Thursday, October 29, 2009

Once again...

For the third time since making Aliyah I have been hit hard by sickness. This time its some sort of flu/cold. The last 24 have been horrible, and while I still sound pretty bad, at least I am out of bed and semi-coherent. Being sick with a baby is one of the worst things, but it helps to have a willing husband around. Hes been letting me sleep, just to wake me up to feed her and help her go to sleep when he cant do it. I am getting pretty frustrated by this whole being sick constantly thing, and I hope that my body gets up to speed soon enough. I am also praying that Maya doesnt get too sick.

In good news, yesterday it rained! We are in the midst of a major drought here in Israel, and while there is no way that it will rain enough to help us out of that, every little bit counts. Its still been feeling like summer (in the high 80s during the day) so its also nice to have a little of that fall feeling. Last night we also had a pretty major thunder storm. As a kid I remember being so scared of thunder and lightening... but last night I barely even noticed it. Well thats not true... after the first big flash of light (What was that!!!!) and then realizing it was only lightening, I ignored it.

The one thing I miss about living in the states (besides my family) is the fall season. It was always my favorite time of year, bundling up against the little cold that California offers... even that seems frigid compared to the weather we have had so far this year. Heres to more rain and better (real) fall weather

Monday, October 26, 2009

As I have mentioned before, I am taking the second level of ulpan. Since we dont live in a place with many immigrants (at least non-Ethiopian immigrants- they get their own ulpans), there are only two levels offered. Thus the class I am taking, while supposed to be "bet" is really a combination of all levels above the first. Since I never really finished the first level, this has made it hard to catch up. I feel comfortable in class, but I know that the level is really slightly above where I should be if I really want to learn.

Last night class was crazy. We had a sudden influx of new Russian students, and a lot of them took cell phone calls, talked in Russian and totally ignored the teacher. After class the teacher pulled me aside and said that she knew I really wanted to learn, but thought that I could use some help. She gave me a workbook to use that is more on my level, and told me to do the exercises, then come show her and ask when I need help. I was floored and so thankful! She wouldnt take any payment for the book (or the extra time, but since I also have Yehi I promised not to take up too much of her extra time). It was nice to know that she really wants to help me learn.

It is still strange to me to be learning a language to use in daily life. Most of my previous experience has been with Latin and ancient Greek, neither of which are actively spoken. I am trying to keep up my motivation without grades or tests, and keep reminding myself that my tests are really in every conversation I have with my mother-in-law or in the grocery store. I know that I rely on Yehi and his perfect hebrew too much, but right now I just dont have the vocabulary to go some places... I will have to get over that fear once Yehi gets back to work

My goal is to be relatively fluent in two years- at least to the point where I can understand the news and tv shows and most of daily life... I was told this is a possible goal- seems so far away, but I am working on it. Language is so important, and I hate feeling one step behind everyone else... or like people are talking to a first grader. Oh the joys of living in a foreign country...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ami and Yochi's wedding

Some days its hard to remember that I am a new immigrant, then something happens to make it glaringly obvious that I am American at heart. Its an interesting mix. Since Yehi is Israeli, and his whole family is here, I often find myself in situations that seem so familiar, yet so different. My brother in law got married last night, and it was a great event. As far as the ceremony and celebration go, it was about as different from our wedding as you can get. We had matching groomsmen and bridesmaids, Ami's brothers wore jeans and whatever new shirt they wanted. We marched down the aisle to "Jersualem of Gold" (no lyrics of course) and Ami and Yochi marched down to Eyal Golan songs. We had 250 people at our wedding, they had close to 700. In the end though, the joy of the wedding reminded me of ours, and it made me so thankful for my dear husband (and for a wedding that was much more my style!)

I still find certain aspects of Israeli weddings strange. Hiring professional dancers to dance on stages dressed up as mermaids for instance... the lack of slow songs I will never understand (especially when half your audience is over 50... do they really want to rock out to that music? maybe israelis are just cooler than americans.). The lack of attention to the actual ceremony, and the focus on the party still bothers me occasionally...

Even with all that, there will always be things that amaze me about Israeli weddings. i find the fireworks (inside and outside) amazing, the pure joy in the dancing, the way Israelis celebrate like this really is the BEST moment they will EVER have in their lives... its inspiring to be a part of that. They really know how to throw their whole hearts and souls into being thankful for the very moment they are in, and I hope that is something I can learn.

After the wedding, religious Jews have a week of party dinners (sheva brachot). We had one tonight with them, and it was nice to be able to celebrate their union in a slightly more personal way. I am happy to have gained a new sister in law, and even happier that the craziness leading up to the wedding is past us. maybe now we can actually figure out some sort of schedule.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Thursday was Yehi's brothers henna. It took place in Kiryat Shmona, up on the northen border of Israel. Yehis mom rented a bus to make the 3+ hour drive. It was smaller than our henna, since they will (obviously) also be having the wedding here in Israel. It was a fun night overall...

We drove back Thursday night (early Friday morning), but Ami stayed in the north. On his way back Friday morning he got a call from his fiance... apparently she fell and.. broke her arm. She spent the day in the hospital, and now has a cast. This has cause a lot of craziness, since the wedding is on Tuesday. In religious Judaism, before a wedding a woman has to go to a Mikvah, where she immerses in a pool of water. Since Ami's fiance is now wearing a cast, she cant go into the water... and according to religious Judaism this means she cant get married. So after a lot of debate with the Rabbi's, it was agreed that they would get married, as long as they made sure Yochi went to the mikvah as soon as possible...

Even more than that... now Yehis mom is convinced that someone has trained the evil eye on us (set? put? what exactly is the verb with that). As such, she is now sewing hamsas onto all of Maya's clothing to protect her... and is upset that we havent already done so. slight cultural differences... its been an interesting week, and the wedding stands to be just as memorable.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cultural Changes

After a two week break I am back to Ulpan... which always leads to some interesting moments. My teacher is a religious Jew, and the other women in the class are anti-religious. This last class we read an article on how modern society has helped religious women... especially Muslim women. It was an interesting discussion on when girls should be able to get married (the legal age in Israel is 17) or what the laws should be about divorce rights. The bigger question of course is whether or not a country's laws actually have any effect on religious laws, or if they should. For instance, although the legal age for a girl to get married is 17, some Muslims will marry before that age, but not report it to the authorities until after. Has this actually improved the status of that girl at all?

Its still hard to have these kinds of discussions in hebrew, when I can't properly explain my views. The good news is that the other students struggle almost as much as I do, so at least its an even playing ground. I have learned a lot, and I enjoy the classes.

In other news... tomorrow is Ami's henna. Should be interesting, though its going to be a really long day. His fiance is from the VERY north of Israel, which is something like a 3 hour drive. Due to circumstances beyond my control we are going up there and coming back in the same day... Im excited for the event, but not so excited about the trip with a baby. Heres hoping that she sleeps most of the way! The wedding is next week, and closer to us, and that will be exciting. My mom bought the baby a BEAUTIFUL dress, and I am excited about the chance to dress her up... its all about the little things.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sometimes life here just seems surreal. There were multiple news headlines in the last couple days that gave me pause, and made me wonder what exactly people are thinking.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Palestinians living in Gaza are upset at the Hamas government for owing them money... for "investing" in the illegal tunnels running out of Gaza. Seriously... these locals are upset because they gave money to the government to dig illegal tunnels to smuggle in goods and arms, and since these tunnels have been destroyed by Israel, they want their money back. Hamas has so far repaid 16.5% of the investments. So Hamas is admitting to turning to the public (through the use of imams apparently) to dig illegal tunnels through which to smuggle things... what an investment.

Obama wins the nobel peace prize- really? Even if you are an Obama fan... what exactly has he done? What has he had time to do? Hes not exactly Gandhi or Mother Theresa... I was watching a news clip from the states, where a political analyst commented that they only gave Obama the Nobel because the European Union is excited that the US has a weak leader. Now isnt that something to be proud of...

Sometimes living here in the Middle East seems surreal. Sometimes it is so much like the states, and other times I read the news about the conflict and wonder what exactly I got myself into... Life has been quiet here, besides the news headlines... but so far nothing to affect us personally. Lets hope it stays that way for now

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

shiny new things

We bought a car! The biggest purchase we've ever made... We lasted a month and a half without a car... in the city itself we are fine, but with the baby taking the bus has become much harder. A car will help get groceries and do our farther traveling. I still plan to walk as much as possible because I like the time to myself and with the baby... but it will be so nice to not have to worry about how to get places.

I also received a care package from my parents! There is seriously nothing better than getting personal mail. It makes one feel loved and special.

Maya has started to mimic people, making the same noises we make back at us. She is consistently rolling from her back to her front, and it is impossible to leave her alone even for a second. Yesterday, for the first time, she tried to crawl! She shoved her legs under her and pushed forward... but pushed her head right into the ground instead. She still hasn't learned to sit up unassisted (and in fact doesn't seem the least bit interested), but she is still trying to crawl. Its amazing to watch her.

Other than that its been a quiet week, just enjoying sukkot and gearing up for Ami's wedding. Yehi had an interview yesterday, so hopefully we will hear the results of that soon. I am still waiting to get into some sort of daily schedule!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

אנחנו מאמינים

When I first arrived in Israel, I fell in love with a type of music called "mizrachi" music. The tunes were so middle eastern, yet the lyrics reminded me of my beloved country music in the states. Mizrachi music stems from Jews who come from the middle east- Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, etc. Much to my sadness I discovered that not many people seem to understand my love of this type of music (same with country music sadly!), but luckily I married into a sephardic family, who while they think I'm pretty funny for liking it, can somewhat understand the attraction.

Last night my wonderful husband got us tickets to see Kobi Peretz, one of these mizrachi singers I am so in love with. The concert was in Beer Sheva, right across the street from the place we first met. We ended up going with some of his cousins... and it was quite the experience! Kobi Peretz tens to attract a certain kind of crowd- 20 somethings in skimpy clothes, and others who wish they were 20 something, also dressed in skimpy clothes. This to me is what makes the rest of the concert so interesting, and such an only in israel moment

The first half of the concert was typical mizrachi dance music. After about an hour, Kobi Peretz called out another famous mizrachi singer, put on a kippah, and broke into renditions of famous psalms. Now in the states I cant imagine this going over very well, but here in Israel everyone just kind of went along. After another half hour so, Kobi Peretz broke into one of his most famous songs, "You Are Like Fire". Part way through the song it changes into "אנחנו מאמינים"- we are believers.

אנחנו מאמינים is a chant from the midrash, which has become a song favored by religious groups here in Israel. The lyrics can be translated as "We are believers, children of believers, and we have no one else to rely on but our father in heaven".

So once again a famous singer has broken into his concert with a religious tone... and how does this mostly secular crowd respond? They LOVED IT. As Kobi Peretz went back and forth between "You Are Like Fire" and "We are believers" the crowd jumped and sang and screamed and begged for more. It was amazing, and for the first time since I made Aliyah I really felt a part of it- of something bigger than myself in this tiny country lost in the middle east. The Gilad Shalit video had left me depressed, but this concert lifted my spirits- after all, we are all believers in this crazy little country we live in.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Parents Pain

1, 195 days. To those of us living our lives in relative peace, the last 1, 195 days have gone by rather quickly. For me personally they have been a time of blessing and love. In the past 1, 195 days I have gotten married, worked at a job I loved, had a beautiful daughter and moved countries (B"H). There have been good days and bad days, but they have been MY days.

Today Gilad Shalit has been in captivity 1, 195 days. In that time his parents have been praying for him to come home, for proof that he is still able to come home, any word. Two years ago they got a recorded message, devoid of any real message. Today they get a two and half minute video tape, proving, that as of September 14th, their son was still alive.

I cant even begin to imagine that I know their pain, or what they are feeling. I know that watching the media mob Gilad's grandfather as he entered the family's house made me hold my daughter a little tighter, that watching the Palestinians celebrate the release of the 20 (+) female prisoners from Israeli prisions made me scared for the type of future my daughter will see, and that just thinking of Gilad's parents at this moment, on the eve of a joyous Holiday- Sukkot- seeing their son for the first time in 1,195+ days, with still no concrete hope of him coming home, made me cry.

I cannot begin to argue the sides. Is it the responsibility of the Palestinians to provide "proof of life"? If not, is it right that Israel set a presedence by releasing prisoners? What is the cost Israel should give to release Gilad after 3+ years? What does this say about future kidnapped Israelis- will their chance of survival increase if Hamas knows they can get exchanges for them? Or is it worse that the Israeli population-military and civilian- is more in danger from this exchange?

We dont really know. On this eve of sukkot, as we celebrate, think of the Shalit family. Send your prayers and wishes their way, and be thankful that your days are your own, as much as anyones can be. My heart breaks for the family, and the possible futures I see for my new state. May we all be blessed with peace this year and the ones to come.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The joys of being sick

Yom Kippur has come and gone, and another new year is upon us. I managed to get to services on erev Yom Kippur, but had to leave early because baby wasnt feeling well. She had been running a slight fever from her shots on Friday, and while the fever had pretty much gone, she was still cranky. During the day on Yom Kippur we stayed at home mostly. Baby decided she didnt want a bottle, and only wanted to breastfeed, which made fasting hard... but still a billion times easier than last year!

I thought I was in the clear at the end of the fast, it seemed so easy in comparison to others. That night I got a headache that wouldn't go away... and didn't for two days. It all came to a head last night when I started running a 101 degree fever, aches, chills the whole 9 yards. Managed to suffer through the night and go to the doctor today- turns out I have some sort of throat infection. Who knows where it started, I just hope it leaves soon. Its really hard to be sick with a baby. I dont have the strength to lull her to sleep or the patience to help her sooth herself. Its been a real wake up call for me.

Besides the whole being sick thing, we are getting ready for Sukkot. Not long after sukkot is Yehis brothers wedding, so things are kind of in a mad dash already. Ive got some friends from college coming by in a week or so, who are here studying for the year. I am taking things step by step... being sick in a foreign country is hard, but if I can get through this, everything will be easier!