Monday, November 29, 2010

Reflections on making aliyah and looking into the future

A year and a half ago I posted this post about the future and what it holds. Part of it was about my childrens' future if I moved to Israel. What would their future be like, being drafted into the army here. I also mentioned another blog, A Soldier's Mother, written by a woman who made aliyah with her family about 17ish (?) years ago.

Today I saw this in her post:
"It bothers me that to live in this land, my children must know the uniform and the gun. My daughters may not serve in the army, but their husband or brother or nephew will at some point in the future. My sons will serve, as will their sons. To serve, if life remains as it has been for more than 60 years, means war."

So well phrased, so much of what I feel even though I'm not yet married and don't have children. My children will grow up seeing soldiers in uniform and men and women carrying guns as part of their daily life. And my children will, as she put it, "know the uniform and the gun" when their draft notices come and they, too, join the ranks of the IDF. I will encourage my daughters to serve in the army as well as I will my sons. I don't want there to be a need for my children to serve, and I know that my parents wouldn't want me to be in danger, just like I wouldn't want my children to be in danger...but they would be proud of me if I was in the army and did serve my country. When I was considering joining the American army, my parents weren't happy because they didn't want me to be in danger...but they would have been proud all the same. But I made the choice to move from somewhere that my children would not be drafted, and would not be asked to serve in the army to a place where...once they turn 18, when they're not even out of their teens and still...well, children...they're going to be asked to put on a uniform and learn how to use a gun. And not for pretend, for real. To be ready to fight in a war, if need be, and even to guard and defend the country in some capacity, even not in a declared war or operation. Was it fair what I did? I don't remember where I heard this, but someone said she made aliyah so her children don't have to (if you said it and read this blog, please let me know so I can credit you). I did...but was it-- will it-- be fair to them?

Something I've thought about but never said out loud, and I wonder if this place, this blog, being that I don't know who reads it, makes it almost easier to say it here-- I don't want to marry someone who didn't serve in the army for idealist reasons, didn't want to serve. If someone moved here when he was too old to serve-- fine. If he was exempted for medical reasons-- fine. But not to serve because you don't want to or idealist reasons...that bothers me. It's your country, too. I went on a date with someone who I've known for a few years and his brothers are in the army or about to go in, and I always assumed that he also served. And then he told me that he didn't. I'm not discussing his reasons here because they're not mine to discuss, but the army gave him an exemption and he did not serve. And that bothered want to live here, be here, raise a family here...and yet you're not willing to serve? I don't want my husband to go off every year for a few weeks, but...that's going to be life here, and I don't think I'd want it any other way really, because it's part of living here and you have to take the good with the not-so-fun. When he has to go for miluim, I will help him pack, get up that morning, kiss him goodbye, and wait and count down until he gets back. And that will be the life I've chosen. Unless he doesn't do miluim for some reason.

Friday, November 26, 2010


This year it was a bit different.

It's now 12:44 am, technically Friday. This year my Thanksgiving was a day of work (regular) followed by coming back to my apt. and cooking. Normally Thanksgiving-- well, Thanksgiving used to involve getting up late (because I was off), followed by wandering around/cleanng in my PJs while Mom was cooking. The parade would be on the kitchen TV and maybe in the living room, but highly doubtful because no one was in there consistently enough to be paying attention. The house smells really good, because of all the cooking Mom is doing, and at about 4 pm people start coming over and eventually everyone is over and we start eating. Mom made rolls (probably white, garlic, and rye), and Grandma's soup. Oh, and maybe an appetizer and salad. That's followed by turkey (made in the roaster with garlic and paprika sprinkled on top and baby carrots, celery, and onion surrounding it), stuffing kugel, cranberry sauce (jelled and whole berry), and maybe cranberry kugel. A bunch of other side dishes, because...well, food = love. And then dessert, which is cookies and cake and tea.

This year I made my Grandma's vegetable soup. I had to split it into two pots, because it was too much for one; one came out good and the other needs to cook more, so it's in the fridge overnight and tomorrow I will attempt to cook it some more. But the one that was done came out well. I'm excited for the other one :) It was my first time making soup in a long time (I made soup once and burned it. In college. This was my first time making soup since then), and the first time I tried to make my Grandma's vegetable soup. It''s a tradition. It's a hard one to follow, because of the associations with Thanksgiving, and missing everyone, but it's came out good.

The last Thanksgiving that my Grandma was alive for was a little different than the previous ones. Everyone but my mom was at my Grandma and Grandpa's apartment (my mom was in the hospital with the port infection-turned-sepsis). We had Thanksgiving dinner as usual-ish, including the soup, and that Shabbos my Grandma had a very severe stroke that caused her death a week later. I remember eating the last portion of soup from the batch she made. We froze it, and when I had it...I remember thinking, "This is the last soup Grandma made." It was always "Grandma's soup." Kind of like Grandma coffee (but that was a little coffee and a lot of milk; pretty much how I drink coffee today still), but not. My Grandpa wrote out the recipe for me after Grandma died, and my mom eventually typed it up and put it in the recipe book she made for me. It has vegetables and meat and soup mix...and the last ingredient is "1 brocha that it comes out good." I think that's what made it so good.

May we all recognize and be grateful for the brachot that we have in our lives, and always remember to add the "1 brocha that it comes out good." In everything that we do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2 separate topics

1. The special education public school system (in comparison to NYC, as I see it)
2. Bone marrow compatibility

Let's start with number 2., because that's less involved (from a writing perspective. And if you're only going to read a little bit of this, I'd rather you get that; if you're really interested, you will continue reading anyway). Number 2- Bone marrow compatibility. The idea for posting this was from Beneath the Wings, which is a blog by a mother who has a daughter with Down's Syndrome and the blog is very much centered around that. Her post is here:
My addition is, you don't need to be a soldier (or going into the army at all, in any capacity) to be tested for bone marrow compatibility. I was tested through Gift of Life via a cheek swab (if you are a preliminary match, they will then do bloodwork. But initially-- all you need to do is open your mouth and get a cheek swab).

Number 1. The special education public school system, as I see it. First of all, the public school system here in Israel overall is MUCH more complicated. There are various types of schools, all considered public- different religions, different sectors within the religion, non-religious-- very complicated. Most of the schools are Jewish, but there are also non-Jewish schools (with different schedules). The way the special education system seems to work here is parallel to the general education system. That is, there are also Jewish, non-Jewish, religious, different sectors within the religious, and non-religious schools. There are also different type of preschools. And to make it even more complicated (or specialized, depending on how you look at it), each school is for a specific type of special education, be it severe/profoundly mentally retarded, mild/moderately mentally retarded, physically handicapped, mild/moderately retarded, deaf, blind, learning disabilities, behavioral problems-- you name it. I think that there is a good side to this, because the kids really get a specialized focus in the school, but there is also a downside because the children are not even integrated into a regular school building. There are some kids who are in self-contained classrooms within regular schools, and there are mainstreamed kids as well. BUT I have yet to hear of kids in general ed who get OT.
It's very frustrating to me as an occupational therapist that there are so many kids who don't get OT, or don't get individual, because there aren't enough therapists to go around or there isn't the budget or whatever. There's also this thing of a "class session." I'm sorry, all the kids need it? How much are the kids really going to get out of 1 45-minute session per week, when there's an overall need, but each kid is at such a different level?

I'm not a fan of the system here, as a therapist. I liked NYC better-- wasn't ideal, and, no, there weren't enough therapists to go around either. But at least the kids had the option to get seen outside if they couldn't get seen in school. And there were OT-specific goals. A full eval was done on a kid who needed it, and his/her mandate was prescribed. It's much more-- "Ok, who needs OT the most here?" And the teachers have a big say, which I feel is correct, but I also think there should be an OT eval done on the child when he/she has been seen previously, and if there is a suspicion of delays/problems. And then a mandate should be created, if applicable, and the child gets seen in school or gets referred out of school.

I'm sure there will be more on this at a later point.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A missing piece

The summer before I made aliyah I got involved with someone who I waited quite a while to date. And then we broke up because I was making aliyah and he wasn't. Ever. It just wasn't happening.

He fell of the face of the earth for a while, and he's now back. And I realize just how much I miss him. Yes, I just broke up with someone, which naturally makes me think. But...this is something that no matter how much we both want it to happen won't, because of the physical distance. And that's the part that hurts so much. It's not even like there was a chance, because we live 6,000 miles away from each other and neither of us can live where the other can.

So, if you're reading this-- and you know who you are-- I miss you. It's not your fault, but your videos make me miss you more.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


This post also kind of ties in to the previous two posts about being Israeli and writing. Writing-- well, it's kind of obvious-- writing, journaling...I write in my journal- what happened, what's going through my mind. And poems are a reflection of those two. Being Israeli I'll get to at the end.

In addition to this blog I have a handwritten journal.

I have been writing since at least...second grade, I think? I didn't really keep a consistent journal until college-- I had journals and diaries, but I would write for a few weeks (maybe a month) and then forget about it, finding it a few years later when I was cleaning out some drawer. I actually have a diary-- with a lock on it, locked naturally-- from probably 5th or 6th grade. I don't know where the key is, hence it's still locked and I don't know when it is from (yes, I can pick or smash the lock. But that feels wrong. So it will stay locked until I decide to pick it, or have someone else do it for me).

Once I started college I saw a show called Subway Train and what struck me was that the show had been mostly written in journals, on the way to and from places. It never occurred to me until that point to write while I was traveling. But I had so much time traveling! I took three subways (or a bus and two subways) to school every morning. And I traveled other places by bus and train and there was the waiting in doctor's offices and in the Verizon store and-- all those places that I never thought to just...write. Even sitting in a Starbucks or in the park-- I had always associated writing in a diary with sitting in my room, cross-legged on my bed or propped up against pillows...and all of a sudden I changed the label-- Journal-- and it became a verb to me. An action. I was journaling. And so I simply opened the small notebook that I carried around to jot down to-do lists, or shopping lists, or other things I needed to remember, to the back and started writing. Just writing-- I'm on the train at 42 st. Where is the train?/Waiting for the bus crosstown...there is someone staring at me/Wow. I had a day. And on and on, just writing. And the writing turned into questions and sometimes answers and a lot of the time musing and more questions. Overthinking, re-thinking, dissecting what someone said and what it meant. Journaling became a way of coping and analyzing and sorting out my brain.

I had a blog, too, from high school. But I realized that journaling felt very different than blogging. Yes, my blog was for me but others could see it too. My journal was for me, and it was in my handwriting and it could be touched and flipped through and gone back to any time I wanted. It can.

Looking back and counting, I have 5 of those mixed notebooks and one journal that is filled with journaling and not lists. I actually really like those mixed notebooks because they reflect everything that was going on-- what I had to do, and recipes, and what I had to bring the next day, or assignments...but my journal is my journal.

I've just finished my first journal-only notebook. I have a journal that I started when I came to Israel almost 3 years ago in January 2008. I stopped writing in it because I couldn't find it, and then when I couldn't find the journal I just finished I used that. But now I'm picking up that one to continue in it and write.

Being Israeli. I've noticed that my writing takes whatever language I'm surrounded by about what I'm writing. Confusing? Ok. Most of my journal is in English, with Hebrew words sprinkled in here and there. But if I'm writing about something that's going on then, and the something is in Hebrew, whatever I'm writing will be in Hebrew. For example, someone I went out on a date with- he and I speak in Hebrew and English, but more Hebrew. When I was writing about the date, it was in Hebrew-- my thoughts and feelings were in Hebrew, if that makes sense. When I saw a documentary as part of my work (we had a beginning of the school year meeting and part of it was a documentary about a street kid) and I wrote about it, I wrote in Hebrew. Again, my thoughts and my feelings were in Hebrew. I'm still more comfortable in English, especially when it comes to occupational therapy, and sometimes EMS (ambulance stuff-- my first EMS experiences were in Hebrew (yes, the course was in English but the terminology was in Hebrew and I worked on the Hebrew-speaking ambulances). But I'm a lot more comfortable expressing myself and I've been thinking and feeling in Hebrew more. I'm not sure if that makes me Israeli. But I do know that it's easier now in Hebrew.


Since I got here, made aliyah, I have written a few poems. I have to find the other ones, but this was one that I wrote after I was having a sort of writing slump and hadn't really written for a while. It's in Hebrew, followed by an English translation. Unfortunately, I don't think the English translation really feels the same as the Hebrew. But that's just me. I translate literally.

This was actually something I started when I was at the tekes for Yom Hazikaron (Israel's Memorial Day). I'm not sure I like it as is, it is.

Background for those who are unfamiliar with Yom Hazikaron: It is the Israeli Memorial Day. There is a nation-wide siren at 8 pm that night, then another siren at 11 am. Cars stop driving and people get out and stand, students stand up-- the country pretty much stops for these few minutes. There are ceremonies, the broadcasts are Memorial-day appropriate. The names of those killed for the sake of Israel are read. It's unlike Memorial Day in the States; here there are no sales, but the cemeteries are full of people coming to visit graves of loved ones and friends. It's a day to remember not only the soldiers, but those who were killed in terrorist attacks as well. It's something that must be experienced to fully appreciate and understand it.

תפילה של עולה חדשה ביום הזיכרון

עוצרים, יוצאים, עומדים.
חוזרים לרכב, מצטרפים לטקס.

אני עומדת פה, בקהל, אחת ממאות.
שומעת שירים, ואנשים מדברים על אלו שנרצחו...
אני רק עומדת.
אין לי מישהו שאני מכירה שנהרג, שנרצח.
תודה לאלוקים.
תפילה קטנה יוצאת משפתי—
אנא ה', עשה שילדותי לא יהרגו.
אין לי ילדים עכשיו, אבל תן לי...ותן לי שיחיו.
בנים, בנות—כולם היו.
כולם שייכו לאמא ולאבא ולמשפחה.
ה' ישמור את נפשותם בגן עדן,
ויתן לי שלא אדע מזה.

Prayer of a New Immigrant on Memorial Day

A siren.
Stopping, getting out, standing.
Go back into the car, joining a ceremony.

I stand here, in the crowd, one of hundreds.
I hear poems, and people talking about those who were murdered...
I just stand.
And listen.
I don't have anyone that I know who was killed or murdered.
Thank G-d.
A small prayer leaves my lips--
Please, G-d, don't let my children be killed.
I don't have children now, but give me...and give me that they will live.
Sons, daughters-- they all were.
They all belonged to a mother and a father and a family.
G-d should guard their souls in the Garden of Eden,
And grant me that I should not know from this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learning to live in Israel

One of the things I will not get to do is be a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force-- Tzahal. It is something that I want to do, considered doing, and then realized that I can contribute more as an occupational therapist and MDA volunteer.

I was 24 when I made aliyah. The army wasn't drafting me, because I was over 20 (21?). I could have volunteered to join, but I made aliyah in December. The next draft date was March and I most likely would not have made it for that one. March is followed by August and November. The earliest I could have gone in would have been August, at which point I would be 25. 25, going in to something that most people start at 18. I also would likely be in for 6 months; I could request more, which would enable me to get a better job within the army, but I would want to do Paramedics...not...just not matim for me.

Being in the army is kind of like...a crucible, if you will. The people get heated up, melted, and then have the chance to be re-formed into something new. EVERYONE is in the army-- excepting many people. So not really everyone. But it's something that I always knew about and thought about.

I knew about the "post-Army trip" where so many go backpacking around the world for 6 months or a year. What I didn't know was really how much the army puts life into limbo. I was dating someone in the army and the first weekend I got back from America we were supposed to see each other; he was supposed to be out, I would be home. Nice plan. We were really excited. I land...and because of the shooting in Chevron, he was going to have to be on base for Shabbos. Then he was getting out. Then he wasn't. Then he was-- he was getting ready to go to the bus to come into Jerusalem...and they called everyone back. He got out on Sunday- fine, nice. But...this is what it means to be Israeli.

To not plan because something is going to happen to change the plans.
To learn that even though someone "official" told you something, it means nothing unless you have it in writing with the name and signature and stamp of the person who said it, and even then it might not be acceptable.
The bureaucracy is more then in your mother country and it's in another language. Even when you ask for someone who speaks the language you want (say, English), you will get, "Ken [yes]?" when they answer the phone.
People here dispense with polite behavior. There is nothing wrong with someone cursing out the bus driver's (and his mother) because he did something the person didn't approve of. And when the other passengers get tired of the yelling at each other, they will tell the passenger and the bus driver to shut up. The lack of polite behavior is not meant as an insult-- it might even be a compliment. Which leads me to my next point:
Everyone here is family. You can yell at your family members-- and that includes the bus driver. Oh, the garbage man who put the bin back slightly to the left of where it was before. This means that, as family, everyone has rights to comment on everyone else, no matter the situation. This also means that people look out for each other and will often try to help (or what they see as helping).
Israelis like olim-- immigrants. They think we are crazy, but they love us anyway.

More on this later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shabbat Chaye Sara in Kiryat Arba/Chevron

Where do I start? I really wanted to take pictures, but it was just...crowded and not worth trying to get out my camera, and then it was Shabbat and...I have pictures in my memory.
I went to sort-of cousins (we decided that the correct term for the family and how to explain how we are related is "chamula," which is the term for an Arab clan. We just happen to be a large family who used to live within about 4 blocks of each other (2 2-family houses and 1 2-family house a few blocks away). So-- I went to sort of cousins with my first cousin, and we met another sort-of cousin there who is an actual cousin of my sort-of cousin. Confused? It's ok. Moving on.

The whole experience was just overwhelming.

Break it down:
Took a bus from Binyanei Hauma. We left early, because we counted on lots of people (and therefore lines and waits) and traffic. Thanks to Murphy (and leaving earlier than we planned), we had neither. So we got there early.
There was a stand- basically a mobile ticket booth- with three or four windows and a sign- "הלוך ושב 18.30"- "There and Back- 18.30." There weren't long lines and there was bus after bus lined up. We took one bus to Tzomet Haminharot and then switched to a bulletproof bus for the rest of the trip. The bus was FULL of post-high school seminary/yeshiva students. Loud-comma-very.
Got to Kiryat Arba and went to my sort-of cousins. Was there a bit, and then went to where I was staying (a few minutes' walk away) to get ready for Shabbos.

We davened on Friday night at Givat Gal, which is a caravan community. The shul used to be in a bus, but now there is a real building (think 1-room schoolhouse, plus electricity and minus the wood-burning stove). The sunset on the way there was beautiful; at one point I stopped, turned around and just said, "Wow." The davening was nice- singing and there was a young boy who did part of it and the older men were encouraging him when he was having trouble. I was the only woman there, but lo nora (not a big deal)- they made a women's section for me :)
After davening we went back to the house and had dinner. After dinner there was an oneg at the Me'ara (the Cave-- Me'arat Hamachpela) in Ulam Yitzchak. BZ and I went (actually, everyone went, but BZ and I went together). We walked down this path that normally is locked (I think- there is a fence with a door and a lock; it was open, but if it wasn't Shabbat Chaye Sara with all the soldiers and police around, it would no be wise to go the way we did). There were tons of people and, of course, soldiers and police and patrols and security.
When I got to Me'arat Hamachpela, the first thing that struck me was the number of tents that there were. Lots and lots and lots of tents. Aka, lots and lots and lots of people.

We went to the Me'ara and made up to meet outside at a certain time, and then we went in. It was my first time there and it felt...even as I was going down the hill into Chevron, I felt a feeling of specialness and other-worldliness but familiarity, safety. It was my first time there, but it felt familiar. Also in Ulam Yitzchak (which is only open Chol Hamoed and Shabbat Chaye Sara, by the way) I went to where is supposed to be פתח גן עדן-- the entrance to the Garden of Eden-- and that, too, felt very familiar. The smell there, too. I said some Tehillim, but I was so tired that I wasn't focused.

In the morning I went back to Ulam Yitzchak for Shacharit (morning prayers). There was a chatan there, which was nice-- people threw candies, of course. It was very packed and stuffy, but people were nice about giving up seats for the elderly and pregnant or people who needed to sit. There was kiddush (food) outside after (grape juice/wine and cake and Yerushalmi kugel (Jerusalem noodle pudding), and then we went back for lunch.
After lunch I had the choice of napping or going back to Chevron. What do you think I did? Went back to Chevron, of course! Joined a tour in the early-middle-ish part, and then went back to the Me'ara (what, did you think I was going to miss an opportunity like this? Me'arat Hamachpela is so rarely open like this-- I am NOT missing the chance to daven there again!
When I left, I felt like I didn't want to leave, like it was pulling at my heart. Kind of the way I felt when I was leaving Israel in March 2008-- it hurt my heart; that's the best way I can describe it. It was kind of like...pulling me to stay, like I didn't want to leave. But we had to, because Shabbat was ending.

Buses were packed. But they went straight from Chevron and Kiryat Arba to the Tachana Merkazit in Jerusalem (with a stop at Tzomet Gush, on my bus), no switching.

Overall I enjoyed. I want to go back when it's not Parshat Chaye Sara and there are fewer people there and it's not so packed and I can think a little more. Granted, I won't be able to go the same way and there will be less of the Me'ara open, but I think it will be a much more personal, meaningful experience and I'll be able to take things in more and actually concentrate better and more.