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Jul 9 2014

Should I Cancel My Family Vacation to Israel?

By at 4:03 pm

A camel beside a car in Israel

In two weeks, I am scheduled to visit Israel with my family, including my two young daughters. We have been talking about this trip with them for weeks, excitedly planning each detail. My 4-year-old has learned a great deal about Israel in her preschool this year. She knows about the shuk (market) and the beaches. She knows the signs we will see with Hebrew letters and the food we might taste. She knows the Passover story and about how the Jewish people fled slavery in Egypt and came to Israel. But most important, she has told us about the notes to God she plans to put into the Kotel (Western Wall).

While I have a strong desire to show my children Israeli culture and Jewish holy sites, a major impetus for this trip was also to visit my 93-year-old grandmother, who recently lost her younger brother. I also want to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my wife’s cousins along with all their young children–all people who I love and miss.

Of course, as I write this, rockets are raining down on Israel, traveling ever deeper into its heart. Tens of thousands of reservists are being called up and more than a million Israelis are in bomb shelters. Air raid sirens can be heard in major cities like Tel Aviv, and Twitter and YouTube allow us all to see this in real time. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

I Can’t Believe What is Happening to My Home

By at 5:07 pm

Israel is on the brink of war

If it wasn’t for the news and my Facebook feed, I wouldn’t know any better. Sure, I might be wondering why my neighborhood in Israel has suddenly turned into the flight path for the airport, but I probably wouldn’t be worrying too much.

You see, my life is wonderful. I have a great husband and five amazing kids. Everyone is healthy. My husband and I have jobs. We have a beautiful house. My eldest son recently got engaged and we are in the midst of planning a wedding. My day to day, although quite filled and hectic, is quite normal. No sign of the tension, no blaring sirens signaling a 15-second warning to run to a bomb shelter. Nothing at all.

That is unless you look at people’s faces and body language. Read the rest of this entry →

Dr. Ruth Tweets From Israel

By at 2:20 pm

Dr-Ruth

By now, you’ve probably noticed on your newsfeed that some crazy shit is going down in Israel.

Luckily, sweet, little Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the 86-year-old, Holocaust-surviving, truth-telling sex therapist, is currently in the middle of the chaos sharing dispatches from the Holy Land.

And don’t worry, she’s not scared.

Her latest tweet:

The Haganah was Israel’s pre-state paramilitary unit that eventually became the IDF, and Westheimer was trained as a scout and sniper until she was seriously wounded during the Israeli War of Independence.

While we’re certainly reassured by the image of Dr. Ruth with an Uzi in hand, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel and everyone affected by the recent violence.

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Jul 2 2014

How Do I Tell My Daughter That The Missing Israeli Teens Were Killed?

By at 1:17 pm

Israeli-desert

It’s been two whole days. Two days and I still haven’t told my daughter.

When my daughter was little, I used to worry that she didn’t have an appropriate sense of life and death–that she might do something stupid, even if I told her it was dangerous, because she didn’t realize what “dangerous” could mean. The first time she asked me about death, I grabbed the opportunity to try to reinforce the idea that death is serious and final–only realizing later that I had neglected any mention of a soul that lives on after the body, or any religious perspectives one might think a believing Jew should be teaching her child. It was so important to me that she grasp the great divide between life and death, I forgot that I believe in a continuum.

I say “when my daughter was little,” but she’s 8 now–is that still little? I don’t know. I still don’t think she grasps the possible consequences of “danger” as fully as I’d like her to. The other day I mentioned that some friends of ours are finally on the verge of aliyah, after putting their plans on hold years ago, because the father was hit by a bus. (I couldn’t bring myself to say “bus”; I told her he was hit by a car. I think that’s the biggest–maybe only–lie I’ve ever told any of my children.) Her big question? “Did he have to go to the emergency room?” Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 1 2014

My Country Weeps

By at 10:05 am

Israel-hills

I was on the train when I got a phone call.

“The rumors are true,” a colleague told me. “It hasn’t cleared the censors yet, but they found the boys. Not alive.

For 18 days, we stood together as a nation, waiting by the windows, looking for three silhouettes over the horizon. United by an exquisite hope that there would be a happy ending to a dreadful story, that our boys would come home safe and sound. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 17 2014

Our Boys Are Missing

By at 2:07 pm

our-boys-are-missing

Our boys are missing.

I say “our boys” because these could be our sons, our brothers.

This is just how we roll in Israel.

Kol Yisrael Arevim zeh-la-zeh: The People of Israel are responsible for one another.

You can see it in the way we scold random parents for forgetting to put socks on their kids. (“Where are his socks? Where are his shoes? It’s the middle of April and he’ll freeze!”) Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 16 2014

News Roundup: Three Kidnapped Israeli Teens Still Missing

By at 4:33 pm

All the parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.missing-israeli-teens

-The three Israeli teens who were kidnapped on June 12 have been missing for four days now, rattling Israeli society and Jews around the world. Bibi Netanyahu and John Kerry are pointing to Hamas and demanding assistance from Mahmoud Abbas (who condemned the kidnappings). Meanwhile thousands of Israelis gathered at the Western Wall to pray for the teens, and Bibi warned that the search could “take some time.” (JTA)

-Flying with toddlers is always a living nightmare, but this story takes the cake. Basically a 3-year-old girl was forced to urinate herself because a JetBlue flight attendant wouldn’t allow her to use the bathroom while the plane was delayed on the tarmac. When the girl’s mom tried to get paper towels to wipe up the mess, the pilot turned the plane around due to a “non-compliant passenger.” (New York Daily News)

-In time for Father’s Day, a doting uncle writes about his complicated interfaith family and his relationship with his father, who came through for him when he fainted at his nephew’s bris. (The Forward)

-Mayor Bill DeBlasio offered to extend Universal Pre-K spots to private yeshiva schools in New York City, even offering to change the requirements so that the religious schools could opt-in without compromising religious education. But the Ultra-Orthodox establishment declined the mayor’s offer, and some are questioning the wisdom of that decision. (The Forward)

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May 1 2014

For Now, They’re Teens in California, but Soon They Will Be Israeli Soldiers

By at 10:12 am

Roi-outruns-his-mark-3-15-14

“Hey Ima, you know, the college scouts come to see the U16 games.”

I felt shivers up and down my spine, the same sort of chill that gripped me in early fall while watching my 14 and 15-year-old sons play together in a competitive soccer match in San Rafael, California. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching them play; or at least I used to.

Both boys are passionate about the game, playing at a high level of competitive youth soccer. Every weekend during our stay in the San Francisco Bay area, I watch them play–two, three, or four games. I spend hours and days gazing at their strong, rapidly growing bodies, their lean muscles, tanned skin and their incredible agility as they chase a ball on a soccer field, somewhere in sunny northern California. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 28 2014

What I Won’t Teach My Kids About The Holocaust

By at 3:19 pm

holocaust

In 1938, my grandfather escaped Austria on the kindertransport. He was sent to England, where he lived with a family who sponsored him. His parents were sent to the Isle of Wight, where they were prisoners for most of the war. Eventually he made it to the US, where he lived briefly in Ohio before being conscripted into the Army, and sent back to Europe to work as a translator.

The Holocaust is very much a part of my family narrative. It’s part of my history, and it’s important to me, but as I build my own family, I’ve started to think about the ways I want to address this issue with my kids. Here’s what I won’t do:

1. I won’t teach my kids to fear anti-Semitism around every corner.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 14 2014

Exodus From Our Dream Home to Our Homeland

By at 12:52 pm

dream-home

My dream house just went on the market. It has chocolaty hardwood floors, quaint beaded board in the dining room, an oversized family room and even a custom kosher kitchen that looks like it just popped out of Pinterest. It’s located in a vibrant Jewish community in an idyllic seaside southern California town where it’s a short walk to sweeping ocean views. Perfection.

The thing is: My husband and I are the ones selling it. In July, we are undertaking our own personal exodus and realizing our dream of making aliyah (moving to Israel). And while we are lucky to have a lovely place waiting for us in Israel, I can tell you that it won’t have the pottery-barn-perfectness of my American one.

We have been blessed in this house. We have listened to and laughed with numerous friends and even strangers at our dining room Shabbat table. Our yard has been the backdrop for back-to-school brunches welcoming new families to our day school and it’s where we’ve fed hordes of kids butterfly cupcakes after they moon-bounced and piñata-ed at our daughters’ birthday parties. I can still hear the singing of the hundred-plus guests who helped welcome our youngest son home from the hospital for his shalom zachor. We have even had the privilege of hosting the wedding of dear friends, the chuppah gracing our grass as they began a new life together in our yard.  Read the rest of this entry →

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