the lecture was about enjoying daily life, learning to appreciate the little things in life, and learning to see everyday as a joy even if it’s not a holiday or another reason to celebrate.

Unfortunately, Hashem decided to allow me to learn this lesson, as well, last night. But in a very different way.

When Josh and I both finished our work at about 9:30, we went out for a walk. While walking up the big hill in the new area of the neighborhood, I even said to him, “Oh look honey. There’s the shiur happening that I had wanted to attend.”

As they were learning about appreciating life, we continued our walk.

We were debating some of the details of Matan’s bar mitzvah and I was wrapped up in finding just the right answers.

Suddenly, a man that we know came running up to us saying that he needed to use our phone. That there was someone…on the ground…injured…dead…he didn’t know..it was someone from the chevre…from the neighborhood.

And the lesson began.

I turned to Josh in a panic and said, “Oh dear Gd, Josh. Who is it?” It could be anyone. Someone that we knew was out there, alone, and hurt.

We called for backup, for an ambulance and for the army and then we rushed back to find him, to help, to what? I stood back, shaking, and praying. Praying that he was alive. Praying that he should breathe again since I had already heard the words “no pulse,” “no heartbeat.” Praying and praying.

I heard snippets. “He’s young. He’s someone’s kid.”

He’s...someone’s...kid.

And I thought to Hashem, “Oh Gd, please don’t let him be…”

And then I stopped. Please don’t let him be WHO? Please don’t let him be the son of one of my friends? Please don’t let him be the son of one of my community members? Please don’t let him be…………

There was nothing left. He was certainly going to be the son of one of my friends and was certainly going to be the son of a community member. There was nothing to pray for in this realm. Because I count everyone in the community as a friend, as part of our family.

We still didn’t know who it was.

But I pictured his mom and his dad. They were sitting at home eating…arguing...dancing…painting…paying bills…talking on the phone…giggling…menu planning…cooking…cleaning up…reminiscing…yelling…showering…

They were going about their regular lives, completely unaware that the course of their entire future was about to change – that it had already changed.

Then a family name was spoken. I don’t know if there exists a stranger feeling than I experienced. I knew something that I had absolutely no right to know.

His family was eatingarguingdancingpaintingpaying billstalkingonthephonegigglingmenu planningcookingcleaning upreminiscingyellingshowering.

And I was with their son who had just died.

They did not yet know that their entire life had already changed. The change had occurred. It was over.

I looked out over the yishuv and pictured people in every house in the entire community who were eatingarguingdancingpaintingpaying billstalkingonthephonegigglingmenu planningcookingcleaning upreminiscingyellingshowering, people who didn’t yet know that we had lost one of our own. A part of our body.

And within that noise, within that mass of people going about their business and continuing with their regular lives at 10:14 pm was his family.

They were in a space of time where the course of their lives had already altered without their knowledge.

I prayed that they should be given the strength to get through this incredible tragedy. That they should be able to continue on.

We left, walking home in silence.

And I told Josh that the bar mitzvah would be beautiful no matter how it played out as long as we were all there, healthy. The details? Who cared.

And I went home and checked on each of my beautiful sleeping boys.

And I watched their chests rise and fall with each breath.

With tears streaming down my face, I kissed their cheeks and vowed to try to learn the lesson.

And I prayed that the Lubitch family's last moments with their son, Eliyashiv Lubitch, zt"l, were full of joy and wonder; happiness and beauty. And that his memory should be for a blessing, always.

For another perspective on this difficult day, see http://rutimizrachi.blogspot.co.il/2012/10/one-broken-man-with-one-broken-heart.html.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Walking in Their Footsteps

This post is dedicated to the refuah shlema (a full and speedy recovery) of Mordechai Leib Ben Shayna Esther, Larry Levine. Our dear friend, Avi Levine's, father.

It's also dedicated to Nefesh b'Nefesh, which has allowed so many of us to follow in Avraham Avinu's footsteps.


I don't think there is a parsha (weekly portion of the Torah) to which I feel more attached. Hashem says to Avraham,
"Get a move on it. Pick up everything and everyone that you have and leave your father's house. Come on now, don't look at me that way. I mean it. Just have complete and total blind faith in me and come to the Land that I will show you."


Hmmmmmm.........

And it sounds crazy, ridiculous. Who would simply believe in this sort of promise? Who would have the faith to pick up everything that they know, and convince their family to go as well, and move away from the land that they've always known and the people that they've always loved?

This story is sounding suspiciously familiar.

When I think about what Hashem told Avraham, and then I reflect on our journey for the last eight plus years, it's really amazing to think about how it all begins.

What makes one person decide that it's time to move, despite it all, while another chooses to stay put?

This week, as I think about that question, I'm brought back to one name: Rocky Brody. I wonder how many of us have one, two or three people from whom we received so much encouragement that we decided to finally make the move. They were the proverbial tipping point.

We had considered Aliyah for awhile and I was always the one who was nervous. I came on a pilot trip in December of 2003 and was put in touch with Rocky Brody. Sitting in her home in Alon Shvut, with a few other supportive women, I was struck by their words and by the encouragement that they offered. However, while their lives looked lovely - mine did as well, back in Potomac, Maryland.

And so, I went home and thought and stewed some more.

Sometime after that visit, Josh came to Israel for a visit and I had a sleepless night at home. Could we really pick up and move everything that we'd ever known? Could we really do this? And in the middle of the night, I dug out Rocky's email address and wrote the longest, most rambling email of my life. I filled it with every worry, every fear, every trivial and important concern I'd ever had. All to a person that I didn't really know.

And then I went to sleep.

In the morning before taking the kids to school and going to work, I raced to the computer to see if she had answered me. And I was utterly confused.

I had over 100 emails in my in box.

While I slept, Rocky had forwarded my email to the close-knit email lists throughout Gush Etzion, requesting that people offer me strength and encouragement; that they answer me honestly and help me with my difficulties. As Rocky recalled,
"I remember the emotional email I wrote to the lists asking them to help you like they had helped me before my Aliyah- calling on my new extended family of Gush Etzion to address your fears with honesty and compassion."


I sat at the computer reading email after email and crying and laughing and crying some more.

Who were these people who were willing to take time out of their busy days to write to some random person half way around the world?

Who were these people who were gushing about living in Israel? About life in Gush Etzion? About their experiences that were similar to mine?

And I felt a shift in my core.

We could do this.

We really could.

And that day, and the decision by one acquaintance to take my email and forward it to her many lists, created a marked shift in me. These beautiful, strong, confident Zionistic strangers were calling me home; they were drawing a picture for me of a life that was rich beyond my wildest dreams and that would lead my children to destinies that I couldn't even fathom.



Hashem promises Avraham (in a loose English translation), "Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward.

For all the land that you see, to you will I give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth! For to you will I give it."

And walk, indeed, we have.



Parsha Lech Lecha is a great time to think about the people who have influenced you in your life, whether you've been influenced to make Aliyah or to do anything else noteworthy, scary, and challenging. And to offer thanks to them for leading the way.

Thanks, Rocky.

And thanks to all of you nameless, faceless friends in Gush Etzion who offered me their hand and encouraged me to follow.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Dawning of a New Ride

Last year in early October, Yarden said to Josh and me, with a twinkle in his eye, "I have an idea." And when those four words come out of his mouth, you know you're about to be in for an experience.

And he started telling us about how he was going to ride - really ride - for 12 hours...around Gush Etzion from the dead of night to the dawn of a new day. And how this would be a fundraiser for cancer and for Stella...and how it would mirror what they were going through, with the darkness of cancer and the hope for dawn.

"Um, what?" we both replied.

But in perfect Yarden fashion, we held on for the ride and watched him pull it off.

And what a night it was.

Cancer is completely debilitating. Of course, it's the most debilitating to the person who is struggling with the cancer. No doubt about that. But it's also crippling to those who love the patient. They are left to feel frustrated, angry, sad, overwhelmed...

And useless.

And rather than sit around stewing in those feelings, Yarden chose to put his energy towards something incredibly positive and life affirming - the bike ride of his life.

And in doing so, he allowed his family and all of his friends near and far to feel like they were doing so and participating in some small way.

It was one of the most life-affirming, inspiring and invigorating nights I have ever experienced.

On that night last year, we surprised Yarden with t-shirts.



The entire yishuv (neighborhood) came out for a kick-off party,



and then a bunch of us were there at 5:30 in the morning to greet him when he finished.

We got updates through the night from his crew about where he was, how he was doing, and what the crew was eating next. We got to laugh and enjoy and watch Yarden ride his heart out for the love of his wife.

And we got to see this:


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

So, when Yarden told us last month that he "had an idea" again, we both leaned forward in our chairs and said, "Hit it."

And he explained that, come November 9th 2012, he will be biking from Mount Hermon in the North of Israel all the way home, 260 km. His goal is to go, as he explains on his blog, "from the highest point in Israel to the lowest point in the world and then back up to the second highest spot in Israel."

And he's inviting all of us to participate again.

There is something overwhelmingly therapeutic about being able to put our energy towards a task; about having something fun and exhilarating to look forward to and about watching the process unfold.

Everyone wants to know how they can help the Frankls - how they can help Stella. The best way to do so right now is to donate with this link. Yarden is taking on this challenge as a way to raise money for Shaare Zedek, the hospital where Stella has received all of her treatments to date, and to which she is returning now for weekly treatments.

Sitting with her last week for the first of her new chemo treatments, I was struck by so many things in the cancer ward. The age range in the day ward is astounding - there are so many young people there; so many faces that have been through hell at an age when they should be getting married, having children and enjoying life.

As Yarden always says, "The cancer business is booming" and it needs our support. All of the money that Yarden raises from this ride is going to the cancer ward at Shaare Zedek to help patients like Stella and to ensure that they continue getting the best care possible.

There are so many beautiful ways that people have expressed, and continue to express, their love for the Frankls. Challah has been made around the world, groups have gone to the Kotel and to Kever Rachel together, baked goods have been made by the truck loads (none needed right now), evenings of simcha have been enjoyed, emails have been written to them and more.

Now, it's time to show them that we love them with donations to Shaare Zedek.

Stella is fighting like hell; Yarden is training like hell; and we can all do our part to show them that we've got their back and that we are standing there with them every step of the way.

Ride on Yarden...ride on!