Saturday, August 30, 2014

Flying Off to the Next Adventure

When I think about my first born son, I remember the days when he was first born, and the adorable froggy outfit that we borrowed from friends.

I remember each milestone, each moment when he sat up, smiled, rode a bike, ate sushi (yep, that's true), and played with his new brother, Yehuda.

And if you asked me to picture Matan, in my mind, I might have a picture that looks like this

or this

or this.

What I wouldn't have, however, is the picture of this....

And I certainly wouldn't think about this:

Because to me, my 14 year old is still a little guy. He was my first grand baby love, the one who taught me how to be a mom. And he continues to teach me so much each and every day.

And tomorrow, he leaves for high school. It's hard to explain to people abroad what the Israeli high school system is like. The boys learn a great deal in high school and their days are quite long. Some boys return home each night after their learning, but they often do so at 7 or 8 at night. For this reason, and for many others, many boys and their families choose to have them attend sleep-in schools. Now, these schools could be as close as the next town over, or as far as a few hours away. The idea isn't to send them far away, but to send them to a nurturing location that will help them to grow and learn; the school that is best for each child.

We wrestled a lot with where to send Matan, and Sussya was an obvious choice for us. It's not easy to think of him being away all week and returning home for Shabbat (and often on Tuesday afternoons) but we have watched other boys who have graduated from the school and we've marvelled at how the school has tranformed them.

The school has four main programs: The Beit Midrash Study Program where they continue their connection to holy texts and to their studies; the Environmental Courtyard where they learn about development, reconstruction and restoration; Social Involvement where they do chesed (acts of kindness) and Environmental Studies.

As we were discussing Matan's options, I told him that it's not often that parents say to a kid "Please go somewhere to school where you won't have to only pour your heart out all day over books! We want you in an environment that will develop your character, take you hiking the Land and expose you to so many other aspects of the world."

And he listened.

So now, the consequences of this choice is that we are taking him to school tomorrow. And my heart breaks a little bit just thinking about it. I'm so excited for him. And at the same time, it's going to be a major change in our family, in our interactions and in our time that we spend with him.

And we have to hope and pray, as have parents since the beginning of time, that we've given him the tools he needs to continue growing; that we've helped him to develop the wings with which he will fly to this next adventure.

Fly away my first born - but know the nest is always, always here for you when you return.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hummus, Smiles and Donations

We've been watching the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with interest. At first, it appeared to be frustrating. Why was it created so that people could EITHER pour freezing cold water on their heads or actually make a donation? Why not do both? People do appear to have caught on to the idea of doing both, which has been nice to see. And the ALS Association has had an astounding response.

Then, we saw another challenge that was even closer to our hearts. A few adorable soldiers got together to create the Hamas vs. Hummus challenge. And this we truly couldn't resist. What could be better than smearing hummus all over our faces AND donating money to the Friends of the IDF to help soldiers who have been working night and day to protect us?

Here is the original video:

So when my father challenged us on Thursday, we decided that we would do something creative. We would combine the two, and make donations both to ALS research and to our soldiers. Here is the result:

It's been a long, difficult summer. If we can get our kids to smile for a few minutes of hummus fun, while donating money to the much deserved organizations, then we have certainly fulfilled our job for the day.

Hummus faces!

What about you?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Welcome Home Guys

Sometimes I wonder if my blog should be renamed "Tears in Israel." 

Sometimes I write about happy tears. Other times they are sad or angry tears, but I seem to mention tears a great deal in my blogs. 

What can I say.

Last week I was in the grocery store catching up with another mom. She was away for a few weeks and I was describing what the summer has been like for us..the war..the soldiers..the fears...etc. And I started to tear up, as usual.

And she said, "Are you crying?"

And I almost laughed. Um, yeah. Of course I'm crying, I thought to myself. I guess you don't know me too well. Because if I'm going to talk about our soldiers, and our summer and our war - you bet I'm going to start tearing up. That's kind of what I do.

So, it should come as no surprise that I'm sitting at my desk at work crying, because I opened up Facebook to check on the recent Nefesh B'Nefesh flight update from this morning. Thought I might catch an update from Josh, or see some pictures of the Olim.

But instead, I saw this.

My tears are flowing. They are flowing because we've been feeling quite alone here in our little country that is constantly under attack. And they're flowing because we've been watching the Jews get beaten in Paris, and shot and killed on the way to shul in Florida, and banned from Bradford West in England

And then, this morning, 125 kids picked up from their lives in North America and came to join us. And they aren't just joining us in our towns and cities around Israel (which is awesome in and of itself) but they are filling the ranks in our army. They are planning to help keep us safe and to be on the front line.

Welcome home guys.

You have a place in our house any day of the week. (Seriously. We have a guest room and six boys who would love to hug you.)

We are beyond thrilled to have you. 

Gotta go now and find a tissue....

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Sound of Laughter in Jerusalem

Culture is alive and well in Jerusalem. Well, I'm assuming that it's always been alive and well and that perhaps I'm the one who's coming out of her shell. Raising kids and changing diapers for 14 years straight has a way of keeping you from too many night-time cultural activities. But lately, we've decided that we need to take the older kids (and the younger ones when appropriate) to cultural events.

And so, when the Theater in the Rough advertised their series of programs in the Bloomfield Gardens behind the King David Hotel, we were determined to find the time to go. This theater troupe is completely volunteer and the shows are free of charge with a suggested donation. 

We told Matan and Yehuda that we were taking them for some culture tonight to see a Midsummer Night's Dream and we spent the car ride explaining who Shakespeare was and giving a brief synopsis of hundreds of years of culture and history. No problem. I put my teacher hat back on (boy do I miss that one some days!) and explained the Globe Theater, comedies versus tragedies, British culture, etc etc etc. The kids were excited, but unsure about what would unfold.

Had to eat that sushi quickly before we were up and running!

And it was more exciting than even I expected. I've been to outdoor Shakespeare performances in Ashland, Oregon, in Edinburgh, Scotland (where they just threw all Israeli performers out of the Fringe Festival..but that's another story), in New York and in other locations. But there is something about enjoying the performance with the backdrop of the Old City walls looming behind the 'stage', and the heartbeat of Jerusalem that simply can't be matched.

The show was fantastically performed and hysterically adapted. The actors were excellent and the plot line was easy to follow - even for my completely Israeli, Shakespeare-unschooled kids who laughed at all the right times and really seemed to 'get it'. We enjoyed the first scene but weren't sure if the actors were going to be moving about - or if we were. So we were a bit surprised the first time that the actors yelled "Location location location" and signaled for all of us to move.

And so we charged, 7 or 8 times from location to location, grabbing our chairs and our drinks and running ahead to see the next scene. We were giggling as we ran through the large grassy area, looking to see where we would next settle.

As the director, Beth Steinberg, said in her introduction "During this long and terrible summer, I've been grateful for the gift of theater. For coming together 3-4 nights a week to rehearse. For talk about love and yearning, faeries and lovers, of missed and found opportunities."

It's been awhile since we've laughed. Since we've giggled and had belly laughs. Tonight, the Theater in the Rough offered us a beautiful gift that I hope others will relish as much as we did. The play will be shown next week and the week after at 5:30 pm most nights. And if you aren't in town and can't catch it this year - make sure to be part of the fun next year and to make a much-deserved donation to this wonderful group.

Because Jerusalem needs the sound of laughter again and the cultural opportunities that such an experience affords.