Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Final Word to My Faithful Readers

I think that since I began to write this blog a year and a half ago, I have never gone this long without posting. Even on days that were somewhat slow, I found something to write about and share with the readership.
However, over the past few weeks, life has gotten SO busy (B"H) that it made my posting an almost impossible task. Nearly every day, I said to myself that I MUST sit down and write as I have so much to write about! But now that the Chagim are WEEKS behind us and Chanuka is nearly upon us, I feel a sense of emptiness in not having posted for so long. At the same time, it feels wrong to try and recapture all of the events and feelings of the past two months.
So, realizing that writing on occasion is not in concert with keeping up a blog, I have decided (regrettably) to end this least for now. I do hope one day to pick it up again, but for the foreseeable future, I need to "officially" put this on the back burner.

Which brings me to a somewhat sobering thought...Since the day I began this blog until today, there have been over 20,000 hits on the blog (including the blogspot and Facebook). It is a number I NEVER could have foreseen nor did I ever think so many would follow up tale of Aliya. But, at the same time, I am so gratified by the amount of people who took the time to comment, both on line and in person, about what they were reading here.

The tale began in April 2, 2009 and today is November 17, 2010. I have tried to give you, the reader a sense of a few issues: What it is like to go through the process of making Aliya--the good, the bad and the ugly--along with the feelings of what it is like to actually LIVE in Israel. You have shared with me as we packed and packed and as we lived through BL and AL (Before Lift and After Lift). We have shared very scary moments together, such as my father (he should live and be well!) being gravely ill only days before our Aliya. We have shared the utter elation of our becoming Israeli citizens and realizing a lifelong dream. We have shared the frustration of dealing with a few situations and the pleasant surprise of not having too many of those! We have shared our "LAST"  of many things in Chicago and our "FIRST" of many in Israel. All along, the response I received was overwhelmingly positive.

But now the time has come to put the blog aside and to continue to deal with day-to-day life here in Israel. I honestly hope that I have been able to give some encouragement to those of you who are thinking about making this monumental move...because it can indeed be done. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog and, as I say, do hope I will return to it one day.

A few thank you's are in order: First and foremost to Hashem for enabling and allowing us to make the move of our lives. We feel His presence in our lives on a daily basis and could not be more grateful for what He has bestowed upon us. We are truly blessed!

To my wife, Andy, and our three beautiful daughters, Daniella, Ayelet and Eliana...thank you for putting up with me talking incessantly about Aliya (including pulling out the map of Israel EVERY Friday night!) and then deciding to join me on this adventure. You have ALL bli ayin hara done so well and I am thrilled to look at the growth of our family in Israel!

To my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews (grand-nephew!) and all my family whom we left behind, thank you for your love, support and joining us in making the effort to stay in touch and to remain the loving family that we have always been.
Thank you to the Chicago community in general and the members of KJBS in particular for their continued long-distance support and staying in touch over time. While we indeed live 7000 miles away, the distance does not diminish the feelings I have for the community that I was a part of for nearly 50 years.

And finally, to you, my faithful readers, I want to thank you again for joining me on this journey. I have SO enjoyed taking you with me and invite you to stay in touch via email, phone or personal visits in Israel. Hopefully, one day, those of you reading this outside of Israel will be able to identify in some small measure with what WE went through, as you, too, make that life-changing decision to make Aliya.

May Hashem shower His blessings upon all of you and may we ALL join in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh to welcome the coming of Mashiach and the ultimate redemption in our times, AMEN!

Rabbi Zev M Shandalov
Maale Adumim

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So Much has been happening...

...and every time I decide I am going to sit down and write, life gets in the way and prevents me from writing. I have had a number of people ask me if I have decided to stop writing this blog since I seem to post infrequently now. The short answer is NO, I am not stopping, but the frequency is the issue now. So, instead if belaboring the point, I will just mention a few short points about the past few weeks (as it is a few WEEKS since I last wrote!).

Probably the most significant thought to share at the moment is the STARK change in the air as the Yamim Noraim were approaching and getting closer. While I did not notice (sadly) a public attempt to better one's self in the Bein Adam LaMakom department (witness standing in "line" to get on a bus ...why do they call it a "line" anyways?), the general feel of a hurried pace, the massive amounts of shopping to hunker down for a three-day Chag (and yes, four of the next five years have this calendrical oddity!), the signs on the buses, the sales in the papers, the greetings offered in the street...all added up to the REAL feel that all around you a country and its people were preparing for the 10 holiest days of the year. It is an incredible feeling to be a part of the MAJORITY and know that there are millions of people out there (each on his/her own level) who were preparing for these days.

I had the zechut of being the Chazan for the first night of Rosh Hashana and the Ba'al Shacharit on the first day in the early minyan. What I truly enjoyed about the early minyan is that it was early and timed for saying Shemona Esray at HaNetz (sunrise). This meant that tefilla began at 5:40am (not a typo) but did not rush...we did not finish until 10:30am.
Weather still dominates the news and talk around here. Two aspects are topics of conversation: heat and water. On the "heat" front...while the horrific and oppressive heat of a couple weeks back seems to have dissipated, it is by no means over yet completely. Today is September 12th and here in Maale Adumim it is supposed to be in the 90's. Not complaining...just unusual to feel 90's in mid-September.

But on the "water" front...this is a more distressing thought...meteorologists have predicted this upcoming rainy season to be a VERY dry season...this means a lot of water conservation and dangerously low levels of water in the Kinneret. While the meteorologists can prognosticate all they want, we still know that our tefillot and our actions will be that which will decide what kind of rainfall we will get. So, keep davening and doing Mitzvot...we NEED the water!
As I mentioned a couple of posts back, life is about to get pretty hectic with me acting as co-ordinator of two youth programs coming to Israel. I do hope I will continue to write and more frequently. I also want to use this forum to ask Mechilla from anyone whom I may have slighted or hurt during this past year. May we ALL merit a wonderful healthy, prosperous, PEACEFUL 5771.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Sad Reminder of Why Mashiach has not yet Arrived

While I have read many stories over the past year plus about various Charedi violence breaking out for various reasons, a couple of days ago, I saw something with my own eyes that made me sick.

I had occassion to be in Mea Shearim, a neighborhood I really like going to. I had to purchase some sefarim and went to Manny's (now called Or Hachaim / Manny's). They have moved about a block further down Rehov Mea Shearim and into a beautiful location. I walk in there and want to buy every sefer on every shelf!

In any case, as I approached the store, I noticed a small crowd gathered outside and then saw what all the fuss was about. Someone had thrown tar (or a tar-like substance) all over the front of the store!  The windows, the awnings, the door, the ground...all were covered in a very sticky and dirty black tar. As I stood there mouth agape at this vandalism, I came to learn that there were some members of the local community who were not too pleased with some of the sefarim he has on the shelf in the store. (Lest you think he has heretical items, I further learned that some of the sefarim obejected to were by Rav Aviner and Rav Kook). In addition, last week, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger was in the store and some of the locals were not too happy about that either and came in yelling "Sheigetz...get out of our neighborhood!"

So, it is surmised that this vandalism, which happened within 24 hours of the Rabbi Metzger incident, was perpetrated by some of the locals. There is a security camera outside the building but more than likely these righteous individuals wore masks per the police.

And you wonder why the Mashiach has not yet arrived? And no, I am not bashing all Charedim. What I am bashing (once again)  is the belief that if you do not follow my way of Torah you are an Am Ha'aretz and I have an obligation to violate every rule in the Shulchan Aruch to prove my point. The ideas in the Gemara about damage to personal property were probably meant as theoretical anyways.

This is an example of pure, unadulterated SIN'AT CHINAM. It is the holier than thou attitude that does not allow for the idea of שבעים פנים לתורה , that as long as you are living within the framework of Halacha, there are 70 facets to Torah.

And here we are in Chodesh Elul. We begin (in the Ashkenazi tradition) Selichot in just a few days.We will turn to Hashem and ask for forgiveness for what we have and have not done. Before thinking about our Bein Adam La'Makom issues (those issues that are between man and G-d), maybe we should spend a little MORE time on our Bein Adam L'Chaveiro.

Sin'at chinam is NOT has a huge price tag in that it delays (chas v'shalom) the coming of Mashiach. May we all see the light a little clearer...may we all learn to tolerate each other when living in the framework of Halacha and may we TRULY merit the coming of the rate we are going right now, it certainly does not seem like this will occur anytime soon.

We ALL have our work cut out for us.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Near Term Future

A couple of months back, I was involved with a program out of Chicago called Netivot. This program brought 18 of the (then) 10th graders from Ida Crown to Israel for a combination of Limudei Kodesh, Limudei Chol and tiyulim. It was a LOT of work, but I truly enjoyed running the program (through Tlalim, the company for whom I work).

Recently, I was contacted by World Bnei Akiva to run two of THEIR incoming programs that are very similar. One, called KFAR, is a group of 34 students (10th grade) coming from S. Africa and the other group will be coming from Australia. The S Africa group arrives in three weeks and Australia group in mid-October. Each group will be here for about three months. So, for the near term future, I expect to be plenty busy being involved in helping to run these programs. (The official role I play is called a "rakaz" --coordinator.) No doubt it will keep me hopping! But, I love doing these kinds of things!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Masks...and it is Not Even Purim!

On Friday morning, the doorbell rang and a representative of the Post Office was at the door. He was carrying five items that I had ordered but honestly did not think they would show up...five gas masks.

As of a few months ago, the government has been distributing these free of charge (a nominal 25 NIS fee for delivery) to all citizens of Israel. The idea, of course, is to always be prepared in case of (chas v'shalom) an attack with unconventional weapons. While I am in no way an alarmist, I, too, always feel that one needs to be cognizant of WHERE in the world we are located. Today, according to local reports, the madman of Iran has succeeded in putting the Bushehr nuclear plant into business. Up North, things continue to heat up...various attacks at our borders are becoming more frequent and rockets fall on occasion in the South. Welcome to the Middle East.

I was reading the other day a human interest story in an on-line newspaper about automobiles (why I came across is is immaterial). One of the people was asked what is his greatest concern on a day-to-day basis. His response was that he had to make sure every day not to park under a tree so birds do not leave their "presents" on the hood of his car. Hmmmmm....and we just had gas masks delivered. I guess we have different concerns in life.

So, the boxes we got (five in all) sit in our sealed room (which is our spare bedroom, office, etc) and we will pray that those boxes will never need to be opened. But, if they do, G-d forbid, ever need to be opened, we will have something that our enemies will not have...EMUNA in Hashem. The true unadulterated belief that Hashem is watching over us no matter what madman is in power in Iran, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia, or....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Egged in the BUS service Egged, not what happens to your windows when you do not give candy to kids looking for it at the end of October...והמבין יבין

Over the past couple of weeks, I have found myself on an inordinate number of buses for various reasons. Sometimes it was merely a ride to the local mall (15 minutes from home) or into Yerushalayim (30 minutes..sometimes) and other times it was to go out to Or Yehuda where the offices of Tlalim are. In some cases, I was in Yerushalyim and found myself on as many as EIGHT buses in one day...not unusual at all. One very positive thing is the card known as the חופשי חודשי which is a monthly bus pass. This particular pass entitles the bearer to travel between Yerushalayim and Maale Adumim, in Maale Adumim, all over Yerushalayim and some surrounding areas--all for the one flat monthly rate. If you do a lot of bus riding it is really worth it and you get your money's worth.
So, having spent so much time on so many buses lately, I have witnessed the best and the worst in people lately. One caveat: it has been on average about 2 million degrees Centigrade (no exaggeration!) and I am sure that much of the negative actions I have been witness to have been exacerbated by the heat. However, I am not trying to make excuses but merely pointing it out.

Some miscellaneous vignettes, courtesy of Egged Bus Lines:

* You see all the time where an individual rises from his/her seat to give it to an elderly individual, a pregnant woman, etc. Usually, the exchange is followed by a simple "thank you." On a recent trip, when I noticed someone get up for another person, a very different exchange took place: Before sitting in his new-found seat, the individual placed his hands on the head of the one who just gave up his seat and gave him a bracha! And then, the one sitting in the next seat, after witnessing this, asked this gentleman for a bracha as well!

* When you get on a local bus in Yerushalayim, you are given a ticket (or must ask for one if you are using a bus card) that has a time stamped on the ticket. Ever since January 2010, a new policy--a very good policy--went into affect on Egged. Within the hour and ten minutes after boarding the bus, you may use this ticket as many times as you want on as many bus rides as you long as you are ON the bus by the designated time stamped on the ticket. Not too long ago, I was sitting at a bus stop and heard two women speaking. They were VERY aware of the fact that their tickets were over an hour "past due" but felt that they would try to use them anyways. (Yes, that IS stealing from Egged if they did so). They got on the bus and the comedy show began...instead of telling them the tickets were unusable, the driver said," There is the garbage can. Please throw your tickets in there!" He said it in a most rude and condescending way (not unusual, but it struck a nerve with this woman.) She let him have it. "WE ARE NOT RESIDENTS OF JERUSALEM! HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT WE CAN NOT USE THESE TICKETS?!?!?" He yells back at her that one need not be a resident to be able to read a ticket and understand its validity or lack thereof. She screams at him, he screams back at her, and this continues for 10 minutes more. She DOES pay the fare but not before complaining to anyone within 5 meters who will listen to her. Recall, of course, that she was well aware BEFORE she got on the bus that she was about to try to scam the driver.

* As I mentioned, it is hot. I do not mean warm, I mean unbearbly hot at some points of the day. It is not humid for the most part where I tend to be, but DRY heat is just heat that is dry and you do not get around the idea that it is HOT! (Did I mention it has been hot!?!?) All buses have the theoretical sense. Meaning, there is a motor that blows a fan with a modicum of cold air that goes through the vents that is supposed to make one's journey on a bus, well, enjoyable. Today, I had a last minute need to run to Yerushalayim. I boarded the bus, unstuck myself from my clothes and sat down. Hmmm...a bit strange, I know it's hot outside but kind of seems like the A/C is not up to dealing with this heat. No problem, he just left the terminal 5 minutes ago, so it will cool off soon...oh you naive person! At every stop, as we took on more and more passengers, the heat on the bus became stiflingly unbearable. Imagine opening up an oven to check on something cooking and feeling that blow-back from the heat...that is what we were feeling on the bus. By the time I got off, I was physically drained and looking for a shower and oxygen. Not a pleasant journey to say the least.

* Saw something you don't see too often on the bus. While you DO see people help others off the bus all the time (carry down their groceries, a stroller, etc) you do not see the driver himself do this. (Not a slam on drivers...just that there are always people around to help). The other day, I saw the driver pull over, stop, put the bus in PARK and assist a woman down the stairs with many packages. It was so sweet to see and made up for many other drivers who could probably benefit from a Dale Carnegie course.

So, these are merely a few of the hundreds of things one can witness on a daily basis when riding on the buses here in Israel. It brings out the best and worst in people...and it is always interesting to observe!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Searching the Screen...

As I write this, I am sitting and watching hundreds of Olim landing and coming into Ben Gurion. It is a dream come true for hundreds of people and I know exactly what they are going through. It seems like years ago, but it was only 13 months ago that we made that journey. So much has happened in the meantime...Baruch Hashem.

But as I am watching I am struck by a thought that I can not get out of my head. Since we know a few people on this particular flight, I kept searching faces to see if I saw them disembarking or in the welcoming ceremonies or any glimpse of their smiling, tear-streaked faces. And then I froze for a moment as a memory came back to me. You see, as a child I recall hearing stories about how families in the United States would watch newsreels on TV during and after World War II to see if they could get a glimpse of their loved one to see if they had survived the war. Relatives describe their having watched with extreme intensity holding on to any shred of hope.

And I thought about that as I looked intensely at the screen to see if I could find Peter and Bobbie and Cara and Stuart and all the others whom I was watching for. And it hit me between the eyes, that in both cases, post-WWII and now that people were watching a screen for loved ones and friends...but in the 1940's they were looking for SIGNS of life, and we were watching for the BEGINNING of a NEW life!
And I recalled the Pasuk said by Yosef as he sought out his brothers:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת־אַחַי אָֽנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ
("I seek my brothers...") This is exactly what I felt at this moment, too. I was seeking out my brothers and sisters. And I continue on a daily basis as we live here to hope and yearn to see more and more Jews living here and coming off those Nefesh B'Nefesh flights...Yes, וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת־אַחַי אָֽנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ  and I will continue to seek them out at all times and pray for their return HOME to the Land of Israel.