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Mar 5 2013

My Son Learned English from Watching TV

By at 11:56 am

boy watching tvIf 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

How Do You Explain the Violence in Israel to Young Kids?

By at 4:02 pm

israeli idf soldiers jewish quarter“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

How My 6-Year-Old Handled Our Chaotic Move to Israel

By at 2:14 pm

moving to israelThe 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 →

Feb 15 2013

Friday Night: What’s Truly Holy About the Western Wall

By at 1:57 pm

women of the wall prayingThe Western Wall or Kotel, archaeologically impressive though it may be, is not holy to me in a conventional sense–and recent events have made it less holy in my eyes, though not in the ways you might think.

Many, many Jews consider the Western Wall to be holy because it is the oldest remaining structure from the time of the Temple. It’s not, mind you, even a wall of the Temple itself–it’s just a retaining wall around the Temple Mount. To me, this makes the wall interesting, poignant, historically critical, and relevant–but not inherently holy. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 7 2013

Parenting in a Different Language

By at 11:55 am

parenting in Hebrew“We didn’t sign our son up for preschool,” my ex messaged me this morning.


Evidently, somewhere in between everything, Expat Barbie over here missed the memo. Literally. A memo in Hebrew that went out to the parents about signing up for gan.

And ooohhhh, this raised issues for me. Nasty, mean issues like crusty alligators that lurk beneath the surface of my (deep) neuroses, emerging periodically to bite and snap in a carnivorous power struggle.

I’m reminded of a girl in my elementary school–Shella had chocolate eyes and hair that shone like the sun at high noon. At first, she wore dresses with too many frills. At first, her mouth shaped her words differently than ours. But that began to change. She cut her long silvery blonde hair by herself with a pair of toy scissors. She started wearing ripped jeans and t-shirts, just like us. American slang scattered from her lips carelessly, tripping her parents as they stumbled to catch up to her. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 29 2013

How Jewish Teachings Helped Me Be a Patient Parent

By at 9:36 am

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to parenting.

My most recent journey into impatience came last night as my 2-year-old daughter twirled and sang her way into the wee hours of the night.

I had been trying to put her to sleep for three hours, and it just wasn’t working. Given the fact that she had experienced a transatlantic flight, and we arrived in Israel a few hours before (and that she was excited about being in a new place, and sharing a room with her older brother and being out of a crib, and and…) I had to cut her a little slack. But my ability to empathize and (what seemed like) the Herculean task of mustering the patience I needed had grown thin. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 22 2013

The Western Wall is For Me Too

By at 11:57 am

For me and my children, one of the highest things on our to do list when traveling to Israel was to visit the Kotel, the Western Wall.

Before our trip, I had quickly read about, but not dwelled on, the arrest of Anat Hoffman, the leader of Women of the Wall, in October, allegedly for singing the Shema out loud at the wall and for wearing a tallit (prayer shawl). For a woman to wear a tallit while praying at the wall is against current law: in 2003, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin (phylacteries) or tallitim at the Wall, or reading from the Torah at the Wall. I was shocked to read of Hoffman’s arrest, but her act of wearing a tallit didn’t resonate with me, as I have never worn one, despite attending Conservative shuls my entire life and being bat mitzvahed. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 14 2013

The Real Blessing of the Skinned Knee (and Bruised Forehead)

By at 2:10 pm

My son has become a rabbit.

A 3-year-old rabbit with pale blonde hair and a blue Angry Birds ski cap pulled low over his forehead.

I didn’t get it at first. And I didn’t understand why he was hopping out of the classroom when I picked him up from preschool.

“Do you have to go to the bathroom?”

He wiggled his nose.

“Did you hurt your foot?” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 21 2012

How Can We Be Thankful as Others Are Suffering?

By at 9:23 am

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, as time in any Costco parking lot will tell you. But this Thanksgiving season, I am gasping for breath, torn in different directions.

It’s been a busy few weeks in my own personal life. I popped my fourth kid out a month ago. She went back to the hospital. Hurricane Sandy hit hard, leaving us powerless for two weeks. But in all the stress of living with a newborn and three other kids without power for two weeks–and as you may remember, I’m a semi-spoiled girl who likes her epidurals, so imagine how I feel about electricity!–it was nothing compared to how my friends in Israel are now living. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 20 2012

My Family’s Secret Jewish History

By at 3:36 pm

I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother not long before she died. She was in a hospital bed that had been set up in the dining room; she hadn’t been able to climb the stairs to the second floor of her house for years. I pulled a chair close, and asked her if she used to light candles on Friday night back when she was a little girl in Northern Italy.

The question had been chosen carefully, and with great intention. I knew that if I asked her if she was Jewish, if we were Jewish, she would vehemently deny it. But when I asked her about the candles, my grandmother smiled and told me about cleaning the house every Friday, about cooking all afternoon, and yes, she told me, of course they lit candles.  Read the rest of this entry →


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