Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Wonders of a Wood Workshop

When we first moved to Gush Etzion, one of my friends in Jerusalem declared, “What are you going to do out there in the boondocks? There is nothing to do there.”

In the 12 years that we’ve lived here, we’ve been amazed at how wrong she was. Gush Etzion is growing by the day with some of the most interesting activities and amenities imaginable. While we occasionally make the news for unfortunate reasons, people who don’t live here, and aren’t privy to the magic of everyday life, probably don’t realize what a gem our area is.

At the Tzomet we’ve already been enjoying the large Rami Levi, English Cake Bakery, a clothing store, Roza and the Winery across the street. But now, with the addition of our brand new mall, we’ve got Fox, Fox Home, Greg’s, Bat Ayin, Pizza Hut and others still pouring in. This doesn’t even mention the center that is blossoming in Kfar Etzion with a delicious dairy restaurant, a large fruit and vegetable store, a Super Stocks, a Teva Naot outlet, a framing and picture place, a wine store, a Chamusia and more. The list just grows and grows.

We are thrilled with the shopping experiences, but we’ve been even more enamored by the activities that are available around us. This past Friday we discovered the newest hidden gem… The Workshop – Gush Etzion. It’s owned by Mandy and Jeremy Broder, a British-Israeli couple whose artistic creativity and attention to detail is evident at every turn.

We arrived at the Workshop expecting a fun experience for ourselves and our children ages 6-16, but we could never have imagined just how well thought-out the experience would be, or how many different new skills the kids would engage in and enjoy.

The Workshop is located in the industrial area of Rosh Tzurim (which also houses Pat Bamelach and their delicious sour-dough bread workshops). As you walk into the building, you know they are doing serious work. There are machines everywhere including table saws, power sanders, some for cutting letters out of wood, others for sanding, some for stylizing wood and much more! 

Upstairs, where we started, there is a lovely room filled with materials and a large table for workshops. Mandy and Jeremy introduced us to the various projects that we could create including a Shabbat table salt holder and a seven piece wood project with the 7 species of Eretz Yisrael displayed on it for hanging in the house and the sukkah. We chose to take on this family project.

Over the course of the next two plus hours, my kids used their hands and their minds to create beautiful products. They were each given a piece of wood that would represent one of the seven species. Jeremy explained wood grains and discussed what type of wood every piece was. We each thoroughly sanded our pieces and our letters by hand. 

Then, we used a machine (with safety goggles) to rib the edges and a cool laser guided drill to make the holes we needed to connect the seven pieces. We sanded the letters, glued them on to the wood and then learned how to varnish the piece. 

While we waited for the varnish to dry, we created bead art to connect each of the pieces, selecting our beading colors and designs and creating items to link the pieces to each other. We then picked a piece of fabric that represented the species that we had each selected and used a glue gun to connect the fabric to our wood. Finally, we connected the seven pieces together into our final product.

The entire experience felt like an occupational therapy dream. My kids used so many skills, thought processes and techniques to finish our ‘Sussman original art work’ and they were incredibly proud of themselves when it was complete.

It’s not easy to find an activity that keeps a six year old occupied, while also fully engaging teenage boys – and this makes The Workshop truly unique.

While we were waiting for each of the next steps, we were excited to see many of the amazing projects that Mandy and Jeremy are creating and to learn more about their family’s story. When not conducting workshops, they are commissioned to create challah boards, wall hangings, invitations and all sorts of other Judaica from wood.

They are truly magical people – and their studio is a haven for those who want to use their talents (even if they don’t realize they have any) and their creativity in new and imaginative ways.
Another brilliant gem in Gush Etzion.

And our friends who thoughts we lived in the boondocks? They joined us a decade ago as well.

For more information about The Workshop, visit Mandy Broder’s Facebook page or that of The Workshop.  Her email is and she is happy to Whatsapp with people at +972546785813.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Our Modern Day Rock Stars Have Arrived

Last week, my supervisor and I were discussing the upcoming Nefesh B'Nefesh flight arrival and our plans to attend. We were sharing a sense of wonder at the indescribable nature of the experience and the Aliyah process. In what other country in the world do people wake up at 5:00 in the morning to scream and yell for new arrivals? Where in the world do you see people shrieking for others, dancing together and waving flags to welcome new immigrants to their country? Often times, the people in attendance haven't come to greet a particular Oleh (new immigrant), but rather just to soak up the ambiance, to strengthen their feelings of Zionism and maybe (like me) to have a good cry.

The experience is incredible. Here, I've tried to capture just a few moments of the last 24 hours through video. And what occurred in the last 24 hours? 233 brave North Americans made Aliyah on Nefesh B'Nefesh's 54th chartered flight. They included 75 who are enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces, 6 volunteers for National Service, 24 families with 78 children and 24 singles. The oldest Oleh who got on that plane and left the comforts of the familiar behind was 85. The youngest? 3.5 weeks. They came to be part of something larger than they are - to make their mark on our soil, in our Homeland, among our people.

Upon their arrival, they were treated like modern day rock stars. As it should be. Catch a glimpse here, enjoy, and join us.

Here is a video from Nefesh B'Nefesh from JFK yesterday, as the soon-to-be-Olim and those sending them off sang Hatikva together.

Here we are, after waking up at 4:30am this morning, getting ready for the arrival of the Olim. Look at how festive this room was for them!

And here come the rock stars!

Welcome New Olim!

Monday, August 01, 2016

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Last night as I was bringing something to the car, I tripped on the curb and watched, in slow motion, as my ankle twisted completely around. I knew it was bad as soon as I did it, and I collapsed into the car. Josh was out with our oldest so I yelled to one of the little guys to get Yehuda. He was terrific, asking what he could do and trying to get me into the house; but the kids got to watch, instead, as mom passed out from pain on the cold, hard sidewalk.

Sometimes life is grand.

When I felt like I would be able to get to the couch in the house, I had Yehuda help me up and we made it inside. Falling onto the couch, I said to the younger boys, “I need ice. Right now. Someone get ice for my ankle.”

And then the fun began. Even when you’re in pain and trying not to throw up, it’s nice to have a sense of humor. Now, keep in mind that my kids are completely bilingual, but there are always gaps in the words they know in each language.

“Vat’s an ankle?” I hear from my 7 year old.

“Just get the ice!”

My 11 year old heads to the freezer and as he collects the ice I hear, again, “Which one is the ankle? Is that this?” he says pointing to his elbow.

“No! Just get the ice."

“Is it this?” he continues as he points to his knee.

“For the love of Gd, would you please just…get…me…ice.”

The 5 year old comes over with the ice and places it on my knee. 

“No,” I say, trying to stay calm and vacillating between pain and laughter, “My ankle. My ankle.”

And then the 9 year old joins in, “What’s an ankle?”

Finally, my 14 year old has had enough. “Guys! This is an ankle! An ankle! Would you just be quiet and give mommy the ice already??”

“Oh!” they all say almost simultaneously, pointing to their feet. 

“Dat’s the ankle. Right.”

“The ice! The ice!” I’m still yelling. “Give me the ice!”

And that folks, is a glimpse into our house with the life of an injured mom raising six mostly-bilingual kids, four of whom learned the word "ankle" in English for the first time last night.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.