Sunday, October 10, 2010


When we brought in three days worth of mail after Shemini Atzeres (more commonly referred to as "the last days of Succos"), the piece that received the most attention was the 17-page full-color brochure from Liberty Mountain Ski Resort. It was only October 2 but my kids practically had their boots on and their equipment waxed. That got me thinking about more than just the sharp drop in temperatures that we experienced over the holiday.

Anyone who speaks ski-language knows that “après-ski” is regarded by some to be as fun as the sport itself. It’s about relaxing after a long, exhilarating day on the slopes, sharing stories of moguls, jumps, weather conditions, etc. and planning tomorrow’s runs. There’s an analogy in there, I think, to the days that follow a nearly month-long High Holiday/Succos season. Although we’re now back to work and school and such, the excitement of the last few weeks lives on in stories shared of shofars blown, succahs built and decorated, endless holiday feasts prepared and consumed – and, yes, even weather conditions. But while après-ski can remedy a lousy day on the slopes, “après-chag” (after the holiday) can only be as good as the chag itself. Thus, the best après-chag has to be one that follows Succos celebrated in Israel.

If you haven’t been there for the holiday, you don’t know what you’re missing. Imagine a Succah (ours) with one full wall “decorated” by the sun setting behind the Jerusalem hills (above photo). We had a succah for eating and one just for sleeping. Our s’chach (the roof of the succah) was pruned by the Jerusalem municipality from the date palms in the neighbor-
hood and left on the sidewalks, free for the taking. There are succahs everywhere. At the zoo, at the mall, in the parks… We were even invited - along with the rest of the country - to a photo op with the President and First Lady of Israel in their succah in Jerusalem. Sadly, that former president proceeded to fall out of the good graces of his countrymen and the Jewish nation at large so instead of the photo, here's a copy of the memento we received during our visit:
Loosely translated, it explains that the invitation for every Israeli to visit the President's succah is a symbol and expression of the brotherhood associated with the "aliyah la'regel" - the thrice-yearly visit to Jerusalem that has been a Jewish tradition for about 3,000 years.

A chol hamoed (mid-holiday) trip to Neot Kedumim, the beautiful Biblical Landscape Reserve, is a Succos must-do. The park celebrates the chag with more than 20 succahs of ordinary and unusual shapes, sizes and construction materials, complete with Mishnaic quotes explaining why each succah is or is not kosher. Lush esrog (citron) orchards and outdoor Succos-themed performances enhance the holiday spirit. Succos in Israel. Gosh, I miss it.

I can't end this blog post without mentioning my childhood succah - even though it was not in Israel. If any holiday could be called my father's favorite, it would have to be Succos. Daddy, a"h, decorated his succah with love, devotion and great attention to detail. This photo of him in his succah (with my mother, tbl"ch, and some other family members) was featured one year on the front page of the local newspaper. It is surely no coincidence that my brothers said their last kaddish for Daddy on erev (the day before) Succos. I have no doubt that as the holiday began, my father entered his heavenly succah and enjoyed the chag like never before. Today is the hakomas matzeyvah (placing of the stone) at Daddy's kever (grave). His first yahrtzeit (the anniversary of his passing) falls on Shabbos, October 23. Yehi zichro baruch.

Succos is over and the month of MarCheshvan has begun. (Cheshvan is the only month of the year with no Jewish holidays which is one of the reasons it is referred to as "mar" - bitter.) But don't let that get you down. Just Remember Succos in Jerusalem and may your après-chag carry you all the way to Chanukah.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yomuledet Sameyach!

I'd hoped to get this post out earlier in the month (of Elul) but as it turns out, I'm right on time (the 26th, to be exact) to wish my son a Yomuledet Sameyach. In case you're not a Hebrew speaker, that means "Happy Birthday". If you are a Hebrew speaker but have never lived in Israel, you might be wondering why I typed "Yomuledet" instead of Yom Huledet. So I'll let you in on a little trick that'll make you sound more like a native Israeli than an immigrant. Leave the "h"- sound out of a word that's spelled with a "hey". So a Yom Huledet becomes a Yomuledet and a boy named "Yehuda" is called "Yooda". Our youngest child - and most Israeli-sounding - confirmed this fact early in our acculturation when he proudly proclaimed that his big brother was in Kitah "A" (Grade 5) which your average Hebrew speaking American would call Kitah Hey.

But let's get back to birthdays - and especially those celebrated in Israel. Little kids' birthday crowns are standard. Cake and balloons? Of course. But the cone-shaped sakiyot yomuledet (birthday baggies) filled with birthday treats and sold in Israeli supermarkets are among the cutest things I've ever seen. And I was delighted to discover that rather than gifts, Israeli kids receive brachot (blessings) from their classmates. The birthday boy sits at the front of the classroom and every child comes forward to bless him. Not with fame or fortune but with meaningful things like long life and success in his Torah studies. We're talking about 5, 6 and 7 year olds here - and they all know just what to do.

The last birthday that my Elul baby celebrated when we lived in Israel was his bar mitzvah. The festivities lasted a full two months - from his hanachat tefillin (putting on tefillin for the first time) at the Wall to the beautiful dinner for family and friends, some of whom traveled thousands of miles for the occasion. I can hardly believe that it's been eight years since then. As you turn 21, dear son, please accept your loving mother's brachot for everything your Israeli classmates would wish you - and then some.

Speaking of birthdays, we're about to celebrate the yomuledet of all yomuledets: Rosh HaShanah, the birthday of the planet we call home. I would love to describe how truly awesome the Yamim No'raim (High Holidays - literally, Days of Awe) are in Israel but the day is short, the task is great and this blogger is feeling a bit lazy (see Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, 2:20). So I'll just present you with this year's edition of my annual Rosh HaShanah poem, a tradition that began in preparation for my first Rosh HaShanah back in the States. It was a somewhat bittersweet way to Remember Jerusalem at this special time of year. (For those new to this tradition of mine, some references may not be clear but I'll be happy to explain upon request.)

Rosh Hashanah 5771
We ponder again the year in review;
what was accomplished, what's still left to do.
Looking back, we can count all the ways we've been "blest" and assess how we've scored on G-d's many tests.

What have I learned in the year that has passed?
That no two people will take the same path.
Be it highway or foot bridge, a road lies ahead.
Walk yours with G-d, King Solomon said.

Our sacred laws, beloved traditions
see us through challenges and transitions.
From day to day, from year to year
our faith and our trust calm every fear.

The years come and go in the circle game.
Events ever-changing; the cycle, the same.
Like wood being shaped by the artisan's lathe
we marvel at eych ha'galgal mistoveyv.

Yomuledet Sameyach!
Congratulations, dear Earth,
on 5771 years since your birth.
With what shall we bless you on your special day?
Global peace. Gentle weather. Prosperity...

Now the air's turning brisk; the foliage, bright.
Soon the table we'll set and the candles we'll light.
The challahs are baked; the honey dish glistens.
The shofar will blow; to its call we will listen.

Ripe pomegranates bursting with seeds
remind G-d of our merits, not our misdeeds.
The angels are ready to plead every case
to the Almighty King Whose judgment we'll face.

May He grant us good health and joy that is true,
contentment and nachas and simchas "by you".
Let this be the year that He takes our hands
and leads us back Home to our holy Land.

Now we are ready, the holiday's here.
May it be the start of a wonderful year.
As we don our finest, it is so nice to know
that for the New Year, we are all "good to go"!

May your every prayer be answered with revealed good and sweetness in 5771 and beyond - and Yomuledet Sameyach to you, whenever yours comes!

Sharon, Bill and (standing l to r) Berel, Simcha, Zevy, Shani and, the birthday boy, Yoel

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Promises Kept

Had I not promised it in my very first blog post back in November, I would definitely be skipping this month's posting and this topic. But alas, in that inaugural post on the 12th anniversary of our Aliyah (move to Israel), I said that "every day for almost six years we thanked G-d for the innumerable joys, spiritual highs and not unexpected challenges of life b'Artzeynu HaKedosha (in our holy Land). And then - poof! - we were back in Baltimore. But I’ll save that for my end-of-July post, on the anniversary of our return".

It's only July 11 but today, erev Rosh Chodesh Av (the eve of the new month of Av), is the Hebrew anniversary of our return to the States seven years ago. And what better time to ponder that extremely emotional event than as we enter into "the nine days" - from Rosh Chodesh through Tisha b'Av (the fast of the Ninth of Av) - when all of Judaism mourns our nation's exiles from Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) and the destruction of our two Batei Mikdash (holy temples) more than two thousand years ago. So I'm keeping my promise but keeping it brief. And with no photos this time.

Although I've only been blogging for eight months, it was really on that day seven years ago that I was forced to begin to Remember Jerusalem. At first it was painfully easy. Jerusalem was on my mind every waking - and often non-waking - hour of the day. The tears didn't stop for many months. I often wondered if I could be considered clinically depressed but I guess I wasn't showing enough symptoms for anyone to suggest that I be evaluated by a mental health professional.

To quote Rose Kennedy, "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."
Personally, I think time does heal wounds yet I agree with Rose that the pain is never completely gone. Kind of like a broken bone that mends but you still feel the pain when it rains.

So yes, I've come a long way in seven years. But today, metaphorically speaking, is one of those rainy days. (The actual weather forecast here is continued 90-degree temperatures without a cloud in sight...) And you know, that's a good thing. Just as I thank G-d for the years we lived in Israel, just as I thank Him for the blessings that He has showered upon us - family and friends, good health and happy occasions, a caring community and many creature comforts - in the years since we returned to Baltimore, so too I thank Him for the sadness that I still feel about being so far from Home. I don't want to forget. Ever. I don't want time to heal my wound completely. Because here's the flip side: "One who mourns Jerusalem will merit to see her happiness, as the verse (Isaiah 66:10) promises: 'Rejoice with her greatly, all who mourn for her'"—Talmud Taanit 30b.
So I'll hold on to my sadness, thank you, and to my longing, and I will wish the same for you. Whether you've lived in Israel or still do, whether you've visited many times or not even once, let's Remember Jerusalem together and, soon - very soon - may we see Yeshayahu's (the prophet Isaiah's) promise kept.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lemonade, Anyone?

I try to post to this blog once a month - ideally, around Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the Jewish month). Usually it's about something related to a holiday or special occasion taking place that month and connecting it to the six years we lived in Israel. Somehow the month of Sivan flew by before I could come up with a timely topic for Tammuz, the month that began today.

So I’m going ever so slightly off-topic to blog about...g’machim. Our sages tell us (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:2) that the world stands on three pillars – Torah, Avodah (service of G-d) and Gemillus Chassadim (acts of kindness). Gmach (spelled gimmel, mem, chet) is the Hebrew acronym for Gemillus Chassadim. G’machim is the plural. If someone offers something free of charge to benefit the public, he’s got a g’mach. Many Orthodox communities have a list of g’machim in their local community directories. There are g’machim for baby formula and bridal gowns, interest-free loans and loaner GPS’s. And I think it is safe to say that no place does g’machim the way Israel does. In Jerusalem in particular, you name it and there’s probably a g’mach for it.

When we lived there, we did what we could in the way of acts of kindness but we didn’t have a g’mach. Upon our return to the States, starting a g’mach was really the furthest thing from my mind – but it kind of just happened, as these things sometimes do. In brief, I (and my brother) live on the southern edge of our Orthodox community and our homes are among the last Orthodox outposts along the routes that most people will take if they walk to Sinai Hospital to visit someone on Shabbos or holidays. So, in the summer months, when the heat and humidity make a 45 minute walk feel like 4.5 hours, people can stop on our front porches for a cold drink and to rest their feet. We call these refreshment stands “Halfway to Sinai”. This year, we gave our g’mach a Hebrew name, Ayshel Avraham, in memory of and as a merit for our father, Avraham Shalom ben Chaim Yoel, a”h. Daddy passed away in November during the week of Parshat Vayeirah, the Torah portion which talks about the angels who came to visit Abraham when he was ill and the food that Abraham offered them (as well as his many other guests). We also provide a map with written directions on the back so that people can carry their water bottles – and whatever else they might be toting - to the hospital safely within the eruv (the legal limits of where one is permitted to carry stuff on Shabbos).

We don’t particularly want to do a brisk business - unless everyone is going to visit women who have just given birth - but even one "customer" a week (here, played by my hubby, my hero) is enough to make us feel that it’s worth the small effort. By the way, the red lemonade thermos as well as the white chairs and table that you see in the photo were all made and purchased in Israel and shlepped back with us when we returned. They just don’t make ‘em here like they do there – yes, just like my laundry rack ;-)

The three weeks beginning with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and culminating with the fast of the 9th of Av are when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and our two Holy Temples (approximately 500 years apart). The Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred among the Jews. The antidote to that tragedy and what we need in order to build the Third and Eternal Beit Hamikdash is baseless love. G’machim are some of the construction materials.

With Halfway to Sinai, my brother and I and our families are trying to do our small part to rebuild the Temple. It also helps me Remember Jerusalem and the gazillion g’machim that flourish there. Wishing you a meaningful Tammuz and a cold drink on every hot day ahead.

Monday, May 17, 2010


When the kids saw the title "Tora! Tora! Tora!" on the video we’d brought home (about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) they were initially disappointed. They’d been promised an action film but assumed that “Tora” was a shorter transliteration of “Torah” and that the film would be…well, not quite their idea of a fun Saturday night activity. We convinced them to watch the first few minutes of the movie and of course they got the action they wanted.

When we lived in Israel,the kids knew that the essence of the place really was Torah! Torah! Torah! and there was no disappointment in that. Just days after we’d settled in to our apartment in Jerusalem, we stood on the porch, five stories above a procession accompanying a Torah scroll on its delivery to the shul across the street. We watched the parade in wonder and excitement. The crowd went as far as the eye could see down the winding street that was closed to traffic. We would soon learn that this was a pretty regular occurrence throughout Jerusalem and all over the country. At a Hachnasat Sefer Torah (welcoming a new Torah) children carefully carry torches alongside a slow-moving truck adorned with a huge, brightly lit crown; its sound system blasting joyful Jewish music into the starry night. The dancing with the Torah continues into the beit knesset (synagogue) where a festive dinner is served to members of the congregation.

In the years ahead, we also discovered that the best school events are the Torah-related ones. Like when first-graders receive their first volume of Chumash (the Pentateuch) or when the older ones started studying Gemara (Talmud). Of course, these special events are celebrated in chu”l (outside the Land) as well but our sages tell us that “Ein Torah k’Torat Eretz Yisrael” - there is no Torah like the Torah studied in the Land of Israel. Indeed, there always seemed to be a unique spirit that went along with these celebrations in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular.

Even our middle child’s martial arts class was a variation on this theme. Our son belonged to Tora Dojo. Tora in Japanese means tiger (thus the title of the aforementioned film) which works well for a karate club whose members are all Torah observant. In fact, Tora Dojo was started in New York but, like everything else Jewish, it takes on a whole new dimension when practiced on holy soil. (Heh, heh - I've finally inserted a link! It only took six months and the help of my husband, my hero.)

So why all this talk about Torah? Because Shavuos is upon us (Tuesday night through Thursday evening). As we prepare to accept the Torah anew and celebrate the occasion for the 3,322nd time, I can’t help but Remember Jerusalem. “Ki m’Tzion teytzey Torah u’dvar Hashem m’Yerushalayim” – from Zion shall come forth the Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem (Michah 4:2). We have yet to see it in all its glory (may that happen speedily and in our time) but even in the meanwhile, to experience Torah! Torah! Torah! at its best, there’s no place like Home.
Chag Sameyach!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Confessions of an American Israeli Chareidi Zionist

Let’s face it. For American adults who make aliyah, once an immigrant, always an immigrant. Oh, sure, they’ll acclimate to their new surroundings and culture to one extent or another and they’ll usually find a comfortable social niche for themselves. But at the end of the day there will always be some gap between the born-there and the born-again Israeli. This is probably true of most adult immigrants from any country to any country - like my grandmother, may she rest in peace, who came to the U.S. from Poland when she was in her twenties but never lost her accent. Even as she raised a modern American family, she held on to many of her Eastern European ways for all her 84 years.

In my humble opinion, this is not a bad thing. Because whenever an immigrant does something that might seem inappropriate to his native neighbor, he can blame it on his original nationality. This little trick served us well when we lived in a predominantly Israeli chareidi (“black hat”, for lack of a better definition) neighborhood where Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) was not exactly the most celebrated date on the calendar. Of course, everyone showed up at the edge of town at night to watch the fantastic fireworks display that took place high above a nearby hill. But that was about it. I’m entirely unqualified to venture into a right/wrong/Hallel? (with a bracha or without?)/ discussion on the matter. And I'm making no attempt at political correctness so please forgive me if you find any of this offensive. Suffice it to say that we picked our neighborhood for its chareidi demographics (both American and Israeli - the differences go beyond the scope of this blog) but there were times when we had to decide whether or not to put our personal brand of nationalism first. Yom Ha’Atzmaut was a no-brainer.

We gave our kids a day off from school (yes, our boys’ schools had classes on Yom Ha’Atzmaut), put the flag on our car and were off to celebrate – whether in the city center or at a grassy park or at the home of a like-minded American in another neighborhood. I wanted my children to appreciate the day, with all its debated significance, and to know that if not for the State and the benefits it offered to olim chadashim (new immigrants), we would not have been living daily life in our holy Land.

Our very first Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel included a visit to the home of the quintessential religious Zionist, our cousin Clara – known to many as The Chicken Lady of Jerusalem. (I’m still too technologically challenged to include the appropriate links in this blog but just Google “the chicken lady of Jerusalem” and you’ll have all the links you need.) Cousin Clara passed away this year on March 26 – less than two months shy of her 100th birthday. For almost a century she lived and breathed “Israel” – from places as distant as Russia, New York and Los Angeles and, at long last, in the small apartment she and her husband merited to own in Jerusalem where she lived to see numerous great, great granchildren being raised in her beloved Land. The incredible stories she told and the patriotic songs she sang were a first-person account of Israel’s pre- and post-Independence struggles and triumphs. That visit with Cousin Clara had to be the most meaningful of all our Yom Ha’Atzmaut excursions and we will cherish the photos and videos forever. I dedicate this blogpost to the memory of Dr. Clara Hammer, a”h. (She received her honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University in 2008). Surely, her indomitable spirit is now storming the heavens, demanding Israel’s safety, security and success. May the Almighty respond with revealed good and sweetness.

Back here in chu”l (“chutz la’Aretz” – that is, outside the land of Israel), the flag that we used to put on our car now adorns the “Welcome” wall hanging in the entrance hall of our home. But once a year, it goes out for an airing. On Yom Ha’Atzmaut, it flies from our mailbox, proclaiming to all passersby that we thank the Almighty for granting Israel her Statehood as we pray that He continue to bless her inhabitants with both spiritual and material growth and accomplishment.

Fireworks, flags, friends and Cousin Clara. Just some of what comes to mind when I Remember Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Jerusalem. Happy 62nd Birthday, Israel – and Chag Sameyach to everyone celebrating along with us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

WARNING! Pre-Pesach Procrastination in Progress!

The mop, broom, rags and my brand new Hoover Windtunnel vacuum sit idly by as I try to find every possible way to avoid the inevitable Pesach preparations. Not that it’s really all that daunting anymore. The kids are no longer conspiring (or so it always seemed) to run around the house depositing cracker crumbs in every corner. Now, the boys clean the cars and the girl does much of the cooking. Bill covers the counters, kashers the sinks and scours the oven. Yet somehow it always feels like they're calmly doing their designated jobs while I’m consumed by the responsibility of overseeing the entire operation - sort of like the CEO of a major corporation. Thus, the procrastination.

So let’s see what I’ve accomplished in the last two weeks. I’ve put together a family tree of my maternal grandmother’s illustrious Chassidic lineage and I shopped for the anniversary gift that my mother-in-law had asked us to get for ourselves way back in January. I started a new part-time job that I’ve been threatening to quit since day one - but I think I’m going to hang tough and learn to love it. On Sunday, I baked a small batch of challah - yes, challah. Hey, there are still two more Shabbatot until Pesach! And, most procrastinatory (?) of all is, of course, this blogpost.

When I sit down to relax after a long, hard day of procrastination, I close my eyes and let my mind wander back to the Pesachs that we celebrated in Israel. Almost every year, my parents came for the chag (holiday) – and we, the Israelis who were obligated to have only one Seder, photographed and videoed them and the American yeshiva guys and seminary girls who were so grateful to have a place to go for their second Seder. When it was finally Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of the holiday) for all of us, we joined the rest of the country on various tiyulim (trips and hikes) all over the Land. Westward Ho! to the sand dunes of Ashdod. Eastward to Ein Bokeq - or is it Boqek? Bocake?!? That all depends on which sign you happen to see along the way. (See - a very fun blog that I would provide the link for if I could quickly figure out how.) We went South to see Machtesh Ramon (the Ramon Crater); in the North we found the rushing post-rainy-season waters of Tel Dan. Everywhere we went, we were together with the “hamone am”, the multitudes of Jews all celebrating our Holi-day in our Holy Land. Men in shtreimels, hats, kippot (“yarmulkas”), baseball caps and bare-headed; women in skirts or jeans, head scarves or wigs (or bare-headed!), all speaking in languages as familiar as Hebrew and English and as foreign as Farsi, forming mincha minyanim (afternoon prayer gatherings) in every park and parking lot as the sun began to set on another fun day spent with family, friends and our countless sisters and brothers posing as perfect strangers. On Chol Hamoed trips, we never left home without our trusty mangal, that portable mini-grill for roasting shishliks (known here as shishkebobs), onions and naknikiot (hotdogs).
As with all good fun, it was over before we knew it and we were back to the regular routines of school, work, and errands. But the photos and the memories tell the sequel to the story of the Exodus from Egypt; of our journey Home and our 3,500 year old hope for the ultimate redemption.

Ok, it's Rosh Chodesh Nisan (the first day of the new month of Nisan). Procrastination time is over...let the preparations begin! Whether you will be sitting down to one Seder or two, we’ll all be ending the evening with the very same song: “L’shanah Ha’Ba’ah b’Yerushalayim.” Next year, please G-d, may we no longer have to "Remember" Jerusalem but merit to rejoice in her rebuilding and delight in our eternal place therein…

As my Israeli kindergartener used to sing: "Simcha Rabba, Simcha Rabba, Aviv Hee'gee'ah, Pesach bah"! It loses something in the (loose) translation but basically, "Hooray, hooray, let's give a cheer! Spring's arrived and Pesach's here"! Warmest wishes for a Chodesh Tov u'Mevorach (a blessed new month) and a sweet, happy Pesach to one and all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ode to a Laundry Rack

With the month of Adar already upon us, Purim is right around the corner (Sunday, February 28), allowing me a higher level of license for levity in this post. But truth be told, this ode to my laundry rack is not entirely in jest…

Oh, Laundry Rack. Oh, Laundry Rack. You mean so much to me.
You help me hang my clothes to dry, a task most don’t envy.
But you are from the Holy Land where racks are made so well.
And so, dear rack, in this blog post, your story I will tell.

There are some wonderful Israeli products that you just can’t get here in the States. In preparation for our return to Baltimore almost seven years ago, I stocked up on neeyar afiyah (baking sheets), roasted watermelon seeds (my boys’ favorite snack) and Somo dishwashing sponges. With every visit of mine or my kids’ to Israel, we replenish our supplies of same. (We're currently out of watermelon seeds, if you happen to be heading this way...) Conveniently, these items are all lightweight and easily packable - though the seeds are a bit risky at the Customs desk.

And then there’s my laundry rack. When our lift (boat shipment of our belongings) arrived in Baltimore - six weeks after we did and two days before Rosh Hashanah - the movers scratched their heads when I jumped for joy at the sight of my laundry rack. Without it, I had been hanging things to dry on the backs of chairs, from corners of doors and on any edge, ledge or rim I could find. (The humidity in Baltimore is too high for drying things outside.) Now my beloved rack was back.

Obviously designed for families that are b’ruchim yeladim (blessed with many children), Israeli laundry racks have eight “lines” on its main frame with an additional five on each of the two small “wings” that fold out from the ends. The frame is made of sturdy metal and the lines are taut wire (making for fewer creases in the clothes that dry on them).

There’s always room for more laundry on my rack. Sort of like the Holy Temple that miraculously expanded to accommodate larger crowds on the festivals. Many of the Israeli families who rely on these racks do not own dryers. (Why invest in one when the sun will guarantee a job well done for more than six months of the year?) So the rack is essential during the rainy winter and works well in the summer, too - in conjunction with the clotheslines that run along every mirpeset sheyrut (utility porch).

I loved hanging clothes out in the Israeli sunshine. Thinner items would dry in minutes and heavier stuff in just a few hours. When one of my kids did some “money laundering” - that is, he forgot to take some bills out of his pocket before putting his pants in the wash - we just hung them outside on the rack and they were back in his pocket in no time.

Think what you will but this attachment to my laundry rack is what it is. And so, when I recently noticed that one of its wings was badly bent out of shape, I sighed deeply and wondered how I will replace it if it breaks beyond repair. It’s not as easy to bring back as sponges or baking sheets. Yet to manage without one is unthinkable. So I won’t think about it. I’ll just keep using my rack for as long as it lasts and imagine myself hanging the wash beneath the same warm Mediterranean sun that heated our water and bronzed our skin to a healthy, holy glow.
Yes, it may sound silly, but for me, hanging clothes to dry is no chore at all when it helps me to…Remember Jerusalem.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter Break

In all of the places I’ve ever lived, winter is winter. Cold, snow, rain, winds that whip right through you. Personally, I prefer the cold and snow to a hot summer sun but even I don’t mind a break from the freezy stuff right about this time of year. In Israel, the best winter escape destination is probably Eilat but that’s a relatively long way from Jerusalem. Our favorite winter get-away was to Ein Gedi. Drive East toward Jordan, hang a right at the Dead Sea and in just over an hour, you’re there.

It was love at first sight when our boys got out of the car at Kibbutz Ein Gedi and jumped right into the cactus garden. After settling into the comfortable cottages, we strolled along the promenade to watch the ibex come out of the rocky hills for their evening meal, the same rocky hills where King David hid from King Saul about three thousand years ago.

The next morning we “monkeyed around” in the pinat chai (mini-zoo) and tossed a frisbee beneath the beautiful date palms that dot this desert oasis. With the Dead Sea stretched out in front of us and Masada just down the road, there was plenty to see and do. Arik, the jeep driver who took us to and through Me’orat haKemach (the flour caves) insisted that the brom (bromide) in the air was the special ingredient making us feel so relaxed. Brom or no, we had barely a care on those mid-winter trips down Israel’s east coast.

We’d leave after a couple of days of R&R&R (rest, relaxation and rejuvenation) just in time to be back in Yerushalayim for Tu b’Shevat, the New Year for trees. What a surprise holiday that was for me our first year in Israel. One cloudy winter day, I was walking with a friend and she pointed to a tree that appeared to be covered in light snow. "Look", she said, "ha'shkeydiah porachat!" 03 - The Almond Tree And Its Beautiful Blossom
("The almond tree is blooming!") Indeed, the tree was blossoming - on the 15th day of Shevat (that year, February 11) just like in the song I had learned as a child. I was delighted to tears.

Later, when my Sefardi neighbor asked me if we had already eaten our Tu b’Shevat seudah (festive meal), I called my friend in a panic. "Tu b’Shevat seudah? We never did that in the States!" “Relax”, she said. (I was glad the brom hadn’t worn off yet.) “Just go get some foods that are made from the seven species of the Land and have a party.” So I bought some barley for a hearty soup, wheat crackers, date spread, olives and a bottle of fine Israeli wine. Pomegranates were not in season and I wasn’t sure how to check figs for bugs so we skipped those. Instead, I threw in some Home-grown almonds and avocados and voila! Seudat Tu b'Shevat!

The Tu b’Shevat seudah is now a family tradition. Instead of the blossoming almond trees, I'll have to settle for the coconut palms of Florida when I visit my mother there for Tu b’Shevat (this year, January 30), p.G. But hey, coconut palms look about the same as date palms to me and maybe they’ve even got pomegranates in Miami this time of year. So as I enjoy my Seudat Tu b'Shevat in the shade of a wide, whatever kind of palm tree, I'll close my eyes, picture a fluffy white shkeydiah and…
Remember Jerusalem.