Saturday, April 18, 2015

Haveil Havalim, Parshat Tazria Metzora, the Passover has Passed Over Edition

Haveil Havalim, Parshat Tazria Metzora, the Passover has Passed Over Edition
Vanities of Vanities. All is Vanity at the Haveil Havalim Blog Carnival weekly roundup

The scrubbing is over, the seder is over, and even the matzoh crumbs have been swept away. Passover has officially PASSED OVER, the holiday just a dim memory (or nightmare, depending upon your perspective). We needed that pause in the routine, and the spiritual fill ‘er up. And now we’re ready to get back to work.

For bloggers this means getting back to doing what we love best: WRITING. For me, it also meant taking a deep breath and summoning up the courage to host the weekly Haveil Havalim international Jewish blog carnival. Let me tell you about that.

It all started with Soccer Dad, of the late Soccer Dad blog. He decided Jewish bloggers should be taking turns showcasing our collective work as a weekly blog roundup. After coordinating the effort for more than a decade, he retired, but the Haveil Havalim blog roundup continues to this day, now coordinated and publicized via the Haveil Havalim Facebook Page.

We hope you’ll spend some time, reading the offerings here, and if you like what you see and you’re a blogger, please join in the fun by joining our Facebook page.

Send It To Batya

Next week's Haveil Havalim will be hosted by Batya Medad of Shiloh Musings and Me-Ander. Wanna participate? Send your links to Batya at shilohmuse@gmail.com with a one-line description of your post and HH as the subject line. The weekly deadline is before Shabbat whatever time that is in your time zone wherever you are.
Phew. How am I doing so far?
This week, Batya Medad hashed out for the reader the dangers of a unity government, explaining how compared to the actual election, forming a government is Bibi’s real and very serious headache. Talk about stress, speaking of which, Batya feels the stress of the Israeli media, regarding Holocaust Day is all wrong.

The Tel Aviv pundits want Holocaust Day to be experienced on a universal level, but Batya says better we should experience it on a national level and get rid of the Sephardi/Ashkenazi divide. Is there any Sephardi Jew in Israel who doesn’t have a relative who perished in the Shoah? It’s about time we allowed the Holocaust to unite us as one Jewish people.
Surprised that Batya, who is meticulous about sharing her thoughts, has been less than wordy lately? Blame it on the vagaries of connectivity. Check out how Batya lost and found her internet connection.
Robert J. Avrech over at Seraphic Secret wrote about his friend Sol Teichman for Holocaust Day, excerpting a section of Teichman’s moving memoir, The Long Journey Home, about the death march to Dachau. The recounting paints a vivid picture for the reader. I always think how lucky we are to have living witnesses to testify for us about the horrors of the Holocaust. The next generation will be hard-pressed to make the Holocaust come alive as the all-too-real national catastrophe it is. These witnesses are a precious resource, and they aren’t getting any younger.


Not About Hygiene

Next up, Ben-Tzion Spitz, over at Ben-Tzion (the blog), talks about bugs and keeping kosher. Drop of milk falls into a HUMONGOUS pot of beef stew? No biggie. But keep those bug bits far away from your food. No. It’s not about hygiene. You’ll have to go visit the blog to find out why.
Reb Akiva weaves for the reader the Holocaust survival tale of his father in-law, A’H, and how his legacy lives on through his children and grandchildren. Even though Holocaust Day is over, this is a story worth reading because it ends in triumph. Check it out over at mpaths.
Over at the The Rebbitzen’s Husband Rechovot blog, we are treated to a reblog of Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner’s piece on the laws of kashrut and labels, both permanent and transient. Linked to the original piece in Toronto Torah, this is a discussion of Parshat Shemini and why we can, for instance, eat a cow but not a pig. Well, not literally, but rather, why some creations of God are labeled “unclean.” It’s an interesting enough question, with a fascinating answer.
Rachel Hopkins over at Heading Upwards offers up a recounting of how the six members of her ulpan chose to observe Israel’s Holocaust Day (Yom HaShoah). It was a compelling way to connect to the day, and worthy of imitation. The fact that it was all done in Hebrew, got Rachel kind of emo. The reader will enjoy this vicarious glimpse into the journey of a new Olah.
At Aliyah by Accident, Gila Rose treats us to a hilarious rambling about judgmental people, raising twins, the lovely cross-outs on Pesach to-do lists, and more. Why is it so much fun reading about other people’s chaotic lives? I dunno, but Gila Rose is FUNNY. In particular when she contrasts and compares what Shoham and Sivan EAT.
Not the actual twins in question.

Chaviva tells us everything we wanted to know about the custom of the Shlissel Challa by referring us to her very complete article at About.com. She offers us a bit of a tease over at The Kvetching Editor. Got a yen to make a key-shaped loaf of bread? This blog’s for YOU.
Do you believe it’s all from Hashem? Ester does over at the It’s All From Hashem blog. And that’s exactly the thought that came to her when she found something while cleaning for Pesach that gave her something of a shock. It’s a shock most of us wouldn’t mind experiencing Erev Pesach! Read all about it here.

Miriam Green writes about her mother and the daily agony of watching her struggles with Alzheimer’s disease, over at her blog The Lost Kitchen. Pesach was an especially difficult week and Miriam found herself giving in to tears. As always, she ends on an upbeat note with her Uncle Zev's BROWNIES as an offering of comfort food. They sound GOOD.

Just in time for Yom Haatzmaut, Israel's Independence Day, Jacob Richman over at the Good News From Israel blog offers readers a chance to bone up on their Hebrew skills with this short and sweet English-Hebrew glossary of terms specific to Independence Day. He makes it look easy! You can do this. Promise.

At Machat, the Ma'ale Adumim English Speakers Community Website, Richman serves up Photos of the Ma’ale Adumim Machol Midbar Dance Troupe Rehearsal and don't they look amazing?? It's no wonder--they've been invited to perform at the Yom HaAtzmaut celebrations in the Dominican Republic! Whoa. That's impressive. (The costumes are stunning but even more beautiful? The smiles on those young faces, the future face of Israel!)

Romi Sussman at Sussman's b'Aretz wrote a lovely blog about what it is to bring Israeli souls into the world. It's what Yom HaShoah/Yom HaAtzmaut means to a lot of us who gave up a life elsewhere for the meaning that only a life in Israel can bring. Our ancestors weren't as lucky. It wasn't so easy to get here or remain here. Have the tissues handy when you read this one!

❤ Irene

Irene Rabinowitz has been blogging at the Times of Israel about her impending Aliyah to Israel and now has actually made Aliyah which means she is now blogging about having made Aliyah to Israel. You go GIRL! (I'll admit I'm a fan. Just say "Aliyah" and you've got me in your corner). Irene has two blogs to offer up for this addition of Haveil Havalim, one for Holocaust Day and one for Israeli Independence Day. Okay, so the truth is, she wrote the former piece last year. But it's a wonderful piece and heck, it's evergreen. Highly recommended by me. Because I love Irene. Did I already say that?

It seems like just yesterday Israel Pickholtz asked my advice on how to start a blog. He only wanted to write a single blog piece for a specific purpose. I guess it's like Lay's potato chips. No one can eat just one. Because here he is, still shooting out amazing blog pieces on genealogical topics, his specialty, three years later. This week he wrote about the difference between writing for readers and writing for listeners and how a favorite relative helped him sort it out. Read all about it at All My Foreparents.
Last but not least, yours truly got her first piece into the English language edition of Israel Hayom. It’s a piece about Iran’s attitude toward Israel and the Jews. What the article doesn’t say is what made me write it in the first place. There I was, minding my own business, going through my Google News newsfeed when I got slapped in the face by the title of an op-ed, Iran never threatened to 'wipe Israel off the map.' I clicked through. That op-ed made me see RED. But I knew The Baltimore Sun would never print a rebuttal. *sigh*
I did the next best thing and wrote my piece, Iran: It’s the Thought That Counts.
After the piece was accepted for publication, I decided to go ahead and send in my rebuttal to The Baltimore Sun. That was Wednesday and I still have yet to see my letter appear. I really don’t think it will happen. But you never know.

Thanks for reading my first Haveil Havalim edition. If I missed your amazing, stand-out far-out fantasmagoric blog, please share your link in the comments section, below.

Oh, and don’t forget to stop by our Facebook page. It’s really an incredible opportunity. What writer doesn’t like promotion??

Monday, March 9, 2015

I'm Suffering in Prose

I’m suffering. And I’ve been suffering for weeks.

I’m suffering over an issue that has no solution except for time and its ability to heal all wounds.

Except I keep thinking: if only I could write about it, maybe I’d feel better.

Except my “issue” concerns a busted up friendship and if I write about it, I’d no doubt say something that shouldn’t be said which is the whole reason the bust up happened in the first place.

So writing is out.

Except I’m suffering.

So that’s why I told one good friend. I knew she wouldn’t talk and it would help me to vent.

And it did, for awhile.

Then it came back. The pain, the loss, the betrayal.


I don’t cope very well with this stuff. I’m not resilient.

I'm Not Resilient

I’m not resilient. I don’t bounce back from things. I just hurt at length. Sometimes for years.

And it’s not just emotional pain. It affects me physically. Because I have nowhere to put the pain, so it goes to my limbs and organs and hurts me in these places, too.

Hurts everywhere.

I have my writing and my career. I have my work on behalf of Israel and my people. I have my family. These things are good. They are my outlet.

But I’ve lost other outlets. Because when you lose a friend, you lose circles of friends. You lose activities associated with the friend, with those circles of friends.

And I can’t talk about the specifics here. Because I’m sure the whole thing happened because I wasn’t careful with speech.

Normally, you see, I stay at home and mind my own business. I don’t go anywhere that would give me occasion to gossip. So my mouth stays pretty clean on that score.

But occasionally, I break out of my shell and join something. That’s what I did last year.

I joined something. And that something led to certain friendships and the joining of other somethings. 

And I made friends fairly easy and I exulted in those friendships.

It was a high to have people like me. Because, you see, for many years, I lived in a community high up on a mountaintop where I didn’t fit in.

I had no friends. So I stayed home and read and cared for my babies.

And so I’m used to having only myself for company. And I’m used to people thinking there’s something wrong with me which is why I never come out of my home and live inside my computer.

It’s why I have virtually no real friends at all.

But when I come out, I find that people actually like me and WANT to be my friend. And I am flattered and charmed and suddenly bubbly and someone else. Not that person who lives in a shell or inside my computer.

I come out of myself and I am someone else.

And people confide in me and I think I have a rare talent for listening. And I think they think I’m indispensable, that they need my listening ear. And they tell me things they really shouldn’t tell me and I shouldn’t hear and I am flattered and I never tell them to stop. And I think I’m in their inner circles. And sometimes.

Sometimes. I even say things to them about people. Things I shouldn’t say. Because everyone knows that friendships are two-way streets involving trust and if I want them to trust me, I will have to trust them.

So I won’t be careful to hold back the words I should never say. Words that are forbidden. Words that can hurt and maim.

And I am assured that I am loved. She tells me, “I know you hate being touched, but I have to hug you. I love you.”

And then an hour later. Two hours later. Three hours later. Does it matter? She tells someone everything I told her in confidence. Things I shouldn’t have said.

And they turn on me. It’s so fast I’m left stuttering. But, but, but on my tongue.
But.

But she’s all talk to the hand.

And here I am.

Suffering.

I want to blame her. But I find I must blame myself. I was not careful. I did not guard my tongue.

People got hurt. I take responsibility.

Mida kneged mida. Roughly. It means: you get punished in like measure.


But. But. But. And then I stopped my stuttering. I told her: if you do this thing, it cannot be walked back.

But. But she didn’t care and she walked.

She crossed all my red lines.

And still. I wish it were yesterday. Before it happened.

I wish she would listen. But it wouldn’t matter.

Because she crossed all my red lines.

And it can never be fixed.

And anyway, it’s all my fault.

So again I am without people. In my house, inside a computer. My computer. Without song or theater.

All that is left is my keyboard. And my struggle to keep my mouth clean. Which is not a struggle at all when one is alone for the long-term.

Maybe it’s better this way.

But I am suffering from time to time.

I am suffering now.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

There are All Kinds of Grief I Suppose

I have a friend who is grieving for a child who succumbed to cancer. I worry about her, but there is little I can do for her at the practical level. When she reaches out on social media, the outpouring of love and understanding is immense, but I wonder if it really helps.

I wonder too, about how my friend’s grief affects her family dynamic. Does her husband prefer to turn inward, rather than air his feelings? Does he feel as though he failed his biological purpose by not protecting his family from harm? Does he show impatience with his wife’s need to talk about her sadness and her longing for their child?

I know that grieving can be postponed, but not indefinitely. And I wonder how much grieving is normal: how long my friend can grieve before her spouse or some expert tells her time’s up. Stop the grieving now.

Normal Grief?

Some say there are four stages of grief, while others say there are five. The experts talk about “normal grief” and something called “abnormal” or “complicated” grief. This is grief that has staying power, or grief that is delayed, for instance. Some people grieve too deeply, while others are denied their feelings by society: told their feelings are unacceptable, to put a cork in it.  

My father died when I was 13. It was unexpected. It was over in a split second. I wasn’t home when it happened and having said goodbye to him at an airport within hours of his death, I feel I had decent closure. He was smiling. He kissed me goodbye. We had no unresolved issues. My adolescence hadn’t gotten to the awful stage yet (my mother was the unlucky sole beneficiary of my teenage angst) so things were good.

I mostly felt shock when I heard the news. Shock and emptiness. Yet not shock. Because I already knew. A friend had a premonition and told me about it. He walked me home from school prior to the event and said, “I have this feeling that when you come back from your trip, your father won’t be here.”
At Falling Water a year or so before my father died. My parents, me, and my sister Devera.


And when I woke up with a tummy ache at 2 AM, the exact time listed as his time of death, I was not surprised when a little while later, I heard the phone ring and my aunt, with whom I was staying, say, “Oh my God.”

I told myself it must be my grandfather, my only remaining grandparent, although he too, was well, and actually would not die for another decade.

I was not surprised when my aunt stood up for the mourner’s prayer at my friend’s Bat Mitzvah service, which was the reason I was in Buffalo, NY, with my aunt and uncle, rather than at home in Pittsburgh. And I was also not surprised when my aunt told me, as soon as the service was over, that we would not be attending the luncheon, that my father was very ill and that we must return to Pittsburgh at once.

I knew. I knew. I knew.

I cried a few quiet tears in the backseat of my uncle’s car. And what had happened was confirmed when we crested Ferree St. and came down the other side that led straight into the driveway of my childhood home on Asbury Pl. The front door was open. The house was lit up. And I could see people milling about inside.

I knew it was a shiva house, shiva meaning seven, for the week of Jewish mourning. I came in and everyone said, “Shhhh. She’s here.”

My mother sat me down on one of our matching loveseats in the living room and said, “Daddy passed away last night.”

I wanted to ask questions. Why? What had happened? But I didn’t want to be a burden. Later I was told that my mother had said repeatedly, “I don’t know how I’ll tell Barbara (the name by which I was called then).”

I was encouraged to go up to my bedroom and rest. My uncle, a pediatrician gave me pills. He said they would help me sleep and urged me to take them. People came and went. I was numb. They all wanted so deeply to help me not to feel.

So I didn’t.

The next day we stood in a receiving line at the funeral home. Each person said the same thing to me. “I’m sorry,” they all said, one at a time. Each time someone said it to me, tears fell from my eyes in huge wet drops and I’d watch the blue fabric of my dress absorb them soundlessly as they spread and then disappeared.
Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma Meyers


I don’t remember sadness or pain. I remember soundless tears and fearing to be a burden. I remember numbness.

Then, six months later, I was sitting in class and started to sob. Wracking sobs. Uncontrollable sobs. It HURT.

My teacher was smart enough to know what she was seeing: grief, finally coming out, months later, unbidden, without any particular trigger. It just happened. She found a quiet place for me to sit and asked my best friend at that time, also named Barbara, to just sit by my side, which she did, rubbing my back a bit, just being there, which was enough. I needed a witness. I had finally opened the curtain on my grief at my father’s passing.

And every day for the rest of my years at home, I would awaken at 5:30 AM to listen for my dad leaving the house for work. There should have been the telltale sound of his hand gripping the cuff of a brownbag lunch as he got ready to leave. But every morning, for years, only silence.

I ached inside, but was well-controlled. The pain subsided sometimes and I’d forget until something would remind me.

40 years later I still light a candle on the anniversary of his death. I post photos of him on Facebook and people commiserate. They say, “The pain never really goes away.”

And I wonder if something is wrong with me, because I haven’t felt sad about my father in a very long time. I feel that he can see me and that he approves. I feel that I live my life in part for him, to make him proud of me.

There are all kinds of grief, I suppose.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

SPECIAL MESSAGE about Shuja'iya in Gaza

h/t Barry Shaw via Real Jerusalem Streets

Shuja'iya in Gaza has been identified by the IDF and Shin Bet intelligence as an area rife with Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror hideouts. These terror groups store weapons in Shuja'iya, launch rockets from Shuja'iya, and dig tunnels to be used for terror attacks from underneath Shuja'iya.
The IDF warned the residents of Shuja'iya to leave for several days. Leaflets were dropped, thousands of phone calls were made, and text messages were sent, telling the residents to evacuate the area. While thousands of residents managed to get out, others were prevented from vacating the area by Hamas. Hamas prevented civilians from leaving the area because, like the residents themselves, Hamas knew that the IDF intended to target and eradicating several years worth of stockpiled weapons and the significant terror infrastructure they have built in this heavily populated urban neighborhood.



It is from Shuja'iya that hundreds of rockets have been launched into Israel.
Hamas asked for and received a humanitarian ceasefire, a lull in the fighting in Shuja'iya. Israel agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire of two hours, from 1:30-3:30 PM. During this time, Hamas brought in the foreign press corps to tell them about the "genocide" in Shuja'iya. Many civilians were killed and wounded because Hamas prevented them from leaving. The press reported the so-called "genocide" without mentioning that several dozen terrorists were the real targets and were among the many killed and wounded. 
The humanitarian ceasefire gave the terrorists an opportunity to treat and evacuate the wounded and to move their weapons and explosives from the area, ahead of the serious fighting expected to take place in this neighborhood later today. It is believed that ambulances were used both to remove the wounded AND the weapons stockpile from Shuja'iya during the ceasefire period.



The ceasefire was still meant to be in effect when Gaza launched rockets into Israel, at 2:15 PM. These rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. IDF artillery responded shortly after, shooting several rounds of shells into Gaza.
This report has been confirmed by Reuters.
This is the third ceasefire in the current conflict hat Hamas has failed to honor.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Day the Soup Ran Out

Today is the day the chicken soup ran out. And still, my chest continues to grind out ugly pneumatic music, alternating between a rhythmic rattle to remind me at every turn that something is wrong, dreadfully wrong; and a wheeze that makes me look around to see who else is there in the room with me (answer: no one).

Though I long to stay in bed, I force myself up and out of my soft, warm, flannel cocoon. It is a kind of a test: am I well enough to work today—to cook and do housework?

This is the way I have lived my life in the sick zone since becoming a mom. If my hands and legs respond to basic commands, I’m well enough to be up. If not, not. You just can’t tell from a prone position.

So today, on the day that the soup ran out, I test my limits, moving with slow caution to see what I can do, what I will do, because will has everything to do with it.  The phrase, “weak as a kitten,” comes to mind without much thought about what this actually means. Is a kitten weak? Do I care?

The soup has run out and I need soup, as any mom knows, and I’m a mom and surely know this. I need soup to get well—to get back the strength that will get me back into the workforce, where I need to be. Back at my desk at Kars for Kids and also at my other full time position: Resident Mom.

So working by rote, I gather the ingredients I need to get well: a can of chopped tomatoes and one of kidney beans, an onion, 6 cloves of garlic, and a red bell pepper. Squash and carrots and potatoes, too. I know what I need because I’ve made this soup so many times I can put it together in under an hour with no thought whatsoever.
(photo credit: Moshe Epstein)

(photo credit: Moshe Epstein)

(photo credit: Moshe Epstein)

(photo credit: Moshe Epstein)

It’s not art in the bowl. Not like my chicken soup which is practically speaking an all-day process. But it’s good, it’s healthy, and it warms me from the inside out.

I ladle out a bowlful and breathe in the steam. “This will make me well,” I think. And there is satisfaction in knowing that the power was in my own two hands, all along.

Minestone

Ingredients:

•    1 red pepper
•    1 onion
•    6 cloves garlic
•    3 Tablespoons olive oil
•    3 carrots
•    3 potatoes
•    3 vegetable marrows or zucchini (kishuim in Hebrew)
•    Frozen chopped spinach
•    1 can chopped tomatoes (agvaniot kubiot in Hebrew)
•    ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
•    3 liters vegtetable stock or parve chicken soup (marak adif in Hebrew)
•    ½ cup broken spaghetti or other pasta
•    1 teaspoon oregano
•    ½ teaspoon basil
•    ¼ teaspoon thyme
•    1 can kidney beans, rinsed, drained
•    Grated cheese for serving

 

Method:


1.    Chop in food processor or by hand, the garlic, onion, and red pepper. Sauté on medium heat in olive oil until onion is translucent.

2.    Chop carrots and thinly slice potatoes and vegetable marrow either in food processor or by hand. Add to pot along with 3 liters of vegetable stock or 3-4 heaping soupspoons of soup powder and 3 liters boiling water), a handful of frozen chopped spinach balls (I like the type that is frozen in clumps), the canned tomatoes, and the crushed red pepper.

3.    Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and cook, covered, for 30 minutes to 45 minutes or until potato slices are almost tender.

4.    Add pasta and herbs. Turn heat up and cook until pasta is al dente. Add beans.

5.    Serve with grated cheese.







Wednesday, January 8, 2014

On the Side of Love

I don’t so much choose what to write about as my subjects choose me. A lot of the time that means I end up writing about really grim stuff. Not today.

Today, a lovely feel-good story grabbed me by the arms and wouldn’t let go. It was a trailer for a movie called The Drop Box and the minute I watched it, I knew I had to write about it.

The Drop Box is the story of the Give Out Love Orphanage in Nangok; a rough, blue-collar neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. Baby abandonment is common here and hundreds of unwanted infants are abandoned to their deaths each year. Pastor Lee Jong-rak thought to save at least some of them and to that end he set up a drop box where people might leave their unwanted babies.

"The Drop Box" - Documentary PROMO from Arbella Studios on Vimeo.
The pastor wasn’t sure anyone would follow through, but a slow steady stream of babies began to arrive, some with their umbilical cords still attached. The babies came with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and a host of other physical and mental deformities. Thirty-two babies have been dropped off since the drop box was set up in 2009, though “just” 21 are in residence today. Each baby gets an enormous amount of love from the Pastor, his wife, and the devoted volunteers who offer their time at the orphanage.

But not everyone is happy.

The child welfare people got wind of the orphanage after seeing a television special. They say there are too many people living in this four-bedroom residence. They say that conditions are sanitary. They say the anonymity of the drop box encourages child abandonment and robs the children of knowing their biological parents.



In an interview with the LA Times, an orphanage volunteer, Peter A. Dietrich said, “Rather than look at what he can bring, they focus on what he doesn’t have. The enormity of [Pastor Lee Jong-rak‘s] mission hits you between the eyes. I don’t know anyone who goes there for the first time and doesn’t tear up.”


I concur. There’s so much wrong with the world and here is one man, at least, who is trying to right some of those wrongs. It’s a little like bailing out a boat with a teaspoon. But it’s something.

It’s that same something that had me claw my way into a job at a nonprofit that provides mentoring services for children. I’ve earned my living by writing for the past decade, but until I took the job at Kars for Kids, I didn’t feel my writing made a difference. Now I do.


I love reading the success stories of the children we help. The letters come on a daily basis through interoffice mail, from grateful parents and from the children themselves. We give these children a way to steady themselves as they make their way through childhood and on into adulthood. We get them through with a lot of love.

And love is an international language, understood by all, whether in an orphanage in Seoul, or at a summer camp in Upstate New York. I’m proud to be on the same side as Lee Jong-rak: on the side of love, bailing out the world, one teaspoon at a time.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Stir Crazy



The snow to end all snows is still on the ground here in beautiful Efrat and I am feeling a little bit nutso. I would say I’m stir crazy but the truth is, it’s not about being stuck in the house—it’s about not being ALONE in the house. There are people all around me, all the time.


AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE.


I vant to be alone
It started Thursday. It began snowing and it didn’t stop. It snowed and snowed and snowed some more. We ended up with over 3 feet of snow on the ground and we were all home because when it snows in Israel, everything shuts down.


It’s not that we’re wusses here in Israel. I grew up in Pittsburgh and my husband grew up in Chicago. We know snow.


But Israel is a young country and snow is an unusual occurrence so we’re just not prepared for the white stuff when it does come down. Israelis don’t have snow shovels or ice picks to clear icy sidewalks. You can’t buy rock salt here at your local hardware store. The city doesn’t have many if any snow plows or firm snow contingency plans.


Panic Buying

When the weatherman predicts snow in Israel the supermarkets overflow with people and the shelves empty out as panic buying ensues. So you’ve got to do it too, or you’ll be without basic staples like bread and milk. Stuff runs out.


The streets are narrower in Israel, so they become especially hazardous in difficult weather conditions. The low-lying areas flood. People don’t have snow tires or chains. We get especially heavy winds in Israel that down trees and electric lines. At the same time, people flock to Jerusalem from the warmer areas of the country to see the unusual weather phenomenon so you end up with icy, jammed up roads.


Furthermore, houses in Israel aren’t well-insulated and most people don’t have central heating. The cold seeps into your bones.


In short, it’s best to stay home and cuddle with the kids if you have them until everything is back to what passes as normal. Which at this time of year should be rain and not snow and freezing temperatures.


"The Look"

Now I like my alone time. I like my family, too, but not all around me all the time, especially not when I’m trying to write as per my job at Kars for Kids. And of course, my desk is in the living room and I don’t have a way to cloister myself from noise and distractions. The most I can do as my family members naturally forget to be quiet around me is to give them “The Look.”


It helps. Until the next time. Usually five minutes later.


*sigh*


So when I realized my writing just wasn’t going to happen today, I packed it in and looked for distractions on the ‘net. Since I was cooped up in close quarters with too many people for too long a time, the distractions I found had to suit my morbid mood. And oh lucky you, I’m good at sharing (don’t thank me, I’m a giver, as my friend Dave Bender always says).


A Movie About You

This website lets you customize a movie to be about you by inputting the address of your home from back when you were a kid growing up. At least that’s what it’s supposed to do. You actually don’t see much of your childhood home—it’s more expectation than wish fulfillment. But when you’re feeling nostalgic due to the weather, it’s nice when you start to type in your old address and the search engine spits it out for you. You feel acknowledged.


Here is the movie it made for me. Note that Google Street View is not comprehensive for Israeli streets, so I couldn’t make a movie for my kid with our (current) address.


Next, I found this social experiment pictorial. Here’s a quote from the page:

“After Candy lost someone she loved, she went through a long period of grief and depression. With time she felt gratitude for the time they had together and eventually she found clarity in her life by contemplating death so much. But she struggled to maintain this perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. She wanted a daily reminder and she wanted to know what was important to the people around her. So she painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

It was all an experiment and she didn’t know what to expect. By the next day, the wall was completely filled out and it kept growing: Before I die I want to… sing for millions, hold her one more time, straddle the International Date Line, see my daughter graduate, eat more everything, abandon all insecurities, plant a tree, follow my childhood dream, be completely myself…  People’s responses made her laugh out loud and tear up. They consoled her during hard times. She understood her neighbors in new and enlightening ways, and the wall reminded her that she’s not alone as she tries to make sense of her life.”

Morbid enough fer ya?

A Fun Guy

Moving right along, here’s a fun guy. He pours molten aluminum into ant hills. But hey, Kiddies, these are fire ants that are pests, so it’s okay to torture them with the equivalent of a manmade mini-Pompeii. Besides, it’s ART.

It actually is really cool art. You have to watch the whole thing to see why (alternatively, if you don’t like to watch fire ants tortured you can just skip to the end of the clip).



Next up, I contemplated some really neat architecture, which is a depressing thing to do when you’re living in a moldy rental, so yeah. Really fit my moody blues.

Last but not least, I found this totally useless item. Actually, it may be useful for you, if you’re the type to fall asleep on buses, trains, or planes. Unfortunately, I am too hypervigilant—I’d be afraid I’d miss my stop—to ever appreciate the merits of this estimable sleep travel hat that both cushions your head from bumps and shields your eyes from the light. It’s called—you guessed it—the ostrich pillow.

Come to think of it, maybe I could use that ostrich pillow hat to feel more, um, alone. That is, if they’re all still home tomorrow. Until then,

AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!