May 22 2013
I’ve been an uncle officially for 17 years, since my sister had her first son. Since then, three more nieces and nephews have popped out, giving me at least four reasons to bring gifts from Israel.
As more and more of my friends have had kids over the years (and there have been at least a few of those years, with my somewhat impending arrival to the age which rhymes with “sporty”), an increasing number of children have called me “Uncle Benji” despite a lack of blood relation. I have perfected animal impressions (which includes my personal and undisputed favorite, “the chicken”), I have become quite good at “online babysitting” (entertaining little kids with an Ernie puppet), and I am not ashamed to admit that I have developed such entertaining material that I have been caught recycling it across families in both English and (albeit, broken) Hebrew.
But I have never actually been a father. Until last week. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 23 2013
My kids need little organized effort to enjoy our company. In our house, especially in spring, that often means tossing balls with Abba. My two youngest will ask Dov if he has time to play catch with them, and if his schedule isn’t on overload, he will say yes. Nothing could please them more.
There will be a rush to gather mitts, ball, and caps. You can hear the buzz in their voices, and the rushed breathing of boys as they put on their sneakers. I glance outside the window from my workstation, and watch them wait at the curb for their Abba to pick them up, looking down at the ground, shuffling their feet, kicking stones with their toes, with only an occasional hopeful glance upward, just being boys. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 18 2013
If you’ve ever visited Israel, you may have noticed that one thing the small country definitely does not lack is cats. And while this may pose a problem if you, like me, are allergic to anything with fur (or pollen or hay or grass or dust or melon; yes, I’m a mess), cat lovers will find themselves right at home.
Little cat lovers will love The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street, a picture book that gives kids a taste of Jerusalem through the story of its cats. Featuring Mr. Modiano, the curmudgeonly owner of a fish shop who hates cats, and Mrs. Spiegel, his customer and owner of a little gray cat, Ketzie, the book tells the story of an unlikely friendship, of both the human and feline variety.
The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street is just one of the great Jewish kids books sent out by PJ Library this month. If you’d like to get free books delivered right to your home every month, be sure to sign up for PJ Library today. If you live in the New York metro area, you can sign up directly through Kveller here. If you live elsewhere, check out this map to find a PJ community near you.
Sign up for free books from PJ Library today.
Apr 17 2013
So, this is 40.
This morning, I woke up too early, in a dark and peaceful house. Once the haze of sleep began to lift, it dawned on me: Today is my 40th birthday.
More precisely, it’s my Hebrew birthday. My secular birthday doesn’t come until a week into May, and in our house, our kids like to celebrate both. Since this year my Hebrew birthday falls a few weeks before my secular one, I realize it’s like I have a birthday “zone,” an especially welcome transition period for easing into this new decade, one that seems to strike terror in on-the-cusp-of-middle-aged hearts around the world. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 16 2013
In honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, we’re sharing this story of how one American mother is raising her kids to be independent in Israel.
Let me tell you something: When you move across the world with a 9-month-old who spends more time with your boobs than your high school boyfriend did back in 10th grade, and a 2 1/2-year-old who has mastered the word NO (in Hebrew and in English), and you have no friends, and you don’t speak the language, and your whole entire family is in another timezone, and your marriage is as flaky as filo crust, it’s a freaking mess.
And during the clusterfuck that was the first year in Israel, when no one was sleeping when they should, and when we were bouncing back and forth between the hospital and Misrad Hapnim (Ministry of the Interior), and when there was no one to talk to about how much it sucked, there was one reason and one reason alone that I didn’t haul ass back to Ben Gurion airport.
It wasn’t because I felt like I was fulfilling my Jewish destiny. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 15 2013
Tomorrow is Yom Ha’atzmaut, aka Israel Independence Day. It celebrates the anniversary of the creation of Israel on May 14, 1948 (or, according to the Jewish calendar, the 5th of Iyyar in 5708).
In Israel, it’s celebrated with fireworks, barbecues, and public concerts. In America, it’s celebrated with a manicure (or at least it can be…)
Yael Buechler, the fabulous rabbi behind Midrash Manicures, in which she creates nail art for each weekly Torah portion and holidays, has offered up this great tutorial for how to do your own Israeli flag nail art in celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. It’s pretty simple and will look super cute on adult and kiddie nails alike. Here’s how it’s done. You can use a toothpick to do the finer details.
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Apr 8 2013
While we were in the art room at school today, my daughter asked me something in Hebrew in words I didn’t understand. “Say yes, mama!” She said. “Please say yes.”
“Baby, I can’t say yes, because I don’t understand what you want. For all I know you just asked me if you can get a tramp stamp, or move to Amsterdam.”
It’s like this, sometimes. She’ll say something that means something to her–I can see it in the way she clenches her jaw, and she flexes her fingers while she waits for her words to sink through the synapses of my American brain. Still, she wants an answer–even if it isn’t the answer she wants to hear–and when I look at her baffled, she sucks in her breath, and says, “You don’t listen to me.” Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 5 2013
If my relationship with Hebrew had to have a status, I’d pick, “It’s complicated.” But as I’m rapidly closing in on the fourth anniversary of my move to Israel, it really should be better.
For a while–just as Sarah wrote a few weeks ago–I was learning Hebrew from my eldest child, but that stopped. One day, two years ago, at the tender age of 4, he decided he wanted to speak English and that was that. How does a 4-year-old make that choice? Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 21 2013
“Abba, what are those doors up there?”
“I’m not sure, I think it is some kind of a fence.”
“Can we go visit them?”
“No not tonight, sweetie, we are going home now.”
We are driving back from Tzur Hadassah, a suburb of Jerusalem within the Green Line (which separates Israel and the Palestinian territories). The quickest route back into Jerusalem (and into the beds of our two sleepy children) is past Betar Illit and kvish haminharot, the “tunnel road” which connects Jerusalem to the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 20 2013
The other day my 8-year-old son burst into tears when I told him he had to wear his old pair of pajamas because the new ones, which he has been wearing every single night since his grandma brought them to Israel in December, were unfortunately still in the washing machine. I hadn’t had time to put them in the dryer. Mea culpa.
He told me he refused to wear his old pajamas because they are a size seven and he is a size eight. Because he is 8. I apologized for my oversight. No good. I told him I would make it up to him and read an extra chapter of Charlotte’s Web. He wasn’t going for that. He wanted to stay up until his pajamas were dry. I said fine and as expected, he said FINE and went to put on his old pair. I know this kid. Then he lay down next to me in bed sulking while I read. Read the rest of this entry →