Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yom Ha'atzmaut--Better Late than Never!

Life got pretty busy and complicated the past couple of days, so I am just now getting to the write up about Yom Haatzmaut.

While I have been very proud to be an Israeli since 15 Tammuz, 5769 (July 7, 2009), I was MOST proud this week on Yom Haatzmaut. For the first time in my life, when I celebrated this momentous day, I truly FELT it! Whether the tefilla, the flags, the celebratory feeling, the greetings from strangers, the food, the music, etc...all made me FEEL the day as an INSIDER.
A large part of the day was spent in Neot Kedumim (not far from the airport) with about 2500 of my closest friends. There was a reunion of all of the Camp Moshava programs across the USA. I took my kids from the Netivot-Chicago program there and we all had such a nice time. I had the chance to re-connect with some people I have not seen since we made Aliya! Then, irony of ironies, we went to my uncle for a BBQ (Yom Haatzmaut tradition in Israel) and I could not anything!!
Remember when I said life had gotten busy? Well, I suddenly developed an infection in a tooth which decided to hurt the most on Y.H. and made it impossible for me to eat. Since we had yet to choose a dentist, I needed a referral FAST! I had two people recommend the same person and I called him up and was given an appointment for the next day. I wasn't in the chair 10 minutes before he had to begin a root canal. Thank G-d he did it...I felt so much better!!!

(BTW, on the list of things that are cheaper in Israel vs. outside of Israel...add root canal to the list...about 1/3 the cost!)

Shortly after I began feeling better, I ran to Kfar Saba to be with one of the Netivot girls who had to be taken to the hospital (thank G-d doing better). Got home two in the morning, but glad that I went there altogether.

This Shabbat is a double special Shabbat! My parents, who are in from Chicago will be staying with us and the 7 boys from Netivot will also be in Maale Adumim for Shabbat (coincidence? I think not!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kids, Flags and Another Siren

One of the reasons my blog has "gone silent" for days has been my involvement in the Netivot Chicago program that I am doing. As referred to in previous posts, there are 18 kids who have now arrived from Chicago to finish off their 10th grade studies here in Israel with classes and tiyulim. While their plane was delayed by almost two hours upon arrival in Israel, at least they made it here! NO volcanic ash disrupted their travel, BH. We hit the ground running and have not stopped! If you wish to follow our adventures, please check out NETIVOT 2010 on Facebook for a journal and pictures of the group!

As I write this it is Yom HaZikaron...another first for me: First time I am in Israel for Remembrance Day. The day began with a siren last night at 8pm to mark the beginning of the day. TV and radio show interviews with families who have lost loved ones in battle and in terror attacks. The country has a somber feel today as people greet each other with a little less enthusiasm. Estimates are that tens of thousands will visit 43 cemeteries around the country during this period of national remembrance. In about 2 hours, there will be another 2-minute siren, at which point the country will once again come to a complete standstill to honor its fallen soldiers and its terror victims. I can not but help thinking of all those whom I have personally known that we will remember today. And then, the mood will shift tonight with the beginning of Yom HaAtzmaut...a national day of celebration. A day on which the country joins together to celebrate its birth in May 1948/ Iyar 5708. I have watched this transition in Chicago for years, but the significance obviously HERE will be much different. There are celebrations planned for all over the country tonight and tomorrow. I plan to be at the one here in Maale Adumim. I am sure it will be a wonderful day, B'ezrat Hashem!

In honor of the coming of Yom HaAtzmaut, there are flags literally EVERYWHERE you look! People hawking them on the street, hanging in windows, from balconies, on cars, etc etc etc. It is a beautiful sea of blue and white. I am reminded of the words of the Rov (R Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveichik) who said that he sees three colors on the flag of Israel: Blue, White and RED. The red being the blood on which this country was built...the blood of its fallen soldiers. How appropriate to think about today, on Yom HaZikaron.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Far We Have Come...How Far We Have to Go

Today is Yom HaShoah...Holocaust Remembrance Day...around the world. Unlike any other community in the world (to the best of my knowledge), only in Israel is a siren blown for two minutes during which time the entire country comes to a standstill.

I had never been here for this siren and I wanted to be fully aware BEFORE it began in order to "prepare" myself. At first, I thought I would go to the local mall and observe as a large crowd of people came to a standstill. As I thought about it more, I felt that solitude would be a better approach but not solitude without some meaning. I left my house 10 minutes before the siren and went around to the other side of the mountain...the side that faces Yerushalayim. I felt it would be symbolic to stand and look at the mountains of the holy Yerushalayim during this moment. I would stand there thinking about those murdered during the Holocaust while looking at a vista that millions could only have dreamed of. What would have been, had there indeed BEEN a State of Israel at that time of history...that is a question left to be pondered as the siren was about to begin.

At exactly 10am, the siren began and I was completely caught off guard for what happened to me emotionally. Tears began to flow almost the second I heard the beginning of the sound. I thought about those who lined up to go to their deaths thinking that they were going to a shower; of those who hid in the forests to save their lives and of those who put up a battle in the Warsaw ghetto.

As I looked at Yerushalayim and thought of these people, I also began to think of how far we have come in such a short time!

Instead of speaking of Six Million in terms of how many were murdered , we can also speak about the six million plus (kein yirboo!) of the Jews now living in Israel. Instead of underground fighters or partisans in a forest, we have the IDF, a military might the envy of all modern nations. We have a country in which we are free to openly be Jewish and express that Jewishness any way we feel appropriate. We have control (to a degree) of Har HaBayit and ALL of Jerusalem. Since 1948, Israel is ruled for the first time in almost 200o years BY JEWS. Yes, there is always a haven for Jews here in Israel.

And yet...we have so far to go! Open today's newspapers and see that Anti-Semitic acts in 2009 DOUBLED world-wide; we have a monster in Iran who publicly declares death to Israel with most of the world not caring; we have country after country calling for divestment, uprising, destruction, etc etc of this beloved country of our's.

Yes, we HAVE come very far in 62 years...but we still have so far to go...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chol HaMoed

One of the hallmarks of Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of the holiday--between the first and last day) in Israel is the "tiyul." Loosely translated this means the hike/trek/journey. What it refers to is packing in to a car or bus with many of one's worldly possessions that have to do with food prep and/or hiking paraphernalia and heading out to various locales around the country. The roads are JAMMED with people traveling to and fro in search of "just the right spot" to make a BBQ, or to hike some cliff that beckons, to walk a winding trail or just to sit along a beach and soak up the Vitamin-D.

In the past, for me, Chol HaMoed meant a pretty much regular day, a day trip to Gurnee Mills (shopping mall outside Chicago) and many hours spent thinking about what we should do during this quieter time. However, here, we were determined to be Israeli and join the (literally) thousands of people for one or more Chol HaMoed outings.

On the first day of Chol HaMoed, we made our way to Tel Aviv where we met up with my in-laws spending Chag there in a hotel. After a nice lunch together, the girls went one way and Andy and I spent a wonderfully relaxing time walking on the boardwalk next to the Mediterranean. It was AMAZING to see the range of people there! Sefardim, Ashkenazim, secular...all out doing various forms of relaxation and vacationing...we saw kite flying (with payos-clad chasidim on the other end of the string); fishing, BBQ'ing, skateboarding, singing with musical instruments and many other activities. We were just content to sit there and enjoy the gorgeous weather.

The next day, we all headed to the area of Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea. When I say "all" I actually mean ALL of least it seemed that way! According to the paper, apparently, 6800 other people did the same thing we did! I guess that is why I noticed a 6-10 KM back-up on the road heading South as we returned heading North! We sat a distance from the Dead Sea and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings, as we did by the other body of water! The heat was NOT too intense and the time we spent there was just right...not too short and not too long.

This was followed by a magnificent Shabbat with guests at our table and a special Motz"ash (Motza'ei Shabbat): We went into Yerushalayim to see some of my cousins that were in celebrating the Chag. As an added bonus, we were invited to go to the Old City on a particular roof-top for a small "concert" by Chaim Dovid (see here for who he is if you are not familiar:

The location was a few hundred meters from Har HaBayit, the night breeze was cool and intoxicating, the music was gorgeous and the ambiance was just perfect.

What a wonderful Chol HaMoed this has been! Hard to believe that tonight is the last night of Pesach already! There is something in our Shul tonight that (to me) is quite unusual and unique. I imagine it is done in many places, but I just never did this: There is a public reading of Shirat HaYam (Az Yashir) in honor of the 7th day of Pesach followed by Divrei Torah on the subject...just hope I can stay awake for it!

Chag Sameach!