Saturday, May 17, 2014

Trying on Hats...Sussman Boy Style

On Friday, we took a family day and went to Jerusalem with five of the six boys. Yakir needed to keep his school safe from lions, elephants and butterflies - so we decided not to risk having the school unprotected.

But the other five enjoyed a day of fun and adventure at the shuk (open marketplace) downtown. We wandered around, bought fruit and vegetables and ate at everyone's favorite fish and chips restaurant.

Photo: Shuk with the dudes...time for fish and chips!

But the best part of the trip was my attempt to buy a few scarves. When we went into the hat store, I ignored the kids for a bit while I quickly tried to make decisions. I know that bored boys and a store are never a good mix. But little did I realize just how much fun the boys were having while I was trying on scarves and making decisions.

Amichai captured it all with the camera that he totes around everywhere these days. Yes, many of these are a bit blurry (kid needs a better camera). But you get the idea. Here is what happens when you put five boys in a hat store for more than a few seconds: Enjoy.


Yes, folks...that's underwear on the head

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Yom Kippur Breakfast Anyone?

There are so many small cultural differences that you learn about when you move somewhere new. Years ago, we had an Israeli family that came to Potomac to work for a few years. They lived in our collection of townhouses and we grew very close to them.

For years, we hosted a large break-fast when Yom Kippur ended. We had many people from the community and we enjoyed breaking bread together.

One year,  right after this family, Itay and Ronit, moved in, I was walking to shul on Yom Kippur morning when I saw Itay. I realized that I hadn't invited them to the break-fast and I said, 

"Do you guys want to come to breakfast?" 
"Breakfast," he replied. "Ha ha. That's a good one."
"Yeah, we do it every year and it's a lot of fun. Come over later."

And then I went to shul. Little did I realize that he was horrified. He said to his wife, "What kind of religious Jews invite us to breakfast on Yom Kippur? Who has the chutzpah to go to shul and pretend to be so religious and then to invite us to eat with them after shul?" He thought that I was inviting him to BREAKFAST on Yom Kippur and he couldn't figure out what to make of us or of the community where he had landed.

Apparently Israelis don't really do break-fast together. They finish the fast, eat something small and go to sleep. So when I invited him to break-fast there were two mis-communications. First the language was an issue and he heard breakfast instead of break-fast. And secondly, it wasn't in his cultural understanding to think we were inviting them to a break-fast.

That evening, when our house was full and food was overflowing, we realized that our new Israeli friends hadn't arrived. Josh went over to ask them what they were doing and to make sure they were coming. They were in their pajamas and completely bewildered. "We thought you invited us to breakfast! And we obviously weren't coming to you for that!" they said.

And so this story has become a big joke between us. And a complete cultural mis-communication.

When we arrived in Israel and headed towards Yom Ha'aztmaut, Israel Independence Day, for the first time, a family invited us for a barbecue. We already had plans for our own barbecue in the afternoon and I explained to them that we couldn't come. She said, "You have plans at night already?" And I said, "At night? What do you mean? At night there is a program and performance in the yishuv and then we all go to bed don't we?"

And they had a good laugh over that.

Because now, as a seasoned Israeli, I know that Yom Ha'azmaut is a time to party! After the program in the evening, everyone goes home for a festive meal. Some people invite large groups of people over, while some just have a meal with their immediate family. But everyone eats a celebratory meal and most people include a grill in the process.

So now, as Independence Day approached this year, I was prepared. I knew to take a nap in the afternoon and to be well rested to stay up until at least midnight. And, my two oldest kids collected money from their friends and prepared plans to make their own fires and to grill out together. My second son's barbecue ended up not going as planned, and we moved the festivities to our house where the boys ate meat, played basketball and had fun until midnight.

And my oldest son? Well, we aren't going to discuss when he came in. That would show how truly Israeli I've become.

I didn't capture a picture from last night's fun, but here are all the boys at our barbecue today, including celebrating Matan's birthday tonight and tomorrow.

Happy 66 Israel! Happy 14 Matan!

Here's to a beautiful year ahead for Israel, for Matan as he graduates from 8th grade and sets out on a new adventure, and for us as we reach our ten year anniversary in Israel (our aliyaversary) and continue to take baby steps to fit in each day!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

The Place That Makes You Cry

Every year right before Yom Hazikaron (Israel Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), a large group of seminary girls (post-high school girls) come to the Yishuv. They come for a Zionist weekend, of sorts, to hear from those who live in Neve Daniel about why we love Israel, why we moved here and why we are staying.

And I have had the honor for many years now of sitting on a panel of professional women who discuss their lives as working Anglo moms in Israel. This year, I managed to solidify my thoughts quite cogently. When asked to answer the question, “What inspired you to come to Israel? Why did you make Aliyah?” this is what I had to say:

“Josh and I started talking about Aliyah when our first two children were very young. And one day he came home with a book by Daniel Gordis called If A Place Can Make You Cry. And I knew that I was about to be put over the edge towards Aliyah. Because that, really, is what life is about. You have to ask yourself what makes you cry. What pulls at your heartstrings? What makes you teary eyed for happy and sad occasions? And I’ve realized over time that the blog that I keep is really centered on this theme. When I go to my child’s nursery school Chanukah performance, I find myself hiding my face. Is everyone else crying as I am? I cry watching my son speak fluently in the language of our people; I cry watching the kids wave Israeli flags and sing songs in Hebrew.”

I said to them, as I’ve written many times on this blog, “that if fireworks can make you cry, then you know you’re in the right place. Do you girls cry when you see the 4th of July fireworks? America is a fantastic country and one to which I will always be grateful, but do the fireworks there make you cry? And do you cry on Memorial Day (that got a laugh) or do you go to the mall?”

“And this, truly,” I explained, “is what life is about. Life is about making you feel poignantly and passionately and constantly. It’s about being in a place that the Jewish people have pined for and loved for two thousand years and have finally been able to return to. It’s about being in the place where the Jews have never ceased to pray and hope for their return.”


And so tonight, as we started Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), I’ve had plenty of opportunity to cry. As the holiday was about to start, Nefesh B’Nefesh unveiled their latest, absolutely glorious video featuring 66 heroes of Israel. Yes, you might recognize some little guys in the video (including the lion-fighting one), but the video is incredible even without my kids. What a testament to Israel’s past, present and future; what a visual display of our resilience, our diversity and our destiny. Watch, as you think about all of the soldiers and citizens who have fallen so that we may have a country and continue to live here; watch as we head, tomorrow night, into the celebration of our 66th year as a nation.

And cry alongside me.

Because you know that’s what I’m doing.