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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 →

Apr 3 2014

I Don’t Deserve Anything In This Life, But I Am Grateful When I Receive

By at 10:17 am

starbucks

The other day the guy next to me threw his computer bag on the table and quickly exited Starbucks. Without a second thought, I followed him out, but I stopped abruptly when I spotted him, cell phone in hand, making a call. Realizing he had no intention of blowing up the store, I took a deep breath, relaxed my shoulders and returned inside to try to enjoy my drink. When he eventually returned to his table, it took all the restraint I could muster to keep silent about the anxiety unleashed within me as a result of his clueless actions.

It has been almost a decade and a half since I left Israel, yet I have not shed all of my old habits and fears I acquired while living abroad. In Israel, when an individual leaves a bag behind and flees, we are told to report it and evacuate. I learned to call home after each terrorist attack. Then I would reach out to local friends and roommates to ensure everyone I knew was accounted for and safe. After a few days of avoiding public places, I would reluctantly make my way back onto the bus again, often the same bus route that was targeted; after all, life must continue. I told myself confidently that I still had much more business left to complete on this planet and I needed to give thanks for each day going forward.

I reflect often about my younger years while I sit in Starbucks, which has become my habit, my retreat and my sacred space on the long nights and weekends when the children are away at their father’s. Before my divorce, before my world turned into chaos, I had a very different outlook on my life. I followed the rules. I studied, I worked hard, I earned degrees and built a career and a family. Yes, I sinned–worse than some people, but certainly not as badly as others. Still, I have come to recognize that there is no logical explanation as to why good things happen to bad people and tragedies befall the rule-followers. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 13 2014

That Time My Daughter Didn’t Let Me Walk Her into Preschool

By at 10:32 am

sarah-tuttle-family

“I want you to have roots and wings,” my mother used to say to me from as early as I can remember until the day she died. And I think of this during preschool drop-off on cool mornings when the sun slants softly through my 5.5-year-old daughter’s curls.

“Honey, do you want to go in without me? We can do our hug and kiss goodbye out here if you want.”

And some of the other kids go in alone without their parents: This is the beauty of the community we live in–the Middle East’s answer to Mayberry, USA, where every child is everyone’s child, and we all live and love and learn together even when it ain’t easy. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 20 2014

Stuck in the Shabbat Limbo

By at 4:02 pm

Doing Shabbat, my way

It was my second time meeting with Chana with the hopes of renting her Jerusalem apartment. I was in Israel on a research grant and following an ulpan (intensive Hebrew immersion course) in Jerusalem, had moved to Tel Aviv to be closer to my university. After just a few weeks of living by the water, I felt pulled back to Jerusalem.

Chana went through a checklist of the idiosyncrasies of the apartment. It would be furnished and I would not need to, nor would I be permitted to, bring my own bed. The school across the street could be loud at lunchtime. There was no dishwasher, of course, but I was welcome to use the laundry machine provided. And then almost as an afterthought she added, “Shabbat. Of course you keep Shabbat.”

“Well,” I started. And that was the beginning of the end. “I may turn on the lights here and there.”

“No. No turning on and off the lights. You must keep Shabbat.”

“But—,”

“No. No. I cannot. My friend rented to someone like you and first she had a car accident. Then…” her voice trailed off. “No. I cannot take the risk.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 27 2014

Loving (and Leaving) the Kibbutz

By at 1:20 pm

kibby

My son was 2 years old and we were living in the West Village. I wasn’t sure the city was the right place to bring up this kid. Maybe another kid, my yet-to-be-born daughter, for instance. But not him. He was and has always been a physically active kid. The only running around he could do was at the playground.

My husband was born on a kibbutz in Israel. He had always described his childhood in idyllic terms, with loads of freedom and activities and nature. He was the person at the Central Park petting zoo who could coax the cow out of the shed. He knew which fruits and vegetables were in season, when. His parents still lived there along with his sister and her children. And while I was not Israeli, or for that matter, even Jewish, I longed for the community and family life he described.

We took the 11-hour plane trip and arrived on the kibbutz. Instantly, my son and I were in love. On the kibbutz I watched him run around excitedly from person to person. Kibbutznik men are generally a loving bunch and were a constant source of entertainment for my young social son. And I? I was relaxed. On that visit, for the first time since my son was born, I could let my guard down. On an Israeli kibbutz, just 15 miles from the Lebanese border, I found peace. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 20 2014

Need Some Naming Inspiration? Here Are the Top Israeli Baby Names

By at 11:51 am

shalom nametag

If you’re pregnant and looking for some baby name inspiration, or simply love crafting names for imaginary babies that live inside your head (not that we would know about that), take some tips from the Holy Land. The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics’s recently released their list of the most popular Israeli baby names of 2012 (yes, it’s currently 2014, but who are we to complain?).

While these names are obviously common in Israel, they can be unique and meaningful for a kid growing up in the United States. OK, maybe not Sarah and David, but you get the point.

Without further ado, here they are. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2013

Friday Night: A Shabbat Storm in Israel

By at 2:19 pm

photo (6) copy

When we first moved to this little house in an Israeli village with a bomb-ass view of rolling fields, it wasn’t really the home I’d choose: The floors are cracked and uneven. The walls are thin. There are mold stains on the ceiling.

But it wasn’t really a choice: We needed a home.

So,  I looked beyond the flimsy walls and bare bulbs that dangled from the ceiling. I squinted and said, “We need pictures on the walls.”

So I went to the mall, printed out family photos (from now, and from way back then when my mother was little), and hung them in frames where they fill the blank spaces.

I squinted again and said, “This place will look way prettier with soft warm light instead of the sterile light that shines from most Israeli bulbs.”

So, I went to the store and bought new bulbs. And everything looks better with ambient light. Read the rest of this entry →

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