Oct 1 2014
When I made aliyah from Montreal, I never planned to teach English in an Israeli classroom. Aliyah was about leaving Montreal to become Israeli, rather than bringing a piece of Canada here with me. I soon discovered, however, that since everyone wants to speak English, teaching English is a much sought-after profession. As it turns out, it’s also a great day job for a writer.
I began the new school year by writing vocabulary words on the white board. The day’s assignment was to define and use certain phrases: “What is a relief map?” I ask them, quite certain they will be unfamiliar with the three dimensional map that portrays the ups and downs, mountains and valleys, of a geographical terrain. A hand goes up. A boy in the back. It’s always the boys in the back who give me butterflies in my stomach those first few weeks of school. We haven’t had our meetings with their homeroom teacher so I don’t know the family history of each student, which child might have lost someone close during this summer war in Gaza, which child might be struggling through their parents’ divorce, or who might be trying to hide socio-economic issues under fake designer labels.
There is still so much I have to learn before I can become an effective teacher. For now, each student before me is a tabula rasa. I have to ask their name when they raise their hands; I still have not matched the wire-framed glasses, the dimpled cheeks, or the intense hazel-green gaze to the names on my list. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 5 2014
Photo by Stephanie Rabins
This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Ki Tetze. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
It has been quite a summer over here. Elijah Wilder, aka Eliyahu Nachman, arrived a month ago, joining his big sister Sylvie.
I’m doing a few things differently this time around, partly in an attempt to avoid postpartum depression like I had with Sylvie. I’ve asked for more help. I’ve protected my maternity leave more carefully. And when I do go back to work, I’ll make sure I have adequate childcare for Elijah rather than trying to do some impossible juggling act. All this makes me appreciate every minute with him right now, and I am happy to say that so far, it’s working. I am loving these early days. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 21 2014
Sleep training is hard any time of the year. When trying to find a quiet week to start sleep training, parents will inevitably discover there is no good time, as “normal” life is constantly interrupted by birthdays, late-night meetings, work trips, and so on. You just have to pick a week and try to be consistent.
So when my husband got called up to miluim (emergency reserve duty in the Israeli Army) this August, you can imagine my hesitation to start sleep training alone. It was just a week after we arrived back home in Israel, right after our 6-month-old, Chanan, recovered from jet lag, and mid-way into Operation Protective Edge (which we hope is almost over).
Against my better judgment, I’m trying anyway. And as a result, I’ve come up with five reasons why miluim really screws with sleep training. (I’m sure in many ways these concerns will echo with the experiences of parents living far from the front.) Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 30 2014
I have a 9-year-old son. He is sensitive and compassionate. He listens carefully to conversations so as not to miss anything, and he is able to see concepts and complex relationships, making him seem wise beyond his years.
Perhaps these traits are the reason why my husband and I have never shied away from discussing current events with him in an age-appropriate way. We’re also just not the kind of parents who believe that children must order strictly off the kids’ menu or discuss only kid-friendly topics.
So, when our son returned from his Jewish overnight camp, we mentioned what was happening in Israel. He told us he already knew. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 29 2014
My Israeli husband and I, along with our kids, made aliyah two months ago. Our new neighborhood, a sleepy suburb of Tel Aviv, has been disrupted several times a day by the sound of a long piercing siren. Our 3-year-old twins, born and raised in New York, refer to the sirens as “a big fire truck,” but this time was different.
I was caught outside alone with the twins and our 6-month-old baby on our way to the playground after school. We had stopped to feed the baby and they sat next to me on a city bench chatting away and undoing their sandals to busy themselves. Suddenly, my worst nightmare came true and the sirens started piercing.
I started visualizing horrors as I ran to the nearest building holding my baby, leaving everything behind including my purse and stroller. I called for the twins to come with me and walk up the stairs to a nearby apartment building, but they wouldn’t. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 25 2014
When I was a little girl, my mother would tell us stories about her home far away across the sea. It was a magical place where deserts burst into life and the sea was so blue it was like swimming in the sky. This magical place was called Israel.
The people were good in this land. Warm and loving and quivering with life. They were smarter and stronger and braver and funnier and more beautiful than anyone we could imagine in our small, rural town. They were kings and queens and knights and storybook heroes.
Of course, there can be no heroes without villains. And Israel had them in spades. They lurked on the outskirts, brandishing sharp rocks and explosive packages. But, the innocent people could rest easy knowing that God was always on their side. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 24 2014
I have finally gotten around to reading Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land” about a month after moving our family from Sag Harbor NY to Jerusalem. At first it was too intense to read, isn’t there something a bit lighter–something on the New York Times‘ top 10 summer reading list–that I could pick up instead, especially at a time of war when things are so intense here?
But now, I find the media/internet/Facebook posting cycle so fast and dizzying that I need to slow it down–getting a little bit of historical perspective helps. Shavit’s book paints a picture of the triumphs, challenges, and tragedies associated with establishing the State of Israel.
But there’s one line that struck me so deeply. Describing the experience of an immigrant mother who had left Baghdad after the farhud (pogroms) there and immigrated to Israel in the 1950s, Shavit writes, “She pretended that all was well for the children’s sake, that this was some sort of sandy summer camp and not the end of the world.” Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 23 2014
We are canceling our trip to Israel. Even as I say this, I want to be there more than ever. My wife and I debated this decision endlessly and were waiting until the last moment to decide. We did not want to abandon Israel. We wanted to show support by being physically present. We wanted to show support with our tourist dollars. And we desperately wanted to be with our family there.
On the other hand, we did not want to subject our children to the emotional trauma of air raid sirens and running to bomb shelters. We did not want our children to have a negative experience in Israel. Nor did we want to unnecessarily take up space or resources.
It seems the choice has been made for us. As of this writing, the FAA has ordered all US carriers to suspend flights to Israel, the State Department has issued a travel warning suggesting the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel, and multiple airlines have either temporarily or indefinitely suspended their flights to Israel. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 17 2014
We came to Israel this summer to celebrate.
And for many other reasons, too. Because our kids had never been and we wanted to show them the land of their people, because we love beach vacations and no matter where you are in Israel you’re seldom further than an hour from an incredible beach, and because the food is amazing (never mind the shwarma and falafel, even frozen schnitzel and french fries are delicious here–especially if you eat them on the beach!). Because you can kayak down the Jordan river and ride a wobbly camel in the Judaean desert, buy fragrant spices and the freshest challah at the bustling Middle Eastern market in Jerusalem, and find the most exquisite shoes at the beautiful mall just steps away. Because Israel grabs you by all five of your senses and never lets go…
But mainly we came to celebrate my oldest son’s bar mitzvah. He’s been practicing his Torah portion for almost a year. I’ve heard him once or twice–he doesn’t falter, never hesitates. He has spent hours with our rabbi in Oakland learning, discussing, preparing his speech and his words of Torah. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 16 2014
For the past week and a half, my phone has been emitting siren sounds thanks to an app called Red Alert [also called Color Red in Hebrew]. While it is meant to alert Israelis to the very real danger of incoming missiles, many in the diaspora, like me, have downloaded the app as a way to obsess stay informed.
And I have chosen to keep on the audio.
Now, I know that having my phone bleep isn’t the same when my life does not depend on my ability to locate and get to a miklat (shelter) with my kids within seconds. Or, if we were at home, get to our mamad (protected room). Hearing the sound doesn’t strike fear in our hearts or give us nightmares. Read the rest of this entry →